Origins of Henry Schuyler Thibodaux
Henry Schuyler Thibodaux’s birth and early life remain a tantalizing mystery. We have lots of clues and historical hearsay but the facts are still elusive. Stephen White has now given us his lineage but, unfortunately, not his family story. Due to the explosion of genealogy on the internet, there is an incredible amount of repetition of theory as fact. Hopefully my offerings below may address some of the misinformation. If anyone can offer further proof, I will be pleased to amend this page.
His marriage to Felicite Bonvillain in 1793 is recorded in the Diocese of Baton Rouge Catholic Church Records: Vol. 2 (1770-1803), p. 104/5, as THIBODEAUX, Henrrique (Alexo & Ana Blanchar of New York in America) m. 7 May 1793, Felicitas BONVILEN (BONVILLAIN) (Santiago & Carlota Eber of St. Charles Parish) wit. Francisco Federig & Rosalia Fedrig (SJA-2, 20).
The baptism of their second child (same volume, p. 694) reads: THIBODEAUX, Cubino (Henrique & Felicitas Bonvilin) bt. 23 Apr. 1796, bn. 1 Mar. 1796, spo. Santiago Guedry & Maria Magdalena Hymelle, Pat. GP: (Alexis Thibodeaux & Anna Blanchard) Mat. GP: (Santiago Bonvilin & Carlota St. Ives) (SJA-3, 136).
The baptism of their third child (same volume, p. 694) reads: THIBODEAUX, Eugenia (Henrique & Felicitas Bonvilin) bt. 7 Jan. 1798, bn. 30 Aug. 1797, spo. Santiago Bonvilin & Margarita Parre, Pat. GP: (Alexis Thibodeaux & Anna Blanchard) Mat. GP: (Santiago Bonvilin & Carlota St. Ives) (SJA-3, 160).
Henry’s second marriage (same volume, p. 694) reads: THIBODEAUX, Henri of Canada (Alexi & Anna Thibodeaux) m. 3 June 1800, Brigita BELANGER (Nicolas & Margarita Lejune) wit. Nicolas Belanger & Guilermo Dorion (SJO-3, 25 & 26) also (SJO-85, 5).
From these records over a seven-year span, we would conclude that Henry’s parents were Alexis Thibodeau & Anne Blanchard and that Henry’s birthplace could be New York or Canada. Henry, in all likelihood, was an Acadian refugee. Circumstantial evidence points to this as a logical conclusion. Henry’s birth probably occurred in the 1760’s, and was in New York or Philadelphia. Also, upon moving to Louisiana he sought out the area which received the very first Acadian refugees who arrived in the late-1760’s.
In correspondence with respected researcher Nell Tucker Boersma from Louisiana (Nov. 1997), she reiterates the mystery and offers some supporting information (which I have edited with updated info.):
"I have never been able to trace Henri Schuyler Thibodaux's mother Anne Blanchard. In the book "Les Indomptes" by Simone Vincens, it lists Alexis as being among the deportees in Philadelphia in 1762, along with his brother Olivier and possibly a son Joseph, and Catherine Leblanc. Alexis was known as a widower and shortly thereafter there is a departure from Philadelphia one ‘Catherine Leblanc, widow of Jean Baptiste Babin, remarried to Alexis Thibodaux.’ Catherine went to France alone, and rejoined at Belle-Ile her brothers and sisters. The date of departure seems to be about 1766, but the reference is vague.
[My note (updated December 2009): From Stephen White’s corrections to his 'Dictionnaire’ we now know that this Alexis was born c1723 (the son of Jean/Marguerite Hebert), and was married to Marie Anne Blanchard born c1723 (the daughter of Rene/Anne Landry) c1743 in Pisiquit. Marie Anne died sometime before Alexis’ second marriage to Catherine Leblanc on 17 February 1762 in Philadelphia. If this couple are Henry’s parents then his birth would have to be 8 or more years earlier than the 1769 usually ascribed.]
“The book Scattered to the Wind. Dispersal and Wanderings of the Acadians 1755-1809, by Carl A. Brasseaux describes these Acadian exiles in Philadelphia, and noted in the late 1760's they joined their relatives and friends exiled to neighboring Maryland in a massive migration to Louisiana. It was stated that the mayor of Philadelphia was asking families in the area to adopt the starving children of the Acadians. The state of New York may also have put out the adoption rug by the time he was born, alleged to be in Albany, N.Y.
