Slavery in Ste. Genevieve was as old as the town itself, and even older dating
from the black mine laborers brought across the Mississippi by Renault. Even
the relatively rare practice of enslaving Native Americans was not unknown in
colonial Ste. Genevieve, because of the general scarcity of European women
on the frontier.
Creole men frequently developed liaisons with Indian and Negro women, and
often lived as man and wife in the community.
Although both law and custom dictated against legal sanctions for such unions,
in the laisse faire, live-and-let-live, easygoing world of colonial French culture
they were not unusual. But because slaves had value as property, events took
place which are very much at odds with today's social values.
For example, when Felicite Beauvais freed her slave "Pelagie" on June 12,
1833, she also freed Pelagie's child, Felix J., who was in reality also the son of Beauvais' fellow Creole townsman, Benjamin C. Amoureux.
Joseph, son of Benjamin was forced to purchase his own daughter, Clara, from
L. C. Menard, apparently the owner of Joseph's wife Elizabeth at the time of
Although their relationship was evidently one of permanent commitment, they
could not legally marry in Missouri because laws in effect at the time prohibited interracial marriages.
No official record of it has been found, but a tradition in the family was that
Benjamin and Pelagie crossed the Mississippi by boat at night and were
secretly married by a sympathetic Catholic priest on the Illinois side.
At the time of Pelagie's death in 1890, long after the days of slavery, her
obituary listed her as the 'relict' (widow) of Benjamin C. Amoureux. It states:
"At her home in Ste. Genevieve, on Tuesday, November 11, 1890, Mrs.
Pelagie Amoureaux, relict of Benjamin C. Amoureux, aged 85 years 2 months
and 6 days. The deceased leaves five children, of who two, Felix and Joseph Amoureaux are well known citizens of Ste. Genevieve. The funeral took place
In Ste. Genevieve's small world of French culture the community had long since accepted this type of living.
Descendents of Benjamin and Pelagie occupied the house for over 70 years,
leaving it in the 1920's, and the house, now some two centuries old, still bears
the Amoureux name, despite a succession of owners. It is in this interplay
between structure and personality that this house assumes an identity, and take
it's place in history.
Copyright © 2006 - 2017 - Kathryn Grant - All rights reserved
More on Amoureux Genealogy by Phillippe Amoureux
Mathurin-Michel Amoureux was born in the small French seacoast town of Bourgneuf-en-Retz, near Nantes on Dec 4, 1747 and died in Ste. Genevieve,
MO. 84 years later on April 26, 1832.
His father, a retired military officer, was certified in foreign languages and the
family appears to have been well to do...Mathurin-Michel, his father and both grandfathers bore the appellation "noble Homme" indicating that these families
had become prosperous enough to reach the bottom of the rung of the noble
class, which was a matter of considerable advantage in the 18th century France.
Mathurin-Michel's surviving papers indicate that he had received an excellent education, further proof of the family's financial circumstances.
By the 1780's, Mathurin-Michel was a large scale merchant at the seaport of
Lorient, in southern Brittany, where he had dealings with numerous foreign
merchants, in London, Philadelphia and elsewhere. At this point, Mathurin-Michel
seduced the orphaned daughter of a sea captain, Perrine Janvier, who produced
his only known daughter in 1871. In the following year, Amoureux married Perrine
and acknowledged the child as his own and the couple produced four or five sons.
One of Amoureux's clients in this period was the American naval hero John Paul
Jones, who carried operations against the British from Lorient. Jones eventually
was hired by Catherine the Great to improve the Russian navy.
He had left property with Amoureux to be sold. Amoureux had a number of
exchanges of correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, then U.S. Ambassador
to France, about the sale of these items and the transmittal of the proceeds to
At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Amoureux, like others in the
business class and the lesser nobility, sided with the Revolutionaries. British
blockades of French ports during the revolutionary wars apparently crippled his business, but worse was to follow: in 1793 much of western France rose in
revolt against the revolutionary regime because of it's brutal persecution of the
The conflict was extremely bloody and many thousands of revolutionary soldiers
and their sympathizers were slain before the government succeeded in
suppressing the counter-revolution at the cost of some 200,000 lives.
During this storm period, the pro-Catholic counter-revolutionaries pillaged
Amoureux's house at Lorient, completing his financial ruin. Amoureux emigrated
to the United States (with only his 14 year old daughter, Marie) leaving his wife
and sons behind. Perrine lived for a time in a refugee camp near Rennes in
Brittany, a baby son died at Nantes.
The privileged life that the family had enjoyed before the Revolution had come
to an end. It appears that Amoureux remained forever bitter against the Catholic
church because of his losses at the hands of it's defenders, and so when he
died in Ste. Genevieve he did not have a Catholic funeral, although his widow
did when she died in 1845.
In the U.S., Amoureux seems to have settled at first at Georgetown in the District
of Columbia. He apparently had succeeded in bringing some money with him, for
he traveled about looking for opportunities to open a business of some sort, and corresponded with old business associates in Philadelphia and elsewhere to
seek their advice (he considered a winery, a general store and other ideas).
He also wrote periodically over the next year or more to acquaintances in various American ports (such as Boston) to inquire whether Perrine and their children
had arrived there.
At some point in 1795, the family had apparently somehow been reunited, and
began to move west. Amoureux appears as a property owner and taxpayer in a
couple of different places in Kentucky (1797 and 1801). At this time his youngest
son, Benjamin was born in Frankfort on the 17th of November 1797.
Soon after in 1801, Amoureux arrived in New Madrid, Missouri where his
superior education and his knowledge of the French language procured him an appointment as probate judge and recorder after Missouri passed under
American control in 1804.
In 1812 Mathurin-Michel and his family came to Ste. Genevieve where he held
office as Justice of the Peace for a number of years, and seems to have
conducted a thriving mercantile business with his sons. Once again, his superior education gave his status in the community and his previous business experience
was of great value.
He did not achieve wealth, however, and in an effort to increase his property he
made periodic attempts to collect on old business debts in France and also to
assert whatever claims he had to possible inheritances from various relatives in France.
Display board located in the Amoureux House
P. Amoureux, F. Barker, M. Fleming