Pastor Pierre Peiret and Jean Latourrette
by John E. La Tourette
Pastor Pierre Peiret (Peyret) fled from Osse, Bearn (now Osse-en-Aspe, France) with his spouse and two young children in September of 1685 to avoid being sentenced to death for openly defying Louis XIV by continuing to preach while under house arrest, as well as in forbidden places. Accompanying him and risking the same fate to see the Peiret family to safety was Jean Latourrette (Latourette) from the leading Protestant family of the village and a direct descendant of Gassiot Latourrette who, in 1563, was the first minister of Osse and the Aspe Valley. As refugees from religious persecution, they made their way to Frankfurt, Rotterdam, London, eventually arriving in New York City in October 1687, where Peiret founded the French Church of New York, now L’Eglise Francaise du St. Esprit on East 60th Street. The church is considered to be the oldest French speaking organization in America. In New York City and on Staten Island, these two refugees and their descendants became leaders of Huguenot communities in Colonial New York.
One might think that the origins and stories of these prominent men would be well-known, given sources readily available in France since at least the late nineteenth century. However, their origins, genealogy and how they left France together have been completely obscured in America by two myths perpetrated in the nineteenth century by two men.
In 1878 Napoleon Peyrat, a French Protestant minister, romantic historian, and fabulist created the myth that Pastor Peiret was from Foix, once an independent country in southern France. 1 Unfortunately, this romantic fabrication was repeated by Charles W. Baird in his Huguenot Emigration to America, in which he attempted to trace the origins of the Huguenot refugees who came to the colonies. 2 American historians and genealogists have repeated this fantasy. 3 This article will present evidence showing that Pastor Peiret was born in Pontacq and fled as a minister with Jean Latourrette from Osse, Bearn.
In 1843, a myth about the French origins of the Latourrette family, later attributed to Theodore Sedwick Fay, 4 appeared as an anonymous letter in the Preface of Hannah F. Lee’s The Huguenots in France and America. 5 Fay, a romantic novelist and Latourrette descendent, claimed that a Henri de la Tourette fled at the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 from an imaginary French province “La Vendee”, based on the political department Vendee that didn’t exist until after the French Revolution. 6 This was distorted and embellished by later descendants and other writers to imply that either Jean Latourrette, who actually fled from Osse, Bearn, was a count or the fictitious Henri was a count and Jean’s father. 7 To compound the count myth, when it became obvious in the twentieth century that there were major flaws in Fay’s story, the entry of Jean’s marriage to Marie Mercereau 16 July 1693, made by Pastor Peiret was “doctored” to make it appear that there had been a prior marriage in France. Later, a new version of the myth was created by some of Jean’s descendants about an unrelated family, with the title of “Count de la Tourette”. This hoax, with distortions of true facts and the creation of many falsehoods, was necessary to perpetuate the myth because after World War II it became obvious to some American descendants that there was never a Count Latourrette or castle in Osse, Bearn. Not satisfied with just creating a new version of the count myth, about 30 years ago they sponsored the installation of the coat of arms of this unrelated Catholic family in L’Eglise Francaise du St. Sprit in New York City to represent the Latourrette family. Thus, the installation of a Catholic coat of arms to represent a Huguenot family is the most recent hoax perpetrated on the Latourrette family of Osse, Bearn. In a second article, the embellishment of Fay’s myth over the past century and a half will be traced and the true origins of Jean Latourrette in Osse, Bearn will be documented. 8
The Romantic period of the 1840s in Europe clearly had an influence on Fay, who spent most of his adult life there as a novelist and diplomat, dying in Berlin in 1898. The myth of the Count de la Tourette is described by Charles Weiss a few years after it first appeared in 1843 as “almost the reality of romance.” 9 The Peiret myth, although written by Napoleon Peyrat in 1878, also traces back to the Romantic period which coincided with the 600th anniversary of the fall of the Cathar fortress of Montsegur and the massacre in 1242 of the Cathars who rejected Catholicism. When revolutions swept Europe in 1848, the French republicans envisaged the Cathars as the precursors of the anticlerical radicals who stormed the Bastille in 1789. Many academics, freed from the religious censorship of reactionary Catholicism, began to re-examine the Cathar tragedy and the Albigensian crusade. Napoleon Peyrat was a leader among them, having the firm conviction that being from their heartland he was a direct descendant of these Christian heretics. Otto Rahn, 1904-1939, who inspired the Nazi search for the Holy Grail and the Arc of the Covenant and was partially the basis for the Indiana Jones movie series, also believed he was a direct descendant of the Cathars.
These two myths, based primarily on self aggrandizement by their creators and, in the case of the Latourrette myth, embellished and misrepresented by descendants have left completely untold in America the story of two courageous men and their unique story. Some of this story will appear in this article and the following one which traces the origin and history of the Count Latourrette myth.
