History of the French in Baltimore

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The history of the French in Baltimore dates back to the 18th century. The earliest wave of French immigration began in the mid-1700s, bringing many Acadian refugees from Canada's Maritime Provinces. The Acadians were exiled from Canada by the British during the French and Indian War. Later waves of French settlement in Baltimore from the 1790s to the early 1800s brought Roman Catholic refugees of the French Revolution and refugees of the Haitian Revolution from the French colony of Saint-Domingue.

History[edit]

Arrival of Acadian refugees[edit]

The French and Indian War was the North American theater of the Seven Years' War, lasting from 1754 to 1763. There was intense fighting between the troops of British America and the French inhabitants of Acadia, a colony of New France located in what is now the Canadian Maritime provinces and the U.S. state of Maine. In 1755 the British forcibly exiled the French-speaking Acadians; approximately 11,500 were exiled in total. Most of the exiled Acadians who managed to survive traveled to Louisiana, where their descendants are known as Cajuns. Other refugees returned to France or resettled in Baltimore. Ships boarded with 913 Acadian refugees arrived in Baltimore in November of 1755. Shunned by a Francophobic population,[1] the Acadians had to rely upon themselves to better their own conditions. Drawing on their experiences as fishers, many Acadian men became sailor and longshoremen.[2]

Settlement by French Catholics[edit]

Mother Seton House, August 2011

During the French Revolution (1789–1799), many French Catholics fled France to escape religious persecution. Among the refugees that immigrated to Baltimore were the Sulpician Fathers, a Roman Catholic teaching order. Most of the earliest Catholic institutions in Baltimore were established by these French refugees. The Sulpician Fathers founded St. Mary's Seminary and University and St. Mary's Seminary Chapel, as well as Catholic institutions elsewhere in Maryland such as Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born Catholic saint, owned a home on the grounds of St. Mary's Seminary. She later moved to Emmitsburg and established the Sisters of Charity, the first American congregation for nuns. In the 1960s Seton's home was restored to its original appearance through the efforts of a committee, which continues to operate the home as a museum.[3] The seminary was demolished during the mid-1970s,[4]

Settlement by Franco-Haitian refugees[edit]

During the time of the French Revolution, there was a slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, in what is now Haiti. French and French-speaking Black Catholic refugees from San Domingo, along with the Sulpician Fathers, founded St. Francis Xavier Church. The church is the oldest historically Black Catholic church in the United States.[5]

French Town[edit]

In the 1750s, the French Acadian refugees from Nova Scotia established a community along South Charles Street near Lombard Street that was known as "French Town".[6] By the 1830s the Acadian presence in Baltimore had largely disappeared and with that French Town also disappeared.[1]

The area that was formerly known as Frenchtown is now the Seton Hill Historic District.[4]

Demographics[edit]

As of the 2000 United States Census the French American community in Baltimore numbered 47,234 (1.9% of Baltimore's population) and an additional 10,494 (0.4%) identified as French Canadian American. This places Baltimore's total population of French descent at 57,728, which is 2.3% of Baltimore's population. This makes the French the sixth largest European ethnic group in the city.[7] The Census also found that the French language (including French Creole) is spoken at home by 5,705 people in Baltimore.[8]

Culture[edit]

An annual French Fair is held in Seton Hill.[4]

The Baltimore French School was founded in 1990 by a French immigrant who teaches the French language at Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Conservatory.[9]

Notable French-Americans from Baltimore[edit]

Bonaparte family in Baltimore[edit]

Charles Joseph Bonaparte, a lawyer and politician who served in the Cabinet of President Theodore Roosevelt. He was the son of Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte, from whom the American line of the Bonaparte family descended, and a grandson of Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Emperor Napoleon I.

A line of the Bonaparte family has lived in Baltimore. Napoleon's brother Jérôme traveled to Baltimore to meet a man he had befriended in the French Navy. It was in Baltimore that he met his future wife, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, also known as Betsy. They were married by the archbishop of Baltimore in the Baltimore Cathedral on Christmas Eve of 1803. The marriage was annulled by Napoleon and Jérôme returned to France with Betsy. She continued to live in Baltimore with their son, also named Jérôme.[10] His son Charles Bonaparte was a lawyer and politician who served as Secretary of the Navy and later the Attorney General of the United States. Under his tenure as Attorney General, he was responsible for the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[11]

Other notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Wood, Gregory A. "The French Presence in Maryland, 1524-1800", Gateway Press, 1978.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "French Connection". Baltimore City Paper. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  2. ^ Brasseaux, Carl A. (1987). The Founding of New Acadia: The Beginnings of Acadian Life in Louisiana, 1765-1803. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press. p. 39. ISBN 0585333955. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  3. ^ "Maryland Historical Trust". Mother Seton House, Baltimore City. Maryland Historical Trust. 2014-05-12. 
  4. ^ a b c "Seton Hill to host French fair this weekend". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  5. ^ Gatewood, Willard B. (1990). Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880-1920. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 306. ISBN 1-55728-593-4. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  6. ^ Hall, Clayton Colman (1912). Baltimore: Its History and Its People, Volume 1. New York and Chicago: Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 20. Retrieved October 3, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000". 2000 United States Census. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  8. ^ "Immigration and the 2010 Census Governor’s 2010 CensusOutreach Initiatives". Maryland State Data Center. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  9. ^ "Best Language Classes In Baltimore". CBS Baltimore. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  10. ^ "The Bonapartes of Baltimore". Heraldica.org. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  11. ^ Don Bloch (August 18, 1935). "Bonaparte Founded G-Men". FBI. Archived from the original on 2010-06-06. Retrieved 5 May 2014.