Acadians Who Found Refuge in Louisiana, February 1764-early 1800s
Rousseau de VILLEJOIN
Gabriel-Louis, son of Gabriel Rousseau, sieur de la Gorre et de Villejoin, gentlehomme servant son altesse royale Gaston de France, and Dame Marie Baudron, born at St.-Honoré, Blois, France, in c1683, inherited his father's title, sieur de Villejoin, and served as an officer in the Detachment of Marines at Fort Louis, Plaisance, Newfoundland. Gabriel-Louis married Marie-Josèphe, daughter of Sr. François Bertrand, colonel of militia and a member of the Order of St.-Louis, and Jeanne Giraudet, at Plaisance in April 1708. Their wedding must have been a big affair; Newfoundland governor Pastour de Costebelle and dozens of other distinguished guests witnessed the ceremony. Gabriel-Louis and Marie-Josèphe had six children, the older ones born at Plaisance, the younger ones at Port-Toulouse, Île Royale, today's Cape Breton Island, where Gabriel, fils served as a captain in the 1710s. Gabriel-Louis died probably at Port-Toulouse in September 1718; he was only 35 years old. His sixth child was born posthumously in January 1719. Two of his daughters married into the Le Coutre de Bourville and Tarride du Haget families.
Older son Gabriel, fils, who inherited his father's title, sieur de Villejoin, born at Plaisance in April 1709, married Anne-Angélique, daughter of Louis-Joseph de Gannes de Falaise and Marguerite Le Neuf de La Vallière, at Louisbourg, Île Royale, in January 1733. Beginning the February after their marriage, Anne-Angélique gave him six children, including five sons. Gabriel, fils remarried to Barbe, daughter of Michel Le Neuf de La Vallière, fils and Renée Bertrand and widow of Louis Delort, at Louisbourg in December 1753; Barbe's father was seigneur of Beaubassin and the brother of Gabriel, fils's first wife's mother; Barbe also was a sister of Gabriel, fils's younger brother Michel's wife Angélique. Barbe gave Gabriel, fils four more children, including three more sons, but two of the children survived infancy. Gabriel, fils lived much longer than his father and exceeded him in military accomplishments. He was made a chevalier of the Order of St.-Louis in 1748, served as a major of the King's troops on Île Royale in 1753, and was promoted to commandant of Île St.-Jean, today's Prince Edward Island, a part of the Île Royale colony, in 1754. After the fall of Louisbourg in July 1758, British forces swooped down on Île St.-Jean, rounded up most of the Acadians there, and deported them to St.-Malo, France. Commandant de Villejoin and his family were among them. They crossed on one of the five British transports that left Chédabouctou Bay in late November 1758 and reached St.-Malo in late January 1759. Gabriel, fils and his wife Barbe survived the crossing, but their 18-month-old son Louis-Melchior died at sea. His military career was far from over. In May 1760, Gabriel, fils succeeded his predecessor on Île St.-Jean, Major Claude-Élisabeth Denys de Bonnaventure, as inspector of all colonial troops at Rochefort. In December, Major de Villejoin was named commander of the troops from Canada being garrisoned at Rochefort. In January 1763, on the eve of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Gabriel, fils, now a lieutenant-colonel, was named governor of Désirade in the Leeward Islands. There, he secured commissions for three of his sons and other scions of families who had served with him on Île Royale. When Île de la Désirade was subsumed by the government of Guadaloupe in 1768, Gabriel, fils returned to France and was promoted to brigadier of the King's troops that November. He retired not long afterwards and died at his home at St.-Jean-d'Angély, Aunis, France, in November 1781, in his early 70s.
Gabriel-Louis's younger son Michel, who inherited the title sieur d'Orfontaine, born at Port-Toulouse in November 1717, married Angélique, another daughter of Michel Le Neuf de La Vallière, fils and Renée Bertrand, at Port-La-Joye, Île St.-Jean, in May 1757; Angélique was the sister of Michel's older brother Gabriel's second wife Barbe. Like his older brother Gabriel, Michel also became a chevalier of the Order of St.-Louis. Michel served as capitaine dans les troupes nationales in Guiane, South America, before retiring from the King's service in 1765 and died probably in France after1789, in his 70s.
