Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
A Short History of Asylum by Ingham
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
A Short History of Asylum

by J. W. Ingham, 1916

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THERE is said to be a tradition in the d'Autremont family that after they found the title to their land at The Butternuts, N. Y., worthless, that Alexander d'Autremont followed Boulogne, who had gone to the West Indies on a business trip. Alexander's mission being to recover their money. The vessel in which he, according to tradition, sailed, encountered a furious storm and was wrecked. He escaped to land but was attacked by yellow fever and nearly died. As soon as he recovered he returned home, not having seen Boulogne. The story, no doubt, is pure fiction and there was never any such tradition in the d'Autremont family, as they knew Boulogne was not to blame. Land titles in the state of New York were as precarious as in Pennsylvania. Mr. Boulogne was the agent of Treat and Morris in selling their lands. He had examined their patent and deed, and believed their title was good. Alexander d'Autremont did not charge Boulogne with deception and dishonesty. They had been deceived by believing the reports that Asylum was a prosperous place to live and make money. In his letter to Mr. Boulogne, dated July 20th, 1795, he says:

"Mr. Boulogne:

"Sir: We have received the news of your arrival here with all the joy which you may heartily presume you could give us; but our joy would have been more felt if the circumstances in which we find ourselves would not force us to quit a place where we have been so cruelly deceived, and so unhappy, and that in the very moment we hear you have fixed your residence in Asylum.

"From the very beginning of this letter you will say: 'It is the crying bird that writes to me; but could it be possible to look on our situation with indifference, indebted as we are to you, without foreseeing when we will be able to pay. In such an [sic] horrid country as this, where we daily make an extravagant expense by the high price of all kinds of provisions, and all that without any benefit whatsoever, even success to our work; for after having spent much money for the portage of our effects on these lands we shall be obliged to transport them again to the town on account of the impossibility in which we are to live this winter in the woods for want of land in sufficient quantity sowed even to provide for our cattle.

"In my last handed to you by Mr. Keating, I mentioned to you that the clearing was going on very slowly, that Mr. Montule had made an undertaking above his strength, and that from the way they were going on, it appeared we should have nothing sowed this summer; my fears unluckily have been verified, for on the whole tract there are only 10 acres cleared by Brown's company of workmen, five of which belong to Mr. Montule, and five to Mr. Brevost, the latter not even ready, the logs being not yet burned. You'll be able to judge, and frightened at the same time, of the obstacles the settlers have to overcome on these new lands when you know that the clearing of an acre cost to the company near 30 dollars. To give you an idea thereof, you may readily calculate. There is a company of 10 men who are at work since the beginning of May on Mr. De Larone's land who will have nearly done in 15 days, and all that time to clear 11 or 12 acres of ground. From that it appears to me that Mr. de Larone's clearing will come to 36 dollars, thereabouts per acre. Everybody here is disgusted. Everybody talks of quitting; even Mr. de Montule, who says that if he could get one or tow shillings profit on his purchase per acre, he would give up all idea of settling in this country.

"Come, sir! Come quick, come to re-establish confidence, for it is very low everywhere. Your arrival will doubtless cheer many people. As for us, except for the pleasure of seeing you, it is almost impossible that your residence here (our only wish last spring) could make us support with patience our misfortunes. It is high time not to trouble any more of individuals that have always weighted very heavily upon you without being able to show you their gratitude. Don't believe that my complains, and the resolution that my family hath taken of quitting forever this country, are the result of inconstancy or levity of our minds' but come here very soon, see and judge for yourself of our situation, and Mr. Brevost's is in the same resolution. If I was alone, for from complaining of my situation, I would laugh at it; but I have a mother who begins to be old, whom I cannot leave to herself, therefore I pass my young days in an occupation which will never give me a penny's profit. All that I foresee for me is to be forever ruined, and remain in the impossibility of doing anything if I continue to stay on land that cost $30 per acre to clear.

"Besides my personal sorrows, I must answer for a sum due by the company to one Fuller for some wheat which hath been delivered, and not paid to him. He hath obtained a writ against me as having contracted with him. All I could obtain was a delay which will be at an end the 18th of August, the sum amounts to four pounds ($20.) Esqr. Gore hath in his hands for 60 to 70 dollars of your notes of hand. He remitted me a letter which is here inclosed [sic], which explains the matter. If you have not sold your farm near Philadelphia, and if you have not engaged a farmer, and if it would suit you to take my family as farmers, I would accept with pleasure.

"Waiting for the pleasure of seeing you, or hearing from you, I remain,


Alexander d'Autremont's spelling is good. He frequently uses "&" for "and," which was a usage quite general at his time. The letter from beginning to end is friendly to Mr. Boulogne. If they ever had a falling out it must have been after this letter was written (which was the 20th of July, 1795) for Mr. Boulogne was drowned July 20th, 1796, just one year afterwards. This letter throws great doubt on the tradition that Alexander d'Autremont followed Boulogne to the West Indies to recover money, and was there attacked with yellow fever after being shipwrecked. The letter shows clearly that the Duke de Rochefoucauld representation of affairs was entirely too rosy and prosperous.

