Grillot Family of Darke Co.


William H. McNitt (wmcnitt@hotmail.com) of Ann Arbor, MI, posted the following article. You can view another version of this article at his website Grillot History

Bill McNitt writes: I recently came into possession of a copy of an unpublished history of the GRILLOT family of Darke County. It was apparently written sometime in the 1950's by Margaret Theresa WARIN (whose mother was a GRILLOT). As she was writing more than 100 years after many of the events took place, a number of errors of fact are included. An annotated copy of the history appears below (my comments, additions, and corrections are in brackets and identified with my initials). It is interesting to see how wrong some of the details passed down orally by families become with the passage of many decades.

Although much of the information is specific to the GRILLOT family, there is also general background on the French immigrant community in Darke County. --Bill McNitt


The Grillot Family

by Margaret Theresa Warin

The Grillot family came to America during a most critical period of not only France but all of Europe. Certain basic principles in society and in politics were proclaimed by the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Era served to communicate them to Europe. The ensuing period was marked by a bitter struggle for the general acceptance or for their wholesale rejection.

To the Frenchmen the political and social benefits which had been so dearly obtained during the French Revolution, meant definite facts and rights which they were unwilling to relinquish. The Congress of Vienna of 1815, convoked for the purpose of reorganization of the political and social order in Europe after the overthrow of Napoleon Bonaparte, contained principles opposed to their political ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Especially repugnant to them was the general principle of "legitimacy" which constituted the general underlying principle of the Vienna Congress. The most important provision of this principle was the restoration of the former rulers of the monarchical government -- the restoration of the Bourbons in France and Spain; the house of Orange in Holland, etc. In France this meant the restoration of the Bourbon Kings of this period, viz, Louis XVIII (1814-1824); Charles X (1824-1830); and Louis Philippe (1830-1848).

In 1820, 1830 and 1848, France became a storm center of revolutions. Metternich of Austria, the reactionary genius of this period who attempted to maintain the status quo of the Old Regime, remarked that "When France sneezes all Europe has a cold."

Many French citizens left France and emigrated to America during and after the uprising of 1820 and settled in Ohio and Louisiana. A much larger emigration occurred after the Civil War of 1830. A newspaper clipping from the New York Herald and Tribune of November 1947, has this to say about these sturdy and liberty-loving emigrants who settled in Versailles, and in Darke County, Ohio:

"Louis Philippe's occupancy of the French throne and the political storm that followed in the 1830's were directly responsible for a little town in western Ohio, called Versailles. It is near the Indiana border, in Darke County, northeast of the county seat, historic Greenville -- The inhabitants of the town pronounce it Versales. It is queer that they do, for a great many of the 1600 citizens are French, descendants of those men and women from Lorraine, who could not tolerate the return of the Bourbon kings and what looked like a repudiation of the democracy so clearly won in the French Revolution. Indeed, some of those first settlers had served under 'Napoleon himself'".

The article gives a list of the family names of the 1830's present day inhabitants. Among those of special interest to the Grillot family are the Grilliots and Grillots, the latter claiming that the extra "i" is an Ohioism. Both sound the final "t" and most names are Americanized now, in violation to all French rules.

The Who's Who of 1839 contains the names of thirty-four families whose ancestors settled in western Ohio. The great majority of them came in the 1830's, a few in the 1820's. The first French Catholics to settle in Wayne County, Ohio [WHM: Is this supposed to be Wayne Township of Darke County?] was Francis Foy, originally spelled Foix, in 1823. Among the names listed in the Who's Who of 1839, the original spellings are followed by the present-day spelling in parentheses. French settlements were established in Shelby, Darke, Mercer, Auglaize and Allen counties. Those in Darke and adjoining counties are located at Versailles (Jacksonville), Frenchtown (Champaigne), Russia (St. Remy), Newport and St. Valbert (St. Valbert). Only a cemetery now exists at the latter place.

