And our discoveries didn’t end here! We were further advised at the “Archives Departementales de la Marne” in Châlons that the archives in the city of Reims would likely have further information about the “Freminet et Fils” House of Champagne. So, off we went to Reims! There, we found various documents, primarily “Freminet et Fils” invoices and export sales slips to England which at the time had to be submitted to the French government. We also learned from these documents that Adrien Freminet was one of the of the ‘Freminet et Fils’ agents.
A champagne called “Charles Freminet” is still produced today by Château Malakoff, a well known house of champagne in Epernay. This house produces numerous other brands as well. Charles Freminet champagne is however, marketed and distributed throughout the world by another large house of champagne in Epernay by the name of “Champagne de Castellane”. We believe that there is a connection between Freminet et Fils of the 19th century and the present Charles Freminet champagne but have yet to verify it.
Pierre and Françoise had only two children JEANNE FRANCOISE MOLLOT (6) and LOUIS FORTUNE MOLLOT (7) (Fortuné’s father). You will notice that in those years, it was quite common to name the first born female after the mother and the first born male after the father. This custom can be rather confusing for historians and genealogists. The in-laws of Pierre Mollot were Jean Toussaints Freminet and Françoise Collard. According to their marriage records, Jean Toussaints and Françoise were wed on Feb. 18, 1754 in Eglise St. Eloi in Châlons. Note the chain of three important family events in the four years surrounding the French Revolution during the years of 1789 and 1793: Pierre and Francoise were married on May 7 in 1787. Françoise Jeanne, their daughter, was born on June 23, 1788, and a year later, Jean Toussaints Freminet, the father in-law, died on August 31, 1789, at the age of 66. The Bastille was stormed in Paris on July 14, 1789, by revolutionaries or anti-monarchist so this date is approximately six weeks into the French Revolution, better known as the Reign of Terror. One can only imagine the conditions that our ancestors lived through, given the social unrest that resulted in this horrible religious and political civil war. History books tell us that throughout the 1700’s and 1800’s, the feudal system and the Bourbon kings (1610 – 1789) kept the French population severely oppressed while they, King Louis XIII, King Louis XIV, King Louis XV and, finally, King Louis XVI, the nobility and their Courts, lived extravagantly. Interestingly, another cause for the French Revolution was the lack of food because of drought conditions. French people were starving while the nobility and royalty were living off their backs. Consequently, all of this led to the bloody French Revolution during which thousands died.
Back to Pierre and Françoise Mollot: Their second and last child and only son, LOUIS FORTUNÉ MOLLOT, was born and baptized on Feb. 15, 1791, also in Église St. Alpin in Châlons sur Marne. Louis lived his childhood during some very troublesome years in French history: The French Revolution or Reign of Terror occurred between 1789 and 1793 with the beheading of King Louis XVI on January 21st, 1793, and Queen Marie Antoinette on October 16th, 1793. These difficult times ended with the overthrow of the Revolutionary Government and, shortly thereafter, with the rise of Emperor Napoleon 1st.
Pierre Mollot’s wife, Marie Joseph Françoise Freminet was born and baptized on February 25, 1756 in Eglise St. Eloi in Châlons according to her birth certificate. Also, according to her civil death certificate, she died on January 15, 1846, at the age of 89 in Châlons sur Marne. Her name and the year of her death were also discovered inscribed on the back of a picture frame that included decorative woven locks of her hair. This custom of saving locks of hair as a souvenir was quite common in those days. The inscription reads as follows: ‘Cheveux Provenant de Marie Joseph Françoise Freminet, Epouse de Pierre Mollot, Décédée dans sa 90 ième année….Leurs descendants, Louis Mollot, Jeanne Françoise Mollot.’ This memorabilia is yet another souvenir of our ancestry.
From the civil records of the city, Pierre Mollot died in Châlons sur Marne on July 5, 1810, at the age of 63 when Napoleon and his armies ruled most of Europe. These records indicate that Pierre was a “merchant” at the time of his death.
It is also most interesting to note that their only daughter, JEANNE FRANCOISE MOLLOT (6) born June 23, 1788, in Châlons sur Marne, (now Châlons en Champagne) married CAPITAINE JEAN MARIE FORTUNÉ COLLET. He was born in Turin, Italy, in 1781 and, according to his civil death records, died on October 7th in 1850 in Châlons sur Marne at the age of 68. His death certificate also indicates that his /their last residence was Numéro 4, Place de la Comédie. Today, this location is a shopping mall in the heart of Châlons called La Gallerie de L’hotel de Ville.
Capitaine Collet served both in the armies of Napoleon 1st and Louis XVIII and was wounded twice in action. From the Emperor and the King, he received certificates of honor as a “Chevalier de St. Louis et St. Ferdinand d’Espagne” as well as medals of bravery. Other artifacts that have been passed down to us are the decorations from his military uniform, namely, his epaulettes and a metal visor from his cap. All these memorabilia are still with family today.
Capitaine Fortuné Collet and spouse Françoise Collet née Mollot
According to her civil death certificate, Jeanne Francoise Collet, née Mollot, died on Sept 29, 1869, at her residence at No.1, rue Saint Joseph in Châlons sur Marne at the age of 81. This residence is still in existence today and is known as Maison St. Joseph, a retirement home for seniors managed by the Sisters of Adoration. In September 2010, Lucille and I visited this residence. It had originally been founded and built in 1614 by the religious order of the Benedictines. The layout of Maison St. Joseph is most interesting in that it is similar to a medieval monastery: a beautiful chapel and rooms surrounding a garden cloister.
During the 2nd World War, many buildings in Châlons were destroyed. The city of Châlons and the region was actually liberated by General Patton and the Blue Ridge Division of the American 3rd Army in August of 1944. Today, many streets in this city have been renamed with names of American war heroes such as Boulevard du Général Patton and Avenue du Président Roosevelt.
Capitaine Fortuné Collet and his wife Françoise had no children. Her only brother, Louis, age 78, and her nephew, Fortuné, age 24, attended her funeral in Châlons as their signatures are on her death certificate. It is also interesting to note that on her death certificate, it was her maiden name, Mollot, that was used and not her married name, Collet. In those days, it was quite common for women to revert back to their maiden name after their husbands had passed away. In the collection of family artifacts, we still have numerous letters that she wrote to her nephew, Fortuné Mollot, dating back as far as the year 1862. In fact, when Françoise died in 1869, Fortuné inherited 42,000 Francs which was a substantial amount in those days.
Historically, the 19th century years were years of transition in France. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic era put an end to rule by monarchs and emperors. It ushered in the new beginnings of democratic government which was quite unstable at times. However, entrepreneurship was able to flourish for it was no longer under the control of monarchs and the nobility. This factor certainly allowed people such as our direct ancestors, Pierre Mollot, and, especially, his son, Louis Fortuné Mollot, to become entrepreneurs and to prosper and to have a much better quality of life.