Sent (3-2007) from Temple University, Dianna Dillio, Assistant Editor, Biographical Dictionary of Pennsylvania Legislators
LAWMAKING & LEGISLATORS - VOLUME 2, 1710-1756
Pages 306., 307., 308. & 310.
JOHN ABRAHAM DENORMANDIE (DENORMANDIY, DENORMANDY) ASSEMBLY: Bucks Co, 1756, 1757
b. 1688, Geneva, Switz. 1 arr. c. 1708, from Bristol, Eng.
d. 16 Nov. 1757
Father: ANDREW DENORMANDIE (1651-1724)
Mother: LOUISE CLERC (DENORMANDIE) (d. 1696)
m. HENRIETTA ELIZABETH GANDOUET (c. 1702-1749)
Children: FRANCIS, MARY, WILLIAM, JOHN ABRAHAM, LOUISE, ANDREW, ANTHONY, DANIEL, SARAH.
Bucks Co., Sheriff, 1719;
Borough of Bristol: Chief Burgess, 1728-31
Common Councilman, 1730, 1732, 1745-57. 2
JOHN ABRAHAM DENORMANDIE, a Swiss immigrant of French Huguenot extraction who became a wealthy and prominent merchant and officeholder of the borough of Bristol, Bucks County, was elected to the Assembly in 1756 and 1757, during the French and Indian War.
The eldest surviving male child of ANDREW and LOUISE DENORMANDIE, JOHN ABRAHAM DENORMANDIE was born in 1688 3 in Geneva, Switzerland, and educated at Neuchatel. DENORMANDIE's father was CALVINIST of French extraction and a descendant of LAURENT DENORMANDIE, a Huguenot doctor and mayor of Noyon in Picardy, who immigrated to Geneva in the mid-sixteenth century. Unverified family traditions credit the family with a somewhat peripatetic existence before DENORMANDIE, with his father and brother JOHN ANTHONY, settled in Pennsylvania. DENORMANDIE's mother died at the Hague, the Netherlands, in 1696, after giving birth to his brother JOHN ANTHONY. His father supposedly was at one time a resident councilor to the KING OF PRUSSIA. Tradition also recounts sojourns in Amsterdam and in London where a meeting with either WILLIAM PENN or his son WILLIAM, convinced DENORMANDIE's father to immigrate to Pennsylvania. 4
DENORMANDIE, with his father and brother, apparently sailed from Bristol, England, and arrived in Bucks County about 1708. 5 By June 1710 his father was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church at Bensalem. The next year DENORMANDIE returned to England where he became a naturalized English citizen on 18 April 1711 at Westminster. After his return to Pennsylvania, he married in the summer of 1715 at Christ Church in Philadelphia, HENRIETTA ELIZABETH GANDOUET, daughter of DOCTOR FRANCIS GANDOUET of that city. Conceivably as a result of his marriage, and despite his Calvinist religious roots, DENORAMNDIE evidently became an Anglican; he was associated with the congregation of ST. JAMES Church in Bristol and possibly also with ST. MARY's Church, across the Delaware River in Burlington, New Jersey. 6
Already in his certificate of naturalization, the 23 year old DENORMANDIE was described as a merchant. By 1719 he was keeping a shop in the borough of Bristol, but his commerical interests ranged far beyond the bounds of retailing, encompassing shipping, industrial development, real estate in Bristol and elsewhere in Bucks County, and moneylending. He succeeded in business to the extent that in 1746 and 1748 he had one of the two highest tax assessments in Bristol.
DENORMANDIE's interest in shipping evidently began in 1727, when he ws a co-owner with JOSEPH KIRKBRIDE* (1662-1738), THOMAS YARDLEY,* and others of the 25-ton sloop Expedition. In 1736 he was a partner in the 100-ton ship Dolphin, captained by his brother, JOHN ANTHONY DENORMANDIE, 8 and 18 years later, he co-owned the 25-ton sloop LUCY and HENRIETTA. The latter vessel seems to have been something of a family affair, named as it was for DENORMANDIE's wife and his brother JOHN ANTHONY's wife, co-owned by DENORMANDIE's son-in-law, ANDREW REED, and commanded by DENORMANDIE's son DANIEL. In November 1754 the sloop was noted as having made a voyage to Montserrat, which at least suggests that DENORMANDIE was engaging in the lucrative West Indian trade. 9
DENORMANDIE also invested in real estate in the borough of Bristol, beginning in 1719 with a property on Market and Mill streets. He also purchased properties on Mill street and Mill Creek (from JOHN HALL* in 1720), on Mill and Pond streets (1723), and on Radcliffe Street and the Delaware River (1728) at a total coast of L230. In 1739 DENORMANDIE acquired a malthouse and brewery on the Delaware River in Bristol for L120, thereby inertwining real estate investment with industrial development. 10
DENORMANDIE's involvement in Bucks County land outside of the borough began in May 1710 when he and his brother JOHN ANTHONY received a bequest of 100 acres along Poquessing Creek; they sold the property for L280 in 1742. DENORMANDIE hiumself acquired, between 1723 and 1734, more than 1,100 acres in the county, apparently all or most of it in Bensalem and Bristol townships, at a total cost of L705. In 1745 he used on of the tracts, a 200-acres plantation in Bristol Township on the Neshaminy Creek, as collateral for a loan of L70 from the General Loan Office. DENORMANDIE seems to have sold only about 200 acres of his real estate. At some time in the 1740s, he diversified his commercial interests further by investing in the Mt. Holly ironworks in New Jersey.
