Pierre is the first of our ancestors for whom we can ascertain personality, character, ambitions, etc. From letters, birth and death records and from the memoires of Fortuné Mollot, (Pierre was the grandfather of Fortuné), we have established that he was an entrepreneur…a person with drive and ambition, determined to succeed! As a single man, he left his native village of Dosnon, likely not interested in farming, and moved to CHALONS sur MARNE (now Châlons en Champagne) where he established a small business in clothing of new styles, fabric and accessories such as buttons, needles, thread, ribbon, etc. (Commerce de nouveautés et mercerie.) Châlons is approximately 40 kilometers north of Dosnon. At the time, Châlons was an important commercial center for manufacturing and trading in wool and textiles. It was known mainly for the production of the finest wools. Hence, the origin of the word “shawl” (in French “châle” from Châlons). European merchants gathered at trade fairs in Châlons. There, Pierre Mollot had his start in business and met his bride-to-be, FRANCOISE MARIE JOSEPH FREMINET.
As a point of interest, modern photography first began in the 1820’s in France and soon became fashionable. In our family artifacts we have not only old photographs but also some old “glass” negatives which are an early photographic process dating back to the early 1840’s. These negatives are images of the Ste. Tanche Church and chapel of L’huitre.
According to their church marriage certificate, Pierre and Francoise exchanged their vows on May 7, 1787, in the St. Alpin Church, known as the parish of the wealthiest merchants (la paroisse des commerçants les plus riches). If you ever have the opportunity to visit St. Alpin Church in Chalons en Champagne, take special note of a very large wall painting of “Saint Michel” in the church. According to the church web-site, it was donated to the church by the Freminet family of the day.
Throughout the centuries, churches were made beautiful with stained glass windows. Numerous photos are posted on the web-site, vitrail.mdoduc.com, under France-ville/commune. A visitor to this site can see the exquisite stained glass windows of the churches in which our ancestors worshipped such as those of St. Alpin Church in Châlons en Champagne in the Department of Marne (51), St. Pierre Church in Dosnon, Ste. Tanche Church in Lhuitre and St. Pierre Church in Trouans, all in the Department of Aube (10).
At the time of their marriage, Pierre was 40 years old and Françoise was 31. One could say that for that era they were late starters!
From birth, marriage and death records, we know that the Freminet family was well-established in business in Châlons. From the local records of Châlons that we have found Pierre’s father-in-law, Jean Toussaints Freminet, born October 31, 1722, was a clothing merchant known in French as a “marchant drapier,”(cloth merchant and manufacturer) and a very prominent businessman in the city of Châlons sur Marne. From a Freminet family website, upon which Pierre Mollot is listed, we found that the Freminet family had been in the cloth/fabric business for many generations. No doubt, the knowledge and experience that Pierre Mollot had gained in the clothing and textile industry in Châlons played an important part in the financial success of his son, Louis, who followed his father’s footsteps. Louis, consequently, amassed a large fortune which was later inherited by his artistic son, Fortuné Mollot.
Also, according to the memoires of Fortuné, the Freminet family owned vineyards and were the founders of the FREMINET HOUSE of CHAMPAGNE. “My cousin Freminet was the founder of the House of Champagne, which his sons head today”, Fortuné says. The existence of this House of Champagne from the years 1826 to 1882 can be further verified today on the French web-site “Les Grandes Marques & Maisons de Champagne” at: www.maisons-champagne.com
. and in particular the following page http://www.maisons-champagne/bonal/pages/04/04-01 2.htm
. During those years, there were some 10 Houses of Champagne in Châlons, one being “Freminet et Fils”. Also, in conversation with a very elderly M. Gérard Freminet (no known relation), from the region, it was explained that such a House of Champagne did exist in the late 1800’s.
In the fall of 2010, Lucille and I had the opportunity to spend some 4 days in Châlons. During that time, we pursued the origin of the Freminet House of Champagne. This proved to be most interesting and exciting! With information based on prior research and a visit to the Archives de la Marne, we then met, among other helpful people, M. Biaux, the mayor of Fagnières, a suburb of Châlons. We discovered that Fagnières had been the location, in the 19th century, of these 10 prominent houses of champagne. Today, there is only one left, that is, the Joseph Perrier House of Champagne. Most of these houses have expanded and moved away to larger centers such as the city of Reims and Epernay, the champagne capital of the world.
With the help of the Mayor’s office, we were amazed to be able to find and visit the exact location and the remnants of the caves of the Freminet House of Champagne at #4, rue Basse in Fagnières. These caves were ideally nestled along a very lengthy escarpment or cliff. Today, most of these caves and old warehouses are abandoned.
Besides finding the caves of Freminet et Fils, again with the assistance of the Mayor’s office, we were able to identify, in the old section of Châlons, the actual address of the original “Freminet et Fils” House of Champagne. It was located at #24 rue Pasteur, which was originally named 24 rue St. Nicaise. Today, the location occupies a large apartment block but amazingly, the original archway or portal in front of the building still offers a grand entrance!
View of #24 Rue Pasteur.
Note that the original archway has been preserved as an entrance into the property.