Born: at Jenoville, on April 7, 1658.
Died: After June, 1722. educated for the ministry, inherited estate of his father, served in prison for the cause of Protestantism. Escaped from France on Nov. 30, 1685 (?9), just after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, landed Barnstaple, England on Dec. 1, 1685. He took his fiance, Anne Boursiquot, her sister Elizabeth and Janette Forestier, his niece.
He resided at various places in England and engaged himself in various occupations, including preaching, teaching, shop-keeping, and manufacturing. Moved to Cork in 1694, preached and taught. In 1699 moved to Bear Haven Ireland where he engaged in fishing and farming and later maintained a Fort. Was captured and held for ransom by French Privateers. Later moved to Dublin where he resided until his death. In every undertaking he seemed to do well and gain the highest esteem, having been appointed to several important offices in Ireland.
Married:: February 8, 1686,at Parish Church of Barnstable, by Mr. Wood, the Rector, to Ann Elizabeth Boursiquot Bo9.
"James Fontaine, the 'Fighting Huguenot.' [Born in Santiogne, France, April 7, 1658. Escaped during the persecution to England. Father of James and Peter Fontaine, of Virginia.]" (From file of Irene Louise Scott Parks; her source?)
Rev. James Fontaine: Autobiographer
|James Fontaine and Anne Boursiquot had eight children:
Fo8-1 ?first or second marriage) James Fontaine (10th Oct 1686 in Barnstable, Engl., Married twice, first in 1711 with Lucretia Desjarrie in the Diocese of Cork and Ross, Ireland, and second ca. 1737-1738 with Elizabeth Harcum in Virginia.
Fo8-2 Aaron Fontaine (1688 in Taunton - 1699 in Cork Ireland)
Sources: Memoirs of a Huguenot Family. Written by James Fontaine, 1722.
and translated by Ann Maury and published.
(Fo10), the father of James Fontaine (Fo9) dropped “de la” from the name.
James Fontaine began the story of the Fontalne's with their history
in 1500, and related it to his own family date, i.e., 1722. He did not come to America, but most of his sons came to Virginia.
One of the sons, John Fontaine, was with Governor Byrd, and was a Knight of the Golden Horseshoe.
Another was Reverend Peter Fontaine, of Charles City Co., Westover, Virginia. .
James, in his letter about his family, says he was seven years younger than his brother and sisters.
His father died when he was eight years old. He was lame, beceuse of a fall when he was a baby. This fall was due to a careless nurse, who withheld the fact, and to the failure to have the bone set. His experiences are fully related in his autobiography. He had become a Refugee and went from France to England and Ireland.
He completed his memoirs in 1722, and made several copies, so that if one
were lost, all the children would be able to read a copy.
Mrs. George Nicholas (Ni3-5) had a reprint of the original, which she gave to her son Major H.T. Nicholas. .
The copies of the Fontaines’ portraits (photographs of what seem to be pencil copies) are with the records of Mrs. Nicholas.
Karl Smith copied some of these from Mrs. Nicholas' collection.
The Memoirs of Jaques de la Fontaine provides an excellent historical
and literary narrative which exemplifies the Huguenots’ plight. The Memoirs
first provide a detailed account of Jaques’ childhood life and education
in Jenouillé and Jaffe, his apprenticeship, and his flight from
Rochelle, France, to Barnstaple, England, in December 1685. He and his
fiancée, Anne Elisabeth Boursiquot, were married in Barnstaple on
February 8, 1686, where their first child, James, was born in October 1686.
After living in southeastern England, mostly in Taunton, for some years,
the Fontaines in 1694 emigrated to the city of Cork in southern Ireland,
where he was minister to a small Huguenot congregation in the center of
the city. He began using the Anglicized name “James. ” A few years later,
James and his family moved to the Beara Peninsula, a remote location in
southern Ireland, where he engaged in commercial fishing. It was here that
he built a house and fort. Admittedly, James had little success in this
business venture, and the remote location on the Beara was visited little
else except by French corsairs.
After the failure of his commercial fishing venture, defending his home
and family against two separate pirate attacks, and paying a heavy ransom
for the return of his son Peter who had been held hostage, James had experienced
enough adventure on the Beara Peninsula. For his service defending Ireland
against the French corsairs, James received a government pension. With
this money he moved his family to a small house he leased on St. Stephen’s
Green in Dublin and operated a small school in the town section where Huguenot
refugees and other immigrants lived.
