Dr. Elizabeth M. Scott - Excavations and Research at Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

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  Dr. Elizabeth M. Scott : Research  
 
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The Janis-Ziegler Site, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
(23SG272)

 

Janis-Ziegler House today, undergoing restoration to its c. 1790 appearance
(owners: Hilliard and Bonnie Goldman)

 

(The following background about the site occupation is excerpted from the M.A. thesis by Meredith Hawkins, "The Janis-Ziegler Site (23SG272): The Archaeological Investigation of a Houselot in a French Colonial Village," pp. 30-37. Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Illinois State University (2007). PLEASE DO NOT QUOTE OR CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION.)

 

Janis-Ziegler House/Green Tree Tavern

Built by Nicolas Janis in the New Town around 1790-1791, the Janis-Ziegler house is commonly known as the Green Tree Tavern (Evans 2001:57). Documents show that in 1790, Nicolas received the land on which the building is located from Antoine Dufour (SGA, 1790). Although the Janis family did not officially move to Ste. Genevieve until 1789-1790 (Ekberg 2002:27), land grant documents show that they owned land in Le Grand Champ as early as 1752 (Ekberg 1996:34). Nicolas moved to Kaskaskia, Illinois, from Quebec, Canada, (Anonymous n.d.; Franzwa 1998:136) and in 1751, he married Marie-Louise Lasource (Ekberg 1996:34).

Nicolas was a prominent citizen of Kaskaskia and it has been reported that at the time of his move to Ste. Genevieve in 1789 he owned nineteen slaves (Ekberg 1996:432). However, this number could be inflated; the 1791 Spanish census states that he only owned ten slaves (Houck 1909:367). The Janis family was connected to the prominent Bolduc, Bauvais, and Bienvenu families in Ste. Genevieve through the marriages of Nicolas's children (Beckerman 1982:29; Ekberg 1996:432). Thus, the Janises were a wealthy, well-connected family who quickly established themselves as prominent members of the New Town community.

 

Janis-Ziegler House, view of open galerie
(note vertical posts with bouzillage and remnants of plaster covering)

 

According to tree ring dating, the Janis-Ziegler house is the oldest building still standing in Missouri (Evans 2001:57). The house is considered to be of a transitional plan because it shows both French and Anglo-American architectural features (Franzwa 1998:138). It was built of a timber frame wall construction known as poteaux sur sole—upright squared posts placed on a limestone sill with daub or bouzillage placed between the posts (Peterson 2001:25-27)—and included a piece-en-piece (horizontal hewn planks held in place by vertically slotted posts) partition in the basement or ground floor, which divided that floor into two rooms, each with its own exterior door (Franzwa 1998:138). This is a unique space: the Janis-Ziegler house is the only known building in the Mississippi Valley that shows the piece-en-piece interior wall construction, although it was common in Canada and medieval France (Scott n.d.:3). The house is surrounded by an open gallery except on the northwest side, which is enclosed under a gable. The house also was constructed with Anglo-American roof trusses instead of the more common Normandy trusses (Franzwa 1998:138). Architectural historian Osmund Overby has stated that the Janis-Ziegler house "contains the most unaltered interior of any surviving French vertical log house in Ste. Genevieve" (Evans 2001:58).

Nicolas Janis died in October 1804 (Anonymous n.d.), but in 1796, he deeded the building and land to his son, François (SGA 1796). At least by the early 1800s, François Janis had converted part of the building into a tavern (Ekberg 1996:326; Franzwa 1998:136). It has been suggested that the structure was built originally to be both a domestic and commercial structure, since Nicolas seems to have had it constructed with the divided basement and two front doors (Evans 2001:59-60). Thus far, however, the historical information shows that the tavern did not exist until after the beginning of the nineteenth century (Ekberg 1996:326). Nicolas may have built the home expecting to open a business but was unable to do so for some reason. In 1806, the Green Tree Tavern also became the first meeting hall for Freemasons in Missouri. Called Louisiana Lodge No. 109, it continued to hold meetings for fifteen years (Franzwa 1998:137).

