This webpage is dedicated to researching the origins and establishing the true story of Jean Latourrette (abt. 1651-July 1726), who left Osse, Bearn (now Osse-en-Aspe, France) in September of 1685 with Pastor Pierre Peiret (Peyret) and his family. The minister of Osse, already under the threat of death or a sentence to the galleys by Louis XIV, was joined in his flight by Jean Latourrette. By his commitment to see the Peiret family safely to a new haven outside France, Jean was subject to the same punishment. After two years of traveling through Frankfort, Rotterdam, and London, they reached New York City in October of 1687. There, with the help of other Huguenot refugees, they established the French Church of New York, now called L’Eglise Francaise du St. Esprit (The French Church of the Holy Spirit). As a master carpenter, Jean played a major role in the construction, expansion and remodeling of the first wooden church built in 1688 on Petticoat Lane, later Marketfield Street. The church they established still exists today over 300 years later on East 60th Street as the oldest French-speaking institution in America.
The Latourrette family of Osse can be traced back to Gassiot Latourrette (abt. 1535-40 to 1595) who in 1563 was the first minister of the Protestant faith in the Aspe Valley in which Osse is located. In Béarnais, the common language of the province at the time, he is referred to as Gassioo de La Torreta. The "de" clearly indicates a connection to Spanish as opposed to the "della" found in Italian. After all, Osse is just 18 miles north of Col du Somport at the Spanish border.
Under Gassiot’s leadership the Protestant Reformation was brought to Osse and flourished after 1569, when the village became exclusively Protestant. Over 100 years later we find David Latourrette, Jean’s father, as the leading Protestant, the village’s notarie (chief legal officer), an elder of the church, and abbe laique d’Osse. Although not of nobility, the title denoted a position of wealth and respect.
Here, by following the links, one can find more of the true story of Jean Latourrette and the origins of the Latourrette family of Osse. To give the reader a feel for the village of Osse and the surrounding Aspe Valley, a satellite map and pictures are available for downloading.
The truth about Jean Latourrette and Osse has had to overcome more than 150 years of descendants in America creating tales and hoaxes to explain what they didn’t know about his origins in France. Therefore, a great deal of the author’s research as been directed to exposing soppy research and debunking tales and hoaxes of no substance. This is explained as follows.
The story of Jean Latourrette and Pastor Peiret represents an interest which traces back more than fifty years. The genealogical research of Lyman E. Latourette and Mrs. Verna A. Hill Jacob came to the attention of the author in the mid 1950s. Although focused primarily on the American descendants of Jean Latourrette, Lyman’s Latourette Annals in America (1954) and Mrs. Jacob’s widely circulated notes of that decade, later consolidated into a Compilation: The Latourette Family and Associated Families (1965), paint a fanciful and erroneous portrait of what Jean’s life was before his marriage to Marie Mercereau in the French Church of New York on July 16, 1693.
Unfortunately the stories about Jean Latourrette’s life before his marriage to Marie Mercereau appearing in Lyman’s Annals and Mrs. Jacob’s notes are based on tales and outright hoaxes created by descendants who lacked any knowledge of the history of Osse and Jean Latourrette’s origins.
The objective of this webpage is to present the true story of Jean, the history of the Latourrette family of Osse and its role in bringing the Protestant Reformation to Osse. Concurrently, it frees them from the false tales and outright hoaxes that still circulate among some of Jean’s descendants in America. These include the tales of an earlier marriage by Jean and Marie in France and the family’s origin in Italy, and the count hoax which describes Jean’s father as Henri rather than David (abt. 1625-1697).
Author John E. La Tourette, Ph.D.
President Emeritus of Northern Illinois University
Copyright 2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The author has published two monographs in English on Jean and the Latourrette family in France which are still available.
Jean Latourrette and Pierre Peiret, Huguenot Refugees: Their Roots in Osse, Bearn, 2006, 102 pages with illustrations.
Pastor Pierre Peiret and Jean Latourrette in America: A Comparative History of French Protestantism in America, 2008, 135 pages with illustrations.
A book in French which updates the second monograph above and focuses exclusively on the early Huguenot experience in New York City is also available.
Le Pasteur Pierre Peiret et Jean Latourrette en Amerique, Centre d’Etude du Protestantisme Béarnaise, Pau, France, 2010, 144 pages with illustrations.