THE CORRECT LOCATION OF OSSE, BEARN (Now Osse-en-Aspe in the French postal code)

by John E. La Tourette

For yet some unexplained reason, Both Lyman Latourette in his Latourette Annals in America (1954, page 18)) and Mrs. Jacob in her widely circulated notes and Compilation (1965)failed to correctly identify the location of the village of Osse, from which Jean Latourrette and Pastor Pierre Peiret left in 1685. (Since they present essentially the same description, they may have taken it from a source that they neglected to cite, assuming that it was obvious to everyone where Osse was located in Bearn.)

Latourrettes in America refer to the origin of Jean Latourrette as Osse in Bearn. The identification of the location of his birth comes from the entry in his marriage record of July 16, 1693 in New York City, where he is described as "le dit la tourette dOsse en Bearn" (the said la tourette of Osse in Bearn). The marriage entry was made by Pastor Pierre Peiret, the presiding minister, who, along with Jean, left Osse about the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and ultimately came to America. Its identification in the form found in the marriage record was likely the result of Peiret and/or Jean seeking to clearly identify their heritage and the village of Osse as being located in Bearn to avoid confusion with other villages with similar names and to associate it with the historic name of the region in which it was located. In the case of Marie Mercereau, she is identified as being from Moeze (Moise) in the province of "St.onge" (Saintonge). Some of the other marriage entries made by Pastor Peiret identify the origins of the bride and groom in France in a like manner.

The current name, Osse-en-Aspe, was the result of the introduction of the modern postal system in France in the 19th century and, again, the designation had the objective of clearly identifying its location and distinguishing it from other communities with similar names. Somehow this attempt didn't make its way to America, because the primary sources of information to Latourrettes, as noted below, confused the location with another village with a similar name.

Lyman E. Latourette's Annals and Mrs. Jacob's notes on the location of Osse in Bearn have misled many Latourrettes/Latourettes in their search for family roots. It appears that they were not familiar with the history and geography of France and could have been confused by the fact that there is more than one village with a similar name. In addition, the reorganization of French Provinces/Departments over time could have added to the confusion. For example, the Pyrenees Altantiques now essentially covers most of what was known as Bearn and we find in that department the following names of communities: Ossas-Suhare, Osses, Ossenx, Ousse and Osse-en-Aspe, the latter formerly Osse in the old province (region) of Bearn.

Both Lyman Latourette and Mrs. Jacob give similar descriptions for the location of Osse (now Osse-en-Aspe). From page 18 of the Annals:

"The town of Osse is about 3 miles from the Spanish line, and about 29 miles from Bizarritz (sic), located on the Bay of Biscay, a little south of Bayonne, a commercial city known, in the early Christian era, as Lapurdum, at the mouth of the rivers Nive and Adour." (Mrs. Jacob says 21 miles from Biarritz.)

The town/village located in France by both Lyman and Mrs. Jacobs is a traditional Basque village with red title roofs and white washed walls. Actually, it is named Osses. The village of Jean Latourrette's origin is over 100 kilometers miles further inland from Biarritz and Bayonne in the Aspe Valley and 30.5 kilometers (18 miles) north of the border with Spain. The Aspe Valley in which Osse-en-Aspe/Osse of the region of Bearn is located is in the high Pyrenees, while Osses, the Basque village, is in the foothills to the west.

The misidentification of the location is puzzling because Charles W. Baird's book, Huguenot Emigration to America, (map following the book's index) clearly shows its location south of Oloron (now Oloron-St Marie) and Pau, rather than close to Biarritz and Bayonne. Also, in correspondence between Mrs. Verna Jacob and Mme. Marie Candau living in the Cavendish House in Osse in the mid 1950s, circulated widely by Mrs. Jacob to Latourrette descendants in America, one can read that Mme. Candau tries to correct the error of the location. She also sends Mrs. Jacob pictures of the village which matches Osse, not Osses, and the high mountains around Lescun, a few kilometers south of Osse. Apparently, the correction was not understood because neither Lyman nor Mrs. Jacobs ever traveled to Osse. Mrs. Jacob's misunderstanding is even more puzzling because it is obvious that she retyped the correspondence she had about Osse, in which the correction is made ca 1955, to circulate to correspondents in America. She still includes the incorrect description in her 1965 Compilation.