Gabriel-Louis's younger brother Pierre, born probably at Blois in c1685, inherited the title sieur de Souvigny and also went to Acadia. He married Jeanne, daughter of Jacques de La Tour de Saint-Étienne and Anne Melanson and widow of Jacques Pontife, at either Plaisance or Île Royale in c1714; Pierre's wife was a granddaughter of former governor Charles La Tour. Pierre also served as an officer in the King's service at Plaisance and Louisbourg and was made a chevalier of the Order of St.-Louis in 1736. He retired from the King's service in 1744. His daughters married into the Chassin de Thierry and Le Neuf de Vallière families. He may have had no sons.
In 1755, the descendants of Gabriel-Louis Rousseau, sieur de Villejoin of Blois, could be found on the Maritime islands of Île Royale and Île St.-Jean. [see Book Four]
LE GRAND DÉRANGEMENT
[For the family's travails during the Great Upheaval, see Book Six]
LOUISIANA: WESTERN SETTLEMENTS
At least three members of the family emigrated to Louisiana from Haiti via Cuba or Jamaica in the early 1800s, but only one of them created a lasting line of the family in the Bayou State:
Louis-Joseph Rousseau de Villejoin and his younger siblings, Marie-Joséphine, wife of ____ Sallée, and Grégoire-Michel, still a bachelor, settled not in New Orleans with the great majority of the St.-Domingue refugees of 1809 but chose to go the western prairies, where Grégoire-Michel soon married. Louis-Joseph, called Joseph, probably did not marry.
Descendants of Grégoire-Michel ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN (1777-1847; Gabriel, Gabriel de Villejoin)
Grégoire-Michel, son of Gabriel-Michel Rousseau de Villejoin and Anne-Félicité Reynaud of Cayes du Fond, French St.-Domingue, was born at Cayes de Fond in June 1777, the son of a well-to-do planter and military officer. Grégoire-Michel was a teenager when the Haitian slave revolt broke out in the early 1790s. He and his family fled to Cuba or Jamaica probably in the late 1790s or early 1800s to escape the violence in Haiti. Grégoire and two of his older siblings were among the thousands of Haitian refugees whom the Spanish deported to New Orleans in 1809; he would have been 32 years old that year and was still a bachelor. In Louisiana, he used his family's seigneurial name, not its surname Rousseau, as he probably had done in Haiti; but he did not use the noble de; he was simply Grégoire Villejoin, a reflection, perhaps, of his residence now in a republic, not a royal colony. At age 35, he married Marguerite, daughter of Jean Baptiste Jeannot and his Acadian wife Madeleine Hébert of Carencro, at the St. Martinville church, St. Martin Parish, in July 1812. They settled at Côte Gelée, which became part of Lafayette Parish in the early 1820s. Their daughters married into the Istre and LaFosse families, and perhaps into the Miller family as well. Like his noble ancestors, Grégoire must have been a shaker and a mover in his community; he served as the first sheriff of Lafayette Parish in the 1820s. A succession record in his name was filed at the Vermilionville courthouse, Lafayette Parish, in August 1833. He died at New Orleans in May 1847; he was 69 years old. Only his older son seems to have created a family of his own, but the line survived on the western prairies.
Older son Prosper, born probably at Côte Gelée in May 1813, married French Creole Clementine LaFosse. They settled probably near Carencro. Their son Prosper, fils was born in May 1854. They also had an older son named Joseph Alcide. Their daughter married into the Caruthers or Credeur and Cormier families.
Joseph Alcide married Adeline, daughter of fellow Acadians Jean Baptiste Lejeune, fils and Adeline Hébert, in a civil ceremony in St. Landry Parish in August 1860, and sanctified the marriage at the Church Point church, then in St. Landry but now in Acadia Parish, in July 1867. They settled probably near Church Point. Their son Émile was born in September 1861.
Younger son Paulin, born at Côte Gelée in August 1817, may have died young.
