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Huguenot & Walloon Genealogy & History Overview
Huguenot & Walloon Historical Overview
by Lorine McGinnis Schulze
Copyright © 1996
The breaking out of war between France and Spain in 1635 caused a large influx of Protestant refugees into England from Picardy, Artois, Hainault and Flanders. Amiens was the capital of the Amienois in Picardy. The Huguenots were in full force in Amiens. Louis de Berguin, a Walloonfrom Artois first maintained the Reformed doctrines in 1527 and was burnt in Paris for these beliefs. In 1568, 120 Huguenots were slain in the streets of Amiens and a repetition of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris was only averted in Amiens by the Governor of Picardy. In 1594 the citizens of Amiens acknowledged the newly turned Catholic Henry IV as their King. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish occupied the city. After the Edict of Nantes, Amiens became the centre of a flourishing trade and commerce although by 1625, Huguenot worship had been banished beyond the gates of the city. Huguenots could not meet
for worship within the city walls without risking the wrath of mobs. By the Edict of Nantes only
two towns were allowed for the Huguenots to build churches: Desvres in the Boulonnais and
Hautcourt near St. Quentin.
By 1600 the Seigneur de Heucourt had notified the government at Amiens of his intent
to have public worship for himself, his family and the inhabitants of Amiens, too far from the only
allowed towns to travel there, at Hem, a suburb of Amiens where 36 years before the
Protestants had built a temple. In 1611 they obtained permission to move to Salouel and build a
temple there. Salouel was a small village on the Celle. There was another large church at
Oisemont, a market town 12 miles south of Abbeville where the Huguenots were strong. This
was 18 miles west of Amiens. One of the elders here, living at Oisemont, was David Des
Marets, Sieur de Ferets and in 1625 he represented the church. By the time of the war in 1635,
the enemy invaded Picardy and captured Corbie only nine miles north of Amiens. The Picards
fled and their nearness to the Low Country border offered the Huguenots of Picardy a good
chance of escape. Many fled through Belgium to the Netherlands; others fled by way of the
Vermandois forests resting at Boahin 12 miles northeast of St. Quentin where there were many
Huguenots. Calais, then the extreme northern outlet of Picardy, near the shores of England, was
strongly Protestant, and a good resort for escaping refugees.
The Picards were French, but of mixed origin; descendants of both Belgae and Celtae who occupied the border between these two ancient nations, that is the district which parted the Celtae from the Nervii, the most invincible of the Belgic tribes. They had an affinity to the Walloons, whose patois theirs resembled. The narrow strip of the seaboard, twenty miles or less across, which stretched southerly from Calais to the Cauche, covered the districts of Guines and Boulonnais, two subdivisions of Picardy. Its larger part, on either side of the Somme, and extending 100 miles inland to the borders of Champagne, was the coast section called l'Onthien, reaching 30 miles up the Somme. Abbeville was the main town, then came the Amienois, Santerre, Vermandois and Thierache. These seven districts made up modern Picardy, but five others lay southerly of these: Beauvoisis, Noyonnois, Soissonnois, Laennois and Valois. They were also Picard territory as seen in the characteristics of the people, although these districts had been annexed to the Isle of France.
These sections of Picardy, except Guines and Boulonnais, were on one or more of its three principal rivers, the Somme, the Oise and the Aisne. The river Oise [Lorine's note: could this be where the surname d'Oiselle came from?] stretched westward to Guise in the same district and ran southwesterly to the Seine, parallel to the coast.
The Huguenots had long been persecuted in their homelands. Many families, in terror, fled for other lands after the fall of La Rochelle and Montauban. The West Indies, inviting because of its climate and fruitfulness, was becoming the refuge of many Huguenots for whom the cold region of Canada had no attractions. Removals to these islands had been going on under the direction of a company formed at Paris in 1626, under M. D'Enantbus, who the
year before had visited the island of St. Christopher in a brigantine from Dieppe. There he planted the first colony in 1627. In 1635, Martinique was occupied by a hundred old and experienced settlers from St. Christopher, including Phillippe Casier and his wife Maria Taine. But D'Enambue died. In 1640 Jesuit missionaries arrived at Martinique where there were almost a thousand French, "without mass, without priest,". Having been reluctantly admitted by the governor and the people, the Jesuits heightened the public dissensions which broke out in the islands and which grew so violent five years later, especially in Martinique, that many of the Huguenots were glad to get back to Europe. Many of them went to the Netherlands, some of them, as the Casier family of Calais, eventually finding safe haven at Harlem, New York.
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