Jean Baptiste Choisser

of Kaskaskia and Gallatin County (1784-1860)

by Aubrey Starke


Before tracing further the career in Illinois of Jean Baptiste Choisser, père, let us, for the fullness of the record, of the family, but more expressly for the glimpses the examination of unpublished ecclesiastical records affords of civil conditions and historical events in the French villages of the Illinois, consider for a little the records concerning his wife, neé Marianne Labuxiere, and her immediate Illinois ancestors. 21

On the side of her mother, Catherine Anne Vifvarenne, the ancestry of Marianne Labuxiere can be traced, through the records of the long forgotten Church of Ste. Anne, at Fort De Chartres, to Pierre Vivarenne Daumon, of Picardy, France, and Gabrielle Salvati, of St. Denis, France, who may (for so other evidence suggests) have been married not in France but in the new world 22. Pierre Vivarenne and his wife were in the generation of Jean Baptiste Choisser's ancestors, Charles Brazeau and Genevieve Quenneville, and so probably lived in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Their son Jean Baptiste Vivarenne, American born, was married at Kaskaskia on August 23, 1740, to Marie Ann Rondeau, daughter of Jean Rondeau and his wife, Catherine Federolle, both of France, though inhabitants of the Village des Minnes (Old Mine) - and therefore members, in all probability, of Le Sieur Renault's colony in the first attempt at lead mining in Illinois.

The Parish Register of the Church of Ste. Anne de Fort de Chartres records the baptism, January 24, 1748, by Nicholas Laurens (in the absence of Joseph Gagnon, curé of the parish) of a daughter "born on the eve (sur la veille) of the legitimate marriage of Jean Baptiste Vivarenne ... and of Marie Ann Rondeau, to whom has been given the name Veronica." The godfather was Louis Potier, the godmother Julia Terte, wife of Francois Le Fleur of St. Philippe.

Judge Walter B. Douglas, of St. Louis, copied from the Kaskaskia Marriage Contracts (the originals of which I have not been able to locate) a note indicating the marriage of Jean Baptiste Vivarenne, son of Pierre Vivarenne and of Gabrielle Savary or Savati of Mobile, and Marianne Claudine Rondeau, daughter of Pierrre Lasensistat dit St. Pierre 23 and of Catherine Federolle, on August 23, 1740 - a record which gives a fuller name for the mother of Mme. J. B. Labuxierre, and an alternate name for the husband of Catherine Federolle. Judge Douglas also noted two references in Hamilton's Colonial Mobile 24 that seemed to indicate Gabrille Savary was married a second time to one Jean Baptiste Saucier, a merchant of Mobile, where a "Madame Socie" was a landowner in 1760. This was not Jean Baptiste Saucier, architect of Fort De Chartres, nor perhaps the only other Jean Baptiste Saucier connected with the Illinois, - for another of the name was at the Prairie du Rocher in 1737, and is supposed to have come to America with Renault in 1721. 25

The famous Jean Baptiste Saucier, architect of Fort de Chartres and himself the founder of a family still established in Illinois, does, however, figure in the records of the ancestors of the American John Choisser. For when on February 19, 1752, Father Gagnon baptized a daughter born on February 16, 1752, to Jean Baptiste Vivarenne and Marie Anne St. Pierre (sic) his wife, and named Marie Françoise, "le sieur Jean B. Sausie, ingenieur" was the godfather.

Vivarenne's name is found as that of a witness to a marriage on May 19, 1748, and again on May 20, 1748. His residence at the village near the fort, rather than at Kaskaskia, the more important town commercially, may have been necessitated by some connection with the government. Most of the residents of Nouvelle Chartres - an all but abandoned village until 1751 - were connected, in either a civil or a military capacity, with the government, or the maintenance of the fort.