From 1743 to 1746 DENORMANDIE loaned a total of L325 to a number of indivduals. He was hardly restrained about suing to recover those loans or other debts; from the 1720s 12 to the 1750s, he filed more than 160 lawsuits in Bucks County courts for slightly over L2,542 in debts ranging from unpaid bills for "diverse Goods Wares and merchandizes" to defaults on loans, with more than L1,087 in damages. he employed various legal representatives to prosecute his cases, in cluding his father-in-law, DR. FRANCIS GANDOUET; WILLIAM BILES* (1672-1739); JOHN ROSS*; and JOSEPH GALLOWAY." Most of DENORMANDIE's suits were successful, the defendants often either confessing to the debt or else remaining silent, whereby judgement went for the prosecution. 13
DENORMANDIE's career in public office began in 1719 when he was elected sheriff of Bucks County. In the 1720s and 1730s he served on at least 11 Bucks County grand juries, 8 times as foreman, and from 1743 to 1755 he sat as a justice of the peace for that same county. DENORMANDIE was also a member of the Bristol's Common Council in 1730, 1732, and from 1745 until his death in 1757, and he received the honor of election as chief burgess of that borough annually from 1728 to 1731 and from 1742 to 1744. 14
Despite his substantial record of officeholding at both the local and county levels, DENORMANDIE did not enter the provincial political arena until 1756, during the French and Indian War. Although not elected to the Assembly at the regular October elections, DENORMANDIE, along with THOMAS BLACKLEDGE, * was chosen in a special election on 25 October after the resignations from the House of Bucks County Quaker legislators MAHLON KIRKBRIDE* and WILLIAM HOGE,* who could not reconcile the pacifist principles of their religion with the need for the colony to support even a defensive war against the French. DENORMANDIE took his seat in the Assembly on 28 October. Almost certainly he was chosen by the Bucks County freeholders on the expectation that he would support an active defense program; however,
the major of that name who served in 1748 in the Bucks County voluntary militia regiment of Associators was probably his son. 15
Although not a leading figure in the House, receiving only 9 assignments, well below the house average (16) that term, DENORMANDIE nevertheless was appointed to committees to draft bills for forming and regulating a provincial militia and for establishing trade with the Indians. He specifically was added to a previously formed committee to draft a bill to provide for the maintenance of the French civilians who had been deported to Pennsylvania from Nova Scotia. DENORMANDIE had some experience with the problem of settling and maintaining those French exiles because he had been appointed the commissioner to provide for the maintenance of those deportees who had been settled in Bucks County under the authority of a law enacted during the 1755 Assembly. Assuming, given his background, that DENORMANDIE spoke French (and thus could easily communicate with those exiles), he was certainly a logical choice as a commissioner. 16 In fact, the only bill that DENORMANDIE helped to draft that became law was the act for maintaining those French civilians, which in its final form became a law for apprenticing the underage children of destitute French exiles. 17
During the 1756 Assembly DENORMANDIE also performed three errands on behalf of the House, delivering bills and a message to the governor, and he served on committees to inspect the condition of Pennsylvania Hospitals and to examine the journals of the House of Commons for precedents concerning the payment of costs relating to controverted elections. As part of another committee, DENORMANDIE helped to write an address to GOVERNOR WILLIAM DENNEY that sharply criticized him for his refusal to accept the Assembly's militia bill and accused him of failing to defend the frontier against French and Indian aggression. The committee also refused to accept both the militia plan set forth by the proprietary party and DENNY's ammendments to the Indian trade bill, while urging DENNY to accept the House's version of the latter measure and not to let "arbitrary Proprietary Instructions" be the "the Sole Rule" of his conduct. 18
DENORMANDIE was reelected in 1757, taking his seat in the House on 18 October. On 16 November however, exactly eight years to the day that his wife had died, DENORMANDIE himself expired, which was clearly unexpected, for he had attended a Bristol Common Council meeting on 8 November and had failed to leave a will. He was buried in the graveyard of ST. JAMES Church in Bristol. RICHARD WALKER* reported DENORMANDIE's death to the Assembly on 4 January 1758, and an election for a replacement was ordered, which resulted in the election of JONATHAN INGHAM.* 19
Bonds for the administration of DENORMANDIE's estate were granted to five men, including his sons, JOHN ABRAHAM and DANIEL, on 1 December 1757. An inventory of his personal estate, taken eight days later, and including the stock of his shop in Bristol plus the contents of his house and farm, yielded property worth the substantial (for Bucks County) sum of L2,051. The contents of DENORMANDIE's store in cluded a wide range of dry goods, along with such commodities as chocolate, sweet oil, "Negro" caps, Psalters, pewter, cast iron, tobacco brimstone, snuff boxes, and allspice. He also maintained in his store an ample supply of rum (413 gallons), coffee (100 pounds), and molasses (347 gallons). 20
DENORMANDIE evidently lived well, befitting his status as a prominent merchant, for he owned L85 of silver plate, 2 pier glasses, 21 a "Sweet Meat Service," jappaned and cherry tea stands, china and delfware, and 64 gallons of Vidonia wine. 22 Also included in the inventory were bonds, bills, and notes, with interest, and "an order on the Treasurer of Bucks County" (in all, L867,135); 4 slaves (L100) 23,
19 geese, 11 turkeys and at least 92 of other livestock (about L131); wheat, rye, Indian corn, buckwheat, oats, barley, and hay (L167); and the short time remaining on two indentured servants (no value). In December 1761, the Bucks County Orphans' Court vestered all of DENORMANDIE's real estate in his eldest surviving son, 24 who, in 1764 sold his father's property on Mill Street and Mill Creek in Bristol and 147 acres in Bristol Township for L2,000. 25 CMP
Jacqueline Sleeper Russell
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