“I researched the Schuyler family, which included purchasing the Schuyler Genealogy, and the wills left by these Schuylers. It seems if Henry Schuyler was ‘adopted’ by General Schuyler, he would have been mentioned in one of the family's wills. But nothing appears to show he received a bequest. I think he was adopted, not legally by the General, and raised by the family, and received an education paid by them, but received nothing else.
“In the genealogy it lists Hester Schuyler marrying Col. Theunis Dey in 1749, son of Dirck Theunis Dey and Jane Blanchard. This would be the right generation for this Jane Blanchard to have a sister or niece named Anne Blanchard. No one in the Schuyler family genealogy could give me information on this Blanchard family. Since the Schuylers were prominent, moneyed people, and the Philadelphia Acadian group were miserably poor, it does not seem logical that this Jane Blanchard would have been related to Anne Blanchard, the mother of Henry. There is some family lore that Anne Blanchard was related to Alexander Hamilton, the General's son-in-law. Again, I cannot find a link.
“While going through some old plantation papers at LSU, I came across a letter from a well known plantation owner, who mentioned that ‘Henry Schuyler was a good shoemaker’. In the book, ‘General Schuyler's Guard’ by T. W. Egly, Jr., it mentions the guard of about forty-six men surrounding the General in daily life. It lists tailors, carpenters and shoemakers. So if Henry Schuyler grew up among these shoemakers, it would account for his being skilled at shoemaking, and would give credence to the fact that he lived with the General.
“His educational background said he was educated in Scotland. One of the General's brothers, Cortlandt married in Ireland to a Barbara Gray on 23rd August 1767, and also a sister lived in Scotland. So maybe he lived with one of them while attending school there. Contacted Glasgow & Edinburgh Universities with negative results. I was told many years ago by family members that Henry Schuyler came south to find his father. Since his uncle Olivier was living in Lafayette Parish, Alexis may indeed have come to Louisiana, although I have found no trace of Alexis, nor of any male living with Henry when he married for the first time."
[The Olivier Thibodeau mentioned above, given White's more recent assignment of Alexis' parents as Jean/Marguerite Hebert, would not have been Henry's uncle.]
The following is an article published by Mrs. Boersma 23 years earlier than our correspondence:
HENRY SCHUYLER THIBODAUX FORMER GOVERNOR OF LOUISIANA CALLED "FATHER OF TERREBONNE" [Louisiana Genealogical Register, December 1974, pp. 325-7, submitted by Mrs. Nell Tucker Boersma, Baton Rouge, LA]
Henry Schuyler Thibodaux was the only man from the parish to become governor of the state of Louisiana. He stayed in the executive chair for two years, after succeeding Thomas Bolling Robertson, who resigned from the office to accept an appointment of judge. Thibodaux was born in Albany, educated in Scotland and made history in Louisiana. Newspapers this past year (1974) have focused attention on problems and foibles of our delegates to the 1973 Constitutional Convention. Such reading brings to mind another convention, that of the Constitutional Convention of 1811 which presented delegates with the problem of drafting our first Louisiana Constitution.
One such delegate in 1811 was Henry Schuyler Thibodaux from Lafourche Parish. He was then a member of the Territorial Legislature, and Justice of the Peace for Lafourche Parish. He went on to become President of the Louisiana State Senate and ex-officio Lieutenant Governor, and while acting as such, became governor of the state when Governor Thomas Bolling Robertson vacated the executive chair on 15 November 1824.
Mystery surrounds the early life of this illustrious Father of Terrebonne Parish, although he left a noteworthy record at his death. Henry Schuyler Thibodaux, born in Albany, New York in 1769, was the son of Count Alexis Thibodaux and Anna Blanchard. He was orphaned at an early age and reared in the home of General Philip Schuyler, famed Revolutionary War soldier. There seems to be some family relationship between General Schuyler and his protege, but this has never been proven. Henry Schuyler Thibodaux received his education in Scotland, and came to Louisiana where he first settled in St. James Parish. Here he married Felicia Bonvellian on 7 May 1793. Felicia was the daughter of Santiago Bonvellian and Carlota Eber of St. Charles Parish.
