A History of The French in the Lone Star State Marie Maurannes, Consulat Général de France à Houston, Texas
Introduction The flag of France one of the six flags over Texas The term "French" large meaning the French from France but also from Quebec, Louisiana, and Texas, as well as descendants of the French-born. Many people know only about the explorer La Salle, pirate Jean Laffite, or Cajun music and food. The French have made lasting contributions to Texas history and culture that deserve to be widely known and appreciated. So how much did the French contribute to Texas?
CONTENTS La Salle: the discoverer of Texas Exploration of the Texan Coast Anathase de Mezieres 1750-1803 Champ d’Asile The Franco-Texian Bill Remember the Alamo Castroville, « the little Alsace of Texas » French Immigration French Artists The Menil Collection Economic presence nowadays
La Salle: the discoverer of Texas Cavelier de La Salle: a French explorer born in Rouen, Normandy. Sent by King Louis XIV to travel south from Canada, down the Mississippi River. The first European to travel the length of the Mississippi River. Painting by Theodore Gudin titled La Salle's Expedition to Louisiana in 1684. The ship on the left is La Belle.
La Salle named the region “Louisiana”, in honor of the King Louis, claimed it for France in 1682.
First French official to reach Texas in 1685 while trying to go back to Louisiana Inaccurate maps caused his arrival near Houston (Matagorda Bay). The colony called Fort St. Louis existed from 1685 to 1689.
The French colonists struggled against the wilderness, the Indians, and an environment that was alien to them.
La Salle was finally murdered by one of his own men.
Approximate location of Fort Saint Louis, near Matagorda Bay on the Gulf Coast
The Indians (Karankawas), on hearing of La Salle's death, attacked Fort St. Louis, and killed all the colonists the end of the first European colony in Texas.
Major impact on the 17th-century political scene, as three major powers presents. Spanish learned of La Salle's colony, launched a “search and destroy” expedition to prevent future French claims in New Spain.
Exploration of the Texan Coast François Simars de Bellisle shipwrecked near Galveston Bay in 1722 Held captive by the Native Indians (attakapan), became their slave and was beaten. Passed a letter to another tribe who delivered him and brought him to a French post.
Bellisle would later return to the Texas coast; his former captors “ were very much surprised at seeing their slave again”
From 1699 to 1722, the French explorer Jean de Béranger made 17 voyages between France and America. Bellisle, Beranger and La Harpe expanded existing knowledge about the Gulf of Mexico.
Anathase de Mezieres 1750-1803 Economic motivations attracted colonists who forged the Indian trade, the area's main source of revenue for much of the 18th century. Anathase de Mézières, a Parisian man became Lieutenant Governor of Natchitoches and directed Indian affairs in Louisiana
Convinced Spanish authorities in Texas to adopt the French policy of trading with the Indians rather than missionizing them, leading toward the peace with the Comanche Indians.
Appointed governor of Texas in 1779 but declined because of health problems
DID YOU KNOW that people in Paris, France, during the 1700s wore clothes made out of deer skin from East Texas? French traders exchanged guns, beads, and metal pots for deer hides then made into sleek leather clothes that the French people found very fashionable!
Le Champ D’Asile In 1818 a group of French veterans of the Napoleonic Wars under Gen. Lallemand attempted to make a settlement at Champ d'Asile It had to be abandoned because of food shortages and threats from Spanish authorities. In 1840, a commercial treaty was made between France and the Republic of Texas Interests in Texas increased
The Franco-Texian Bill Dubois de Saligny, French diplomat in the Republic of Texas Built a house in Austin: now the French Legation Museum His reports to the French foreign minister influenced the French government to recognize Texas in a treaty of friendship, navigation, and commerce. Saligny backed the controversial Franco-Texian Bill, became a supporter of Sam Houston The Franco-Texian Bill, introduced into the Texas Congress in 1841, never passed to the Senate
Remember the Alamo « Davy » Crocket died without learning about his aristocratic French ancestry. His forefather de Crocketagneserved under Louis XIV and married a cousin of Lafayette The family moved to America in 1685 as they were protestants and outside the law.
Another French : Louis "Moses" Rose (French Army under Napoleon) Also called “the treator of the Alamo” and the “Yellow Rose of Texas” The only man who chose to leave the besieged Alamo in 1836, rather than fight and die there.
Castroville, « the little Alsace of Texas » The most successful of French colonization projects was Castroville founded in 1844 by Henri Castro Brought over 2000 emigrants from Alsace, creating a culturally distinctive community People spoke Alsatian rather than French . A handful of French entrepreneurs immigrate to Texas when France recognized the Republic of Texas between 1836 and 1845 First St. Louis Church - 1844 (State Historical Marker)
French Immigration The French who came to Texas in search of better social, political, and economic conditions contributed to the state in extending the frontier and in encouraging cultural development. The census of 1850 : 647 French-born men in Texas. In 1990 : 571,175 people of French descent In the US, National percentage of Americans of French & French-Canadian ancestry: 5.3%
Distribution of French Americans according to the 2000 census The French would never immigrate in large numbers but never cease to come. The French immigrant usually assimilates quickly; he keeps an accent but he is americanized. His Frenchness becomes secondary
French Artists A number of French artists settled in Texas. Two painters: Parisian-born Théodore Gentilz, who went to Castroville in 1844 and became an art teacher at St. Mary's Institute in San Antonio French woman Eugénie Aubanel, moved to Corpus Christi and Brownsville in the late-19th century. In Gentilz's painting "Tortilleras," the large, more modern figures of the tortilla makers. Gentilz's depiction of Mission San Francisco de Espada, which is located south of San Antonio.
The Menil Collection 1931, France: John de Menil married Dominique Schlumberger, daughter of one of the founders of the oil company Schlumberger. The de Menils left France during World War II for Houston, where John directed Schlumberger. They quickly became highly influential art patrons in Houston
They built the Rothko Chapel… Surviving her husband by twenty-five years, Dominique built the museum that bears the family name. The de Menils began seriously collecting in the 1940s after their move to the United States and promoted modern art through associations and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (to which they gave gifts of art). The Menil Collection Rothko Chapel
Economic presence nowadays Numerous French multinational corporations that extended the French economic presence in Texas Attracted a number of French employees to various cities who will certainly continue the pattern of isolated French migration. French entreprise in the US started a century ago (lower production cost, US market) Eyewear Essilor Axa Insurances Michelin tires
In Texas, French companies are not always French-managed but French –owned. Example of French Business in Texas: La Madeleine. Numerous in the Oil and Gas field
Texas has and continues to represent an exotic land of opportunities to many French people.
Bibliography/ Webography The French in Texas: History , Migration and CultureEdited by François Lagarde, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003 Texas BeyondHistory , The University of Texas at Austin; http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/ Lesson plans Expedition To The Texas Coast: Exploring The Wreck Of The French Ship La Belle; http://www.thestoryoftexas.com/ The Handbook of Texas Online; http://www.tshaonline.org/