They came to America by the millions. Some two million Huguenots, or French Protestants, fled France after the Edict of Nantes in 1685 designated France an official “Catholic” nation.
At first, the edict protected the Protestants from persecution at the hands of the Catholic Church but that soon wore away and the Huguenots faced a life of hardship and persecution. By the end of the 17th century, roughly 200,000 Huguenots had fled France, most relocated to Protestant nations such as English America.
One of the Huguenots that fled France arrived in Medfield in 1718. His name was Dr. James Gerauld and he was one of a family of 21 children. His name is spelled numerous ways—Gerould, Gerar, Jirauld, Jerauld, etc. He arrived here with his wife and at least two of his children.
In 1721, he purchased the Joseph Adams homestead on 1 Main Street at what is today the Dover-Medfield town line. The house was burnt by arson and no longer exists.
Dr. Gerauld had wealth and soon accumulated numerous parcels of property around town, including a house and land on Frairy Street near the meetinghouse. When Dr. Gerauld died in 1760 at the age of 73 he left his wife, Martha, the east end of the house on Main Street, the house near the meetinghouse with one acre of land and all the family slaves “excepting negro Cesar, who is not to be sold out of the family during his life.” Cesar died some 29 years later, still a slave.
The house near the meetinghouse passed to his daughters, Hannah and Susanna. One of his sons settled in Wrentham and another in Sturbridge. Son, Dupee, followed in his father’s footsteps and was a physician in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
James’ grandson, also named James, became a physician and succeeded to the homestead on Main Street and in taking over his grandfather’s medical practice. James became town moderator, a selectman for six years and a delegate to the Convention at Cambridge in 1779, which approved the Massachusetts Constitution, largely written by John Adams. The Massachusetts Constitution then became the model for the Constitution of the United States of America which was drafted seven years later.
The second Dr. James Gerauld had seven children. Oldest son James was described as a “wild youth,” and according to stories recorded by others in Medfield, he was quite a hellion. Son, Horatio, taught school in Medfield and towards the end of his life had to appeal to the people of Medfield for financial assistance to “assist me under my present difficulties, late sufferings and distresses.” The nature of his troubles was unknown. With that, the Gerauld name disappears from the Medfield records.