THE BENOIT ROOTS
Before elaborating on the marriage of Fortuné Mollot and Léopoldine Benoit, it is necessary to look at the Benoit ancestry.
The Azémar/Croze/Benoit ancestry researched to date goes back as far as approximately the year 1617. This is well documented in a number of French history books and articles including the book called La France Moderne, a dictionnaire généalogique, historique et biographique (Drôme et Ardèche), printed by Laffitte Reprints, Marseille, France in 1979. This history book was obtained through the Departmental Archives of Ardèche in Privas, France. The document entry number is 6363, pages 43 and 44. Another valuable source for this information is a document called “La Famille D’Azémar à La Voulte sur Rhône”, written by l”Abbé Auguste Roche, published in 1900 at L’imprimerie centrale de l’Ardèche.
The ancestry, as described in La France Moderne, is quite fascinating and impressive in that Léopoldine’s side of the family has roots to the French aristocracy and nobility. Ancestors from both sides of her family were very well educated and generally held prominent positions in local government and/or the French military. Not as much research has been done into this family as compared to the Mollot side but we do have at our disposal some official documents such as wills and birth certificates containing excellent information.
Thus, we have traced the ancestry of Léopoldine Mollot née Benoit, on her maternal side (Croze/Azémar), back to approximately the year 1617.
This information has been taken from the French documents mentioned above and also from various birth, marriage and death certificates that we have obtained from the Archival Departments de la Drôme in Valence and de l’Ardèche in Privas.
I would highly recommend that the attached Mollot Family Tree chart be examined. The numbers following the names in this document can also be found on the chart to gain a better understanding about whom references are being made. Eg. Guillaume Azémar (13)
GUILLAUME AZEMAR- (13) Our journey begins as indicated in the year 1617 when Guillaume Azémar, a magistrate by profession, originally from Pézenas which is close to Montpellier in Languedoc in southern France, with wife, Isabeau Cieppe, settle in La Voulte on the Rhône River next to Valence. La Voulte is an area in south central France known today as part of the Department of L’Ardèche. The La Voulte area is quite forested. For centuries mining was a very important industry. Journeying south, however, vineyards become the main industry. The brother of Guillaume, Antoine Azémar, married a lady by the name of Catherine de Fabre.
Antoine Azémar and his family were granted the rights to be “les receveurs des péages par eau”- the receivers of tolls by water! As well, in 1652, Antoine was granted the title of BARON ANTOINE D’AZEMAR (14) by the Duchess of Ventadour and King Louis XIV of France. The Baron was granted the right to collect taxes for the King from the people/businesses that used certain waterways as a means of transportation. In this case, the waterway was part of the Rhône River and its tributaries in that region. Interestingly enough, the King at the time was King Louis the XIV who reigned from 1643 to 1715 for some 72 years. As you may know, King Louis XIV developed the reputation of being extremely extravagant. The palace of Versailles, one of his more extravagant accomplishments just on the outskirts of Paris, was built on the backs of the common French people.
From BARON ANTOINE D’AZEMAR (14) in the 1650’s to BARON MARTIAL-MICHEL D’AZEMAR (15) in 1805: These people also held prominent positions for the French Crown. As an example, Baron Martial-Michel d’Azémar was “l’avocat en parlement, juge général du comté de la Voulte et maire élu’’ –parliamentary lawyer, judge and elected mayor of la Voulte. He was elected mayor of La Voulte on Nov. 13, 1791, during the horrific years of the French Revolution . One cannot imagine the persecutions and public executions that occurred during those times when Protestants vied with Catholics and monarchists with revolutionaries! His first wife was Jeanne-Angélique Morier and on Sept. 11, 1804, he married his second wife, Marie-Anne Désenfant. From his second marriage, a son was born on July 18, 1757, by the name of Jean-Jacques d’Azémar.
This marks a very interesting period of military connection in our family tree and particularly in the direct ancestry of Léopoldine Mollot née Benoit. Baron Jean-Jacques d’Azémar is the first of three generations to rise to the rank of Military General in the various French armies of the pre- and post-Napoleonic years.
