Saturday, July 14, 2018

It's Bastille Day...And a Birthday Salute to L.A.'s First Frenchman

Louis Aguste Bauchet was the first Frenchman in Los Angeles, according to historian Helene Demeestere.  She posited while Bauchet was first, "recorded in the city's archives, another vintner, Jean-Louis Vignes, qualifies as the father of French immigration to Los Angeles."1

Bauchet was included on a previous post Beneath Terminal Annex

C.C. de Vere's blog Frenchtown Confidential wonderfully describes the circumstances that brought Bauchet, originally from the Champagne region, to settle in the pueblo of Los Angeles.  Bauchet and many more of his countrymen went to Mexico following the Napoleonic Wars to find work.  There they were hired to fight for independence from Spain, and by 1821 Mexico succeeded.  Bauchet served as an officer and leader.2

de Vere sets straight some dates this blogger overlooked:  Bauchet was born July 17, 1785; he arrived in the pueblo of Los Angeles in 1827; he died in 1847.  These dates reveal that Bauchet was nearly four years old and growing up in a region not far from Paris when the onslaught to the Bastille prison compound occurred on July 14, 1789 to trigger the French Revolution. 

Bauchet harvested grapes for wine in L.A. for 20 years, and lived to see another war (the U.S. War with Mexico) before he passed away.  And the 233rd year of his birth is coming up on July 17th, 2018.

Former French Nationals Chose Sides in the U.S. War with Mexico

By the early 1840s Mexico's grasp onto Alta California was weakening.  Some French sided with the Californios while some eventually fought under General John C. Fremont for the Americans when war broke out in 1846.  Prominent French pioneer Joseph Mascarel, though married to a native Californio, fought with the Americans.3

 Today the County Men's Central Jail faces the intersection of Vignes and Bauchet Streets

The street name originated in this vicinity (north of Cesar Chavez Avenue)
because of Louis Bauchet's vineyards and a later Bauchet tract.
The street was officially named in 1889.

A colorful bail bonds strip mall that evokes the flavor choices of a well-stocked Yogurtland faces Vignes Street.  It is kittycorner to the Men's Central Jail and is by appearances a very pleasant-looking, one-stop shopping place to spring a loved one out of jail.

A view of more bail choices along the side of the mini-mall

Bastille Day in L.A.

Below is the written speech delivered by Antonio Coronel on February 19, 1881.  Coronel was a representative of the city's Hispano-American Benevolent Society as well as former city mayor and California State Treasurer.  He himself arrived with his family in 1834 as part of a colonization group, the Hijar-Padres expedition that set sail from San Blas, Mexico.  (Frenchmen were along with that group, too.)

In the draft in Spanish, the visionary Coronel discussed the anniversary of Bastille and France in general.  Apologies for the lack of a translation:

4-page manuscript courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research,
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The anniversary of the taking of the Bastille was civically recognized a few months later the year of 1881, and eight years later the city celebrated the centennial.

Los Angeles Herald, July 14, 1881
Courtesy of the California Digital Newspaper Collection

For more extensive history on early French individuals in L.A. please visit C.C. de Vere's Frenchtown Confidential, True Stories from the Lost French Community in Los Angeles and the Rest of Southern California.  Noteworthy is her post pointing out artifacts at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County that document numerous French pioneers.

For this blogger's previous stories that contain mentions of French residents:

Beneath Terminal Annex, An L.A. Neighborhood North of Macy Street, which covers Bauchet and also Isaac S.K. Ogier, a descendant of French Huguenots.

Before the Convention Center, the Staples Center, L.A. Live and Football, which covers the Sentous brothers.

The Pellissiers: Wiltern Theater, Dairy Farming, and Hazel the Cow, which covers the Pellissier family.

Marcel and Jeanne's French Cafe in Montebello, Cal.

Beneath Parker Center: the Paris Inn Café, Little Tokyo, Vigilantes & Mexican Immigrants


1  Helene Demeestere, Pioneers and Entrepreneurs, French Immigrants in the Making of L.A., 1827-1927, a FLAX (France Los Angeles eXchange) Exhibition, (Los Angeles, FLAX, 2007), [page 2].

2  Fernand Loyer, Charles Beaudreau and Catherine Beaudreau, Le Guide Francais, ([Place of publication not identified] : [F. Loyer and C. Beaudreau] ; Los Angeles : Distributed by Franco American Pub. Co., 1932), 17.

3  Eloise Thienes Lacy, Contributions of People of French Origin to the Historical Development of the City and County of Los Angeles, a Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Department of History University of Southern California, [Los Angeles:  University of Southern California, ca. 1948], 49.