Catherine Anne Vivarenne, born presumably after 1740, unless she was that Veronica whose baptism is recorded, was married on June 30, 1757, at Fort de Chartres, to Charles Joseph Labuxiere, an officer of the colonial government stationed at the seat of the government, Fort de Chartres. The record reads:

L'an mil sept cent cinquante sept le trentieme jour du mois de juin après avoir publié trois banes de mariage aux prones de la grande Messe paroissiale de L'Eglise de Ste. Anne de la (Nouvelle) Chartres, le premier le dimanche après l'octave de T. S. Sacrement, le second le dimanche suivant, le troisieme le jour de la fête du S. Apôtres Pierre et Paul, entre Sr. Charles Joseph de la Buxiere (secre)taire Royal et procureur (des) Biens vacants au Pays des Illinois, demeurant en cette paroisse (fils du) Sr. Charles Leonard La Buxiere et de Renee Cleret ses père (et mère de) la ville de Benévint, diocese de Limoges d'une part, et (de d'lle) Anne Catherine Vifvarenne fille du Sr. Jean Baptiste Vifvarenne ... funte Marie Ann Rondeau ses père et mère d'autre part ... ... cette paroisse ny ... aucun Empechment Legitime Je ... Francois ... forget du verger prâtre Missionaire ... Mission faisant les fonctions cureales ... Ste. Anne ... Nlle Chartres pays des Illinois ... mutuel consentment de mariage et leur ay donne le benediction nuptiale avec les ceremonies prescrittes par ... l'Eglise en presence de Mr. Makarty ... Buchet ecrivain principal ...  26

Two names and a few facts in the record deserve comment. The priest who performed the ceremony was not one of the Jesuits from Kaskaskia, but Father Forget de Verger, of the Messires du Seminaire at Cahokia, the same Father du Verger who insured himself of a none too noble place in history when, in November, 1763, he sold the holdings of the Seminarists at Cahokia in simple fear of confiscation of the sort the Jesuits at Kaskaskia had no alternative but to accept. One of the witnesses to the marriage was Le Sieur Makarty-Mactigue, the brilliant Irish-Frenchman, Commandant and builder of the new Fort de Chartres, the recovered, and partly restored remains of which remain today. Fort de Chartres was but two years completed in 1757, and Commandant Makarty-Mactigue was at the height of his power, and influence.

Charles Joseph Labuxiere, the groom  27, was probably a young man, born in France, who had come over to Louisiana to serve as a subordinate in the governmental capacity he then held; he is described as royal notary and administrator of estates in abeyance, or procurer of unknown heirs 28. He had only recently succeeded to the title and the position. Perhaps, indeed, his succession - including as it did rights to the salary as well - made the marriage possible. For from 1732, and perhaps earlier, until his death in March, 1757, the royal notary had been Jean Baptiste Bertlor dit Barrois, a man - as the documents left by him prove - "apparently trained in the notarial art and ... very conscientious in the performance of his duties." 28 From the evidence of handwriting, Professor Alvord assumed that Joseph Labuxiere was one of several assistants to Barrois. That he was a worthy successor, his chronicles of the events of the following three decades testify.

Joseph Labuxiere and his wife lived of course at the village of Nouvelle Chartres, near the fort, for Joseph Labuxiere's notarial duties required his presence at the seat of the court. The records of Joseph Labuxiere's participation in the functions of the church are to be found in the register of Ste. Anne, rather than of Notre Dame, at Kaskaskia. On July 30, 1758, he signed as witness to a marriage, again in 1762, and again on July 18, 1763; and once more, as the Ste. Anne records draw to a close, in December, 1764.

On April 7, 1758, Father Du Verger, who had married him, buried at Ste. Anne the first born child of Notary Labuxiere, Joseph Andre Labuxiere. On October 15, 1761, there was buried an Indian child of M. Labuxiere, - possibly a child entrusted to him as guardian, possibly an illegitimate son to whom he would not deny the sacraments of the church. When the son who succeeded him, for a time, as notary, and the son who served in the nineteenth century as a county officer, under the Americans, were born, we do not know; but in the Kaskaskia register, under date of April 28, 1765, in the eighth year of her parents' marriage, is the record of the baptism of their daughter Marianne, - named apparently for her maternal grandmother.

