Durand Memoir


The text below is from some Xeroxed pages given to us by Phyllis Brown in 1984 which she had copied a book she only identified as "a book by a Frenchman names Durand who visited Rosegill in December of 1686 and wrote of it in his diary." The Library of Virginia lists two books, each apparently of the same source:

Author: Durand, of Dauphiné
Title: A Frenchman in Virginia; being the memoirs of a Huguenot refugee in 1686, translated by a Virginian
Publisher: [Richmond] Priv. Print., 1923 062117110523

Author: Durand, of Dauphiné
Title: A Huguenot exile in Virginia; or, Voyages of a Frenchman exiled for his religion, with a description of Virginia and Maryland; from the Hague edition of 1687; with an introduction and notes by Gilbert Chinard
Publisher: New York, The Press of the Pioneers, 1934 062117110523

This second book is most likely the book that Phyliss Brown copied as it refers to the "Virginian" in a footnote and also has a photograph of the front hall at Rosegill.


[excerpt beginning on page 30]

...and reached Rosegill, the estate of Ralph Wormeley, on the Rappahannock River, where the Governor was visiting at the time. He went up the Rappahannock, crossed the river, and reached Port Tobago, where Ralph Wormeley owned a plantation, and after observing the "savages" for a few days, he entered Stafford County and was at the house of Colonel William Fitzhugh at Bedford-in-Stafford on Christmas eve. He then crossed the Potomac, and after spending a day and a night at the house of a gentleman in Maryland, he re-entered Virginia, stopped at the house of a judge, then again at Bedford, and thence regained Point Comfort, where he expected to find a ship to take him back to Europe. As he did not sail until March 15th, he spent almost two months and a half living in the miserable room he had rented from an inhabitant, collecting information on the country and receiving from the colonists numerous offers of lands for sale.

Durand has set down the result of his observations in four chapters inserted in the middle of his relation. These will be discussed later. Before undertaking this study, it is not out of place to pay some attention to the most significant episodes of his brief exploration of Virginia. Besides the Governor, who was then Lord Howard of Effingham, our refugee had the good fortune to meet two of the men who could be considered as the most famous in the colony: Ralph Wormeley, the owner of Rosegill, and Colonel William Fitzhugh.


This photo is from page 143 one of the two books. Photo credit: Cook, Richmond


On the banks of the Rappahannock, Wormeley had built one of the largest and most elegant colonial mansions of the seventeenth century, which even to-day, after being restored with discretion, is rightly considered as one of the gems of colonial architecture. Besides the main mansion, Rosegill included several subsidiary or secondary buildings forming a real village, surrounded with trees of the primeval forest and ornamented by the rose garden that had given the estate its name. The view reproduced here may convey some idea of the simplicity of the style and of the luxuriant vegetation. On the main floor was a gallery at each end of which was a staircase giving access to five large rooms on the second floor. On the second story, in a sort of enormous attic, fifteen beds could be placed for guests. The reception room on the first floor, the library, the dining room with mahogany panels and delicate carvings, the huge windows opening on the river, are even to-day an impressive sight. It takes but little imagination to reconstruct the whole scene when, on December 19, 1686, Durand came to pay his respects to the Governor, Lord Howard of Effingham, and the great clock adorning the room struck five, at the very 'time "the last rays of the setting sun were lighting the window-panes."1 Wormeley, who had been educated at Oxford, owned a very good library, lived in luxury, had no less than twenty-six black slaves and twenty indentured servants working on the plantation. He was able to receive not only the Governor, but also the members of the General Court and numerous friends. Among these people the fare was heavy and the drinking still heavier. White wine from Spain, claret wine from Portugal, cider and beer were generously served. When the supper was over they gambled sometimes throughout the night. This was an America very different from New England, and the southern colonists had none of the Puritanical cant of their northern cousins.

Rosegill was not the only plantation of Ralph Wormeley. Higher on the Rappahannock he owned immense territories on which he planned to organize a regular colony, and he also had an already prosperous plantation twenty-two leagues away from Rosegill. This was Port Tobago, which he took great pleasure in showing to Durand. It was there that Durand had an opportunity to observe the only "savages" he met during his journey. Rather numerous in Virginia in the sixteenth century, the Indians, almost exterminated by epidemics and wars with the colonists, had been progressively pushed back to the West. Near the sea and on the rivers where they were formerly settled only a few lamentable survivors remained, sheltered in poor huts made of reeds and clay. They did not inspire terror or pity, hardly a little curiosity, and our traveller, who had neither the enthusiasm nor the style of Chateaubriand, did not recognize in them the noble children of Nature that the French travellers had celebrated in their relations. But without a few Indians, even if they were "ignoble savages," his picture would not have been complete.

