Saturday, August 8, 2020




At the turn of the Century, Henri and Jeanne Louise Mouquin were suffering from a marital scandal that had erupted while they were living on a chicken farm in Nanuet, New York, in November of 1900. The farm supplied fresh eggs and poultry to the family restaurant business in New York City.

Henri's father (also named Henri) had immigrated to New York from Switzerland in 1854, and opened a successful French Restaurant in 1857. The restaurant had prospered, bolstered by the largest wine importing business in the country, and a second Mouquin restaurant, known as Mouquin's Uptown, was opened at the height of the Gilded Age in 1898. Henri and his brother Louis managed the second restaurant for their father in what had been the old Knickerbockers Club on Sixth Avenue and 28th Street.

The original downtown restaurant is credited with introducing onion soup and bouillabaisse to New Yorkers. More importantly, it taught the American public how to appreciate fine wine at reasonable prices. Located between Fulton and Ann Streets, the restaurant was a favorite haunt of writers, newspapermen, politicians and Wall Street tycoons. Charles A. Dana of The Sun, Horace Greeley of The Tribune and James Gordon Bennett of The Harold were among them.

Madame Jeanne Louise Mouquin, an attractive redhead, was reportedly having an affair with the manager of the chicken farm, a Monsieur Leon L. Chevanney, on nights when her husband sent word that he would be working late at the restaurant. One night he returned home unexpectedly, surprising his wife. Monsieur Chevanney escaped by jumping out a second story window. The scandal hit the newspapers. In retaliation, Madame Mouquin told the newspapers that her husband had had an affair with the maid while they were living in Hoboken, New Jersey. At the time of her unwanted pregnancy, the maid blamed the coachmen. Later, after the baby was stillborn, the maid confessed to her mistress that Monsieur Mouquin had fathered the child. Newspapers hinted that there would be a divorce.

No one knows how the marriage recovered. Jeanne Louise recalled that they used to admire the house from the train on the way to New York. When her husband learned it was for sale, he bought it. It needed a lot of work, and the couple set about renovating and restoring.

The Mouquins destroyed a large marble fireplace in the basement to install a coal furnace, the first central heating to the house. They installed electricity and the fiftieth phone in Piermont. Though the Ferdons had running water by 1873, the Mouquins modernized the indoor plumbing and bathrooms. One claw foot tub dates from February 1904. Each bedroom received a sink to replace the traditional pitcher and washbasin. There were three pull chain toilets and a basement toilet for servants.

The Mouquins took their French cooking seriously. The kitchen was moved upstairs to a first floor back room that had served as Mr. Ferdon's library. Another fireplace was replaced by a 48-inch, professional size, cast iron cook stove from The Cosmopolitan Range Company, dated June 4, 1889. It burned coal. The Mouquins bought it used from the Astor Hotel when the hotel switched to gas fired stoves. They installed a wine rack in the basement room cooled by a natural spring.

An imported mahogany staircase was installed from the first floor to the tower room. The dining room fireplace received a new mahogany mantle decorated with tiles depicting the Song of Alfred.

Henri continued to take the train into New York and manage his father's uptown restaurant. The French atmosphere and gaiety attracted realist painters from the Ashcan School including Robert Henri, Sloan, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn and George Bellows. A pastel by Everett Shinn, currently in the Newark Museum, depicts the outside of the restaurant on a cold wintry day in 1904.

In 1905, William Glackens painted Chez Mouquin inside the Parisian style caf�, posing Jeanne Louise Mouquin with another restaurant owner, Robert Moore of the Caf� Francis. The Chicago Art Institute currently owns the painting.

The couple's only son, Henri, was sent to The Kingsley School in New Jersey. He graduated from the University of McGill in Montreal and received his master's in chemistry from Columbia University. He earned a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University and a PhD in Physics from the Sorbonne in Paris. In Piermont he became known as Professor Mouquin. He taught chemistry and physics at New York University.

With the advent of Prohibition, the Mouquins were forced to close their French restaurant and wine importing business. Henri, the founder of the Mouquin Restaurant and Wine Business, was 83 years old and retired to his 1200-acre estate in Williamsburg, Virginia. His 53-year-old son, Henri made an effort to keep the uptown restaurant open by bribing politicians and flaunting the Prohibition law. The restaurant was forcibly closed down in 1925. For a time, his wife operated a patisserie tearoom named Henri's on 40th Street. Henri retired to his home in Rockland County. He was a founding member of the Rockland County Golf Club on Route 9W. He also amused himself with a steam yacht on the Hudson River, once making the voyage to the Tidewater, Virginia area to visit his elderly father.