 

Janis-Ziegler site excavations (2006); in the center is a ditch with post molds indicating location of an outbuilding of some kind behind the house; artifacts in the wall ditch date the construction to the early years of the Janis occupation (1790-1810)

 

François Janis died in 1832 and the property was sold to Mathias Ziegler, a German resident, in 1833. Little is known about Mathias and his family before they arrived in Ste. Genevieve. He and his wife, Barbara, emigrated from Baden, in the Kingdom of Bavaria (SGA 1827). Unlike the German immigrants that Stepenoff (2006) discussed, the Zieglers were not part of the separate German enclave within Ste. Genevieve. Exactly when the Zieglers moved to Ste. Genevieve is unknown, but Mathias was a member of the community as early as 1824, at least six years before the first large German influx. His partnership with Jean Baptiste Valle in a general store from 1828 to 1833 suggests that the family was blending into the French village rather than trying to create their own German community (MHSA 1828 and 1833). No documentary evidence has been located to indicate that Mathias owned any property in Ste. Genevieve until he bought the land and buildings on it from the Janises; how long and where the family lived before buying the Janis estate is unknown. Since the 1850 census lists the twenty-six year old Alexander Ziegler, Mathias and Barbara Ziegler's second eldest child, as being born in Missouri, then it is logical to assume that the Zieglers were living in Ste. Genevieve as early as 1824 (SGA 1850).

Mathias used the building as a residence and tobacco shop (Franzwa 1998:137), presumably turning the tavern end of the building into the shop. He soon died, however, in 1835, leaving the home and tobacco shop to Barbara (SGA 1835). Leaving a business to one's wife was not an uncommon practice in Ste. Genevieve. Eighteenth-century French laws guaranteeing that a woman would receive equal inheritance and would keep any property she brought into the marriage were transplanted to the New World (Boyle 1987:779, 781). François Janis' 1833 estate division shows that these practices survived well into the nineteenth century in Ste. Genevieve (SGA 1833a:366-375), even though by this time they were more customary than law, since Ste. Genevieve was, after 1803, an American town.

In addition to the continuance of French legal traditions, the economic dealings of the residents of Ste. Genevieve were conducive for women to run businesses. Trade in Ste. Genevieve was tied to communities throughout the New World, and Ste. Genevieve businesses traded and bought goods from Quebec , New Orleans , Philadelphia , New York , the West Indies, and Puerto Rico , in addition to other communities in the Illinois Country. This level of off-site trade often required the prolonged absence of the businessmen, which gave their wives the power and opportunity to run the business and other financial aspects of the family during their absences (Boyle 1987:784-785).

The Ziegler family probably continued to operate the tobacco shop for at least two and half decades after Mathias' death. An 1837 account ledger for a tobacco shop belonging to John Ziegler, the eldest son, is one piece of evidence (MHSA 1837). The census records offer more clues to the continuation of the tobacco shop. The 1840 census (SGA 1840) states that five members of the household were involved in what the census labeled as "manufacturers and traders." The 1850 census shows that, with the exception of John and the youngest child, Charles, the rest of Mathias and Barbara's children were still living in the home. Of these children, Alexander, the second eldest son, is identified as a tobacconist (SGA 1850). While these records clearly show that the family continued running a tobacco business, it is not known for certain whether that business continued to be situated on the property. However, it is logical to assume that the Ziegler family continued running the tobacco shop out of the same rooms in which Mathias originally established the business.

In 1851, Barbara was forced to sell the property on the courthouse steps in order to pay off the debts left by Mathias at the time at his death. Another son, Francis Ziegler, bought the property, but the deed was not officially transferred to him until 1860 (SGA 1851). Even though she no longer owned the home, Barbara continued to live there with her son and his family until her death in October of 1862 (Beckerman 1984:38; SGA 1860). Francis does not seem to have continued in the family tobacco business; the 1860 census lists his occupation as "clerk" (SGA 1860). Under his ownership, the building was remodeled in Victorian style and he seems to have eliminated the commercial aspect of the structure (Scott, personal communication).