In his five volume work, History of the Albigenses, Napoleon Peyrat was the first to create the fable known today as the Cathar/Church of the Holy Grail myth described in the Da Vinci Code. 10 Napoleon Peyrat was born 20 January 1809 in the small village of Les Bordes sur Arize in the eastern part of the modern department of Ariege, which in medieval times was the small independent county of Foix in southern France. Before spending more than thirty years researching and writing about the Cathars and their religious beliefs, he became a minister of the Protestant Reform Religion in 1831 after studying with the Faculty of Theology at Montauban. In 1842 he published his first major work the History of the Desert Pastors: the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes until the Revolution, 1685-1789. 11 The Desert period describes how the Protestant (Calvinist) faith went underground from the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 to the French Revolution in 1789. The secret practice of Calvinist faith during the Desert period involved all of France, but Peyrat focused on the revolt of Protestant Camisards in the region of southern France known as Cevennes against Louis XIV, 1702 – 1710. The Camisards resisted conversion to Catholicism and tried to re-establish the Edict of Nantes by guerilla action in what is known as the War of the Camisards. As in the case of the Cathars, Peyrat wanted to highlight the faith of the Protestants to resist against the Roman Catholic Church and the terrible sacrifices and massacres they endured.
Although Napoleon was a fabulist who created epic romantic and heroic tales in his writing and sought to popularize the siege of Montsegur, modern scholars believe much of his research and writings are historically accurate and are supported by modern research of the Inquisition collection housed in the archives at Carcassonne. Peyrat’s Myth about Pastor Peiret is found in “Le Mas d’Azil depuis la Revocation de l’Edit de Nantes jusqu’a la Fin du Regne de Louis XIV (1685-1715).” 12 In English it reads:
“Among the refugees of the Arise, one must not forget Minister Pierre Peiret. He was the grandson of Pierre Peyrat, captain of the Bordes, at the Mas d'Azil siege (1). Pierre Peiret, whose name is spelled in the English fashion, passed by England, before the expedition of William of Orange, and from there went to America. He became pastor of the French refugee church of New York. He crossed the ocean with his compatriot Laborie. Peiret had married Marguerite de Grenier la Tour, of the Verriers de Gabre. He died in New York; his tomb was lost; it was recently found again in the cemetery of the Trinity. His stone holds a double inscription in Latin and in French:
Here lies the Reverend Mr. Pierre Peiret, minister of St-Esprit, who, chased from France for religion, preached the word of God in the French Church of this town for about 17 years, with general approval, and who, after having lived as he had preached, until the age of 60, returned with deep humility his soul into the hands of God, on September 1st, 1704.
Peiret was, according to Selyns, a man of great knowledge. He had for successor his companion Laborie who was fetched from the forests of Massachusetts, where he was evangelizing the savages (2).
(1) Peyrat, Peirat, Peiret. Peirat is the true roman name. In middle-ages Latin, Petronius. 13
(2) Bulletin of November 15, 1876. “
It appears Peyrat, writing in volume XXVII (1878), was aware of correspondence sent by Charles W. Baird to the Bulletin de la Societe de l'histoire du protestantisme francais in 1876.14
Baird identified Peiret as a refugee in New York. Following Baird’s narrative Peyrat described Peiret’s tomb at Trinity Church, noted Selyns’ assessment of Peiret and that Jacques Laborie was a fellow refuge. These were facts presented by Baird, but Peyrat created all the rest of the myth. In fact, since Baird only attributes the laudatory assessment to “Selyns” it is obvious that Peyrat didn’t know that he was Henricus Selyns, the Minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in New York. He also had no knowledge of Jacques Laborie beyond the description provided by Baird. So, Peyrat says Peiret came “across the ocean with his compatriot Laborie.” Maybe this is just a figure of speech, but Laborie didn’t arrive in the colonies until 1698, 11 years after Peiret, and joined the attempt to resettle the Huguenot Oxford Colony in Massachusetts in the spring of 1699. 15 In a mysterious move described by Rev. Maynard the elders of Peiret’s church invited Laborie to assume the ministry after Peiret’s death in 1704. Given his Church of England sentiments, Laborie was ill-suited for this ministry in which Pieret and his elders vehemently opposed Anglicization, and he was forced to leave in two years. After he left New York his desire for Anglican conformity was very clear. 16
Pastor Pierre Peiret or Peyret, But Never Peyrat (Peirat)
In creating the Peiret myth, it is obvious that Napoleon Peyrat’s intent was to genealogically link himself to this refugee of “great knowledge” who had defied Louis XIV by alleging Peiret’s name was really Peyrat (or Peirat) with the excuse that Peiret was an anglicized version of Peyrat. Peyrat makes this alleged link rather explicit, referring to a fictitious grandfather as Pierre Peyrat. The entries by Pastor Peiret in church records and his signatures at the end of the entries in both Osse and New York clearly indicate Peiret was not an anglicized version of Peyrat.
