Death Punts A Quick Pirogue
In The Thiébaux
Le Grand Dérangement
France To New Orleans
1747 - 1763
Once upon a time …
Way back when …
Villages formed around …
Men who worked iron.
Jean François Thiébaux was such a man.
The second son born to a family of French pig farmers, Jean François Thiébaux was given to a Proper Gentleman Farmer as payment against longstanding and ever-increasing debt when his father realized that he had more children than pigs. Being a large and solid young man of nine, Jean François was apprenticed to the Proper Gentleman Farmer’s Blacksmith who, though a true Master of his Craft, was getting on in years. The young apprentice was taught to read and write, educated in mathematics and metallurgy as it applied to metal working at the time, and absorbed all his old Master’s lifetime of ironsmith wisdom and knowledge.
By his twentieth year, Jean François was himself a master in working all manner of metal and wood, and succeeded to the title of Maître Forgeron upon the old Blacksmith’s death. Now at the perceived pinnacle of his life and trade, Jean François soon found himself inextricably smitten by a daughter of the village Baker. Annette de Marne captivated Jean François’ heart and soul like nothing he’d ever known, more so than even his great passion for hammering metal. Desiring an heir to his family’s Trade, however, Annette’s father refused to bless his daughter’s union to the young blacksmith. Upon learning this, the aged and ailing Barron also declined to allow the marriage.
Just about the time that Annette found herself with child, the old Barron died. While the Estate’s heirs, much preferring the more genteel and pampered lifestyle nearby Marseille offered, argued incessantly as to who should take charge of the lands and holdings, Jean François and Annette took advantage of the ensuing confusion and quietly slipped away. In Marseille they booked passage as man and wife to the new world, were secretly married by the ship’s Captain, and ended up in rural Louisbourg, Acadia, New France (now Canada) where they built not only a thriving business but also a large and happy family … right up until 1758 when the British kicked them all out!
The Grand Dérangement, as the French called it (Acadians generally employed far less polite terms!) was not an instant and overnight event, having been preceded by and occurring during over seventy years of both traditional and guerilla-type warfare; tumultuous times that bestow great value upon those with skills to forge iron and steel into weapons.
Jean François Thiébaux was just such a man.
Though officially and publicly declaring himself and his family neutral Acadians, having formally accepted and signed a conditional oath of neutrality negotiated with the British, Jean François nevertheless sold his skills and wares to whoever was willing to pay; a lucrative endeavor during protracted low-intensity warfare, but which endeared him to neither his fellow Acadians nor their British enemies. In the end, Jean François Thiébaux was imprisoned twice by the British and once by the Acadians; he escaped all three times. After his last escape from British military confinement, Jean François returned home only to find his property confiscated and burned by the British and his wife and children seized and deported. Devastated, Jean François negotiated a deal with the British Governor by which he would be reunited with his family and in return accept indefinite indentured servitude for whatever master the Governor chose.
Unfortunately for all concerned, most especially Annette and her children, the good British citizens and government of Virginia refused entry to loyalist French Acadian deportees for various contrived reasons, forcing their ships to remain anchored and isolated in the Williamsburg harbor for several months until they were finally sent away to Great Britain; by which time a great many, including Annette Thiébaux and her children, had succumbed to starvation and disease.
Jean François Thiébaux never recovered …
Either mentally or fiscally …
From the loss.
Upon learning the fate of his beloved wife and children, Jean François cried his heart out for three days and nights, then escaped his confinement in one of Fort Frederick’s less hospitable dungeons, killing three British soldiers in the process, and drank himself into a self-pity stupor for the better part of two long and miserable weeks. In September of 1760, all cried out and more or less sober, Jean François Thiébaux left what is now Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada and started walking south with no money in his pockets, possessing little more than the clothes on his back.
He walked for three years …
Working for food and shelter when he could …
Living off the land when he had to.
Until he finally reached the former-French colonial port of New Orleans …
Only to find that it now belonged to Spain!