 

Ziegler Home, 1880s, along S. Gabouri Creek (note Victorian decorative elements on porch/galerie; barn is in the background, at left)
(original photograph in the Western Manuscript Collection, University of Missouri-Rolla)

 

Francis Ziegler died in September 1900 (Beckerman 1984:38). Because his wife Josephine Moreau had died in April 1883 (Beckerman 1984:38), his 1897 will left the house and the lot on which it resided to his children, Joseph, Barbara, Blanche, Isabelle, and Corrine (SGA 1897:377). Joseph Ziegler had married and moved out of the home before this time, but Barbara, Blanche, Isabelle, and Corrine never married and they lived in the house for some time after this. By early 1900s, the women had sold two small portions of the property to Edward Moreau, a relative from their mother's (Josephine Moreau) side of the family (Ste. Genevieve Court Records 1906, 1910). In June of 1938, the two surviving daughters, Barbara and Corrine, sold the building and the property to their two nieces (Ste. Genevieve Court Records 1938a). By this time Barbara and Corrine had moved to St. Louis and the home had been rented to another family. The nieces sold the property to the renters in October of that same year (Ste. Genevieve Court Records 1938b).

 

Janis-Ziegler House, c. 1930s

 

Janis-Ziegler House prior to the flood of 1993

 

Two other families owned the building until 1976, when Norbert and Frankye Donze bought it and ran it as a historical museum until 1992. During the flood of 1993, more than eight feet of water flooded the building for two months, from the ground up into the raised first floor. In 1996, Hilliard and Bonnie Goldman bought the Janis-Ziegler house and with the support of architectural and archaeological research have undertaken the task of restoring the building (Evans 2001:59-60). Today the Janis-Ziegler house is located on the National Register of Historic Places (United States Department of the Interior n.d.).

 

Janis-Ziegler House today, undergoing restoration to its c. 1790 appearance
(owners: Hilliard and Bonnie Goldman)

 

 

Bequette-Ribault House, 2003

 

Excavations at the Bequette-Ribault Site (23SG271), Ste. Genevieve, Missouri:
The 2004-2005 Field Season

Elizabeth M. Scott
Illinois State University
Report submitted April 2007

During the summers of 2004 and 2005, Illinois State University conducted archaeological field schools at the Bequette-Ribault site (23SG271) on St. Mary's Road in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri; the property is owned by Drs. William and Donna Charron, of St. Louis, Missouri. Ten 5'x5' units were excavated to sterile soil, and 8,383 artifacts and 606.1 grams of animal and plant remains were recovered. The excavations revealed the remains of one late eighteenth-century structure of poteaux-en-terre construction, tentatively identified as a chicken coop (poulailler) or other animal coop. However, the excavations also indicated that there was extensive 20th-century disturbance to the archaeological deposits in the central portion of the site. It is suggested that any future excavations be focused on other portions of the site and be preceded by an extensive remote sensing survey. A remote sensing survey was conducted on the central portion of the site in 2005 by Dr. Jay Johnson of the University of Mississippi; it was inconclusive, but seemed to indicate a few areas that warranted further testing.

Historical and Archaeological Interpretation of the Bequette-Ribault Site

The interpretation that follows summarizes what is known from primary historic documents and archaeological data. The primary documents are housed in the Ste. Genevieve County Courthouse, the microfilmed collections of the Ste. Genevieve Archives (housed in the Ste. Genevieve Public Library) and the reference collections of the Ste. Genevieve Public Library. The archaeological materials are in the possession of Drs. William and Donna Charron; a full report and set of catalogue sheets is on file with the Site Files of the Missouri Archaeological Society, University of Missouri, Columbia.

 

View from the front of the Bequette-Ribault House, looking toward the Big Field (Le Grand Champ); pecan trees mark the boundaries of the original long lots.