Archbishop Purcell learning of those scattered French settlements and desirous of to provide them with native priests from France to attend to their spiritual needs, went to France in 1839, secured six young priests from the Clermont diocese who volunteered to come to assist him in his diocese. Bishop Purcell returned early in 1839 to Cincinnati, Ohio, bringing with him three of the young priests. This very interesting information concerning them is taken from an account of the centennial celebration of St. Remy's parish of Russia, Ohio, published in the Catholic Telegraph Register (Dayton-Miami Valley Edition) August 17, 1952:

"The three were John Baptist Lamy, who became the first Bishop and Archbishop of Santa Fe (and who was the chief figure of Willa Cather's novel Death Comes for the Archbishop); Joseph Machebeuf, who became the first Bishop of Denver; and (Joseph) Louis Navarron, who became the missionary to Catholic emigrants in Darke County, Ohio ..."

Father Joseph Navarron was the young missionary appointed by the zealous Archbishop to minister to the spiritual life of Darke and adjoining counties. He chose a piece of land about two and a half miles from Versailles, because of its being centrally located for his vast missionary field, consisting of five counties. During the summer of 1839 he and some of the French settlers built a log church and called it St. Valbert, the present site is now the cemetery of St. Denis parish of Versailles, Ohio. The old church was removed many years ago. St. Valbert, the first church built in Darke County, Ohio, became the mother church of other settlements: Frenchtown (Champaigne) in 1846; Russia (St. Remy) in 1852; Versailles in 1864; North Star in 1892; and Osgood in 1908.

Excerpts taken from the Annals of St. Michael's congregation by Reverend William Bigot, a personal friend of Father Navarron, shows how dear to the heart of the holy missionary St. Valbert was. In describing one of his missionary trips he adds "...After that I went to Lima where I spent several days, then returned by way of Berlin (Fort Loramie) to my beloved St. Valbert's." Again shortly before his death, he inquired of his old friend Father Digot about St. Valbert. Together they chatted about affairs in the missionary's old mission field, the main point of interest being St. Valberts, "whether it still existed or how much of it...." He died at St. Mary's Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1862, where he had retired on account of feeble health and old age.

Another source of information concerning these original French emigrants in western Ohio, was published in The Catholic Telegraph Register at the time of the centennial celebration of Russia (St. Remy) Parish, August 17, 1952:

"...The well-authenticated story of the origin of this village's name goes to the French immigration, largely from Alsace-Lorraine, which began in the late 1820's. Among the immigrants were many who had taken part in Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign. When they viewed the flat swampy country, they were struck by its resemblance to the Russian terrain over which they had marched, and Russia they name it, though even today they pronounce it Roosie.

"...The French character of the early settlements is indicated in the name of the church 'St. Remy,' the French form of St. Remigius, apostle to the Franks, who converted and baptized the Frankish chieftain, Colvic..."

The ancestors of the Grillot family came from Lorraine and were among the thirty-four families listed in the 1839 Who's Who. Henry Grillot, the grandfather of my Mother, Mrs. Frank Warin, Mary Justine Grillot, was born in 1782, near Verdun [WHM: He was born April 15, 1783, Pareid, Meuse, France]. He had a sister who lived near Metz. Little is known of his early life in France. He probably was a farmer, although is has been related to me that he was an overseer of forest near Metz [WHM: records of Pintheville, Meuse, France, where his children were born and several were married, consistently refer to Henry as a weaver (his father and grandfather were also weavers), but Henry's uncle (also named Henry) was a national forest guard]. He had two uncles, George and Andrew, who served under Lafayette when he was in command of the fortress at Metz [WHM: records of Pareid, Meuse, France, do not show any uncles named George or Andrew, but Henry did have a brother George who was drafted and served in Napoleon's army. He died in the battle of Zamora in Spain in 1809]. Like him the gallant struggle of the American colonists for their independence aroused their sympathy to such an extent that they volunteered their service.

