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Antoine Blondel

    According to documents received by us from Mr. Don C. Wood of the "Berkeley County Historical Society" in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Anthony Blondel arrived in the United States in 1805 as a refugee from the Haitian Revolution in the French colony of Saint Domingue.  The Haitians were successful in that revolution and France lost that colony entirely when Haiti declared her independence in 1804.  Antoine applied for citizenship in 1821 at the Berkeley County Courthouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia.  He stated at that time that he was sixty-nine years old and that he was born on the island of St. Domingue.  He had owned a plantation near the town of Caracol there. In Saint Domingue he was an affluent and very wealthy man.  While in the United States he became known to the English speaking population as Anthony Blondel.  Also in America his last years were spent living in a house that he had owned, borrowed money on, and then lost through foreclosure proceedings.  He died in poverty.   Antoine and many other Blondel family members are buried in St. John's Catholic Cemetery in the city of Martinsburg.
    He had come to the United States in search of his family.  His wife Rosella, had fled the French colony to escape certain death.  Anthony had no knowledge of her where-a-bouts or even as to whether or not his family had survived.
    On the night Rosella fled Saint Domingue Antoine was away from home trying to help 
organize a militia to defend the French colonists' homes.  That night all the plantations in the area surrounding the Blondel Plantation came under heavy assault.  According to Mr. Don Wood of the "Berkeley County Historical Society"  Rosella and her children fled when she was warned of their impending doom by a loyal slave and saw the neighbor's plantations burning.  She gathered her children together and they went to the nearby seashore.  In the shallow waters there she and her children hid all night hoping to survive.  She was successful.  The Negroes who were searching for them with the intent of ending their lives did not find them.  She then took a ship to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. and stayed with family friends.  But, Anthony returned home to find his family gone, his house burned and all of his property destroyed.  Sadly, the family would be separated for several years.
    One of their sons, John Henry, would have been a small baby when his mother gathered him in her arms that night and fled into the night's ocean waters.  Jean Marie, another son, would have been about twelve years old at the time and a terrified young boy.  It must have been all the children's mother could do just to keep the boys from screaming out in terror and revealing their location.
    Certainly Anthony thought that his wife and children might have perished.  He did not know that his wife had saved herself and their family.  Anthony must have searched for his family frantically in the French West Indies in the hope that they were alive.  Anthony, or Antoine, as he was known to the French, is recorded as a witness to a wedding in Jamaica after Rosella had fled to Philadelphia.  He was apparently there while searching for his wife and children.  He finally found them, living with friends in Pennsylvania.
    There is a record of Anthony Blondel as a witness to a wedding in the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia in 1798.  It is for this reason that we believe that the Blondel family friends who offered them refuge were Peter & Mary Pelain or Lucian Marie Duscuret and his wife Sarah.  We believe that Anthony and his family was visiting those friends who were refugees in Philadelphia at that time.  Anthony, believing his plantation in Caracol to be safe and free of danger must have returned his family to his home in Saint Domingue.
    In 1798 and under the exceptional leadership of the former slave Toussaint L'Ouverture Saint Domingue appeared to be once again at peace. Although L'Ouverture was deceptive at times he had been appointed governor general of the French colony in 1796  as a reward for his support and defense of French interests.  He had pledged his loyalty to France.  He united the entire island of Hispaniola, and reaffirmed the abolishment of slavery by the French General Sonthonax.  He instated forced labor of the former slaves, albeit they were paid wages.  But, most of the former slaves were content to do so as they freely followed and believed in the character of L'Ouverture.  L'Ouverture had made it plain that work and prosperity was the only way the former slaves could remain free.
    In 1799 and 1800 it appeared that the French colonial woes were coming to an end and that prosperity would continue.  But, Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in France and made two crucial errors that once again brought bloodshed to the island.  He attempted to depose L'Ouverture and placed his brother on Spain's throne.  Had Napoleon not chosen to try to depose L'Ouverture in his quest to use Saint Domingue as a stepping stone to a new French empire in the Western Hemisphere peace may have been realized.
    If that one event had not occurred Anthony Blondel may have been able to raise his family in peace and safety in Caracol; however, Napoleon didn't just stop there.  He betrayed L'Ouverture, who was technically a French soldier, and sent 40,000 French troops to remove him from power in Saint Domingue.    These actions by Napoleon once again brought death and destruction to the colony of Saint Domingue.  The Spanish people on the island attacked the French to extract revenge.  Simultaneously the former slaves of the island attacked the French in retaliation for Napoleon's betrayal of L'Ouverture.
    Ironically, the Spanish were supplying arms to L'Ouverture's revolutionary army who were by then openly at war with the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte.   At this late point in the Haitian Revolution even the Americans supplied arms to the revolutionaries because of their fear of French expansion in the New World.  Previously, under President Washington and Jefferson the Americans had pledged financial support to the French in hope of suppressing the slave revolts. The entire French army that was sent by Napoleon was plagued by disease (by perhaps the first use of biological weapons in the world) and thus, destroyed in the interior of Haiti.
    But, even so, the political events that brought the Blondel family to this eventful time and found them as refugees in the United States had their roots in Europe.  Inspired by the American Revolution the French Revolution had spilled over into France's colonies and inspired the slave revolts in many of the Caribbean islands.  Many white French citizens were slaughtered in the battles that raged across the colonies and many African slaves died fighting for their freedom; not to mention the British, Spanish, and French soldiers who also died.
    The French government battled unsuccessfully to bring the battered colony back under her control.  The former slaves declared their independence  in 1804 and became the present day nation of Haiti.
    So, it was with this background that the Blondel family fled Saint Domingue. Anthony Blondel's wife's maiden name was Rosella Antoinette Loche. One of Anthony's and Rosella's grandsons and John Henry Blondel's son, Richard Anthony Loche Blondel was born in 1816. He bears his grandmother's maiden name as a second middle name.  The couple had two known sons, Jean Marie Blondel who acquired the English name of John M. Blondel and was born in 1790 on the Blondel plantation in Caracol, Saint Domingue, and John Henry Blondel who was also born in Saint Domingue but in 1800.
    What Rosella Blondel did on that one evening not only saved saved the life of her baby and the lives of her other children, but she enabled the hopes and dreams of many generations to come to fruition.  We shall forever salute the bravery and fortitude her actions displayed in the preservation of her family.  She challenged fate and what must have appeared to be certain doom.
    She gave us life.

