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Gabriel Bernon

Birthdate: (91)
Birthplace: La Rochelle, Aunis, France
Death: February 1, 1736 (91)
Providence, , Rhode Island, USA
Place of Burial: Providence, Rhode Island
Immediate Family:

Son of Andre Bernon, IV and Suzanne Guellemard
Husband of Esther LeRoy and Mary Brown
Father of Marie Tourtellot; Esther (II) Helme (Bernon); Sarah Whipple; Gabriel Bernon, Jr.; Gabriel Bernon, Jr (2) and 3 others
Brother of <private> Bernon; Samuel Bernon; <private> Bernon; <private> Bernon; <private> Faneuil and 4 others

Occupation: Merchant
Managed by: Dale Henry Rochon
Last Updated:

About Gabriel Bernon

From: Find A Grave Memorial # 19231732

Gabriel Bernon

  • Birth:  Apr. 6, 1644, France
  • Death: Feb. 1, 1736 in Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA
  • Parents:
    • Andre Bernon
    • Suzanne Guillemand
  • Son-in-law of: Thomas Harris & Elnathan Tew (Parents of Mary Harris, his 2nd wife)
  • Marriages:
    • [1] Esther LeRoy Bernon, 23 Aug 1673
    • [2] Mary Harris.
  • Children with Esther LeRoy:
    • 1. Sarah Bernon Whipple
    • 2. Esther Bernon Powell (1678 - 1746)
    • 3. Marie Bernon Tourtellot
  • Children with Mary Harris:
    • 4. Gabriel Bernon Jr
    • 5. Susannah Bernon Crawford (1716-1802)
      • +sp: Joseph Crawford Sr.
    • 6. Mary Bernon (1719-1789)
      • +sp: Gideon Crawford (1709-1795)
    • 7. Eve Bernon (1721-1775)
  • Family links:
    • Spouse:   Esther LeRoy Bernon (1654 - 1710)*
    • Children:
      • Esther Bernon Powell (1678 - 1746)*
      • Susannah Bernon Crawford (1716 - 1802)*
      • Mary Bernon Crawford (1719 - 1789)*
      • Eve Bernon (1721 - 1775)*
  • Gabriel was a rich merchant in France, whose zeal for the Protestant cause, resulted in his imprisonment for about two years. In 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked, which prompted his release from prison in 1686. Gabriel quickly collected many other Huguenots in and around La Rochelle, with the plan of getting them out of France. He took temporary refuge in England, and arranged his emigration to the new world, purchasing a 750-acre tract in Oxford, MA as a haven for Huguenot refugees. In July of 1688, accompanied by about forty other refugees, Gabriel and Esther left England aboard the "Dolphin" and arrived in Boston. Most of them settled in Oxford, where Gabriel built a house/fortress for the townspeople's protection. He spent much of his time in Boston, where he became a successful merchant. The settlement of Oxford was abandoned after the Indians became too much of a threat, and in 1697 the family moved to Newport, RI. Gabriel started a mercantile business in Newport and was the first person to sign a petition for an Episcopal church in 1699. After Esther's death, Gabriel moved across the Narragansett Bay to North Kingstown. He purchased several tracts of land there and was elected one of the vestrymen of St. Paul's in 1718. In 1720 he moved to Providence, RI where he founded the original St John’s Church.
  • Burial: Saint Johns Cemetery in Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA
  • Inscription: To the memory of Gabriel Bernon Whose existence terminated Feb. 1, 1736, Aged 92 Years.
    • He was a Protestant Born at Rochelle in France from which place he fled on the revocation of the Edict of Nantz.

Plaque within the Cathedral of St. John in Providence, Rhode Island. (pix) Inscription: In memory of Gabriel Bernon Son of Andre and Suzanne Bernon Born in La Rochelle, France, April 6, A.D., 1644. A Huguenot After two years' imprisonment for his Religious faith, Previous to the Revocation of The Edict of Nantes, He took refuge in England, and came to America, A.D., 1688. Here he continued steadfast in promoting The Honour of the church, And the glory of God. It is recorded in The History of Rhode Island, that "To the persevering piety and untiring zeal of Gabriel Bernon, The first three Episcopal churches in Rhode Island Owed their origin." King's, now St. John's Church, Providence, Founded A.D., 1722., being one of them. He died, in the faith once delivered to the saints, Feb. 1, A.D. 1736, AE. 92, and was buried beneath this church.

"Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life." St. Matt. Chap. XIX. V. XXIX.


On April 6, 1644, Gabriel Bernon is born to Andre Bernon and Suzanne Guillermard in La Rochelle, France. The Bernon family were Huguenot merchants. Gabriel married Ester le Roy in 1673 at the Protestant church in La Rochelle. They have one son and several daughters.

Gabriel leaves for New France in 1682 but, with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he is turned away from the colony and is forced to return to France. Upon his arrival in France, he is imprisoned for seven months in Tour de la Lanterne in La Rochelle. His brother Samuel converts to Catholicism to avoid the persecution of Protestants ordered by Louis XIV. After Gabriel's release from Tour de la Lanterne, he flees with his wife Ester and his children Gabriel, Marie and Esther to Amsterdam and from there to London.

It was about this same time that there was interest in developing a plantation or colony west of Natick, in Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hugh Campbell, a Scots merchant in Boston, petitioned the General Curt for permission to establish a town. Joseph Dudley and William Stoughton were laying claim to all the land west of the Blackstone River, pledging that within four years they would settle 30 families there. The four years passed, and not able to make good on their pledge, they sought and were granted an extension.

In the meantime, Gabriel Bernon had become an English subject. In 1688 he enters into a contract to build a grist mill at New Oxford. He sails for Boston with forty refugees, with the intention of forming a Huguenot settlement at New Oxford. Gabriel remains in Boston and quickly becomes a merchant and manufacturer.

In 1686 the proprietors of the proposed town of New Oxford in Nipmuc Country extended an invitation to 30 Huguenot families, from the Bay of Biscay and from La Rochelle, led by Gabriel Bernon and minister Daniel Bondett (or Boudett?). This settlement did not last long, due to attacks by the local Indians. By 1695 Pastor Bondett gathered together his remaining flock and left the settlement for the safety of the coastal area. These Huguenots soon assimilated into their English community. The "French Church" on School Street in Boston eventually became a Presbyterian church.

In 1697 Gabriel moves to Rhode Island. In 1701, his son Gabriel is lost at sea on a voyage to the West Indies. Ester le Roy Bernon dies in Newport, Rhode Island in 1710, aged 56. In 1712, at the age of 68, Gabriel marries 24-year-old Mary Harris, who gives him another son and several daughters. He helps to establish an Episcopalian church in Providence. It is said that some of the money used to build the church came from "pirate friends" made during his many years trading in the West Indies.

Gabriel Bernon died in Providence, Rhode Island in 1736, at the age of 92. He left a will dated 1728 and proven in 1736, disposing of his property, including several slaves. His daughter Esther is mentioned by name in the will. Only his daughters left heirs. His body now lies beneath St. John's Episcopal Church. A modern stone has been placed in the church yard.


Source: ©Rhode Island Historical Society Manuscripts Division Gabriel Bernon Papersl French Huguenot merchant of Providence, Newport, and Kingston. Papers, 1652-1946. Bulk dates 1687-1885. Catalog number: MSS 294; Processed by: Robin P. Flynn USE MICROFILM HF3163 N5 B4 1702 NEG (part)

Historical note:

Gabriel Bernon (1644-1736), a Huguenot and prominent merchant of an ancient family in La Rochelle, France, fled that country in 1686, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes led to his religious persecution. He arrived in Boston (via Amsterdam and London) in June, 1688, with the intention of establishing a settlement at Oxford, Massachusetts; a plan that had evolved through his meetings with other refugees when in London. Bernon's financial support made the settlement a reality for other French Huguenot families who sailed to America with him, but he chose to settle in Boston. The Oxford settlement was abandoned in 1696 after an Indian attack in which four of its members were killed. Attempts were made to re-establish Oxford in 1699, but it was abandoned permanently due to Indian threat in 1704.

