The Founding Father

Ambroise Heidel

The eighteenth-century German settlers of Louisiana arrived in different waves of immigration. The first group arrived between 1719 and 1721 and included such families as the Schexnayders, Edelmeiers, Zweigs, Heidels, Himmels and many others from Germany, Bohemia, Switzerland, and Hungary. This group was composed mostly of farmers who contracted with John Law and his Company of the West to undertake the cultivation of farms in the wilderness of Louisiana. By the time of their arrival in the colony, the Company of the West was bankrupt, and the Germans confronted tremendous difficulties. They were finally settled upriver from the newly created town of New Orleans on land formerly occupied by the Taensas Indians. Ambroise Heidel, the ancestor of all the Haydels of Louisiana, reached the colony on March 1, 1721 aboard the ship Les Deux Frères. He was listed as Ambroise AIDLE, along with his brother Mathieu, and sisters Barbe and Catherine. They were among the forty survivors out of 200 who embarked in Lorient (France) on 14 November 1720.

Ambroise Heidel married Marguerite Schoff and fathered three daughters and seven sons: Regina, Marie Françoise, Anne Marie, Jacques, Nicolas, Mathias, Jean Christophe, Jean Georges, Jean, and Jean Jacques. His family was mentioned for the first time in the census of 1724 in the village of Hoffen, on the first German Coast, ten leagues above New Orleans. He was presented as a good worker, very much at ease although his only livestock was a pig. The 1731 census mentions Ambroise, his wife, two children (Regina and Marie Françoise), three Negro slaves, and one engagé (indentured servant). The 1732 census does note that he was still living on the left bank of the river on 15 arpents of land situated between Caspar Dups (Toups) and Pierre Brou. After the Indian raids on the left bank in 1749, “Ambroise Heyde” was first mentioned living on the west bank between (Christophe) Houbre and Albert (Schexnayder) on a six-arpent piece of land he bought from Widow Bernard Wigner on 15 April 1752. Two of Heidel’s sons, Mathias and Jean Christophe, found their wives (Magdelaine and Charlotte, respectively) on the neighboring Oubre (Houbre/Huber) farm, the original tract of land known today as the Evergreen Plantation. The exact date of Ambroise Heidel’s death is unknown. The last record in civil documents indicating he was still alive is dated 20 March 1767, when he was one of the persons who conducted the inventory of the estate of the late Pierre Pommier. Heidel’s name is missing in the 1770 census tables of the German Coast.

Indigo became a significant part of the landscape of the German Coast in the 1770s but some planters were apparently very successful in the indigo business before this time. So was the case of Ambroise Haydel. The last census of St. John the Baptist parish, which included his name, was taken on 25 June 1766. This source also indicates that his property had grown then to 11 ½ arpents and his labor force to twenty slaves. On 31 March 1774, his widow, and her children sold the farm along with the indigo processing facilities (indigotterie), to Louis Girard Pellerin. The property was bounded below by Nicolas Haydel (the second son of Ambroise) and above by Jean Jacques Haydel (the youngest son of Ambroise).