From Port Tobago, as we have seen, Durand went to the Potomac and visited the plantation owned by Colonel William Fitzhugh at Bedford. Although the party included twenty horsemen, the Colonel had such accommodations that he "was not inconvenienced in the least way." After supper, served with the regular accompaniment of good wine and all sorts of drinks, Durand attended one of those entertainments which the rich planters used to give to their guests. They called three fiddlers, a jester and a tumbler, and before the huge fireplace where they had put in no less than a cart-load of wood, all the company enjoyed themselves "as much as they could wish."

These sketches of colonial life so frequent in Durand's relation should suffice to warrant him a place by himself among the annalists of old Virginia. It is all too seldom that such personal touches and direct observation are to be found in the documents, or even in the letters of the time. The description of the marriage which he attended is painted with even more vivid colors. A good refugee, from Abbeville, after serving

1. See page 104. Many books have been published on the colonial mansions of Virginia. One may refer to the most recent. Paul Wilstach, Tidewater Virginia, Indianapolis (Bobbs-Merrill Company), 1929.

The Eighth Voyage

A trip to the counties of Pianketank, Middlesex, Rappahannock, Stafford & Maryland1

I was very anxious to see Monsieur Isné, whom henceforth I shall call Monsieur Parker. I was curious to know how he would behave towards me, after being recognized for what he was. I was but eleven leagues from the county of Mildessex, but as I had to go on foot, I still felt too weak & exhausted to undertake the journey. So I rested until the 17th of December.

Up to that time I had not decided upon an establishment, for while I was delighted with the country, I could not see any possibility of settling in it. I had not left my native land to spend the rest of my life deprived of the exercise of my religion, as I should have had to do there, or at least it would have been in what was to mean utterly barbaric language. As for Carolina, I had entirely abandoned my plan to go there, & realized that it would have been tempting God to persevere in this project after the great obstacles he had put in my path. I knew that in the northern colonies there were many Frenchmen & even some ministers, but the cold climate discouraged me almost as much as the heat of Carolina. I was determined to let January go by before leaving Virginia, both on account of cold weather & the danger in passing the Cape in that season; a ship loaded with negroes had been wrecked there five or six days before. Meanwhile I humbled myself before God & besought him to advise me in my doubts, & help me in all my uncertainties.

Still undecided, I set out, & went to spend the night with a physician six leagues from my lodgings. He put me up very comfortably & the next day lent me horses to take me to Monsieur Wormeley's, which was not more than five leagues away.2 Monsieur Wormeley is the son of the late Governor, he is a Baronet, & although he still possesses estates in England, he has settled in this country. He owns twenty-six negro slaves & twenty Christian. He holds the highest offices, & owns at least twenty houses in a lovely plain along the Rappahannock river. He has rented his most comfortable house to the Governor.3 When I reached his place I thought I was entering a rather large village, but later on was told that all of it belonged to him. I met Milord Parker in the courtyard. He received me with great affection & introduced me to the Governor, to whom I paid my respects. I then drew him aside, in a corner of the room, & told him I wished in some manner to apologize for the lack of courtesy & too great familiarity with which I had treated him. This, however, could be excused, for he had brought it upon himself through the special care he had taken to keep me in this error. He replied most pleasantly that even if I had recognized him for what he really was, he would have been sorry to exact more courtesy than I had shown, & he begged me, if I wished to please him, to behave in the future with the same familiarity as before. In truth he had taken such pains to hide his rank that he had left his retinue with his mother, & had written one of his friends in London that he was sailing on our vessel, taking along three or four tons of merchandise of all sorts, & even earthenware; & to send him a man-servant taken from jail & condemned to banishment. This servant believed him to be a real merchant all the while he served him.

The table was immediately set, & after dinner his Excellency asked me what I thought of the country. I told him I considered it very fine & very beautiful, & if the preaching were in French, 'I would spend there the rest of my life, but that the difference of language would force me either to return to Europe, or to settle in the northern colonies. He replied that he had orders to give each foreigner wishing to settle in his "government" fifty acres of land, but inasmuch as I had left my country for the Religion, as well as because I was recommended by Monsieur Parker, he would give me five hundred, but would have to settle further back & be among the savages, who, he added, are not greatly to be feared, but there is some inconvenience owing to the fact that only small boats can sail up the rivers in the back country so one could not trade by water. For this reason, as there are vast tracts of land for sale very cheap, very good & among Christians, he advised me to buy there, rather than further away. He believed this climate would suit Frenchmen better than Carolina which is too hot, or Pennsylvania & New England, because of the cold. He had lately received news that there were great numbers [of French people] in England & more kept coming, so that if I wished to return & bring them with ministers, he would serve us to the best of his ability, & as for the pastors, provided that from time to time they preached in English & baptized & married the other Christians who might be among the French settlers, he would give benefices to two or three, & they would be required to read the book of common prayers when preaching, except when they preached to French people only, they could then do as they were accustomed in France. There was nothing extraordinary in his offer of these lands, except the amount, for in all places under English rule they give each stranger fifty acres out of the land not yet taken up by the inhabitants. I gave him my best thanks for his kind offers & answered that it was a long journey for a man of my years, already weakened by the long voyage to America, but nevertheless I would think it over & decide in a few days whether my health would permit me to undertake it.