After her husband passed away, Jeanne Louise remained in the house until her death in 1953. Over the years, the central heating system was converted from coal to an oil-fired furnace that provided steam to cast iron radiators. The outside clapboard was covered over with stucco. Even so, the wood trim around the windows and porches required one side of the house to be repainted each year. Madame Mouquin devoted herself to gardening. Her gardens were featured in The Journal News.

The second generation of Mouquin's, Henri and Georgette Mouquin and their son Charles moved in to the house in 1953. Another round of improvements were made to upgrade the electricity and the kitchen. Professor Henri retired from his position at New York University, devoting himself to alcohol and squandering the family fortune until his death in 1957. Charles and his mother, Georgette, worried how they would be able to keep the house. Georgette owned and operated the Geneva School of Business in New York City. Charles completed his education at Berkley, California, and began his career on Wall Street as a securities analyst. He and his mother were able to replace the roof in the early 1960's and shore up the foundation with new beams and steel supports. Al Turk & Son were engaged to replace the multi-leveled roof.

By the time Charles and his wife moved in in 1979, the house needed more work. Fortunately, Charles had prospered on Wall Street, and was able to afford the necessary repairs. Rotten wood was replaced. Plastering, painting and wallpapering were needed. The electricity was upgraded. The kitchen and bathrooms were modernized. A new gas heating system was installed. They also chose to replace the greenhouse on the Western side of the house, as it appeared in The Rockland County Centennial Atlas of 1876. Most recently, the roof was restored and the exterior was painted. Again, Al Turk & Son were called upon for the extensive roof restoration. The recently deceased father Al Turk had previously worked on the roof as the son of his father.

The maintenance and repair of an old house never ends. The care pays off in the long run, as the end result is something unique and unusual, and worth the preservation.

Ferdon Family



John William Ferdon was born December 13, 1826. His parents, William and Elizabeth (nee Perry), lived just down the hill, in the Greek revival mansion at the corner of Rockland Road and Ferdon Avenue in Piermont. John graduated from Rutgers University in 1847 and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1851. He married Harriet Strong, the daughter of Professor Theodore Strong on September 18, 1850, in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

During that time, both William Ferdon and his son John W. Ferdon were involved in a feud within the congregation of the Piermont Reformed Church. Members of the Tappan Reformed Church who lived in Piermont had organized the church in 1839, shortly after the building of the Piermont Pier. The original church building was located high on the hill overlooking the Hudson, in the area around Piermont Place.

John and his father William were in favor of moving the church down the hill. They influenced the feud by providing the land for a new building along the South bank of the Sparkill on what is now Ferdon Avenue in Piermont. Twenty-three year old John W. Ferdon contributed his funds and his energies to the construction of the new church building along the Sparkill. He engaged the carpenters Hardenburg and Sickles of New York City to build the 40-foot by 60-foot church. It was completed in 1850.

Likely, John W. Ferdon employed the same carpenters to refurbish his stone house. He may have added the brick pillared portico in front of the house and raised the roof of the upper floor at that time. A cast iron cook stove was installed in the large open hearth of the basement kitchen. The chimney and the hearth opening were slightly modified, leaving a strange hiding place behind the brick wall of the fireplace. Could this have been a secret stop on the Underground Railroad?

In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law. According to Green's The History of Rockland County, John W. Towt was active in setting up the Underground Railroad in Rockland County.3 He was also a friend of John W. Ferdon's. Both men served as trustees of the Rockland County Female Institute in Nyack, in 1854.4

A photograph and a biographical sketch of John W. Ferdon appear in David Cole's History of Rockland County:

"Mr. Ferdon, as his name indicates, is of French descent?. Although he was admitted to the bar of the state of New York; the care of his large estate has absorbed his attention and he has never engaged in active practice.

" In 1854, he was elected a member of the Assembly, and in 1855 of the Senate of this state. In 1864, he was a delegate to the convention, which nominated Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency, and in 1876, he was a member of the convention at which Rutherford B. Hayes was nominated for the same office.

"After twice declining the nomination for Member of Congress from the 14th Congressional District, Mr. Ferdon was elected to the 46th Congress? Mr. Ferdon is a man of large wealth, which he has used in the exercise of his liberal public spirit and his fine taste. Of this, the avenues he has laid out and beautified, and the many hundred trees he has planted and cultivated give evidence."5

Although the Rev. David Cole edited the massive volume of Cole's History of Rockland County in 1884; the General County History Chapters 1, 2, 4, 21, 23, 24; and the section on The Town of Orangetown were written by Ferdon. In Chapter 4, Ferdon wrote a romantic description of the Hudson River and the Indians of Rockland County:

"Its shallows near the shores were just the place for the men to do their fishing, and for the Indian maiden to paddle her bark canoe, perhaps in a coquettish race with some athletic, and swarthy admirer whose conquest depended upon being first at the goal."6

Catherine Ferdon was born September 26, 1818. She is listed in the records of the Tappan Reformed Church as Baptism number 4119, baptized November 7, 1818. Catherine was said to be "a great beauty with many accomplishments, whose graces won great favor among her friends." During the building of the Piermont Pier in 1838, Catherine met the 19-year-old son of one of the pier contractors.

