Friday, July 5, 2024

Opportunist or suitor? Francis Radoux an influential figure in Raymond history

By Ernest H. Knight

Most of the original and early settlers of Raymondtown were native-born Americans one or two generations removed from their immigrant forebearers, but Francis Radoux was a foreigner in fact and nature.

The Richard Manning estate in Raymond was the home of
Francis Radoux and his wife, Manning's widow, Susan
Dingley Manning. Radoux was influential in the
Raymond community and assisted in the design of
a home nearby for Richard Manning's sister,
now known as the Hawthorne House. COURTESY PHOTO 
Francis Radoux came to this country as an unemployed soldier escaping from the debacle of an attempt to restore the French Empire by Napoleon Bonaparte. A lieutenant in the French army defeated by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Francis came to the United States in 1816 in search of fame or fortune, or both, and a few years later ended up in Portland. Probably because it was of advantage for a French officer to be charming and in possession of the graces of a gentleman, he was a dancing master there teaching the terpsichorean arts to the aspiring ladies of the provincial new state of Maine.

It was a convenient time and situation of golden opportunities.

Richard Manning from Salem, Massachusetts, a proprietors’ agent for the Beverly Proprietors of Raymondtown and a leading landowner and businessman after the town’s incorporation as Raymond, had built his imposing mansion in the location of what is now South Casco and married Susan Dingley, the daughter of the first setter of Raymondtown who had built the first mill on the nearby outlet of Thomas Pond and his homestead buildings across the road from the Manning site.

When Richard died in 1831, leaving Susan with a considerable estate and to choose the course of her future life, she came in contact with Francis Radoux.

As there was little reason for a French dancing master to go to the wilderness of Raymondtown compared to the many reasons for a well-to-do widow to go to Portland, it is likely she first met him there, evidenced by the existence in a Windham collection of papers a bill from Francis Radoux to Susan Manning for lessons.

They were later married and took up residence on the Manning estate in Raymond where he became engaged in the many activities of the community and owner of property, though not without question and controversy from both the local people and members of the Manning and Dingley families.

Francis was never completely absorbed into family relationships or into the hearts of the community, his French background creating suspicions and the feeling that he was more than a little interested in the Manning estate, and among the people as an opportunist inserted into their midst.

But he did work with and for his neighbors as indicated by bills and records, and perhaps his greatest memorial is the church in the community once known as the Radoux Meeting House. Richard Manning, in his concern for the needs of his friends and neighbors, wished for them to have a place of formal worship and left provisions in his will for this to be accomplished.

Perhaps the desire of the executors of the will to bring this about with minimal effect on the estate led them to the conversion of the nearby dwelling built by Manning for his sister Elizabeth Hathorne and nephew Nathaniel, which was then owned by Susan and Francis, into a meeting house under the supervision of Francis Radoux.

The massive chimneys were removed, the room partitions and floor of the second story, except for a portion left for a balcony, removed and wooden pews installed for its use as a church. Established as a “Union” chapel it was not the responsibility of any body or denomination but available to say who wished to use it, and therefore was not given the attention needed to preserve its physical condition.

For many years it was presided over by itinerant preachers, impromptu religious gatherings, or splinter sects such as the Bullockites, Cochranites or Hopkinsians until eventually in the early 1900s it was quite abandoned and ready for destruction.

Saved from this fate by civic-minded local people, mainly of the summer population, it is now the beautifully restored Hawthorne Community House support by the enthusiastic Hawthorne Community Association, still retaining its open interior arrangement for public gatherings.

Little is known of much of the life and activity of Francis Radoux, and he did not remain in the local area after the death of Susan. In the cemetery behind the Manning homestead is the grave of Richard Manning and beside him the grave of “Susan D. wife of Francus Radoux, died Nov. 22, 1852. Age 50” which includes the D. of her Dingley heritage and the name of her second husband but no connection to Richard Manning except the proximity of his grave.

There are other reminders of Francis Radoux in Raymond though, including deeded buildings in the area and records in a book at the Raymond Town Hall of Francis Radoux and seven children born between 1815 and 1826.

There is no knowledge of the final resting place of Francis Radoux but it is believed that he went to Louisiana to reunite with French compatriots there.

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-310-0340.

No comments:

Post a Comment