Bosdet family history
My story starts in the Channel Islands where the majority of my research has been undertaken and where it is readily evident that the Bosdets are of French Huguenot descent.
In 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked, and thousands of Protestants chose to emigrate from France rather than accept Catholicism. Shortly after the first Bosdets appeared in Jersey. These Bosdets were farmers, merchants and mariners, and all came from Normandy.
It would also appear that the last of the Bosdets left the Channel Islands during or immediately before the Second World War.
The earliest recorded Bosdet in Jersey was Jean who, in 1331, was a Jurat. The next record is of the 1699 marriage of Jacques Bosdet to Elizabeth Valet. Jacques’ mother, Jeanne Bausdet (original spelling) was referred to as a refugee from Normandy in the church registers. Her other son Matthieu was living in Grouville at the time of his wedding.
In 1723, together with the church register entry recording his burial in St John, the following note was made:
- 'Matthieu Baudet, French by birth, who several years ago, bought (or rented) the house and lands formerly occupied by Nicolas Le Marinel, was buried 1 October 1723'
It is from Jeanne Bausdet that all the current Bosdets in the Americas, Canada and the UK are descended. In parish records both Abraham and Matthieu are recorded as refugees from France, once again giving further support to probable Huguenot heritage.
The Channel Islands have a long history of connections with the New World. The early pioneers came to Isle Madame, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia seven years after the siege of Louisbourg (1758) and, under their direction, Isle Madame with its town of Arichat became a hub of commerce in Nova Scotia, second only to Halifax. Arichat was important commercially for years, with brigs, brigantines, barques and barquentines constantly loading fish for the Catholic countries of the east and south and lugging back coarse salt, sugars and rums for which those far-off markets were noted. For the most part the merchants of Isle Madame were Jerseymen and of French Huguenot origin.
The following passage illustrates the importance of Arichat just as the first Bosdets arrived:
- ‘The population of this place is increasing fast; the present number of inhabitants may be estimated at 2,000, consisting principally of Arcadian French, who are engaged in the fisheries and coasting trade. It is a port of entry under that of Halifax, and must be considered the most important and thriving place in Cape Breton. The town, or rather long village, with its chapels, courthouse, dwelling houses, store, wharves, and fishing craft, has a pleasing, industrious, and trading appearance. The fishery is here conducted to an important extent; and several cargoes of dry cod and pickled fish are annually exported to Spain, Portugal, to the countries within the Mediterranean, to the West Indies, and to Halifax. The mercantile houses, who support this fishery are, with two or three exceptions, managed by people from Guernsey or Jersey.’
In 1824 the first St John's Church was established in Arichat. Although the descendants of Jerseymen were predominant in the parish, many were also of English, Scottish and German origin. The first known Bosdets arrived in Arichat from Jersey around 1842. They were three brothers Peter, Thomas and George. Peter and Thomas were merchants; George was a mariner.
Their sister Jane also came to Arichat around the same time with her husband, Thomas Martel of Guernsey. They returned to marry in St Peter, Jersey, on Wednesday 19 March 1845, returning afterwards to Nova Scotia. Their life together was short, as Jane died in 1851. Her gravestone is situated in the cemetery known as Belle Vue, on the banks of the Straits of Canso, Port Hasting, which in her day was called Plaister Cove on Cape Breton Island. The Bosdets and Martels were already related via the Giffard family, whose daughters married into the respective families a generation before. Also buried at Belle Vue are two of Jane’s children, Louisa Amanda who died on 26 September 1849, and Charles, who drowned on 18 August 1852 aged 1 year 8 months.
Louisa Amanda was baptised a month before her burial, on 28 August 1849, in St Johns Church, Arichat, the same church that the rest of the Bosdet family attended. These families were obviously aware of each other as Peter Bosdet was godfather and Elizabeth Bosdet of Jersey was her godmother along with Maria Ballaine of Arichat. This Elizabeth was presumably Peter’s sister, but she did not stay long in Arichat, for by the 1851 census she had returned to St Peter, Jersey to live with her brother John and widowed mother. She married Josue de Carteret in 1852.
Thomas Martel was a Strait of Canso trader in Canada. In a letter dated 8 November 1847, sent from Plaister Cove, he asked to become a seizing officer to prevent smuggling. His mother Elizabeth Giffard, in a letter dated 31 October 1848 to Samuel Dobree and Sons in London, advised them that her son Thomas was applying for the Lloyds agency in his neighbourhood and he had put them forward as a referee. Thomas finally returned to Guernsey by 1861, after the death of his son Charles, bringing with him his two surviving children, Elizabeth Jane and Thomas. Elizabeth was never to marry.
