Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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ESPELETA, Antoine Frog'er (espala'ta), Baron, French colonist, born in Laval, France, in 1676; died in Patagonia in 1715. His father was a rich merchant, and married a baroness Espeleta, whose title her son inherited. Young Espeleta received a good education, and early showed great aptitude for mechanical science. In 1695, notwithstanding his youth, he was appointed royal engineer of the fleet which at that time was fitting out at Rochelle for the purpose of founding French colonies in South America under command of his cousin, the Count de Gennes. (See GENNES, COUNT DE.)
It was by Espeleta's advice that the site for the new colony was fixed at Port Gallant, and in April 1696, he was left in charge of it with one vessel, seventy-five soldiers, and fifty colonists, while De Gennes sailed in search of supplies. He built a fort and laid out the plan for the new City, which he named Saint Louis, in honor of the king; and when it was evident that he had been abandoned to his fate by De Gennes, he made the colonists promise to continue the building of the City, left the soldiers with them, and, taking only the crew of his vessel, started for Europe. In the West Indian Sea he encountered De Gennes's fleet, and sailed with him to Rochelle. As De Gennes was too much occupied with the prizes he had taken to remember the new colony, Espeleta went at once to Paris to solicit assistance and a royal commission, but was unfavorably received, as he was considered a deserter from De Gennes's fleet. For his justification he published "Relation d'un voyage fair en 1695'6 et '7 aux cStes d'Afrique, detroit de Magellan, Bresil, Cayenne et les Antilles, par une escadre de vaisseaux du roi, command& par le comte de Gennes, et de la fondation de la colonie de Saint Louis a la Bale Franqaise, par M. Froger, baron d'Espeleta" (Paris, 1698).
This narrative is still highly esteemed on account of its exactitude, and in it the author contradicts the stories regarding the gigantic stature of the Patagonians, which he never found to be above six feet three inches. This publication, as it was not contradicted by De Gennes, turned the tide of public opinion in Espeleta's favor, and the king, toward the end of 1698, made him a knight of Saint Louis, and in January 1699, lieutenant general and governor of the colony of Saint Louis, with power to found other French colonies in the South sea. Espeleta sailed again on 11 March 1700, with 180 soldiers and 340 colonists. On his arrival in Saint Louis he found the colony a prey to famine and at war with the Patagonians. He promptly concluded peace with the Indians, set the colonists to clearing and cultivating the land, and in a few years they became very prosperous, and a new colony was founded at Port Gallant.
The British twice captured the vessels, which he sent to France laden with colonial produce, and Espeleta conducted the third expedition himself. After his return fit 1715, hostilities with the Patagonians broke out again, and in one of the encounters Espeleta was killed, His death was the ruin of the colony, and although his deputies continued to hold out for a year, the colonists became disheartened, and, after blowing up the fort, returned to Prance. Malte Brun says, in his " Geographic generale": "Espeleta's death was a great loss for France, as he certainly would have founded, in the course of time, in South America a vast colonial empire for France, if he had been properly supported by his government."
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