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Reprinted from The Gallipolis Journal December 4, 1873

For the Gallipolis Journal, Early History of Gallipolis

Cincinnati, O., Nov. 22, 1873
Eds. Gallipolis Journal:
Dear Sirs:
     In gathering materials for a history of the French settlement of Gallipolis, in 1790, I have had sent me a life of Francis d’Hebecourt, who was the first man bearing a commission, that of Captain, and the first Postmaster of that town.
     The many interesting details of his life were sent me by Anaclet d’Hebecourt, Esq., of New Orleans, and were accompanied with documents proving the truth of his statements; and, I now ask you to publish this sketch in the hope that it will be entertaining to the readers of your paper, and will awaken an interest in the old time strong enough to call out other sketches of the first colonists.
     Yours respectfully,
     John M. Newton

Francois Anaclet Ledusso d’Hebecourt
     The following is an extract from the parochial archives of the town of Epemay, in the province of Champagne, France, of the birth and parentage of d’Hebecourt, and is valuable not only as an authentic record, but as showing the careful manner with which the nobility preserved the proofs of their birth and legitimacy. The translation is as follows:

     “In the year of our Lord, 1768, on the 28th of July, I, the undersigned Vicar of this Parish, have baptized a son born this day of legitimate marriage between Joseph Nicolas Ledossu, Lord of Hebecourt, Squire, Captain in the Queen’s Regiment of Infantry, and Marie Jeanne de la Cour, father and mother of said child, and residing in this Parish. To the child have been given the names of Francois Anaclet. The godfather has been the high and powerful Lord, Jean Anaclet, Knight, Count of Bassompierre, Captain of Caribineers and the godmother, Dame Marie Francois de Silly, Countess of Coucy. Anuter, Vicar, Epemay province of Champagne.
     The Count of Bassompierre was of a powerful and wealthy family, renowned in the wars of France, and the Godmother, the Dame de Silly, was of one of the oldest and noblest houses of France, whose haughty boast was “Neither Lord nor King am I, I am the sire of Coucy.” The high rank of the infant’s sponsors at the baptismal font, betoken the high esteem in which the Lord of Hebecourt was held, and with such powerful friends, it would seem that the future of the boy was to be one of unmixed brilliancy and prosperity. Nothing is said of the early life of d’Hebecourt, but when he was old enough he was placed at the military school of Paris, to fit him for a command in the army, which was the only career, save that of the church, which was then deemed worthy that a member of the high nobility could pursue. While in the Ecole Militaire, he formed the acquaintance of a remarkable man; this acquaintance quickly ripened into an intimate friendship. His friend was Napoleon Bonaparte, who was a fellow student. So close was this intimacy that when both had graduated with honor and received their grades, Bonaparte as Sub-Lieutenant of Artillery and d’Hebecourt Sub-Lieutenant of Infantry, they both resolved to go to America, and there in the depths of the forest, on the banks of the Ohio, to lead a colony, of which they would be the chiefs. Steps were taken to this end. Lands were bought from Joel Barlow, agent of the Scioto Co., in Paris, and the two young men were ready to go, when the family of Bonaparte persuaded him to remain in Paris, where, by thus remaining, he changed the destinies of Europe.
     The narrative of Anaclet d’Hebecourt states: “My grandfather never ceased to cherish fondly the remembrance of his friendship with Bonaparte, in their younger days, and before the war bulletins had declared to the world Napoleon a great genius, he, my grandfather, had given to one of his sons, (who was my father), the name of Bonaparte.” D’Hebecourt, accompanied with many servants, landed at Gallipolis Oct. 21, 1790, and for several years after, his life was one of constant hardship, and often of great danger. He was appointed Captain, as appears by the following commission, May 6, 1791, at the outbreak of Indian hostilities in that year:

Territory of the United States, Northwest of the River Ohio.
     By the Honorable, Winthrop Sargent, Esq., vested with all the powers of the Governor and Commander in Chief of the Territory of the United States, Northwest of the River Ohio, To Francis d’Hebecourt, Greeting:
     You being appointed Captain of the Second Company, in the Second Regiment of Militia, of the County of Washington. By virtue of the power vested in me, I by these presents (reposing special trust and confidence in your loyalty, courage and good conduct) commission you accordingly.
     You are therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of a Captain, in leading, ordering and exercising said company in arms, both inferior officers and soldiers, and to keep them in good order and discipline. And they are hereby commanded to obey you as their Captain, and you yourself to observe and follow such orders as you shall from time to time receive from me or your superior officers.
     Given under my hand and the Seal of the said Territory of the United States, the 6th day of May, in the year of our Lord, 1791, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the fifteenth. [Seal]
     Winthrop Sargent,

    In 1794 he was appointed Postmaster, the commission for which office I copy, as being the first issued to a citizen of Gallipolis: Timothy Pickering Postmaster General of the United States of America;

To all who shall see these presents, Greetings:
     Know all ye that confiding in the integrity, ability and punctuality of Francis DeHebecourt, of Gallipolis, on the Ohio, I do appoint him a Deputy Postmaster, and authorize him to exercise the duties of that office at Gallipolis aforesaid, according to the laws of the United States, and such regulations conformable to, as he shall receive from me; to hold the said office of Deputy Postmaster, with all the powers, privileges and emoluments to the same belonging, during the pleasure of the Postmaster General of the United States for the time being.
     In Testimony Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the office to be affixed, at Philadelphia, the twenty-second day of July, in the year of our Lord, 1794, and of the Independence of the United States, the nineteenth.
     Timothy Pickering

