Research in France - Richebourg

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Trip by Dave Bodine to Richebourg, France in 2020

In early 2020, I was able to take a day trip from Paris to Richebourg, France in order to do a little local research and take some photos of properties where the Bodin family might once have lived. We still lack hard evidence of Richebourg being the ancestral home of the Jean Bodin line from near Bethune, France, but there are some smoking guns. And now, almost 400 years after these Bodins left that area, we may have to be satisified with those kinds of smoking guns.

For a more detailed discussion on the reasons for Richebourg being the Bodin ancestral home, click here on the Notes page for John Bodine of near Bethune, France. I will summarize the evidence here very quickly.

In my opinion, the best and earliest evidence we have about the origins of our Bodine line in America comes from two sources. The first is the book Portrait and biographical record of Johnson, Poweshiek and Iowa Counties, Iowa (Chicago: Chapman Bros., 1893), p. 593-594. It states the following "...FREEMAN E. BODINE is a prosperous and highly-esteemed citizen of Malcolm Township, Poweshiek County, residing on section 8. He was born near Ovid, Seneca County, N.Y., October 8, 1822, his parents being Gilbert and Harriet Swarthout Bodine. The father, who was a native of Pennsylvania, was a son of Cornelius Bodine, of German descent. His family belonged to the persecuted Huguenots, who were expelled from France, afterward locating in the German Empire. The mother of our subject was born in Seneca County, N.Y., and was a daughter of Barney Swarthout, who was of Dutch ancestry."

Note that the Cornelius Bodine mentioned above was a great-grandson of the Jean Bodin who came from near Bethune, France (Freeman Bodine, 1823-1904; Gilbert Bodine, 1790-1854; Cornelius Bodine, 1757-1820; Abraham Bodine, ~1716-1769; John Bodine, ~1680 to ~1745; Jean Bodin, 1645-1695). This souce tells us that our Bodin line left France and located in the German Empire. This information was passed down from father to son in the earliest generations of Bodines in America.

The second excellent source about our Bodine line comes from the obituary of Peter Van Nest Bodine in The Farmer (N.Y.) Review of Friday, 3 Oct 1902:

The sudden death at Lodi, on the morning of Tuesday, September 23, 1902, of Peter Van Nest Bodine, whose portrait we publish this week, removes one of tbe best known business men of south Seneca county. The loss to the community is accentuated by its suddenness, as Mr. Bodine continued to take his usual active part in affairs up to the morning on which he died. He attended a political convention the previous Saturday; he was present and took part in the last prayer meeting preceding his death, and attended church twice on the last Sunday; and he was in his store until a late hour the evening before death called him. For some time past Mr. Bodine had not looked forward to many more years of life, but it was his earnest desire that he might keep his active interest in affairs as long as he should live. This desire was fully granted. His death ends a life of varied interests and usefulness. The Bodine name is of French derivation, and may be traced back to that Jean Bodin of the 16th century, who was a prominent French statesman and author of his day, and who visited the court of Queen Elizabeth. He died in 1596. The American branch of the family was founded by a namesake of his who settled on Staten lsland about 1682. A descendant of his in the third generation, Cornelius Bodine, came to Seneca county in 1802, and settled on a military claim on lot No. 29 in the town of Ovid, then marked by the ruins of the "Old Fort" of the Mound Builders, on the farm now owned by the Ditmars brothers. This farm passed to Cornelius' son George, who died there in 1868. Peter Van Nest Bodine was the second son of George, and was born at the homestead January 12, 1832.

We see from the two sources above, coming from two cousins who were both grandsons of Cornelius Bodine, that this family had very early information on this Bodine line. It's really quite stunning in its details. For lack of any other real documentation, I think we need to trust it concerning the immediate family line. Cornelius Bodine (1757-1820) was a great grandson of the Jean Bodin who came from France. Cornelius's father Abraham was born only twenty years after that Jean Bodin from France died on Staten Island. So I tend to give a lot of credence to what these two sources say. One detail is that they fled France for Germany before later coming to America. Another detail, which can be extrapolated from the obituary, is that the Jean Bodin who came to America is the original Bodine in America.

Knowing this, we later find in the French Reformed Church of Mannheim, Germany the following marriage record:

.....Fleurise Bailleul, y.man, native of Gorgue, province of la Leu, son of Anthoine Bailleul and Catherine Bodin, y.woman, native of Richebourg, daughter of Jean Bodin, have received the nuptial Benediction in our Church on Tuesday 10 Jan. 1677. Note that La Gorgue, France is only two miles north of Richebourg.

We also have the betrothal record of our Jean Bodin from the Reformed Dutch Church in the town of Flatbush, New York:

Betrothed December 26, 1679 Jean Boden, young man/bachelor from near Bethune in Artois and Maria Crosseron, young dame from near Rysszl in Vlaanderen, both residents of Staten Island. Married at Midwout Jan. 11, 1680 with testimony of the Bride's two brothers and Piere Verite all present.