In debunking Peyrat’s myth, the Protestant minister at Osse 1871-1906, Alfred Cadier, points out “Pierre Peiret of Pontacq, minister at Osse from 1677 to 1685, whose name, often written as Peyret in the body of the register of the consistory of Osse, is always Peiret in his signature.” 17
Two examples from the Osse records are given here of Pastor Peiret’s written entries and signatures in Le Registre du Consistoire d’Osse, 1665-1684, in which the minutes of the meetings of the ministers, elders, deacons and heads of families were recorded. The first example is a 29 April 1679 entry in which the minister identifies himself (on the third line) and the attending elders and deacons in the opening paragraph as “peyret ministre.” Included among the elders is “de Latourrette,” who is Jean Latourrette’s father David. Three pages later at the end of the entry he signs as “Peiret” with the signatures of others in attendance. David de Latourrette’s signature is just below and to the right of “Peiret m,” in the second frame below. 18
Another example of Peiret’s signature is at the end of the final entry he made in Le Registre du Consistorie d’Osse, 1665-1684, absolving the consistory of any responsibility for him, dated 16 April 1685, followed by an English translation. 19
"I undersigned, declare having been paid all wages, hay and wood for the whole time I have served the Church of Osse and therefore acquit the said Church fully an d entirely promising to never make further request or demand- Written in Osse, the sixteenth of April one thousand six hundred eighty five. Peiret minister."
Pastor Peiret’s signatures in the church records in New York follow a pattern similar to those in Osse. The published records of the entries of Peiret in Registers of the Births, Marriages, and Deaths of the “Eglise Francoise a la Nouvelle York, from 1688 to 1804,” include the entries he made from 4 November 1688 to 29 July 1704 (pp. 1-100).20 During this period, Peiret signed 358 entries in the church Registers, primarily for baptisms and marriages. There are only four times he doesn’t sign as Peiret; the four times are as Pieret. 21 Peiret doesn’t mention his role as minister in all entries, but when he does it is frequently as Peiret (the form he uses to sign the entry) or Peyret (the form he used in Osse) or Perret. There are a few other variants of the name Peiret found in the entries: Payret, Pairet and even once Peirret. However, one never sees the forms Peyrat or Peirat, completely disconnecting Peiret from Napoleon Peyrat’s myth that Peiret was an anglicized version of Peyrat.
As an example of the form Peiret used in New York, the marriage of Jean Latourrette and Marie Mercereau on 16 July 1693 is presented here. On the third line we see “Peyret Ministre” and after the signatures of Jean Latourrette and Marie Mercereau is the signature “Peiret ministre”.22
The names and notary records of the Peiret (Peyret) family in Pontacq of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries appear numerous times in the archives of Pyrenees Atlantiques in Pau, France. These files are now partly internet searchable.23 The records show that Peyret and Peiret are always used by the notaires in their recordings of marriage contracts, other legal contracts or testaments, never Peyrat. From the archival records the Peiret (Peyret) family of Pontacq is shown to have been ministers, medical doctors, notaires and jurats (civil officers/ magistrates).
Pastor Pierre Peiret/Peyret from Pontacq not Foix
In the myth created by Peyrat, Pastor Peiret is said to be from Arize, which is an area drained by a river of the same name in what was the medieval country of Foix. Along its course the river carved the famous Grotto of Le Mas d’Azil. As noted above, Napoleon Peyrat was born in the small village of Les Bordes sur Arize, which is downstream about 8 miles from the Grotto. Also, note that he makes Peiret the grandson of the Captain of the Bordes (sur Arize?) at the siege of Mas d’Azil, another village near the grotto. The siege at Mas d’Azil was in 1625 when the Huguenots successfully defended the village against the 14,000 troops of Louis XIII. Thus, Peyrat not only implies a relationship with Peiret, as noted above, but a heroic one by suggesting a relationship with a fictitious captain who allegedly came from his village and defeated the troops of Louis XIII after a month of bitter fighting. 24
Albert Sarrabere, Dictionnaire de pasteurs basques at Bearnais, XVI-XVII siecles, developed biographical descriptions, with supporting citations, of the Protestant ministers in Bearn and the Basque area before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Included is Gassiot Latourrette (ca 1635-40- 1695), Jean Latourrette’s great-great grandfather, the first minister in 1563 of the Aspe Valley in which the village of Osse is located. Sarrabere describes Pierre Peiret as being born in Pontacq and cites the action receiving him into the ministry at the Synod of Pontacq 16 September 1676, in which he is identified as being a native of Pontacq. 25
A detailed search of the handwritten files of notaires confirms that Pastor Pierre Peiret came from an extended family of professional Protestants residing in Pontacq. 26 The most prominent member of the family in the 17th century was Jean Peiret who is described as a “medecin” (medical doctor). He obviously was a man of means, as among many marriage, dowry and financial contracts found in the notary records in which his name is cited, he purchased the house of Pierre Marca, chevalier and president of the Parliament of Navarre. Jean Peiret had three daughters and two sons, one of whom was Isaac, who was born in 1630 given his age of 84 upon his death 9 June 1714. Isaac preceded Pierre Peiret as a minister being confirmed by 1655. 27 Pierre’s birth is estimated to be 1644 because he was 60 years old at the time of his death in New York City on 1 September 1704. 28 From the notary documents it appears Pastor Pierre Peiret was a nephew of the medical doctor Jean Peiret and a cousin to Isaac, the other minister in the extended family.