 

Bequette Occupation (c. 1785-c. 1836)

We do not yet know exactly when Jean Baptiste Bequette/Bequet built his house along the edge of the Grand Champ in New Ste. Genevieve. He was farming just across the road by 1784, and might well have built his house (or moved it from the Old Town ) soon thereafter. In a land deed dated 1796, a soldier in the local Spanish regiment, Antonio Torrique, says that he had voluntarily abandoned a plot of his land to Bequette; however, he does not say when he had abandoned it.

 

Front of the Bequette-Ribault House, restored; note the French vernacular poteaux-en-terre (posts-in-ground) construction; the surround galerie, and the open space between the top of the walls and the roof.

 

The extant house on the property is one of the very few remaining examples in the U.S. of poteaux-en-terre construction. The posts were set upright, close together, in a wall trench. A variety of materials was used to fill in the spaces between the upright posts; in this case, willow barreaux or rabbets, strips that form an angled framework between the posts, and then bousillage (a mixture of clay and grass or straw) was pressed into the interstices. Then the entire wall was covered with a lime plaster or whitewash.

 

Bequette-Ribault House undergoing restoration in the mid-1980s, under the ownership of Royce and Margaret Wilhauk.

 

When restoration was begun on the house in the 1980s, dendrochronological dating was carried out by the University of Missouri-Columbia. The university team took samples from many of the upright posts, floorboards, and joists. The resulting dates showed that all of the wood had been cut in 1807 or 1808. This is, of course, somewhat later than the 1780s documentary evidence (or even the 1796 land deed) suggests as the beginning of the Bequette occupation of the lot. It is entirely possible that the 1807-1808 house was built in the exact location of an earlier house. This was found to be the case, for example, in every house that has been excavated at another eighteenth-century French settlement, that of Fort Michilimackinac, in northern Michigan. It is also possible that an earlier house was built elsewhere on the property.

 

Example of rebuilt poteaux-en-terre walls, seen archaeologically; from excavations at Fort Michilimackinac, northern Michigan

 

Bequette-Ribault House lot, view from rear

 

Our earliest description of the lot, and the most complete one, is found in Jean Baptiste Bequette's will of 1809. He notes that the lot contained "house, a barn, a mill with a cabin, a negro cabin, a corn crib, a garden, and orchard etc. etc." He also lists several enslaved individuals: "one negro woman, a slave by the name of Louise with her children" and "a millato slave by the name of Joseph."

Jean Baptiste Bequette, Sr., continued to live in the house with his son John Baptiste Bequette and his son's wife, Rene Caillot dit LaChance, until his death sometime after 1809. His son, John B. Bequette, died in 1836, and it is possible that his wife Rene died soon thereafter; in 1839, the court appointed Paschal Bequette to be guardian of six children under the age of 14, who were the children of John Baptiste Bequette, deceased. At the same time, the court ordered that the Public Administrator take charge of the estate of John Bte. Bequette, deceased, something that probably would not have occurred had his wife been alive.

In the summers of 2004 and 2005, Illinois State University conducted archaeological field schools in the lot behind the standing house on the Bequette-Ribault property. Ten 5'x5' units were excavated by trowel to sterile subsoil, with the soils being water-screened through window-screen mesh.

 

View from the rear of the Bequette-Ribault House lot, showing 2004 excavations; part of the Big Field (Le Grand Champ) may be seen in the background (at right are early 20th-century corn crib, barn, and shed)

 

2004 excavations in backyard of Bequette-Ribault lot (LaSource-Durand House, at right, was moved to the property in the 1980s.)

 

Water-screening excavated soils; view is toward the back of the Bequette-Ribault House lot (LaSource House at right was moved to the property in the 1980s.)

 

Mitch Propst, screening soil through hand-held 1/4" screen, onto 1/16" windowscreen, for water-screening (2004 season)

 

Our excavations uncovered one end of a long, narrow building, made of poteaux-en-terre construction. The wall trenches are fairly wide, containing upright posts and post stains, surrounded by clay.

