John Fontfreyde


Spelled variously, John Fontfreyde lived in Albany as early as March 1779, when the personal property of a "French merchant at Widow Beekman" was valued on the first ward assessment rolls. In October, the property of "Mr. Fomphrie" was assessed at a comparably substantial value.

According to a young John Quincy Adams, he was born in France about 1749 and probably was "John Baptiste Fontfreyde." Adams also noted that Fontfreyde was well educated and formerly was an officer in the French army.

In March 1781, he was among the newcomers who purchased the freedom of the city. At that time, he was identified as a "french merchant" and thus was granted a "permit."

Afterwards, was accorded a land bounty right in conjunction with the Albany militia regiment.

His name has not been found in the available records of the Albany Dutch church.

In June 1785, he was described in the diaries of John Quincy Adams. He wrote:

"Mr. Fontfreyde, is a frenchman by birth, but he has pass'd several years in America; and he is settled at Albany. He was formerly an officer in the french army. All things considered I believe this gentleman is the most accomplished person on board. His manners are very soft and agreeable. He has received a very good education, and to the Complaisance natural to all the French Nation, his knowledge, of the world has united a Candour, which is not so often to be found among them. 36 years have tempered the vivacity of his youth, and though a person of the strictest honour he has a character of the most pacific kind. In short if all the officers and passengers on board were like this gentleman, the passage would have appeared, much shorter, and much more agreeable to me."

In June 1788, "John Fontfreyde" was one of two men appointed as coroners for Clinton County. At that time, he was identified as a storekeeper in Plattsburgh. He also owned lands in the northern Champlain Valley

In 1790, his (Frostfreyde) household was configured on the Plattsburgh census and included six people.

We seek information on the later life of John Fontfreyde. Variable spelling references are likely obstacles in our search.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of John Fontfreyde is CAP biography number 1889. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

Johnb Quincy Adams: This passage from Adams's diaries (I:281) describes his "fellow passenger" on an ocean voyage that appears within the website of the Massachusetts Historical Society. We have encountered access problems but have included it and tried to link to the source because the information is so telling. I am less certain about exactly where it comes from. References are chronicled at this URL (we ignored "certificates" warnings).

Adams also wrote but did not identify Fontfreyde by name: "A French gentleman, who went to America early in the war, and is settled at Albany. He is very much (I:158) of a gentleman and a person of much information. I wish all the other passengers and the officers were like him." We later learn (I:291) that Fontfreyde had a house in Paris at that time and that Adams bathed in the river with him! Adams visited him on a number of occasions.

first posted: 6/15/10; revised 10/26/10