Both James and his wife Elisabeth lived in Dublin until their deaths,
hers in January 1720/21 and his in May 1728. Both are buried in the Huguenot
Cemetery which is located on Merrion Row across from the northeastern corner
of St. Stephen’s Green. Their home is believed to have been located directly
across from the cemetery where the offices for a branch of the Bank of
Ireland now stand. The exact burial location of James and Elizabeth within
the Huguenot Cemetery are unknown, but a monument was erected and dedicated
in 1999 by The Fontaine Maury Society and the Huguenot Society of Great
Britain and Ireland in commemoration of their lives and their steadfast
dedication to family (see photos of the monument on the Photos page). Located
nearby is a large plaque which lists all of the Huguenots who immigrated
to Dublin during the era of persecutions in the 17th century. None of Fontaines’
children are buried here because many of them emigrated to Virginia or
back to England and Wales.
James’ sons were all educated in downtown Dublin at nearby Trinity College.
One of James’ older sons, John, was the first to travel to Virginia and
scout out locations of land for sale on behalf of the family. John recorded
all of his observations in a journal. Upon his arrival in the Virginia
colony, the reader follows John to Williamsburg and the reader meets a
host of powerful and influential gentlemen farmers of the time. In 1715,
John befriended Governor Alexander Spottswood, the Virginia colony’s governor,
and he accompanies the governor and a small group of men on a trip to survey
the Virginia wilderness. Spottswood, who was the colony’s political and
economic architect, was chiefly responsible for attracting a large number
of immigrants to the colony.
Spottswood was also a land speculator and promoter. He used heavy promotional
efforts to attract lower- and middle-class groups to the colony who became
indentured servants to the large landed gentlemen farmers. It was in Spottswood’s
financial and economic interest to attract enough cheap labor so these
gentlemen farmers could cheaply produce, export, and sell tobacco and other
agricultural crops at a profit. Spottswood’s heavy promotional efforts
attracted a large number of German immigrants who founded the settlement
in Orange County, Virginia, on what was then the Virginia colony’s western
frontier. Initially, the colony was founded to guard the frontier against
Indian attacks, but a small supply of iron was found in the area and the
colony turned to mining for its economy. John’s journal provides a descriptive
account of the settlers, fort, and living conditions at the Germanna settlement.
From Germanna, John describes the expedition of the “Knights of the
Golden Horseshoe,” a gentleman’s journey, account, and promotion of the
wonders of the North American frontier. The members of the expedition acquired
this unusual nickname became the governor provided all of the participants
gold-plated horseshoes at the end of the journey. Though the descriptions
in John Fontaine’s “Horseshoe” expedition read like an exploratory essay,
it was not the first. Other western exploratory expeditions had transpired,
but none of them promoted the American wilderness as Fontaine’s descriptions.
Elaborate descriptions of the wilds of America, the open vastness, the
abundance of natural resources, and the plentiful wildlife would attract
immigrants to the Virginia frontier. No doubt, John was hoping that his
services to the governor as the expedition’s chronicler would garner him
special favors in the form of land grants. John did receive a land grant,
and his account would attract Huguenot immigrants to Virginia who settled
at what became the Mannakin-Town settlement. And what became of the other
of the “Knights of the Golden Horseshoe?”
One of the members of the expedition was a gentleman named Robert Beverley.
Beverley was another vast gentleman land holder and speculator who tried
to sell a vast parcel to John with a 99-year lease. John kindly rejected
Beverley’s offer, explaining that the parcel of land did not front enough
of the river. But Beverley managed to sell land. A few years later, he
sold land to Peter Madison, the grandfather of James Madison. The latter
Madison constructed his home on the same land. Following his expedition
with the governor, John’s journal continues to New York where he met with
the governor. From there, the journal begins to grow thin and spotty. This
indicates that John was kept quite busy establishing colonial political
and economic ties to pave the way for his siblings’ immigration.
John Fontaine’s journal has provided historians with a rich, interesting,
and valuable historical narrative of colonial Virginia. Excerpts from his
journal have also been used by path-making historians like Marcus Rediker,
whose work, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, used excerpts from
Fontaine’s trans-oceanic voyage on The Dove as a narrative backdrop to
describe 18th century maritime life. But perhaps John’s biggest legacy
lies in the fact that he paved the way for his siblings to emigrate from
Ireland to Virginia. Ironically, John never returned to Virginia. Eventually,
he settled in Wales.