Skip Weiler

Mike “Skip” Weiler spoke about the Beauvais family during the opening ceremony for Jour de Fete on August 11. (Herald staff photo)

Mike “Skip” Weiler’s family history speech at the Project Pioneer portion of the Jour de Fete opening ceremony on August 11 in Ste. Genevieve:

The Beauvais roots run wide, and they run deep.

Hundreds of people who grew up in Ste. Genevieve or even who live in Ste. Genevieve today are totally unaware that they are descendants of the earliest, the wealthiest and the most influential French family of the Illinois country or Louisiana Territory.

But, because of the 67 years of research and dedication of Lyle Mae Gendron Bova, and her writing of “A Story of the Gabriel Beauvais Family,” many of these people can be identified today. ...

It all started with Jacques Beauvais dit Ste. Gemme and Jeanne Solde. Jacques had arrived in New France, which is Quebec, Canada, in 1652 from the Normandy region of France as part of the Percheron Immigration.

Craftsmen had been sent to Quebec to build a city. Jacques’ craft was a maker of — get this — quick lime. He was 28 years of age and single. There were 300 or so people living there, mostly men.

Jeanne Solde arrived as part of the Grande Recrue of 1653. One hundred men were sent to defend the city against the constant attack of the Iroquois, and 14 women accompanied them on the voyage. The women were “filles a marier,” or girls of marriage, of which there were 262 between 1634 and 1662. These women were not recruited by the state or given a dowry — like the “filles du Rois,” or king’s daughters that came years later — but were promised nothing but a better life.

You see, a woman could not marry without parental permission until they were 30 years of age in France, and marriages were arranged by their parents, mostly because of what one owned.

In any regard, Jacques Beauvais and Jeanne Solde were married on January 7, 1654, two months after her arrival in Canada.

They had nine children ... and three had children that immigrated to Kaskaskia around 1720. A fourth had a grandson that later arrived in Ste. Genevieve, and a fifth was a major influence to those who left Canada for Kaskaskia/Ste. Genevieve.

Jean Baptiste Beauvais worked for Tonti, who was captain of fur trading for the King of France, as a fur trader in the Great Lakes area in the 1680s. They made a lot of money trading furs back in the day, and that’s what led the French to Ste. Genevieve at the time.

He had five children but none of the five lived to see their first birthday.

He did well at it [fur trading] and was obviously influential to his eight nephews that made the trip to Kaskaskia.

Marie Charlotte Beauvais, a second child of Jean [Solde] and Jacques [Beauvais], had four sons immigate to Kaskaskia: Jean Baptiste Turpin, Joseph Turpin, Jacques Francois Turpin, and Louis Turpin.

Louis was the only son to have descendants living in the area today. He was a captain in the militia, a prominent man, and he was a wealthy merchant. He can be found numerous times in the Kaskaskia Manuscripts serving as a witness on civil documents.

Joseph Beauvais had a grandson, Jemenin Beauvais, that moved to Ste. Genevieve in 1807 and lived here until 1823, when he moved back to St. Louis. Jemenin had a son that was called the “Mountain Man of the West.” He traded with Indians and was later the Indian Commissioner. He did in St. Louis, and his son, Bazile Renault Beauvais, built the Beauvais Manor, which is a home — it’s now an office building — still standing today located at South Grand and Magnolia.

Barbe Beauvais had a son, Jean Baptiste Brunet dit Bourbonnais, that was in Kaskaskia in the early 1720s. He was the oldest of the cousins to arrive here and was the first to appear in the Kaskaskia Manuscripts. He can be found often early, and then not until he was in his 70s when he had a petition drawn up for permission to emancipate their slave Catherine and her son John after the deaths of him and his wife, Elizabeth Deshayes. He lived to be nearly 80 and he was married in the 1700s for 47 years.

His descendants, amongst others, are the Buattes, Gendrons and Menards.

Raphael Beavais had three sons make their way to the Illinois country: Rene Augustin, Raphael and Jean Baptist.

Augustin would show up as a voyager staying with his brother Raphael [according to the Kaskaskia Manuscripts]. It is said that he disappeared into the life of the Indians, and apparently his blood daughter married Louis Lorimer, who is the founder of Cape Girardeau.

Raphael also arrived around 1720, like the others. He was a carpenter and a soldier. According to Lyla, he was not as wealthy as his brother Jean Baptiste but was an important man in Kasky, He was a magistrate [in the court]. He fought in the Battle of Duquesne when General Braddock was fatally wounded in 1755 [on July 9], according to his grandson, Pierre Menard. This is in Lyla’s book. All the Bovas living in the area today are descended from Raphael.

Jean Baptiste also arrived around 1720. He was the richest man in the territory, in Lyla’s words. An example of his wealth is proved when he outbid Pierre Laclede for the Jesuit building in Kaskaskia in November of 1745. Then, in the spring of 1746, Pierre Laclede is credited with the finding of St. Louis.

Also, legend has it that Jean Baptiste was ready to leave Kaskaskia because he could not find a French woman to marry, and he shunned the idea of mixing his blood with an Indian when a Mr. Lacroix arrived at Fort de Chartres with his seven daughters. Sight unseen, he [Jean Baptiste] is said to say, “Mr. Lacrois, have pity on your fellow countryman’s soul; I will marry your eldest daughter, Louise.”

Jean Baptiste is the father of Jean Baptiste, the builder of the Beauvais-Amoureux House on St. Mary’s Road, and also Joseph Vital, the man vividly described by Henry Marie Breckenridge, who was an early American author who was sent here [by his father] to live with the Beauvaises and learn the French customs [and language].

The Vital Joseph Beauvais [House] is right up the street, 20 South Main.

So when John Baptiste Sr. died, there is a Kaskaskia Manuscript entry showing an agreement by the children to provide their mother with an annual stipend that consisted of 400 livres of flour, three livres of coffee, four livres of sugar and two pots of brandy.

Jean Baptiste II was responsible for this agreement.

Some of the homes still standing: the Pierre Menard Home north of Chester [in Illinois], the Amoureux House, the Vital Beauvais House, the Joseph Bogy House — next to the post office — was  a daughter of Vital, the Nicolas Jarrot Mansion in St. Clair, Illinois. There are numerous houses from the Beauvais descendants still standing today, which is amazing.

Beauvaises fought in the Civil War — some for the North and some for the South. Many were living in Louisiana at the time. James Felix Beauvais died at the Battle of Shiloh. Charles Fergus Beauvais, he fought for the South in the 18th Louisiana regiment at the Battle of Shiloh.

Four generations of the Beauvais family are buried in Memorial Cemetery. ...

There are governors, senators, representatives, speakers of the house, Indian commissioners, personal friends of presidents, the first wife of Gussie Busch was a Beauvais descendant. She was killed in a car wreck and left two children.

Beauvaises have left their mark in history, and I’m really proud of that.