The record of the Synod of September 16, 1676 held in Pontacq, where Pierre Peiret was confirmed as a minister, clearly identifies Pierre Peiret as being from Pontacq. Article 48 states that Jean Peiret, Pierre Vidor and Jean Bataille of the Pontacq church requested that Pierre Peiret be assigned as an additional pastor to their church. The synode objected that this request was nothing but a request from Mister Peiret's relatives and that the church could not afford to support another pastor, even with Jean Peiret’s offer of a subsidy of 100 livres. 29 Actually, the Synod assigned Pastor Peiret to Garlin where he spent a year before moving to Osse. 30
Relative to the extended Peiret family of Pontacq one of the most interesting findings is the 1673 abjuration of Isaac, who becomes a medical doctor like his father, three years before Pierre is accepted into the ministry. The attempt of Jean de Peiret, Isaac’s father, to have Pierre assigned to Pontacq raises some interesting questions about how he may have felt about his son’s abjuration.
After his assignment to Osse in 1677 was Pierre’s defiance of Louis XIV, his refusal to abjure under extreme pressure in 1685, continuing to preach to his parishioners under very difficult circumstances prior to being forced to flee France, and his vehement opposition to Anglicism conformity in New York, in part, a personal or family issue that transcended his religious belief? We can only speculate, but the total rejection by Isaac of his Protestant ministry to accept Catholicism could have played a major role in Pierre’s life in Osse and later in New York City. 31
Pastor Peiret’s Spouse was not Marguerite de Grenier la Tour of the Verriers de Gabre.
Gabre is a village about 6 miles from where Peyrat was born in Les Bordes sur Arize and only 3 miles from Mas d’Azil the site of the siege of 1625 included in his myth, all places about which Peyrat was very familiar given his research of the Huguenot struggles after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. During the Desert period between 1685 and the French Revolution, Gabre is the site of Huguenot protests and reprisals and executions by authorities representing Louis XIV.
Verriers de Gabre refers to the Huguenot glassmakers of Gabre frequently called the Protestant gentlemen glassmakers who were large landowners and members of nobility. There were several families who formed a guild of glassmakers in the region, among which was an extensive Grenier family.
Peyrat made up the name Marguerite de Grenier la Tour of the Verriers de Gabre based on Protestant families in the Arize area. Modern genealogists list several Grenier Latour people in Arize during the eighteenth century and we have in particular the citation of Pierre de Grenier Latour and a Grenier Latour de Malet in an article about the Gentlemen-glassmakers of Magnoua, a small hamlet near Gabre where it appears there were a number of glassmaking facilities. 32 Clearly, Alfred Cadier, who debunked the Peyrat myth in 1892, believed Peiret’s spouse, Marguerite Latour, was a local young lady from the Aspe Valley in which Osse is located. “The name of Latour is very common at Osse and in Bearn.” 33
There also is other evidence to indicate Marguerite Latour was a lady from Bearn. She appears on page two of the Tapie list of 2 September 1685 of the Protestants in Osse who refuse to abjure. 34
The entry reads “Marguerite de Latour, wife to Pierre de Peyret, minister and two of their children aged 5 for one and one and a half for the other.”
All of the entries in the New York Registers made by Peiret have her as Marguerite Latour. At the baptism of daughter Suzanne 28 November 1690 she is called Marguerritte Latour (p. 12); son Gabriel 14 February 1694 it is written Marguerite Latour (p. 34); daughter Francoise Peiret 8 March 1696 it is written Marguerite Latour (p. 46); and Elizabeth 29 October 1700 written as Marguerite Latour (p. 77). 35 Pastor Peiret never identifies her by the name assigned by Peyrat as Marguerite de Grenier la Tour of the Verriers de Gabre or any variant thereof.
After Pastor Peiret’s death the French Relief Committee in London granted his spouse Marquerite Latour relief in 1705 in the amount of 12 pounds sterling. This distribution came from Queen Anne’s relief fund for poor French refugees. Charles W. Baird quotes from the records of the committee which it appears he personally examined when in London. Note that Madame Peyret is explicitly identified as being from Bearn. 36
“Marquerite Peyret, of Bearn, widow of a minister deceased in New York, where she now is, with two children: twelve pounds.”