At the time, a shady path from the back of her parents' mansion wound to the top of the palisades in what is now Tallman Mountain State Park. The top of the hill commands a splendid view of the Hudson River and the pier that was then under construction. During the summer months, she was often seen strolling to the top of the hill with her suitor. They fell in love and became engaged.

Sadly, her suitor failed to meet the financial expectations of her father, William Ferdon. William refused to give Catherine permission to marry the young man and she was forbidden to see him. Catherine was seldom seen after that, and the events surrounding her death have not been verified. Rumors circulated that she was locked up in the tower room at the top of the house, where she could gaze out at the path she used to wander freely with her suitor. Some say she pined away and died from grief. Others report that she starved herself to death. James Ricau, who owned William Ferdon's Greek revival mansion from 1957 until his death in 1993; referred to Catherine as the Ferdon sister who hung herself in the tower room.

If Catherine Ferdon actually committed suicide in the late 1830's, the Tappan Reformed Church could not have permitted her burial in the church cemetery. On the property between Ferdon Avenue, Piermont, and Rockland Road, Sparkill, William Ferdon constructed a final resting place for his beautiful daughter Catherine. Nestled into the hillside, the brownstone mausoleum was built with a marble floor and door.

William Ferdon died in 1872. Legend says that he made a request for his coffin to be carried into the mausoleum by black pallbearers; as he wanted no white man to enter the sacred chamber where his daughter's body lay in a coffin with a glass window to expose her beautifully preserved face. Legend also relates that the pallbearers bringing William Ferdon's coffin into the mausoleum accidentally bumped Catherine's coffin; and her face fell to dust.

John W. Ferdon received an inheritance when his father died in 1872. He generously donated $7,000 to the enlarging and remodeling of the Piermont Reformed Church. He employed the Van Brunt architectural firm in Englewood, New Jersey for the improvement of the church. At the same time, he used the same firm to remodel his modest stone house on Rockland Road. The same interior moldings and architectural details used in the church were also installed in Ferdon's house.

The church received an awesome bell tower and the house was crowned with a fifth floor tower. The tower room held a copper water tank and the house became one of the earliest houses in Rockland County with running water. The wedding cake design of the tiered Mansard roof was decorated with cast-iron cresting. The flat sections of the roof were constructed to collect rainwater. Rainwater drained into underground cisterns and was then pumped up to the copper tank in the tower room.

At this time, the old stone house with its brick pillared portico was hidden under a broad front staircase leading up to a columned front porch, with columns extending out over the carriageway. The exterior walls were clapboard, with ornate carvings around the window frames and under the broad Yankee eaves. Louvered shutters framed the windows. Four front windows reached from the floor of the porch, almost to the ten-foot high ceiling. In summer, the windows could slide up into the casement for easy access to the porch with its distant view of the Hudson River. On the Eastern side of the house, six floor-to-ceiling windows bowed out in an alcove of the dining room. A carved walnut sideboard disguised a dumbwaiter that brought food to the dining room from the kitchen below.

A windowed sunroom graced the Western side of the house, entered by red stained glass double doors. Two sets of etched glass double doors adorned the central parlor. Ornate plaster moldings and fluted columns adorned with wooden roses decorated the rooms. Large plaster rosettes were centered around the ceiling light fixtures. Electric lighting did not arrive in Piermont until 1900. The house was piped for gas lighting.

John W. Ferdon had reason to upgrade both the church and his own home. His 20-year-old daughter, Lucy Dix Ferdon married Hoffman Rogers, in November of 1872. I can't be sure if the remodeling was actually complete in time for Lucy's wedding. John and his wife Harriet had five children in all: three daughters and two sons. Their first grandson, John Ferdon Rogers, was baptized in the Piermont Reformed Church in 1874.

The house was depicted in the Rockland County Centennial Atlas of 1876, with a sloping glass conservatory off the Western sunroom. No one knows for sure if this actually existed and later rotted away. A balustrade side porch had replaced it by the time the Mouquins bought the house in 1902.

