Saturday, October 8, 2011

Francis De Pau and the slave trade

Francis De Pau, born 1773 in Bayonne, France, is well known in Northern New York for his financial successes, his shipping line, and his marriage to Sylvie de Grasse. A ship was named after him, and so was a town in Jefferson County, New York: Depauville. He lived in Trinidad, in New York, and in South Carolina, and married the daughter of  the French Count DeGrasse in New Jersey.

My research on this individual can serve as a useful model for successful research via the internet.

In hoping to find more information about him and his family, I used many forms of his name and places he had lived in search engines, and then built on the information that popped up. I found that as the administrator of an estate, he had sold a slave, so I then checked his name in connection to the slave trade.

What little information did appear was quite informative, and it came from an unlikely website.  Some business papers De Pau wrote are up for sale for quite a bit of cash at an auction site, believe it or not. Sometimes these obscure marketplaces are indeed where we can find the best authentic information. The papers are written to a captain of a ship, and are very revealing about the degree to which De Pau was a corrupt slave dealer.  He reveals his tactics for taking over a ship and acquiring slaves, and  describes the number of slaves to obtain and what their height may  be.
His family was very interesting, and  has inspired stories of intrigue and romance in the area where the French once settled in Jefferson and Lewis Counties, New York, but I had never heard of this side of him before.

As always, back to the original documents for the best information. De Pau reveals in his own hand what kind of businessman he was, and now those papers are, ironically, worth quite a bit of money--tens of thousands.

 I found scanned images of his papers and long descriptions of them at the website "Goldberg Coins and Collectibles."

The image of the ship Francis DePau is taken from

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