Peter and George remained in Nova Scotia and in 1849 were provided with a £385 mortgage on land in Little Arichat by another brother, John, who had a 15-acre farm in St Peter, Jersey. Thomas Bosdet witnessed the mortgage document. This mortgage was later discharged in 1856 after John had given Thomas his power of attorney in 1855 to collect the mortgage payments on his behalf. George, the mariner, never married and in his will made in 1846 Peter and Thomas were the beneficiaries.
When Thomas died in 1869 he left to his godson and nephew Charles Henry Bosdet, son of his brother Peter, £100 to be invested until Charles was 14. He specified that the money was to be put towards his education for a profession or any other business he felt inclined to follow. He also bequeathed his gold watch and chain, microscope, telescope, violin and one of his silver spoons. His other nephew, Peter Cline Bosdet, received £50, again to be invested towards his education, as well as Thomas’s silver watch and one silver spoon. Peter, Thomas’s brother, received the remainder of his estate and his sister-in-law Mary Anne all his furniture.
Along with five other people, Peter Bosdet owned a small schooner called the Virgin, a ship of 16 tons, which was built at Lennox Passage, Isle Madame, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1844. Perhaps his brother George sailed in her; he and Peter were very close and owned the same land and buildings. The names of Bosdet and Le Lacheur were connected with the fish business in the early days as well as trading as general merchants.
Peter Bosdet became deeply involved in the Arichat community, being a supporter of St John’s Anglican Church, where he is recorded as attending a meeting on Easter Monday, 1861, along with David Gruchy; Dr Henry Fixott; John Ballam and William R Cutler, the latter being the same William Cutler who witnessed the mortgage release document of Peter and George in 1856. In time these families became related by marriage. After Peter’s death, they continued to hold services every other Sunday in Peter Cline’s home.
The first post office at West Arichat was opened around 1860 and was managed by Peter Bosdet, from whose hands it passed to Emile Mouchet and thence to Capt A Le Blanc.
Thomas and George died without offspring. Peter Bosdet married Mary Ann Fixott, daughter of Dr Charles Fixott, the first physician in Arichat. Mary Ann was the first of eleven children of Dr Charles and Tryphosa Elizabeth Fixott. Peter and Mary Ann lived in West Arichat, and later Arichat, and had seven children. Peter and Mary Ann were both active in the community, and on 3 November 1860 Peter was appointed Commissioner of Schools for Richmond County, and again for the District of Richmond on 3 January 1866. On 4 July 1866 he became Deputy Registrar of births, marriages and deaths for Little Arichat.
In the last century, hotels and boarding houses operated livery stables, when horse-drawn carriages would meet ships at ports. The Sea View Hotel at Arichat, which was operated by the Bosdet family, had a horse-drawn stagecoach, which met outgoing and incoming ships serving both the south and north sides of Isle Madame, and particularly the Grandique ferry. Peter entered this trade some time after 1881 and, following his death on 20 May 1894, his younger wife Mary Ann (nee Fixott) continued to run the family business along with their son Stanley Clement Victor.
In St John's Anglican Church there is a stained glass window dedicated to the Bosdet family:
- 'To the glory of god, and in loving memory of Mary E, Ernest V, George, Thomas, Florence H, Charles H, Peter, Stanley, Cline and Helen Bosdet'
This window must have been ordered by Mary Ann between the death of Cline and Helen in 1905 and Mary Ann’s own passing in 1907. Many of the family members, relatives and friends are buried in the graveyard on the hill behind the church. Florence Hoyt, the only daughter of Peter and Mary Ann Bosdet, died of diphtheria when aged 17.
The obituary of Peter Bosdet (25 May 1894) adds further evidence to his position in the local community:
- "In this number we record the death of Peter Bosdet, an old resident of Richmond County and a native of Jersey, who came to this country in the year 1842 and subsequently settled at West Arichat, where he conducted a mercantile business in company with his brother Thomas, who died ten years ago. He married in 1853, Mary Ann, daughter of the late Dr Charles Fixott of Arichat, and who, of late years has conducted the Sea View Hotel in that place. The deceased always took a lively interest in municipal affairs and when his health permitted he was ever ready to give a helping hand in public improvements. He was of a most genial disposition, a true and worthy friend and a most kind and affectionate husband and parent. For the past few years he had been sadly afflicted with rheumatism, which caused him to retire from active duties, and although at times his sufferings were most acute, yet he was never heard to murmur. He had been permitted to reach a good old age and died in peace, and the memory of his work will long be cherished by his many relatives and friends, with whom we sincerely sympathise in their sad bereavement."
