Curator of Manuscripts Tara Laver and Public Services Library Associate Germain Bienvenu spoke to about 200 descendants of Armand Duplantier Saturday, June 22, at Duplantier’s former estate, Magnolia Mound in Baton Rouge, where over 400 family members gathered for a reunion. (See a write up about the reunion and quotes from Laver in the Baton Rouge Advocate.)
The topic of the discussion was the Armand Duplantier Family Letters, a collection of correspondence from Armand Duplantier Sr., his uncle Jean-Claude Trénonay, Armand’s son Armand Allard Duplantier, and granddaughter Amélie Augustine Duplantier Peniston to their relatives in France. The collection is housed at the LSU Libraries Special Collections, and the library has digitized, transcribed, and translated the letters and published them in the Louisiana Digital Library, where they can be viewed and searched. In addition, a description of the collection is available at http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/findaid/5060.pdf.
Armand Duplantier, Sr., whose letters represent the bulk of the collection, 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 Trénonay, in running his plantation in Pointe Coupée Parish. Soon after his arrival, he married Trénonay’s step-daughter, Augustine. He continued to manage his uncle’s interests, purchased and sold additional slaves and land in Pointe Coupée, the Felicianas, and the Baton Rouge area, and raised cotton, indigo, and tobacco. He also developed land holdings 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 him to declare bankruptcy in 1814.
In addition to his planting activities, Duplantier was somewhat 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. Always concerned about suitable educational opportunities for his own children, he helped establish Baton Rouge College in 1822. He died five years later and was buried in Highland Cemetery with military honors.
In particular, the letters relate to Louisiana under the French, Spanish, and Americans and the economic, political, and social conditions attendant on transitioning among the three powers; commerce with France; the succession of Trénonay; attitudes about the French Revolution; slavery and plantation matters; family news such as illness, births, deaths, and the education of Duplantier’s children; and travels in France by Amélie Duplantier.
The Armand Duplantier Family Letters were given by the descendants of Guy Antoine Allard Duplantier, elder brother of Armand Duplantier, to their Louisiana cousins, and subsequently donated to the LSU Libraries in 2011.
Transcriptions and translations for this project were prepared by David Laatsch (MLS, LSU 2012), under the supervision and editorship of Special Collections Library Associate in Public Services Germain Bienvenu, PhD.