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Below is a family biography included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Jefferson County, Arkansas published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1889.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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Col. Joseph W. Bocage, mayor, Pine Bluff, Ark. From the biography of every man there may be gleaned some lessons of genuine worth, for here are discovered the secret of his success or failure. In the history of Mr. Bocage, one of the pioneers of the city, and one of its most prominent men, is found much to commend. He was born on the Island of St. Lucia, May 8, 1819, and is the son of William and Marrie Ann (Lavoisier) Bocage, the mother a niece of the celebrated French chemist, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, who was the originator of the gasometer and discoverer of oxygen. He was born August 26, 1743, and was guillotined on May 8, 1794, by the revolutionists of Paris. He was condemned on account of his wealth, and after sentence was passed, he asked for three days’ respite that he might complete a fine piece of chemical analysis, but that was denied him. The paternal grandfather, Joseph Isadore Bocage, was descended from an illustrious family, whose estates were in the old province, the Bocage, now known as the La Vendee, in France. He came to the United States, in company with others, in 1795, fleeing from the French Revolution, settling in New London, Conn., where he married Miss Elizabeth Coit, daughter of Capt. William Coit, of Revolutionary fame. Some years after his marriage he went to the Isle of St. Lucia, where he purchased a sugar and coffee estate. He also engaged in mercantile and shipping business, dealing largely in sugar and coffee, which business proved lucrative, and he became very wealthy. He died in 1818. William Bocage, father of the subject of this sketch, was born in New London, where he received unusually good educational advantages, finishing his education at an English college. He went to St. Lucia, married, and died there in his twenty-first year, leaving a young wife and child, the latter then only five months old and the subject of this sketch. William Bocage was one of three sons—Joseph, William and Charles. Joseph went supercargo of one of his father’s vessels, and died in Boston harbor. Charles went to France when sixteen years of age, attended military school, and became a French officer of prominence. He was killed in the Crimean War, while storming Inkerman heights. The act of the British Parliament, known as the Wilberforce and Chaning act of emancipation, freeing the slaves, caused the survivors of the family to come to the United States. Joseph W. Bocage was then three years of age, and could speak only the French language. They made their home in New York City, where the mother died, and was buried in old Trinity church-yard. His mother, while on her death-bed, gave her son to a paternal cousin, Miss Sarah Ann Lillington, of Wilmington, N. C., a daughter of Gen. John A. Lillington, of Revolutionary fame, with whom he remained until sixteen years of age, attending the best schools during that time. The Lillington family were wealthy, which fact enabled his foster-mother to give him excellent opportunities for acquiring an education. Seeing he could expect nothing from his St. Lucia estate, and knowing he must seek his own fortune, he decided to venture at once, and at sixteen years of age he launched out upon the troubled sea of life —his own pilot—going first to Connecticut, thence to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, thence down the Mississippi to Vicksburg, remaining there some months. In 1830, and in his eighteenth year, he landed in Columbia, Chicot County, Ark., where he remained for about a year, and where he began the study of medicine, but gave it up, and in the latter part of 1837 he landed in Pine Bluff, Ark., when there were but eight log houses and one frame building, erected by one Cassanus, a Spaniard, and another under course of erection for a tavern. After a few months’ delay here Mr. Bocage entered the law office of Gen. James Yell, studied law, and in 1840 was admitted to the bar. He is now one of two survivors of the bar of 1840, the other one being the illustrious and venerable Gen. Albert Pike of Washington City. Mr. Bocage practiced his profession here for years, and was attorney for the State for the Second judicial district from 1844 to 1849, being also judge of the county court. He was also school commissioner of the entire county under the old law, for four years, and during that time held all the funds for the county. He held a number of special commissions and now has in his possession eleven civil commissions. The excellent manner in which he discharged his official duties is too well known to need any additional words of compliment; suffice it to say that no man ever filled the office in so capable and efficient a manner. On the breaking out of the Civil War he, in conjunction with Gen. Thomas Hindman, raised the Second Arkansas Infantry Regiment. Early in the war Mr. Bocage was commissioned lieutenant colonel, and when Col. Hindman was promoted to brigadier, Lieut. -Col. Bocage was made colonel, serving in that capacity the first year of the war. He was transferred to Texas to build up manufacturing interests for the Confederacy, and remained there until the close of the war. He built at Mound Prairie, in Anderson County, a number of manufactories—cotton, wool, shoes, clothing and nearly all army supplies of like character. The great difficulty in procuring proper machinery made his task a trying one. He was courteous and kind to everyone, and is well known and highly respected throughout Texas. He surrendered to Gen. Herron at Shreveport, La., in 1865. Returning to his old home at Pine Bluff, he cast about him to see what next, and finding that his town has been the scene of a battle and was greatly damaged, Col. Bocage decided to go into the lumber and building business. He formed a partnership with Col. M. L. Bell, and actively engaged in repairing and rebuilding the city, and in connection with their saw mills and contracting, the firm erected an immense planing-mill and sash and door factory, which together with a large lot of lumber was entirely destroyed by fire on August 23, 1873, without insurance. With wonderful pluck and energy the firm rebuilt and started the new works on the 1st of November following the fire. This business was carried on until 1876. Col. Bocage has done more to build up Pine Bluff than any other man. With others he engaged in the cotton-seed oil business, and also in the foundry business, and manufactured steam engines and cotton presses, carrying on this industry until the latter part of 1887, when he sold out. He has been a valuable man of the city, and is respected and esteemed for his sterling integrity, sober, sound judgment, broad intelligence and liberal progressive ideas. In April, 1888, he was elected mayor of his city by a large majority over his opponent, a man who was believed to be invincible. On taking his seat, he found much work to be done, set about to do it with his characteristic energy, and is now clearing it up as rapidly as possible. Although in his seventy-first year, Col. Bocage is remarkably well preserved and bids fair to live many years. Col. Bocage was married May 22, 1840, to Miss Frances S. Lindsay, a daughter of Mr. William H. Lindsay, of Fairfax County, Va., and by her he became the father of thirteen children, six of whom are living: Mary Etta (wife of John M. Smith, and a teacher in the high school at Pine Bluff), Edward Washington (educated at Washington and Lee University, and an accomplished machinist), Frances Irene, Flora Toinette (wife of Willis R. Smith, a fine civil engineer), Charles William (city engineer), and Annie Reyburn. Col. Bocage is a Royal Arch Mason, one of the oldest members in the county. He is a member of the Episcopal Church, of which he is one of the organizers, having been a vestryman from the first planting of the church in Pine Bluff. He has always been a Democrat politically.

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This family biography is one of 136 biographies included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Jefferson County, Arkansas published in 1889.  For the complete description, click here: Jefferson County, Arkansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

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