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Returned to Sender: Armand Duplantier letters donated

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Almost 230 years to the day he arrived in Louisiana, the letters of French émigré and Baton Rouge plantation owner Armand Duplantier and his family returned to the state from France when LSU Libraries Special Collections accepted the donation of the Armand Duplantier Family Letters on March 26th at Duplantier’s former home, Magnolia Mound Plantation.

The collection comes to LSU through the generosity of the descendants of Armand Duplantier and their French cousins, the descendants of Armand’s brother Guy Antoine Allard Duplantier.

The papers comprise 94 letters written between 1777 and 1844 to relatives in France by Armand Duplantier, his son Armand, his granddaughter Amélie Augustine, and his uncle Claude Trénonay,. They have been passed down through the family in France. Two of Guy Duplantier’s descendants transported the letters from France and were present at the donation ceremony.

LSU Chancellor Michael Martin and LSU Libraries; Special Collections Head Elaine Smyth officially signed the deed of gift turning over the papers to LSU, which was followed by a reception hosted by Friends of Magnolia Mound and LSU Libraries’ Special Collections.

Armand Duplantier was born in Voiron, France, in 1753. He served as aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette during the American Revolution and came to Louisiana in 1781 to assist his uncle, Claude Trenonay, in running his plantation in Pointe Coupée. Soon after his arrival, he married Trenonay’s step-daughter, Augustine. Armand continued to manage his uncles interests in addition to purchasing and expanding his own properties and the enslaved population necessary to run them. Armand held land in Pointe Coupee, the Felicianas, and the Baton Rouge area. Cotton, indigo and tobacco were the major cash crops of the day, and Armand planted these throughout his holdings. He also developed real estate in New Orleans, where he lived for a time. Soon after his wife’s death of yellow fever, in 1802 Duplantier married Constance Rochon Joyce, the widow of John Joyce, the original owner of Magnolia Mound Plantation near Baton Rouge. Failed crops and poor investments led Duplantier to declare bankruptcy in 1814.

In addition to his planting activities, Duplantier was involved in public life. His friendship with Lafayette had continued after the Revolution, and when Lafayette was granted lands in Louisiana in 1803 in recognition of his service during the American Revolution, Duplantier was charged with acquiring them. He was also part of the delegation that welcomed Lafayette during his 1825 visit to Louisiana. Concerned about suitable educational opportunities for his children, he helped establish Baton Rouge College in 1822. He died five years later and was buried in Highland Cemetery with military honors. According to his obituary in the Baton Rouge Gazette, “few men possessed in a higher degree the qualities essential in a character to command our esteem in private life; he was a warm and sincere friend … charitable to the poor and a bright example in the different characters of husband, father, and master.”

“The Armand Duplantier Family Papers are significant not only for what they tell us about the history of Baton Rouge and nearby Pointe Coupee Parish, but also in what they reveal about the state’s French colonial period, Francophone Louisiana in the territorial and antebellum era, and the enduring legacy of the state’s French antecedents,” said Tara Z. Laver, curator of manuscripts for LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. “In addition they form a linguistic archive of four generations of Louisiana French speakers. “

The papers will become part of the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, the largest accumulation of materials about Louisiana and the lower Mississippi Valley in existence. In addition, they will be translated and made available through the LOUISiana Digital Library.

For additional information about the collection, please contact Tara Z. Laver, tzachar@lsu.edu or 225-578-6546, or read the Advocate‘s article about the donation: http://www.2theadvocate.com/features/people/Letters-come-home.html?showAll=y&c=y.

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