This distribution is confirmed by alphabetical summaries compiled from accounting entries in the records of the Relief Committee. One dated 9/10/1709 as Peiret, Marquerite, widow of ---- 12 pounds-GB Bounty MS 26 31 11 C. The other is Peyret, Margarett, 12 pounds, dated 12/21/1709- GB Bounty MS 28/3 24 13 C. As noted in the summaries there were duplications of entries and these entries for Marquerite appear alphabetically with three payments granted Pastor Peiret, the first two for maintenance while in England (20.5 and 14.10 pounds) and the third to travel to New York with his spouse, two children and two men, one of whom was Jean Latourrette (50 pounds).In some cases the entries to close accounts were made some time later as would be the case with this special allocation from Queen Anne of twelve thousands pounds sterling. 37
Upon petition by Marguerite Peiret, referred to as Margaret Peiret in the minutes, on 5 April 1705, the New York Council granted her an extra year’s salary supplement. 38 This action extended the salary supplement granted to the pastor on 15 June 1704. 39
It is clear from these references that Marquerite Latour was not Marguerite de Grenier la Tour of the Verriers de Gabre, but rather a woman from Bearn, perhaps from Osse or the neighboring village of Bedous as represented by Alfred Cadier and the French Relief Committee of London, cited above. 40
The History Concealed by the Peyrat Myth
Accepting the Peyrat myth that Pastor Peiret was from Foix, American historians have not been aware of or searched the rich and interesting history of Protestantism in Osse from which Peiret and Latourrette fled in 1685. This perspective would have added immensely, for example, to the excellent chapter by Jon Butler who traces the founding and history of the French Church of New York, and Pastor Peiret’s role, in his 1983 book, The Huguenots in America. 41
Here, one can only give a brief summary of what historians could have found in the French literature if they had known Peiret was the last minister at Osse before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. This summary is based on the author’s detailed investigation of the history of Protestantism in Osse which can be found on his webpage www.latourrette.net, particularly in the section entitled “Jean Latourrette in France.”
As the Reformation began to penetrate the remote areas of southern France, Bearn became fertile ground for Calvinism as Queen Jeanne d’Albert, the mother of the Huguenot King Henry IV, accepted the reformed religion and as sovereign declared that her subjects should adopt her religion. The first synod in Bearn was at Pau in 1563. As a young man from Osse Gassiot Latourrette accepted the challenge to advance the faith and was appointed by the synod as the first minister of the Aspe Valley in which Osse is located. The rest of the valley and the other two mountain valleys of the Pyrenees essentially remained Catholic and Gassiot’s ministry was largely confined to Osse. The King of France attempted to conquer Bearn in 1569, but his forces were quickly driven out by Huguenots loyal to the Queen and Osse became solely a Protestant village. Up to his death in 1595, Gassiot built a community strongly committed to Calvinism. His cousin Jean Codures, also from Osse, continued the ministry until his death in 1613. This long tenure of Latourrette and Codures created a unique religious community, surrounded by Catholicism, which went underground for one hundred years after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and remains today as a viable Protestant community.
In 1668, a hundred years after Gassiot began his ministry the Protestants in Osse were beginning to experience the heavy repression of Louis XIV in his campaign to eliminate Protestantism in France. Although the persecution traces back to 1620 when Bearn was forcefully made part of France, Louis XIV found numerous ways to force Protestants to adjure after assuming the throne in 1661. By 1668 the number of churches in Bearn by decree was reduced to 20, including Osse, to represent the 35,000 Protestants. At that time there were about 375 Protestants in the village, but it was no longer just a Calvinist community. The local priest found many ways with the help of the King’s authorities to pressure the Protestants in the village. Jean Latourrette’s father David (ca 1625-1697) was the most prominent Protestant in the village and held the titles of notaire, elder and abbe laique d’Osse. The latter is an ancient title which granted him ownership of the strong house (Maison Forte) in the middle of the village, other landed properties and the right to collect taxes (the Dime). The right to collect and distribute taxes to support the religious community, by then both Protestant and Catholic, placed him in constant conflict with the local priest with the result that legal action by the Parliament of Navarre (the King’s regional court) reduced his authority and the financial ability of the Protestant community to support its religious activities.
During the 1670s the unyielding persecution greatly reduced the ability of parishioners to support their church. The consistory owed a considerable sum of money to the minister who left in 1676. Pastor Peiret accepted the position of minister with increased responsibly and a reduced salary a year later. The record of the meetings of Peiret, the elders and deacons from 1677 to 1685 are mainly taken up with concerns about paying bills, covering debt and the inability of parishioners to make their financial pledges.
In 1683 the King seized the church’s legacy and completed the financial ruin of the Protestant community. The next blow came in late 1684 when again by decree the 20 churches which were guaranteed perpetual existence in 1668 were reduced to five, including Osse. But, by another action these five churches were ordered to be closed by the King’s court in Pau. Up until this time Peiret was one of the most outspoken ministers in Bearn. As a result, he was placed under house arrest and forbidden to peach in private houses. Of course, legally he was not able to preach in the church which was closed. However, he continued to preach to his parishioners and it became clear he would be arrested, tried and likely sentenced to death for deifying the King and all the various decrees which had been issued. The King’s special representative who had been sent in 1684 to convert the 35,000 Protestants in Bearn reported in late July of 1685 that his task was completed. But, there were a few places like Osse were the minister and his flock was openly defiant. It appears that Osse, because of its very remote mountain location, may have been the last village in Bearn visited by the dreaded dragoons in September. As noted above, Marguerite Latour, the spouse of Pastor Peiret, and her two children appeared on the 2 September 1685 list of Osse Protestants who refused to abjure. Shortly after that the dragoons were sent to Osse, but when they arrived the Protestants had already fled into the high mountains of the Pyrenees. Pastor Peiret, his family and Jean Latourrette had begun the long journey which eventually took them to New York in October of 1687 and the founding of the French Church.