Hereupon some strangers came in, & Monsieur Parker took this opportunity to go walking with me along the river.4 It was a beautiful day. He felt my desire to know why he had concealed his rank. He did not wait for me to ask, but as soon as we were alone, related that two or three years back, while at Grenoble, he had fallen in love with Mademoiselle Marie de la Garene. When this young lady & her mother had expressed the wish to see Lyons & Paris, & he had been obliging enough to take them there. They had remained a couple of months in Lyons, & eighteen or twenty in Paris, spending lavishly, keeping a fine carriage & large establishment, & to provide for all this, he had drawn his income two years ahead, which length of time he had resolved to pass in America to recoup his fortune, unknown & as a merchant, so he could spend less. "Now that I know who you are," I answered, "I am convinced of the truth of all you related to me during our voyage, concerning this young lady, but you must excuse me if when I believed you to be a merchant, & knowing her to be beautiful, proud & of high rank, I had not given it much credence." "Well," he went on, "in order to remove all of your doubts & also because I still enjoy speaking of her" He then ordered one of his servants to bring him a casket out of which he took four letters that he requested me to read. They were written in a tender &passionate style; & when I was reading the last one, in which she intimated that were she so unfortunate as to discover that she had lost his love, far from giving her affections to another, she would retire into a convent for the rest of her days, he stopped me at this point & said, "Yet she has not kept her word, for a few days before leaving for America, I learned on good authority that the Archbishop of Paris had fallen in love with her, & has secretly kept her in 2 more magnificent style than I did, for which I am well pleased," he added, "for I still love her a little, & I should have dreaded for her to fall into want, after spending the forty pistoles I left with her at my departure. But now I fear nothing on this score, because this good prelate is so charitable that he will let her want for nothing." -- "As you take pleasure in speaking of her," I replied, "I shall now relate to you in a few words the fatal results wrought by her beauty upon a man two leagues from my house. He was a handsome gentleman, the sole male heir, & he had but one sister, married a few years before; his father possessed an income of ten thousand pounds; being deeply in love, he prevailed upon all those he thought capable of influencing his father & mother to induce them to permit him to marry her. But these good people, while they could raise no objection against her rank or her family, yet because of their love of wealth, although she was far from penniless, & their expectations for their son, were deterred from giving their consent. This reduced the young man to such despair that he rushed into the Carthusian monastery at Lyons, where the good fathers made so much of him that his father & mother have been powerless ever to get him back. Thus, to our great regret, her beauty has caused one of my neighbors to withdraw from the world; but I judge that his sister, who already had five or six children & whose husband had squandered part of their fortune, being none too thrifty, will be easily consoled. "Monsieur Parker said she had told him all this, but he had not credited it, thinking she was boasting a little, but now he felt more inclined to believe it.

I stayed a day & a half with these gentlemen, after which I wished to leave. Monsieur Parker told me that for the present he would not urge me to remain, because the next day he was going on a visit ten' leagues away, but that I should hold myself in readiness the following week, as he would send me his hones, for as soon as he was recognized he had bought three good ones. I did not decline this offer, as I was very tired of being so much alone. Having borrowed some horses, I departed & sent them back from the Painquetain [Piankatank] river, half way to Point Comfort, which has to be crossed by boat. He did not fail to send the horses at the appointed time, & the next day I went to him. I stayed five or six days; we took our meals once a day with the Governor, at two o'clock in the afternoon. This is the only meal he takes regularly at home, the others at Monsieur Wormeley's. He had us served white wine from Spain and claret from Portugal, & Monsieur Wormeley wine from Portugal, cider & beer. As it was now nearly five months that I had drunk nothing but water, I found these wines so strong that I asked leave to dilute them with an equal quantity of water. The Governor & Monsieur Wormeley laughed at me, but Monsieur Parker, who had travelled...

1. Durand wrote Peyquetan, Mildessex, Notomberland, Rappahannak, Estafort and Marilan.

2. Ralph Wormeley of Rosegill (1650-1700), whose mother had married Sir Henry Chicherley, deputy-governor of Culpeper, was, consequently, not the son, but the step-son of "the late governor." Sir Ralph had been brought up in England, and had studied at Oxford. He was president of the "Council' in 1688, and became "secretary of the colony" in 1693- During his life he was considered the most important person in Virginia, after the governor. The residence he built, which he called "Rosegill," still remains as one of the purest examples of seventeenth century colonial architecture. In its original condition, the main house included a parlor, two rooms and a nursery on the first floor, with three bed-rooms and a store room on the second floor. The kitchen, dairy, and servants' quarters were, as usual, in separate buildings. P. A. Bruce, Economic Life in Virginia, Vol. II, "Records of Middlesex County," p. 156.

3. The "Virginian" has found a document signed from Rosegill by the Governor, in September, 1686, which confirms the assertion of Durand.

4. On this episode see Introduction, p. 35.