Eastern Journal (John C Bourinot, proprietor) of Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton, Friday 25 May 1894.
Two of Peter Bosdet’s children, Peter Cline and Charles Henry, later married and had children. The remaining offspring died as children or young adults. Peter Cline was a successful general merchant employing 14 people by 1891 and lived in a house built for him on Bosdet Point overlooking the ocean in West Arichat. Anna and Joe Samson have beautifully restored the house. The road to Bosdet’s Point is called Chemin des Bosdets or Bosdets Road. Peter Cline married Helen Beatrice Ballam and they had two children, Clina and Griffith. Both parents died when the children were still very young, Helen dying on 27 July 1905 at the age of 38. Their aunt, Rose Ballam, sent Helen Cline for three years to a Catholic convent in Halifax for boarding and schooling while Rose took care of Griff. Helen Cline spent lonely Christmases at the convent while other children went home for the holidays. She later grew up with their cousin, Helen Finlayson, whose mother was a twin of Helen Cline's and Griff's mother.
In 1920 Helen Cline Bosdet lived in Sydney, Nova Scotia having reached her majority in December 1919. In the late 1920s she emigrated to Vancouver and lived with her Aunt Rose and Griff, who had moved there in 1912. She became a senior secretary in an office of barristers and solicitors in the city.
Charles Henry Bosdet, was the first born son of Peter and attended McGill University where he graduated as an electrical engineer when he was aged around 21. Charles obtained employment with Ericsson to set up the original telephone links in Mexico. While in Mexico he met and married Susana Miller de Pampillon, the daughter of a Mr Miller of Manchester, England, and a Mexican mother. While living in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1884, Charles Henry Bosdet appointed his brother Peter Cline, then living in Arichat, as attorney to receive on his behalf money owed by his father Peter. For the most part, Charles remained in Mexico though the birth of his son Ernesto Tomas occurred in Arichat (22nd September, 1883), so it would appear that the couple did undertake some travelling. In addition to installing telephone links in Mexico, Charles Henry also invented (or imported) a bread slicing machine, invented a tortilla-making machine, imported paraffin to replace tallow then used in Mexican candles, and invested in the mining sector. Charles Henry died in 1893 after a bull owned by friends gored him.
Charles Henry Bosdet had three sons: Ernesto, Charles, and Enrique. Ernesto and Charles were just nine and six years old when Charles Henry died. Three years later, Ernesto and Charles journeyed on their own from Mexico to Cape Breton to stay with their grandmother (Mary Ann) in Arichat.
When their grandmother died, all the grandchildren were left $5,000. Ernesto and Charles later returned to Mexico. Ernesto became head of the Pullman Company in Mexico, married but had no children. Enrique worked for the Pullman Company as a conductor. He was also an inventor, creating diverse devices including an eye-glass defogger paste, a gasoline saver to make Ford cars more fuel efficient, and a call device which could be installed in a coffin and used by the occupant to summon help in the event they were buried alive by mistake. His mother, Susana, who had a fear of being buried alive after once falling unconscious, was the inspiration for this invention and was buried with one installed in her coffin, as were many others in Mexico City at that time.
Enrique married Angela Virginia Quiros and they have four children.
Charles Lewis Bosdet
Charles Lewis Bosdet, the other son of Charles Henry, trained as a metallurgical engineer, practising his craft in various mines in Mexico. He married Marion Bourinot of Arichat, a distant relative, in 1915 but Marion died two years later of an internal infection. After Marion died in 1917, Charles was so despondent that he decided to go to war and end it all, and paid his own way back to Nova Scotia to join the army at Halifax. He served for six months at the front as a siege artillery gunner. During one battle a shell landed on his gun emplacement, killing his five-man crew and leaving Charles with such a badly injured ankle that he was hospitalised in England for six months. While there he took the opportunity to visit the family homestead in Jersey.