1757-1816 – GENERAL BARON JEAN-JACQUES D’AZEMAR (16)
He was born in La Voulte on July 18, 1757, in the region now known as the department of Ardèche. Being from a noble family, well educated and in a position of influence and power, he first started his career by establishing mines and foundries in La Voulte. In 1778, he enlisted as a volunteer in the military regiment of the area. Shortly thereafter, he joined the military and very quickly moved up the military ranks. In 1785, just prior to the French Revolution, he even met Napoleon Bonaparte in La Voulte who, at the time, was also a high ranking military officer. (Note that the date of birth printed on the photo which was taken from another source is different from the 1757 date given in the book, La France Moderne
One can only speculate what the politics of the day might have been! Revolutionary winds of change were in the air. Being from an aristocratic family and well positioned in society, Baron Jean-Jacques d’Azémar likely realized that the feudal system and the extravagance of the French monarchies would soon crumble. He possibly wondered to where poverty, suppression, and extravagance would lead?
Just a few years later in 1789, the French Revolution exploded! Chaos and anarchy ruled and a few years later, Napoleon, through the military, worked his way into power as Emperor of France.
Historically, le reign of Napoleon is very significant in reference to the United States. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase agreement was negotiated between France (Napoleon) and the U.S.A. The U.S.A. acquired some 828,000 sq. miles of France’s claim to the territory of Louisiana. This encompassed all or part of 14 current states thus doubling the size of the United States. The total cost to the U.S. was 15 million dollars which works out to approximately 3 cents an acre as valued today. Reasons which propelled this agreement were the outstanding debt owed to the U.S. as well as the need Napoleon had for money for his armies. In addition, Napoleon’s strategy was to create another rival for England. Napoleon, upon completion of this agreement stated, “This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride”.
Now back to Baron Jean-Jacques d’Azémar. Throughout Napoleon’s reign, he moved up the military ladder to General by 1806. He was heavily involved in Napoleon’s military campaign in Northern Europe and, especially, in Italy.
In reference to his personal life, on April 6, 1802, at the age of 44 in La Voulte sur Rhône, he married Appolinaire Agathe Geneviève Fontneuve, daughter of the parliamentary lawyer and judge of La Voulte. He later died on January 31, 1816, in La Voulte.
Their son, BARON GENERAL LEOPOLD MICHEL MARTIAL d’AZEMAR- 1804-1888 (18)
His birth certificate records indicate that he was born on May 22, 1804 in Privas. He also ended up being a military general in the French army but was known more as an administrator and military strategist. He wrote books such as The Future of the Calvary
and The System of Modern War
. The three generational photos of Général Baron Jean-Jacques, his son Général Baron Léopold Michel Martial and grandson Général Baron Adolphe Henry Gaston d’Azémar are included in this document.
1803- ? EUGENIE MARIE APPOLINAIRE d’AZEMAR-(17) Besides a son, Baron Jean Jacques d’Azémar and Appolinaire Fonteneuve had a daughter, born Jan.18, 1803, by the name of Eugénie Marie Appolinaire d’Azémar, as per her birth certificate. According to their church marriage publication certificate, on August 2nd, 1819, at 16 years of age, in her hometown of La Voulte, she married Jacques Joseph Hubert Croze, age 30, a lawyer from the neighboring city of Privas. Eugénie is our direct family link to the Azémar noble family.
1823-1887 – AGATHE ERNESTINE JULIE CROZE (12) Jacques Joseph Hubert Croze (20) and Eugénie Marie Appolinaire d’Azémar (17) also had a daughter born in Privas on Feb. 25, 1823. They gave her the name of Agathe Ernestine Julie Croze.(12) From Ernestine’s birth certificate, we have determined that her father Hubert Croze had a law practice and that the family lived in the city of Privas.
Ernestine Croze married DR. ALEXANDRE GABRIEL HUBERT BENOIT (11), a medical doctor, from the small 3rd century Gallo-Roman city of Die which is nestled close to the French Alps. This is a most picturesque area of France. As one can appreciate, distances were a problem in those days as compared to today. Though Privas, La Voulte sur Rhône, Die and Blandin are all of the same region and within approximately 125 kilometers of each other, a few days were required to travel from point A to point B.