Louis Grillot, brother of Henry Grillot, and great-grandfather of Ben Grillot of Houston, Ohio, came with him to America in a sailboat, landing at New Orleans some time in 1836, after a 60-day journey across the Atlantic [WHM: None of these Grillots left France in 1836. Henry, his brother Louis, and his son George were all present at the marriage of Henry's daughter Francoise to Pierre Paul Henry in Pintheville on November 7, 1837. In the 1843 marriage record of Henry's son Charles at Pintheville, it states that Henry left for the United States of America on 25 March 1839. In May 1839, the ship "Charles" arrived in New Orleans carrying members of the Begin, Fligny, Grillot, Henry, Parmentier, Pierron, Simon, and Thiebaux families from the Lorraine village of Hennemont and surrounding areas]. Remy Grillot, a brother of theirs, remained in France, took part in the Napoleonic wars and has been honored by having his name engraved on the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, as being one of Napoleon's generals [WHM: Henry and Louis did not have a brother named Remy, but did have an uncle named Remy -- born May 4, 1765 in Pareid, Meuse, France]. The following brief account of him is to be found in the Congressional Library, Washington, D.C.:

"Grillot (Remy) general, born at Navilly (Saone-et-Loire) March 11, 1766, died at Leipzig from an amputation of the leg, May 19, 1813. Became a soldier...May 31, 1785; corporal, February 1, 1788; ...captain, March 15, 1793; ...colonel, October 5, 1803; ...commander of the 2nd brigade of the 9th Infantry Division under Girrard...in the Grande Armee, March 1, 1813; his leg was shattered by a shell at Lutzen. Was the son of a farmer. The name of General Grillot is inscribed on the north side of the Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile." [WHM: As noted above, the Remy Grillot who was related to Henry and Louis Grillot was born on a completely different date in a different area of France and his father was a weaver. There is no evidence of any connection between the famous General Grillot and the Grillots of Ohio, although the story persists in various branches of their descendants.]

No records exist of the name of their parents or other members of the immediate family, nor from which village in Lorraine they lived in France [WHM: The Grillots were from Pareid, Meuse, France, although Henry's children were born at the neighboring village of Pintheville and Louis' children at Hennemont]. From a letter written to father by his childhood friend, Abbe Parmentier, dated Jan. 11, 1888 is obtained the following information: "You mentioned that your wife comes from La Meuse -- From what parish? I should like to know, for you know that La Meuse is our native department and Verdun the Cathedral city of the diocese." [Meuse is one of the three French departments that the old region of Lorraine was divided into following the Revolution.]

Henry Grillot, like the majority of French citizens, was soon convinced that Louis Philippe was an enemy of the principles of democracy, although he attempted to camouflage his hatred of these principles by assuming the name of "Louis Philippe" instead of Philip IV. To escape living under such a ruler and especially the military training required by the government, great-grandfather Henry Grillot sent his two teenage sons to America in 1834 [WHM: Pintheville records show all of the Grillot sons in France after 1834, although it is possible that they could have gone to America and then returned]. Grandfather Grillot was only seventeen years old at the time [WHM: In 1834, he turned 21]. Henry Grillot followed his son two years later, bringing with him his remaining members of his family -- his two daughters Margaret and Mary and Mary Parmentier, his future daughter-in-law, wife of his son George, and our grandmother [WHM: As noted before, both Henry and his son George were in Pintheville on November 7, 1837. The author refers to a daughter named Mary, but may have been Anne Francoise, who came to Darke County. Some of Henry's children did remain in France]. His wife had died before he left France.

At the time great-grandfather Henry Grillot, his brother, and his sons arrived in America, the government had begun the construction of a system of canals connecting the Great Lakes with the Ohio River. Their first work in this country was to assist in a section of this project -- the Wabash & Erie via Toledo-Cincinnati.

