John Frederick La Farge (Lafarge, Jean Frédéric de la Farge)

Born on April 8, 1786 in France. On the way back from serving on an expedition against the Negro rebellion in Santo Domingo he was wounded at sixteen and then transferred from the French navy to the French military. When the French military retreated he was captured by General Guerrier and those who were serving with La Farge were killed, but Guerrier took a liking to La Farge and he taught the general to read. After the rest of the French military left La Farge was freed and he stayed and made many friends on Santo Domingo. He heard of a plan that all the white men on the island would be killed on Easter Sunday, 1806 so he escaped to Haiti, then to Philadelphia in the US, but then returned to Europe.

While there he made a good fortune at running the blockade between France and England, then created a mercantile business with the West Indies through the help of sailing master and ship-owner Peter Penet. In 1832 he anglicized his name.

After the American Revolution Penet had bought a lot of land in New York. In upstate NY near Clayton reaching to the St. Lawrence, he was granted a one hundred square miles reserve by the Oneida. Some of the property already had a number of squatters inhabiting it who considered themselves the owners through Adverse Possession. When Alexander Macomb bought the large tract of land in the area, Penet's Square was not included in the sale. Penet failed to manage his reserve and many squatters lived on the large amount of land.

When Penet died at sea La Farge was in New Orleans and learned of the death, so he set out to buy Penet's land. He remembered what Penet, whom he had had dealings with, had told him about the land he owned. La Farge slowly bought up Penet's land since he was thought dead. A legal battle ensued between all those who thought that they had claim to the Penet Square land and La Farge himself.
Finally, La Farge got true title to the land, made contracts, and gave deeds to some of the settlers there, though many settlers did not appreciate this - since they considered it their land in the first place. He was fired at and his property vandalized.

La Farge built a house in Theresa but sold it when their was a dispute about ownership concerning the land it was built on. He built another house in Log's Mills (Lafargeville), a large stone house that would be a residence as well as a land office. See The Orleans House. He also built a mansion (some accounts say that it was wooden, but some say gray stone with wide verandas) at the head of Perch Lake, north of a stream on the eastern side of Perch Lake (and near some prehistoric mounds, of which there are many in the Perch Lake area), in an attempt to copy Le Ray's grand mansion and gain higher social station in the area. It had a great view of Perch Lake and was well-furnished. But La Farge was spurned by the higher society of the region, probably because of his regard as a commoner from France.

His disputes with the Catfish People (Penet Square squatters) caused them to shoot at his new house continually, break windows, and vandalize it. He never got a chance to live in it and Lafarge finally left it to ruin. Local farmers used the stone to build houses though there is still a hole and some foundations stones left there.

La Farge, now angry, then built another even more elaborate mansion (Of thick stone, though some accounts say wood. There is also a historical question concerning whether he built this first mansion or whether it was originally built by Joseph Bonaparte) in 1833 (see picture below), close to what is now LaFargeville and on what is now Route 180. Sometime in the early- to mid-1830's John LaFarge, then forty-seven, married Josephina Binsse de St. Victor (born 1813?) in LaFargeville. Some accounts say that she was sixteen, some nineteen. Historical dispute also surrounds whether she was from New York City or born locally. Her aristocratic French immigrant parents had fled Paris in 1793 to escape the Reign of Terror.

The year after left for New York City. Their mansion in LaFargeville was taken care of and later sold by Josephina's father, Dr. John Binsse de St. Victor when La Farge's wife, worried about the squatters and her husband's lack of acceptance in the local upper class, convinced him to sell their property and return to New York City. In 1837 his young wife persuaded him to get rid of the the house and they moved away. In 1838 La Farge sold the house to a Catholic bishop and the house was used as a seminary. The seminary later moved to New York City and has since become Fordham University. There is little standing of the La Farge Mansion, just a wing (which at one time, after the main house was demolished, was used as a home but is now little more than collapsing ruins).

La Farge sold all of his investments in upstate New York in 1837 and invested in commerical property in New York City. His life and business flourished there and the couple had nine children, beginning with John (born 1835 in New York City and died 1910 in Providence, Rhode Island) who became a painter and then a world-famous artisan in stained glass.

John La Farge (Jean Frédéric de la Farge) died at his summer home at Glen Cove, Long Island, in 1858.


Lafargeville was named after John la Farge.

See Also

Lafarge Mansion
Jefferson County Pioneers
Notable Personalities Living and Dead

This page was created by lectrichead & has been edited 12 times. The last modification was made by - lectrichead lectrichead on Sep 18, 2008 6:03 am