Interesting Reading on the Bringier Family
Except from Creole Families of New Orleans
Grace King, published 1921
Frangoise "Fanny" Bringier
*Text related to Fanny is at the end of page in bold print*
THE Bringier family, whose name runs like a golden tracery over the society of New Orleans during the nineteenth century, came into the colony during the very latest years of the Spanish Domination.
Emmanuel Marius Pons Bringier,* of La Cadiere, near Aubagne, was the first to settle here. From a letter written by the "Chanoine Jean Baptiste Hypohte Bringier," of the Marseilles Cathedral, to a Louisiana nephew, we learn that the Bringier family of Louisiana descends from Ignace Bringier, a Judge of Limagne (ancien pays d'Auvergne), who was the father of Jean Bringier. He married Marie Doura don, daughter of Baron Douradon of Auvergne. They were the parents of Pierre Bringier, the father of Emmanuel Marius Pons. Pierre Bringier had an enormous family, which gave rise to the jeu d'esprit that he was the "father of nineteen sons and one canon.” The canon of the Marseilles Cathedral was the younger brother of Emmanuel Marius Pons, and had been an emigre during the French Revolution.
*Taken chiefly from the manuscript notes of Trist Wood, Esq., who kindly loaned them to the author.
Emmanuel Marius Pons left France in 1780, sailing in his own vessel with his young wife, Marie a descendant of Marius Pons Bringier Frangoise Durand, to Martinique, where he and his brother Vincent became associated in business on a plantation. But not agreeing well as partners, they separated. Vincent lost his life in a shipwreck. Marius Pons, quitting Martinique, embarked again in his own vessel with his wife, slaves and household effects, and came to Louisiana.
He acquired a plantation in the rich Tchoupitoulas district above New Orleans. Abandoning the place shortly afterwards, on account of the crevasses, Bringier moved to the Parish of St. James in 1785, where he bought, successively, five plantations and, throwing them into one, formed the famous Maison Blanche or White Hall plantation, which according to all accounts must be pronounced to be incontestably the greatest plantation Louisiana ever held.
What would be to-day a most valuable record of it, and a precious document in every way, has, to the enduring regret of local historians, been lost. This was the “Memoir" of Augustin, one of the old Bringier slaves, which he dictated to one of his mistresses, Madame Aurore Trudeau, who wrote it down in his patois, just as he spoke it. Only a vague reminiscence of it exists.
As traveling in the early days was done entirely upon the highroad running along the river bank, and no inns were in existence for the accommodation of wayfarers, the custom was for them to turn into any plantation they were passing and ask for hospitality for the night — hospitality that was never refused. Bringier, who could not but do things magnificently, improved upon this custom, as Augustin related it. He had outhouses built for the accommodation of passing strangers, with beds prepared and meals ready and slaves in attendance for them. Any stranger was made welcome. The rule at White Hall was not to ask his name or seek in any way to discover his identity, unless he chose to divulge them. He came and went as an unknown bird of passage might, but departed, rested and refreshed, his clothes cleaned and brushed, his linen washed.
The enormous amount of provisions laid up in the plantation storehouses for this wholesale entertainment at Maison Blanche became a byword among the negroes, whose pride in it led them to exaggerate its quantity until, in truth, it became laughably absurd in its proportions.
The town house of the Bringiers, to which they came every winter, was on Canal Street; one of the three old houses, still remembered, built alike with massive Corinthian columns in front, called "the Three Sisters.” One of these was subsequently converted into "The Grand Opera House.” The Audubon Row occupies now the site of it.
'Melpomene" was their next place of residence in town. It had been owned previously by Seaman Field, the brother-in-law of Aglae Dubourg Bringier. The name was always known as Melpomene (pronounced in French), strangely enough before the street received its name in the due series of the Muses. Carondelet at that time was Apollo Street, a mere road through the bare country, with but one or two houses built on it. "Visiting the city" was the term used for going to Canal Street.
The eldest son, Michel Doradou Bringier, born on the plantation, was sent to Paris for his education. On his return to America he passed through Baltimore and was married to Aglae Dubourg, who as we have seen, had been placed in the convent there under Mrs. Seton for her education, and who was but fourteen years old. The marriage took place in Baltimore, where it created a great sensation on account of the remarkable beauty and the extreme youthfulness of the bride, but it was understood that it had been arranged by her uncle, the abbe, during a visit to New Orleans, with the full agreement of both families.
Doradou Bringier had never seen his bride before the ceremony except once, when, as a very small girl, she passed through New Orleans on her way to Baltimore. He declared then that she was the most beautiful child he had ever seen, and that he had fallen in love with her. Hermitage plantation was given the couple, and as a wedding present the bride received a beautiful doll. She remarked that she did not know whether it was meant for her or for her first baby.
The marriage turned out to be a very happy one. Agla lived to an extreme old age, preserving her charm and beauty to the last. She died in 1878 in her town house, ' 'Melpomene," surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
The eldest daughter of Agla and Michel Doradou Bringier, Rosella, married Hone Browze Trist, the kinsman and ward of Thomas Jefferson; he became first American Collector of the Port of New Orleans; the youngest, Myrthe, married Richard Taylor, son of President Zachary Taylor, who became during the Civil War the dashing General Dick Taylor.*
* "Dick" Taylor, the son of Zachary Taylor, was born in Louisiana in 1826. After the Battle of Baton Rouge, in the Civil War, he was appointed to the command of the District of Louisiana, having already served with distinction in Virginia. His campaign in Upper Louisiana and on Red River was one of the brilliant military episodes of the Confederate War. After the close of the war he returned to New Orleans and lived with his family in the old Melpomene Street house. He had three daughters; one of them, Bettie, married Walter R. Stauffer; her sister, Myrth, Isaac H. Stauffer— sons of the prominent and wealthy merchant and philanthropist, Isaac Stauffer, of New Orleans. The children of both sisters still proudly maintain the prestige of their blood and name in New Orleans. Louisette, the eldest daughter, died unmarried.
Octavie married General Allen Thomas, at one time United States Minister to Venezuela. Louise married Martin Gordon, of New Orleans.
Nanine, the third daughter, married the Hon. Duncan F. Kenner who, looked back upon from the present times, looms up among the men of his day as a giant in intellect and force of character. He had a large family, but only two daughters and one son reached maturity. His eldest daughter, Rosella, married General Joseph Brent, of Baltimore. Their daughter, Nanine, is the wife of Thomas Sloo, Esq., of New Orleans.
One of the daughters of Marius Pons Bringier, Frangoise, married "Christophe Colomb," who claimed descent from the great discoverer. Living in France, he had become involved in some plot during the French Revolution and had made his escape to St. Domingo disguised as a cook. But the insurrection and massacre there forced him again to fly. He came, as all the St. Domingo refugees did at that time, to New Orleans, and, as Trist Woods describes it, gravitated to St. James Parish and to White Hall plantation. He there married Frangoise Bringier and became the proprietor of Bocage plantation, but instead of cultivating his fields, he spent, we are told, the rest of his life cultivating the Muses. On moonlight nights he would betake himself to his boat or ornamental barge, ordering his men to row him up and down the Mississippi and, reclining on cushions beneath a fringed canopy, would pick his guitar and sing serenades to the moon. His wife, on the contrary, with the Bringier talent for business, mounting her horse at daylight, would ride over the plantation directing the work of the slaves. But husband and wife got on together famously, says the story— he wooing the Muses, she managing Bocage.
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