Spain – Peninsular War (1808-13)

Monsieur Alphonse P. M. de la Flechelle (cir. 1792 – 14 October 1847)

Birch-de la Flechelle marriage, New York Evening Express, published 28 December 1860 (www.fultonhistory.com)

Birch-de la Flechelle marriage, New York Evening Express, published 28 December 1860 (www.fultonhistory.com)

frenchAfter publishing my June 28 post, I discovered more about Monsieur Alphonse Pierre Marie de la Flechelle, the Frenchman whose daughter Elizabeth C. de la Flechelle married Isaac Jaques’ grandson, William Mabury Birch (son of Jane Jaques and John W. de la Fletcher Birch, a.k.a. John F. Birch), on Christmas day 1860. Quite a mouthful, I know, but I confess to being very intrigued by the de la Flechelle connection.

This “de la Flechelle / de la Fletcher” business is peculiar; it occurred to me that, perhaps, “de la Fletcher” was some kind of Americanized version of “de la Flechelle” and that, perhaps, John was named in honor of a “de la Flechelle.” Before checking dates, I’d hoped that maybe Alphonse’s stay in Dublin coincided with the portion of life that John’s dad (an Irishman) lived in Ireland, and that maybe the two were friends and admirers. After all, it was not uncommon for middle names to come from the surname of someone a family admired. But that is impossible, because John’s dad — George L. Birch — emigrated from Ireland to the US in 1798, when Alphonse was kindergarten-aged and living in France. I’d love to figure this out, but maybe it’s just one of those unsolvable things. (On a side note, I discovered that George L. and John F. Birch, and Jane Jaques Birch are buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.)

First Presbyterian Church and Cemetery [Woodbridge, NJ] Credit below

First Presbyterian Church and Cemetery [Woodbridge, NJ] Credit below

Alphonse and his wife Elizabeth Burton Fitzgerald, together with three young daughters, are buried in the churchyard of the First Presbyterian Church of Woodbridge, NJ. A book on the history of that church (History of the First Presbyterian Church, Woodbridge, New Jersey 300th Anniversary May 25, 1975 (published 1975) says that, when doing research for the book, the church investigated who this Frenchman was and discovered that he was the late deputy consul from the court of France to the US. He served as Chief Secretary of the French Embassy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1814, and later in the same capacity in NYC (1825) and Boston (1839). They had no idea why he came to Woodbridge and speculate that he or his wife may have had relatives there.

Well, I’ve since discovered (and the church probably has, too) that Alphonse had a country estate in Woodbridge, and between, during, and after his various postings, he resided there.

According to church records, Alphonse passed away on 14 October 1847, in his 56th year. An obituary published on Wednesday, October 20, 1847, in the Spectator, a NY newspaper (see Genealogy Bank), revealed that Alphonse had been in ill health, and had retired to live full-time on his Woodbridge estate for the several years leading up to his death. The obituary mentions his post in Dublin and then his appointment to the post of deputy consul for New York City. No mention is made of any post in Boston.

The retreat of Napoleon from Russia, 3 November 1812, by Victor Adam - mid-19th century (Pennington Catalogue, p. 3005, McGill University Libraries (Public domain-Wikimedia)

The retreat of Napoleon from Russia, 3 November 1812, by Victor Adam – mid-19th century (Pennington Catalogue, p. 3005, McGill University Libraries (Public domain-Wikimedia)

Interestingly, Alphonse spent his early years in the French Army, serving under Napoleon in Spain during the 1808-1813 Peninsular War, and from there marched east to take part in Napoleon’s failed 1812 invasion of Russia. After Napoleon’s dethronement [11 April 1814], Alphonse was appointed to his post in Dublin.

From the History of the First Presbyterian Church, Woodbridge, New Jersey... book, we know Alphonse was in Dublin for a decade and started his NYC post in 1825 at the age of 32.  The start of the New York post coincided with his marriage to Elizabeth Burton Fitzgerald (b. England**), and it was shortly thereafter that children appeared. I don’t yet know where they met and married, but I suspect it was after Alphonse relocated to NYC.

Honoré Daumier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (more info below)

“La Vue” [of the Brooklyn Bridge, I presume], circa 1839, by Honoré Daumier; lithograph on wove paper; Brooklyn Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (more info below)

The New York City post lasted 14 years, and then supposedly he was posted to Boston in 1839.  The last four de la Flechelle children were born in New Jersey between 1840-1847-ish, so perhaps Elizabeth and the youngest of the children remained in Woodbridge while Alphonse was in Boston. Or maybe the Boston posting never actually took place due to illness or something else, as it is not mentioned in the obituary. A possibility for that “something else” occurred in 1838 and is mentioned further down this page.

Altogether 9 children (of whom I am aware) came from this union– eight girls and one boy. The oldest, Elizabeth and Zelma, died in early childhood, just a day apart in March 1834, and are buried in the Woodbridge churchyard– no doubt a crushing blow for the young family. The third child and fourth child, Alexandrine (b. Nov. 1829) and Alphonse Jr. (b. 1832), who were alive at the time of their older siblings’ passing, survived and lived to adulthood, married, had children, etc. A fifth daughter Louise died as an infant in March 1837 and is also buried in the Woodbridge church cemetery. Four more daughters followed from 1840-1847: Zulma, Elizabeth C. (eventually married Wm. M. Birch), E.A., and Mary E.

Brooklyn, NY, Daily Eagle, 21 Jun 1849 (www.fultonhistory.com)

Mrs. de la Flechelle giving piano lessons; Brooklyn, NY, Daily Eagle, 21 Jun 1849 (www.fultonhistory.com)

Once Alphonse passed away, his wife Elizabeth de la Flechelle was left to care for the brood herself; I found newspaper ads for a Mrs. de la Flechelle giving piano lessons in Brooklyn in the late 1840s; perhaps this was Elizabeth trying to earn some extra money for her young family. Tragically, she died just eight years after Alphonse — in January 1855 at  48 years of age.

Judging by the information contained within 1855 New York State Census records, the children still too young to be out on their own (Zulma Edmie (15), Elizabeth C. (12), E.A., (10)  and Mary E. (7)) went to live in Brooklyn’s 10th Ward with their older sister Alexandrine de la Flechelle Brunel, who herself was just 25 and had four small children (Mary E. (7); Alexandrine (5); Louisa I. (3), and Frederick Alphonse (3 mos.)) with her husband Frederick A. Brunel, a distiller. Frederick’s mother Mary Brunel, who was born in the West Indies and was 77 years old at the time, must have been ready to run for the hills! Thankfully there were two household servants on board — for this was indeed an “all-hands-on-deck” situation.

Tragedy followed just over a year later when Frederick died at 38, leaving Alexandrine (just 26) alone with all those children.  Zulma, the oldest of the sisters living with Alexandrine, who was probably her best helper, passed away two years later, at age 18.

New York Times, 27 Aug 1858 (www.fultonhistory.com); note: for a clearer image visit the NY Times online archives.

New York Times, 27 Aug 1858 (www.fultonhistory.com); note: for a clearer image visit the NY Times online archives.

Funeral Notice, New York  Times, 28 August 1858: FLECHELLE – In Brooklyn, on Wednesday, Aug. 25, ZULMA EDMIE, daughter of the late Alphonse P. M. de la Flechelle in the 18th year of her age. The friends and family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral to-day (Friday) at 1 o’clock P.M. from the residence of her sister, Mrs. Brunel, No. 394 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn. Zulma was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Alexandrine Brunel remarried in 1869; her second husband was civil engineer Joseph Van Winkle (b. 1814, NY). In 1900, the pair were living in Hempstead, Nassau Co., NY, and providing a home to her son Frederick Alphonse Brunel (farmer), his English-born wife Agnes, and their three young children: Robert, Laura, and Adolph F. Alexandrine died in August 1902 at about 62. A New York Times death notice, published 4 August 1902, read: VAN WINKLE: Aug. 4, at Hempstead, L.I.., Alexandrine, wife of Joseph Van Winkle and daughter of the late Alphons P.M. de la Flechelle.  She was also buried at Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

NY Herald, published (Credit: www.fultonhistory.com)

NY Herald, published (Credit: http://www.fultonhistory.com)

Her younger brother Alphonse E. W. de la Flechelle predeceased her by eight years, passing away in 1894 in Hempstead, Long Island, at the age of 58. A funeral notice was published in the New York Herald on the 21st of September of that year: DE LA FLECHELLE – At Hempstead, L. I., September 17, 1894, ALPHONSE DE LA FLECHELLE, son of the late A. P. M. de la Flechelle. French papers please copy.

Alphonse Jr. was born in 1832 and served in the Union Army during the Civil War. His card in the pension index reveals: “Gen. Serv. USA (1861), Unassd. 63 – NY Inf. (1864-65): Navy, Ship’s Corpl, Minn, N. C. Tacony, Brandywine (1863-1864), G [Company] 8 [8th Infantry] U.S. Inf. (1861-1863). ” His service extended beyond the end of the war. A record for August 1867 for Fort Columbus, New York Harbor (filed by Henry D. Wallen, Lt. Col. 14th Infantry, Brevet  Brigadier General) shows Alphonse E. W. de la Flechelle in a list of those who appear to be awaiting trial or awaiting charges. Next to his name: Rank – Pvte, Regiment – 8 Inf., Company – C, When received at the post – 14 Aug 1867, Remarks – awaiting charges.

Alphonse Jr. was thrice married, and it was his third wife Caroline who filed for a Civil War pension as a widow on 7 Sep 1895. The card reveals that Alphonse Jr. had an alias — George Stanley. I found that very bizarre and wonder what that was all about unless it was a way to escape his very obvious French first and last names.

His first marriage was to Georgiana Sheldon. An announcement appeared in the Long Island Star on 13 May 1857: In this city, on the 7th of May, by the Rev. John A. Paddock, rector of St. Peter’s (Episcopal) Church, Alphonse E.W. DE LA FLECHELLE, only son of A.P. M. DE LA FLECHELLE, deceased, to Georgiana SHELDON, youngest daughter of the late Job SHELDON. Interestingly that marriage ended in divorce, not very common back then, so I wonder what went wrong.

Queens County Court news, Queens County Sentinel, 1897 (www.fultonhistory.com)

Queens County Court news, Queens County Sentinel, 1897 (www.fultonhistory.com)

He remarried on 20 March 1872 to Mary Catherine Farmington, and is listed as “Divorced” in the marriage record. Third wife Caroline de la Flechelle was roughly 26 years younger than Alphonse Jr. She was still alive in 1920, living in Brooklyn as a lodger in the household of Mamie and Gerald Johnson, and working as a seamstress for private families.

I found an 1897  newspaper mention of a lawsuit against Caroline and other de la Flechelles (perhaps children of Alphonse Jr.). No idea what that was all about or who the plaintiff was.

There definitely was an Alphonse III, a son of Alphonse E. W. de la Flechelle, as I discovered a notice for drunkenness and cursing in a September 13, 1896, newspaper– two years after Alphonse Jr.s death.

Queens County Sentinel, 13 Sept 1896 (www.fultonhistory.com)

Queens County Sentinel, 13 Sept 1896 (www.fultonhistory.com)

Several years later, an Edward de la Flechelle was advertising in the New York Press in 1889 and 1890 for a housekeeper to help him care for his small daughter. Was this Alphonse III (if his initial E. stood for Edward, and he went by that name?) or a different son of Alphonse Jr.?

New York Press, 1889 (www.fultonhistory.com)

New York Press, 1889 (www.fultonhistory.com)

New York Press, 10 Nov 1890 (www.fultonhistory.com)

New York Press, 10 Nov 1890 (www.fultonhistory.com)

But, back to Monsieur Alphonse P. M. de la Flechelle. I’d said that there was an incident in 1838, and I believe that incident may have initiated his transfer to Boston or sent him into an early retirement. News of this incident was published in newspapers as far away as Boston, Providence, Portsmouth, Baltimore, and St. Louis. On August 28, 1838, the New York newspaper, American for the Country, included the following, which will give you an idea of what the controversy was. It involved what appeared to be the illegally carried out arrest of two Frenchmen who had deserted a French ship called the Didon after carrying out acts of piracy. I found a number of articles on the topic through Genealogy Bank, but their copyright restrictions prohibit me from including them in full here. But this should give you an inkling of the matter:

American for the Country, 28 August 1838, 1st part of article (www.fultonhistory.com)

American for the Country, 28 August 1838, 1st part of article (www.fultonhistory.com)

American for the Country, 28 August 1838, part 2 (www.fultonhistory.com)

American for the Country, 28 August 1838, part 2 (www.fultonhistory.com)

Ultimately, a warrant was issued for Alphonse’s arrest. When first approached, he was standing out in a field of his Woodbridge estate. He refused to be taken on the grounds that a warrant was needed from NY state not NJ. So a requisition was then obtained from New York’s governor, but proved not to be needed as Alphonse turned himself in voluntarily and paid bail in the amount of $5,000.

New York - American for the Country, published 22 Sep 1838 (www.fultonhistory.com)

New York – American for the Country, published 22 Sep 1838 (www.fultonhistory.com)

A rather humorous (to me anyway) description of the attempt to arrest “Monsieur de la Flechelle” in his Woodbridge estate field appeared in several newspapers (all on Genealogy Bank). For example, in the New York Commercial Advertiser of Saturday, September 22, 1838, Alphonse is described as refusing to go with the officers. He threatened to blow out the brains of the first man that laid hands on him, and remarked, La France got all Algiers for one slap in de face, and la France will get dis country for dis. From what I could glean from the remaining articles I read, the indictment against Alphonse was found to be valid by a Grand Jury, but I don’t know beyond that what the repercussions were for him or his superior. The last article I found was dated October 4, 1838, in the St. Louis Daily Commercial Bulletin (Genealogy Bank): The Grand Jury of New York, it is stated in the Express have found a true bill of indictment against Thomas Mitchell Dronet… in addition, a bill was also found against M. Alphonse de la Flechelle…

Not the last, because I subsequently (2 years later) came upon this article on the Fulton History site which also mentions the guilty verdict:

Evening Post (NY), 2 Sept 1838

Evening Post (NY), 2 Sept 1838

So maybe this incident thrust him into early retirement at the age of 46, or maybe it facilitated a relocation to Boston. I’m sure there is much more I could find out if determined to do so. But, I don’t want to stray too far from my tree. I’ll leave it for Alphonse’s living descendants to sort out his fascinating life and the lives of his many interesting descendants, something they have probably done already, and hope to read about it all sometime in the future! (For a family tree, visit my “Names A-E” page.)

UPDATE (2015): Find a Grave contributor “Gone Gravin'” has kindly photographed the graves of the family members buried at First Presbyterian Churchyard, Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ — Plot: 291. Here is the Find a Grave link.

**See 1930 Census record for “Alexandra Van Winkle”, stating her mother was born in England.

Presbyterian Church Photo Credit: By Perrycart (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Cartoon: Honoré Daumier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, Brooklyn Museum of Art

Categories: 1st Presbyterian Woodbridge NJ, Birch, Brooklyn, Civil War, de la Flechelle, de la Fletcher Birch, Green-Wood Cemetery Brooklyn NY, Jaques, Napoleon, New York 1855, New York City, Obituaries, Presbyterian, Spain - Peninsular War (1808-13), War of 1812 (Russia), Woodbridge | 2 Comments

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