One of those names which appears quite often on CreoleGen is that of the Dejoie Family. One of our principal sources on New Orleans of yesteryear, The Louisiana Weekly, was in fact founded by a member of that family ninety years ago. In honor of this milestone, we attempt here to give an overview of the genealogy of this large and widely-known family
The progenitors of the Dejoie Family are Jules Dejoie, a native of France, born about 1801 and Célestine, an enslaved woman, from Saint Charles Parish, born about 1816. Jules Dejoie was among the group called the “Foreign French,” migrants from France who settled in Louisiana in the antebellum years after the Louisiana Purchase. Many people credit this population along with the émigrés from Saint-Domingue with the perpetuation of French language and culture in Louisiana. Many of the single young men who settled in Louisiana traveled upriver from New Orleans to sugarcane country, seeking employment as tutors, clerks, or managers on plantations. Jules Dejoie declared in his will dated 1850, that he had been the country “about twenty years,” which would place his arrival somewhere about 1830. Later census records indicate that Jules Dejoie kept a grocery store in Uptown New Orleans, then a part of Jefferson Parish. Perhaps it was his interests in storekeeping that initially drew him upriver in the 1830s; or like many others he could have found work as a tutor or overseer
At some point in the late 1830s, Jules met an enslaved woman named Célestine, who was born about 1816. Célestine, a négresse créole described as ‘very dark’, was owned by Madame Césaire Dorvin Kinler, the widow of George Kinler, a planter in Saint Charles Parish. Jules purchased Célestine, then aged twenty-two, from Mme Kinler on 12 February 1838 before J. L. LaBranche, who was then a judge in Saint Charles Parish. The sale was made in the amount of $690.00.
Over the course of next decade, Jules and Célestine had six children, all boys, born in Saint James Parish. On 28 August 1844, Jules Dejoie appeared before notary Victor Foulon in New Orleans to manumit the members of his family. Célestine, then age twenty-eight, was freed with along their mulatto children: Théodore, age five; Paul-Hypolite, age three-and-a-half; Jules, age two; and Constant, age three months. Eventually two more sons, Prudhomme and Aristide, would be born.
In the year 1850, Jules and his family moved to Jefferson City, then a suburb of New Orleans. In that year, on May 21st, he purchased a piece of property on Valence Street between Annunciation and Tchoupitoulas streets, where he established his residence and a grocery store. Tragedy would soon strike however, for on 11 December 1850, Jules died at the age of fifty years old. Célestine was left to rear the six boys, ranging in age from about twelve to three, alone. On 8 December, three days before his death, Jules made a will in which he recognized Célestine and her sons as his children and his universal legatees. The proceeds from the sale of the groceries, the property, and some debts due to Jules, minus the expenses and debts, he owed left Celestine and the children with $1117.75, thus ensuring them some sort of a start in life. At some point between 1850 and 1860, Théodore died, leaving the five surviving brothers who lived to adulthood.
The boys, with the possible exception of Prudhomme, all seem to have acquired skills at baking, for they all are identified at some point as pastry cooks or bakers. Paul-Hypolite, Jules, and Constant all earned livings as cooks, while Prudhomme worked as a barber and Aristide, the youngest, abandoned the kitchen to engage in politics and government work. Being reared by a widowed mother, the boys all went to work early in life. A surviving case in the records of the Fifth District Court from 1859, documents the victory Célestine won against the captain and owners of the steamboat Osceola for failing to pay her sixteen year-old son, Constant, for his work as a “cook and pastry cook” for nine months. It was probably from his work on riverboats that Constant earned the nickname “Major,” which he kept throughout his life.
Aristide (who also went by the nickname ‘Bird’) most certainly had a knack for leadership and quickly made a name for himself among the Republicans of the city during Reconstruction. He served as Assessor for the Sixth District of the city and later served two terms in the State House of Representatives from 1870 to 1874. In March 1875, along with his fellow Uptowner, Senator Tobias S. Stamps, Dejoie challenged the Civil Rights Act of 1875 by purchasing tickets for and sitting in a previously whites-only section in the Saint Charles Theatre. The two men were seated without incident, an event widely reported in the press. Aristide likely used his influence to get positons for his brothers, Jules and Paul-Hypolite, as banquette inspector and port warden, respectively. The matriarch of the Dejoie family, Celestine, was able to see the initial success of her sons before she died on 19 January 1892 and was buried from Saint Stephen’s Church.
Paul-Hypolite never had children from either of his two marriages. Prudhomme and his wife Elodie Riggs only had one daughter named Louisa, born in 1875. Constant and his wife Celestine Rowe had two children, a son Joseph who died as a young man and without children, and Mary, who married Xavier Albert of Saint James Parish. These circumstances left Aristide and Jules as the progenitors of the subsequent generations of Dejoies.
The descendants of these two brothers comprise the two family groups which exist today. Though too much is made of the distinction, these groups have been often termed the “Uptown Dejoies” and the “Downtown Dejoies.” While in more recent decades the relatives have moved all around the city (and while their common roots are all indeed ‘Uptown’), Aristide’s descendants were long based Downtown, while Jules’ descendants claimed Uptown as their home base. The other dividing factor is that while Jules’ descendants continue to be Catholics, most of Aristide’s descendants have been Protestant, affiliated with either Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church or Central Congregational Church.
In a subsequent post, more information will be given on some of the descendants of Aristide and Jules Dejoie and their varied business and civic interests.
Sources: 1850 Census, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana (E.D. ), Jules Dejoie household; Succession of Jules Dejoie, No. 3032, Jefferson Parish Third Judicial District Court; Succession of Hypolite Dejoie, No. 21,674, Orleans Parish Civil District Court; Sale of Slave – Mrs. George Kinler to Jules Dejoie, 12 February 1838, Saint Charles Parish Clerk of Court. The sale was made in the amount of 690 piastres; Celestine Dejoua [sic] to Fifth District Court (New Orleans), 1859, Petition 20886031, Digital Library on American Slavery (http://library.uncg.edu/slavery/petitions/details.aspx?pid=17227).
Jari C. Honora