After the first break-up of the settlement, Bernon relocated permanently to Rhode Island (in 1697). He stayed in Newport until about 1706, when he moved to Providence. He left Providence for Kingston in 1712 and lived there until 1718, then returned to Providence, where he stayed until his death in 1736.

He had re-established himself in trade soon after his arrival in the American colonies, becoming interested in shipbuilding, and the manufacture of such items as nails, salt, and pine rosin. His business successes attracted the attention of prominent persons in the colonies and in England, who attempted to assist him in establishing contracts with the English government for naval supplies. He also made use of some of the Oxford property by setting up a wash-leather manufactory there, and supplying glovers and hatters in Boston and Newport with that product.

Bernon's lasting mark on the history of Rhode Island, however, is in the area of religion. Charles W. Baird observes, "Bernon had been a member of the French Church, until his departure from Massachusetts...But in Rhode Island...he became a fervent and zealous member of the Church of England." He was active in establishing churches in each of the Rhode Island towns in which he lived at different times during his nearly forty years of residency: Trinity Church in Newport, St. Paul's Church in Kingston, and St. John's Church in Providence. These were Rhode Island's earliest Episcopal churches.

Bernon also is the ancestor to many of Rhode Island's oldest families, including Allens, Crawfords, Dorrs, Coddingtons, and Whipples. He was twice married, first to Esther Le Roy, whom he married in France in 1673, and who died in Newport in 1710; then to Mary Harris, whom he married in 1712. Each marriage produced one son in addition to several daughters; however, neither son survived to have children, so all of Bernon's descendants are through his female children. Bernon died in 1736 at the age of 92, and is buried beneath St. John's Church in Providence.



  • Gabriel Bernon (son of Andre Bernon and Susanne Guillemard) was born April 06, 1644 in La Rochelle, Aunis France, and died February 21, 1736 in Providence RI.
  • He married Ester Le Roy on August 23, 1673 in Charente, Maritime, La Rochelle, Aunis France, daughter of Francois Le Roy and Esther Marquay (Moquay).

Notes for Gabriel Bernon:

  • The fortunes of Gabriel Bernon, the emigrant to Massachusetts, were not less varied.
  • His father, André Bernon, the merchant of La Rochelle to whom reference has been made on a preceding page, died some years before the Revocation,1 leaving five sons and five daughters, all of whom had reached maturity.2
  • André, the eldest, was a prosperous banker, and an "ancien" of the Huguenot church. When Arnou, the cruel governor, called before him the heads of families that remained steadfast in their faith, after the first domiciliary visits of the soldiery, and threatened them with utter ruin should they persist in their obstinate course, André Bernon exclaimed with tears, "Sir, you would have me lose my soul! since it is impossible for me to believe what the religion you bid me embrace teaches." "Much do I care," was the brutal reply, "whether you lose your soul or not, provided you obey."2 André‚ Bernon (Sr) did not long survive the destruction of his beloved church and the dispersion of his brethren. He died soon after the Revocation, and was buried by night in his own garden at Prigny. 3
  • Samuel and Jean, the second and third sons of Andre Bernon, senior, forsook the faith of their parents, and became zealous Romanists. Samuel's conversion had occurred long before the Revocation, in 1660,4 shortly after his marriage with the daughter of a Huguenot minister, who was himself on the point of conforming to the Church of Rome.5 Some of his letters to Gabriel, in reply to his brother's unsparing strictures upon that Church, are extant, and reveal at once the sincerity of the writer, and his credulous acquiescence in the errors and fabrications of Rome. Jean was a more recent proselyte. Educated for the Protestant ministry, he became pastor of the Reformed church of Saint Just,6 near Marennes, in the province of Saintonge: but at the time of the Revocation, he followed the example of his brother Samuel, and like him escaped the miseries that befell others of his kindred. Samuel, "sieur de Salins"--his Huguenot name,7 the only trace he retained of a Huguenot extraction--lived in comfort, if not in luxury, in the city of Poitiers, in Poitou, "having acquired a large fortune while engaged in commercial transactions, both in America and Europe."8 Jean, "sieur de Luneau,"9 resided in Marennes, or in the neighboring parish of Saint Just, where he had exercised his Protestant ministry, and where he seems to have acquired an estate, perhaps the reward of his abjuration.10 He sometimes joined with Samuel in endeavors to persuade his fugitive brother Gabriel, in America, and his sister Esther, then in England, to come back to France, renounce their heresy, and live under that king whose subjects they were by birth. "Our brother de St. Jeux [St. Just]," writes Samuel to Gabriel, "can better than I explain to you the difficulties upon matters of religion that may prevent you from returning to your dear country. He has very correct ideas on these matters; I do not think that he makes as much use of them as he should."

