Rodrigue family papers
Held at: Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center [Contact Us]100 E. Wynnewood Rd., Wynnewood, PA
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Marie Jacques Dominique D’Orlic
Marie Jacques Dominique D’Orlic was born in Bordeaux, France on April 17, 1748. He served in the Company of the Gendarmes of the Guard (Royal Guards) under Prince Charles de Rohan de Soubise in the 1770s. Soon after, he took up residence in San Domingo (a French colony in what was then Haiti or Hispaniola; currently Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic) and became a wealthy sugar plantation owner. He was known as a “man of means and an important figure in the portion of the island in which he resided.” In 1778, D’Orlic married Marie Lawrence Carrere, and together they had one daughter, Marie Jeanne François (baptized in January 1782).
The uprising of the island’s slaves in the 1790s forced the D’Orlics, along with many other wealthy white San Domingans, to flee the island. They boarded a ship bound for America and eventually ended up in Cecil County, Maryland in 1793. They remained there until 1795, when they relocated to Philadelphia.
D’Orlic, having lost his fortune and sugar plantation in the Caribbean, found numerous ways to support his family while in America, including teaching French and boarding students in his home and tutoring them. As well, D’Orlic served as a trusted advisor to many families when in San Domingo, and continued this role upon emigrating to America.
D’Orlic died December 15, 1825, shortly after his wife died in 1824.
Jacques Andre Rodrigue
Rodrigue was born in Rochelle, France, on November 30, 1759. His father was a Chevalier and Counsellor to the King, as well as the President of the Bureau of Finance in Rochelle. During the French Revolution, Rodrigue escaped to San Domingo with his first wife, Susanne Baussan, and their infant son. Rodrigue established himself in Haiti (Port-au-Prince) quite well as a plantation owner; but during the first uprising of the island’s slaves, Susanne died “of fright,” followed soon after by their son. With the help of five of his slaves, Rodrigue was able to escape the island in 1795; the slaves eventually followed him to Philadelphia.
Rodrigue became a successful mercantile trader while in Philadelphia, dealing in cotton, coffee, cocoa, sugar, as well as millinery, gloves, lace, silk, and purses, importing and exporting goods between France, America, and the Caribbean. As his business grew, he dealt in increasingly more expensive cargo, including jewelry, wine and brandy, and spices. He successfully traded with France during the War of 1812 without any recorded material losses, due to his relationships with privateers to guide his cargo across the hostile seas.
In 1798, Rodrigue married the D’Orlics’ only daughter, Marie Jeanne François. Rodgrigue and D’Orlic seem to have been good friends: D’Orlic allowed Rodrigue to conduct many of his business affairs on his behalf and gave him power of attorney for the settlement of his San Domingo claims (i.e., recompense for the loss of his estate there). Jacques and Marie had four children together: William, Aline, Aristide, and Evelina, and educated all of them well. Jacques Andre Rodrigue died on September 11, 1844 in Ebensburg, PA.
William became a renowned architect and civil engineer (trained with noted Philadelphia architect William Strickland). He was commissioned to design the Church of St. John the Evangelist (on 13th Street in Philadelphia). He is also credited with helping to design St. John’s Hall (now Fordham University) and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (both in New York City). In 1836, William married Margaret Hughes, the sister of the Archbishop John Hughes, who was a close friend of William’s. William died in 1859.
Aristide studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1828. He practiced medicine in Ebensburg, PA, and Hollidaysburg, PA, and married Ann Caroline Bellas in 1835. Aristide moved to Lecompton, KS (with Colonel Albert Boone, grandson of Daniel Boone) in 1855 as a Free State advocate. According to the September 14, 1854 issue of the Kansas Weekly Herald, he and Boone were sent to the new Kansas Territory to determine the site of the capital. Aristide died in 1857.
The Rodrigue daughters, Aline and Evelina, opened and ran a private boarding school in Philadelphia from 1827 until around 1839. The school was well-regarded, and taught its pupils French, music, penmanship, dancing, and other refined subjects.