Henry Schuyler Thibodaux next moved to a place on Bayou Lafourche, near the present city of Thibodaux. A widower, he married Bridgette Belanger of Pointe Coupee Parish on 22 May 1800. One of eight children, Bridgette was born on 4 July 1775, the daughter of Nicolas Belanger, a Canadian, and Marguerite Lejeune, a native of Illinois Territory. Whether Nicolas was an exiled Acadian or not remains to be researched; however, in 1796 he was among those inhabitants of Pointe Coupee Parish who signed a loyalty oath for the Government of Spain. He was a lineal descendant of Jacques Cartier, the French navigator who discovered Canada in 1534.
Fortune smiled upon Henry Schuyler Thibodaux during his years in Louisiana. He reared a large family; his son Claiborne was the first known male child born in Terrebonne Parish. Another son, Bannon G. was a state senator and member of Congress. While a member of the legislature, Henry Schuyler was instrumental in incorporating Terrebonne Parish, a name selected after the Canadian Parish where his father-in-law was born. While acting as president of the senate in 1812, he entered the war as a First Lieutenant, and finished out his service as Captain of the Lafourche Volunteers.
His land holdings were large. Upon his death of heart failure on 23 October 1827, he left an estate valued at over $105,751.00. He was buried at "Half Way", a small cemetery located near Schriever, Louisiana. After vandals looted the tomb several times, his remains were reinterred at St. Bridget's Church in Schriever. His wife Bridgette continued to skillfully manage the estate after his death. Before her demise on December of 1849, she turned over to her nephew, Hubert Belanger, land which includes that upon which Houma now stands. Her sons inherited an estate that had grown considerably since their father's death.
In a thesis entitled "History of Terrebonne Parish to 1861", Miss Marguerite B. Watkins provided much detail in describing Henry Thibodaux as one of the most "prominent pioneer planters in the Parish." In his will, he left instructions for each child to be given his share upon reaching the age of maturity. He left a vast estate, it consisted of landed property, a sugar mill, slaves, and notes due him. And this did not include a small parcel of property in the Lafourche Interior assessed for $4900. After his death, his wife, Bridgette Belanger, was described as "skillful, charitable, hospitable, and public-minded or spirited", managed the plantation in such a business-like manner that she left a small fortune to each of her five children. Miss Watkins reports that Bridgette died in 1849, leaving 1720 acres on both sides of Bayou Terrebonne, valued at $71,920.00 On the plantation, named the Sainte Brigitte, were 122 slaves, 35 mules, 10 horses, 25 oxen, a sugarhouse, and a number of Negro cabins. The property was sold at auction for $133,325.00 to the three sons of Henry Schuyler Thibodaux and Bridgette Belanger.
While succeeding generations also left illustrious records for posterity, none quite left such a mark on the pages of Louisiana history as that made by Henry Schuyler Thibodaux, delegate to our first Constitutional Convention for the State of Louisiana.
[end of article]
September 2007/updated December 2009:
As I still occasionally receive queries/info regarding HST, I have looked again at the above. I have read Philip Schuyler's will and it makes no mention of Henry. I have contacted Glasgow University, again nothing.
I also looked into the Schuyler family a bit more through some published works. There was the already mentioned Gen. Philip John Schuyler (1733-1804), but also his aunt, Margaret Schuyler (1702-1788), who was married in 1719 to her cousin Philip Schuyler (1699-1758) [who was Gen. Schuyler's granduncle].
A few comments were noteworthy: "The provincials brought home Canadian prisoners who were kept on their parole in the houses of the 3 brothers (Schuyler) and became afterwards their friends." This would have been mid-1700's.
Then from Anne McVicar Grant's (1755-1838) memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Schuyler (she provided education for Mrs. Grant): "She had a high regard for the Indians and spoke their language many of whom often came and set down in her neighborhood in 'the Indian field' left open for their encampment and use." and "Her husband Col. Philip Schuyler was the first who raised a corps in the interior of the province. This brought him much into intercourse with British military, and with the governor etc. Mrs. Schuyler by the good sense and good breeding with which she accommodated her numerous and various guests without visible bustle or anxiety showed herself worthy of her distinguished lot. Mrs. Schuyler, early in life, was delivered of a dead child; she had none of her own afterwards; but was constantly adopting and bringing up others. This indeed was the practice of the country. It was also done by the Indians. She was called Aunt Schuyler when advanced in years, by all who knew her familiarly, and Madame Schuyler by the public in general. The last sobriquet she derived from the French Canadian prisoners, to whom she had showed much kindness." [This 'adopting' was usually within the Schuyler extended family or social strata.]