He returned to Mexico, working for the Fresnillo Mining Company in Zacatecas. He was known as one of the best metallurgists in Mexico and developed various refinements to the flotation process which he never patented but which were adopted by many mines in Mexico. In 1922, Sarah Davis (aged 16) eloped by slipping out of a girl’s school she was attending in Mexico City to meet Charles. Sarah was the elder daughter of George Stewart and Mary Coffman Davis from Pennsylvania, George being a civil engineer laying railroads in northern Mexico. Charles and Sarah had three children, George, John and Charles. In the 1930s, the family left Mexico for Victoria, BC. The family had a motor yacht, the Golondrina, which they sailed through the inside passage and the Georgia Strait. Charles Lewis Bosdet died in 1942.
Alfred Helleur Bosdet
Other Jersey Bosdets also decided to travel the world. Alfred Helleur Bosdet, son of Jacques Jean and Marie Anne Le Marquand, travelled to the United States after 1881 with his sister Anna Maria. Before he left Jersey he plied his trade as a painter and glazier, living at 52 Thornfield, St Aubin’s Road, St Lawrence, with his mariner brothers Durrell and John Mallet and cousin Jane Elizabeth, who kept house. In 1851 the two brothers were living in St Brelade. On moving to the States they settled down on the East Coast in Boston, Massachusetts, where they owned and managed a very successful boarding house for students at Harvard University. Alfred married Mary Koener from Bavaria, Germany. Alfred had two children Anne and John Alfred who eventually retired to Illinois and Oklahoma respectively. Alfred’s brother was a mariner.
The family of John Philippe Bosdet and Susan Giffard (parents of the Nova Scotia brothers) had a passion for travel. Another son, James lived for a long time with his wife Eliza Speck in Hamburg before finally returning to Jersey. He died on 22 March 1871 at his home, 2 Winchester Villas, Winchester Street, at the age of 63. One of his sons, Charles James, was an East India merchant living in Kensington where he married Mary Jane Snart in 1872. When his wife died three weeks after the birth of their son Vernon, Charles departed at once for the East Indies and few letters arrived for the next 10 years. A Jersey nursemaid continued to keep the two boys and herself by letting out rooms in their Ealing Villa until young Charles Gifford William went to work as a clerk at the age of 15. The nursemaid married one of the lodgers who disliked both boys and insisted they lived elsewhere.
Charles Gifford William went to live with another clerk, and Vernon boarded with the Chapman family at the age of five, the Hughes at age seven, the Chalmers at age eight for a few months and finally with the Clarks at Richmond. At this point their father reappeared and insisted that his son provide a home for him. With some reluctance Mrs Millie Gunthorpe (aunt) was persuaded to give a home to Vernon. At Charles’ death on 29 November 1922 his place of residence was given as 80 Lenthall Road, Dalston, where he was still living with his son, who later retired as the chief clerk of his firm in 1936 and died in an air raid on London in September 1940.
At the age of 11 Vernon’s uncle bought him a place with a shipping company as a cabin boy and from 14 to 17 as an apprentice. He secured his second mate's certificate at 19, his first mate's at 21 and master's at 24. After two years as a first officer under sail he retook the examination in steamship practice and became the youngest captain in Shaw, Saville and Albion's fleet. In 1904 he married Ellen Mary Ann Bradley, whose family lived in Tottenham. Vernon eventually became a Lieutenant Commander RNVR and served during the First World War between 1915-1918.
In 1924, the shipping line sacked three quarters of its officers and men because of the depression, which lasted until 1932-33. Vernon was out of work from 1926 to 1932 when he became a cargo supervisor at the Royal Albert Docks, London. During September 1940 he was down the hold of a ship when a stick of bombs fell on the docks and he suffered severe concussion. Afterwards he joined the Admiralty in April 1941, at first serving in the Convoy Room. He retired in 1950.
He fell ill with cancer earlier in 1943 and was taken into hospital on VE Day. Following the death of his wife, Ellen Mary Ann (nee Bradley), on VJ Day in 1945, a WRNS friend in her 50s agreed to keep house for Vernon and they moved to her hometown of Lowestoft in 1951, where she died in 1957. Vernon then took up a place at the Royal Alfred Merchant Navy Home at Belvedere, Kent where he died on 28 January 1960.
When the depression started Vernon’s son Jack had just become an apprentice with the Booth Shipping Line. He was out of work from 1929 to 1932 but then resumed work as a second and then a first officer with various companies. Jack died at sea due to enemy action on or after 26 September 1941. He was a chief officer in the merchant service on the vessel Cortes owned by MacAndrews and Co. He had been living with his parents at 15 Calton Mansions, Holmleigh Road, London just before he left with the convoy which was off the Bay of Biscay where the Cortes and 21 other vessels were lost.