Bernon's escape to Holland.

  • Gabriel Bernon, fourth son of Andre'‚ had reached the age of forty-one at the time of the Revocation. Associated with his father, and succeeding him in business, he was now one of the leading merchants of La Rochelle. His accounts show very extensive commercial relations with the chief towns of the neighboring provinces--Poitiers, Limoges, AngoulŠme, Niort, Chƒtellerault, Loudun, and other places; and a foreign trade with Martinique, St. Christopher, Cayenne, and St. Domingo. More important than any of these transactions, however, had been the trade with Canada. In Quebec, as we have seen already, he was recognized as the principal French merchant, and as having rendered great services to the colony. But he was also an inflexible Huguenot: and the clergy, to whom just now the destruction of heresy was the only consideration, were bent upon his ruin. "It is a pity," wrote the governor of Canada, "that he cannot be converted. As he is a Huguenot, the bishop wants me to order him home this autumn, which I have done, though he carries on a large business, and a great deal of money remains due to him here." Recantation or ruin--the Huguenot merchant was to make his choice. Gabriel Bernon reached La Rochelle in the height of the persecution that had commenced in the spring preceding. He was thrown into prison, where he languished for some months.11 An interesting memorial of thisperiod of suffering is preserved by one of his descendants in Rhode Island: a French psalter, of microscopic size, given him, it is said, by a fellow-prisoner in the tower of La Lanterne. After some months, he was released, perhaps through the influence of his Roman Catholic brothers: and soon after, having made such disposition of his remaining property as he could make, he found means to escape from France to Holland. His wife, Esther Le Roy, endeavored to accompany him, but was arrested in the attempt. She feigned conversion, was released, and soon rejoined her husband.12
  • 1 He (Andre) was living at the time of Gabriel's marriage, when he signed the marriage contract, 23 August, 1673. His wife, Suzanne Guillemard, was then already deceased.--Bernon Papers, MS.
  • 2 Andr‚ Bernon's sons were: Andr‚, Samuel, Jean, (born in 1659,) Gabriel, (born April 6, 1644,) and Jacques. His daughters were: Esther, Jeanneton, (married Jean Allaire,) Eve, (married Pierre Sanceau,) Suzanne, (married Paul de Pont,) and Marie (married Benjamin Faneuil).
  • 3 Histoire des R‚formez de la Rochelle, etc., pp. 297-281, 302.
  • 4 Filleau, Dictionnaire historique et g‚n‚alogique des familles de l'ancien Poitou. Vol. I., p. 313.
  • 5 Marie Cottiby, daughter of Samuel Cottiby, pastor at Poitiers, 1653 to 1660. Complaint of his conduct while pastor having been made to the Synod of Loudun, Cottiby hastened to abjure Protestantism. He was rewarded with the office of king's attorney for the district of La Rochelle.--(LiŠvre, Histoire des protestants et des ‚glises r‚form‚es du Poitou, III., 78, 79.) La France Protestante, deuxiŠme ‚dition, vol. II., p. 390, erroneously states that Samuel Bernon's father, as well as his father-in-law, abjured Protestantism on this occasion.
  • 6 Pasteur de S. Just, 1661-77, mais qui abjura … la R‚vocation.--La France Protestante.
  • 7 Samuel: "nom inusit‚ alors chez les catholiques, et en honneur chez les protestants."--Histoire de la colonie fran‡aise du Canada. I. Note XXI.
  • 8 Filleau, Dictionnaire des familles de l'ancien Poitou. I., p. 313.
  • 9 Sgr du fief de Feusse et du fief Luneau.--Filleau.
  • 10 Jean Bernon is repeatedly mentioned by Samuel in his letters to Gabriel, as "notre frŠre de St. Jeux"--i. e., St. Just. Gabriel names him but once. In an inventory of his property on leaving La Rochelle, "monsr. Jean Bernon mon frŠre" is mentioned as owing him a sum of œ140, under the head "Dettes douteuses."
  • 11 His goods were seized on the thirteenth of October, 1685. His imprisonment probably extended from this date to the beginning of May, 1686, when, upon his release, he prepared a balance-sheet, showing the condition of his affairs. This document is headed "A la Rochelle, le 10 May 1686. Extrait de ce quy mest Dh'eu en Divers endroits, dont Jay mis les partes en mains de monsr. Sanceau, le 10?? May 1686."
  • 12 La France Protestante: deuxi‚me edition, vol. II., p. 391.