Demonstrating that Pastor Pierre Peiret (Peyret) was from Pontacq, Bearn, and his spouse Marguerite Latour from Bearn (likely the village of Osse or Bedous) finally puts to rest the Napoleon Peyrat myth that they were from Foix, a fable that has prevented American historians from gaining an understanding of the pastor’s ministry in Osse (now Osse-en-Aspe) prior to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. An exploration of his background and ministry before his flight to Colonial America, as well as the history of Protestantism established in Osse by Gassiot Latourrette in 1563, would yield a greater understanding of how he made the church founded in New York City in 1687, l’Eglise Francaise du St. Esprit a viable home for several hundred French Huguenots who migrated there in the late 17th century. It would also explain how the church in New York was held together by this remarkable minister who openly defied Louis XIV and his representatives until he was forced to flee from Osse with his family and Jean Latourrette, a direct descendant of Gassiot Latourrette and a member of the most prominent Protestant family of the valley in which Osse is located.
Another myth about Jean Latourrette, who accompanied Peiret and his family from Osse, Bearn to New York City by October 1687, is exposed on this webpage. With this second myth exposed their interconnected lives and their joint flight from Osse is finally revealed.
Footnotes and References
1 Peyrat (20 January 1809-4 April 1881) was a Protestant minister who is generally credited to be the first to create the Cathar myth referred to in the Da Vinci Code. Peyrat published the History of the Albigenses, after more than thirty years of research and writing. The final period of repression of Catharism in Languedoc was covered in three volumes subtitled The Albigenses and the Inquisition (1870-1872). Ten years later two more volumes appeared, one subtitled The Roman civilization (1880) and the other, posthumous and unfinished, subtitled The Crusade (1882).
2 Charles W. Baird, History of the Huguenot Emigration to America, (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1885), 2:146-7. It is ironic that, after Baird states Peiret was from Foix, he notes that Latourrette was “another refugee from Bearn” never connecting the two in their flight from Osse, Bearn.
3 For more recent statements about Peiret’s origin in Foix or Languedoc, which historically encompassed it, see the history of L’Eglise Francaise du St. Esprit by John A. F. Maynard, The Huguenot Church of New York, A History of the French Church of Saint Esprit, (New York: The French Church of Saint-Esprit, 1938), 95 and Jon Butler, The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983), 147. To locate the historical provinces of Bearn and Languedoc and the small country of Foix, click “French Traditional Provinces” at http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/fr%28pro.html
4 Theodore Sedwick Fay (born 10 February 1807 in New York City, died 24 November 1898 in Berlin, Germany). See http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fayfamily/theodore1807.html
5 Hannah F. Lee, The Huguenots in France and America, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1843), xiv-xv.
6 “La Vendee” is obviously an invention of Fay to make it appear that it was a traditional province of France at the time of the flight of Peiret and Latourrette from Osse, Bearn in 1685. “Vendee” is actually one of the political departments (# 85) established only after the French Revolution of 1779. Click “French Departments” at http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/fr%28dep.html
7 The Fay myth of 1843 about a Henri de la Tourette leaving France ultimately evolved during the ninetieth century into a tale about a Count Latourette. Not being able to reconcile the story of this fictitious Count Henri with documented evidence that Jean Latourrette actually came to America, some descendants have merely assumed, incorrectly, that a Henri was the father of Jean. One still finds genealogical charts in the family listing this fictitious father of Jean. Others have argued that actually Jean was the count, although no evidence exists to substantiate the claim other than the torturous embellishment of Fay’s myth as it passed through many versions during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second article in this series which explores the Fay’s Latourrette myth will identify Jean’s father as David, the most prominent Protestant in Osse, Bearn at the time that Jean fled with Pastor Peiret in 1685.
8 The most recent detailed presentation of the Latourrette count myth and several other myths about the family appeared in Lyman E. Latourette, Latourette Annals in America, (Salem, Massachusetts: Higginson Book Company, 1954). After the Lyman monograph was published in 1954 descendants of Jean Latourrette visited France and discovered there had never been a castle in Osse and, although the Latourrettes had been the most prominent Protestant family in the village, they were not nobility. Therefore, as explored in the next article, a new hoax had to be invented to keep alive the claim they were descended from nobility.
9 M. Charles Weiss repeated the essence of Fay’s 1843 Latourette Count Myth in his 1852 French version of the History of the French Protestant Refugees from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to Our Days, (Translated into English, New York: Stringer & Townsend, 1854), 2:316. From Weiss, one can already see the embellishment of Fay’s myth and the embellisher. To the original myth, Weiss adds “A long list of respectable and pious descendants trace their origin to this source; and one of them is now is pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church not far from Richmond.” This is the Rev. James A. M. LaTourette who constructed a partial genealogy of the Latourrette family in America and claimed the family originally came from Italy because of the similarity of the name to della Torretta not recognizing the name was Bearnais as in the case of Gassioo de la Torreta. In its transition to French the name became Gassiot Latourrette who was the first minister in Osse in 1563.
