Jean Girault

Jean/John Girault Chronology

(1755 - 1813)

This chronological outline is intended to set in order some important dates and facts I have been able to document for an interesting Huguenot ancestor. Because he was a longtime county official in the Natchez District he is mentioned many more times in those records than appear here, but it did not seem necessary for this purpose to include them all. Copies of some of the representative records, and those that document his life events, are in the possession of the writer. Interested family members may obtain them by paying copying and mailing expenses.

The French Protestants called Huguenots had a very difficult time in the late 1500's and 1600's. As a result, many began to emigrate in small groups from France to countries they thought would be more tolerant. One such country was England. Skilled French Huguenot artisans came there in several waves, the first following the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre on August 24, 1572, and the largest following the October 18, 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. That order formally ended the uneasy religious toleration that had been extended to French Protestants since 1598. We believe our Girault ancestors, said by their children and grandchildren to have been Huguenots, were among those seekers after religious freedom. Our quotations below follow the normally variable spelling of the time.

The first notice we have of our immigrant ancestor's family is in the Spittlefields district of London, where they worshipped at the Threadneedle Street Church in East End.

  • 26 Jul 1752: Gireault: Jean & Perinne, sa fem, made their Témoignages.(1) This "witnessing," or "evidence," affirmed the legitimacy of their faith in their previous residence thus admitting them to church life in their new. The original record of this act, if one exists, might point to the church in France where they came from. The act also shows the family came to London no later than 1752.

  • 24 Feb 1755: Jean Girault was born in London.(2) This date and place agree with family information furnished years later by granddaughter Helen Perine Girault and others.

  • 9 Mar 1755: Jean son of Jean and Pairine Ruffine baptized. Godparents Pierre Sabourier and Marie Marlisseur.(3) This is the first information we have found that ties Jean to his parents. Note both of the mother's names appear many times in subsequent generations.

  • 26 Jul 1756: François Girault, son of Jean Girault and Perine Rusagne, born in London. Baptized 11 August 1756 with Godparents François Traden and Marie Moquet.(4) This son may have died young. Note the re-use of the name in the next baptism.

  • 08 Feb 1764: François Gireault, son of Jean Girault and Perines Rufin, born in London. Baptized 26 February 1764 with Godparents François Fradin and Louise Sabourin.(5) Later biographical notes say Jean came to America with a brother who died from smallpox during the trip.

  • 02 Feb 1766: Mary Spain, later to become Jean's wife, was born in Amelia County, Virginia.(6)

  • 29 Aug 1773: Mr. Jean Girault listed as godfather for the baptism of Elizabeth Aymar in New York.(7) Biographical notes(8) state that Jean was briefly a clerk and bookkeeper in an importing house in New York where he landed before moving out west. At this time our ancestor would have been only 18 years old.

  • 17 Mar 1777: John Girault purchased a tract of land from Father Gibault at Cahokia, in the Illinois country, where a large community of French-speaking Americans lived. He had come west in late 1776.(9)

  • 01 Aug 1777: Letter from Thomas Bentley, dated at Missilimackinac, to Daniel Murray at Kaskaskia mentions Girault, then a Notary appointed by Rocheblave, Commandant at Fort Gage (later renamed Fort Clark), as being in Kaskaskia,(10) only a few miles from Cahokia.

  • 04 Jul 1778: Kaskaskia surrendered to George Rogers Clark. Two days later John Girault was installed as his French/English interpreter.(11) Note especially that Girault did not go west with Lewis and Clark as family tradition had it. The confusion may be due to his service with this other noteworthy Clark. Later information makes much of his abilities in English, French and Spanish--of value then in French-speaking Kaskaskia and later in his duties in Natchez. (Some sources say he also knew Creek; I have found no record of that so far but other sources say he had studied Greek as a London schoolboy.)

  • 16 Jul 1778: John Girault commissioned Lieutenant in Capt. Worthington's company of light horse.(12)

  • 03 Feb 1779: Girault was mentioned in a letter of this date from William Clark (George Rogers Clark's cousin) as one of the officers going overland with Clark's expedition to capture Hamilton at Vincennes, 180 miles away.(13) This fascinating episode was part of an American effort to shorten the war by attacking the British from the west. Several novels, including Lancaster's The Big Knives,(14) tell the story of that brilliant, but arduous, midwinter campaign.

