Saturday, May 9, 2015

Celestine Lagrange Boudoin

This week is Mother's Day. For the past month, I have been writing about my foremothers. Today, I will continue the tradition. I recently uncovered an interesting story about my 4x great-grandmother named Celestine Lagrange aka Mother Boudoin. She is the first person of color in my lineage who was free before the Civil War. How was this possible?

Here is her story.

Celestine Lagrange was born circa 1810 in Louisiana, most likely in St. John the Baptist Parish. She was not born free but as a bondswoman. Her last known owner was Marie Lagrange. I have found two records regarding Marie Lagrange. One lists her as a free woman of color, another as a white woman.

Louisiana had a large free people of color population. Many people who were able to obtain their freedom bought their family members. Ironically, keeping them in a "slave status" was often a protective matter in case one lost their freedom papers. Or, in many cases the laws had changed regarding the process to manumit them. Someone could purchase a slave but it became increasingly harder to free them. I am not sure if this was the case with Marie. I found documentation that Marie Lagrange requested that her slaves be freed before he death. 

Here is Marie Lagrange's 1850 slave schedule. She owned eight slaves in 1850. This was not enough to run a successful plantation operation. I wonder who Marie was, how did she support herself?   

Note: The second to the last person on the schedule is a 40-year-old black woman. This is my Celestine! What I also find interesting is that there are several mulatto children listed. I learned that these were Celestine's children. Who and where was the father? (More on that later.)

Marie Lagrange died in 1852. The eight individuals in her household were sold in 1854, according to the Race and Slavery Petitions Project (Petition #20885262). 

Petition 20885262 Details
State: Louisiana
Location: St. John the Baptist
Location Type: Parish
Salutation: To the Honorable the fourth Judicial District Court of the State of Louisiana in & for the parish of St. John the Baptist (, )
Filing Date: 1852-May-3
Ending Date: 1854-August-10

General Petition Information
Abstract: Pierre Barré presents to the court that, by her 17 February 1846, the recently departed Marie Lagrange appointed him testamentary executor of her estate and bequeathed to him a plantation and a slave. He prays that Lagrange's last will and testament be officially recorded and an order for its execution be issued; he also asks the court to confirm him as testamentary executor, to order that the seals affixed to the deceased's property be removed, and that an inventory be taken "according to law."
Result: granted
# of Petition Pages: 3
Related Documents: Order, 3 May 1852; Last Will and Testament, Marie Lagrange [Text in French], 17 February 1846, certified 19 April 1852; Bill of Revivor, Seraphin Barré, 17 November 1853; Orders, 17 November 1853, 25 April 1854; Supplemental Petition, Seraphin Barré, 31 December 1853; Order, 31 December 1853; Supplemental Petition, Seraphin Barré, 10 August 1854; Order, 10 August 1854; Sale of Slaves, Estate of Miss Marie Lagrange [Text in French], 14 September 1854, certified 15 September 1854
Pages of Related Documents: 13
People Associated with Petition 20885262
Slaves: 4
Free Persons of Color: 1
Defendants: 0
Petitioners: 1
Other People: 3

Citation Information
Repository: St. John the Baptist Parish Courthouse, Edgard, Louisiana

Records of the Fourth Judicial District Court
Record Group:
Document Number 64

Processing Information
Record Created: 1/23/1997
Record Final Edited: 9/2/2003
Record Last Updated on: 8/22/2006 10:37:00 AM

Celestine slave black female
Fanfan slave black male 16 years of age in 1854 (purchased by Seraphin; #20885262)
Pierre slave mulatto male 10 years of age in 1846*
Toutoute slave mulatto female 10 years of age in 1854

In 1860:
Celestine is free living as a free woman, next door to the Barré family who presided over the estate of her late owner. The Barré family are kin to the Lagrange family. 

What did I find about the Barré family's continued connection to my family? Note: Celestine is living two doors down from Seraphin Barré, who is living with a man named Antoine Boudoin. Of course, this stood out to me because this is my family's surname. But, what struck me as odd was that this Boudoin fellow was not rich. He did not own slaves. He was a working class white man who just happened to live near my Celestine whose children carried the surname Boudoin. This led me on another hunt. 

Later, I find that Celestine's daughter Justine married Seraphin Barré, the brother of Pierre Barré, who fulfilled Marie Lagrange's wish to manumit her slaves. 

In 1870, I found Antoine Boudoin is living in the same household as Celestine! He is listed as white while she is listed and black. Her children were listed as black on this census, but on a previous census and the slave schedule were listed as mulatto. It all makes sense. Antoine was the father of her children. Celestine's husband Antoine was a brick mason. Because of his race, I have been able to identify his exact date of birth (17 Jan 1808) and parents (Pierre Boudoin and Pelagie Belsom). He was of French ancestry.

I wondered why couldn't they live together as husband and wife? Not only was it socially unacceptable, but was illegal in Louisiana to be married as an interracial couple. This law was passed in 1808. 

Louisiana - Civil Code 1808, page 24, article 8: 

"Free persons and slaves are incapable of contracting marriage together; the celebration of such marriages is forbidden, and the marriage is void; it is the same with respect to the marriages contracted by free white persons with free people of color."

(Not reversed until 1967 in Federal case "Loving vs. Virginia")

This, of course, did not mean that interracial relationships did not happen. Even though it was illegal, they were husband and wife in their own eyes. In the 1880 Census, Celestine lists herself as a widow after Antoine passed away. She is listed living with two of her children and several of her grandchildren. 

Together, they raised several children:

Pierre Antoine Boudoin
Joseph Boudoin
Josephine Boudoin 
Justine Boudoin
Aramantine Boudoin
Clotilda Boudoin
Adolphina Boudoin
Charles Lagrange 
Packa Anderson (parents unknown)

I love that Celestine and Antoine chose to follow their hearts, no matter what society thought about their relationship. It shows bravery and a bit of a rebellious spirit, which I hope I have been able to inherit. I could never imagine not being able to live openly with my partner, especially on account of the color of our skin. I am happy to see that they were at least able to live together for the latter part of their lives.

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