One last connection, however slight: John Bradstreet (b. 1711 England) - Family moved to Port Royal, Acadia 1714. He was son of Lt. Bradstreet and Agatha De La Tour. His father died 1718, mother remarried and stayed there, where the boys grew up bilingual. He served at Louisburg. He married the widow of his cousin (also John Bradstreet), her name was Mary Aldridge. In the summer of 1756 he was stationed in Albany as guest of Philip Schuyler.
There are also a few connections within the Schuyler family with
So, where are we now regarding Henry's
Based on all these details, and Stephen White's update, I would offer the following:
Fact: Alexis Thibodeau and Marie Anne Blanchard were Acadian refugees.
Supposition: Their son Henry was born in Pennsylvania or New York, and grew up in what became Schuylerville on the outskirts of Albany, which is where he probably spent his early years, if not longer.
Supposition: One of the Schuylers, possibly Margaret, took an interest in him along with other 'French Canadian prisoners'.
Fact: 1756 Philadelphia has Alexis, wife, & 4 children. They were deported from Mines in 1755. His mother died early, probably while Henry was an infant or small child, and his father remarried in Philadelphia in 1762. The family found its way to Nicolet, Quebec where Alexis and 2nd wife Catherine Leblanc died in 1801/02.
Fact: Henry was aware of his parents' names (evidenced by baptism/marriage records).
Supposition: Being 'orphaned early', conflicts with 'went to Louisiana seeking his father', unless he believed that his father had gravitated to Louisiana with many of the other Acadian refugees, thus 'being orphaned' referred only to his mother's death. [In tracing other Acadians, upon the death of the first wife followed by a remarriage, sometimes the children from the first marriage were housed with other relatives and did not remain with the new family.]
Supposition: Henry may have ended up in the Albany area by accident or design, learning skills and receiving some form of education. His education may have included time in Scotland as his future occupations and career indicated a more advanced level of education than most Acadian descendants would have come by at that time. (His older brother Simon became a prosperous businessman in Quebec, so natural ability may have also been a factor.) However, being unable to find any reference to Schuyler children being educated abroad leaves me skeptical of the idea of Henry being educated in Scotland. Who would have financed this, and why?
Fact: Henry's birth was presumed to be c1769, but as the child of Alexis/Marie Anne Blanchard his birth would have to be c1761 or earlier.
Supposition: This additional 8/9 years may actually be more logical. He may have been 'apprenticed/indentured' to Schuyler's camp and taught skills. Margaret Schuyler may have seen his potential and provided tutoring, maybe not in Scotland but by a Scottish relative. This relationship with the Schuylers, whatever form that took, may explain his middle name of Schuyler. In between his birth and his marriage in 1793 in Louisiana, we only have slivers of family lore and supposition. What the exact circumstances of Henry's life was during those 20/30 years we may never actually know for sure.
More recently (to muddy the waters further):
This query was posted on Acadian-Cajun by Claire Bettag in June 2008:
Can anyone shed
any light on a document I found some years ago in the Judicial Records of the
Spanish Cabildo at the Louisiana State Museum? It is a petition of
Henry Schuyler Thibodeau for permission to marry Felicite Mire.
The petition was a notarial act written by Pedro Pedesclaux and dated 14
January 1793. (The citation I have, but do not fully understand, is: LHC
RG 2, 14 Jan 1793 (6) Not. WPA 2963; SP 1250. It's also on microfilm at
the Family History Library in Salt Lake City: #1290469.). I saw the
document at the museum in N.O. It's in Spanish. In the petition,
Enrique Tibaudau, native of New York, and resident of this city [N.O.]
states that he has a contract to marry in the church Ms. Felicite Mirre,
legitimate daughter of Beloni Mirre, and of Magdelena Belancon [Melançon].
He states that he is the legitimate son of Alexo Tibaudau and Ana Blanchar.
He further states that neither his parents nor other close relatives
are in the city to give him permission to marry. The document bears his
signature. As far as I know, no such marriage ever took place. She
lived in St. James (Cabannocé) and would have been about 23 in 1793. She
married three times (to Jean Bourgeois, Louis Richard, and Simon Lanoux).
