Historical Markers
Azilum Historical Marker
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Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
Junction U.S. 6 & Pa. 187 at Wyox

Dedication Date:
June 24, 1930

Behind the Marker

This oil on canvas painting depicts Marie Therese Charlotte de France, Madame Royale, and her brother, Louis-Joseph, Le Dauphin, standing. Louis-Joseph died of natural causes early in the year that the revolution began. The next younger child, Louis-Charles, Duc de Normandie, shown on the Queen's lap, then became the second Dauphin. The empty cradle represents a child that passed away, Princess Sophie.
Marie-Antoinette et ses enfants,by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, 1787, Versailles.
The wilds of Bradford County, Pennsylvania is as unlikely a home as could be imagined for the luxury-loving Queen Marie Antoinette of France. But if the Viscount de Noailles and the Marquis de Talon had had their way - at least according to the aristocratic families who remained in Pennsylvania - Royalists would have rescued her from prison and spirited her away to this remote "asylum," the English translation of the French name for the settlement "Azilum," before her infamous execution in 1793.

Azilum was the brainchild of Federalist leaders markerRobert Morris, former Superintendent of Finance for the United States, Pennsylvania state comptroller John Nicholson, and banker Stephen Girard, who purchased the 1,600-acre tract in the hope of making money as well as aiding the exiled aristocrats who were then fleeing the revolutionary regimes installed in both France and the gem of France's Caribbean colonies, the island of Saint Domingue (today's Haiti and Santo Domingo).

Azilum Company land certificate.
Asylum Company land certificate, 1794.
After King Louis XVI and his Queen were executed in 1793, whatever sympathy the Federalist Party and its wealthy and clerical supporters had for the French Revolutionaries who initiated the "Reign of Terror" and repudiated Christianity for the worship of "Reason" vanished. Still known in Europe for its religious tolerance, Pennsylvania became the principal destination for French exiles who included the Marquis de Talleyrand, who would go on to become France's leading diplomat from the Directory of the late 1790s to the Congress of Vienna in 1815; a young Louis Philippe, who would be the King of France from 1830 to 1848; and Moreau de Saint-Mery, the exiled Superintendent of Saint Domingue. Enchanted by the presence of French aristocracy in their midst, wealthy Pennsylvanians would provide financial support to the exiles that far exceeded their contributions to the Philadelphia black community, whose members had labored so heroically to nurse whites stricken with yellow fever during the epidemic of 1793.

Sketch of French Colony Azilum.
Azilum, PA, 1794.
Noailles and Talon planned Azilum on a large scale, with a two-acre market square, a gridiron pattern of broad streets, and 413 lots of approximately one-half acre each. By the spring of 1794, local workers had constructed about thirty rough log houses. Several small shops, a schoolhouse, a chapel, and a theatre soon appeared around the market square. The French refugees planted orchards and gardens; raised sheep and dairy cows; erected a gristmill, blacksmith shop and a distillery; and began the manufacture of potash and pearl ash.

Oil on canvas of Louis-Philippe, Louis-Philippe I d'Orléans, King of France.
Louis-Philippe I d'Orléans, King of France, by Winterhalter, 1841.
Oil on canvas painting of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.
Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Bénévent,...
Although their rough log houses were crude, many had chimneys, wallpaper, window glass, shutters, and porches to satisfy their residents' desire for beauty and comfort. Some also brought with them the little luxuries and extravagances that kept alive the memory of better days. The most imposing building in the colony was "La Grande Mansion," a two-story log structure, 84-feet long and 60-feet wide, which had eight large fireplaces. The scene of many social gatherings, the Mansion hosted Talleyrand and Louis Philippe, who toured Pennsylvania and the west, but lived in Philadelphia.

The quasi-aristocratic French court set up in the woods of Bradford County quickly failed. Many of the settlers soon moved to Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans. Others later returned to Santo Domingue, where they could better live the genteel life. Still others returned to France under the Directory (1795-1799) and Napoleon's rule (1799-1815). Several families, however, including the LaPortes, Homets, LeFevres, Brevosts, and D'Autremonts, remained in Pennsylvania. Today, the LaPorte house, built in 1836 by a returning member of the family, is the only old structure remaining at Azilum. Several buildings have been reconstructed at the site, which is maintained by a private association.

In later years, descendants of the original settlers who did not return to France helped to populate Wysox, Wyalusing, Athens, Towanda, and other communities in northeastern Pennsylvania. Azilum itself soon passed into history. That it was intended as a refuge for Marie Antoinette is commemorated by the beautiful vista at the Marie Antoinette Lookout off Route 6.
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