1852: Frederic Henry D’Estimauville to Benjaline French

This letter was offered for sale on eBay in February 2011. I transcribed it directly from the internet.

The letter was written in August 1852 by Frederic H. D’Estimauville. It was written to Miss Benjaline French, the 15 year-old daughter of Philadelphia coal dealer Samuel French (b. 1789-1873) and his wife Susan. It is believed that Samuel French was the son of Andrew French (1761-1832) and Rachel Harper (1768-1841). According to an 1855 Philadelphia Directory, Samuel French’s coal yard was located on 9th Street, above Poplar. His residence is given as 580 North 7th. The letter was addressed to “North Seventh Street, Above Poplar” in Philadelphia. (As a matter of interest, Edgar Allen Poe lived in the house at 532 North 7th during the early 1840’s.)

In the 1860 Census, children still living in the French household in Philadelphia included: Andrew French, age 44 (a surveyor); Julia French, age 27; Rachel French, age 25; Benjaline French, age 23; Susan M. French, age 20; and Anna L. French, age 17 (a school teacher).

In the 1870 Census, children still living in the French household in Philadelphia included: Julianna French, Rachel French, Anna L. French, and Benjaline, though she was married to Andrew Cresson (born abt 1820) and had a 5 year-old daughter named Susan.

There is notice of Frederic H. D’Estimauville graduating from the Philadelphia public schools in July, 1849. The Philadelphia school records indicate he was from Constantinople but I think his parents settled in Quebec or Montreal, Canada.

I cannot find any other record for him until the American Civil War where it appears that Frederic volunteered for the U.S. Navy and served as a clerk to Lt. Commander John Henry Upshur aboard the USS Flambeau. He was nearly shot or captured by Confederates on Bull’s Island in South Carolina during a foraging expedition on the plantation known as Gibbes’ farm. There is notice of him in May 1864, being transferred as an Acting Ensign from the USS Tecumseh to the USS Otsego. The Otsego was sunk in the Roanoke River in December 1864 when she hit a couple of mines but I am not aware that he was a casualty. It is uncertain whether he ever married or survived the war.

Frederic D’Estimauville may have been a brother of Robert D’Estimauville, who anglicized his name to Desty when he came to the United States from Canada. Like Frederic, Robert spent time in Philadelphia before going to California.

TRANSLATION

Brooklyn [New York]
16 August 1852

Dear Benj.

Before commencing my letter I’ll tell you why I am in Brooklyn – instead of Montreal. When I arrived in New York, a gentleman of my acquaintance – President of the Brooklyn Gas Light Co. – received me very kindly for a few hours (as I thought) into his house. He laughed at my idea of going to Montreal and asked me to enter his office. Though the proposition was so sudden, I at last, after an hour’s important deliberation, determined to accept it. So here I am comfortably domiciled as Assistant Secretary of Gas Office – much nearer as you see to my Philadelphia friend.

One of the charmed – has departed, whether owing to your benign influence or my remedies, I am unable to say. My lip is still occupied – no change –

I have very little further to say. New York is a dull place. I don’t like it, but Brooklyn is a delightful retreat in summer. I board here with my friend’s family, and have a very pleasant walk to and from the office.

Give my compliments and best respects to your fair sisters and also to your mother. I may add – to as many of my friends as you can find between Burlington & Cape May [New Jersey].

And now, I will conclude by remaining your most obedient servant & slave, — Frederic H. D’Estimauville

N.B. Write soon and by doing so you will oblige me, — Frederic

Gas Office
No 7 Court Street
Brooklyn

FOOTNOTES

As for the Brooklyn Gas Light Company, I found the following:

“In 1825 these entrepreneurs sought and gained approval from the New York State legislature for the establishment of the Brooklyn Gas Light Company. The fledgling company soon formed a board of directors and sold stock. Unfortunately for investors, the young village felt it was not ready for street lighting and would not sign a contract. With no business, the company bought back its stock and folded.