When Marianne Labuxiere was baptized, the church of Ste. Anne had been abandoned. Makarty-Mactigue had long since left the Illinois and died (four years before) in New Orleans. St. Ange de Bellerive, last French commandant of the noblest fort in North America, was gone, - to St. Louis and the service of the Spaniards. The British flag floated over Fort de Chartres. The Jesuits were gone from Kaskaskia, their property confiscated and sold to J. B. Beauvais, with a bill of conveyance notarized by Labuxiere himself, November 6, 1763 30. Father Du Verger was gone, the property of the Seminarists cowardly surrendered 31. But Father Francois Collet, a Franciscan, administered the rites of baptism. This is the record from the Register of the Church of Notre Dame of the Immaculate Conception at Kaskaskia:

L'an mil cept cant soixante et cinc le vingt huiti eme jour du mois d'avril je fr. Luc Collet p. fr. missionaire aux Illinois ai baptise une fille né du legitime mariage de Joseph La buxiere et de marianne vivarenne les père et mère à qui on a donné le nom de Marianne de parain a eté Mr. Louis cabassier 32 et la mareine Marie vincenore veuve de Mr. de Lisle, Le Parain et la mareine on(t) signé avec moi de ce requia auivant L'ordanne.

Cabazier       veuve delisle 33       fr Luc Collet P. R.G.

The child Marianne Labuxiere, conceived while Illinois was yet, in actual government French, born in the first months of the British regime, grew up as an inhabitant of Spanish Missouri. The removal of her parents to Missouri may possibly have been postponed because of her awaited birth, and hastened after her birth. Her father was in Illinois on June 4, 1765, when he notarized documents of importance twenty-four years later in the litigation concerning the ownership of the property once belonging to the Foreign Mission at Cahokia 34. But he had already gone to the Spanish side when on December 15, 1765, Captain Sterling wrote from the former Fort de Chartres, rechristened Cavendish, to General Gage in New York, explaining that when in Cahokia Labuxiere the "procureur du roi" had tried cases and passed sentence, which was either confirmed or reversed by the Council at New Orleans, but that he had "gone to the Spanish side, being continued in ... employment there." 35 With Labuxiere's departure and that of Joseph LeFebvre, judge, attorney general, and guardian of the royal warehouse, governmental machinery in the Illinois was at a standstill.

The Labuxieres removed, with many other Kaskaskians, across the Mississippi to the village that was nearer, and older by half a century than St. Louis. Houck, the historian of Missouri, states that "For a time Joseph Labusciere 'Attorney for the vacant localties in the Royal jurisdiction of Illinois', resided at Ste. Genevieve, but afterwards removed to St. Louis." 36 Hauck quotes a record of March 15, 1766 - when Marianne was not a year old - of her father serving as attorney to protect the goods of one Cazeau, captured by the Indians en route from New Orleans to Ste. Genevieve 37.

In 1767, Joseph Lefebvre des Bruisseau, who had served as civil judge both at Fort de Chartres and at St. Louis, under St. Ange de Bellerive, died. The experienced Labuxiere was chosen to take his place and so he moved, with his family, from Ste. Genevieve to St. Louis. Houck, recording this removal 38, describes Labuxiere as "a notary and the King's procureur, or Attorney, an important personage always, under the French law, and of course most important in the eyes of the early settlers of the Mississippi Valley." Houck names his sons, Joseph, Louis, and Francois, and states, but without citation of proof, that "His wife was a lady of some education." He became, according to Houck, "a person of consequence, useful and valuable to the village" of St. Louis. F. L. Billon 39 counted one hundred and ninety-four papers of various kinds prepared by Labuxiere between April, 1766, an May 20, 1770 40.

