The Life and Times of Louis DuBois – Part I
By Anson DuBois, 1875
[ From the 1875 reunion book ]
I am to present to you a sketch of
The life and times of Louis DuBois
(called sometimes Louis deWall, or the Walloon).
From the date of his arrival in America, we have just had; what can be known of his European history. His birth at Wicres, near Lille, the chief town of Artois, in northern France, October 27,1626. His retiring to the city of Mannheim, in the Palatinate of the Rhine, in Germany, where he married Catherine Blanchon, or Blanjean, the daughter of a burgher of that place. October 10th 1655; and the birth there of two sons, Abraham and Isaac. This little family, doubtless with other French Protestants, embarked for America in 1660, seeking in the New World, an asylum from royal and Romish persecution.
They sailed, no doubt, from a Holland port, in a Dutch vessel, to these western possessions of the States-General. At the period in which they arrived, the whole country was new. How different the Bay of New York, upon which our ancestors looked in 1660, and the same bay at the present time! And still greater changes have taken place on Manhattan Island. Then Wall street and Broadway enclosed the quaint, irregularly-built little town, nestled upon the lower point of the island sloping to the East river, and even this narrow extent broken by sandhills, marshy meadows and broad, open ditches.
Two hundred poorly constructed houses gave partial comfort to some fourteen hundred people. The fort loomed up broadly in front, partially hiding within it the barracks, the governor’s official residence, and the Old Dutch church. A globe-shaped steeple upon the latter seemed to suggest that the church alone could elevate the world, and the weathercock, upon his high perch, stood watching for the millennial morning. The flag of the States-General, and a wind-mill on the western bastion, were notable indications of Hollandish rule. Wherever else in all that broad and beautiful bay, the eye of our ancestor rested, he saw only the forest, with possibly here and there an opening among the trees.
We have not the name of the ship or of his fellow-passengers. Probably Reverend Hendricus Selyns, afterwards pastor at Brooklyn, and his companion to America, Rev. Hermanus Blom, were in the company. Blom had preached at Kingston the previous year and now came to settle there, and thus became the pastor of Louis DuBois. They came in the same year. But we cannot say that they came in the same ship. Mathew Blanchon, a brother-in-law, and Antone Crispell and Hugo Freer, early and intimate friends of Louis, may also have been with him.
DuBois and his companions must have landed at the company’s dock. Some two blocks from South ferry, near Moore Street. Turning to the left, they would have passed the White Hall of Governor Stuyvesant and the fort, and entered de Heere straat the “Lord street”, or street of rank, now Broadway, just above Bowling Green. A little further up they would have found the substantial residence of the Dutch clergyman, or Dominie, as the Dutch delight to call him Rev. Megapolensis.
Just across the street was the affable inn- keeper, Captain Martin Kregier, a man of mark, a captain of the militia, a burgomaster, and officer of the council. His discretion and bravery had full exercise three years after this, while in command at Esopus. DuBois may have met other refugees, some of whom came as early as 1628. And he may have found friends at New Rochelle.
DuBois and his companions must now leave New Amsterdam. Governor Stuyvesant was absent on business, in the summer of 1660, at Esopus and Fort Orange if his absence occurred at this time, DuBois applied for permission to go to the upper country to Henrick Van Dyck. The schout fischael, whose tasteful mansion stood on de Heere straat. Among gardens and orchards, running down to the North River, and near Dominie Megapolensis.
All things being in readiness, DuBois, with his wife, children and friends, much refreshed by their sojourn in the City set out for the upper Hudson. The scenes were now a constant wonder for the people who had sailed only on European rivers, where hamlet and castle and city leave scarcely room for farm or garden. The sloping Eastern Shore, the bald front of the Palisades, the Highlands with narrower water and towering peaks springing to the clouds from either shore; the broader bay at Newburg. And, finally, the blue outlines of the Shawangunk and the Catskills met their gaze.
Everywhere were forests, vast and deep. At long intervals only could be seen the thin smoke of the Indian wigwam circling among the tree-tops, or a bark-canoe gliding furtively across some darksome bay; but nothing, in the long. Tedious sail, that bore the most distant resemblance to their old home beyond the Atlantic.
We must suppose that deep, earnest thoughts crowded themselves upon the active mind of our ancestor in that voyage up the Hudson. Everything so new, strange and bewildering. The sky only, of all about him, remained unchanged, and the stars at night; and as he looked on these he felt that Heaven beyond them and his Divine Lord and Savior were unchanged and unchangeable. He had fled from country and kindred for God and liberty. This wilderness was to be his name and that of his children. He could not forecast the future, but one thing was sure —
he knew in whom he had believed, and could trust all to Him.
At length the sloop turned her prow into the Rondout creek. The village of Wiltwyck. In the “Esopus country”, as Dominie Blom designated the Kingston of his day, was now just beginning its permanent growth. History states that the Dutch established a trading post at Rondout in 1614.
Tradition, however, has it that the first settlers of Ulster county landed at Saugerties, and followed up the Esopus kill, through unbroken forests, twelve miles, and settled finally at Kingston, being attracted by the rich alluvial meadows. But this settlement was twice broken up before the arrival of our emigrants, and so late as 1655 is said to have been wholly abandoned. Before 1660 it had been reoccupied and put in some posture of defense.
We have now conducted Louis DuBois and his associates to their first American home. We must narrate their labors at this place. And the terrible events through which they were led; all of which show the character of our Huguenot ancestors and have important relation to the history of New Paltz.
*The writer and reader of this article, Anson DuBois, is of the tribe of Benjamin, who was the son of Solomon, son of Louis. They belong to Catskill. He was formerly pastor of the Second Reformed Church in Kingston, now of the Reformed Church of Flatlands, near Brooklyn.