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Now this uncertainty as to the place of Audubon's birth has been put to rest by the testimony of an eyewitness in the person of old Mr. Mandeville Marigny,* now dead some years. His repeated statement to me was,.that on his plantation at Mandeville, Louisiana, on Lake Pontchartrain, Audubon's mother was his guest; and while there gave birth to John James Audubon. Marigny was present at the time, and from his own lips I have, as already said, repeatedly heard him assert the above fact. He was ever proud to bear this testimony of his protection given to Audubon's mother, and his ability to bear witness as to the place of Audubon's birth, thus establishing the fact that he was a Louisianian by birth.
Before I speak of my own personal reminiscences of Audubon, permit me, further, to read some extracts, of a date before my day, from the autobiography of a Mr. Vincent Nolte, a narration of his intercourse with Audubon as early as 1811. They have never, to my knowledge, been given to the public, and are, consequently, comparatively new items in the history of Audubon's life. This is my excuse for giving them now. And further, because given before this Historical Society, they are of historical value, especially to those of this generation of steam and electricity, as showing what they can hardly conceive was the primitive condition of the navigation of our Western States at that time, with but little improvement since Father Noah floated off in the Ark. They are to be found in a rare book, now in our Public Library, on St. Charles Avenue, published by Nolte himself, entitled Fifty Years in Both Hemispheres, showing the adventures of this remarkable man and great cotton speculator, in New Orleans, as early as 1806. He was a participant in the battle of New Orleans, in 1815, of which he gives a most remarkable and detailed account. It is a book that shows the condition of things and society here at that early date as he saw them, full of interest and historical information.
He writes from New York in the fall of 1811 (page 196): “I was anxious to acquire some knowledge of the far Western
See below account of Bernard Mandeville de Marigny.
region, whence such rich and manifold productions of all kinds were carried down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, destined to be the source of the prosperity of New Orleans, although their banks were then but thinly populated, and were almost entirely wild and unclaimed. In pursuance of this desire, I resolved to cross the Alleghany Mountains to Pittsburgh, in the State of Pennsylvania, and there purchase a couple of flatboats, in which I and my companions could quietly float down the rapid stream to New Orleans, about 2000 miles. The only other means usual at that time, for passage or transportation on the two rivers, was by 'keelboats,' as they were called. These were long, narrow boats, which could carry at the farthest about 200 barrels of flour, and which would complete the journey in about thirty to thirty-five days, while the flatboats, which were only steered, consumed forty to fifty days in making the same distance. The latter, however, were more convenient for transportation of passengers, since they had space enough in them to put up a snug sleeping room, with beds, etc., and a convenient kitchen and dining room.
"I sent my friend Hollander a fortnight in advance of me to Pittsburgh to purchase two such flatboats, one for our own use and the other to accommodate my horse with a stall. Moreover, we could thus take along with us some 400 barrels of flour, which could always be disposed of to advantage in New Orleans, and would suffice to pay the expenses of the journey.
"I managed to procure an excellent horse in Philadelphia, and with my saddlebags strapped to his back, I started in December, 1811, alone on my journey to Pittsburgh. It was very cold. I rode early in the morning, entirely alone, over the loftiest summit of the Alleghany ridge, called Laurel Hill, and at about 10 o'clock arrived at a small inn, close by the falls of the Juniata River. I ordered a substantial breakfast. The landlady showed me into a room and said I, perhaps, would not object to taking my meal at the same table with a strange gentleman, who was already there.
“As I entered I found the latter personage, who at once struck me as being what in common parlance is called an “odd fish.' He was sitting at a table before the fire, with a 'Madras' handkerchief wound around his head, exactly in the style of the French marines or laborers in a seaport town. I stepped up to him and accosted him politely with the words, 'I hope I don't incommode you by coming to take breakfast with you?'
""Oh, no, sir,' he replied, with a strong French accent, which made it like 'No, sare.'
"Ah!'I continued, you are a Frenchman, sir?'
""Why,' I asked in return, ‘how do you make that out? You look like a Frenchman, and you speak like one.'
" 'Hi emm an Englishman, becas hi got a Hinglish wife,' he answered.