Though Pierre LaClede, who with his foster son Auguste Chouteau founded the village of St. Louis in 1764, had made grants of lands to the first settlers, the first grant made by St. Ange, as commandant, and therefore the first grant of legal importance, was according to Houck 41 and H. L. Conrad 42 to Labuxiere. It was in the block later numbered 13 of the new city, a lot having a front of 300 feet on Rue Royale (now Main Street), by 150 feet deep to the river 43. On this lot he undoubtedly established his home, and on this lot the child Marianne grew up. Here she lived during the months that brought the exciting news of the arrival of one Colonel Clark and his "Long Knives" in Kaskaskia - during months that brought Colonel Clark in person to the Spanish village of St. Louis to solicit aid and provisions for his troops. And here, possibly, she may have first met the Canadian merchant Jean Baptiste Choisser who, for better or worse, had come to the Illinois at the most critical time in its history.

In June, 1782, according to Houck, but probably in June, 1781 (for in August of 1781 Labuxiere asked for the registration of his commission as State's Attorney for the County of Illinois 44). Labuxiere returned to the Illinois to remain a resident and a citizen of the territory for the rest of his life 45. But in returning to the Illinois, Joseph Labuxiere did not return to the scene of his early labors, and of his marriage, for even the British had by 1781 abandoned Fort de Chartres, and its village. Nor, except briefly, and then possibly solely on business - did he return to Kaskaskia, in 1782 and for years to come a village of unrest, where the orderly life of the French inhabitants had been completely disrupted by the presence of new American immigrants. He removed instead to Cahokia, then as earlier the soberer, quieter village, where in Labuxiere's own words the inhabitants were "filled with unity of peace and fidelity to the state", and where there was "a court of justice which they are careful to administer with equity to those who ask its help." 46 And here, as state's attorney, as notary, and as clerk of the court, he served the cause of law and order in the unstable and changing government until his death, on April 29, 1791 47. His notarial record, the chief monument of his services, is preserved in the J. Nick Perrin Collection of the Archives of Illinois. The collection, which is being catalogued and translated, and may at some future date be published, is probably rich in references of a personal sort to Joseph Labuxiere and the brothers Choisser, to whom he became connected by the marriage of his daughter 48.

This is not the place to trace the long and creditable career of this able and noble man 49 whose "wise conduct, capacity and experience", whose "zeal and affection for the service of the state and the public welfare", were lauded by an honored contemporary, - the able and educated Jean Girault, whom he succeeded as notary in 1781 50; whose loyalty to his profession and to the governments he served was unquestioned, whose clear handwriting and logical summation of events made an invaluable contribution to the history of the Illinois Territory. His son, Joseph Antoine Labuxiere (sometimes referred to as Joseph, Junior) was a sergeant in the expedition from St. Louis that captured St. Joseph, Michigan, in 1781 51. He was appointed notary public by Winston, civil governor of the County of Illinois in the State of Virginia, in August, 1781, but resigned under protest of the Court that he was not of age 52. Eventually he settled in New Madrid, Missouri 53. Louis Labuxiere (Lewis Labosierre!) was one of the few French justices of the peace in St. Clair County in 1801 54. According to the census of 1820, "Lewis Labasha" 55 was the head of a family in St. Clair County consisting, besides himself and his wife, of five males under 21, and two females under 18, with no black slaves. But the name Labuxiere is presumably now extinct in Illinois, though the Labuxiere blood flows in the veins of descendants of the daughter, Marianne Labuxiere, who married Jean Baptiste Choisser.

