Pierre Chastain: Surgeon, Apothecary, Schoolmaster, Godfather


Louisendorf 1688 – 1988: Ursprung und Entwicklung einer Hugenottenkolonie

I recently discovered this great little book celebrating the 300th anniversary of Louisendorf. Since there are no copies available in the US, I had to borrow this one from Germany. The book is, no surprise, written in German. Unable to read it, I scanned it for key words instead. There are a few items of interest. (Though I’m sure there would be plenty more if I could actually read it.)

As always, bear with my translations:

On August 22, 1688, the 50 year old Claude Peloux from Combovin in the Dauphiné with his sons Jean, the age of 23, and François (15 years old) and his 17-year niece Madeleine Planel arrived. From the family of Abraham Riste and his sister Madeleine, who also belonged to this family group 14, we later learn nothing here. When and where Claude lost his wife, we do not know.

I searched for Claude Peloux in the Swiss assistance records and was able to find him. He and his wife were together in Schauffhausen, Switzerland, generally the last stop for the refugees before they reached Germany. Unfortunately, he must have lost her between there and Louisendorf.

Huguenot Colonies in Hesse

Huguenot Colonies in Upper Hesse

I’m also intrigued by Claude’s niece traveling with him. Perhaps, like her aunt, her parents were lost on the road. Or it may be they were unable to escape France in the first place, and Claude became her guardian in their absence. A sad story either way.

The book continues with information on the Peloux family:

Jean Peloux, born about 1665, soon married the 22 year old Benoîte Archimbaud from the house on the other side of the street. She was the sister of “Greben” Claude Archimbaud. Six children were born from their union. Honorable people were the godparents: Professor Gautier, who Benoîte Archimbaud knew from the manufactures, the treasurer of Hessenstein, pastor Fontaine himself and his wife Marie Quin, the schoolmaster Chastain and finally Esaie Faure, the wife of the master hatmaker in Frankenberg.

Pierre Chastain was one of those honorable godparents of the Peloux children. As a surgeon and a schoolmaster, he would have been viewed as one of the pillars of local society.

I left Claude Archimbaud’s title in the original German—”Greben”. This has been a hard word to translate. The most likely meaning I’ve found is gravedigger. (Update December 2016: The Greben was the mayor of the village.)

Professor Thomas Gautier is a name I’ve come across again and again. He was a professor of theology at the nearby Marburg University. I believe he was integral to the founding of Louisendorf, but I don’t have all of the details. Check back here in another twenty years, after I’ve learned German, and I’ll have more information. I don’t know if he was related to Anne Marie Gautier, Pierre Chastain’s wife.

There are no further details on who the treasurer of Hessenstein was. No name is given, just his title. Pastor Fontaine was the local pastor in Louisendorf.

Reading about the master hatmaker in Frankenberg reminded me that I have a few books waiting in the wings that cover how hats were made before the industrial revolution. I’m especially interested in this topic since Pierre’s son and grandson—Alexandre and Jean Pierre Chastain—were both hatmakers in Schwabendorf.

There are only two other mentions of Pierre in the book, and they are both related to the same list of schoolmasters I’ve already discussed in this post from last summer.

Finally, I gleaned a small piece of information that may be helpful in gathering more information about Pierre. Schoolmasters in Hesse, their position being subsidized by the government, had to be appointed by the Landgrave himself. It seems likely that paperwork of some sort would have been involved. I’ve already contacted the Hessian State Archives in Marburg to find out.

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