 

Plan drawing of wall ditches for probable chicken coop (poulailler), rear yard of Bequette-Ribault property; post molds and one post visible within ditches

 

Julie Richko (center) and Richard Young (right) take measurements and make a plan map at bottom of a level (2004 season). (The remains of a post, with clay surrounding it, from the animal coop wall, is visible in the foreground.)

 

Wall ditch of probable chicken coop (poulailler), rear yard of Bequette-Ribault property, corner post with clay visible in foreground

 

The only post hole with wood still remaining was a corner post; it was identified as yellow pine (K. Parker, personal communication). Right outside the wall trench, we found part of a bowl, made of coarse red earthenware with a green lead glaze. This kind of ceramic was made in France in the 18th century, perhaps in the Sadirac region outside Bordeaux (Loewen and Régaldo 2007). It is precisely what we would expect the Bequettes to have had in the 1780s when they moved up to the New Town. This kind of utilitarian ware is commonly found at French colonial sites in North America. It continued to be used along the Gulf coast until around 1800, well after the end of French colonial control.

 

Green lead-glazed coarse red earthenware vessel fragments, found along the outside of the wall ditch for the probable chicken coop.

 

 

 

We also excavated several of the post stains in the wall, although not the one containing the wood. In the post molds for this structure, we found more coarse red earthenware, Chinese export porcelain, wine bottle glass, and a thin fragment of a pharmaceutical or medicine bottle. All of these date to the eighteenth century, and, combined with the lead-glazed coarse earthenware, give us an eighteenth-century date for the construction of the building.

 

Excavations of the animal coop, 2005

 

ISU graduate school student Dana Pertermann (left) and undergraduate student James King (right) excavate an 0.10' level in the animal coop area (2005; it may be noted that James King is blind, and yet was able to participate in most aspects of the excavations).

 

In the layers just above and alongside the building remains, we found artifacts that hint at a variety of activities. We found small bits and pieces of domestic refuse, but not enough to suggest that this was a house or residence of any kind. We found Dutch case bottle glass, British creamware (which would have been available just across the river from British traders in Illinois), and a small brass knee-buckle, all of which suggest domestic activities. However, we also found several items used in the fur trade with Native Americans: glass seed beads, worked catlinite, lead shot, and fragments of French honey-colored gunflints.

And so, we know the structure was built in the late 1700s, based on the materials found in the wall trenches. There does not seem to be enough domestic refuse for it to be a house. And the structure is no wider than 4 or 5 feet. Its size and shape is very much like those of animal coops, and especially chicken coops, found on plantations in Lower Louisiana (Boyer 2001:67) and which may still be seen at Oakland Plantation in the Cane River National Historical Park near Natchitoches, Louisiana.

 

Setting pen, Oakland Plantation, Cane River
(note widely-spaced vertical posts)

 

Chicken coop and setting pen at Oakland Plantation, Cane River
(note the widely-spaced vertical posts)

 

Supporting this interpretation are the numerous pieces of glass, ceramic, and stone recovered from the excavations that are smooth, rounded, and highly "tumbled" or polished; these look very much like the gizzard stones that chickens produce as they digest their food. Chickens choose sharp or rough objects to swallow, and these stay in the gizzard to help break down cracked corn, meal, or other foods. Once the objects are no longer sharp, they are no longer useful, and the chicken regurgitates the stones. In this case, they seem to have picked up not only small rough stones, but also pieces of broken glass and ceramic.

 

Fragments of glass (left) and ceramic (right) that have been "tumbled," likely representing chicken gizzard "stones;" found in and around the probable chicken coop.

 

Watercolor, made in the 1850s by Father Joseph Michel Paret, showing the rear house lot of a French dwelling on the Mississippi River. Note the long, narrow building at the center right (with chickens in front of it) and other small buildings identified as "animal coops"
(from Plantations by the River [Boyer 2001])

 

Thus, the evidence suggests that this structure was a chicken coop, or poulailler. Its location in the lower, or far, end of the house lot is similar to those in the urban lots of New Orleans (Reeves 2006). Using nineteenth-century detailed plan drawings of town lots in New Orleans, Sally Reeves found that the bas-cour, or lower yard, was where outbuildings such as chicken coops and privies were located; kitchens, slave quarters, and other outbuildings were located closer to the houses, as were gardens and orchards.

