2013-03-21 / Local & State

Book Examines The Flight Of Persecuted Huguenots From 17th Century Europe

By Bernice C. Stewart

Of interest to historians, genealogists, descendants of Huguenots who sought refuge in 17th century America, such as the ancestors of the Fulton County Mellotts, and any followers of the Reformationist John Calvin is a 2012 publication, “The Cry That Rang from Brussels to New Amsterdam,” subtitled “The Walloons and Flemings Make Their Way to America.”

The focus of the book is the escape of the Calvinist refugees to save not only their own lives but to preserve their religious practices from atrocitites inflicted upon them from the Roman Catholics directed by a Catholic king. Banishment, penury, torture, execution, burning alive or diemboweling were common penalties for the troublemakers or the heretics who refused to convert.

Emphasis in this book focuses on the progenitors of the band of refugees who fled Europe to establish a settlement in 1667 in New Paltz, N.Y., which is located in the Hudson River Valley. Twelve gentlemen ( The Duzine) became the founders of the democratic colony, mandated by election by the other inhabitants. Their ancestors tell the story of events collective to themselves and other Walloons (French-speaking Netherlanders) and Flemish (Flemish or Dutch speaking), who were living in the Spanish Netherlands, driven to northern France, part of which is now known as Belgium. England, Calais, Germany, Dutch colonies that are overseas, and America are included. All the heretics’ ancestors would have faced the same treatment as the refugees who fled.

The Huguenot Gideon Merlet (also written Marles and Marlet), forefather of the many Fulton County Mellotts, followed much the same path to this country. He is believed to have been born in about 1625 at Roussy, France. As a young man, he too fled the religious persecution that is described in “The Cry That Rang from Brussells to New Amsterdam,” and moved to Leiden in the Province of Zuid Holland in the Netherlands. He was later married in the Walloon Church at Leiden to a woman named Marguerite Martijn.

In about 1650, Gideon and his wife left Leiden and moved to the City of Mannheim in the Palatinate of Germany. He, his wife and their four sons later emigrated to America, arriving in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (now New York City, N.Y.) in October 1662. Shortly thereafter, he received a grant of land on Staten Island, and it is there that he and his family settled.

The author of this thoroughly researched text is Alfred H. Marks, Ph.D., who is professor emeritus of the State University of New York at New Paltz, specializing in early American literature and having published on Nathianiel Hawthorne and Walt Whitman, besides being a translator of modern Japanese literature. He received from a French collaborator historical documents dating back to the 1500s, found in French archives but not in America. His coworker passed away in 2008 and did not see the fruits of their labors. Dr. Marks remarkably has published at 93 years of age and has paid tribute to his co-worker in the title on the cover page, In Memoriam: Francis Devos, 1935-2008.

“ The Cry That Rang from Brussels to New Amsterdam” has been published by Purple Mountain Press Ltd. The publisher can be reached at 1060 Main Street, P.O. Box 30, Fleischmanns, N.Y. 12430-0309, telephone 845-254-4062, fax 845-254- 4476 or e- mail at purple@catskill.net

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