The person who, from his standing in his native country and his wealth was probably the most conspicuous among the French settlers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, was Gabriel Bernon. He was born April 6, 1644, of an ancient family at Rochelle, of which city it is traditionary in one branch of the family here, he was hereditary registrar. In anticipation of the troubles he fled to London.1 He landed in Boston in 1688. He was one of the principal persons concerned in the French settlement at Oxford, Massachusetts, for which we must refer to the very full account in Massachusetts Historical Collections.1 Quite full accounts of him and much of his correspondence are published in the work last referred to, and also in Updike's History of the Narragansett Church, and in Mrs. Lee's Huguenots in France and America.

In the very full genealogy of the Bernon family, published in France, the posterity of Gabriel Bernon are not given. But his correspondence with his brother Samuel; with Benjamin Faneuil, (of Faneuil Hall memory,) who married his sister Marie; and with another brother-in-law, Pierre Sanceau, all of whom are mentioned in the printed genealogy, and which correspondence is now in the possession of his descendants, all prove the connection. The genealogy extends back to 1545. The Faneuils after coming to this country returned and lived in France.

  • Bernon and Faneuil and Louis Allaire were concerned together in various mercantile operations. He remained in Boston about ten years and removed to Newport about 1697.
  • He was one of the first petitioners for the establishment of an Episcopal church in Newport, September, 1699,1 and from this and other similar movements originated the English society for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts in 1702.
  • Bernon's first wife, Esther Le Roy, died in Newport, June 14, 1710, aged fifty six years, and her gravestone is still to be seen there. For a short time after the death of his wife he resided in Providence, and then began to make purchases with a view to trade in Kingstown.
  • In those days the great road for travel from Boston to New York followed the shore, and was sometimes known as the Pequot path. Wickford, or as then sometimes called, Updike's Newtown, and Tower Hill, were two of the principal places of business on it. He purchased of Lodowick Updike a wharf lot at Wickford, built a wharf, a warehouse, and a sloop.2
  • While in Kingstown he was active in support of St. Paul's Episcopal church, of which Rev. James McSparran was rector; but about 1719 we find him again settled in Providence, where he remained until his death.
  • In 1712 he married for his second wife Mary Harris daugnter of Thomas Harris, 2nd, and grand niece of William Harris, the companion of Roger Williams.
  • Of the children of Bernon's first marriage, Jane married, October 11, 1722, Col. William Coddington, of Newport.
  • Esther married, May 30, 1713, Adam Ap Howell, or Powell.3
    • Their daughter Elizabeth, born in Newport, April 8, 1714, married Rev. Mr. Seabury, of New London, whose son Samuel by a former marriage was the first English bishop in America.4
    • Esther, (daughter of Adam and Esther Powell,) was born in Newport, May, 1718.5
  • Sources:
    • 1 Arnold's History of R. I., vol. 1, p. 559; vol. 2, pp. 76, 116.
    • 2 Updike's History of the Narragansett Church, p. 42.
    • 3 Trinity Church Records, Newport.
    • 4 Updike's History of the Narragansett Church, pp. 139, 143.
    • 5 Newport Records
  • Marie, another daughter of Gabriel Bernon, married Gabriel Tourtellot. See Tourtellot family, post. .
  • Mr. Bernon's eldest son Gabriel and four daughters, children by his first wife, all came with him to America. This son died, unmarried, in early manhood by a shipwreck at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. * In his will, dated February 16, 1727-8, proved in Providence, February 10, 1735-6, and there recorded, he mentions his former wife, Esther, his children, Mary Tourtellot, Esther Powell, Sarah Whipple, and Jane Coddington, and four small children by his present wife, Mary, viz.: Gabriel, Susanne, Mary, and Eve: also his son-in law, Benjamin Whipple. Of their latter children, Gabriel died young.
  • The location of Bernon's dwelling house in Providence is perfectly well known. It was on the lot of the original "Roger Williams Spring," on the west side of North Main street, and next north of his great grandson, Gov. Philip Allen's house. Almost directly opposite Bernon's house was the dwelling of Roger Williams, next to which, though at a later day, was King's Church, now St. John's.

