Friday, September 24, 2021

A Little Family Mystery about Le Barroux Resolved

Who doesn't love a good family mystery? 

My father Daniel Augsburger was born in Switzerland. His mother was French and at a young age, the family moved to the South of France. He came to the United States in 1939, just prior to World War II for college and pursue graduate degrees at the University of Michigan. 

Long story short, he never returned to live in France, met my mother Joyce at the University of Michigan and was offered an opportunity to teach, first at the University of Michigan then at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University in Berrien Spring, Michigan.

I was lucky over the years that I was able to travel with my parents along with sister Lydie and brother Dan as money permitted to visit his family living in France and Switzerland. I also got to live for one year in Strasbourg, France while he was on a study sabbatical. So we got to know our aunt's, uncles, cousins and other extended family members quite well.

I have looked at dad's Kodak slides and picture albums that record our trips to France and Switzerland many times over the years. A few years ago, my brother sent me CDs with pictures my father or someone else had taken of he and his family and some of he and mom at their wedding near Geneva, Switzerland. 

I learned from cousins back in 2014 that our grandfather had owned a house in Le Barroux, France. I am not sure if I ever saw the picture below before we bought our house in Sablet but it immediately caught my eye when I saw it on the CD because it showed it was in a town called Le Barroux

Image of Road Sign and House found on Augsburger CD

If I had seen the picture before, it wouldn't have meant anything to me because Le Barroux could have been anywhere in France or French-speaking Switzerland as far as I was concerned. However, since we have gotten to know the area around Sablet, I know Le Barroux is a small village (population 629 in 2017) set on a hill topped by a large 12th century castle just 13 miles from Sablet. 

Le Barroux Castle

We come to Le Barroux from time to time to hike around the village and to visit Sainte Madeleine du Barroux Abbey located outside of town. We also come to buy locally grown saffron as I told you about here. So when I saw the picture on the CD I was excited to confirm that my grandfather owned a house so close to our village and I like to think that my father probably spent time in the area. 

Sainte Madeleine du Barroux

The Le Barroux castle was built to oppose Saracen and Italian incursions and went through major rebuilding in the 16th and 17th centuries. The castle was damaged during the French revolution, was repaired in 1929 with private funds, set on fire by German occupation forces in 1944 as reprisal for acts of resistance, and restored again in 1960.

Le Barroux Castle

After failing to find the house when we first tried in 2014, I was eager to try again with the picture of the road sign from the CD as my guide to the property. So on October 6, 2018, with my cousins Jean Marc and Christine in tow, we headed off for Le Barroux to find the house or what was left of it. 

We arrived in Le Barroux and parked in the center of the village. We confidently walked up to the first person we encountered, a man walking on the street, who confirmed he lived in Le Barroux so told him what we were doing and showed him our picture. 

We were disappointed when he said he didn't know the village that well and these roads nor house looked familiar to him. He suggested we go see a lady who lived close by that he knew walks all over Le Barroux, maybe she would know where the house was located?

We knocked on her door and she opened. We explained to her what we were trying to find and why and showed her my picture. Turns out, she was born in the same town in Switzerland as my dad. She said she had an idea where these roads crossed and invited us in. She led us to her computer and pulled up maps of the area and pointed out where she thought it was and gave us some general directions.

We figured out if she was right that the house was out in the direction of the saffron farm we had previously visited. After a couple of wrong turns and ending up on a very little road, we found the sign for Chemin Aqueduc and Chemin De Bois Long. As I said it was a very little road and more like a path which is in fact the English translation for "chemin".

Matching Road Sign

From the junction where we stopped we could see a house that matched the one in the picture on the CD. Backed up to a forested area and vineyards all the way around the rest of the property, we could imagine why the property appealed to my grandfather. No one was around and it was hard to tell if the property was still inhabited or not.  

Le Barroux House

Le Barroux House

While we were standing there chatting about the area and house, a car drove up, it was our new Swiss friend from Le Barroux who had driven out to see if she was right about the location of the roads. 

Happy Cousins with Le Barroux House in Distance

This past July 27, Shirley and I drove to Le Barroux to see if we could find the property again. Shirley was quite sure she could, I didn't really have a clue besides being near L'Aube Safran. Thankfully, Shirley was right, she says women are better with directions because they have uterus homing device to find things.

One of the crossroads is called "Chemin Aqueduct" so I assumed that if we followed the path we might find an old aqueduct. Sure enough, after a walk down a dirt path off the main "Chemin Aqueduc" path, we found the remains of an aqueduct. 

Le Barroux Aqueduct

This was the remainder of an aqueduct built around 1840 by the Commune of Le Barroux. Le Barroux lacked water and the Commune built a 4 km long canal and this aqueduct to bring water from a spring near St Andeol. Only one arch remains, the aqueduct is unusual in that the canal rests on a circle rather than pillars. 

Le Barroux Aqueduct

I am happy this mystery is solved. I hope to find some family member who can tell me when grandfather bought the property, if there was a particular reason why he bought here and how long he owned it. I would love to know for sure if dad spent time at this house. I assume yes since he had this photograph in his very large collection of family pictures.

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website. Our house is available for rent by the week or more. We still have weeks open in November and through the end of the year and in 2022 and beyond. You can reach me for further information by sending an email to 

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