Madame Charlotte Mentelle

Probably the most colorful ancestor of mine is Madame Charlotte Victorie LeClere Mentelle. She is my (g,g,g,g grandmother) and was the mother of Elizabeth Mentelle Vimont (wife of Jefferson Thomas Vimont). Here is the obituary from 1860 – “At Rosehill, near Lexington, on the 8th inst., after a long and lingering illness, Madame CHARLOTTE VICTORIE LE CLERE MENTELLE, widow of Waldemar Mentelle, having nearly completed her 90th year.

Madame Mentelle was born in Paris, France, on the 22nd day of October, 1770. She was the only child of a physician engaged in a large and laborious practice, and lost her mother in a very early childhood. Her father raised her as he would have done a son, treating her with such sternness and rigor as to leave in her heart no pleasant memories of her childhood. As an instance of his method of training, he sought to conquer her fear of death by locking her up for a night in a room with the corpse of an acquaintance. He succeeded in forming a woman rarely equaled, never excelled. She married Waldemar Mentelle, the son of a member of the National Institute, who was histographer to the King and Professor in the National and Royal Academy, in the year 1792. Shortly after their marriage, and during the terrible scenes of the French Revolution, they emigrated to this country, reaching Gallipolis, Ohio in 1793. About 1795, they removed to Washington, Mason county, Ky., thence to Fayette, and about 1805 settled at the place from which she was carried to her grave.
It is hardly necessary to say one word of her lofty character, her pure life and great intellect in this community, where she has been loved, honored and venerated for half a century. Entirely dependent through life upon themselves, and from their education incapable of following the usual avocations of life in a country, settling with a population strange to them, they commanded esteem and respect of all who knew them, and raised a large family nearly all of whom survive their parents, and are honored loved and trusted members of society.

There are few women, who lived so simple and private a life; who was so widely known. Her rare gifts and still rarer attainments won admiration and regard of some of the most distinguished men of her day. Her pure, simple, frugal life, free from everything like affectation and full of charity, kindness and good works was full worthy of such gifts. She preserved all her faculties unclouded to her death. Her intellect was above the power of time, and old age produced no weakness in her great mind. She was ready to go; she had performed her work in life. With that confident and triumphant faith, which although childlike in its nature, adorns and illuminates the brightest intellect. She trusted in the love of a crucified Savior, and went fearlessly to the grave with a certain hope of a blessed immortality. In this, as in the other great afflictions, which have befallen this family in the past few months, they bear their solemn testimony to the love, the mercy and the grace of this Divine Saviour.”

Excerpt from “Find A Grave” – “ She is most well known as the boarding school owner/teacher/instructor of “Mentelle for Young Ladies”, in Lexington, KY, attended for 4 years by Mary Todd Lincoln, and as the mother of Mary “Marie” Russell Mentelle Clay, who was the wife of Thomas Hart Clay, Sr., (son of Senator Henry Clay).” Henry Clay was mostly known for being Speaker of the House of Representatives and for running for President several times.

Attached to this WordPress entry are pages of books about MaryTodd Lincoln as they involve Madame Mentelle.

From a periodical – “Border States” 1983 – “The Mentelle family was adopted by virtually the entire community. They came to Lexington in dire financial straits after the failure of the French settlement at Gallipolis, Ohio. According to Thams Hart clay, Henry Clay’s son and Mentelle’s future son-in-law, they were given a “small life-estate” on the Richmond road by the Wycliffe family. That “small” estate was across Richmond Road from Ashland, the home of Henry Clay. It was large enough to hold the ten members of the Mentelle family, a library, and a very select boarding school which included Mary Todd, the future wife of Lincoln, among its students.”

Continuing on with excerpts from “Border States” – “Katherine Helm, a biographer of Mary Todd Lincoln, stated that the Mentelles were loyal to ‘their unfortunate sovereign Louis XVI’ and loved ‘with deep devotion the frivolous but gentle and mild Marie Antoinette.’ They could never allude to these martyrs without tears. Madame Mentelle, writing to her husband’s parents in 1803, did not mention the Bourbons but made it quite clear that she was not pro-Revolution. Explaining why they could not return to France, she stated that “France could not always be under the government of a strong man, and the revolution, that flow of blood, which at present has stopped running, will resume its fatal course and plunge everyone into misfortunes greater than those they have recently escaped.”