A little later, they both purchased land near Frenchtown. Many more French emigrant families settled there. Ten years after Henry's and Louis' arrival in America a parish was established; a church erected which was dedicated by Bishop Purcell, October 15, 1846, and placed under the patronage of the Holy Family.

Henry Grillot and his daughters lived on a farm one mile west of Frenchtown. He did not live long to enjoy the freedom of his adopted country. His death occurred October 31, 1839, at the age of 57, just three years after his arrival here [WHM: He was actually 56 and may have arrived in Darke County only a few months before -- see previous notes]. He was buried at St. Valbert's cemetery, the first church located at that site in Darke County, Ohio -- the French town parish did not exist there at that time. He was the first person to be buried in this cemetery; the second person to be buried there in less than two months later was another French emigrant, Joseph Parmentier, December 26, 1839. No building now exists at this old historic place. It is now the cemetery of St. Denis' church at Versailles -- two miles southwest of the original old log church built in 1839 and where Grandfather and Grandmother George Grillot were married.

Records reveal the names of other members of the Grillot family who came to America in the 1830's. Louis Grillot, Great-Grandfather Henry Grillot's brother, granddaughter, Mary Henrietta Grillot, sister to Ben Grillot's father) married Joseph Guillozet (Name listed in Who's Who in 1839) June 28, 1842, four months after the marriage of our grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. George Grillot [WHM: Mary Henrietta was Louis' daughter, not granddaughter].

George Grillot, our grandfather, and his brother Charles landed at New Orleans some time in 1834, after a long and difficult journey of over two months in a sail boat. A number of passengers had contracted yellow fever, some had died during the journey, buried at sea, and those who survived were left at New Orleans to recover. His brother Charles was one of those unfortunate ones [WHM: It is unlikely they came as early as 1834 unless they returned to France later. Both brothers appear in later French records. George was in France in 1837 when his sister was married. Charles was in Verdun on May 21, 1843, when his marriage banns were published and recorded in the Pintheville records]. The rest of the emigrants continued their journey north up the Mississippi River on another ship, then east on the Ohio River until they reached Ohio. There they landed and traveled on to Darke County in western Ohio where a French settlement had been established. Here our grandfather found work awaiting him to earn his livelihood. He first assisted in the building of a system of canals across the state connecting the Ohio River with Lake Erie, and later on was employed in the construction of the Big Four railroad which passes through Versailles, Ohio and Russia. Two of his sons, George and Frank Grillot, Mother's (Mary Justine's) brothers, rode on the first train to travel on this new railroad.

Some time afterwards, probably at the time of his marriage to Mary Parmentier, at the age of 25, he went to live on the farm one mile west of Frenchtown, once owned by his father Henry Grillot [WHM: The author keeps referring to George and Mary's marriage in 1842 at St. Valbert's, but does not seem to be aware that they were married previously by a Justice of the Peace on February 29, 1840. George was 29 when married, 31 if you are referring to the church ceremony]. Their marriage ceremony took place at St. Valbert -- the mother church of all Catholic parishes in Darke County, Ohio, built by Father Navarron -- on February 28, 1842. It occurred four years before Holy Family church was dedicated by Bishop Purcell, October 15, 1846.

Six children were born to them -- four sons and two daughters -- Frank, George, John, Mary Justine, Catherine, and Joseph. The oldest sons, Frank and George, became farmers like their father and lived in Darke County. John became a carpenter and later on a contractor and lived in Versailles, Ohio. Catherine (Aunt Cass) married Pete Subler and lived in Versailles. Joseph, the youngest son, never married. He first farmed the old homestead for Grandfather, then he went to live with Aunt Cass. Uncle Joe, as he was known to us, was forced to give up farming on account of poor health (he had cancer of the stomach). A short time after our parents returned to Iowa in 1875, he came to live with them hoping to obtain some relief from his sufferings. That was before I was born and they were living in the little one-room cottage [WHM: As the author is a child of Frank Warin and Mary Justine Grillot, born after 1875 and living after 1952 (from some references to a publication issued in that year), by process of elimination this sketch must have been written by Margaret Theresa Warin]. Failing to obtain any relief, he returned to Ohio and finally succumbed to the malignant disease.

