Stephen DeJean

Julian DeJean’s father was Stephen DeJean (of various spellings, pronounced De Jane). Anyone researching Stephen DeJean cites the earliest known published research on him, Some genealogy records of Stephen Louis De Jean family from Paris, France and his American descendents (sic) by Una Myrle Gage Grimes. I have been using this paper as the starting point for my own research. I am in the process of writing and looking for publication for a formal paper with source citations, but since I am fully employed for a living, the process is slow going.

Myrle thought Stephen arrived in America with two brothers, but another branch (Stephen’s daughter, Harriett) recorded in their family letters that he arrived with his parents and five siblings! I believe they arrived as early as 1795, but they do not appear in New York records until 1810. I have reason to believe they were affiliated with a certain New York settlement before moving further west to buy land through the Holland Land Purchase (Genessee and Chautauqua counties, New York). By the late 1830’s Stephen forfeited his farm in Chautauqua County and made his way west to Wisconsin with his grown sons. His brothers stayed in New York, some of his nephews moved to Warren County, Pennsylvania.

Stephen may have been the son of Lewis/Louis C. DeJean born between 1750 and 1760 in France and an unknown woman (not Count or Comte Lewis DeJean and Mary Blanc, as many researchers believe – their children never left France and nothing connects this couple to New York). In addition to Stephen, I have identified four brothers and a probable brother-in-law as follows:

  1. Dominic DeJean who was born between 1780 and 1790 in France. He is found in early census but disappears a decade after Louis the elder. He is found in census and military rolls for the War of 1812 in the same unit as Stephen and Lewis (unclear if this is elder or son, Lewis Joseph – next son).
  2. Louis or Lewis Joseph DeJean who was born between 1775 and 1794 in France. He married Emily Ryan from Massachusetts around 1812. He is often mixed together by other researchers with sons and nephews as he went by Joseph in most records.
  3. John DeJean who was born between 1780 and 1790. As with Dominic, he appears in early census but disappears and left no other known records behind.
  4. Sceavola DeJean who was born about 1793 in France. He married Azuba Porter before 1829, likely in New York (based on the birth of his first child). He died between 1850 and 1857 in Ellington, Chautauqua County, New York.
  5. Unknown daughter who married Mr. Genet.

Lewis the elder and the four other sons are all found in census, military, property, and vital records in the same or nearby locations and years as Stephen. Records of the early “certain settlement” I mentioned before were kept in a journal by agents of that settlement and identified an M. DeJean who arrived in Albany, New York in the fall of 1795 with no means of providing for his family, his son, “young DeJean”, who apprenticed for Desjardins as a carpenter for one season, and M. DeJean’s son-in-law, M. Genet. Since there are no other DeJean families in New York (but some surnames that may be close) at that time, I accepted this to be a good probability that these are our ancestors.

This family profile fits Harriet DeJean’s story to her children that the family arrived together; parents and 6 children. The letters also tell an account of being swindled by the ship’s captain, leaving him unable to provide for his family.  This claim is supported by historical accounts recorded by other historians about European Captains taking advantage of desperate French émigrés fleeing the French Revolution.

Myrle wrote they escaped “during the Reign of Terror (1793-1794) before the gates of Paris were sealed,” but the facts are, they left after that event (1795). I base my date on the journal, Harriet’s letters, and the year of birth for Sceavola.

Myrle also wrote they were of minor nobility. This was harder to validate. Research into French surnames, nobility ranks, appointments of royal titles, and customs of the day indicate they were not necessarily nobility in terms of being land-holders or members of the court, but they may have been high-level merchants with connections to the gentry. The journal in New York says M. DeJean carried letters from France for the settlement’s agents and a letter of introduction from a land holding aristocrat back in France who also owned land in New York. This practice is common among the gentry which suggests he was socially connected. Another branch of Stephen’s children (through his son, William) have passed along the family lore that Stephen was the son of a silk merchant and had a silk handkerchief with the blood of Marie Antoinette on it. Harriet’s descendants say he was a pattern maker (maker of fancy clothes).

Analysis of all records that identify an age for Stephen puts his birth somewhere between 1778 and 1782.”

He met Cornelia/Cordelia Rouse/Rousse in New York.  Some family researchers think Canada, but since his first child was born about 1808 and most likely in New York and they are in Providence, Saratoga County, New York in 1810,  I believe they were married in Saratoga County by or before 1808.

During the War of 1812 Stephen, Dominic and J. Lewis (Sr. or Jr?) are listed in muster rolls (August and September 1814) for Colonel Worthy L. Churchill’s 164th New York Volunteers at Fort Erie, Canada (Buffalo, Erie County is on the American side).  Wikipedia has a nice article summarizing Fort Erie’s involvement in the war.  Dominic and Lewis also served at Black Rock. Other DeJean’s are found serving in the War of 1812 nearer to New York City.  Their exact relationship is unclear (if any), but this other DeJean family doesn’t appear in New York City until after our ancestors arrive in Albany (so far as I can tell).  This other line has left even fewer records to analyze, but may have migrated to Illinois and Kentucky.

