Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

François Sarazin: Interpreter at Arkansas Post during the Chickasaw Wars

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

François Sarazin: Interpreter at Arkansas Post during the Chickasaw Wars

Article excerpt

OF LOUISIANA'S MANY TREASURES, NONE IS MORE INTERESTING than the collection, dating from about 1714, of official letters, documents, and court records of the French Superior Council and those of its successor, the Spanish Cabildo, which reside today in the archives of the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. Of these, few are perhaps more intriguing than a certain letter from one François Sarazin, cadet soldat and interpreter at Arkansas Post in the mid-eighteenth century.

Sir

I take advantage of this opportunity by way of my brother who is going down to New Orleans to assure you of my very sincere regards and at the same time to beg you to forgive me because I did not keep my word, but Sir it was not my fault. He who has my young slave has not yet descended [the Arkansas River], without whom I was unable to send them to you. Consequently I will not be going down this year, because the voyageurs [French independent traders] who are beholden to me have not returned, they have been gone to trap game in the Arkansa[s] since this autumn, to make your pots [of bear oil] that I owe you, which I was unable to make this year. I beg you to excuse me for not having sent them to you, but I hope you will be pleased when I do come down. I am sending you by way of my brother thirteen deerskins, two bear skins, including their claws and nostrils, and two doe skins.

Nothing else to relate to you for the present, knowing that you will learn through my brother of the death of Monsieur Bertet and of the attack that the Arkansa[s] made upon the Choctaws in the River. Some Yazoos killed a man and a woman and took five as slaves. Then they burned a man in the frame.

I am, Sir, and will remain all my life with all respect and submission, Sir.

Your humble and very obedient servant,

François Sarazin

Compliments if you please to Poupée. I plan on bringing her something that will please her. At Arkansa[s]-May 1, 1749.1

This letter affords a rare glimpse of life at Arkansas Post in the eighteenth century, as well as an opportunity to reconstruct the life story of an Arkansas colonial, something that few historians have attempted.

François' parents, Anne Françoise Rolland and Nicholas Sarazin, were among the first French settlers to arrive in Louisiana, which then encompassed much of the Mississippi Valley. Both parents were frequently mentioned in early colonial French reports. French women retained their maiden names; therefore, Anne Françoise's surname was always Rolland. By her early twenties, the young Anne Françoise Rolland had gotten into the habit of going alone to public dance halls in her native Paris and coming home with strange men. Her father, a Parisian administrator, sent her to live in a convent and later apprenticed her to a dressmaker, but she refused to change her ways. Finally, he filed a complaint against her. She was declared incorrigible by the court, sent to the Bastille, and shipped to Louisiana in June 1719 to become a bride for one of its settlers. Of the many men who wanted French wives, Anne Françoise chose Nicholas Sarazin, an employee of John Law's Company of the Indies. This was the entity, known as "the Company," to which the king of France had conveyed the right to develop Louisiana.2

Nicholas Sarazin probably came to Louisiana directly from France, rather than Canada, as no trace of him was found after extensive search of colonial Canadian records. He first appears in a Louisiana record dated March 12, 1719. On that date, the Council of Commerce of Louisiana in Mobile decided to send Sieur Sarazin as a clerk to the Post of the Alabamas (Fort Toulouse) to conduct the Company's business there. The June 1721 census of Mobile shows Nicholas Sarazin, gardemagazin, and wife, but no children. A garde-magazin was a minor but important administrator who ran a company warehouse or trading post, called the magazin, at a settlement. In that same year, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, and most of the settlers at Mobile moved there also. …

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