In Mrs. Mary Mix Spaulding's address, printed in the "Reporter-Journal" of Towanda, Pa., some years ago, it is said: "About the time Asylum was founded, another company attempted a settlement on the Chenango river a few miles about Binghamton, at a place called "The Butternuts." One of their number, M. d'Autremont, a man of considerable wealth, contracted for a tract patented to W. Morris containing 30,000 acres, upon which the settlement was made. Log houses were built, and eight families moved upon the tract. The Indian reservation was in their immediate neighborhood. The Indians were friendly, and furnished them with venison, bear meat and wild turkeys. Their surroundings were unpleasant and they suffered many privations. To add to their discouragement, M. d'Autremont, on his way to Philadelphia, was drowned while fording a river on horseback." (I did not find this account of his death in any other history of Asylum. I had been of the opinion that he died in France; but as Mr. John W. Mix corresponded with C. d'Autremont, Jr., a descendant of Hubert, the statement may possibly be correct.)

Mrs. Murray, in her history, says of Hubert d'Autremont, as follows: "He was a Parisian royalist, evidently belonging to a family of importance, as evinced by his coat of arms and his intimacy with such prominent Frenchmen as Talleyrand, Dupont, and Baron Nevile. Hubert is said to have been guillotined early in the Revolution."

His widow, Marie Jeanne d'Ohet, with her three sons, Louis Paul, aged 22; Alexander Hubert, 16, and Augustus François Cécil, left France in 1792, their royalist principles making it unsafe for them to remain there. In company with them came the family of her sister, Madame Lefevre, and others. They came to America and settled on land in Chenango previously contracted for in France from William W. Morris through his agent, Charles Félix Bue Blulogne."

Mr. Craft, the historian, in his account is more specific. He says, "Messrs. Malachi Treat and William W. Morris secured the title to a tract of several thousand acres of land in Otsego County, N. Y., and gave to Mr. Boulogne a power of attorney dated June 16, 1791, to sell, and a commission to return to Paris and dispose of land in such parcels as he could to those who were contemplating to escape the troubles of their own country by migrating to this. Having disposed to several parties a large part of this land, he sold to Madame d'Autremont and Mr. Lefevre each 300 acres to be surveyed to them in lots of 100 acres each.

In applying for this passport, Mr. Lefevre found that he must divide his family. Half could come, and half must stay. It was arranged that one son and one daughter should accompany the father, and the other son and daughter remain with the mother. While waiting for the vessel to sail, the son who was to accompany the father, sickened and died. Mr. Lefevre then took the youngest daughter, Augustine (afterwards Mrs. Huff), cut her hair close, and dressed her in her brother's clothes, when the likeness was sufficiently to the lost boy to answer the description in the passport. Mr. Lefevre thus taking both daughters and leaving the son with his mother. While waiting at Havre he writes to his wife expressing the weariness and loneliness of their lives and adds, "We are well. The two children send you a thousand kisses. The little girls speak every day of thee and their brother, and ask each time if I am writing to you. I beg of you to embrace my son. I talk every day of you to our little girls."

There were many disagreeable and vexatious delays. One was the vessel drew so much water that she could not be gotten over the bar at Havre, except with the favorable condition of a high hide. Mr. Lefevre again writes to his wife, June 11, 1792: "We are in very great anxiety. I apprised you in my last letter that we were to leave at the end of the week. Sunday at noon, coming from Mass with the children we learned through Mr. Boulogne that we could not leave until a week from Tuesday--eight days--on account that the tide did not rise high enough." They sailed June 19th, 1792. On the 12th of September, the parties being in Philadelphia, Mr. Boulogne, for a consideration of 5400 livres, executed a deed for 300 acres of land to Mrs. d'Autremont, and for a like consideration a similar deed to Mr. Lefevre, both of which were acknowledged before the Associate Justices of the United Supreme Court. The party, accompanied by Mr. Boulogne, now set out for their farms in the dense unbroken forests of central New York. It was about the first of October before they reached the end of their journey. Owing to the lateness of the season nothing could be done but build some kind of shelter for themselves until spring.

In a bark covered, almost windowless log cabin, under whose single room was kitchen, dining room, pantry, drawing room and parlor during the day, and for the night divided by hanging up blankets into sleeping apartments, these two families, aggregating seven persons, who had been accustomed to the comforts and luxuries of a Parisian home, and unacquainted with the rigors of our northern climate spent the winter of 1792-93. It was an experience that was remembered with a shudder by every one who participated in it. The Indians from a near-by reservation brought them provisions of various kinds, especially game taken in the hunt, otherwise they would have suffered from hunger.