Not long for the mothballs, Brooklyn Gas Light was revived in the mid-1840s and in 1847 signed a contract to light the streets of Brooklyn. Since natural gas from underground deposits was not then available, the company built a gas manufacturing plant on the East River by the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In that plant, it heated coal until it became coke and captured the methane that was released in the process. This was known as the coke-oven-gas method. By 1849 methane was coursing through six-and-a-half miles of mains and lighting the village’s most prosperous areas.”

Though no name was attached to this article, I found elsewhere that the company was founded by Arthur W. Benson (1798-1889) and he appears to have been affiliated with the company up until at least 1869, but I don’t believe he was President of the Company in 1852. That title belonged to Robert Charles Nichols (1814-1883) who was married to Harriet Agnes Stanton in 1837. Perhaps it was Nichols who offered Frederic D’Estimauville the job at the Brooklyn Gas Light Company and with whom Frederic boarded.

1860 US Census for Philadelphia, PA showing French Family

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Spared & Shared 19

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Recollections of Army Life

by Charles A. Frey

The Civil War Letters of William Kennedy

Co. B, 91st New York Infantry

The Glorious Dead

Letters from the 23rd Illinois Infantry, the 111th Pennsylvania Infantry, the 64th New York Infantry, and the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry

Cornelius Van Houten

1st New Jersey Light Artillery

Letters of Charley Howe

36th Massachusetts Volunteers

Sgt. Major Fayette Lacey

Co. B, 37th Illinois Volunteers

"These few lines"

the pocket memorandum of Alexander C. Taggart

The Civil War Letters of Will Dunn

Co. F, 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers

Henry McGrath Cannon

Co. A, 124th New York Infantry & Co. B, 16th New York Cavalry

Civil War Letters of Frederick Warren Holmes

Co. H, 77th Illinois Volunteers

"Though distant lands between us be"

Civil War Letters of Monroe McCollister, Co. B, 6th OVC

"Tell her to keep good heart"

Civil War Letters of Nelson Statler, 211th PA

"May Heaven Protect You"

14th Connecticut drummer boy's war-time correspondence with his mother

Moreau Forrest

Lt. Commander in the US Navy during the Civil War

Diary of the 29th Massachusetts Infantry

Fighting with the Irish Brigade during the Peninsula Campaign

"Till this unholy rebellion is crushed"

Letters of Dory & Morty Longwood, 7th Indiana

"I Go With Good Courage"

The Civil War Letters of Henry Clay Long, 11th Maine Infantry

"This is a dreadful war"

The Civil War Letters of Jacob Bauer, 16th Connecticut, & his wife Emily

Spared & Shared 16

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Lloyd Willis Manning Letters

3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Co. I

The Yankee Volunteer

A Virtual Archive of Civil War Likenesses collected by Dave Morin

William Henry Jordan

Co. K, 7th Rhode Island Infantry

No Cause to Blush

The Bancroft Collection of Civil War Letters

William A. Bartlett Civil War Letters

Company D, 37th Massachusetts Infantry

The John Hughes Collection

A Virtual Archive of his Letters, 1858-1869

The Civil War Letters of Rufus P. Staniels

Co. H, 13th New Hampshire Volunteers

This is Indeed A Singular War

The Civil War Letters of Henry Scott Murray, 8th New York Light Artillery

The Letters of James A. Durrett

Co. E, 18th Alabama Infantry

Spared & Shared 15

Saving History One Letter at a Time

The Civil War Letters of George Messer

Company F, 107th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Jeff's Prayers are as Effective as Abe's

The Civil War Letters of George S. Youngs, 126th New York Vols

Soldiering is a Very Uncertain Game

The Civil War Letters of Lemuel Glidden, Co. K, 145th Indiana Infantry

Tough as a Pitch Pine Knot

Letters of John Whitcomb Piper, 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery

%d bloggers like this: