When I first began researching my Gamache family line I was lucky to easily access lots of documents, information and histories. However, in a previous post, I mentioned how there was some road blocks I was unable to cross due to a past family lawsuits that put defensive guards up surrounding helping some Gamache ancestors in certain ways. When I first heard about the lawsuit I put it on the back burner of importance. I soon discovered that its effects were long reaching and effected my research all these years later.
Once I started to pull on the Gamache Lawsuit thread it began to unravel so much history.
Before there ever was a Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, my Founding Gamache ancestor owned +1,000 acres of land including the now National Cemetery property. This property was transferred to his children. After the was of 1812 there was interest in starting a school of infantry to train our troops in a more uniformed way. The land that the government was interested in was a parcel of my ancestors land which overlooked the Mississippi River. They also wanted acres of the land adjacent to the main property interest.
In 1826 General Edmund P. Gaines (Commander of the Western Department of the Army), Brig. General Henry Atkinson (commanding officer of the sixth infantry regiment), explorer William Clark, and Missouri Governor John Miller spent several days searching the banks of the Mississippi River for the perfect location for a new post to replace Fort Bellefontaine. A site near the city of “Vide Poche” or Carondelet, ten miles (16 km) south of St. Louis, was recommended and then approved by Major General Jacob J. Brown, Commanding General of the Army.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Barracks_Military_Post
In July of that year the government signed a term lease with Gamache, rent free, for a certain amount of time. Within two days the troops and officers arrived and the post began. Within a few month they named the post Jefferson Barracks after Thomas Jefferson who passed away the year before. Now the nations first ‘Infantry School of Practice’ was in full swing.
It was always told that our St. Louis Founding Father, Jean-Baptiste Gamache, orchestrated the original land deal with the government. However, he had already passed when this occurred. He had a son by the same name, who also had a son by the same name. For some reason many family historians group individual lives together. Have you run into this issue too?
Here I was mucking up family lore!
By 1838, the Gamache family filed their first appeal to attain control back of their land. It was denied. They tried again in 1856 and attempted again in 1876. The original land grant, from the Spanish King, in the 1700’s was verbal and given to Jean Baptist Gamache. Since there was no original document that could be found, even though they had other ways of proving the land belonged to the Gamache family (taxes, documents, etc) the government turned them down over and over. Even the government acknowledged it was Gamache’s land on the lease agreement. But this was to no avail.
During this time of the court appeals the government started selling off pieces of the property that they had no right to actually do.
In the 1920’s the Gamache family started another suit. At that time their was a cemetery on the property and a sub-station, however, the land that was not being used was of interest and compensation for ‘stealing’ the land to begin with. This was never settled. The next, and last time, the Gamache family started a lawsuit was in the 1970’s.
This time the family tried to organize and there were many (MANY!) more Gamache descendants to refer with than 90 years before.
To gain traction, documents, and history they tried to be as inclusive as possible and held massive meetings in St. Louis, MO. They tried to get everyone’s input, had meeting notes, lists of attendees and plans of action. It was dubbed the ‘The Gamache Family Organization’ and at first the group was ok with the proceedings. Money was collected for the lawsuit bills but over time the group became too loud, too opinionated, too large, and the focus fell apart. That lawsuit never made it off the ground. This lead to hurt feelings, pressure placed on officials and demands from subgroups leading to mistrust. It got quite ugly.
There is so much history that rests at Jefferson Barracks for family and government alike. It was the place where Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee trained. It is were thousands of war hero’s are buried, honored and remembered. It also was my family’s land.
Sometimes knowing how things started is interesting and knowing how much fight my ancestors put into righting an obvious wrong is, well, sad. These lawsuits, especially the 1970’s one, caused some friction with an entire culture of people in the historical realm causing research hardship. There are people that didn’t want to give history based on mistrust or misuse of the the documents. To this day I hear people say they don’t want to talk about it or share documents.
I CAN’T HELP BUT WONDER WHAT INFORMATION IS BEING KEPT HIDDEN BASED ON FEAR from family and officials alike.
My Great Aunt is buried at Jefferson Barracks. Before she died she was excited about it because that meant she got 6 feet of her families land back into the fold. That’s some real end game!
If you are interested in my travel itinerary for a day at Jefferson Barracks click here!
To find more out about my St. Louis Founding family click here!