    21.  Mme. J. B. Choisser's family name is spelled as variously as that of her husband. Labuxiere is the spelling adopted by the editors of the Collections of the Illinois Historical Society, and is the spelling that will be used throughout this article, unless for specific reasons.
    22.  See the copy of the Ste. Anne records in the St. Louis University Library, entry No. 183. For "Daumon" compare the name of Pierre Damon, Kaskaskia Records, p. 240. Damon was a citizen of Kaskaskia in 1781, and signed a petition also signed by Jean Choisser.
    23.  See Collections of the Illinois Historical Society, Vol. X, p. 127, for references to one Paul Jussiaume dit St. Pierre.
    24.  Pages 80 and 151. I have not checked these references. Judge Douglas's notes are in the St. Louis Public Library.
    25.  Transactions of the Illinois Historical Society, XXVI, 260, 263.
    26.  Copied, with restorations and lacunae, from the transcript in the library of St. Louis University, made by the Rev. J. C. Burke, S. J. A note in English is added: "The remainder is torn or obliterated." The original records of Ste. Anne of Fort de Chartres are preserved at Belleville, Illinois.
    27.  The name is not unique. See American State Papers, Public Lands, I, 11, 291, for a record of a "head of family" of the name at Post Vincennes in 1790 and 1806: "Genevieve, wife of Joseph Labuissiere, the husband deserted." The Joseph Labusciere (Public Lands II, 164), original claimant of forty arpents at Kaskaskia (statement of Dec. 31, 1809) was probably the Joseph who married Mlle. Vivarenne, or his son. See Public Lands II, p. 171, for the names of his sons Antoine (claims land at Cahokia), Joseph (p. 200, claims land at Cahokia; p. 577, claims land at New Madrid, claim of March 20, 1806, not granted; see also III, 352), Louis (p. 199, lots in Kaskaskia); also pp. 196, 236, for Francois. Joseph Labuxiere, the notary, transfers land to Louis Reed, St. Louis, June 2, 1781 (II, 638).
    28.  His parents may have emigrated to the Illinois also. Item No. 307 in the Ste. Anne records gives M. and Mme. LaBussiere (July, 1761), consenting to the marriage of their widowed daughter, Marie Jeanne Saucier, to M. DuClos de Selle, "cadet á l'aiguelette."
    29.  Alvord, The Illinois Country (Centennial History of Illinois, Vol. I, Springfield, Ill., 1920), pp. 196-97.
    30.  C.I.H.S. X, 125.
    31.  The bill of sale, to Jean LaGrange, also notarized by Labuxiere, is dated November 5, 1763; C.I.H.S. II, 497-505; X, 48.
    32.  Cabazier may have been the father of the six brothers listed in the census of 1787 (C.I.H.S. V, 631).
    33.  Mme. Delisle was apparently the mother of two daughters who married sons of the Mme. Brazeau who served later as godmother to Marianne Labuxiere's son, John Choisser. She was probably the same patriotic Widow Delisle who signed the petition of 1781, signed by Jean Choisser, and who contributed provisions to Clark's hungry soldiers in 1779. See C.I.H.S. V, 414, 416.
    34.  C.I.H.S. II, 497-505.
    35.  C.I.H.S. XX, 124, n.
    36.  History of Missouri, I, 341. But Houck made an erroneous statement concerning Labuxiere's origin, in Canada, and needlessly supposes that the name was a corruption of La Buissoniere.
    37.  Houck calls it an important document, since it reveals "who were the early merchants of Ste. Genevieve and the manner in which public business of this character was then transacted", though it is silent concerning the ultimate disposition of the goods and the fate of Cazeau.
    38.  op. cit., II, 18, n.
    39.  See Scharf's History of St. Louis, 1881, p. 73.
    40.  One was a marriage contract between Antoine Sans Souci and Marie F. Vifvarenne, April 20, 1769. The latter was probably related to his wife.
    41.  op. cit. II, 20.
    42.  Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, New York, 1901, III, 584.