Dr. Alexandre Benoit and Ernestine Croze had five children, one of which is Marie Anais Léopoldine Benoit, (10) our direct ancestor and great grandmother of the author of this document.
1852-1944 - MARIE ANAIS LÉOPOLDINE BENOIT (10) – Léopoldine, who later immigrated to Canada with husband Fortuné and family, was born on July 8, 1852, in Die, France, in the department of Drôme. She was the third of five children of Dr. Alexandre Gabriel Hubert Benoit (11) and Agathe Ernestine Julie Croze (12). The same year that Léopoldine was born, that is 1852, Dr. Benoit founded a thermo resort known as “le Martouret” just on the outskirts of Die to treat patients who had rheumatism and arthritis. Dr. Benoit had developed various innovative treatments of hot baths and vapors from turpentine. The individuals relaxed in a chamber of approximately 6x8 ft. where their limbs were exposed to turpentine vapors. Based on a schematic drawing displayed in the city museum in Die, it appears that the subject sat in a chamber with part of the body enclosed in a covering. The vapors of turpentine flowed from a lower chamber where the turpentine had been vaporized. The turpentine gases were piped up to the upper chamber into the space under the covering, thus treating the patient. Interestingly, Dr. Benoit presented his process at an International Exposition in Venice, Italy, in the late 1800”s. Still today in the city museum of Die, you will find a display and a large schematic drawing of Dr. Benoit’s scientific approach to treating rheumatism and arthritis.
Among the family archives, there are a few family pictures taken approximately in the year 1888 at the resort. In these photos, it is possible to identify some of our ancestors as well as some of the buildings. Some of these pictures were taken on the veranda of a house which was likely their residence. On the veranda, still in existence today, we recognize the ornamental molding and railing that are in the family photographs of July, 1888.
on the veranda at
Léopoldine Mollot (age36) is seated on the lower steps – centre front.
Same veranda…120 years later!
on the veranda at
Group picture of
‘Mollot Tour de
Le Martouret, still standing today, is now used as a youth summer camp. Interestingly, the remnants of the building with six treatment chambers are still there!
Dr. Benoit was born in Die, France, April 27, 1818. According to his death certificate, he died on Dec. 20, 1892, in Die at 74 years of age. As previously mentioned, Dr. Benoit and Ernestine Croze had five children: Gabriel, born in 1847 who also became the 3rd generation Benoit medical doctor, Hubert, born in 1849, Léopoldine, our ancestor, born in 1852, Eugénie, born in 1855 and lastly Adolphe, born in 1857. Léopoldine’s mother, Ernestine Benoit née Croze, died on March 21, 1877, according to the liquidation and distribution of her estate which we have as part of our family collection.
It is also interesting to note that Dr. Benoit’s father was also a medical doctor by the similar name of Dr. Alexandre Gabriel Benoit, born in 1787. His mother was Anne Planel. According to a local museum director and city historian, Jacques Planchon, and other sources, it has been determined that the medical office and home of Dr. Alexandre Benoit, the father, were at 14 rue Villeneuve, now 14 rue Emile Laurens which is located within the walls or ramparts in the heart of this quaint little 3rd century Gallo-Roman city of Die.
The family connection to French nobility and aristocracy, as previously mentioned, originated from the ancestors of Léopoldine’s maternal grandmother, Eugénie Marie Appolinaire Croze, née Azémar. In all previous generations, someone in the family carried the title of “Baron d’Azémar”. Archives indicate that as late as 1913, the title was still in existence.
History books define nobility as follows; people seen as capable leaders chosen by the Crown to manage/rule such things as tracks of land, control of waterways, etc. Over and above the title, noble families were usually granted special rights and rewarded financially in various ways.
The title of “Baron” stayed with the Azémar family for centuries but their rights to collect taxes or tolls on the waterways were abolished after the French Revolution.