Please Visit this Page:  Blondel Family History

Most of these documents below have been submitted to us by
Don C. Wood, identified, and copied accurately. Other additional documents are also accurate and correctly identified.

Note:  You can right click on these images, save them and then load them with any image editor to enlarge them for closer inspection.  The images shown below are in low resolution to decrease the time required to load this page.  There are much higher quality copies of these images available by following the links.  All the other document copy links are high resolution copies  and therefore suitable for enlargement.  They load slowly due to the size and quality of the individual files.

Don C. Wood is the Director of the:
Berkeley County Historical Society
126 East Race Street
POB 1624
Martinsburg, W.V.
Phone:  304 267-4713

"The Mahogany Tree" written by Decatur Hedges
Published in 1936,  Page No. 125

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Link to a high resolution copy of the above document:   Mahogany Tree

Anthony Blondel's hand-written statement that accompanied his application for American citizenship and filed at the Berkeley County Courthouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia

Loading Naturalization Statement

Link to a high resolution copy of the above document:   Naturalization Statement

Anthony Blondel's obituary as it appeared in the January 2, 1834 edition of the
"Martinsburg Gazette"

Loading Anthony Blondel's Obituary

Transcribed Copy:

    "On Tuesday evening last, at an advanced age Mr. Anthony Blondell, of this place.  The deceased was one of the unfortunate sufferers in the St. Domingo revolution, by which he was reduced from affluence to poverty.  He sought refuge in the United States, where he has struggled against the reverse of fortune, sustaining to the hour of his death a character for honesty, and integrity, which never lost to the blasts of adversity."