King's Church. W.+E. Now St. John's. G. Bernon House Lot. Church Street. Roger Williams Spring. O Roger Williams Lot. North Main Street. Howland Street. Gov. Philip Allen's.

  • At the age of eighty, Mr. Bernon embarked for Europe. and while in London, was presented at Court.
  • He died in Providence, R. I., February 21, 1736, aged 92 years, and was buried beneath St. John's Church, which owed its origin to him, and in which a bronze tablet is erected to his memory. An obituary notice of him was published in Boston. He was a gentleman by birth and estate, and in leaving his native land the greater part of his estate was necessarily left behind him; he was a courteous, honest, kindly gentleman, behaving himself as a zealous professor of the Protestant religion and dying in the faith and hope of a Redeemer, and with the inward assurance of salvation; leaving a good name among all his acquaintances, and by his upright life giving evidence of the power of Christianity in sustaining him through his great sufferings in leaving his country and a great estate that he might worship God according to his conscience. A great concourse of people attended his funeral, and listened to an agreeable and eloquent sermon from Psalm 39:4, preached by the Rev. Mr. Brown.
  • The family of Bernon is registered in the "Historical and Genealogical Dictionary of the families of ancient Poitou," and it is stated there that the name has been known and celebrated since the "earliest ages of the French monarchy." Numerous articles of value preserved among his descendants, go to show the wealth and social standing of Mr. Bernon. For some of the numerous descendants of Bernon, see the families of Crawford, Allen, Tourtellot, Helme and Carpenter, post.
  • Gabriel Bernon, formerly of La Rochelle, was now in London, meditating a settlement in Massachusetts. He had been engaged for years, as we have seen, in trade with Canada; and upon leaving France at the period of the Revocation, his thoughts naturally turned to the northern colonies of America. Bernon arrived in London from Amsterdam early in the year 1687. Here he chanced to meet a fellow-refugee, who introduced him to the president of the Society for Promoting and Propagating the Gospel in New England. That society had been formed in Cromwell's day, nearly forty years before, in consequence of the interest awakened in Great Britain by the news of Eliot's successful labors among the savages. The president of the corporation, Robert Thompson, was a London merchant of high standing. Business considerations mingled with his philanthropic designs respecting the wilds of America: for the General Court of Massachusetts, in recognition of valuable services rendered to the colony, had given him five hundred acres of land in the Nipmuck country, a territory as yet unoccupied, in the interior of the province. At the same time, the General Court had granted to a company, organized in London, with Robert Thompson at its head, a larger tract of land--eight miles square--for the site of a settlement. The terms of this grant required that thirty families should occupy the land, within four years from the date of the grant; and that they should be accompanied by an able orthodox minister. When Bernon made his appearance, the four years had nearly elapsed; the company had not yet succeeded in effecting the settlement; and at their request the General Court of Massachusetts had extended the term for three years more. To the associates, the intelligent and enterprising Frenchman was a godsend indeed; while to Bernon himself, the vision of a "seigneurie," or at least a "gentilhommiŠre," to be set up in the new and free country whither he proposed to remove, must have been a tempting one. He was immediately chosen a member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians, and was offered a share in the company's Massachusetts lands. A further inducement to engage in the scheme of colonization soon presented itself. Isaac Bertrand du Tuffeau, a refugee from Poitou,1 hearing of Bernon's plans, offered to cross over at once to New England, obtain a grant of land, and begin a plantation. Bernon was persuaded to acquiesce in this arrangement. He advanced the money required for the settlement; and in the spring of the following year, stimulated by the letters that he received from Bertrand, decided, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, to remove to Boston.

