1469: Humphrey and Charles Neville, Lancastrians 1881: Charlie Pierce lynched in Bloomington, Illinois

1724: Christian George, Peter Rombert, Peter Dutartre, and Michael Boneau

September 30th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1724, four members of a colonial religious cult were hanged together at the gallows of Charleston, South Carolina.

The Dutartre family, whose members comprise two of those executed four, numbered among many Huguenot refugees to settle around Charleston in the late 17th century fleeing religious persecution after France revoked the Edict of Nantes. They settled into the young town’s “Orange Quarter” where for many years French was heard in the streets and from the pulpits.*

The Dutartres would turn the orange quarter crimson in the early 1720s, when they fell under the spell of two newly-arrived Moravian prophets, Christian George and Peter Rombert, who pulled the family into a millenial free-love commune.**

These colonial Branch Davidians were also slated with civic transgressions such as refusal of taxes and militia duty.

At last, a constable named Peter Simmons was dispatched with a small posse to arrest the cult. The Dutartres fired back, killing Simmons — but the other seven members in the bunker were overwhelmed by the Charleston militia.

Mark Jones describes the aftermath in his Wicked Charleston: The Dark Side of the Holy City.

Four of the family males were tried in general sessions court in Charles Town in September 1724: Peter Dutartre, the father; Peter Rombert, the prophet; Michael Boneau, husband of a Dutartre woman; and Christian George, the milister.

During the trial, the men appeared to be unconcerned about the crimes they had committed or their fate. They were convinced that God was on their side and even if they were executed, they, just like Jesus, would be resurrected on the third day.

They were marched to the gallows near the public market (present-day location of City Hall). Standing with ropes around their necks the condemned men confidently told the gathered crowd they would soon see them again. They were hanged together and their bodies were allowed to dangle from the gallows for several days — so the resurrection (or lack thereof) could be witnessed by the public.

Judith Dutartre and her two brothers, David and John, aged eighteen and twenty, were the three other prisoners. Judith, due to her pregnancy, was not tried. David and John were convicted and condemned to prison. [actually reprieved -ed.] They were sullen and arrogant, confident God would protect them. However, after the third day of their kinfolk’s execution (and the fourth, and fifth), when none of the men hanging from the gallows was resurrected, David and John began to see the error of their ways. They later asked for a pardon from the court, which they received.

Less than five months later, David Dutartre attacked and murdered a stranger on the street. He was brought to trial and told the court he killed the man because God commanded him to do so. David was sentenced to death.

A total of seven people (two innocents) died as a result of what has to be one of the most unusual cases of religious fanaticism in American history.

* The French Quarter still exists today, as a cobblestoned downtown Charleston historic district with a Huguenot Church whose congregation dates to the 1680s but whose services now transpire in English.

** Given the timeless popularity of the sexual misbehavior trope for slandering religious outsiders, I do suggest the reader handle this received part of the narrative with due caution.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,England,Execution,God,Hanged,History,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Scandal,South Carolina,USA

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3 thoughts on “1724: Christian George, Peter Rombert, Peter Dutartre, and Michael Boneau”

  1. Lisa Randle says:

    I am writing a dissertation on the East Branch of the Cooper River so let me refer you to some articles.

    Master Thesis by Brenda Faye Roth, “The French Huguenots of Colonial South Carolina…”, 1987

    The Orange Quarter and the First French Huguenot Settlers in South Carolina
    The Baronies of South Carolina
    Henry A. M. Smith
    The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine
    Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan., 1917), pp. 3-36
    Published by: South Carolina Historical Society
    Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27569413
    Page Count: 34

    Recounts of the Dutarte Affair are covered by Thomas Bacot, President of the Society, in the Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina.

  2. Don Huskey says:

    The above comment is incorrect. The dutartre family love them that orange quarter which now is Orange Street Legare Street and tradd Street south of Broad in downtown Charleston

  3. Lisa Randle says:

    The French Quarter, where this happened, is not in downtown Charleston, The French Quarter is located on the East Branch of the Cooper River, 20 miles north of the city. It is so named because the original French Huguenots settled here; thus the name of French Quarter also known as Orange Quarter. The Dutartre family lost property on the eat side of French Quarter Creek that had been granted them in 1697.

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