John W. Ferdon died on August 5, 1884 at the age of 58. He was buried in the family mausoleum beside his older sister Catherine and his father William. A copy of John's will was recorded in the Surrogate's Office on August 13, 1884. Even though Mr. Ferdon left his estate to his wife, Harriet; the laws of the day required a room-by-room inventory of the goods of his estate, filed in the Surrogate's Office of the County of Rockland, September 17, 1884. It is interesting to note the number of chairs, bureaus, marble-top tables, and other furnishings in each room.

  • Green, Frank, The History of Rockland County, A.S. Barnes & Co., New York, 1886, page282

  • Green, Frank, The History of Rockland County, A.S. Barnes & Co., New York, 1886, page345-346.

  • Cole, David, History of Rockland County New York, L.B.Beers, New York, 1884, page 246.

  • Cole, David, History of Rockland County New York, L.B.Beers, New York, 1884, page 22

  • Cole, David, History of Rockland County New York, L.B.Beers, New York, 1884, page 201

The Old Stonehouse



On a slope above the South bank of the Sparkill Creek, our old house has sheltered the Mouquin family for 100 years - a silent witness to the joys and sorrows of four generations of family history. Such a legacy does not come without the obligation to preserve the structure for future generations.

Henri Fredrick Mouquin purchased the house as a surprise for his wife in 1902. Land records in the Rockland County Court House indicate that he bought it for $3,000 from the children of John W. Ferdon. Henri's wife, Jeanne Louise, recalled that the house had been vacant for some time, and the ice on the kitchen floor in the basement was so thick she could skate on it.

Orangetown Tax Assessor's records indicate that the house was built about 1800. Yet, the Second Empire, Victorian style architecture, with its Mansard roof, reflects a later period of around 1870.

On closer examination, evidence of an 18th Century stone house is hidden under the 19th Century exterior. The stonewalls under the front porch still sport their original windows and shutters. Each window is framed with an outline of brick. This was commonly done in the 18th Century, when bricks were scarce.

The stones are hewn, possibly cut from a quarry. The house is built into the hillside with the backroom cooled by the perpetual dripping of a natural spring. Stone shelves, constructed in a corner, were designed to keep milk, butter, and cheese cool.

The Book, Piermont, Three Centuries, published by The Friends of the Piermont Library in 1996, describes an old mine hole cut in the rock along South Piermont Avenue, on a slope above the North bank of the Sparkill Creek. While no one knows the exact origin of this mine hole, the book gives one theory from the 18th Century:

"A local inhabitant, John Moore, operated a mill on the Creek and needed grinding stones for his mill. He found just what he was looking for on the nearby hillside and began to hack away, creating first a cave and then a mine. It was said that the walls of Moore's mine were as smooth as glass, and that he continued getting his millstones from the mine site until the early 1800's."1

John Moore was an enterprising free black. According to Frank Green's The History of Rockland County, he erected a sawmill and a gristmill on the Sparkill Creek in the early 1800's, on property he purchased from a Mrs. Graham. In 1810, he built a woolen carding mill that employed three men. William Ferdon bought this mill in 1815 and used it to supply blankets to the Union army during the Civil War.

"It may not be amiss to say a word further regarding John Moore. His trade was that of building mill wheels, and, among others constructed by him, was the wheel for De Pew's mill, ? in Nyack. He was also a partner of Mr. De Pew for some time, and was regarded as an intelligent, upright man."2

The cut stones used to construct our old house may have been quarried from the mine hole, along with John Moore's millstones. Rockland County Court House land records indicate that Edward and Susan Jackson owned the old stone house, selling it to John W, Ferdon for $180. in 1851. Edward Jackson would have been acquainted with Thomas Moore, and may even have learned how to cut stone from him.

Charles Mouquin remembers that Sara Jackson lived near the mine hole in the long-established black community along South Piermont Avenue. I have not been able to determine if she was related to Edward and Susan Jackson. When Edward and Susan Jackson sold their stone house to John and Harriet Ferdon, the recorder of the deed noted that Susan Jackson was interviewed privately to attest that she was not forced to sell the house against her will. Neither Edward nor Susan was able to sign his or her own names. Their signatures were indicated by an "X - his mark" and an "X - her mark" and notarized by witnesses.

  1. The Friends of Piermont Library, Piermont Three Centuries, 1996, page 20.

  2. Green, Frank, The History of Rockland County, A.S. Barnes & Co., New York, 1886, page 359

Chez Mouquin



Bustling activity percolated through four floors of the Fulton Street restaurant. Long before there was an Algonquin Club with its round table or vicious circle, famous writers, newspapermen, politicians and Wall Street tycoons lunched at Mouquin's. Charles A. Dana of The Sun lunched frugally on Swiss cheese, brown bread and red wine. Horace Greeley of The Tribune cared so little what he ate that he left the choice to the waiter while he made jokes with the men in the bar at the back, near the Ann Street entrance. James Gordon Bennett of The Harold sent his son, the younger James Gordon Bennett to pick up his roast beef. Madame Mouquin called him "Jimmy" as he would climb up the stairs to the kitchen to see how his father's order was coming.

