My Name Is On A Plaque!

In 1687, Pierre Chastain was one of the original settlers of the village of Schwabendorf, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Gerhard Badouin.)

Memorial to the original Huguenot settlers of the village of Schwabendorf. Among them was Pierre Chastain. (Photo courtesy of Gerhard Badouin.)

Of the 200,000 Huguenots who fled France circa 1685, 50,000 fled to Germany. Of the 50,000 who fled to Germany, 116 found themselves in the town of Rauschenberg. The ruler of Hesse granted these refugees land to the northwest of Rauschenberg to start their own settlement. And so, on June 30, 1687, the Huguenot colony of Schwabendorf was established. Among those 116 Frenchmen, we find Pierre Chastain, and, because of this, we find the surname Chastain engraved on the memorial pictured above. It was erected in Schwabendorf in 1987 to celebrate 300 years.

Pierre wasn’t in Schwabendorf for long. In 1688, there is evidence he traveled back to Geneva, Switzerland for some unknown reason (going back to the French border to retrieve family members was not uncommon). Between 1688 and 1690-91, it appears he was living in Marburg, Germany with some relatives, Jacques Chastain and Isabeau Chastain, both from Pierre’s hometown of Vesc in France. Eventually, Pierre settled in Louisendorf, another Huguenot colony in Hesse, where he was the schoolmaster and a church elder from 1692 to 1717. In 1717, he moved back to Schwabendorf and married Anne Marie Gautier, the eldest daughter of a local stocking weaver, Claude Gautier. Pierre died in Schwabendorf in 1731, forty-four years after he was recorded as one of its founders.

Update July 2017: After leaving Schwabendorf, Pierre was living in Marburg with his brother, Jacques, his sister, Isabeau Chastain, and her family. Isabeau was married to Benjamin Gachet, a merchant from Volvent, France. Pierre left Marburg for Geneva to retrieve his mother, Lucrèce Dubrotier. She had stayed behind in France with Pierre’s ailing father, Elie Chastain. Once Elie died in December of 1686, Lucrèce began to make her way into Germany to join Pierre and her other children. She must have been a stout old lady to cross the Alps on her journey. Pierre somehow received word of her coming and traveled back toward his homeland to meet her. On returning, Pierre and his mother settled in Louisendorf, near Marburg and Schwabendorf. They lived together there until her death sometime after 1695.

List of the founding settlers of the Huguenot colony of Schwabendorf in Hesse on July 4, 1687. Pierre Chastain is the last name listed under group #4.

List of the founding settlers of the Huguenot colony of Schwabendorf in Hesse. Recorded on July 4, 1687. Pierre Chastain is the last name listed under group #4. Moyse Chabrier, with whom he is listed, was his brother-in-law. Moyse had married Marguerite Chastain, one of Pierre’s sisters. Sadly, Marguerite died somewhere between Frankfurt Germany in 1686 and the establishment of the colony at Schwabendorf in 1687 and so doesn’t appear on this list. (Source: Hessian State Archives in Marburg. Bestand 40 a XXV Paket Generalia.)

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