Jean Jacques Haydel Sr. and the Mialarets
Jean Jacques Haydel, the youngest child of Ambroise Haydel, and the last living member of the first Louisiana-born generation of the Haydels, witnessed two economic periods dramatically different. Indigo was booming at the time of his marriage and by the time of his death he had fully enjoyed the cultivation of sugar. He was among the most successful planters of Louisiana. In 1774, Jean Jacques Haydel Sr. married Marie Magdelaine Bozonnier Marmillon, a resident of New Orleans and member of a successful family of planters. He fathered eight children: Marguerite Aymée, Cesara, Charlotte Adélaide, Jean Jacques Jr., Erasie, Antoine Telesphore, and Jean François Marcellin. A child apparently born in 1777 and baptized privately died the same year and was interred on 12 November 1777. Antoine Telesphore died a teenager on 8 August 1801.
Marie Magdelaine Bozonier Marmillon died on 26 February 1812. She was fifty-nine. For some reason, her community with Jean Jacques Haydel Sr. was not inventoried until seven years later. The main plantation was sold to Jean Jacques Jr. and Marcellin Haydel. Jean Jacques Haydel Sr. was, along with Jean Christophe Haydel, the wealthiest among his brothers. He built the main house still standing today on Whitney plantation, apparently when the indigo business was at its peak. Improvements were done later with the boom of the sugar industry in the early 1800s. He resided there until his death on December 1, 1826 at age eighty-two. His death record referred to him as “the Godfather of the Parish Church.” About seven years before his passing away, his reputation as a generous and welcoming person might have brought to his care an atypical stranger, who was taken back and forth between Europe and America by turbulences in the North-Atlantic world.
This stranger’s name was Yves Louis Jacques Hypolite Mialaret, a native of a hamlet, somewhere near Montauban, France. He was somewhat a royalist since he had to flee to Saint Domingue with the breakout of the French Revolution. There he became a schoolmaster and eventually a friend and secretary of the family of Toussaint Louverture, tutoring the latter and his son Issaac. He was able to escape the furies of the Haitian Revolution and returned to France, where he was forced to resign himself to the silent occupation of employé in the Government revenues, at different places, from the Pyrenees to Tuscany. In 1812, he was appointed to the Island of Elba (Italy), then under the control of France. There he met and supported Napoleon on his comeback to Paris but, after the downfall of the empire, he fled again from France and sought refuge this time in Louisiana. The eventful life of Yves Mialaret was recounted by his daughter Athenaïs, the spouse of the celebrated French historian Jules Michelet. The following lines depict the encounter of her father with Jean Jacques Haydel Sr., who welcomed him, hired him as a teacher, and eventually allowing him to marry his fourteen year old granddaughter, even though he was forty-one:
My father, inconsolable, left the country, and sought a new home on the Mississippi. Following the course of the river, he approached, at evening, the door of a habitation far from town or any village […]. The family which he met was a representative type of the people and the races in Louisiana. It had a triple origin, -Rhenish, English, and French. The Haydels from the Rhine, and the English Becknells, who came over in the time of Law, united themselves by marriage to the family of Francis Bozonier (alias Marmillon), a colonel from Provence, who had left this country on account of an unfortunate duel […]. After escaping his life from the fires of St. Domingo and the horrors of its massacres, and from the den of Toussaint; after having joined in the triumphal return of the Eagle […]; to live to recite these wonders, made (my father) a man of singular attractions […]. He made a conquest of the American family: not only of Mr. Haydel, its head; but of his children, his nieces, -a charming circle of young girls. Mr. Haydel said, “You shall go no farther: all these shall be your pupils.” The most beautiful, the most serious of the young ladies was Emma Becknell, still a child, but blooming and growing hour by hour in charms, like the flowers of that fertile land. Having lost her mother, she ruled her father’s and her uncle’s establishments; and, at twelve years of age, was mistress of a household […]. She was fourteen years old. One day, when he was reproving her with the authority of a master, without resisting him, she said, with her English gravity, “I would prefer to be scolded by my husband” […]. One month later, Miss Emma, robed and veiled in white, was led home from church by my father [Michelet, Madame J. 1868: The Story of my Childhood].
The marriage contract was signed on 2 September 1820 in St. John the Baptist parish. Marguerite Emma Becnel was the oldest daughter of Pierre Becnel Sr. and the granddaughter of Jean Jacques Haydel Sr. Her mother, Marguerite Aymée Haydel, died on 12 April 1817, about five years after the passing away of her grandmother, Marie Madeleine Bozonier Marmillon. When Yves Mialaret arrived at Habitation Haydel, Emma was very likely spending her time between the future Evergreen and Whitney plantations, caring for her widowed father and grandfather, and occasionally serving her maternal uncles Jean Jacques Haydel Jr. and Marcellin Haydel. In 1823 Yves Mialaret and Emma Becnel moved to Montauban, in Southern France, where they engaged in farming. The house they built on their farm, “in the American style”, was surrounded by a “covered gallery,” “roomy and convenient,” with magnificent vistas on the vast plains of Languedoc and the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees. It was somewhat a reproduction of the maison basse (one-story building) once standing on the Haydel plantation, where the couple may have lived before moving to France. Antonin Mialaret, the fourth of their six children, was born there in 1827.
At age 61, declining fortune led Yves Mialaret back to Louisiana for the purpose of handling the estate he left behind when he moved to France. This last trip across the ocean explains his sudden return into official documents in St John the Baptist parish between 1832 and 1836. He was mostly engaged in transactions with his brothers-in-law. To ensure that his son Antonin would get good education in English, he took him to school in Cincinnati, Ohio. When they arrived in this city, the school was temporarily removed into the country, to escape a typhoid fever epidemic. The father was unfortunately among the victims. His remains were transferred to Louisiana, in St. John the Baptist parish, and buried near his father-in-law. Antonin Mialaret settled in the same parish and married Amélie Becnel, the daughter of Ramire Becnel, his maternal uncle.
Cont. - Jean Jacques Haydel Jr.
Ashley Rogers - Director of Operations
Special events, tour feedback and suggestions, general information, accessibility questions, museum donations, curatorial questions, gift shop questions.
Dr. Ibrahima Seck - Director of Research
Educational material requests, schools and teachers, historical research requests
Public Relations, press contact, social media.
Whitney Plantation In The News
Wall Street Journal:
Whitney Plantation Museum to Focus on Slavery
Why America Needs A Slavery Museum
New York Times
Building the First Slavery Museum in America
New Museum Depicts 'The Life Of A Slave From Cradle To The Tomb'
The Australian: Life
Lest we forget: Louisiana's slavery museum
BBC World Service: Outlook
Audio interview with John Cummings
Copyright © 2015 Whitney Plantation. All rights reserved