A French Asylum on the Susquehanna River in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania

"ASYLUM: A settlement of French Royalists who fled the French Revolution in 1793, was established in the valley directly opposite this marker. It was laid out and settled under the direction of Viscount de Noailles and Marquis Antoine Omer Talon. It was hoped that Queen Marie Antoinette might here find safety. Among many distinguished visitors to this place were Louis Phillipe, Duke of Orleans, later King of France, Prince de Talleyrand, Duke de Montpensier and the Duke de la Rochefoucauld Liancourt." More information on the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission webiste.

Southward from New York State the lovely Susquehanna winds its meandering way through the wooded hills of Bradford County, Pennsylvania. At a point about ten miles below Towanda, between Wysox and Wyalusing, it arches eastward into a great horseshoe bend, half encircling a terrace of land that slopes gently backward into the western hills. From the highway that skirts the ridge of Rummerfield Mountain on the opposite side of the river, its 1,600 acres can be seen neatly divided into carefully tilled fields and pasture land. A fringe of trees borders the river's edge and small patches of woods stand near isolated farmhouses and on the bordering heights. A scene of undisturbed pastoral calm banded by a glistening arm of silvery water, this fertile crescent of land was Azilum-or Asylum. Many, many years ago when northern Pennsylvania was Indian country this place was known as Missicum-the "Meadows." The settlers who moved into the valley from Connecticut called it Standing Stone, after the monolithic stone shaft that rises high out of the river bed near the western bank, a landmark from time immemorial. But to a little group of exiles who stepped ashore at this remote spot in the late fall of the year 1793, it was a haven far removed from the dangers of revolution, imprisonment, slave insurrections, and yellow fever. To them it was Azilum-a place of refuge. These refugees, who had come up the Susquehanna from Catawissa and Wilkes-Barre in Durham boats and dugout canoes furnished by the trader Matthias Hollenback, were citizens of France and of her West Indies colony of Santo Domingo (Haiti). Those from France had fled to Philadelphia to escape the certain imprisonment and probable death for which their loyalty to Louis XVI marked them. A few were of the courtier circle close to the king; some were of the minor nobility, officeholders, army officers, professional men, clergymen, merchants, and a few artisans. Politically, the leaders were men of liberal inclinations who had worked to reform the government of France of its worst abuses but to retain the king as a constitutional monarch. Their moderate program had recently been thrust aside by fanatical revolutionaries, who followed a policy of exterminating all who were suspected of the slightest sympathy or attachment to the hapless Bourbon rulers. Emigrés by the thousands streamed across the borders of France seeking sanctuary in other countries. The exodus from Santo Domingo in 1793 was a flight from the carnage of the slave and mulatto uprising which followed the declaration of equality by the radical French Assembly. Plantations were laid waste, estates were burned, whites were slain by the rebellious Negroes. Some who secured passage to the mainland arrived destitute of all material goods. About 2,000 distraught Santo Domingans landed at Philadelphia in the summer of that year. They were aided by sympathetic Philadelphians and by such leading Franco-Americans as Stephen Girard and Peter Duponceau, who organized the French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia in the summer and fall of 1793, some suspected that the Santo Domingans had brought it with them. An American who was close to several of the principal French exiles responsible for the founding of the colony was Pennsylvania's Senator Robert Morris, financier of the Revolution, merchant, and land speculator. Through him and his partner John Nicholson, Pennsylvania's comptroller general, a large tract of land in the northern wilderness of the State was to be purchased and transformed into a woodland Arcadia. The settlement of this region would increase the value of other lands owned by Morris. The exiles, their families, and, according to a story so far unverified, even the Queen of France herself, the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, and her two children would here at last find peace and security.