Nicolas Juchereau, sieur de Saint-Denis (c.1627 - c.1692)

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Birthplace: La Ferté-Vidame, Perche, France
Death: Died in Québec, Québec, Canada
Occupation: Seigneur; Colonizer; Businessman; Member of the Council of the Colony for the Fur Trade; Director of the Tadoussac Trade; Soldier
Managed by: David Louis Fournerat, Jr.
Last Updated:

About Nicolas Juchereau, sieur de Saint-Denis

Biography of

CAPTAIN LOUIS JUCHEREAU DE ST. DENIS

(1674-1744)

© By John D. Inclan

Edited by Bernadette Inclan

  

History accounts the events of the past through the eyes of the chronicler. Genealogy registers the ancestry, that is to say, the bloodline, of who we are and how we connect to significant pioneers. The history of the early families of New Spain could remain obscure were it not for the documentation found in the archives, such as public records, the census, parish rolls, to name a few. With great pride, I present this tiny part of my family’s rich and stated history. As a descendant of the Dona Feliciana Camacho y Botello family, I introduce to you this short story on this prominent pioneer family.

Captain Louis Juchereau de Saint Denis, the eleventh of twelve children of Nicolas Juchereau and Marie Thérèse Giffard, was born at Beauport, New France (Quebec, Canada), on September 17, 1674. Captain Louis’ grandfather, Jean Juchereau, and his two brothers, Noël, and Pierre had emigrated from the town of Tourouvre in Perche, France. These three brothers recruited up to eighty families for New France. They became the founders and the early settlers of Beauport, located just northeast of Québec City on the St Lawrence River. When young Louis became of age, he was sent to France for his education.

In late 1699, St. Denis sailed to Louisiana from La Rochelle, France with his first cousin, the newly appointed 27 year old governor, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville. This would be Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville’s second expedition into this reigon. In Louisiana St. Denis found himself as the commander of a fort on the Mississippi River and another at Biloxi Bay. During this time he carried out important explorations to the west of the Bay and upstream, to the lower region of the Red River. These journeys brought him into contact with Karankawa and Caddo Indians and he learned invaluable lessons on how to cope in the wilderness land of Louisiana.

In September 1713, Antoine de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, the French governor of Louisiana, responded to a letter received from the Spanish priest, Father Francisco Hidalgo, urging the governor to establish a post near East Texas. The governor dispatched St. Denis, this Canadian-born adventurer, along with a company of men from Mobile, Alabama. This same year, St. Denis founded in Louisiana the village-post of Natchitoches. Natchitoches, recognized as the oldest permanent settlement in Louisiana, plays a major role in Louisiana and Texas history, and given notoriety by the filming of the movie “Steel Magnolias”. In 1714, St. Denis built a garrisoned post to repel the Spanish of Texas and to promote trade with the locals. An illicit trade soon flourished with the Indians who traded with both the French and the Spanish. This post became the first permanent European settlement in the territory that would later be known as the Louisiana Purchase. From Natchitoches he traveled to the lands of the Hasinai Indians, and from then on to Spanish outposts on the Rio Grande.

On July 19, 1714, St. Denis strode into the Presidio San Juan Bautista Del Rio Grande de Norte, located in the state of Coahulia, Mexico. The Commander of the presidio, Major Diego Ramón, placed St. Denis under a pleasant house arrest. The Spanish Crown had enacted an order prohibiting the entry of foreign traders or their merchandise into Spanish territory. St. Denis violated the prohibition by bearing goods banned by Spanish mercantile restrictions. Major Ramón awaited instructions from Mexico City on what to do with this foreigner bearing such goods. In the interim, St. Denis, a Frenchman and a cavalier, and wasting no time, used the occasion to court, and win a promise of marriage from Ramón's beautiful step-granddaughter, Dona Maria Manuela Sánchez Navarro y Gomez Mascorro. Manuela was the daughter of Don Diego Sanchez Navarro y Camacho and Dona Mariana Gomez Mascorro de la Garza. She was the granddaughter of Don Diego Sanchez Navarro and Dona Feliciana Camacho y Botello. When widowed, Dona Feliciana married a second time to the Major Diego Ramon, the former Governor of Coahuila, and now the Commander of the Presidio. St. Denis, ordered to Mexico City, defended himself properly and competently. Soon after, on July 17, 1716, he became a member of the Ramón Expedition. Appointed as commissary officer, his duties included the founding of Spanish missions in East Texas. This entrada or expedition would represent Spain’s commitment to a permanent occupation of the province of Texas.