A few facts related to me by my mother. George Grillot had received an excellent religious training in France from his own parents and, apparently, from their parish priest or from another religious teacher. He was able to answer the Mass prayers, say his prayers in Latin, sing the vespers, etc.; and was well instructed in Christian doctrine. When the Holy Family church was erected in 1846, the parish priest had several out-missions to serve in addition to the parish at Frenchtown. He appointed Grandfather as sexton of the church and to assist him in the religious instruction of the children of the parish and to lead the vespers on Sunday afternoons and on feast days when he was unable to be present. Mother was able to sing the vespers, say the Hail Mary and the Our Father in Latin, besides her ability of saying the all her prayers in both the English and French languages. She or father would always lead the family rosary in French.

Grandfather was very skilled in woodwork, and made wooden shoes for the members of his family, also to sell. The wood for them he obtained from the timber located on his property. Mother had a pair he made for her.

Not long after Grandmother's death in 1881, Grandfather Grillot went to live with his youngest daughter Catherine -- known to us as Aunt Cass -- who had married Pete Subler, descendant of one of the French families named in the 1839 Who's Who. He was the owner of a general store in Versailles. Grandfather was living with her when I went to him in 1884. I remember he had a room of his own on the first floor and that he was quite lame at the time. He had a running sore on one of his legs, which never healed. His death occurred August 6, 1901, twenty years after the death of his wife, and he was buried in the cemetery at Frenchtown beside her. He was 88 years old at the time of his death.

Nothing is known concerning the parentage and early life of Grandmother, nee Mary Parmentier [WHM: She was born in Hennemont, Meuse, France and was the daughter of Joseph Parmentier and Barbe Warin]. All of the family's early records have been lost. She was born in 1815 in Lorraine, France; came to America in the same sailboat as her future father-in-law, Henry Grillot, in 1836, and also lived somewhere in Darke County, where she became acquainted with Grandfather George Grillot [WHM: As earlier notes show, she and the Grillots came on the same ship in 1839]. He death occurred also in August -- August 7, 1881 in her 66th year.

A few facts have been claimed concerning the early life of Grandmother Grillot in France. It has been said she was a personal maid for a wealthy and aristocratic lady in France, who gave her a number of silk dresses and many pieces of jewelry which she brought with her when she came to America in 1836. Mother kept pieces of these silk dresses and had a box containing many pieces of jewelry belonging to her mother (the jewelry was divided between her and Aunt Cass). I have often seen these relics of her mother's. The earrings, breastpins and rings she later exchanged for pieces of modern jewelry. The beautiful gold cross she kept and is still in the possession of the family.

Grandmother Grillot, like our mother, became quite fleshy when she reached middle age. However, mother did not resemble her in her physical weakness of fainting at the sight of blood. Mother was also given the name of "Mary" and was dedicated at the time of baptism to the blessed Virgin -- an old French custom of dedicating their oldest daughter to the Mother of God.

Mother's childhood days were happy ones, nurtured as she was in such a religious atmosphere and living so close to nature. She and her brothers then roaming in the timber land surrounding their home, found many evidences of the original owners of the soil -- Indian flints, used by Indians as arrow-heads, etc. Many Indian battles were fought in the vicinity where they lived. One mile north of Piqua, a short distance from Frenchtown, is a large boulder marking the last battle fought with the Indians before they were driven out of the Ohio territory.

When Mother was a little child she wandered away from home and was lost. A searching party found her many hours later asleep in a field of grain. She said that they raised peacocks and sold their tail feathers. After they were despoiled of their feathers, she said they would hide away in the woods and would not appear until their feathers grew in again, hence the origin no doubt of the expression "as proud as a peacock."



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