    43.  This seems to be the town lot, title to which was confirmed to "J. Labuxiere's representatives" in 1818. (American State Papers, Public Lands, III, 318). But the lot is described as 180 by 300 feet. See the same volume, pp. 316 and 317.
    44.  C.I.H.S. V, 254-55. See also C.I.H.S. II, 139 and #45 below.
    45.  Houck, op. cit. III, 53, note, records the sale of land by Joseph Labusciere in 1781. He was probably preparing them to leave Spanish Louisiana. The land sold was on the prairie adjacent to the village of St. Louis, and not his lot in the village. See also American State Papers Public Lands, II, 638, for a record of land transferred at St. Louis June 2, 1781, Labuxiere to Reed.
    46.  Labuxiere to Congress, C.I.H.S., II, 589.
    47.  This is the date given by Houck, op. cit., I., 340, note 15. But in the second volume of the same History of Missouri (II, 18, note 43) Houck gives the date a year later. Alvord, C.I.H.S., 625, note 16, gives the date 1791.
    48.  See Margaret C. Norton's article on the Perrin Collection in Illinois Libraries, XXII, 22-24, (Oct., 1940).
    49.  I have counted more than forty separately dated references to Labuxiere in Volumes II, V, and X of the C.I.H.S. See especially his commission as State's Attorney (in succession to Jean Girault, 1779-1781), II, 487. The commission, dated June 29, 1781, was presented to the court Nov. 7, 1782, and confirmed (II, 139). He established a notariat at Cahokia Nov. 10, 1783 (II, 491). He was appointed clerk of the court Nov. 22, 1784, (II, 186, note 1). He mentions "my domicile at Cahokia" April 10, 1785 (II, 493). He takes office as clerk June 20, 1785 (II, 197), petitions Congress as State's Attorney July 17, 1786, for instructions to govern the exercise of his duty (II, 589). He was clerk of the vestry at Cahokia March 1, 1787 (II, 269). He is listed with sons Louis, Antoine (i.e. Joseph Antoine) and Francois among the male inhabitants of Cahokia August 27, 1787 (II, 625, note 16). He was addressed by Father de la Valiniere in a letter of April 11, 1787, concerning ecclesiastical affairs at Cahokia (V, 549.) He registered the interesting will of James Moore of Bellefontaine, signed May 31, 1787, and translated by L. Dorsiere (II, 519; and see Starke, Aubrey, "Books in the Wilderness", J.I.H.S., XIX, 260-62, Jan., 1936). His last notarial function is dated March 24, 1789 (II, 521). On Dec. 7, 1789, he obtained a writ of seizure against one Motard, who owed him 85 livres (II, 431). John Moses, in his Illinois: Historical and Statistical (Chicago, 1889) states that Joseph Labuxiere was appointed notary public by Governor St. Clair upon the latter's arrival at Kaskaskia March 5, 1790.
    50.  C.I.H.S. II, 487.
    51.  Missouri Historical Review, II, 214 (July, 1911).
    52.  C.I.H.S. II, cvi; V, 257, 260, 265, 267.
    53.  The presumption that he was the Joseph Labusciere in New Madrid in 1803 (Houck, op. cit., I, 340) is strong. A "Joseph Labucere" married one Elizabeth Boyer in Shawneetown, Illinois, January 16, 1819 (Gallatin County Marriage Licenses, 1813-1838, copied by Mrs. W. B. Berder, 1936). This may have been a Joseph Labuxiere III, a first cousin of John Choisser who in 1819 was a resident of Gallatin County.
    54.  C.I.H.S. XXI, ccxxxi.
    55.  The Federal census of 1820 gives the name as Louis Labisya; the state census of 1818 as Louis Labasere. In 1818 there were eight in the family, but nine in 1820.

Table of Contents

Preface - An introduction by Bill Choisser
Introduction - Aubrey Starke's introduction to his work
Part I - A brief look backward
Part II - The ancestors in Montreal
Part III - The brothers Jean and Jean Baptiste Choisser
Part IV - Marianne La Buxiere and her ancestors
Part V - John Choisser and his family

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