     While acting as Captain, Gen’l. Henry Lee, the father of the celebrated Rebel General Robert E. Lee, wrote d’Hebecourt several times, commanding him to secure certain ringleaders of the Whisky Insurrection of Western Pennsylvania in 1794. These ringleaders were supposed to have escaped by the River Ohio, seeking the Spanish settlements on the Mississippi. Gen. Lee was appointed by Washington to command the troops sent to quell the above mentioned Insurrection.
     In 1796, Jos. Habersham, Postmaster General, renewed d’Hebecourt’s appointment as Postmaster at Gallipolis, and wrote him, June 23, 1797, a letter, of which the following is an extract, and which throws some light on the manner of carrying the mail at that date:

     I am favored with your letter of the 6th inst., and am glad to find that the mail is now regularly carried on the Ohio. Mr. Green informs me that he could not get boats built on the whale boat construction, but says they are built from one stick of good timber, from which I conclude they are canoes. Will you be so good as to inform me whether canoes are in use from Prescott’s and Gallipolis? How many boats are employed on that part of the river, and the number of hands in each boat? And what such boats can be purchased for? Is there a good box covered with tar and oil cloth, so as to make it water tight, fixed in the boat from Gallipolis to the first lower station, and do you understand that the mail is secured in the same manner from hence to Preston’s? I wish you to be particular in answering these questions, and will thank you for the earliest information on the subject.
I am, respectfully, sir, Your most obedient servant. Jos. Habersham, General Postmaster, General Post Office, Philadelphia, 23d June, 1797

     Hildreth says, in his Pioneer History, page 342, “In April, 1794, with the aid and advice of Col. O’Hara, army contractor, and Maj. Isaac Craig, of Pittsburgh, a plan was devised of transporting the mail in light, strong boats on the Ohio river, and put into operation early in the following June. These boats were about twenty-four feet in length, built after the model of a whale boat, and steered with a rudder. They were manned by five boatmen, viz: a coxswain and four oarsmen. The men were all armed, and their pieces kept dry in snug boxes alongside their seats. The whole could be covered with a tarpaulin in wet weather, which each boat carried for that purpose. For cooking and sleeping they generally landed on a beach at the head of an island, where they would be less exposed to a surprise or an attack by the Indians. In ascending, as well as in descending, the boat was kept nearly in the middle of the river. The distance traveled against the current averaged about thirty miles a day, and double that downstream. There were four relays between Wheeling and Cincinnati. The mail was carried by land from Pittsburgh to Wheeling. The stations where the boats met and exchanged their mails were, Marietta, Gallipolis, and Limestone, now Maysville.”
     Hildreth further says in the same history, page 322: “Mons. Gubbeau another emigrant, a young man of great activity and a fine waterman. In company with Piere [sic] La Lance, Mrs. Thiery’s son, they transported the mail in 1795, from Marietta to Gallipolis in a large canoe. It was made by Captain Jonathan Devol (of Marietta) from the trunk of a wild cherry tree, and finished as nice as any piece of cabinet furniture. The length was forty feet, and would carry twenty men, but was so nicely modeled for passing through the water, that two men could move her with poles or paddles as easily as any other canoe of half the size.” It was probably this last canoe or dugout, to which Mr. Habersham’s letter refers.

     In Sept. 16, 1795, F. Hebecourt married Felicite Marret. The ceremony was performed and the certificate given by John Meehan, Justice of the Peace. In 1799 he was in business at Marietta, and during that year he entertained as his guests the Duke of Orleans, afterwards Louis Phillippe, King of France, the Duke of Chatres. The Duke of Beaujolais, and their companion, Mons. de Monjoie. The noble French exiles “were wandering in a state of great penury and distress.” The author of the sketch I have, says: “I have yet in my possession a mathematical problem solved by the Duke of Orleans whilst a guest of my grandfather. One evening when the Duke of Orleans, of Chatres and of Beaujolais were seated in the front room of the log cabin, which was my grandfather’s dwelling in Marietta, my father’s oldest brother came in holding in his hands and tearing into pieces the history of the Kings of Portugal. The Duke of Orleans recognized the book, which he had seen lying on a table a few days previous, and remarked to my grandmother, “That boy of yours evinces quite young his dislike for kings and their histories. He will be a great republican.”

     D’Hebecourt was unsuccessful in his business at Marietta, and removed with his family to New Madrid, Missouri, where there were many of his countrymen, but he met there with no better success, and in 1802 he petitioned Don Juan Manuel de Salcedo, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, for permission to open a school for young men in New Orleans. Here he lived until his death, which was on the 22d of November 1832. He found in the education of youth his proper career. He became renowned as a teacher, and from all parts of the Union pupils would be sent to him. His learning was exact and varied, his manners perfectly courteous and gentlemanly, and he always inspired those who knew him with respect and admiration. “Governors Roman, Mouton, Derbigny, Mayor Prieur, of the city of New Orleans, and a host of distinguished other Louisianians, received from him their entire education.

     At his funeral, which was held at his house, four miles from New Orleans, his old pupils refused to allow his coffin to be placed in the hearse, and carried it on their shoulders to the burial place in the city. The sum of $10,000 was gathered to erect a monument in his memory, but owing to an unfortunate defalcation of the holder of this sum, no monument has ever been raised.

Transcribed by Eva Swain Hughes

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