10 Relative to Cathar myth see http://otto-rahn.com/cathar-myth-church-holy-grail
11 (Paris: Aurel, 1842), 2 vols.
12 Bulletin de la Société de l'histoire du protestantisme français, XXVII: 337-346. The myth is on page 344 and can be found at http://archive.org/stream/bulletindelasoci27sociuoft#page/344/mode/2up
Peyrat’s reference to Peiret leaving England in 1687 before “the expedition of William of Orange” is usually called the “Glorious Revolution of 1688” when William of Orange restored Protestantism as the state religion in England.
13 The use of roman by Peyrat does not mean roman as in from Rome. This would be spelled Romain. The word roman in French designates the language derived from the Latin, which historically preceded the French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Rumanian languages. It is what in English is called the romance languages. Thus, Peyrat is arguing that Peyrat or Peirat (with y and i used interchangeable in the 17th -18th centuries) is the true French language version of Peiret and he shares the same historical surname with Pastor Peiret.
14 Baird’s notes appeared in Vol. XXV (1876) as “Le Refuge a New York,” 522-524. (This is what is cited in Peyrat’s incomplete ft 2 above.)
Baird’s correspondence to the Bulletin can be found online at:
The following is a translation of Baird’s comments about Pastor Peiret and Jacques Laborie:
“Pierre Peiret, 1688. -- "A man of great knowledge" according to Selyns, first pastor in France. From London, he went to New York, in 1687, to take over the direction of the church founded by the refugees. Daillé's congregation, which was united to that of the church of Holland, stood apart for a while, but in the year 1692, the two flocks united under the same pastors until the time of Daillé's departure for Boston. Peiret's wife's name was Marguerite de la Tour. Lately the tomb of this devoted pastor was found in the cemetery of the Trinity, in New York. It has a double inscription in Latin and in French that we reproduce here:
Here lies the Reverend Mr. Pierre Peiret, minister of St-Esprit, who, chased from France for religion, preached the word of God in the French Church of this town for about 17 years, with general approval, and who, after having lived as he had preached, until the age of 60, returned with deep humility his soul into the hands of God, on September 1st, 1704.
Jacques Laborie, 1704. – He was a missionary during several years in Massachusetts among the Indians whose language he had learned. A little after the death of Peiret he was called to New York, that he left in 1706, without one knowing where he went after this period.”
15 Baird, 2:282
16 In his history of the French Church, John A. F. Maynard explains how ill fitted Laborie was to step into the position Pastor Pierre Peiret vacated at the latter’s death 1 September 1704. Maynard, 114-19. For the future of the church after Peiret’s death, Jon Butler indicates “The choice (of Laborie) proved disastrous, for Laborie was a troublesome man --- and the elders dismissed him in 1706.” The Huguenots in America, 166.
17 Le Bearn Protestant, (Oloron-St.Maire, France: Monhelios, 2003), 203. Reprinted from Osse: historie de l’eglise reformee de vallee d’Aspe, Paris, 1892.
18 The photo copies presented here are taken from the Registre des Actes du Consistorie de L”Eglise d’Osse, 1665-1684, Frames 0365-0366. A disc of the photographic record of the Registre was provided the author by Professor Philippe Chareyre, President, Centre d’etude du Protestantisme Bearnais, Pau, France.
19 Registre, Frame 386. Although the title of the photographic copy of the Registre is listed as covering the period 1665-1684, it contains this entry by Pastor Peiret of 16 April 1685 and a number of notes about the legacy of the church made after 1684. There are also sections crossed out in entries made prior to 1685 and notes added, by a representative of Louis XIV in November 1701, who audited the records of the church’s legacy which was expropriated by Louis XIV in January of 1683.
20 Rev. Alfred V. Wittmeyer, editor, Registers of the Births, Marriages, and Deaths of the Eglise Francoise a la Nouvelle York, from 1688 to 1804, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968), reprinted from Collections of the Huguenot Society of America, Vol. 1, New York, 1886.
21 The four exceptions of Pieret are found on pp. 7, 22, 37 and 51 of the 1968 edition of the Registers.
22 This is a photocopy of the original entry made by Pieret from the files of St Esprit. The printed version is found in Registers, pp. 29-30 where the double r of Latourette has been eliminated.
23 The archives of the Pyrenees Atlantiques in Pau, France are searchable at http://earchives.cg64.fr/. However, in many cases, only samples of what are found in many files of 300 to 500 handwritten documents are given, thus still requiring a personal search on site for the details.
24 The most complete coverage of the siege at Mas d’Azil is by General d’Amboix de Larbont, Le Siege du Mas-d’Azil en 1625:conference faite au Mas-d’Azil, le Octobre 1912, Toulouse, 1931. Short descriptions can be found on the internet by searching Siege of Mas d’Azil, 1625.