SOURCE: Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island, Published by J.H. Beers & Co of Chicago in 1908; Page 2036: TOURTELLOT.

  • Gabriel Bernon, father of Marie (wife of Abraham Tourtellot), was a Protestant merchant of an ancient and honorable family of Rochelle, France, where he was born April 6, 1644, a son of Andre Bernon and

his wife Susanne Guillemard.

  • His zeal in the Protestant cause had rendered him obnoxious to the authorities for some time previous to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and he was imprisoned for two years.
  • Leaving his native city, he took refuge in England.
  • He came to America soon after 1687 and to Providence in 1698, and then removed into what was then the Narragansett country, where the ruins of his home were traceable in recent years.
  • Previous to his first arrival in Providence he had purchased property in a part of a plantation at Oxford, Mass., where may still be seen remains of a fort constructed by him as a means of defense against the Indians.
  • To his Oxford residence the creek which flows into the Quinebaug, or French river in Connecticut, is indebted for its name.
  • Gabriel Bernon's first wife was Esther LeRoy,
    • Daughter of Francois LeRoy of Rochelle.
  • His second wife was Mary Harris, whom he married at Providence.
    • She was a daughter of William Harris, who came with Roger Williams to What Cheer.
  • The only son of Gabriel Bernon died in youth, and he is now represented by the descendants of a numerous family of Daughters. One of the daughters by his first wife married Benjamin Whipple, another married a Helm, and one by his second wife married a Crawford of Providence."
  • More About Gabriel Bernon and Ester Le Roy:
    • Marriage: August 23, 1673, Charente, Maritime, La Rochelle, Aunis France.


  • Gabriel was a rich merchant of France.
  • His zeal in the Protestant cause made him offensive to the authorities and he was imprisoned for about two years.
  • In 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked, which had originally protected the French from persecution at the hands of the Catholic Church.
  • After his release from prison in 1686, Gabriel collected money from many Huguenots in and around La Rochelle, presumably to get them and their money out of the country. He left France and took refuge in England to avoid prosecution.

  • Gabriel arranged to purchase a 750-acre tract in Oxford, MA as a home for Huguenot refugees. This land was granted to him under the condition that he was to bring thirty French-Protestant families to settle there. * Gabriel and Esther left England and arrived in Boston in July of 1688 aboard the "Dolphin". They were accompanied by about forty refugees , most of which settled in Oxford.
  • Gabriel had a house built which was primarily used as a fort for the townspeople' s protection; he spent much of his time in Boston, where he became a successful merchant.
  • The settlement of Oxford was abandoned by the French after the Indians became too much of a threat, and in 1697 the family moved to Newport, RI.
Gabriel started a mercantile business in Newport and was the first person to sign a petition for an Episcopal church in 1699.
  • The Bernons owned a number of slaves.
  • After Esther's death, Gabriel moved across the Narragansett Bay to North Kingstown. He purchased several tracts of land there and was elected one of the vestrymen of St. Paul's in 1718.
  • In 1720 he sold his twenty-five hundred acres of land in Oxford, MA for the sum of twelve hundred pounds. In about that same year he moved to Providence, RI where he founded the original chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John.