Osse-en-Aspe, currently a small village of about 300 people (317 in one recent census), is located in the Aspe River valley of the Pyrenees Mountains, south of the major city of Pau. It is located about one kilometer west of Bedous on the N134 highway which travels south from Pau to Oloron-St. Marie and then through Bedous and the Pyrenees, ultimately crossing into Spain at Col du Somport. Here is a means of locating Osse-en-Aspe:

Michelin Map 234: France: Aquitaine Identify the major city of the region Pau Follow Route N 134 southwest 33 kms (20 miles) to Oloron-St. Marie Continue south on N 134 24.5 kms (15 miles) to Bedous Turn west on D 237 for approximately 1 km to Osse-en-Aspe. ANOTHER WAY OF LOCATING OSSE

On Google Earth (free download), ask for the location of Osses, France. Then, as a comparison, ask for the location of Osse-en-Aspe, France. The rotation of the map will clearly show the distinction.

Osse-en-Aspe, Bedous, Accous and Lees-Athas are the small villages that occupy one of the few large flat valley areas (formed as a glacial basin)along the course of the Aspe River as you travel south through the Pyrenees to the border with Spain. Nearby are spectacular mountain villages like Lescun, Aydius, Cette-Eygun and Borce. Osse and the other villages that are in the valley are surrounded by mountains and farming consists mainly of raising, on the slopes of the mountains, sheep and cows, which yield some wonderful cheeses. Except for some obvious signs of the 21st century, like paved roads, vehicles, and electricity, the village of Osse probably looks a lot like it did in the 17th century. Most of the buildings, largely constructed of gray and brown stone with gray slate roofs in the traditional French style, actually date from the 16th century, built after the destruction of the village in 1569. Sheep and cows are taken up the slopes of the surrounding mountains to graze during the day and then are brought back to the farmers' lots at night. Scenes today of herds of cows and sheep on the village streets and surrounding roads are probably little different than two or three centuries ago, except that today they are very small in number compared to the herds of even 50 years ago.

It is in Osse, now Osse-en-Aspe, the Latourrette story is told, especially after Gassiot de Latourrette becomes the first Protestant minister in the Aspe Valley in 1563. After Osse is destroyed in 1569, the village becomes entirely Protestant. (See Rev. Alfred Cadier, La vallee d'Aspe, pp. 63-71) This is also the village from which Jean Latourrette left with Pastor Pierre Peiret and his family in 1685.

The misidentification of Osse, Bearn (Osse-en-Aspe) has contributed to the myth and hunt for Latourrette castles in France. There are no castles in Osse or anywhere else in France which are related to Jean Latourrette or his family.

The count fable and the wrong location of Osse have caused American descendants to descend on Osses to locate the Latourrette castle. One even claims to have located it! The following statement is a verbatim copy of a posting on the Latourette Family Genealogy Forum, dated July 8, 1999, which clearly indicates the author was visiting Osses and does not know that "Osse-en-Bearn" has been known as Osse-en-Aspe since the introduction of the French postal code. The following message was posted in 1999, while the French postal code was introduced in the 19th century.

"hi cousin: i went to france twice to research, and took pictures of the old La tourette castle which sits on top of a beautiful hill overlooks osse-en-bearn, only a few miles from the northern spanish border in the pyrenee mountains. the old homestead in now in ruins, and the villagers stated that it was once owned by a count and countess who were forced to flee because they were protestant."

Here the castle myth is further compounded by the erroneous location of Osse, Bearn, now Osse-en-Aspe. Other papers on this Webpage will deal with the doctored marriage ceremony quoted in Lyman Latourette and Mrs. Jacob, as well as other myths which resulted from Lyman Latourette and Mrs. Jacob not checking original sources and the substance of tales and fables about Jean Latourrette and his origins.

As indicated above, there are no castles in Osse. There is only the Gayrosse maison-forte, a modest strong house from the 8th century which was once owned by the Latourrette family. Its ownership had nothing to do with nobility. See a picture of this modest stone house in the section which presents scenes from Osse-en-Aspe.