25 Centre d’Etude du Protestantisme Bearnais (C.E.P.E.), Pau, France, 2001. The biographical statement for Gassiot Latourrette is found on p. 170. Pierre Peiret’s statement is on p, 211. The biographical statement for Isaac Peiret of Pontacq, who is a cousin of Pierre Peiret, is found on pp. 210-11. Sarrabere mistakenly lists Isaac’s father as Isaac Peiret, medical doctor, where it is clear from several notary documents the father is Jean Peiret (Peyret).
26 The files of Pontacq notaires hand searched at the archives of the Pyrenees Atlantiques in Pau, including years covered, were E 2092, 1605-1639; E 2037, 1637-1639; E 2093, 1640-1658; E 2094, 1659-1668; E 2095, 1669-1673; E 2096, 1677-1712 and E 2097, 1713-1730. These files contain up to 500 sets of handwritten notary papers only briefly summarized by internet file search at http://earchives.cg64.fr/ .
27 Sarrabere, 210-211.
28 The date of Peiret death of 1 September 1704 is recorded in Wittmeyer’s Registers, p. 101. His age of 60 at the time of death is from the inscription on his tomb, cited above, that he was 60 years old at the time.
29 Article 48 of the Synod of 1676 from the files of Professor’s Chareyre’s Center for the Study of Bearnais Protestantism in Pau is presented here. The interpretation of the meaning of the request to appoint Pastor Peiret to Pontacq and the action taken was provided by Professor Chareyre, given the difficulty in reading the Old French. One of the issues faced in determining that Pastor Peiret was likely a nephew of Jean Peiret and a cousin to Isaac Peiret revolves around the French word “parent” used on the 12th line of Article 48. In French “parent” can mean either a biological parent or a relative with only the context determining the exact relationship. Here, as in some other references, it has been determined the meaning in the case of Pastor Peiret is one of relative.
As the heading indicates, this section was crossed out (barre) at a later time. This is the case for several documents used for this article. In some cases the reason for the later action is obvious, like at Osse where the King’s auditor in 1701 marked sections of the church’s minutes with large x’s as he counted up pledges made by parishioners. In other cases, like this one, there is no explanation.
30 Sarrabere, 211.
31 Isaac adjured in a profound way on 13 July 1673 by appearing at the Church of Saint- Martin in Pau and delivering himself into the hands of the Bishop of Oloron before the King’s Intendant (the King’s representative for Bearn) and a number of nobles. Sarrabere, 211. The entry in the Registers of the Catholic Church at Pau at the time of his death on 9 June 1714 (Registres Canton de Pontacq, 1670-1747) demonstrate his total rejection of the Protestant faith. From http://earchives.cg64.fr/img-viewer/FRAD064003_IR0002/PONTACQ/5MI453-1/viewer.html pp. 299-300 of 729 of the registers of the Catholic Church of Pau, we have translated into English:
“On June 9th, died Mr. Isaac de Peyret, doctor of medicine in this city and former minister converted, requested and received all the traditional sacraments of penance, Eucharist and extreme anointment during his last illness, having associated himself to the Brotherhood of the Perpetual Adoration of the Holy Sacrament which was established in this parish and in which association he has always shown striking proof of his great faith for this mystery. He died at the age of eighty four and was buried in the nave of the church.”
32 Michel Begon (de Robert Bousquet), “Historie des Gentilshommes-verriers de Magnoua, La Reveillee-Supplement Circulaire, no 96- Janvier 2008.
33 Cadier, 203.
34 "Etat des protestants irréductibles à Osse en Aspe" établie , 2 September 1685 par Jean de Tapie, appelé aussi: Liste de Tapie, cote aux Archives départementales des Pyrénées atlantiques: 1 J 72, 1685-1687.
35 References are to Rev. Wittmeyer, Registers, cited above.
36 Baird, Huguenot Emigration to America, 2:147.
37 Citations are from photocopies of London records in the possession of the author.
38 NY Council Minutes, Calendar of Council Minutes, 1668-1783, Compiled by Berthold Fernow, (New York, Harrison, 1987), 203.
39 Council Minutes, 198. See also house rent granted 6 September 1703 to the pastor. Council Minutes, 189 and earlier salary supplements listed in the minutes on 127, 131, 140 and 177.
40 The surname Latour has been prominent historically in Osse and the neighboring village of Bedous and is one of the surnames studied by genealogists. One can access the work of genealogists in France online at Cousins, FranceGenWeb by political department.
For the Pyrenees Atlantiques, which is political department # 64, we have Cousins 64 and are able to research the patronymes being searched by community.
Jean-Luc Bilhou-Nabera and Yves Lafournere, descendants of the Latourrettes (Latourettes) of Osse, have extensive genealogies of the families of the Aspe Valley and recognize Latour as a historical surname in Osse and Bedous, but as yet haven’t provided a link to the spouse of Pastor Peiret, Marquerite Latour. See, for example, Bilhou-Nabera’s research of Latour in Osse and Bedous by using the search mechanism for patronymes.
41 Ch. 5:144-198.