Select Durant Miscellany

Here are some Durant stories and accounts over the years:

Durands, Durants and Durrants Today

Numbers (000's)


Marie Durand, The Huguenot Girl Who Refused to Abjure

In 1730 in southern France, a young girl by the name of Marie Durand was brought before the authorities charged with the Huguenot heresy. She was just fourteen years of age, bright, attractive, and marriageable.  She was asked to abjure (recant, deny) the Huguenot faith and say: “J’abjure.”  She would not comply.  She was put in a tower by the sea, together with thirty other Huguenot women. 

For thirty eight years this treatment continued.  And instead of the hated word “J’abjure,” she - together with her fellow martyrs - scratched on the wall of the prison tower the single word “Resistez,” resist!  The word is still to be seen and gaped at by tourists on the stone wall at Aigues-Mortes.

Dorothy Durant, Ghost of Botathen

The story of Dorothy Durant, the ghost of Botathen (a small hamlet on the Cornish/Devon border), first appeared in the journal of the Rev. John Ruddall, the curate at Launceston, in 1665.  It became a favorite of writers on the supernatural ever since.

Ruddall’s help had been sought by a Mr. Bligh whose son was experiencing a haunting that was affecting him both mentally and physically.  Every morning on his way to his tutors, the boy would pass by fields and meet the ghost of Dorothy Durant who had died about three years earlier.

Both the Reverend and Mr. Bligh went along with the boy one morning and also observed the specter. They well knew this woman during her lifetime and had been present at her burial.  The minister described the apparition as having a pale and stony face, misty hair, and eyes fixed firm on something far away.  One arm was outstretched and her other hand was on her girdle.  She glided past the spot where they stood without looking at them.

Ruddall sought permission from the bishop to exorcise the spirit.  Two days later he went back to the spot wearing an inscribed ring and carrying a rowan stick.  He marked a circle and a pentacle on the grass.  The next day at sunrise he redrew his circle and the ghost entered it willingly.  He performed the exorcism and the spirit glided off westward and was never seen again.

Dorothy Durrant and the Lowestoft Witch Trial

William Durrant had married Dorothy Fox in 1654 and they were to have eight children.  The first of them - William born in 1655 - was the infant whom Dorothy claimed had been stricken by Amy Denny's diabolical machinations when he was two.  The second whom Dorothy claimed was "bewitched" was Elizabeth.  She was a daughter from William's first marriage, Dorothy being her stepmother.  According to Dorothy’s testimony, Elizabeth died at Lowestoft in March 1659. 

Amy Denny was tried and hanged as a witch three years later.

John Durant's Murder on Lynch's Creek

John Durant had a large plantation of slaves on Lynch's Creek which he willed to John Ashmore, his nephew. One night in 1842 the uncle was drunk.  John Ashmore was said to have tied a silk handkerchief round his neck and strangled him in order to take possession of the property.  He also took liberties with the female slaves.

Three brothers of the deceased - Alex, Davy, and Dr. Durant - believed John Ashmore had murdered their brother and they sued him for the property.

Durant Town, Oklahoma

Durant Town, the capital of Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory, was located just north of the Texas border. The Durants, after whom the town was named, had married into the Choctaws of Mississippi.  In the 1830’s, they were removed from their homelands and forced to ply a “Trail of Tears” westward.  Pierre Durant and his four sons all made this journey.  On their arrival at the Choctaw Nation, they claimed property in and around present-day Durant.

Pierre’s grandson Dixon is recognized as the founder of Durant.  The town
had originally been named Durant Station in 1872 when an old boxcar had been placed along the tracks of the Union Pacific Railway.  Though small, Durant boasted a Main Street stretching nearly three electrically-lit blocks, several hotels, a bank, a cotton gin, a flour mill, and a post office.

Charles Durand and the Spider Wedding

Charles Larroque’s Memories of St. Martinville contained the following on Charles Durand and his extravagances: 

"Oak and Pine Alley was planted by the slaves of Charles Jerome Durand around 1829.  The three-mile alley leading from the Bayou Teche to Durand's house was a veritable landmark, leaving no doubt as to the social position of the property owner.  Like the sugarcane he planted, Durand's imagination knew no bounds.  The plantation family was awakened each morning to servants spraying perfumed mists. After baths in scented waters, daily routines began with promenades in gold-ornamental carriages rivaling even those of Versailles.

In 1850, on the occasion of the simultaneous weddings of his two daughters, Durand’s slaves decorated the arboreal alley in a manner befitting his most eccentric nature.  Prolific web-spinning spiders were brought in (some say from the nearby Atchafalaya Basin, others say from as far away as China) and were released in the trees to go about their arachnidan business.  Then slaves went to their task of coating the dewy, billowing webs with gold and silver dust blown from bellows.  And under this splendidly shimmering canopy proceeded the ethereal promenade of the wedding party and its two thousand guests.” 

Durand in fact ordered a large shipment of spiders from China and he sent couriers to California to fetch hundreds of pounds of silver and gold dust.  Shortly before the wedding day, the spiders were released, and spun countless, delicate webs bridging the limbs and Spanish mosses of the oak and pine trees that led up to the mansion.   Legend has it that servants placed elegant carpets beneath the trees, leading to an open-air altar at the far end of the alley.  The wedding was known locally and even to this day simply as “the spider wedding.” 

The wedding was probably Charles Durand’s last hurrah.  He had lost much of his wealth after the Civil War. His slaves were freed, his home was damaged, his sugar mill was seized, and he died five years later in 1870.

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