I just received this fascinating story from Christine Valosin, the curator at the Saratoga National Historical Park. I couldn’t help but sharing it with everyone. Here is what she wrote to me:
My colleague, Chris Martin, the park’s resource manager, and I, began to realize about a year ago that if we conducted any historical or archeological study of the Saratoga area, we would be encountering a rich colonial history that included the French. So we have engaged the services of a researcher, but Chris and I have also been conducting a lot of research on the time period of the 1660s through the French and Indian War. I have recently become very involved with researching and documenting the French families who were living and trading in the Saratoga – Stillwater area from the 1680s on. One settler, in particular, has captured my interest as he and his wife and children were living in Stillwater from 1685 until 1708. His name was René Poupart dit LaFleur, he was born about 1650 in Plessé, near Nantes (Brittany, France). I have also located ties between these French families and soldiers from the Carignan-Salières Regiment in the 1660s.
We are also examining the raids on Saratoga in the 1740s by the French and Indians during King George’s War. One raid in particular, in November 1745, destroyed the settlement and resulted in the taking of many captives to Quebec. We are looking at these events from the Canadian perspective and also trying to weave in the warfare that the British inflicted on the French in Canada around the same time.
Last fall some of us made a trip up the Champlain Valley to Rouses Point, NY then across to the site of Fort Sainte-Anne (Isle La Motte, VT) and then on to Fort Saint Frédéric / Crown Point and Fort Carillon / Ticonderoga. We strongly feel that most people in our area have no idea of the presence and activity of the French in the 17th and early 18th centuries, nor is there a good understanding of their culture. Many of the 19th and early 20th-century history books claim that these families were Huguenots, but with the help of a genealogical researcher, I am coming to understand that they were in fact Catholic at a time when practicing that faith was dangerous here.
We are in the beginning stages of this research, but I feel very strongly that more people need to know that the French were actually the first European settlers to actually live here, not the Dutch or English, though the Dutch and English were not that far behind.
Fascinating, indeed! Thanks, Christine for sharing this. I am looking forward to learning more about the result of your research and visit you in Stillwater.
About Saratoga National Historical Park
648 Route 32
Stillwater, New York 12170
Saratoga National Historical Park commemorates the American victories at the Battles of Saratoga in 1777. A portion of the park lies in Schuylerville, NY (formerly Saratoga). The park owns a portion of the (Philip) Schuyler estate there, including his house built in 1777 after the British burned the one he had built in the 1760s.