We know him as General Marquis de LaFayette. He was born Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert duMotier. His birthdate was September 6, 1757 and raised at Chavaniac, Auvergne, a few miles east of Paris. It was his grandparents castle and was located on what looks like the remains of a volcano, at least in a poster that I have.
His mother much preferred to stay at the court in Paris, his father was killed at the Battle of Minden when he was 23 months old, and LaFayette was pretty much raised by his grandmother and aunts.
His mother died when he was 13 years old, leaving the young teenager with a $600,000 yearly income. It is believed he was the second richest person in France.
At the age of 17, he married the daughter of the richest family, Adrienne Noailles. She was 14 at the time.
LaFayette came from a family that had served in armies for 500 years, and at age 19, he was a full-fledged soldier and officer. He also got the idea that even though he liked his king and queen, he also like the idea of a democracy.
He decided to get a crew and a ship, all of which he paid for, and sailed to America to help out our General George Washington. He also found in our general, the father-figure he always wanted.
Yes, our county and county seat are named for him, and yes, it’s true that as close as he ever came to our fair county is Macon. I counted the Fayettes, Fayettevilles and Fayette counties in the United States one time and there are about 50 so named. Fayetteville, North Carolina is the first city named for him and Pennsylvania is the first one to name a county for him. I believe we are about the 14th so named.
The James Waldrop Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Fayetteville, likes to remember LaFayette and his birthday each year and I am always pleased to be invited. The dinner is always the same – favorite foods of the French general that he first had when visiting America in 1824, sweet potatoes and cornbread.
LaGrange, France, is the home castle he inherited from his wife who died in 1807. He began to remodel the castle and grounds in 1799 and creating agricultural lands. When he returned to France from his 1824 tour he brought with him new plantings, animals, and ideas for expanding his agricultural interests.
LaGrange, France goes back to the 13th century and LaGrange, Troup County,Georgia was created in 1828. It contains the oldest private college in Georgia.
On a personal note: Also at the birthday event, the Marquis de Lafayette Chapter, National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, awarded me its Bronze Good Citizenship Medal for “helping to promote and honor the rich history of our county…authored books on historical subjects…embracing [local] history and traditions and using her talents to preserve them.”
Gentlemen – it’s always been an honor to serve this county, and I thank you for the recognition.