Arnold, James N., Vital Record of Rhode Island 1636-1850 (Providence, RI: Narraganset Historical Publishing Co., 1891-1912, 22 vols, 13,030 pgs), 2_261.

Providence vol. 3 p. 261: Bernon, Gabrield, Feb 1, 1735-6


From: The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island; Comprising of 3 Generations of Settlers Who Came Before 1690; By John Osborne Austin; Orig. Published Albany, New York, 1887 Reprinted with permission by: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore, Maryland, 1969, 1978, 1982, 1995 Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 68-56072 Pages 19-21

  • Gabriel,2 (Andre,1)
    • b. 1644, Apr 6
    • m. (1) 1673, Aug 23
      • Esther LeRoy of ________ Leroy b. 1654; d.1710, Jun 14
    • m. (2) 1712
      • Mary Harris of Thomas & Elnathan (Tew) Harris
  • He lived in: Rochelle, France, Boston, Mass., Newport, Kings Tower, R.I., and Providence R.I.
  • He was a merchant at Rochelle, and early in life engaged in commercial enterprise in Canada, where he resided sometime.
  • 1685 He was thrown into prison, for his crime of Protestantism, and there remained some months.
  • 1686 Amsterdam. He fled thence, on his release from prison.
  • 1687 London.
  • 1688, July 5 Boston. He arrived at this date in ship Dolphin, from Gravesend. He obtained a confirmation of a tract at Oxford, Mass., where he subsequently built a grist-mill (sic). The area of the tract was 2,672 acres, which he valued at £1,000. A French settlement existed there for quite a period. While living in Boston, he engaged in the manufacture of rosin, salt, &c.
  • 1693 He went to England and made a contract with the government for supply of naval stores.
  • 1696 He again went to England to further his commercial enterprises.
  • 1697 Newport.
  • 1699, Jun 1. He and wife Esther and Abraham Tourtellot and wife Mary, and Andrew Faneuil, of Boston, attorney of brother Benjamin Faneuil sold for £110., to Prudence Thompson, wife of Benjamin Thompson, of Roxbury, their mansion house, and 2 ½ acres in Roxbury (meadow, mowing and orchard).
  • 1699, Sept 23 He signed a petition for the establishment of an Episcopal church, at Newport (Trinity).
  • 1710, Jun 14 His first wife died while he was living at Newport, and was buried there, in Newport Cemetery, where the grave stone may still be seen. He moved to Providence after his wife’s death, and lived there a short time, marrying his second wife there.
  • 1712 Kings Town. He purchased at about this time, a lot, of Lodowick Updike, at Wickford, and built a wharf, warehouse and sloop.
  • 1714, Mar 17 He sold John Crawford, of Providence, a warehouse lot there, for £21.
From:  (Rhode Island historical tracts (Volume no.5, ser.1) -
  • Gabriel Bernon was of noble descent according to the French standards of nobility.
  • The family claimed affiliation with the house of the Dukes of Burgundy, and it seems very probable that that claim was well founded, but by documentary evidence they were descendants of Raoul de Bernon, who fought in the Crusades and who had a coat-of arms which he was entitled to transmit to his descendants, of whom Gabriel was certainly one.
  • Two mayors of Rochelle in successive generations were elected from this family and this under French law and the charter of the city ennobled them and their descendants.
view all 13

Gabriel Bernon's Timeline

April 6, 1644
La Rochelle, Aunis, France
Age 30
LaRochelle, Aunis, France
March 12, 1676
Age 31
La Rochelle (?), France
November 11, 1678
Age 34
La Rochelle, Aunis, France
Age 45
Charente, Aunis, France
Age 68
Rhode Island
Age 71
Newport, Rhode Island, USA
April 1, 1719
Age 74
Rhode Island, United States