The Rousseau de Villejoins were far from typical Acadians. None of them helped build aboiteaux on the edge of the salt marshes lining the Bay of Fundy. They lived, instead, on Newfoundland, Île Royale, and Île St.-Jean, but they were not simple fishermen or boat builders or even prominent merchants there. As their name implies, they were proud descendants of French nobility. They served in the Maritime garrisons as military officers, many of them members of the order of St.-Louis, and one of them was commandant of Île St.-Jean at the beginning of Le Grand Dérangement. Their noble status did not spare them from the tragedy of the Great Upheaval, and back in France, to which they were forcibly deported, they again served their monarch as military commanders. The former commandant of Île St.-Jean, in fact, rose to the rank of general, and his eldest son became governor of a French island in the West Indies.
During the late 1760s, the general's second son emigrated to French St.-Domingue, today's Haiti, where he married a French Creole, became a planter, and, like his ancestors, served as a military officer in a royal colony. But, again, tragedy caught up to this noble family, this time in the form of the Haitian slave revolt that brought blood and misery to the island in the 1790s. Gabriel-Michel, called Michel, Rousseau de Villejoin, the general's son, died at Cayes du Fond, St.-Domingue, in February 1799, in his mid-60s. His family probably left St.-Domingue soon after his death. His three children emigrated to Louisiana probably from Cuba or Jamaica in 1809. They chose to settle not at New Orleans with the great majority of the St.-Domingue refugees but on the western prairies, where they called themselves Villejoin, not Rousseau. The family's noble de also disappeared in republican Louisiana.
Gabriel-Michel's younger son, Grégoire-Michel, who would have been considered a French Creole or a Foreign Frenchman by his Acadian neighbors though his family had lived in greater Acadia, married a French Creole in 1812 in what was then St. Martin Parish. He settled at Côte Gelée, near present-day Broussard. Like his ancestors, he, too, was a shaker and a mover in his community; he served as the first sheriff of Lafayette Parish. One of his sons created a family of his own and settled on the prairie west of Vermilionville.
Although the family had lived in the old Attakapas District for decades, no Villejoin appears in the federal slave census schedules for 1850 and 1860. Nor does a Villejoin appear in Confederate service records during the War of 1861-65. The family remains a small one. According to a descendant, the Villejoins today consider themselves Cajuns, and "the surname is often still found from Vermillion westward," especially in the Kaplan/Crowley area of Vermilion and Acadia parishes.
The family's name also is spelled Viljoen, Villejene, Villejoint, Villejouin, Villion. [See Book Ten for the family's Louisiana "begats"]
Sources: Arsenault, Généalogie, 1698, 1966-67, 2138; De La Roque, "Tour of Inspection," Canadian Archives 1905, 2A; Hébert, D., Acadians in Exile, 388, 392; Hébert, D., Southwest LA Records, vols. 2-A, 2-B, 2-C, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; <islandregister.com/1752.html>; <lagenealogy.net/RousseauVillejoin.aspx>; <perso.orange.fr/froux/St_malo_arrivees/5bateaux.htm>, Family No. 53; Robichaux, Acadians in St.-Malo, 777; Andrew Rodger, "Rousseau de Villejouin (Villejoin, Villejoint), Gabriel," in DCB,
online; <rootsweb.ancestry.com/~htiwgw/familles/fiches/004820.htm>; White, DGFA-1, 1070, 1422-23.
(present-day civil parishes that existed in 1861 are in parentheses; hyperlinks on the abbreviations take you to brief histories of each settlement):
Lafourche (Lafourche, Terrebonne)
|SB||San Bernardo (St. Bernard)|
Attakapas (St. Martin, St. Mary, Lafayette, Vermilion)
San Luìs de Natchez (Concordia)
St.-Gabriel d'Iberville (Iberville)
Bayou des Écores (East Baton Rouge, West Feliciana)
New Orleans (Orleans)
St.-Jacques de Cabanocé (St. James)
Baton Rouge (East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge)
Opelousas (St. Landry, Calcasieu)
For a chronology of Acadian Arrivals in Louisiana, 1764-early 1800s, see Appendix.