This same year and on February 17, 1716, St. Denis had married Manuela in the local Chapel of the Presidio San Juan Bautista. During 1716 and 1717, he participated in the founding of six missions and a presidio in East Texas. On April 1717, he returned to San Juan Bautista with a sizable amount of merchandise. Although well received on his first visit, the era of Franco-Spanish cooperation ended with the death of King Louis XIV and thereby concluded the thirteen years’ War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). St. Denis, again found himself viewed a foreigner under suspicion. However, this time he underwent more severe repercussions. To avoid a transfer to Spain as a prisoner when sent to Mexico City a second time, St. Denis fled the capital. By February 1719, he made his way back to Natchitoches. In 1721, Spanish officials permitted his wife, Manuela, to join him, and the couple spent their remaining years at the French outpost on the Red River. The 1722 census for Natchitoches lists the St. Denis’ and two children. The 1726 census of Natchitoches, LA. indexes St. Denis, his wife and three children.

St. Denis served for 24 years as Commander of Post St. Jean Baptiste in the Natchitoches District. From his command at Natchitoches, St. Denis was often a bothersome thorn for Spanish Texas. To this day controversy continues to surround his motives and actions. He insisted that his marriage to Manuela Sánchez indicated a desire to become a Spanish subject. Suspicious Spaniards, however, saw him as a covert agent of France.

For his leadership in dealing with the native Indians and his victory at Pensacola, King Louis XV of France granted St. Denis knighthood in the military Order of St. Louis. Without question, his accomplishments during his military career are indisputable. St. Denis contributed to the expanded geographical knowledge of the East Texas area for both France and Spain. He brought Spanish and French settlements into close proximity. Most significantly, he made banned trade a way of life on the borders of Spanish Texas and French Louisiana thereby firmly establishing trade on the Camino Real (The King’s Highway). On January 10, 1743, the 69-year-old captain wrote to Jean Frédéric Phélypeaux, Count of Maurepas at Versailles indicating that he no longer could perform his duties as commandant of Natchitoches. He asked permission to retire to New Spain (Mexico) with his wife and children. Count of Maurepas denied his request. St. Denis died at Natchitoches on June 11, 1744. His tomb is under the site of the first parish church constructed in Natchitoches in 1728, St Francis, and located just outside the stockade of Post St. Jean Baptiste. Survived by Manuela and seven children, one daughter, Dona Marie Petronille Feliciana Jucereau St. Denis, was married to Captain Athanase Fortune Christophe de Mézières.

