Demopolis, Alabama

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Demopolis is the largest city in Marengo County, Alabama, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 7,540.



Demopolis, the City of the People, was founded by a group of French expatriates, many of whom came to the United States after fleeing a slave rebellion on the sugar plantations of Haiti.[1] Arriving first in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, they petitioned the U.S. Congress to sell them property and received permission to buy four townships at $2 per acre with the provision that they cultivate grape vines and olive trees. Following advice obtained from experienced Western pioneers, they determined that Alabama would provide a good climate for cultivating these crops. By 14 July 1817, a small party of pioneers had settled at White Bluff on the Tombigbee River, at the present site of Demopolis, founding the Vine and Olive Colony.[2]

Most prominent and wealthiest among the immigrants was Count Lefebvre Desnouettes, who had been a cavalry officer with the rank of Lieutenant-General, under Napoleon. Considered Napoleon's best friend, he had ridden in Napoleon's carriage during his failed invasion of Russia. Other prominent figures among them included Lieutenant-General Baron Henri-Dominique Lallemand, Count Bertrand Clausel, Joseph Lakanal, Simon Chaudron, Pasqual Luciani, Colonel Jean-Jerome Cluis, Jean-Marie Chapron, Colonel Nicholas Raoul, and Frederic Ravesies. Most of these expatriates had little interest in pioneer life and sold their shares in the colony, remaining in Philadelphia.[3] By 1818, the colony consisted of only 69 settlers.[4] Due to a variety of adversities, their pioneering efforts were not the great success for which they had hoped. Within a few months they were to find that their new homes did not fall under the territories encompassed by the congressional approval, and the Vine and Olive Colony was soon forced to move. Many of the French settlers returned to France following the eventual pardoning of Napoleon's generals. According to local testimony, olive tree remnants of their efforts still survive in Demopolis, along with the name (Greek for “City of the People”) they gave their settlement.[5]

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