  • 05 Jun 1779: John Girault commissioned as Virginia's first State Attorney for the Illinois District.(15) At that time Virginia claimed the lands to the west, including what is today Illinois.

  • 03 Jun 1781: John Gerault was commissioned Captain in Clark's Illinois Regiment.(16) Undocumented notes elsewhere say the commission was by Gov. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, and that he was made commissary at Ft. Nelson.

  • 29 Jun 1781: Girault appointed Joseph Gabuxiere his successor as State Attorney in view of his enlarged duties with Clark's Regiment.(17) Several sources gave the name as Labuxiere but photo copies of the original document appear to support the "Ga-" reading.

  • 31 Dec 1781: John Gerault, Lt. and Capt., appears on an undated Pay Roll of Officers of Clark's Illinois Regiment. He received 289-6-5 for service from 30 May 1779 to 31 Dec 1781.(18)

  • 19 [?] 1782: "Due John Gerault for his pay as Translator and Interpreter in the Illinois Department of the French and English Tongues from the 6th July 1778 to the 21st October 1780 viz 837 days at 5/ . . . . 209-5-0.(19)

  • 04 Jun 1782: John Girault, "Captain in the Illinois Reg. in service of the State of Virginia being about to embark for Natchez" appoints and gives power of attorney to "my trusty and loving friend William Clark, Lt. in the aforesaid" and states: "I have set my hand and seal at Fort Nelson at the Falls of Ohio [now Louisville, KY] 13 April 1782."(20)

  • 31 Aug 1782: Capt. John Gerault was paid 120-0-0 for service from 1 Jan 1782 to this date.(21)

  • 1783: Girault was honorably discharged(22) and departed for the South--first to New Orleans then to Natchez, since 1780 a Spanish district. Before 1780 it had been under French, then British, control. It did not come under American control until the Treaty of San Lorenzo in 1795. (It physically came under American control finally in 1798.)

  • Mar 1784: Girault granted a military bounty of 4,000 acres of land for his service with Clark.(23)

  • 18 Oct 1785: Letter from John Dodge, Kaskaskia, to William Clark asks, "I hear that you have Mr. Geroults affairs in your hands and as I have considerable demands against him as well as Perroult would take it as a protickler favor if you would let me know whether it will be possible for me to recover anything from them."(24)

  • 08 May 1786: Girault's letter of this date from New Orleans to William Clark(25) asks to have most or all of his 3,000 acres (in tracts of 500 acres) awarded to him for his Revolutionary War service, sold "or exchanged for negroes." He continues, "I have not been able to do anything yet in this country, all I have done is just to have worked myself clear. . ." He further mentions his desire of "setting up at the Natchez" to "get myself fix'd at that place, where I would if (I could) begin a small plantation. . ." He mentions that he is owed "$8,602 paper dollars for recruiting money," a reference to the bounty he earned for having enlisted nineteen men for military service.

  • 17 Jul 1786: Jn. Girault mentioned as having been Illinois State Attorney "about five years ago" in memorial by his successor to the Continental Congress.(26)

  • 01 May 1788: John Girault married to Mary Spain of Virginia.(27)

  • 03 Feb 1789: Helen Perina Girault, first child of John and Mary Girault, born at their plantation called "The Retreat," on St. Catherine in the Natches.(28)

  • 12 Mar 1790: Don Juan Girault, merchant, lends Samuel Heady $108 to get timber to market in N.O.(29)

  • 17 Jul 1790: 675 arpents of land granted to "Doña Maria Spain, esposa de Dñ. Juan Girault" in Natchez district, Territory of Louisiana.(30)

  • 23 Oct 1790: Francis Spain Girault, second child of the above, was born at the same place.(31)

  • 06 May 1792: John Ruffin Girault, third child, was born at the same place.(32)

  • 17 May 1793: "Mr Governor: Don Juan Girault, respectfully presents himself to your, Excellency, and says that in order to better exercise the office of Notary Public, he intends to establish himself in the vecinity of this city, and begs your Excellency to grant him 10 'arpanes' of land adjoining that of Bautista Jainer, said land being vacant. A favor which he hopes your Excellency will grant. Natchez, the 17th day of May, 1793. s/ Juan Girault"(33)