I've never understood this document and wonder what it means. Did they
really know one another? Did they ever intend to marry? (He married
Felicite Bonvillan a few months later, in May 1793). Was it all
just a mistake? Is anyone familiar with the document or the story behind
it--why the request for permission and then no marriage?
And still further:
From Tim Hebert’s excellent site - an article which appeared in DeBow’s Review in 1851 (Historical and Statistical Collections of Louisiana – Terrebonne). This seems to be a review of the history of Terrebonne Parish.
'There are two large Spanish grants of land in this parish: one a grant to J. Zalrado, the other to Jos. Talbo, and two or three Lowxie claims of several thousand acres, which, I believe, have never yet been confirmed, but the titles have, doubtless, become good by prescription. With these exceptions, all the lands held by individuals have been entered or floated upon; and by the union of a number of those entries, most of the plantations have been formed. During the overflow of 1828, the whole parish, with the exception of some elevated ridges, was under water. Last year, shortly after the grand levee gave way, the southern portion, particularly those lands on the Black, were overflowed, and most of the crops destroyed. The water in the river, however, falling shortly after, no considerable loss was sustained, as the portion referred to is but thinly settled. The earliest settlements that appear to have been made in this parish, were, I believe, about the year 1810.
The first permanent settlers were the parents of the Thibodaux,* a highly respectable family of the parish, and whose history is intimately blended with this portion of the state. Their father, Henry Schuyler Thibodaux, was, I think, a Canadian, of Lower Canada, and emigrated from New York to Louisiana in the year 1794. On his arrival in Louisiana he settled on the "Arcadian Coast," where he married Miss Brigitte Bellanger, in the year 1800, and in the year succeeding moved to the present Parish of Lafourche, nearly opposite to the present town of Thibodaux, which was named after him. Here he continued to reside up to the close of the year 1810, when he moved to the parish of Terrebonne, about five miles from Thibodaux, where his present descendants still continue to reside. Mr. Thibodaux died about the year 1830. During his life he possessed an unbounded influence in this section of the state, which his descendants have had the good fortune to profit by. I could relate several anecdotes respecting which, whether prompted by envy or malevolence, show the characteristic of the man, and the superior power of mind over the superstitions of a rude, unlettered people. But this is no place for such. His history is connected with that of the state, having held sundry important offices, and he was spoken of for governor a short time before his death. His wife survived him twenty years; her death occurring on the 29th of December, 1850. She was descended, on her father's side, from the family of Jacques Cartier, the French navigator, and was born in the new Parish of West Baton Rouge, on the 4th of July, 1776, consequently at the time of her demise had reached the age of seventy-four years. The death of this venerable lady was much lamented, for she possessed many noble qualities; among these were business-like qualifications, judgment, skill, and prudence, by which, from a comparative state of poverty, she was enabled to leave her descendants in opulent circumstances, together with all the distinction and influence that wealth alone can command. Beside these, she was charitable, kind to her servants, hospitable, and liberal in donations to objects of internal improvements. She left five children: two daughters and three sons. One of the daughters was married to Leufroy Barras, formerly parish judge of the parish for many years; the other to E. Porche, formerly probate judge for a short period. The sons have all occupied places of distinction in the councils of the state and of the nation. H. I. and 11. C. have represented this senatorial district in that capacity; while the youngest, B. G. Thibodaux, after practising law with considerable reputation for several years, was elected by a large majority to the lower house of Congress. Since the expiration of his term, he has abandoned the profession of the law, and settled down quietly in his domestic circle, more congenial to his feelings than the boisterous sea of politics. He has a fine collection of scientific and literary works, the only library of consequence in the parish. This name is sometimes spelled Thibeaudeaux, or Thibodeaux; but I believe the above is correct.'
Was HS Thibodaux really what we seem to think he was? Since his father, 2 brothers and a sister all married, and settled in lower Quebec, why did Henry choose not to, particularly since they were all alive when he traveled to Louisiana? It seems quite improbable that Henry was either adopted by the Schuylers or educated in Scotland. Were these claims promoted by Henry or just historical misinterpretations? DeBow mentions Brigitte Belanger's ancestry but consigns Henry's to "..I think, a Canadian, of lower Canada," and neglects to mention his first marriage. I would welcome further detail or evidence.
Last updated: 24 January 2010