In the spring Mr. Lefevre made himself a shelter of sticks, bark and pine branches, while the d'Autremont boys built adjoining sheds to enlarge the accommodations of their little log house. But little could be done towards making clearings or getting in crops for the supply of their wants, and so passed the summer of 1793. Four other purchasers from Boulogne came this year. In the spring of 1794, Louis Paul d'Autremont went to Philadelphia to see if some more suitable place could not be obtained for their settlement. He stopped enroute at Asylum and made known to Mr. Talon the condition of his mother's and uncle's families. It was said of him that he "was among the first twenty-three refugees who visited Asylum that year looking for homes. Louis Paul d'Autremont at this time was bout 20 years old, could speak English, and was among the handsomest and most attractive men of his time. Mr. Talon, finding they wanted to come, sent a durham boat to The Butternuts and brought the families down to Asylum, where they arrived early in the summer of 1794. About the time of their arrival at Asylum, Mrs. Lefevre and the remaining son came over and joined her husband and the other children, and so the family, which had been separated on the banks of the Seine after tow years of great anxiety, solicitude and suffering, were reunited on the banks of the Susquehanna.

When the Duke Rochefoucauld visited Asylum in 1795, he speaks of Madame d'Autremont as being the widow of a steward at Paris, but does not state the manner of his death. Mr. Lefevre, having sold his lands at The Butternuts, continued to reside at Asylum and near vicinity until the end of his life, and until prevented by the infirmities of age, continued to keep an excellent hotel.

After the abandonment of the colony at Asylum, Mr. Lefevre moved over the river and established his hotel on what is now called Lime Hill. It has generally been spoken of as located at Standing Stone, a mile or two farther up the river. His house became celebrated for its delightful table. Travelers up and down the river always tried to make his house their stopping place in order to get something good to eat, properly cooked, and clean beds.

Anthony Lefevre died February 1, 1830, his wife, Marie G. Lefevre, died August 23, 1834. These are the records on their tombstones in the cemetery at Wyalusing, where they were buried, and are no doubt correct. Some writers have given different dates from these.

In 1795, Talleyrand, after viewing other places of interest, visited Asylum. Tow de la Roue brothers, and Louis Paul d'Autremont, now 23 years of age, accompanied him to France. It is said that for a while he was Talleyrand's private secretary. He continued to reside in Paris and Chantilly, married, and had one daughter, but no sons. It is not known in what business, except that it was honest and profitable. Such was the unnatural state of affairs in Paris that an espionage was kept on every one whether royalist or Republican. Though he wrote frequently to his mother and brothers, he was careful not to disclose anything about himself, lest his letter should be purloined and his life endangered. He did not want it to be known that he was a native of France. In a letter to his mother, he says: "To avoid anything disagreeable, I pass here as a French Canadian and have changed the architecture of my name to Dautrimonth." This was the name to which he had them address their letters. He expressed the deepest love for his mother, and interest in the welfare of his brothers by sending them money to be invested in real estate. Only once did he tell them of reverses and losses, from which he soon recovered. He invested several thousand dollars in lands at Butternuts, which were lost in the wreck of the land speculation. He also bought lands in other parts of New York and in the state of Louisiana, but his land purchases were unfortunate, as were those of his mother and brothers. He was a man of fine personal appearance and considerable ability for public affairs. He was sent by the French government on missions to England and to Portugal. He visited his relatives in this country in 1832, and after remaining eighteen months, returned to France, where he died.

Madame d'Autremont and her two sons remained at Asylum until the colony disbanded, then they first stopped for a short time at Tioga Point (Athens), and then moved on to their old home at Butternuts, thence to Pittsfield, near Cooperstown, and finally to Angelica, N. Y. In 1806, Mrs. d'Autremont bought a piece of land on the Genesee at Angelica, N. Y., which she called the "Retreat," to which she removed with her son, Alexander, his family, and her son, Augustus, and where she was soon joined by her sister, Marie Claudine, and where a number of distinguished Frenchmen had settled, among whom were some of the Duponts, who afterwards removed to Delaware and become the most extensive powder makers in the United States.

When the d'Autremonts returned to The Butternuts they found adverse claimants for the lands they had bought of Treat & Morris, through their agent, Boulogne, to whom they had given a power of attorney. Treat, one of the proprietors, was dead; Boulogne was dead, and Morris declared that they had never given him any authority to sell their lands, and that he had never paid them any money. Boulogne had deposited the power of attorney with a notary in Paris and it could not be produced in court. After three or four years contention, the d'Autremonts sold their deeds for small sum, having lost several thousand dollars. Evidently, Morris was dishonest. Mr. Boulogne could not have been fraudulently selling his lands for two or three years in France and America without Morris finding it out, and sending him to prison. It was only after the witnesses to the power of attorney were dead and Boulogne was dead, that he denied the sale.

Madame d'Autremont died at Angelica, N. Y., August 29th, 1809, at the age of 64 years, and is buried in the cemetery at that place. Her son, Alexander, died at the same place August 4th, 1857. His wife, Abigail (Dodge) d'Autremont, also died there January 12th, 1866. They had 10 children. Her youngest son, Augustus, went to Wilmington, Del., and was employed by the Duponts. In 1816, he married Sarah Ann Stewart of New Castle, Del. He lived at Angelica and Friendship, N. Y. They had 10 children.
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