According to Benjamin de Casseres, William Cullen Bryant, Henry Ward Beecher, Cardinal McCloskey, Whitelaw Reid, Amos J. Cummings, John Hay, Chester A. Arthur, General Grant, Larry Godkin, Walt Whitman, O'Henry, Jack London; almost everybody who was anybody hung out at Mouquin's at various times. O'Henry sketched many a plot on the tablecloths.

A beautiful redhead strolled in to the restaurant on Fulton Street at the height of the gilded age in 1892. Jeanne Louise Berlet Ami was 27 years old. She carried a letter of introduction from her father, M. Berlet, who lived in the Alsace part of France. Her father may have operated a pension (hotel and restaurant) in Konigsberg, near Harincourt, France. At any rate, her father was an acquaintance of Henri's. Henri's 25-year-old son, Henri F., greeted her and it was love at first sight. The younger Henri introduced her to his father and she was immediately invited to return later and join the family for dinner upstairs.

Jeanne Louise was an accomplished woman. She grew up in the Alsace Lorraine area during a period when the border between Germany and France varied from year to year. Sometimes she went to school to learn German. Other times, the official language would be French. Fluent in both French and German, she also taught piano. At the time of their first meeting, Jeanne Louise had come from Ottawa, where she had been employed as the governess to the children of Lord and Lady Stanley.

As romance blossomed with the young Henri; the problem unfolded that Jeanne Louise was already married to a Monsieur Ami and had two daughters: Laura and Blanche. Not to worry, the young Henri was so in love that he arranged to have Jeanne Louise take up residence in Fargo, North Dakota for the three months required to get a divorce. Fargo, North Dakota must have been very cold in February of 1893. Jeanne Louise busied teaching piano, reading and writing letters, and embroidering her linens. The happy couple reunited in June, promptly married, and set up housekeeping in Hoboken, New Jersey. Henri quickly adopted both Blanche and Laura. Their only son, Henri Mouquin, was born, November 22, 1897. Shortly after the birth of Henri, Jeanne Louise's young daughter Laura passed away, presumably of tuberculosis; as she had been cared for in a sanatorium in East Las Vegas, New Mexico.

In 1898, the elder Henri (now 61) decided his 31-year-old son Henri F. had learned enough of the restaurant business to manage a new establishment at Sixth Avenue and 28th Street in the theatre district then known as the Tenderloin. Although he named the new restaurant the Caf� Bordeaux; everyone referred to it as simply Mouquin's Uptown. The new restaurant boasted a mirror and marble Parisian style caf� on the main floor and large dining rooms upstairs. Music was offered on Friday nights.

Benjamin de Casseres related the following story about Mouquin's Uptown:

"At the south side of the caf� was a table which for years was consecrated to a group of writers and artists; men of the long bow and topsy turvy anecdotes, of heavy scabrous wit mixed with the blood of the muse." The table was occupied by John Flanagan; sculptor, Paul Bartlett, sculptor; Ernest Lawson, Painter; Fredrick James Gregg, editor of the old Evening Sun; Jo Davidson, sculptor; Homer Davenport, cartoonist; and Robert Henri, painter. These men held the table everyday at lunch and every evening from 6 o'clock on. If the seats were pre-empted, they were ordered clear by Paul Bartlett."

As the restaurant gained notoriety, Henri and his wife Jeanne Louise sought peace further in the country. They moved from a townhouse in Hoboken to a chicken farm in Nanuet, New York. The farm supplied fresh eggs and chickens to the restaurants. A scandal erupted in the newspapers in November of 1900. Madame Jeanne Louise Mouquin was reportedly having an affair with the manager of the chicken farm, a Monsieur Leon L. Chevanney on nights when her husband sent word that he would be working late in the restaurant. One night he surprised them, and Monsieur Chevanney was forced to jump from a second story window to make his escape. In retaliation, Madame Mouquin leaked another scandal to the newspapers. Her husband had had an affair with the maid while they were living in Hoboken. At the time of her unwanted pregnancy, the maid blamed the coachman. Later, after the baby was born dead, the maid confessed to her mistress that Monsieur Mouquin had fathered the child.

Newspaper articles indicated that there would be a divorce. In April of 1901, the papers declared that the marriage had been annulled because the courts ruled that Jeanne Louise's Fargo, North Dakota divorce was invalid. The newspapers declared that the couple remained "on friendly terms." Somehow, they managed to stay together.