The Rodrigue family papers date from 1770 to 1975, with the bulk of records dating from 1770 to 1875. This collection contains the papers of Jacques Andre Rodrigue (1759-1844) and the papers of his father-in-law, Marie Dominique Jacques D’Orlic (1748-1825). Rodrigue was a French aristocrat and a wealthy merchant and sugar planter on St. Domingue, a French colony on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Rodrigue lost nearly all his wealth in the slave uprisings of the 1790s and was forced to flee to Philadelphia, where he settled, married the daughter of a fellow refugee and merchant, D’Orlic, and built another large business as a merchant trading with France. Rodrigue’s papers consist of correspondence; business, financial, and legal papers; household accounts; and notebooks; as well as correspondence, legal documents, and other assorted records belonging to the members of the Rodrigue family and the families with whom they intermarried. Rodrigue preserved the papers of D’Orlic, which contain correspondence and business, financial, and legal documents, as evidence of his children’s right to share in indemnities to be paid by the French government to the dispossessed colonists from St. Domingue.
The collection consists of three series: “I. Marie Dominique Jacques D’Orlic, 1770-1838,” “II. Jacques Andre Rodrigue, 1776-1872,” and “III. Descendants of Jacques Andre Rodrigue, 1803-1975.”
Series “I. Marie Dominique Jacques D’Orlic” dates from 1770 to 1838 and contains correspondence and business, financial, and legal documents, including birth certificates, certificates of residence, and property deeds. These records document the proof of inheritance of D’Orlic’s descendants. Correspondence between D’Orlic and his associates in St. Domingue present a vivid picture of the revolt let by Toussaint L’Ouverture, nicknamed “the Black Napoleon,” in 1793. Noteworthy records in this series include D’Orlic’s commission as Captain of the Mulatte Dragoons in St. Domingue, signed by Louis XVI of France in 1783, and a letter of 1803 accounting for D’Orlic’s slaves. The records in this series are grouped topically and loosely in chronological order.
Series “II. Jacques Andre Rodrigue” dates from 1776 to 1872 and contains legal records, business records, financial records, household records, business and personal correspondence, and notes. The series is arranged in three subseries: “IIa. Legal, 1806-1830,” “IIb. Business, 1776-1844,” and “IIc. Household and family, 1798-1872.”
Subseries “IIa. Legal” dates from 1806 to 1830 and contains papers pertaining to lawsuits in which Rodrigue was embroiled arising from the unsettled conditions in trans-Atlantic trade during the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars. This subseries is arranged chronologically by court case.
Subseries “IIb. Business” dates from 1776 to 1844 and contains records documenting Rodrigue’s shipping ventures and the many ships that carried his cargoes, as well as correspondence, accounts, and financial records relating to his merchant dealings with firms in France and Philadelphia. Records in this subseries are arranged in two groups: assorted correspondence, financial records, and other business records, which are arranged chronologically; and records pertaining to Rodrigue’s shipping ventures, which are arranged alphabetically by ship.
Subseries “IIc. Household and family” dates from 1798 to 1872 and contains personal and family papers, including correspondence, legal documents, and household financial records, such as bills, receipts, accounts, and bankbooks. Records in this series are arranged chronologically.
Series “III. Descendants of Jacques Andre Rodrigue” dates from 1803 to 1975, with the majority of records dating between 1830 and 1875. The series contains the papers of Rodrigue’s children and their descendants, as well as a small amount of genealogical records, clippings, and ephemera. Noteworthy records include correspondence belonging to Aline Maguire, the daughter of Rodrigue, dating from 1868 to 1869, which tell of her struggles to support her mentally ill mother.
The Rodrigue family papers provide a holistic view of Rodrigue’s life in Philadelphia, encompassing his roles as businessman and merchant as well as father, husband, and head of a household. This collection will be of interest for researchers seeking information regarding trans-Atlantic naval trade during the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars, trade relations between Philadelphian and French merchants, early 19th century legal cases regarding trans-Atlantic trade, and the presence of French settlers in 18th century Philadelphia. This collection is also of value for researchers interested in the Haitian Revolution of the 1790s and its effects on the French colony of St. Domingue.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2013-2014, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.
- Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Amanda Mita, Evan Peugh
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 March 19
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.