 

View from the rear of the Bequette-Ribault House lot, showing 2004 excavations; part of the Big Field (Le Grand Champ) may be seen in the background
(at right are early 20th-century corn crib, barn, and shed)

 

Ribault Occupation (c. 1840-1982)

In March of 1840, the Bequette property was sold on the courthouse steps to the highest bidder, Antoine Recole, for $405. Recole is identified as a free man of color, and two months later, in May of 1840, he sold the property to Clarise, a free woman of color, for the same amount, $405.

Clarise (also spelled Clarissa) is included in the will of a French man named John Ribault, who died in 1849. The will also mentions two children, John and Thérèse, and a granddaughter, Clara. As of yet, we have no document that places John Ribault, of France, as a resident in this house. However, the only owners of the property, from 1840 until 1982, were Clarise and her descendants, all of whose last names were Ribault.

This suggests a practice that was common in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century lower Louisiana, known as plaçage, or the "placing" of free young women of color with a French or Creole man. The man provided economically for the woman and their children, and the children were given his last name, but he and the woman never married. Something very similar, perhaps, was happening in upper Louisiana as well.

But what of John Ribault and Clarise before 1840? John Ribault was a witness at the wedding of Pierre Bolduc in 1821 (Ekberg 2002:52). He is listed in the account of an 1823 sale of the belongings of one Henry Cesbron Descrance, deceased. As was the custom, probably from French notarial practice, not only was a probate inventory prepared, but also a record of the articles that were sold at auction, who bought them, and how much they paid for them. In this case, John Ribaut bought one sheet, two pocketbooks, and one smaller trunk, totaling $2.56. He also is mentioned in court proceedings in January of 1836, and throughout the 1830s and 1840s was appointed a member of the jury to hear court cases. In the 1830 census, John Ribaut lived alone, between neighbors Francis Janis, Sr., and Antoine Recole; his age was listed as between 50 and 60 years.

We have much more documentation about Clarise and her children and grandchildren. In 1833, Clarise was listed as a slave of François Janis, Sr., deceased, and was inherited by his married daughter, Emelie Janis LeCompte. In the same division of François Janis, Sr.'s property after his death in 1832, are listed a young mulatto slave named John (to be inherited by Felix Janis) and a slave woman named Thérèse (to be inherited by Emelie Janis LeCompte). Since at least 1830, John Ribaut lived between the residences of François Janis, Sr., and Antoine Recole, it is clear that he lived in close proximity to Clarise, and could indeed have been the father of the young mulatto slave named John in the Janis estate. This is, in fact, borne out in later documents.

In court records from July, 1836, Clarise (aged 45 years) was listed, along with Antoine and Margaret Recole and ten other free people of color, as having been issued the license she was required to have in order to live as a free person of color in antebellum Missouri.

In John Ribault's will, he included a granddaughter of Clarise, named Clara. Her mother was Clarise's daughter Thérèse, whom he said had "intermarried with a free man of color, Michel Badeau." In the 1840 federal census, which only lists the names of the heads of families, Michel Badeau's family includes one free colored male between 24 and 36 years of age (himself) and one free colored female between 10 and 24 years of age (most likely Thérèse).

As might be expected, right next door lived Thérèse's mother, Clarise, who is listed as the head of the household. Her household includes one free colored female between 36 and 55 years of age (Clarise) and one free colored male between 10 and 24 years of age (her son John). Their neighbors are Antoine Recole and Joseph Bequette, who is black or mulatto (Jean Baptiste Bequette, Sr., mentioned a mulatto slave named Joseph in his 1809 will, possibly the individual named here in 1840). We don't know when the census was taken in 1840, so we don't know whether or not it was before or after Antoine Recole bought the Bequette property and then sold it to Clarise; but it's clear that she and her son John were living in the house at the time of the census. Ribault family history holds that they were living in the house by 1836 or 1837 (Franzwa n.d.). This coincides with the death of John Baptiste Bequette, Jr., and possibly his wife, so that the house could indeed have been rented at that time.