Without repeating too many details from the Notes page I mentioned earlier, we see that a Catherine Bodine has a father named Jean Bodin and that Catherine herself is a native of Richebourg, France (meaning of course that her father lived there). This Catherine, marrying in 1677, would be the same generation as our Jean Bodin who married Mary Crocheron in New York in 1680. Jean, as we have known for many years, was from "near Bethune." Richebourg is very near Bethune. My guess is that Catherine and Jean were probably siblings or - at the least - cousins. Since Richebourg is only a few miles northwest of Bethune, then I feel we have a hot smoking gun as to where the ancestral lands of our Bodin line come from. Not only that, we have the probable name of our Jean Bodin's father. He, too, was Jean Bodin.

Like I said, I wanted to be brief regarding all that and just get on to what I found in Richebourg. That is the point of this web page. Before taking my trip, I tried to come up with an educated guess as to where in Richebourg the Bodin family might have lived. As one researches existing records of Protestants from that area, one can see that several other Protestants came from both Richebourg and Festubert. They border one another. Some other records mention the town of La Couture. And the town of Beuvry has also popped up on the radar screen at times. I have put together a map below of where all of these towns come together and the general region. You can see on the map below that the towns of Festubert and Richebourg are just a few miles northeast of Bethune. They are also WSW of Lille. And if you follow the purple road northeast, you see a black arrow that points to Armentieres on the border with Belgium. For me, the best bet for the Bodin ancestral home seems to be the southwest corner of Richebourg where it borders the town of Festubert and is also close to La Couture and Beuvry. Since quite a few Protestants came from these towns, it's possible they were neighbors in the same general area, i.e., the SW corner of Richebourg. Let me repeat, though, that this is just my best guess.

Richebourg and Region

And here below is a map just of Richebourg Township outlined by itself. I say "Township" since modern Richebourg is composed of two older towns Richebourg-Saint-Vaast and Richebourg-l'Avoué. The part where the Bodins probably come from was part of Richebourg-l'Avoué.

Richebourg Township

Getting down to even more detail, with street names now, is a photo below of the southwest corner of Richebourg Township. This comes from a map hanging in the Richebourg Township Hall (Mairie in French). This is where I think the Bodins once lived. This whole southwest corner borders on Festubert which is to the south of Richebourg. You can see the very southern tip of Richebourg Township dipping down into Festubert at where Rue des Blancs Chiens (White Dogs Road) eventually ends.

Richebourg SW Corner Street View

In this very southern tip of Richebourg Township is where I took some photos that I will put further below. First, here below is a Google map of that specific area. I picked up a couple of souvenirs from the field to take home: a beautiful little black and white rock and a broken piece of brick or pottery. It's possible they could have been on this land 400 years ago when the Bodins lived there. Maybe that's wishful thinking but it's cool to imagine.

Richebourg Township Southern Tip

Here below is a photo of that exact spot. I am facing kind of north by northeast as I take the photo.

Richebourg Township Southern Tip  

I took this photo below facing from just into Festubert toward the SW corner of Richebourg. The trees go along the southern tip of Richebourg. The white building in the background on the left is the Le Touret Memorial English Cemetery from WWI. This whole area and the town of Richebourg were destroyed by fighting in WWI. The towns around here are dotted with English Cemeteries from WWI. The Le Touret Cemetery is right on the road to Armentieres (State Route 171).

Richebourg Township Southern Tip

I took this photo below facing from just into Festubert toward the SW corner of Richebourg. The trees, again, go right down to the southern tip of Richebourg. The dirt road going through the center of the picture is Rue du Vert which only shows up on detailed maps (see map further above).

Richebourg Township Southern Tip

I took this photo below facing from just into Festubert toward the SW corner of Richebourg. The second tree from the left in the middle of the picture is the tree in the photo further above where I picked up the rock and piece of brick from ancestral land possibly belonging to the Bodins.

Richebourg Township Southern Tip

I also spent some time at the small library in Richebourg, next to the Mairie looking into the history of the town. A good book I found with much useful information was Richebourg mon village written by Michel Corbeille in 1994 (314 pages) with a Supplement written in 2002 I think. The librarian was very helpful as well as the people working in the Township Hall. I did see in the book that the town used to - and many elderly do still - speak Patois. In this case, that would be the Picard language. That is also known as Chtimi. It is similar to French but a different language in and of itself. So I imagine that that the Bodin family used to also speak Picard as well as being influenced by French, Dutch, German, etc.

There may be some historical events from this book that I mention here later, but from skimming the material it seems like most Protestants cleared out of the area completely and Protestantism did not come back strongly - at least in Richebourg. The town seemed very very Catholic. It is probably a good thing the Bodin family got out since the whole area, as I mentioned above, was just completely devastated in WWI. It was right on the Western Front. Their centuries-old Catholic church was leveled to the ground by bombing. Thousands of soldiers, and I imagine many civilians, were killed all around Richebourg and the surrounding towns. There was also the Battle of the Boar's Head on June 16, 1916 centered right in Richebourg-l'Avoué.


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