The hyperlink attached to an individual's name is connected to a list of Acadian immigrants for a particular settlement and provides a different perspective on the refugee's place in family and community.
|*Grégoire-Michel ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN 01||1810s||Atk||born 2 Jun 1777, Cayes du Fond, St.-Domingue, present-day Haiti; son of Michel ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN of Louisbourg, Île Royale, & Anne-Félicité REYNAUD of Cayes du Fond, St.-Domingue; brother of Louis-Joseph & Marie-Joséphine; arrived LA by early 1810s; settled Côte Gelée, St. Martin, now Lafayette, Parish; married, age 35, Marguerite, daughter of Jean Baptiste JEANNOT & Madeleine HÉBERT of Carencro, St. Martinville, 17 Jul 1812; first sheriff of Lafayette Parish, 1820s; succession record dated Aug 1833, Lafayette Parish courthouse; died New Orleans 27 May 1847, age 69|
|*Louis-Joseph ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN 03||1810s||Atk||born 24 Nov 1772, Cayes du Fond, St.-Domingue, present-day Haiti; called Joseph; son of Michel ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN of Louisbourg, Île Royale, & Anne-Félicité REYNAUD of Cayes du Fond, St.-Domingue; brother of Grégoire-Michel & Marie-Joséphine; arrived LA by early 1810s; never married?|
|*Marie-Joséphine ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN 02||1810s?||Atk||born 25 Nov 1773, Cayes du Fond, St.-Domingue, present-day Haiti; called Joséphine; daughter of Michel ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN of Louisbourg, Île Royale, & Anne-Félicité REYNAUD of Cayes du Fond, St.-Domingue; sister of Grégoire-Michel & Louis-Joseph; married ____ SALLEE/SALLEO of France, probably Haiti; arrived LA probably early 1800s; settled in St. Martin & Lafayette parishes; succession record dated 22 Jun 1827, Lafayette Parish courthouse|
01. Not in Wall of Names. <rootsweb.ancestry.com/~htiwgw/familles/fiches/004820.htm>, his birth/baptismal record, calls him Grégoire ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN; Hébert, D., Southwest LA Records, 2-A:525, 951 (SM Ch.: v.5, #263), his marriage record, calls him Grégoire VILLEJOIN "of this parish, native of the city of Cayas in Île St. Domingue," calls his wife Marguerite JANNOT, "native of this parish," says he was a major son & she a minor daughter, gives his & her parents' names, says his parents were deceased at the time of the wedding, that his father was "inhabitant at Cayas," that her father was "inhabitant at Carencros," & that the witnesses to his marriage were Louis ST. JULIEN Derneville, Olivier LANDRY, Simon GIROUARD, Ferdinand GREENE, & Joseph VILLEJOUIN; Hébert, D., Southwest LA Records, 3:656 (Laf. Ct.Hse.: Succ. #251), his succession record, calls him Grégoire VILLEJOIN.
His death date & place are from Mike Talbot's website at <lagenealogy.net/RousseauVillejoin.aspx>.
02. Not in Wall of Names. <rootsweb.ancestry.com/~htiwgw/familles/fiches/004820.htm>, her birth/baptismal record, calls her Marie-Joséphine ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN; Hébert, D., Southwest LA Records, 2-C:775, 3:656 (Laf. Ct.Hse.: Succ. #432 1/2), her succession record, calls her Joséphine VILLEJOIN, "wid. SALLEO [also SALLEE] of France," but does not give her parents' names or mention any children.
03. Not in Wall of Names. <rootsweb.ancestry.com/~htiwgw/familles/fiches/004820.htm>, his birth/baptismal record, calls him Louis-Joseph ROUSSEAU de VILLEJOIN.
His younger brother Grégoire's marriage record, dated 17 Jul 1812, in Hébert, D., Southwest LA Records, 2-A:525, 951 (SM Ch.: v.5, #263), in which he served as witness, calls him Joseph VILLEJOUIN. Did Joseph ever marry?
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