Monday, January 30, 2017

Mary Smith Raney's Father, Eugene Smith - His Family

Clipper ship similar to the Charles Carroll
When the packet clipper ship Charles Carroll made port at New York City on May 29th, 1830, it was carrying French immigrants, among them the Jean Claude Schmitt family and the Alexis Xavier Monnier (Meunier) family.  They had crossed France from Belfort in the Franche-Comté for passage at Le Havre to America. Despite the name Schmitt, the family was French-speaking.

The men are listed on the passenger list as farmers - the Franche-Comté is currently known for producing butter and cheeses, breeding dairy cattle, growing cereal grains and wine grapes -- but what made entire families leave in 1830? Jean Claude Schmitt was 56 and his wife Jeanne Marie (Roi) Schmitt 59.  Alexis Xavier Meunier (Morrin on the passenger list) was 42, his wife Brigette (Voisinet) Meunier 47.  Alexis' brother or cousin Jean and his wife had come, too. The children of the three couples numbered ten, including Jean Auguste Schmitt, age about 17, and Marie Morrin, age 13, our great-great grandparents.  Who knows how many extended family members with other surnames were among the passengers.  It took them a few years to save enough money to sail to America; these families had made the decision to leave France well before 1830.  Why?
Belfort, Franche-Comté
The area had always been vulnerable to invading armies, its Belfort Depression naturally connecting the Rhine Valley with the approach to Paris. Its inhabitants had suffered from invasion for centuries, but the Napoleonic Wars had ended in 1815, and Europe was finally at peace. 

"It's the economy, stupid!" The Revolution of 1789 transformed agriculture, abolishing tithes owed to local churches as well as feudal dues owed to local landlords. It nationalized all church lands (and they were immense), as well as lands belonging to royalist enemies who went into exile. With the breakup of large estates controlled by the Church and the nobility and worked by hired hands, rural France became permanently a land of small independent farms. The rural proletariat and nobility gave way to the commercial farmer. Life was pretty good for our farming ancestors. What changed?  A hint lies in this short history of 1820s France from an Internet site:

The Restoration: 1815-1830
With Napoleon safely removed from the scene, in distant St Helena, the Bourbon king Louis XVIII - restored to the throne now for the second time - attempts to establish the constitutional monarchy which has been the condition of his dynasty's return.

The pattern is intended to echo the parliamentary system established in Britain, with one chamber made up of peers and another of elected deputies. As with the Cavalier parliament after the English restoration in 1660, the first elections result in an ultra-royalist majority. Vengeance for the recent sufferings of the landed classes is high on the agenda.

The king, personally inclined to moderation, contrives to steer a middle course for a few years after 1816, when new elections return a more centrist parliament. But his task is made more difficult after the assassination, in 1820, of his nephew the duc de Berry.

The event prompts an immediate swing to the right, accentuated because the young man's father - the future Charles X - is already the leader of the ultra-royalist faction in the country. The 1820s see a continuous drift towards reactionary policies, including the unscrupulous revision of the franchise to favor the rich. The process accelerates after Charles X succeeds his brother in 1824.

At the very start of his reign Charles X makes a dramatic statement of his intended policy. He has himself crowned in the cathedral at Reims. The Holy Ampulla believed to have been brought from heaven by the Holy Ghost, has been smashed by a republican in 1793. But Charles is relieved to discover that faithful royalists have rescued the few drops of the sacred liquid needed for his anointment. The ceremony can be carried out with full medieval pomp.

Appropriate political measures follow. Power is returned to the clergy. Large sums of money are allotted to recompense the aristocracy for lost lands.

The Revolution that our families lived through had failed and taxes were increasing. Whatever their reason for leaving, they saw America as a better place for their children to marry and rear families.  They might have passed through Paris on their way to Le Havre; if so, they missed by only a few months the July Revolution that put "the Citizen King" Louis Philippe on the throne.  Had their timing been different and they'd waited, they might have changed their minds and stayed.

A Shelby County, Ohio, history describes our ancestors and the many who came with them as "a colony of immigrants from France, Alsace and Lorraine." Our two family surnames appear in the Shelby County 1850 census, but not for everyone.  Within a year of  his arrival in America, Jean Claude  Schmitt (1784 - 1831) died farther east in Stark County, Ohio, and his widow, Jeanne Marie (Roi) Schmitt (1771-1847) died in Darke County, adjacent to Shelby County (also heavily settled by French immigrants and collateral relatives).
Jeanne Marie Roi (Schmitt) headstone (or so we think), Holy Family Cemetery, Darke County, Ohio

  Their names now Americanized, son John Augusta Smith (formerly Jean Auguste Schmitt) (1811-1895) married Mary Francis Money or Monner (formerly Marie Francoise Monnier or Meunier) (1815 - died btw 1885-95), who was on-board ship with him. Nine of their sons are listed in the census; the second to the youngest is Eugene Smith (1850-1928), our great-grandfather.  Shelby County's soil is rich and John Augusta Smith does not rent; he owns his farm. 

How did this large group of French immigrants travel with their bit of goods from New York City to Shelby County, Ohio, in the 1830s? They might have made their way up the Hudson River and then by the Erie canal across New York State to Lake Erie, sailed to Cleveland, Ohio; from there they could have come down the Ohio and Erie Canal to Canton in Stark County, where Jean Claude Schmitt died. It appears some of the group, including some Monniers, stayed in Stark County; they appear in the 1840 census, as do a few Smiths (but are they our Smiths?) From Stark County it was a relatively short distance to the Cumberland Road (renamed the National Road), over which even stagecoaches were jolting along to Zanesville by 1830. And from there -- well, it's anyone's guess. It wasn't an easy journey.

John Augusta Smith and Mary Francis (Monner) Smith c 1855-65

Mary Frances' father Alexis Xavier Monner, (Meunier) (b 1788) died in Loramie Township, Shelby County, in 1855; her mother Brigette (Voisinet) Monnier (b. 1783) died in Loramie Township in 1870.  When the 1870 census was taken of the Smiths, of the nine brothers, only Eugene (our great-grandfather, age 21) and his younger brother Alfred (age 19) remained on the farm. They had attended school and were literate.  Five years later, Eugene married Louise Petitjean, whose family had come from France in 1854.

In my next blog, we'll take a look at the Petitjean family, which became the Petitjohns.


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