In 1902, Henri bought a 2nd Empire Victorian house with an impressive porte de carchaire and a fifth floor tower room. They had admired the house from the train until one day Henri learned that it was for sale. The house had been vacant since the late 1880's and was in need of serious renovation. He secretly bought the house for $2500. as a surprise for Jeanne Louise. When Henri brought her to visit the house, she found the ice was so thick on the kitchen floor in the basement that she could skate on it. "Let's not buy this house," she declared. "It's a wreck." Henri had already bought the house, so they added new plumbing, heating, and electricity, and lived happily ever after.

The house, located on Rockland Road in Sparkill, New York has remained in the family for 100 years and four generations. The family raised rabbits to supply the Mouquin restaurants.

Both Mouquin restaurants continued to be frequented by realist painters, some who got their start as newspaper and magazine illustrators. The French atmosphere and gaiety reminded them of the student days they spent in Paris. These included members of the Ashcan School: Robert Henri, Sloan, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn and Henri's student George Bellows. An artist's group that called themselves The Eight allegedly plotted its famous revolution against the National Academy of Design at Mouquin's in 1908. Everett Shinn made a pastel of the outside of the uptown restaurant on a cold, wintry day in 1904. The pastel is currently owned by the Newark Museum.

In 1905, William Glackens painted Chez Mouquin inside the Parisian style cafe of the uptown restaurant. The attractive redhead in the painting appears to be none other than Jeanne Louise Mouquin, seated politely with another restaurant owner, James B. Moore of the Cafe Francis. Glackens captured her expression of slight boredom while she waits patiently for her husband to close up and go home. The mustached James B. Moore closely resembles her husband Henri. No doubt, Henri was too busy managing the restaurant to sit for the portrait himself. Glackens may have started the painting using Moore as a stand in for Mouquin, intending to finalize the painting with Henri. As Henri refused to sit down, Glackens continued to paint Moore with Mouquin's wife; thinking it great fun to have a rival restaurant owner seated with Jeanne Louise. The painting hints at the Mouquin marriage scandal that hit the newspapers in 1900. James Moore had a reputation for squiring beautiful young girls and always referred to them as "his daughters." Needless to say, the Mouquin's were not interested in buying the painting. The Chicago Art Institute currently owns the painting.

A Taste of wine


Eight years later, Henriette's son Louis Mouquin is indeed an innkeeper, although not of the auberge in Echallens.  Louis married a 15-year-old girl from the farming village of La Sarraz on December 14, 1836.  Elise Fanny Morel needed permission from her parents, Jean Gabriel Morel and Louise Buffi Morel to marry at such a young age.  The marriage record shows that they were married first in a civil ceremony in the town hall of La Sarraz, and then in the church of Aubonne on the same day. 

There were no railroads in Switzerland before 1847, and the country did not make an effort to improve the carriage roads until 1848.  Early roads existed as cow paths for driving livestock to market.  Aubonne is about 23 kilometers from La Sarraz.  It must have been a long day to celebrate a wedding in both places.  The Register of the Marriage, which I located in Aubonne, indicates that Louis was living in Aubonne at the time of his marriage, and also notes that he had previously lived in La Sarraz.

His grandfather Jean Abraham Mouquin died in his home, a farmer living near La Sarraz, January 5, 1821, at the age of 72.   Other family members also lived on farms in the area.  It's possible that Louis and his sisters, Sophie and Fanchette left the auberge in Echallens and moved to La Sarraz to live with relatives after their mother died.  Perhaps the struggles between the Catholics and the Protestants in Echallens made it difficult for them to remain there and keep the inn.

In Aubonne, Louis operated an auberge called Le Bornalet, on a slope of terraced vineyards overlooking Lake Geneva, about twenty kilometers southwest of Lausanne.
Charles and I visited Aubonne in November 2000, and located the house still called Le Bornalet.  It is currently owned by Dr. and Mrs. Andre Brot.  They purchased the house in the late 1970's.  The Brots told us that the house had indeed at one time been an inn and showed us the holes in the stucco where the sign had been.  Le Bornalet had been a working farm when they bought it. Animal pens and a wine press are still there.

A New York Times article describes Le Bornalet as "a pleasant house, like a villa, or modest chateau."  In fine weather, guests gathered at tables and chairs in the garden of roses and blue gentians to take advantage of the view looking out over Lake Geneva to the snow-covered Alps on the opposite shore. Louis must also have had an interest in the vineyards that still surround Le Bornalet, as the business of winemaking became very important to him. 
Elise Fanny gave birth to her first child at the age of 16.  Henri Marc Mouquin was born on October 11, 1837 at 2AM in the wine making season.  Wine, by then, was such an important product to the 26 year old father that Louis scooped up his newborn son and gave him a spoon of the newly pressed wine so that Henri tasted wine before he had even tasted his mother's milk.  After returning the infant to his young mother, Louis went immediately to call his workman and begin pressing the grapes of the day.

