Estienne (Etienne) Cheneau (Chenault)
|Also Known As:||"Stephan de Cheneau"|
|Birthplace:||Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France|
|Death:||Died in Essex, VA, USA|
|Managed by:||Private User|
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About Estienne (Etienne) Cheneau
The date and location of the birth of Estienne Cheneau have not been positively determined, but some assumptions can be made from information that is known about him. He is listed on the manifest of the Nassau, which landed in Yorktown, Virginia, on 5 Mar 1700/1701. The entry is in French and is shown as Estienne Cheneau et sa femme, inferring the immigrant arrived with his wife, but without children. It has generally been assumed by most researchers that they were probably married not long before departing for the New World. This assumption led early researchers to the probability that Estienne was born no later than about 1680, thus being about 20-21 years old when he arrived in America. However, many current researchers now believe he may possibly have been born as early as 1665-1670 if he was about 50 years old at the time of his death, which was the average life expectancy in the time he lived.
As to the location of his birth, it was likely not in France as previously assumed, although his parents descended from French Huguenots. Earlier research proposed that he was born and raised in the Province Languedoc, a few miles west of Marseille. The small city of Nimes, with Avignon nearby, and the mouth of the Rhone, were thought to have been his habitat. However, this does not seem to be plausible. Aboard the Nassau, which was the fourth ship funded by the Protestant Relief Fund in England to relocate Huguenots to America, were 191 Huguenot passengers from the continent. The origin of the passengers aboard each of the four vessels that were part of the effort, however, differed. Thus, most researchers agree that Estienne's being in the fourth group indicates that he was most likely born in the Netherlands to parents descended for French Huguenots, who probably had fled the persecutions in France by possibly as much as a century before his death. And, because they fled to the Netherlands, they likely were from the northern regions of France rather than the Province Languedoc.
A petition dated 19 Apr 1707 and written in French and submitted to Colonel Edmund Jennings, Chairman of the Executive Council in Virginia on behalf of resident of Manakin, Virginia, by C. Philippe de Richebourg, Minister of the Huguenots in Manakin, confirms that Estienne went to Manakin after debarking the Nassau and resided there for at least six years as his is one of five signatures that appear on the petition besides that of Richebourg. Prior to the discovery of the petition several months ago, researchers did not believe that Estienne went to Manakin, but proceeded to Essex County and settled there. Evidently, this was incorrect.
This discovery reveals several other things about Estienne. He was able to sign his name on the petition, so now it is a mystery as to why he could manage only an "X" on the earliest documents in Essex County in 1714. Also, it appears to give merit to the belief of current researchers that his marriage to a Miss Howlett would have been his second marriage, which occurred more than six years after landing in America, since only Huguenots were in Manakin, and Miss Howlett was from an English family long in America. William Howlett was a neighbor to the Chenaults in Essex County. Thus, Estienne's son, Howlett, thought to be named for his mother's maiden name, would not have been born before about 1708 and more likely a couple of years or so later.
Estienne shows up in public records for the first time as Stephen Chenault, the Anglicized version of his name, in Essex County, Virginia in 1714. It is presumed that like most of the traditional Huguenots, he departed Manakin shortly after the 1707 petition, which was rejected by the Council. His whereabouts until he is found in 1714 are unknown. While he could have moved on to Essex County at that time, there is no record of him there. He may have moved to North or South Carolina for a while as did some of the Huguenots, but again nothing substantiates this. Judging by the assumed date of birth of Howlett being about 1712, Estienne, now using the Anglicized Stephen Chenault, must have been in Essex County and married to Howlett's mother by about 1711.
Early researchers of the family have disagreed about the number of children fathered by Estienne. Current opinion is that only three are confirmed in public records. He had one son, Stephen, his first-born, by his first wife who arrived with him in America. This son was born shortly after their arrival at Manakin. It is not know what became of his first wife or if there were other children born to them. It is believed that Estienne, then known as Stephen, married a second time to Miss Howlett about 1711. They had two sons, Howlett and John. Both Howlett and John died as young adults. Both were married and had small children when they died. Howlett's widow, Mary, remarried to William Ballard, which qualified the two of them to serve as co-executors of Howlett's estate.
Estienne is believed to have died within 2-3 years after 1715, when his witnessing of the will, above, demonstrates he was then still living. From 1720 forward, the references to Stephen Chenault in public records in the area are believed to refer to the son of the immigrant, who bore the same name.