I don’t recall how I found it, but at some point during my research, I discovered a German book titled Hugenotten und Waldenser in Hessen-Kassel. It’s 500 pages of the history of Huguenot refugees in the Hesse-Kassel Province of Germany, which is where Schwabendorf and Louisendorf reside. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is an English translation. Fortunately, I’ve found a native German speaker who is willing to help me translate.
There are whole sections on Schwabendorf and Louisendorf in this book so it was with more hope than usual that I checked the index for Chastain. And there it was. Out of all of the books that I’ve read, skimmed through, and investigated over the last few weeks, this was the first that specifically mentioned my family. I haven’t had it translated yet so you’ll have to bear with my own feeble attempts for now.
The first mention is on page 331, towards the beginning of a chapter on Schwabendorf. There are some families listed here along with their places of origin in France. To the Rauschenberg – Schwabendorf area of Hesse came four families from the Dauphiné Province of France – Arnoux, Chabriére, Chastain and Le Clerc. This confirms my speculations in a previous post – the Chastains came from the Dauphiné. The book states that they arrived in July of 1687. They most likely resided in Switzerland for a year or two before this (I’m still researching this angle). My new theory based on this information is that the Chastains initially settled in Rauschenberg before moving on to Louisendorf and, ultimately, Schwabendorf. My family was in Germany from 1687 to 1860 – 173 years. That’s longer than we’ve been in America.
The next mention is on page 334. I can’t make out the entire sentence, but I believe it simply states that there was a Pierre Chastain practicing medicine in Schwabendorf in the mid-18th century. This is most likely referring to Pierre the Younger, the son of Pierre the Elder who had moved from Louisendorf.
The next entry for Chastain is page 345. This page contains a list of sources for the chapter on Schwabendorf. Among this list is the following – “5/5966: Hutmacher Chastain 1791”. Pierre the Elder’s second son, Alexandre Chastain, was a farmer and a hatmaker (hutmacher). Alexandre died in 1793 so this could have been written by him. After a little digging, I found this in the Hessian State Archives of Marburg, Germany.
HStAM Best. 5 Nr. 5966Freie Ausübung des Hutmachergewerbes durch den Refugié und Kolonisten Pierre Chastain zu Schwabendorf1791
This is the source that the authors of Hugenotten und Waldenser in Hessen-Kassel were referring to. The title translates roughly to “The Free Exercise of Hatmakers” though it says the author is Pierre Chastain, not Alexandre. This is another puzzle I’m working on. I’ve requested a copy from Marburg.
The next entry is on page 350, which is in a chapter covering the settlement of Louisendorf. I’m not really sure what’s going on in this paragraph. The best that I can make out is that Pierre Chastain, the school master, said that the new church wasn’t built very well. (I will update my awful translations with the real thing once they’re completed.)
Page 363, another sources page, mentions the following item as a source for the Louisendorf chapter- “5/9838: Armand und Chastain 1701”. I’ve also found this one in the Hessian State Archives in Marburg.
HStAM Best. 5 Nr. 9838
Angeblich unrechtmäßig von Pierre Chatain in Besitz genommene Kolonieportion der Witwe des Pierre Armant in Hammonshausen (Louisendorf)
I’m not sure what this translates to, but I believe it was written by Pierre Chastain in Louisdendorf in 1701. I’ve requested a copy of this from Marburg as well.
The final entry for Chastain is on page 461. This section lists all of the known schoolmasters for the villages settled by the refugees. In Louisendorf, Pierre Chastain was the schoolmaster from 1692 to 1715. Previous to this, the earliest record I had of Pierre was him moving from Louisendorf to Schwabendorf in 1717. This list of schoolmasters takes us 25 years further in the past, and we now have Chastain records going all the way back to the 17th century.
If Pierre was old enough to be a schoolmaster in 1692, and the mass exodus of the Huguenots from France didn’t occur until 1685, only 7 years prior, then Pierre is the missing link between Germany and France. I now know for certain that he came from the Dauphiné Province. My hope is to continue researching until I discover the exact town. There may be an even older trail to pick up in France as I dig greedily back towards the 16th century.