In an era preceding the convenience of electric lighting, calling the workmen to help him press grapes into wine before dawn seems a daunting task.  Louis Mouquin's passion for wine and vineyards inspired him to baptize his new son with wine.  On the fourth day of Henri's life, his father brought him out into the sunshine and poured some of the new vintage over his face, letting it dry.  Louis rejoiced when his son did not blink an eye or cry.

Young Henri grew up with a love for the vineyards of Aubonne and a reverence for good vintages.  As a boy, he learned to drive a team of oxen yoked together and sporting huge Swiss cowbells around their necks.  The clanging sound of the bells echoed around the gently sloping vineyards high above Lake Geneva.  As his skills developed, he progressed from driving oxcarts to driving horse drawn carriages along the shore road of Lake Geneva.

Soon the task of meeting the diligences traveling on the lakeshore road from Lausanne to Geneva fell to the young Henri.  Aubonne is located nearly 20 kilometers Southwest of Lausanne.  It is another 40 kilometers along the shore of the lake to the city of Geneva.  According to an article in The New York Times, Henri earned his first ten francs driving a carriage full of passengers the remaining forty kilometers to Geneva, with an extra tip for making the trip in haste.  "The bridge into the city would have slowed him up, had he negotiated it at legal speed.  Clever Henri went over the bridge at a mad gallop, pretending that the horses were running away and seeming to hang on desperately, and so tricking the gendarmes."

As Henri served wine in his father's inn, he listened to the adventures of the travelers and could hardly contain his own desire to travel.  His Uncle Morel was already in New York.
One of the frequent guests in Le Bornalet was Louis Napoleon, hiding out in Switzerland and planning his next moves in his plot to become Emperor of France as Napoleon III.  After Waterloo, Louis Napoleon's mother Hortense had been exiled to Switzerland, where she eventually purchased a castle on Lake Constance. Her son, Louis Napoleon was educated at a gymnasium in Switzerland and also entered the Swiss military. Once, while serving wine to Napoleon, the young Henri was invited to sit with him in the garden and join him for a glass of wine.  Henri shared his dream of traveling to the United States and opening a restaurant.

"That's a fine idea, young man," said Napoleon.  "I've been there and those people are rapidly becoming whiskey sots.  Teach them to drink wine.  It will civilize them."  Napoleon gave the young Henri one of his name cards, inscribed, "A mon ami, Henri Mouquin."  He invited him to stop and see him in Paris on his way to America.

At age 17, Henri traveled to Paris.  He went by diligence from Geneva to Dijon; and from there he continued by diligence set on rails to Paris.  By 1854, Louis Napoleon had finally succeeded in becoming the Emperor of France, Napoleon III.  Henri presented himself to the snickering guards at the palace of Tuileries.  The guards were soon astonished to learn that the Emperor warmly welcomed the young man.  Napoleon ordered that he was to receive every courtesy during his visit.  Henri was bold enough to ask the Emperor who the beautiful woman was.  Napoleon introduced him to the Empress Eugenie.  It was an experience Henri would remember and talk about all his life.

Henri left Paris, and traveled to Le Harve, where he booked passage to New York on the first German steamer to cross the Atlantic.  Henri referred to the ship as "the forerunner to the Bremen and the Europa" without mentioning the name of the ship. (The Bremen and the Europa were modern steamships in the early 1930's.) It may have also had sails and masts as Henri related the following story: 

 	On the lower deck, piles of potatoes were casually stowed to 	be used as food for the passengers.  The boys on board used 
		them as missiles, and a potato fired by Henri knocked off the 
		hat of a priest.  As punishment, he was hoisted to the giddy
		mainmast head, and held there in a sling as the ship entered
		New York Harbor.

Wearing both his wool suits, Henri landed in New York on a hot day, June 9, 1854, with $26. in his pocket.  He was met by his Uncle Morel and put up in the all-French neighborhood on St. Mark's Place.  West of Broadway, from Canal Street to Union Square, in those days, only French was heard in the streets.  The very next day, his Uncle Morel took him to his first day of work at Delmonico's Restaurant, a French Restaurant operated by the Swiss-Italian family of the same name.

