The History of the Jetton Family  

  G. Edward Neal


Home Preface  


The Voyage out of France



     The known history of the Gitton family begins in 1684 in the village of La Voulte, in the Province of Dauphinee, France. La Voulte is located in the beautiful area of south central France on the west bank of the Rhone River and is about seventy miles south of Lyons. In 1684, the Gitton family consisted of the mother Magdalen Cottin, her son Pierre, her daughter Judith and her son Louis. There was another son who was apparently in the Army of the Elector of Hanover in Germany but we do not know his name. We know he existed, however, because of a letter Judith Gitton wrote to him a few years after her arrival in South Carolina. This letter was found  among the papers of the Manigault family and is the basic source for the information we have on their flight out of France.

     As Protestants in 17th century France, the Gitton family suffered the same persecution, fate and hardships as thousands of other Huguenots of their day. This bleak and sad period in France's history is well known and documented and will therefore not be described in detail here other than how it related to this family. As a means of controlling and keeping tabs on Protestants, King Louis XIV ordered that soldiers were to be billeted in the homes of all known Protestants throughout France. The Gitton household in La Voulte was no exception and this proved to be the last indignity and hardship they were willing to bear. We do not know how wealthy or what class status they held but it is obvious from Judith's letter that they were educated and not of the lower or working class.

     We can only imagine what it must have been like but after enduring eight months of these soldiers living in their home and guarding their every movement, the Gittons decided it was time to leave France. It would also seem probable that they were anticipating that King Louis XIV was going to revoke the Edit of Nantes and that in any event, conditions for them were only going to get worse. Late one night, probably in December of 1684, the Gittons, along with Francois Bonnet who may have been a servant, slipped quietly out of the house while the soldiers were sleeping. Like thousands of other Huguenots they left with little more than the clothes on their backs and what little they could easily carry. They left behind their house and all their worldly possessions and began a long perilous journey to freedom. 

     The Gittons first went to Romans where they were able to hide out for ten days while the soldiers searched for them. They then went on to Lyons and Dijon. At this point, Pierre wrote a letter to his brother in Germany to inform him that the family was on their way out of France. Pierre wrote another letter to his brother after they reached Langres.  The family then went to the home of a Madame de Choiseul, whom they may have known, or perhaps only knew of her as someone who would help them. Unfortunately, she died prior to their arrival and her son-in-law would have nothing to do with them and threatened to denounce them if they insisted on his help. The Gittons then left for Metz, in the Province of Lorraine and from there embarked on the Moselle river near Treves. At this point they were basically out of France and continued on to Kochem, Coblentz and to Cologne where they left the Rhine river and proceeded to Wesel by carriage.

     In Wesel, they found someone who spoke a little French and he told them they were about 30 Leagues (about 105 miles or 165 kilometers) from Luneburg. They knew from previous letters from the son in the Army that he would be in winter quarters near Luneburg. Magdalen and Judith pleaded with Pierre to let them go see the son in the Army or to let them stay in Wesel so he could come see them. Pierre was the eldest son and as such was the head of the family, or as Judith put it "the Master", and he would not agree to staying in Wesel or to anything else but continuing on to Carolina. According to Judith, Pierre had nothing but Carolina in his thoughts. Judith, and probably the mother Magdalen, was very disappointed in not being able to see the son in the Army again, and for all they knew, perhaps for the last time. Judith simply could not understand Pierre's apparent lack of sensitivity and as she put it, "want of natural feelings". She reproached Pierre on several occasions for this and as I suspect, probably never fully forgave him. From Pierre's perspective, he may very well have thought that the family would not be safe until they were completely out of Europe. In any event, as the "master" of the family, Pierre moved them on into Holland and from there to England.

     After arriving in England sometime in late January or early February 1685, Pierre booked passage on the ship Bachelor's Adventure, Captained by James Smailey. We do not know exactly when the ship sailed but we know from Judith's letter that they were in England for approximately three months, so it is assumed the ship sailed shortly after Pierre Gitton signed a receipt from James Smailey for 25 pounds for their passage to Carolina. The receipt was dated April 27, 1685 and included Pierre Gitton,  Louis Gitton, Judith Gitton, Magdalen Cottin and Francois Bonnet.

     We can only wonder if the Gittons were aware of it or not but they left England about two weeks after King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes on April 13, 1685. Considering that there were a number of Huguenots living in England at this point, it seems likely that they would have known and that this news would have greatly reinforced their decision to leave France in spite of the hardships and unknowns that lay ahead. The Bachelor's Adventure first sailed to Portugal then headed out to sea for Carolina. During the voyage the passengers suffered tremendous hardships including a fever that killed many of the passengers including their mother Magdalen Cottin Gitton. At some point, a storm severally damaged the ship and after about a month at sea, Captain Smailey put the ship in to the Towne Harbour of Bermuda for repairs.

     The Bachelor's Adventure was a Pinke type ship which is basically a flat bottom ship with a narrow stern. This type of ship was most commonly used in the Mediterranean for hauling cargo. Although a voyage such as this on any of the ships of the day was extremely difficult at best, we can only wonder how suited this ship was for carrying passengers, and probably cargo, across the ocean.

      Soon after arriving in Bermuda, Captain James Smailey was put in jail and his ship was seized by the Bermuda authorities. According to Judith Gitton, he committed certain "rascality's". Available Bermuda records do not indicate what crimes the Captain committed but the records do show that his ship sunk in the harbor and that a great deal of his subsequent problems had to do with removing the sunken ship and his apparent refusal to do so. Whatever the problems with Captain James Smailey were, Pierre, Louis, Judith and Francois Bonnet were now stuck in Bermuda without any money for passage on to Carolina. In her letter, Judith says that she and her brother Louis worked for eight months to acquire 24 crowns for their passage to Carolina. She did not mention anything about her brother Pierre or Francois Bonnet working or not.

     Probably in January of 1686, the Gittons finally arrived in what is now South Carolina with little or no money. While the voyage out of France was certainly fraught with danger and hardships, including the loss of their mother, what they now faced in Carolina was most likely well beyond their imagination.  Judith Gitton described their first few years in Carolina as "we suffered all sorts of evils" and said that since their departure from France they had seen "every sort of affliction, in sickness, pestilence, famine, poverty, very hard work". In Carolina she said she worked the ground like a "slave" and that three or four years had passed without even tasting bread. She also thanked God, however, for giving them the grace to have withstood it all.

    Judith Gitton's life did eventually improve and after the death of her first husband, Noé Royer, she married Pierre Manigault and became the founding mother of the American Manigault family which became one of the best known and wealthiest families in South Carolina.

    Pierre, the eldest, who apparently was not used to physical labor at all, died of a fever a year and a half after their arrival. 

    Louis was probably the youngest and perhaps in his teens when they left France and is believed to be the Lewis Giton, Chirugeon, who was made a Freeman of New York City on 24 December 1695.  





1.    Pierre Gitton

2.    "Son"  Gitton

3.    Judith Gitton

4.    Louis Gitton