Sixth Generation: War and Peace

Joseph Florestan Primeaux was born in December 1835 and died March 27, 1913, aged 78. He must have had his father’s genes for aging, because his lifespan exceeded what was to be expected at that time. His first wife was Melasie Vincent, daughter of Joseph Vincent and Lise Landry, who died at age 38, and bore him two children, the elder of whom is our ancestor. Melasie was born February 24, 1834, and died in December 1872. After Melasie’s death, Joseph Florestan married Nathalie Anatolee Broussard on February 8, 1877. She was the daughter of Jean Broussard and Julienne Maillard. Nathalie and Joseph Florestan had eight children.

Although other records show the ending letter x making its appearance in the Primeau name during the regime of the Spanish, one source, Father Donald Hebert, claims that Joseph Florestan’s generation was the last to use the name without the x. If he is correct, the mystery of how the x came to be appended is deepened, since it would have occurred in a more modern era during American control when presumably, record-keeping had become more stabilized, regular and likely more accurate due to a single national government being in place by then for more than five decades. Another authority, Carl Brasseaux, contends that the x became de rigeur in the 1800’s in an effort at standardizing names in official records. What may have happened is that records in which the x had not been added under the Spanish were standardized by adding the x later under the Americans.

Joseph Florestan was a farmer in rural Vermilion Parish. One of his children was born in Delcambre and the others in Abbeville, which would indicate that he was one of the first of our family to settle in the Prairie Gregg area that is roughly between and to the south of both communities.

Joseph Florestan’s children by Melasie were: Theophile, our ancestor; and Delmas, October 10, 1860 – November 11, 1923.

Joseph Florestan’s children by Nathalie Broussard were Eucretia Primeaux; Gratia Octavie Primeaux, born January 11, 1878; Adolphe Primeaux, born October 16, 1879; Julienne Olita Primeaux, born July 8, 1882; Celestine Ukretia Primeaux, born October 31, 1885; Helene Primeaux, born December 12, 1889; and Joseph Hazard Primeaux, born August 14, 1896. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Joseph Florestan was 25 years old, and he had already had two children, Theophile, age 7, and Delmas, who was only four months old. The war swirled through the Vermilion area. There was a significant battle in Lafayette, and Union and Confederate forces struggled against each other in the region for control of the waterways and major east-west passages between New Orleans and Texas. Walter Primeaux, Sr., related that his grandfather Theophile told him that, when he was a child, the Yankees came to their farm on horseback and stole all the chickens, so that they had nothing to eat.

There are Primeauxs who did serve in the Confederate military in the Civil War, but none of them are directly in our line. They were: Alexander Primeaux, Private, First Regiment, Heavy Artillery; A. P. Primeaux, Private B, Seventh Regiment, Cavalry; Aurelian Primeaux, Private, Confederate Crescent Regiment, Infantry; D. Primeaux, Private E, Seventh Regiment, Cavalry; Donat Primeaux, Private B, Confederate Guards Response Battalion, Infantry; Emile Primeaux, Private C, First Regiment Heavy Artillery; Emile Primeaux, Private, Thirtieth Regiment/Battalion, Infantry; Emile Primeaux, Private, Miles Legion, Infantry; Joseph L. Primeaux, Private G, First Regiment, Heavy Artillery; Joseph M., Private G, First Regiment Heavy Artillery; Numa Primeaux, Private B, Seventh Regiment, Cavalry; and Sevaine Primeaux, Private K, Eighteenth Regiment, Infantry. Emile appears three times, and he may be the same person recycled through several different outfits, since Acadians, particularly conscripts, were notorious for taking leave on their own when it came time to tend to their crops or other domestic responsibilities. This list is certainly not exhaustive, however. One source lists Jean Primeaux, grandson of Pierre Francois and son of Donat, as having died of gunshot wounds and buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Baton Rouge. This much can be deduced from the list: the Primeauxs at the time were not educated and wealthy enough to achieve officer rank, nor were they so devoted to the cause that they rose through the ranks. All were lowly privates.

In 1898, during Joseph Florestan’s lifetime, the United States was at war with Spain, several Abbevillians enlisted, and patriotic fervor swept the Parish. A businessman took up a collection and purchased a 90-foot flagpole that the city erected in Magdalen Square in Abbeville. A silk American flag 20 feet long flew from the flagpole the entire time of the war. Joseph Florestan and his family, on their trips into town, must have marvelled at the sight of that enormous banner waving gracefully in the prairie breezes nine stories above little Abbeville.