Jack’s sister Joan Mary Bosdet joined the WRNS in September 1940 as a volunteer but was given six months deferment because of her father's hospitalisation after the air raid on the docks the same month. After demobilisation in April 1946 she joined the British Council as a Registrar and worked in Czechoslovakia. She also worked as a part-time teacher of English as a foreign language there. In February 1948 she became a lecturer in commerce and industry at the time of the Communist putsch and was expelled from the country in February 1950.
Henry Thomas Bosdet
The most famous member of the family is Henry Thomas the son of Captain Thomas Bosdet and Sophia Mary Le Roy, his wife. Born in St Helier on 7 January 1857, he was educated at Boyer's School, Beaumont before leaving the island to study at University College School, London, and the Royal Academy. On leaving the Royal Academy he became director of an art school in Islington. In 1890 he returned to the Royal Academy as Curator of the Life School. During his period in London he lived at Inglewood, Grove Park Terrace, Chiswick, where he had his own workshop.
He painted a number of portraits, one of which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1884, and French landscapes, but abandoned this form of art on becoming interested in stained glass through his friendship with Philip Westlake. Among his numerous stained glass windows in England are those of the north transept at Hexham Abbey, Northumberland. His windows outside England include one in the English Church at Dinan and nine in the English Church in Utrecht. Examples of his work in Jersey include seven windows in St Brelade's Church, five in the Fisherman's Chapel illustrating the life of St Brendon, the Last Supper in St Lawrence's Church, the Annunciation in St Helier's, the Marriage at Cana in St Aubin's, and the reredos in St Saviour's. His windows at St Ouen's Manor illustrate heraldically the history of the de Carteret family.
His stained glass has three particular aspects that distinguish his work from other windows seen in churches. First, his economy of leading, which leaves his detail work complete and unseparated; second, his ability to show the great names of the Bible stories as real people and not stylised figures. His faces have expression and each is distinguishable as an individual. But perhaps the most beautiful aspect of his windows are the glorious colours, particularly his blues and reds. These deep translucent colours glow and change with different light and the movement of the sun.
His work also went beyond Europe. Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, a Resolution was passed in the House of Assembly, Barbados granting £500 to be spent on providing memorials to Her Majesty. Of this, £100 was to be spent on a commemorative stained glass window to be erected in the Assembly Chamber. The order for this was placed through the Crown Agents, with Bosdet, who was the then director of the Government School of Design in Islington, London. This window was made in his studio in Chiswick and shipped to Barbados early in 1903. Not everyone liked his portrayal of Her Majesty and his work was much criticised in a debate in the House of Assembly on 8 December.
In 1920 he returned to Jersey and then on to live in the south of France in 1927, but came back again in 1931. He married Julia Marion Reece Edwards of London and following her death, Mary Catherine, daughter of William Brereton, of Queen's College, Galway. By his second marriage he had one son, Harry Westropp, who studied at Victoria College, Jersey, entering during the third term in 1931. Harry left in 1933 and went to work as a clerk in the Impots (Customs and Excise). He was killed in action in June 1944 as a private in the Dorset Regiment. His father had died ten years earlier at La Patrimoine, St Lawrence on 23 May 1934, and was buried at St Saviour.
At least one of Henry Thomas's canvases remained in Jersey. This is an impression in oils of the Nativity which he painted in 1907 and now hangs below the east window to the rear of the altar in St Saviour’s Church.
Henry’s father was master of the Curlew in 1855, trading between Jersey and Newfoundland. The merchants Joshua Mauger Nicholle and Isaac Hilgrove Gosset owned the vessel. She was built at La Poile, Newfoundland, in 1843 by Edward Hamon and was a single-deck two masted rigged schooner. Other owners were given as Philip Winter Nicholle, as guardian to the children of John Nicholle, and George Thomas Charleton, merchants, together with widows Esther Elizabeth Nicholle and Esther Elizabeth de Quetteville, spinsters Jane Nicholle and Anne Charlotte Nicholle. The vessel was lost in the autumn of 1857. In the 1881 Census Thomas was living at Windsor Cottage, Millbrook. He was aged 58 at the time and still working as a ship’s master.
Captain Thomas Bosdet’s sister, Mary Anne, married Philippe Gosset who had a grocer's shop at 37 Queen Street, St Helier. Her sister Elizabeth was living with them in 1851 and she also worked in the family business.