Notable Men of Henderson County: Xavier de Choiseul

By Dan Gibbs

Count Marie Joseph Gabriel St. Xavier de Choiseul was born in France in the late 1700’s and was connected to French royalty because he was a cousin to King Louis-Phillippe XV. He was named French consul to Charleston in 1831 and it was a position he held until 1856.

He and his wife Sarah visited their friends the Barings in Flat Rock in 1831. He purchased 205 acres of land from Charles Baring II along Mud Creek in order to build a summer home for he and his wife Sarah, their two daughters, and their son.

He built the Saluda Cottages in 1836 as a temporary residence until what became called Chanteloup could be built around 1839. His wife Sarah oversaw the building of Chanteloup as de Choiseul’s position in Charleston kept him there during the summers. She lived in Flat Rock year-round with her two daughters and son Charles. He sold the Saluda Cottages and acquired the 3000 acres that Chanteloup was built on.

Sarah died in 1859 at the age of 61 and she died under mysterious circumstances. Many historians believe that she and the Count got into an argument in Chanteloup and was pushed off a balcony and fell to her death on the floor below. Some believe that she died of an illness but there are no real facts as to how she died.

Son Charles moved to Louisiana in 1850 when he was about 18 or 19 and he became a lawyer in New Orleans and a militiaman who was very active in the French Creole community in New Orleans. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Charles joined the 7th Louisiana Regiment where he attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was badly wounded at the Battle of Port Republic in Virginia in 1862 and died from his wounds about a week later in a Richmond, VA hospital.

Despondent over the death of his wife and his son, the Count de Choiseul left Charleston late in 1862. He feared a Union blockade of the port of Charleston and he returned to France never to visit the United States again. He died in Cherbourg, France in 1872.

The Count de Choiseul left his legacy in Flat Rock as his estate Chanteloup still stands and just recently sold for $2.2 million although it has been pared down from 3000 acres to less than 20.

When I was growing up in Hendersonville there was a legend that Chanteloup was still haunted by Countess Sarah Choiseul’s ghost who still roamed the gardens of the estate. This was confirmed to me by a previous owner.

My research for this article can be attributed to many sources. As always, Henderson Heritage is a great place to start and Find a Grave Memorial is also a valuable resource. St. John’s in the Wilderness is a short drive from my house and the cemetery to the nearly two hundred-year-old land mark is easily accessible. The cemetery contains the headstones of many of the area’s founders and is a step back in time.