  • 06 Aug 1793: James Augustus Girault was born at the same place.(34)

  • 1794: John Girault was appointed Clerk of Court, interpreter and recorder for Governor Gayoso.(35)

  • 13 May 1795: Perina Girault was born at the same place.(36)

  • 10 Jul 1796: Mary Girault was born.(37)

  • 31 May 1797: Mary Girault died, aged ten months.(38)

  • 15 Oct 1797: Ann Mary Girault was born at "Bellevue," near the City of Natches, being the farm of the aforesaid John and Mary.(39) Bellevue was next door to the home of Governor Gayoso mentioned above.

  • 1798: John Girault was Acting Recorder under Governor Sargent.(40)

  • 1798: Governor Sargent promoted John Girault to Lieut. Colonel and named him Commander of Militia for Pickering (now Jefferson) County.(41)

  • 29 Jul 1798: Perina Girault died, just over 3 years old.(42)

  • 17 Jul 1799: Isaac (Benjamin in some sources) Farrar Girault, eighth child, was born at "Villa Gayoso," on Coles Creek.(43)

  • 1802: John Girault named Register of Orphans Court of Adams County. He served in this position until his death in 1813.(44)

  • 01 Sep 1802: Clara Scott Girault was born at the plantation of said John and Mary on Coles Creek called "Recess."(45)

  • 02 Nov 1803: Edward Turner, U.S. Land Office Register, wrote to U.S. Senator John C. Breckinridge (KY) in refutation of "some clamors respecting my appointment." In it he referred critically to several Mississippi officials, including John Girault. The information may be understandably biased but is included as an interesting contemporary reference to our ancestor.

    He wrote: "to identify two of the greatest opponents to my appointment: the one of them is Mr. Dunbar, the other a Colol Girault, both of them are members of our Legislature;--the former, was elected as a federalist, by federalists; the latter as a republican, in a republican county--he having made public declarations that he was a republican, & so deceived many of the people: ... Girault is a European, but an old, and almost constant inhabitant of the European Colonies in America. He was a short time in the army under Genl Clark, at the Illinois, after which he again resided in the Colonies, until the Spanish Treaty of 1795, from which time he has thought proper to live under the American Government. He is what may be called a genteel, sensible, cuning little fellow, upwards of 50 years of age, of not much learning or reading, except that he is acquainted with the Spanish and French languages, with the duties of a Clerk, and in general with the little detail of business. Those who knew him in the Army under Genl Clark, and those who know him now say, that he is not a man of principle ..."(46) He continues in this vein, but this is probably enough vitriol for our outline.

  • 17 Dec 1804: Martha Cordelia Girault, 10th child of the above, was born at their seat "Bellevue," near the City of Natches.(47)

  • 07 Apr 1807: An unnamed daughter was born. She died four days later.(48)

  • 11 Jun 1807: John Girault of the Mississippi Territory, through his attorney in fact Worden Pope, deeded 500 acres in the County of Clark and Indiana Territory to Christopher Buckhanan "for the some of five hundred Dollars specie."(49)

  • 01 Oct 1808: Thomas Richard Girault born.(50)

  • 13 Apr 1812: George Rogers Clark Girault born.(51)

  • Spring 1813: At the outbreak of the Creek War, "the retired warrior once more took up his sword for the defense of his adopted land. He was ordered to New Orleans and there in May fell victim to his final illness."(52)

  • 07 Apr 1813: John Girault and others posted $5,000 bond guaranteeing the lawful performance of his duties as Clerk of Adams County (Mississippi) Court.(53)

  • 24 May 1813: John Lynd, Esqr., Notary Public in New Orleans, recorded John Girault's oral will at his bedside in Bayou St. John, "near this city." Girault was "very sick and indisposed and in bed."(54)

  • 28 May 1813: "Died at Bayou St. John, in the 58th year of his age, Col. JOHN GIRAULT, for many years a resident of Natchez, (Mississippi Teritory)."(55)

  • May 1813: John Girault's body was returned to Natchez where he was buried on his own land in Bellevue Plantation on Lower River Rd.(56) The location of his grave was subsequently lost when Civil War soldiers removed bricks and stones to use for "field stoves."