Several lines of evidence support the identity of this free colored male between 10 and 24 years of age who is living with Clarise in 1840 as her son, John Ribault. His tombstone lists his birth year as 1826; also, he is listed as John Ribaut, aged 22, on the 1850 census. Those two dates produce ages that are within two years of each other, certainly close enough to indicate the same individual. As noted above, John Ribault (Sr.) was in Ste. Genevieve at least by 1821, and living next door to Clarise at least by 1830. This suggests he probably was the father of Clarise's son John, who is listed in censuses from 1850 on with the last name of Ribaut.

The other bit of corroborating evidence that John Ribaut, from France, was the father of Clarise's children is found in the 1850 census. You will recall that, in his 1849 will, John Ribault mentioned Clara, Clarise's granddaughter, and Thérèse's daughter. Ribault died in 1849, but in the 1850 census, Clarise is again listed as the head of the household. She is listed as 57 years old, having been born in Virginia. Living with her are her son John Ribaut, aged 22, and Clara Badeau, aged 7, who would be her granddaughter. Since neither Michel Badeau nor Thérèse are listed in the1850 census, it seems logical to assume that they had died between 1843 (Clara's birth year) and 1850, since Clara was living with her grandmother.

In 1860, the household consisted of Clarise (aged 65) and John (aged 31), both identified as "of color." In 1866, we see Clara surface again, this time as Clarise's married granddaughter, Clara Morrison, to whom Clarise sold a portion of the property. Then in 1867, two days before his marriage to Jane Bahr (also "of color"), Clarise sold the remainder of the property to her son, John Ribaut. By 1870, the head of household is listed as John Rebo, who is living there with his wife Jane, their daughter Mary (aged 2), and Clarise, aged 71. In 1880, John Ribeau and his wife Jane live in the house with 6 children, ranging in age from 12 (Mary) to 4 months (Louis); Clarise still resides in the house with them, listed as age 90 on that census.

Thus, Clarise lived in this house for at least 40 years, even though her son John was, after 1867, the owner. We have not been able to find a record of Clarise's death or burial; however, these records could be in the parish church register of burials. John Ribaut, Sr., is buried in Memorial Cemetery in Ste. Genevieve; recent remote sensing there may reveal whether or not there are two persons buried in his plot.

One last bit of indirect evidence tying the wealthy John Ribault, from France, to this house is found in his will. In 1849, Ribault's estate was valued at more than $25,000, certainly wealthy at the time. He provided that Clarise should receive, every six months throughout her life, the interest from two bonds on the American Iron Mountain Company, the bonds totaling $2,019. If any monies remained after Clarise's death, they were to be paid to her son, "a free man of color called John," and to her granddaughter Clara, "a free girl of color."

The bulk of his estate, however ($22,315), was to be divided between "Blaise Ribault my nephew of France" and Blaise's brothers and sisters. Thus, there is little in his will to indicate that John Ribault, Sr., had any other family in America except Clarise and their children. While this is indirect, and circumstantial, evidence, we think a case can be made that, at least for 9 years, Ribault lived in this house, at least on a part-time basis.

 

Ribault family plot, Valle Springs Cemetery, Ste. Genevieve

 

Grave marker of Alonzo Ribault, the last Ribault descendant to live in the Bequette-Ribault House (Valle Springs Cemetery, Ste. Genevieve)

 

His son, John Ribaut, died in 1899, and the property was occupied until 1969 by Jane and their children. Even after the last resident Ribault, Alonzo, died in 1969, the property remained in the hands of Ribault heirs until 1982, when it was purchased by Royce and Margaret Wilhauk, the first of several owners who purchased the property with plans to restore and preserve it.

 

Field crew, 2004 season

 

Field school crew, 2005 season

 

 

 
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