Link to an excellent high resolution copy of the above document: Anthony's Obituary

This is a set of links to a two part scan of an article written by Don C. Wood concerning the Blondel buildings in Martinsburg, West Virginia that was published in the local newspaper:

This is a set of links to three color photographs of some of the Blondel buildings and one in black and white of the John H. Blondel mansion in Martinsburg, West Virginia:

The photographs above were submitted by Mr. Don Wood of the Berkeley County Historical Society in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Here are Mr. Don Wood's notes that he used to compile the first rough draft for the newspaper article above:

This is a link to a deed record index, submitted by Mr. Don C. Wood that lists some of the Blondel family's activity concerning their real estate holdings in Martinsburg:

    Below are the links to the documents that establish John M. Blondel's relationship to his father, Anthony.  John M. Blondel's side of the family has known for some time that John M. Blondel's wife was named Catherine A.  There has been much speculation as to what the "A" meant.  We are aware that there are several census records showing a woman named Catherine and a woman named Celeste in separate census records and differing years. We believe that these women were in fact one and the same person.
    These records indicate that Catherine and Celeste were the same age and of an age that would have been close to John M. Blondel's widow's age. John M. Blondel died from a severe illness in 1838. Those same census records indicate both times that she was living with other Blondel family members.
    Several different genealogical web sites record a John M. Blondel and Anne DuBois as having obtained their marriage license in Baltimore, Maryland on December 2, 1812.  We believe that a scan of the original hand-written Baltimore County's index that is recorded on Microfilm more accurately reveals that his bride's name was Aimee DuBois. Above the entry recording John M. Blondel and Aime DuBois' union is another record of a bride with the given name of "Anne", we believe that these names do indeed appear to be very similar, but on close inspection the difference between the author's hand written record of "Anne" and "Aimee" is clear.

Here is a copy of that scanned marriage index record:

Still, we were confused and then a few days after receiving the documents from Mr. Wood in Martinsburg we received a letter from a library in France:

Genealogie Et Histoire De La Caraibe
Pavillon 23-12 av.
Charles-de-Gaulle; 78230;

    This letter was in response to a letter that we had sent them asking for any information concerning a John M. Blondel or Jean Marie Blondel. We knew that the French version of John M. would have been Jean Marie.  We also inquired as to any information concerning him in the Baltimore area since we descendants of his knew him to have resided there.  We already had knowledge of the Blondel plantations in Caracol and Jeremie.  We did not know that Jean Marie was born on the Blondel plantation in Caracol, Saint Domingue until receiving this document.
    This document tells us that Jean Marie Blondel and Catherine Aime Celeste DuBois registered their marriage in Baltimore with the French consulate on January 20, 1813. It states that Jean Marie was born in Caracol in 1790 and that Catherine Aime Celeste Dubois was born in 1792 in Cap Francais, Saint Domingue.  This document also states that the registration on file with the French Embassy records both newlyweds parents names and his bride's parents names. Jean Marie's parents are identified as Rosalie Antoinette Loche and Antoine Blondel.  His bride's parents are identified as Jean Pierre DuBois and Marguerite Catherine Bonnamy L'Enfant.  Antoine Blondel is the French equivalent of Anthony Blondel and of course John M. Blondel is the English equivalent of the French name Jean Marie Blondel.
    Catherine DuBois Blondel, at a much later date wrote a letter to General La Fayette in regard to the Blondel plantations.

This is a link to a copy of that marriage document:

Antoine Blondel was a witness to a wedding in 1803 in Kingston, Jamaica.  The Bride and Groom were:
Marie Seveignes and Jacques Deruze

These are two drawings of the city of Kingston in Jamaica:

Second Document Submission From Berkeley County Historical Society: Documents
*Charles E. Blondel in 1879 operating a tin business in Keyser, West Virginia:  Metal Works

Certainly we will be looking forward to receiving many more documents from various sources as we continue to track the Blondel family through the ages.

Copying and reprinting of any of the information, images, or content in whole or in part of this page and the associated pages is strictly forbidden without the express written permission of one of the family members listed in the mail contact links.

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