Ancestors: Alexandre Alphonse Douzans

Douzans monumentAlexandre Adrien Alphonse Douzans was my great great grandfather, my mother’s mother’s father’s father. The photo shows his monument in Waverley cemetery in Sydney NSW.

Alphonse was born in the wine bearing district of Northern Catalonia in the eastern Pyrenees department of France on 08 December 1826, in a town called Banyuls on the Mediterranean coast. His forefathers had lived in the region for many generations, his grandfather had been Mayor for several periods in the 1790s and the family had extensive connections with many local notables in the surrounding towns and in nearby Spain. The 19th century was an unsettled one throughout much of Europe and the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 stirred many sons in regional France into a military or naval career. Alphonse had two cousins with a distinguished naval career, one of whom served in Indochina, and he had a brother, Jules Celestin Theodore, who served as an infantry captain in 1848 and was awarded the Legion of Honour. These precedents may have influenced Alphonse: he was eventually to travel further than anyone else in his family.

The earliest we hear of Alphonse was a letter of 1854 he sent to the Mines Commission in France enclosing plans for proposed development. By 1859 he was living in Paris, where his three surviving sons were born and where he married their mother, Therese Anne Catherine Basset, on 24 October 1863 (five other children predeceased him). Therese had been born in the little town of Pezilla neighbouring Banyuls. Shortly after the marriage Alphonse and his family moved to New Caledonia, where he took up his interest in mining.

On 19 May 1866 Alphonse bought a plot of land in Noumea New Caledonia from Pierre Canal. Both were founding members of the first Masonic lodge in New Caledonia, formed on 22 September 1868. On 08 May 1873 Alphonse wrote to the Commissioner of Mines in New Caledonia about developments for the copper mine of La Balade with which he was involved along with a group of seven others. Whether these developments were profitable for Alphonse we do not know, but he was soon ready for another move.

In about 1881 Alphonse and his family moved to Australia, eventually settling in Sydney. By 1883 he had a shop selling produce at 304 Sussex Street. His wife had a separate establishment at 147 William Street where she carried on a business as a dressmaker and milliner. Alphonse’s three sons started work, the two eldest, Adrien Louis Arthur (born Paris 11 May 1858) and Celestin Sosthene (born Paris 14 September 1859) as building contractors, and the youngest, Alphonse Florentin (born Paris 1861) as a painter. All family members advertised for many years in Sands business directory for Sydney. Adrien married Adele Zoepfel shortly after arriving in Sydney, in 1882. He had no children. Celestin married Lillias Vellenoweth in 1891 and had one surviving son, Celestin Adrien, born 09 August 1895. Celestin Adrien was to become quite a well known architect: one of his buildings is the Mark Foys emporium in Elizabeth Street Sydney. The youngest son, Alphonse Florentin, married Maria Agnes Conway 11 November 1882. Though he was to die of scarlatina in 1888 he had two daughters and a son who survived him who married into the Priestly, Mudiman and Gammell families.

Alphonse died surrounded by family members, on 05 January 1887, at his residence at 177 William Street Sydney. He was highly respected by his three sons who erected a tribute to his memory over his grave at Waverley. From Banyuls to Paris, to Noumea to Sydney: Alphonse had travelled many miles and lived in quite contrasting environments. I wonder if copper mining was the reason or merely the excuse for his travels.

©2009 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.

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