Royalty in the Genesee Country

—The story of Louis Philippe in a Wigwam, given in the Contributors’ Club of the February Atlantic, has filled several gaps in a historical study of great interest, and awakened a desire to know more of the experiences of the three Bourbon princes who, as exiles, wandered through the forests and clearings of the “ wild West ” of 1797, four years after the execution of Louis XVI. It is said that the full story may not be known until papers in the possession of the New York Historical Society are published ; but many are the stories that have come down to those whose ancestors lived in the Genesee country of the three princes following the Indian trails on horseback, attended by a single servant and sharing the hospitality of the border cabins. Sometimes they were escorted by the great landowners of the locality, — Thomas Morris, James Wadsworth, or Colonel Williamson. They were in an important sense the guests of Gouverneur Morris, assistant financier of Robert Morris. He had bought of Phelps and Gorham an immense tract, thousands of broad acres on the flats of the upper Genesee, where Mount Morris now is. The Duke of Orleans, the future Louis Philippe, had been enabled to come to this country through the invitation of Gouverneur Morris, who had placed some fifteen thousand pounds to his credit in London, adding to this sum when the duke was joined by his two brothers, the Duke of Montpensier and the Count of Beaujolais. Let it be remembered of the royal exiles that they drew very sparingly upon their liberal allowance, repaying every dollar in good time ; the whole amount not exceeding thirteen thousand dollars.

Wild as the Genesee country then was (it was but nine years after the sale to Phelps and Gorham of the hunting-grounds of the Senecas), a titled or distinguished personage was not infrequently wrapped up in a blanket before the blaze of the campfires along the much-traveled route between Albany and Niagara Falls. The old register of “ the Hosmer stand,” near the scowferry crossing of the Genesee at what is now Avon Springs, contained autographs that would be priceless to collectors of today, There were not only those of the three exiled princes of the House of Bourbon, but those of Joseph Bonaparte, ex-king of Spain, Kosciusko, the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, Count Niemcewicz, Marshal Grouchy, Talleyrand ; to say nothing of Joseph Brant (Red Jacket), John Jacob Astor (a foot traveler and Indian trader with a pack of furs on his back), and heroes of the Revolution by the score.

Among the stories that come down to us from the pioneers of the Genesee Valley is one illustrating the travel of those early days, and, like most pioneer reminiscences, it is aggravatingly lacking in detail. The three princes had dined with Mrs. Orange Stone, in the house still to be seen in the eastern suburbs of the city of Rochester ; and a very fine, spacious house it must have been for a backwoods settler. The future king of France and his party, escorted by Thomas Morris, had walked to the Genesee Falls, a good three miles, and, pushing through the dense thicket along the banks, they had heard what they thought to be an Indian skulking in the bushes, or a wild beast. They shouted an alarm, and were soon face to face with a high-bred Englishman, — he who was afterwards Lord Ashburton, — who could not have been more surprised at meeting the princes in such a place than were they to meet him. It is bits of story like this that make those to whom they have been handed down impatient for the verification and fuller details which may possibly be given in the family papers of Louis Philippe and of the Morrises, each of whom was intimately associated with the Duke of Orleans during his stay in this country. The princes, having seen the falls of the Genesee, returned to Canandaigua, it is said, where they were the guests of Thomas Morris. One of the historic treasures of that historical town is the slipper that the future king of France left behind him. From Canandaigua they went, according to the Genesee pioneers, to Elmira, on foot, over the Indian trail. At Elmira a bateau was built for them, on which they sailed down the Chemung and the Susquehanna to Harrisburg. It is hard to make this account tally with that given in the February Contributors’ Club, unless the princes made two journeys to the Genesee country. If they were going to Niagara Falls, why did they not push on when at the Genesee River ? And there is the story of their having been at Canawaugus (Avon), and the tradition that their names were on the old register of the Hosmer tavern. Did they take in Niagara on their way to New York from New Orleans? Were they in the United States a little more than three years ?

We hear of them in the gay life of New York and Philadelphia in the winter of 1797-98, at the dinner parties of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton and of Mrs. Gouverneur Morris, when the Duke of Kent, the father of the future queen of England, was also conspicuous in society. There seems to have been a great deal of dignity in embryo moving on the social currents of the metropolis just then : he that was to be king of France, he that was to be the father of the queen of England, and he that was to be Lord Ashburton being woven into the traditions of the time. There is the story of a dinner party given by the future Louis Philippe at his modest lodgings, where one half the guests were seated upon the side of the bed, for want of room to place chairs.

Not until thirty-three years after this trip through our Western settlements did “ the citizen king ” come to the throne. In all the changes and chances of his mortal life, we may believe that he was never happier than when wandering over the trails of the Genesee country, learning what raccoon steak was like, and succotash, and seeing the big rattlesnakes infesting the ledges of “ the little Seneca’s River.” The impression he made upon the pioneers whose hospitality he shared was that of a good, true, simple - hearted gentleman, — an impression which their children wall perpetuate, no matter what royal archives may bring to light.