275th Anniversary: L’Affaire des Héritiers Vidrine contre McGary et Duplessis

One interesting event in the history of the Vidrine Family was the lawsuit that the children and grandchildren filed, trying to regain a tract of land that their father/grandfather, Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines had at the Opelousas Post (Washington, LA) after their parents/grandparents had both passed away. The lawsuit was eventually only partially successful. It was known as the “L’Affaire des Héritiers Vidrine contre McGary et Duplessis” (Affair of the Vidrine Inheritors against McGary and Duplessis).

To understand the Affaire des Héritiers Vidrine, it’s important to understand the context of it as well as the history that led to it.

Once Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines and Elisabeth de Moncharvaux moved to the Opelousas Post from the Pointe Coupee Post, obtaining a concession of land for 12 arpents in May of 1773, they established their life as a family there. Within the next few years, Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines bought more land in the area. Specifically, on June 23, 1777, he bought a tract of land from Philippe Duplechin containing 20 arpents front by 40 arpents in depth between Bayou Courtableau (known at the time as the Opelousas River) and Bayou Carron (known at the time as Bayou du Pont). It was the same tract of land that Philippe Duplechin had made a petition for to Monsignor de Unzaga, the Governor of Louisiana, on July 18, 1774 and which he received as a concession on January 15, 1776.

Three years later, on May 29, 1779, Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines bought
“the same number or arpents (20 front by 40 depth) on the opposite side” of Bayou Courtableau (east side) from Philippe Duplechin’s son, Francois Duplechin. It was granted on April 3, 1787.

Eleven years later, as he was lying sick in his bed dying, Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines made his last will and Testament on January 14, 1788. In it, he recognized “his children from his lawful marriage with the said Mrs. Elisabeth Moncharvaux, his wife, Marie, the wife of Mr. Richaume Soileau, Pierre, Agnes, the widow of Rozas, Perrine, and Etienne”. He then went on to dedicate “this testament to his wife, Elisabeth Moncharvaux and the life ahead of her, that she can be well after his death and that if she wishes to remarry, she would settle accounts with the above named children.” He specifically stated that he wanted “in this testament that his said wife, Elisabeth Moncharvaux take care of his two minor children, named Perrine and Etienne.”

The next day, on January 15, 1788, Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines died.

The Inventory of his goods taken a week after his death listed Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines’ “one habitation of twenty arpents in front on each side of Bayou Courtableau with one field in bad shape and one old.”

From his Testament, it appears that Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines left his affairs in the hands of his wife, Elisabeth de Moncharvaux, and gave her the responsibility of settling the accounts with their children.

Nearly eight years later, on November 5, 1795, Elisabeth de Moncharvaux sold the particular tract of land [20 by 40 arpents] they had acquired from Philippe Duplechin between Bayou Courtableau and Bayou Carron in 1777 to Francois Duplessis. At the time of the transaction, the land was bordered on one side by Mr. Vige’ and on the other by the Widow Thery. It was sold for 125 gourdes. The sale was witnessed by Jean Gradenigo, Widow Védrines, Joseph Gradenigo, Francois Duplessis and J Lesassier, who signed or made their marks in the documents of the sale.

Eighteen years later, by 1813, Elisabeth de Moncharvaux was living with her son, Jean Baptiste Pierre Vidrine at his home at the Quartier dit du Baton Rouge (later named Ville Platte). By that year, she was sick in bed with a sickness that would last “three long years” according to Fr. Barriere, the Pastor of St. Landry Church who was taking pastoral care of her. Elisabeth died there on September 6, 1816.

After Elisabeth de Moncharvaux passed away, it took a few years for the accounts to be settled and her Succession to take place. On February 4, 1819, Francois Duplesssis sold land he had obtained from Elisabeth de Moncharvaux in 1795 at the Opelousas Post to Bernard McGary.

Just two months later, the children and grandchildren of Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines and Elisabeth de Moncharvaux filed the suit, on April 11, 1819. Through their attorney, William L Brant Peters, they petitioned the Honorable Seth Lewis Judge of the district of the Court of St. Landry, arguing that when Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines died, he left as his legal heirs, his children and their descendants “a certain tract of land in the aforesaid Parish consisting of twenty acres front on the Bayou Courtableau with depth to the Bayou Lemelle”, the same land Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines had purchased from Philippe Duplechin. They also alleged that Bernard McGary and Francois Duplessis were making “false and illegal claims” to that tract of land. They sued them for the land, for $10,000.00 in damages, and for the costs of the suit.

The lawsuit was partially successful. Apparently, the children and grandchildren of Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines and Elisabeth de Moncharvaux didn’t know that the tract of land had been legally sold by Elisabeth de Moncharvaux to Francois Duplessis in 1795. Both he and Benard McGary had the documents of sale proving that the transactions were valid and binding. A decree on May 18, 1820 ordered that the heirs of Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines and Elisabeth de Moncharvaux could recover 5 arpents (of the original 20 arpents) of land with the ordinary depth of 40.

The documents of the lawsuit are interesting in that they mention all of the descendants of Jean Baptiste Lapaise de Védrines and Elisabeth de Moncharvaux – the Progenitors of the Vidrine Family in LA – who were living at the time of the lawsuit in 1819.