“Without investigating the matter further, we made up our minds to ride together to Pittsburgh. He showed himself to be an original throughout, but at last admitted that he was a Frenchman by birth, and a native of La Rochelle.
(This, no doubt, was his belief at the time.)
“However,"' continues Nolte, “he had come in early youth to Louisiana, had given up sea service, and had gradually become a thorough American. “Now,' I asked him, “how does that accord with your quality as Englishman?' Upon this he found it convenient to reply in the French language, ‘When all is said and done, I am somewhat of a cosmopolitan. I belong to any country.'
(This was a prophetic speech and has come to pass, as we all know.)
“This man,'' continues Nolte, “who afterwards won for himself so great a name in natural history, particularly in ornithology, was Audubon, who, however, was by no means thinking, at that time, of occupying himself with the study of natural history. Ile wanted to be a merchant and had married the daughter of an Englishman named Bakewell, formerly of Philadelphia, but then residing, and owning mills, at Shipping Port, at the falls of the Ohio, in the neighborhood of Louisville. It was also his intention to travel down the Ohio into Kentucky.”
This meeting with Audubon on the Alleghany ridge is, in the main, confirmed by Audubon, with many more details, in his Journal, found in his published Book of American Ornithology, in the Howard Library of this city.
“At Pittsburgh he (Audubon) found no other opportunity of doing so than the one offered him by my flatboats, and as he was a good companionable man, and, moreover, an accomplished sketcher, I invited him to a berth in our cabin, gratis. He thankfully accepted the invitation; and we left Pittsburgh, in very cold weather, with the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers full of drifting ice, in the beginning of January, 1812.
“I learned nothing further of his traveling plans until we reached Limestone, a little place in the Northwestern corner of the State of Kentucky. There we had both our horses taken ashore, and I resolved to go with him overland, first to visit the capital of Lexington, and from thence to Louisville, where he expected to find his wife and parents-in-law. My boats, which I had left under the charge of Hollander, were to meet me at the same place.
“We had scarcely finished our breakfast at Limestone when Audubon all at once sprung to his feet and exclaimed in French, ‘Now I am going to lay the foundation of my establishment.' So saying, he took a small packet of address cards and a hammer from his coat pocket, some nails from his vest, and began to nail up one of the cards to the door of the tavern where we were taking our meal. The address was as follows:
AUDUBON & BAKEWELL,
NEW ORLEANS. (My father had already been established as a merchant in New Orleans some time.)
“Oh! Oh! thought I, there you have a competition before you have got to the place yourself. Yet this commission house could not refer to the influential name of 'Messrs. Hope,' or of Messrs. Baring; and as pork and lard, moreover, were not articles for me in the way of trade, I consoled myself with the thought that competition of that sort could not amount to much. From Limestone Audubon and I rode on together as far as Lexington, the capital of Kentucky.”
Here Nolte's narrative, connected with Audubon, ends.
My earliest personal recollections of Audubon begin when I was quite a child. It was the common talk of the family that James—that is, Audubon-had no business capacity, no practicability about him, unsuccessful in all his undertakings, always in pecuniary want, and his family often in dire distress for the necessities of life. “He neglects his material interests and is forever wasting his time, hunting, drawing and stuffing birds, and playing the fiddle. We fear he will never be fit for any practical purpose on the face of the earth.” At this time, so seemingly wasted, he was unconsciously laying the foundation of his future fame and prosperity. It was not yet dreamed that natural history was, pre-eminently, his calling. His genius and talent was unsuspected, even by himself.
It was not until he was called to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1820, that his talents were put to any practical use, and his genius began to dawn upon the world, and the family began to appreciate him for something more than a most lovable, kind and generous man-a thorough good fellow, though, hitherto, a failure, so far as practicability went. He had eked out a scanty living for his family by portrait painting, dancing lessons and French lessons; while his good wife was obliged to teach school, in which, however, she proved a great success among the best families of West Feliciana, and where her memory is revered most gratefully and affectionately. And this in later days was reflected upon me, when I was a minister of the Gospel in that parish, and gave me hearty welcome and hospitality for man and beast wherever I went on my parochial