Huguenot Society in New Orleans



A Huguenot by accepted definition was a person of Protestant faith of any sect and national origin, who lived in the Kingdom of France and thereafter emigrated to America or another country during the time subsequent to December 10, 1520 (Reformation date on which Martin Luther burned the papal bull Exsurge Domine at Wittenberg) and prior to France's Edict of Toleration, November 28, 1787. These followers of the Protestant Doctrines of, primarily, John Calvin in France became known as Huguenots.

After decades of conflicts and persecutions between Catholics and Huguenots in France, King Henry II, (King Henry of Navarre), a Huguenot, issued the EDICT OF NANTES on April 13, 1598 granting Huguenots and Catholics toleration and freedom of worship, education of children and the practice of businesses and ownership of property in their own fashion, peaceably. This policy was continued during the reign of King Francis II also, but in subsequent decades conflicts arose and Catholic sovereigns decreased the freedoms of the Huguenots.

Finally, King Louis XIV pronounced the full REVOCATION OF THE EDICT OF NANTES on October 22, 1685 with its resulting mandatory conversion to Catholicism or expulsion of Huguenots from France upon threats of death and confiscation of property.

Although there had been some migration of Huguenots from France during prior troubled times, the decade after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes resulted in the emigration of an estimated 400,000 (THE DIASPORA) of the 1.5 million Huguenots in France at that time. They were primarily the skilled craftsmen, professionals and businessmen of their times and communities.

They and their families fled to the Protestant tolerant countries of Switzerland, Holland, England and Germany from which they were encouraged and sometimes even sponsored to emigrate to America. They settled mostly in New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, North Carolina and South Carolina where they quickly applied their skills to establishing successful communities and businesses in these states. Famous names such as Paul Revere in Boston, E.I. du Pont de Nemours of Pennsylvania and Delaware, George Washington in Virginia, the Brevards of North Carolina and the Manigault and Gignilliat families in South Carolina were all Huguenots or of Huguenot descent.

Observing this phenomenon of Huguenot leadership on his famous tour of the United States after the Revolutionary War, General Lafayette convinced King Louis XVI to issue the EDICT OF TOLERATION on November 28, 1787 in an attempt to attract some of these accomplished businessmen and families to return to France.

Even though New Orleans was not a port of entry for the Huguenots of The Diaspora due to its initial settlement (1690) and rule by Catholic France and then Spain, following its acquisition by the United States in 1803 and the opening of the Louisiana Purchase territories, many successful businessmen and families moved to New Orleans from the East Coast including those of Huguenot origin. Two of particular importance to Louisiana during its business boom years of the early 19th century were Paul Tulane, benefactor to Tulane University, and Julien de Lallande Poydras for whom Poydras Street is named.

The HUGUENOT SOCIETY IN NEW ORLEANS was organized as one of the premier social and hereditary associations in New Orleans in 1973 by Beale Howard Richardson IV and David Oliver Crumley. Its first president, William Ferguson Colcock, was installed at the initial meeting of the Society on September 9, 1973, and he modeled it after the Huguenot Society of South Carolina of which he was a member. Having over 100 members, most of which are hereditary, the Society holds three events per year including its Annual Meeting celebrating the anniversary of the EDICT OF TOLERATION on or about November 28.