1. "The Registers of the French Church, Threadneedle Street, London," Publications of the Huguenot Society of London, vol. XXI, p. 121.

2. John Girault Bible: typewritten transcript in possession of Mrs. Joseph D. Bryan, Columbus, OH, a descendant of George Rogers Clark Girault.

3. "The Registers of the French Church, Threadneedle Street, London, volume IV," Publications of the Huguenot Society of London, vol. XXIII.

4. Threadneedle Street Church Registers quoted in Girault W. Jones letter of 15 March 1992.

5. ibid.

6. Bible, op. cit.

7. "Registers of the Births, Marriages, and Deaths, of the 'Eglise Françoise à la Nouvelle York,' From 1688 to 1804," in Collections of the Huguenot Society of America, vol. 1, p. 315.

8. Collections of the Illinois Historical Society, Vol. VIII, Virginia Series, Vol. III, p. 99.

9. H. W. Roberts: "A Voice From the Past," Letter of Jean Girault relating to the Illinois Country found among the French papers in the Circuit Clerk's Office, Chester, Illinois. Illinois Historical Society, v. XVIII, no. 3 (October 1925).

10. ibid.

11. ibid.

12. ibid.

13. ibid.

14. Bruce Lancaster: The Big Knives (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1964). A mixture of history and imagination, this book paints a very favorable, though completely undocumented, picture of our ancestor.

15. Roberts, op. cit.

16. National Archives: Compiled Military Service Record of a Return dated Fort Nelson, September 1, 1782.

17. Roberts, op. cit.

18. National Archives: Compiled Military Service Record.

19. Revolutionary War Records II, C, R, N.W. Territory Expense - 1782, Virginia State Library.

20. Recorded this date in Jefferson Co., KY, Minute Book A, p. 36.

21. National Archives: Compiled Military Service Record.

22. Roberts, op. cit.

23. ibid.

24. ibid.

25. ibid.

26. National Archives: Papers of the Continental Congress 1774-1789, M247, R62, Item 48, p. 23.

27. Bible, op. cit.

28. ibid.

29. Natchez Court Records, Book D, p. 77: The May Wilson McBee Collection, v. 2, 1767-1805, p. 144.

30. Spanish Grant Book C, p. 10, Adams Co., MS, Court House.

31. Bible, op. cit.

32. ibid.

33. Spanish Grant Book C, pp. 332-3, Adams Co., MS, Court House.

34. Bible, op. cit.

35. Natchez Democrat: article dated March 4, 1937, on occasion of the dedication by the Fayette Chapter D.A.R. of a John Girault marker on the Adams County Court House lawn. The original sources of this information were not stated, but it was said to have come from "the researches of Mrs. Lem B. Campbell whose husband was a lineal descendant of this gifted patriot."

36. Bible, op. cit.

37. ibid.

38. ibid.

39. ibid.

40. Natchez Democrat, op. cit.

41. ibid.

42. Bible, op. cit.

43. ibid.

44. Natchez Democrat, op. cit.

45. Bible, op. cit.

46. The Territorial Papers of the United States: Volume V, The Territory of Mississippi 1798--1817, p. 264ff.

47. Bible, op. cit.

48. ibid.

49. Clark County Indiana Recorder's Land Records, pp 86-7.

50. Bible, op. cit.

51. ibid.

52. Unidentified newspaper clipping. There is reason to doubt this version of the sequence of events since the "Creek War" was opened by the Creek attack (August 30, 1813) on Fort Mims, on the east bank of the Alabama River about 35 miles above Mobile. This account may refer to uprisings across the frontier earlier in the year. Some accounts claim his final military service was a part of the War of 1812 but there seems to be confusion with the service of his son, John R. Girault, whose Compiled Military Service Records at the National Archives show him to have served in that war from October 2, 1814 to March 28, 1815. It could well have been he who fought in the Battle of New Orleans which did not take place until January 8,1815--20 months after our ancestor's death.

53. Adams County Book G, p. 405.

54. Natchez, MS, Chancery Clerk's Will Book 1, p. 101.

55. Washington Republican, 16 June 1813.

56. Natchez Democrat, op. cit.

Compiler: Charles Stuck, Jr.
2637 S. Riviera Drive
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
08 March 2000

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