• David Joyce

Bartholomew Dupuy and the Founding of Manakintown

Updated: Jan 6




Since the birth of the Colony of Virginia, settlers have flocked to the New World for new prospects. Whether, they left for economic opportunities, to begin life anew, or for religious and political freedom, all their contributions helped create the modern state of Virginia. Finally finding a new home, many of them looked back from where they had come, and realized they were part of an important era. However, the memories of some, like Bartholomew Dupuy, were clouded in political and religious strife. Despite his unfortunate past, he participated in the historic Manakintown settlement in Henrico County, Virginia. Founded by French Huguenots, also known as French protestants, this settlement offered them a new chance at life.


Considered “the largest settlement of those famous exiles in America,”1 the inhabitants of Manakintown were forced to flee France. Facing situations that threatened their lives, pioneers like Bartholomew Dupuy understood the importance of this town. Before Dupuy arrived from London, along with other Huguenots, he experienced one of the most brutal and infamous periods in French history. After the Edict of Nantes was evoked by King Louis IV, a countrywide persecution of French protestants commenced that “drove from France all Huguenots who were so fortunate as to escape the galleys or death”.2 Dupuy, was one of the fortunate ones.

During this time, he was visited by a group of dragoons and the local parish priest who demanded that he convert to the Catholic faith.3 If he decided against such a decision, he would face “the fate that awaited all heretics.”4 As an officer of the guard for King Louis IV,5 Bartholomew Dupuy knew all too well what awaited them if he declined their offer. Instead of converting; however, he and his wife, Countess Susanne Lavillon, fled that very night.


Disguised in his uniform, they traveled eighteenth days to protestant Germany, but even his military attire couldn’t protect their identities for long. After being pursued by “one or two of the best mounted [dragoons],”6 he confronted the soldiers and dispatched them with his sword. Upon his arrival to the German border he presented the King’s Seal to the French guards, which he had used during his military service, and was granted permission to leave France.


These recollections haunted Dupuy and his wife for years to come, but now, they and other Huguenots were welcomed in Virginia. Given a tract of 10,000 acres of land along the James River,7 Huguenots were given freedoms other religious dissenters did not have. Given “full citizenship”,8 the freedom to worship God according to their denomination,9 and the right to choose their own minister,10 they were favored by King William. First recorded in Manakintown on June 30, 1711 in the records of King William Parish,11 Dupuy had finally found a place of refuge.


Over the years, this community faded away, but its establishment only benefited Colonial Virginia. Not only were Huguenots, like Bartholomew Dupuy, able to create a positive identity for themselves, the town also played a vital role. Boosting the economy and helping to expand the frontier, it forever shaped the history of the colony, and its future polices.



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Documentation and Suggested Readings:


1. King William Parish, The Vestry Book of King William Parish (1707-1750), (Greenville, South Carolina : Southern Historic Press, Inc.,1966), 1.

2. R. A. Brock, Documents, Chiefly Unpublished, Relating To The Huguenot Emigration (London, England : Forgotten Books, 2015), 152.

3. R. A. Brock, Documents, Chiefly Unpublished, Relating To The Huguenot Emigration, 152.

4. R. A. Brock, Documents, Chiefly Unpublished, Relating To The Huguenot Emigration, 152.

5. R. A. Brock, Documents, Chiefly Unpublished, Relating To The Huguenot Emigration, 152.

6. R. A. Brock, Documents, Chiefly Unpublished, Relating To The Huguenot Emigration (London, England : Forgotten Books, 2015), 153.

7. King William Parish, The Vestry Book of King William Parish (1707-1750), (Greenville, South Carolina : Southern Historic Press, Inc.,1966), 2; The Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin Town in the Colony of Virginia, Original 1704 Land Grant (http://huguenot-manakin.org/manakin/landgrant.php : accessed 7 February 2018), “1704 Land Grant of 10,000 Acres from the Colony of Virginia to the French Huguenots.”

8. King William Parish, The Vestry Book of King William Parish, 2.

9. King William Parish, The Vestry Book of King William Parish, 2.

10. King William Parish, The Vestry Book of King William Parish, 2.

11. King William Parish, The Vestry Book of King William Parish (1707-1750), (Greenville, South Carolina : Southern Historic Press, Inc.,1966), 17.

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