GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Through the determination of Char Ollinger Waughtel to explore and document her history, she found a direct connection to the French 500 in Gallipolis, Ohio.
Waughtel has spent untold hours reading through documents, books, and primary sources to find her connection to Dr. Antonine Francis Saugrain and his wife Rosaline Genevieve Michau. This search enabled her to establish that she is a 4th great granddaughter. She has traced their beginnings in France, their journey to Gallipolis as part of the group of settlers known as the French 500, their move to Louisville, and final settlement St. Louis.
She presented their story last weekend during her seminar at the Bossard Memorial Library, with both Saugrain and Michau descendants in attendance.
Dr. Saugrain married his best friend’s daughter Genevieve Michau. Along with their children, the couple boarded a ship bound for a land in the “New World.” Upon their arrival to what is now Gallipolis, they were dismayed to find none of the infrastructure that had been promised.
Dr. Roger Anderson, a professor at Central College, read “The Lure”, a poem documenting the adventures, and sometimes misadventures, of the French 500. Anderson translated the poem from it’s original French, and read some of the passages in French, giving the reading a historical flavor.
Mary Perdue Tapp traces her genealogy from the Michau branch of the family, and is also a 4th great granddaughter. She said she was surprised to find the connection to the French 500 and Dr. Saugrain, and thanked Waughtel for bringing them together.
“It was a treat to have come from St. Louis to attend this event,” said Tapp. “Rosaline’s Gardens are famous in St. Louis, and she is considered a pioneer. I had always been curious about my family history, and want to thank everyone who helped with my search for my ancestors.”
The Rosaline she is referring to is the daughter of Saugrain and Michau, but what Tapp said she keeps coming back to is the thought of bringing five kids on a ship in the late 1700s.
“What were they thinking,” she said shaking her head. “I just keep coming back to the thought of boarding a ship, spending weeks crossing the ocean, how and why would they do that? And how did she feel about it all? I just can’t imagine.”
In her presentation, Waughtel wove together the contributions Dr. Antonine Francis Saugrain and his wife Rosaline Genevieve Michau made to the settlement and development of the American frontier, from the children they raised, to his chemistry experiments, the incorporation of medical remedies from his training in France as a medical doctor, those used by the army and some from native peoples, and the medical kit he provided Lewis and Clark for their “Corps of Discovery Expedition.”
Saugrain’s connections to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Meriweather Lewis were also explored, connecting them to both American and French history.
The seminar was presented by Our House Tavern in partnership with the Bossard Memorial Library.
“There are many stories connected to this family and Gallipolis,” said Bev Jeffers, director of Our House Tavern. “I hope they will be presented in future stories, because they are an exciting, and for many, an unknown part of our history.”
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.