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Within the walls of Peschier cemetery
Charlene Costelloe (nee Bennett)
A Peschier descendant
The Peschier Cemetery located in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, is a relict of another age. On August 18, 1817, 200 years ago, the Peschier family private cemetery became a unique feature of The Queen’s Park Savannah (Fig 1). The cemetery is a physical link to the past and the starting point of the legacy and history of the descendants of the Peschier family who first arrived in Trinidad in 1782.
The first Peschiers to arrive in Trinidad and settle on the island were Henry Peschier, his wife, Celeste Rose and their children. Also accompanying them was his widowed mother-in-law, Marie Madeleine de Beltgens.
Henry Peschier’s family was originally from the south of France. They migrated to Switzerland in the early 18th century, in order to escape religious persecution. Henry was one of 18 children born to Pierre Peschier (1688-1766) and his wife, Anne Marguerite Blisson. Nine of his siblings died in infancy. Of the nine surviving children, Henry and his older brother, Jean, would make their way to Grenada around 1760. It is in Grenada, that they would meet the family of Francis de Beltgens de Roure, a French nobleman, and his wife, Marie Madeleine Noel, the daughter of a French colonist. It is interesting to note that the Peschier brothers would subsequently marry two daughters of the Marquis de Beltgens. Jean Peschier married Elizabeth Rose de Beltgens and Henry married her sister, Celeste Rose de Beltgens.
Henry and Celeste Rose arrived in Trinidad in 1782 when their application for a grant of land from the Spanish Governor, Martin de Salaverria, was approved. The map in Figure 1 shows the area known today as the Queen’s Park Savannah. Henry Peschier was granted 179 acres of land identified as A and B on Figure 1. This land area would eventually comprise 90 per cent of the acreage of the present day Queen’s Park Savannah. The other ten per cent (C on Fig 1) was owned by his mother-in-law, Marie Madeleine de Beltgens. Henry called his estate Paradise. The land was cleared of forest and planted in sugar cane. He also constructed a factory, for the processing of the sugar cane, housing for his labour and a home for his family. Not long after this, tragedy would befall the Peschier family.
In 1786, the two eldest sons of Henry and Celeste, aged 13 and 14, died of yellow fever. They were buried on Paradise Estate in the area that would become the Peschier cemetery. The Peschier cemetery was therefore established in 1786 and is thus 231 years old in 2017. Five years later, in 1791, Henry, at the age of 50, would also die. Celeste Rose Peschier, his widow, was left with seven children, the eldest, Elizabeth, aged 16, and the youngest, Marie Celestine, just one year old. Fortunately, her two nephews, Joseph and Francis, the sons of Jean Peschier and his wife, Elizabeth Rose, looked after the family business in Trinidad. In 1817, Celeste Rose Peschier died. Her grave is the oldest grave in the Peschier cemetery with legible markings.
On August 18, 1817, the heirs of Celeste Rose Peschier, her nephew Louis Henry Peschier, and her five married daughters, sold two portions of land situate in the quarter of St Ann’s, the estates known as Malgretout (In spite of everything) (A on Fig 1) and Paradise (B on Fig1) to the Illustrious Board of Cabildo of the town of Port-of-Spain for the sum of six thousand pounds, “save and except a small piece of land containing six thousand square feet… surrounded by walls and used as a cemetery in which the members of the family of Peschiers are interred.” These six thousand square feet of land surrounded by walls is the Peschier cemetery in the Queen’s Park Savannah.
The Peschier cemetery is unique in that it is a private family cemetery. This means that no lots are sold to the public and internments are restricted to a group of people related to each other by blood or marriage. The Peschier cemetery is thus maintained by contributions from Peschier descendants.
Sources of the information contained in this article:
• De Verteuil, Anthony C S Sp, GREAT ESTATES OF TRINIDAD, Litho Press, Trinidad, 2000
• A Peschier descendant who prefers to remain anonymous
Next week: Snapshot of four Peschier descendants
Within the walls of the Peschier cemetery can be found the graves of the Peschier descendants. The surnames of these descendants, include: Peschier, Dick, Eccles, Zurcher, De La Quarree, Massy, De Moulliebrt, Pantin, Knox, Palmer, Mullynx, Wight, Findlay, Ambard, Rodrigues, Cumming, Maingot, Feez and Bennett. There are over 20 graves with no headstone, the result of age and or vandalism.
It should be noted that there are only five graves that are legible with the name of Peschier. These include: Celeste Rose Peschier, Joseph Francis Peschier, Marie Celestine Peschier, Francis Peschier and Dr Charles Peschier. According to Anthony de Verteuil C S Sp, in his book, Great Estates of Trinidad, “By the end of the nineteenth century all the male members of the Peschier family had died and with them the surname of Peschier vanished from Trinidad after nearly a century of association with the island”.