Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lost and Found: The Villagrand Family, Part I

On my January 30, 2012 post, I left by asking what had happened to Estelle Villagrand Johnston, wife of Edward William Johnston (1799-1867)? She was not with Edward in St. Louis in the last decade of his life, so perhaps she'd already died, or gone away from him, or had been sent away?

Thanks to Mary Louise (aka Louisa) Michel (aka Mitchell), Estelle's niece, I was able to pursue a new line of investigation -- and find answers.

Many decades after the fact, Mary Louise remembered being allowed to stay with her Uncle Edward in Washington, DC, when she was ten. She was probably a little bit older than ten, but no matter:

"Years before, in New York City, he [Edward William Johnston] had met and befriended one of those unfortunate French gentlemen who had been driven from Haiti by the negro insurrection. They became warm friends and, eventually, my uncle married his daughter." As noted in the above-mentioned blog post, the wedding had taken place on February 7, 1824, probably in New York City. "Now, after many years, she [Estelle] had died. Her widowed mother had long before been taken by my uncle into his home, and he had been to her a true son. Because the poor old lady was grief-stricken and lonely my uncle wished to borrow me for the winter, in the hope that a child's companionship might brighten life for them." (John B. Larner, "Some Reminiscences of Mrs. John M. Binckley of Early Days in Washington," Records of the Columbia History Society, Washington, D.C., Vol. 29/30, 1928, pages 348-349).

These memories led me to find the following: "Died- In Washington City, on Sept. 2, at the house of his son-in-law (Edward William Johnston), Josephe Magnac DeCressae Villagrando [sic], a native of Magnac, France, aged 69 years and nearly 6 months," Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, Friday, September 5, 1845. ("From the marriage and obituary citations compiled by Bernard J. Henley from Virginia newspapers on microfilm at the Library of Virginia," film 144).

Though the name is muddled, this was the father of Estelle Johnston. Other variations I've since come across in other records: Jerome D. Villagrand, Jerome Villagrand de Cressac and Jerome Villagrand. The above obituary notice gives us a helpful lifespan for Monsieur Villagrand: 1776-1845.

And what happened to Estelle?  "Died- In Washington City, on Friday, Dec. 15, Mrs. Marie Antoinette Estelle Johnston, wife of Edward William Johnston,"  Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, Tuesday, December 19, 1848.  ("From the marriage and obituary citations compiled by Bernard J. Henley from Virginia newspapers on microfilm at the Library of Virginia," film 144).  Estelle's name, like her father's, has multiple variations, but now we can better estimate her lifespan: circa 1802-1848.

In the next post, more on the Villagrands when they resided in Manhattan.

Picture source: F.B. Stanford, "Where Noted Men Have Lived in New York," The Illustrated American (October 25, 1890), page 244.

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