Muster rolls for Stephen DeJean, August – September 1814.  National Archives and Records Administration, Compiled Military Service Records for the Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the War of 1812, rolls 145-147.

In 1817, Stephen buys a 50-acre lot in Hanover Township, Chautauqua County, New York from the Holland Land Company. By 1830 this lot has a log house, a frame barn, 50 fruit trees, some Oak and Chestnut and is considered a good farming lot.

In 1835 Stephen’s son, William, moved to Wyandot County, Ohio where his descendants flourished.  William’s son, Thomas Corwin or T.C. moved to Plankinton, South Dakota after the Civil War. 

Another son of Stephen, Lewis, moved to Lucas County, Ohio by 1836 and continued to move around until he ended up in Wisconsin. 

In 1837 son, Joseph, moves to Waukesha, Wisconsin and in 1838 Stephen follows, moving his family (including 12-year-old Julian) to Waukesha – still known as the Wisconsin territory.

Mapping the DeJeans using Google Maps. 

The last record we can find for Stephen is the 1860 Census.  He is enumerated twice, once with his son, Martin, in Rutland, Dane County, Wisconsin and again with another son, L. C. (Lewis Charles) in Kildare, Juneau County, Wisconsin.  Letters from Harriet’s daughter report that Harriet’s brother, William (the one in Wyandot, Ohio), had come to visit her in Iowa.  Before coming to Iowa, he had traveled to South Dakota to visit his son T.C. in Plankinton and said Stephen was there also.  The letter does not say when this visit occurred but it is referring to an event that happened years prior.  Myrle thought Stephen died in South Dakota, but I have never found a record of his death. Given the evidence of the letter, it is possible that he did die in South Dakota, probably before 1870, however a conflicting report passed down from another child reported his place of death to be near Dane County, Wisconsin.

Genealogy Summary:

Stephen DeJean was born between 1778 and 1782 in France to unknown parents (father may have been named Louis or Lewis, who might have died sometime after 1830) and maybe arrived in Albany, New York in 1795.  He died either in Plankinton, South Dakota or near Brooklyn, Dane County, Wisconsin around the reported age of 75 (1853-1857, but he was living in 1860 so he must have been older at death).

He married Cornelia/Cordelia Rouse in New York, probably Saratoga County (based on 1810 census and birth of first child in 1808). Cornelia was born abt. 1782 and died 15 May 1859 in Milton, Rock County, Wisconsin.  She may have been the daughter of Jacques Rouse.

Stephen and Cornelia had the following children:

  1. Thomas W. DeJean was born on 6 January 1808 in New York, probably Saratoga County. He died on 6 February 1877 in La Farge, Vernon, Wisconsin. He married Polly Butterfield on 14 August 1830 in Girard, Clearfield, Pennsylvania. She was born on 24 October 1810. She died in 1911 in Wisconsin.
  2. Harriett DeJean was born on 10 July 1809 in Saratoga, New York. She died on 8 May 1898 in Elantine, Chatauqua, New York. She married Ellick Jones on 2 September 1832.
  3. William Richard DeJean was born on 2 May 1814 in Genessee County, New York. He died on 21 or 22 July 1897 or 99 in Nevada, Wyandot, Ohio (Myrle initially stated “1898 or 1897, Ohio.”). He married Mary Ann Whiply or Wheply.
  4. Lewis Charles DeJean was born on 3 June 1815 in Providence, Genesee, New York. He died before 1870. He married Caroline Robertson on 3 March 1835 in Sheridan, Chautauqua, New York.
  5. Joseph DeJean was born on 16 February 1816 in New York. He died on 3 February 1904 in Brooklyn, Dane, Wisconsin. He married (1) Almira Lee, on 19 November 1836 in Jamestown, Chautauqua, New York. He married (2) Hannah Lockwood.
  6. Susan DeJean was born on 5 or 6 April 1817 in New York. She died on 2 April 1909. She married Jacob Wakefield.
  7. Nancy Almira DeJean was born in 1822, probably in New York and died December 1859 in Milton Rock County, Wisconsin. She married Isaac Smith on 25 April 1841 in Johnstown, Rock County, Wisconsin.
  8. Martin Tilamonk DeJean was born on 24 March 1827 in Chautauqua, New York. He died on 2 September 1922 in Ontario, San Bernardino, California. He married Maria J. Whaley on 2 November 1851.
  9. Julian F. S. DeJean was born on 27 April 1828 in New York. He died on 26 January 1898 in Buffalo Gap, Custer, South Dakota. He married Elizabeth Bullis on 22 October 1846 in Milton, Rock County, Wisconsin.
  10. Nelson DeJean. He married Anna Mcnoughton.
  11. Charles DeJean. He married Charlotte Mcnoughton.
  12. Mary DeJean. She married Curtis Davis.
  13. Maria DeJean. She married Joseph Rogers. 

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