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On a cold February day a baby was born in Montvalant, France.

King Louis XV was ruling when Jean Guilliaume de Besse, was born.

KING LOUIS XV courtesy of Wikipedia

It was February 4th, 1760. No one would know, least of all John Bessac himself, what would become of him. His family, especially his father had great plans for him.

Monsieur Bessac, John’s father, would eventually be appointed tax collector for the province of Quercy. A friendship between John’s father and a Monsieur Necker had provided him with a path to that future position. Not directly, because several events had yet to play out in France and the colony of America.

Jacques Duplessis Necker courtesy of Wikipedia

Necker was eventually blamed for France’s debts because of that country’s involvement in the American Revolution. Neither the baby, John Bessac, nor his parents, could have imagined what part the American revolution would play in his life; nor, for that matter, France’s own revolution.

John Bessac had been fortunate enough to be born in a beautiful area of France. The village of Montvalant was beside the Dordogne River. The river itself emerged from the Padirac Cave and joined with the Gironne River to flow through the hills of the province of Quercy.


John Bessac had a wonderful environment to learn the lessons of boyhood. The river valleys and hillsides were a great place for a young lad to grow up. Most likely, that was the reason John, later in life, would be drawn to the banks of the Chenango River and the hillsides that overlooked it.

The Dordogne River

The similarities are great. The River Dordogne flows through the hills to meet the River Gironne which then flows into the Bay of Biscay. The Chenango flows through the hills to meet the Susquehanna which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. For John, as he grew older, it must have been a case of deja vous.

Monsieur Bessac had too many duties to pay attention to his household and the raising of his children. Watching over 30,000 residents to ensure they paid their sales taxes, tithes, estates and polling duties kept the elder Bessac quite busy.

He left the management of his household to his wife and the raising of his children to his brother. This appears a little backwards. However, when you consider that Monsieur Bessac’s wife came from an intelligent and well respected family she had the means and ability to care for the household. His brother was a professor of languages in the nearby University at Cohors. Entrusting the raising of his children to an educated man seemed quite prudent at that time.

The Bridge to Enter Cahors

This proved useful for the plans that Monsieur Bessac had for his son. John was a quick learner and had, at the age of fourteen, in addition to his native tongue, accomplished a mastering of Latin, Spanish and Italian.

Monsieur Bessac’s direction of young John’s life was on schedule.