Veuve Mouquin



As stated in the will, David and Henriette had three children. Their son, Charles Louis Abram Mouquin had been born in Eclepens (another small farming community near Villars-Lusseri and La Sarraz) on February 23, 1811. The record indicates that he was baptized March 17, 1811, and lists both sets of grandparents, including the maiden names of the grandmothers. Henriette's brother Louis Monnier, (the same brother who later witnessed her will) is also mentioned as a witness/perhaps godfather at the baptism.. Henriette Mouquin's parents were Charles Monnier and his wife Suzette Monnier, nee Ogin. I could not find a listing for his sisters Sophie and Fanchette. They may not have been born in Eclepens. How David Mouquin met death, sometime before 1829, is still a mystery. Searching the Protestant and the Catholic Church records of Echallens, I could not find a date of death for Henriette or David. Perhaps they did not die in Echallens.

At the time of the will, (1829) Vaud had only been a Swiss Canton for 16 years. Prior to 1803, the land was ruled by the Canton of Bern. Bern had seized the French speaking area from the Dukes of Savoy in 1475. After the Reformation, most of the area that became the Canton of Vaud became Protestant in 1526. Curiously, Echallens remained Catholic.

During the time that Henriette managed the auberge in Echallens, the Canton of Vaud continued to suffer religious struggles between the Protestants and the Catholics. These struggles escalated between 1839 and 1846. The widow Mouquin must have been aware of these problems when she stipulated in her will that the poor were to share a sum of money without the distinction of religion.

As she was able to leave even a small sum of money for the poor, Henriette must have been a widow of some means. She could also afford a tutor for her son, Louis. It is possible she offered room and board to the tutor, Monsieur Etie Jaquier, in exchange for educating her son. Since he was called as a witness to the signing of her will, he must have been close to the family.

I find it strange that a widow in 1829 would state that her 18-year-old son was too young to continue to operate the auberge. Certainly she would have relied on him to do a lot of the heavy work around the inn. Likely, he was about to enter the military and would therefore be unable to oversee the inn. His sisters, Fanchette and Sophie were considered too young to marry. This is interesting because Louis later marries a 15-year-old girl! Surely, some of the cleaning and cooking about the inn were delegated to the two girls.

Henriette makes a point that her son must have the money required to complete his military equipment. The Swiss government did not finance uniforms, arms, and equipment to men serving in the military for another thirty years. To this day, every Swiss man must enter the military by age 20, remaining ever in the reserves and serving a brief time annually until age 48. Before 1848, each Canton raised its own militia for the Swiss army.

Veuve Mouquin also has her brother Louis Monnier witness her will. Yet, she does not consider asking him to oversee her business until the children reach an age when they can manage the inn. Instead, she orders the inn closed until such time as her son Louis is old enough to run it. The widow Mouquin also does not appoint her brother to act as guardian for her children.



Like so many other tales, this one begins in the attic. We live in an old Victorian house that has been in the family for 100 years.  The house was so full when we moved in, in 1979, that it was hard to walk through the rooms.  I was pregnant and the house needed major restoration and repairs.  Family lore and memorabilia got shoved in an attic crawlspace behind the tower room.  Some stuff was moved to an old servant's quarters, upstairs over the carriage house. 

For years I have been trying to clean out that crawlspace in the attic.  It is a hopeless task, because my husband insists on saving everything.  As 23 years have gone quickly by, I am beginning to wonder if I will ever attain my goal.  Every once in a while, I brave the creepy crawlspace to sift through what has become four generations of family mystery, to try to make sense of it all.

One summer, I dragged out an intriguing black metal box filled with old family documents and letters.  I carried the curious box down three flights of stairs to sort through it is better air and light on the front porch.  Among the papers I discovered an old will from Echallens, Switzerland, beautifully calligraphed in French and dated January 2, 1829.

Madame Henriette (nee Monnier) Mouquin, Veuve (widow) of David Mouquin of the Commune of L'Abbaye, an aubergiste (innkeeper) in Echallens, called the notary to her bed, in the intent to receive the depositions of her testament, and consequently to implore Devine mercy.  Appearing of sound mind and spirit; she dictated the following in the presence of the undersigned witnesses:
I leave to the poor of Echallens, without distinction of religion, 16 francs payable upon my death.
I leave my linens and personal clothing to my two daughters.
My son, Louis, must take all that he needs to complete his military equipment.
My children are too young to continue my business.  I direct that the inn be closed and that one sell only what is necessary to save the furniture and linen.
I direct my heirs, my dear children - Louis, Fanchette and Sophie to pay my debts of equal portion, but only under the condition that my son retain the right to keep the inn.
    	I revoke any prior wills.
My daughters reserve the right to remain in the house until that time that they marry.
SiGNED IN The presence of Monsieur Etie Jaquier, of Echallens, tutor of the heirs of Henriette Mouquin, and in the company of his pupil Louis Mouquin, age 18, and Louis Monnier, brother of Henriette Mouquin.