The achievements of Captain Athanase Fortune Christophe de Mézières deserve mention. He was born in 1719, the son of Louis Christophe de Mézières and Marie Antoinette Clugny, two prominent noble families of Paris. His parents had him baptized on March 26, 1719. His career as an infantryman began in Louisiana in the early 1730’s. Over the next thirty years, he served as ensign, lieutenant, and captain. On April 18, 1746, while assigned to the French outpost in Natchitoches, LA, he married Marie Petronille Feliciana Juchereau St. Denis. The marriage was brief. Marie died in 1746 while giving birth to their only child. Mézières later married Pelagie Fazende. On September 15, 1763, shortly after Louisiana passed from the French to Spanish control, he was discharged from the infantry. Like many Frenchmen in Louisiana at that time, he offered his services to Spain. In late 1769, Alejandro O’Reilly, then governor of Louisiana, appointed Mézières Lieutenant Governor of Natchitoches. Skilled in Latin, French, and Spanish, as well as in several Indian languages, Mézières embarked on an extraordinary career as a Spanish agent to the Indians of northern Texas. In 1770, he carried out the first of several expeditions to the Red River. In the following year, he successfully negotiated treaties with the Kichais, Tawakonis, Taovayas, and the Tonkawas by proxy. In 1778, Bernardo de Galvez, governor of Louisiana, released Mézières for additional services in Texas. He was to forge an alliance among the Spanish, Comanches, and Nortenos against the Apaches. To this end, Mézières traveled extensively over the course of a year to the new town of Bucareli, a settlement in Texas that eventually failed to prosper, to the Red River and even to New Orleans. En route between Los Adaes, now a historic site in Louisiana, and Nacogdoches, Texas, he suffered a serious brain injury when thrown from his horse. After convalescing, he continued on to San Antonio, the capital of Texas, arriving in September 1779. It was here that he learned of his appointment as governor of Texas. Mézières, now about 60 years of age, remained gravely ill and did not assume this office. He died at San Antonio on November 2, 1779, never fully recovering from his injuries. The proposed general alliance with the Comanches and Nortenos was never realized. He had one child by his first wife, Marie, eight by his second wife.

Dona Manuela died on April 16, 1758, and buried next to her husband. The annals of Natchitoches record that she was the wealthiest woman in Louisiana. Northwestern State University of Louisiana now occupies the property of her estate. Throughout the parishes of Louisiana, a genealogist can find the descendants of the unions between St. Denis and Sanchez.

Post St. Jean Baptiste continued to serve as a military outpost and commercial trade center until 1762. When England defeated France in the French and Indian War, France surrendered the Louisiana colony to Spain. In 1800, the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso officially returned the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi to France. The Treaty discharged the Spanish from the continued deficits caused by the colony and relieved the growing possibility that Spain, to retain control of the lands, would find herself at war with the ever-growing numbers of Americans.

On May 2, 1803, the U.S. representatives Livingston and Monroe agreed to purchase the Louisiana territory for $15M. The United States doubled in size overnight! Louisiana was officially transferred from Spain to France on November 30, 1803, and on December 20, 1803, France transferred Louisiana to the United States. To date, this purchase of real estate has the distinction of being the biggest bargain in history!

fromGalveston@yahoo.com

 

References

• Celiz, Fray Francisco. Diary of the Alarcon Expedition into Texas, 1718-1719.

               Published by the Quivira Society. 

• Chabot, Frederick C. With the Maker of San Antonio.

• Chipman, D.E. & Joseph, H.D. Explorers and Settlers of Spanish Texas.

• De Zavala, Adina. History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions

• Foster, William C. Spanish Expeditions into Texas 1689-1768.

• Syers William Edwards. Texas:The Beginning 1519-1834

• Weddle, Robert S. San Juan Bautista - Gateway to Spanish Texas

• Wharton, Clarence Remember Goliad

• Hadley, Diana. The Presidio and Militia on the Northern Frontier of New Spain.

• The Handbook of Texas Online

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Nicolas Juchereau, sieur de Saint-Denis's Timeline

1627
May 11, 1627
La Ferté-Vidame, Perche, France
May 11, 1627
La Ferté-Vidame, Perche, France
1649
September 22, 1649
Age 22
Québec, Québec, Canada
1653
March 14, 1653
Age 25
QC, Canada
1655
1655
Age 27
Beauport, Quebec, Canada
1666
June 24, 1666
Age 39
Beauport, Québec, Canada

Parrain: Nicolas Juchereau, Sieur de St-Denis. Marraine: Michelle Thérèse Nau, femme de Joseph Giffard, sieur de Beauport. Prêtre: Charles de Lauzon de Charny.

1670
September 16, 1670
Age 43
1670
Age 42
Quebec, Canada
1676
September 17, 1676
Age 49
Beauport, QC, Canada
1679
September 4, 1679
Age 52
Québec, Quebec, Canada