This route takes you in the footsteps of Antoine-Joseph Moneuse, the famous bandit and Captain of the Chauffeurs du Nord.
Here we will focus on the attack on the Populaire farm in Wasmes. On 3 December 1795, this farm was the target of a gang of bandits in search of wealth.
Follow in the footsteps of this terrible episode in Moneuse’s tumultuous life along this route, which takes you through the towns of Colfontaine and Frameries.
During this walk, you’ll have the opportunity to go through the state-owned forest of Colfontaine and the village of Eugies, including “La Belle Maison” which is a known point of reference for the bandits.
Have a good walk and watch out ... bandits are about.
Route created and put together by Hauts Pays natural park
Illustrations Claude Renard
- Difference in height
- 63.99 m
- Points of interest
1 The Hunters’ Pavilion
It is located in the heart of Colfontaine state-owned forest. Brick and stone make up the framework, wood is used for the framing and interior design, while the external awnings of the porch were once used as a shelter for cars (stable).
The Hunting Lodge is hexagonal and the covered track occupies three of the sides. The roof is polychrome. Construction ended after the death of De Gorge, thanks to his heirs.
The Pavilion and its surroundings were classified as a site by the Walloon Region on 22 July 1981. De Gorge landscaped Colfontaine wood by drawing paths in it. He arranged hunts in it, ending with large meals in his Lodge.
A commemorative plaque affixed to the monument recalls the 25th anniversary of the wood’s purchase by the State (1908-1933).
2 1795 - annus horribilis
In 1795, the winter had been rough, the spring dull and the summer too rainy. As a result, the harvests were meagre. Not to mention taxation, which of course played its part.
The famine hit the ordinary folk as the rich got richer.
3 The Chauffeurs du Nord
4 Antoine-Joseph Moneuse
Unlike the people, he didn’t suffer from the poverty that plagued the region. Indeed, as a grain and cattle dealer, Moneuse had nothing to complain about and it attracted jealousy ... He was called a party animal, a player, a flirt ... but he’d soon be called a bandit.
One fine day in February 1794, a certain Léon Lagroux, a horse dealer in Hornu, left the estaminet of Audregnies when he was the victim of an attack. Here is the statement he made to the investigators:
“Near the Rieu-Marion, a man hidden in the ditch jumped to the bridles of my horse while two others made me fall. Despite the terrible pain felt in my leg, I began to defend myself with the nerf de bœuf (an old-fashioned type of truncheon) I always wear on my wrist. I heard a groan and a cry after hitting one of the attackers about the stomach: ‘Mendeck, help!’ Almost immediately a horseman came out of the coppice and struck me with the pommel of his sword. Before I fell unconscious, I heard him command: ‘A few more blows of the club, and then bring me his girdle.’ My girdle! It contained 5,000 gold francs. And then my horse disappeared. I’m pressing charges against this Mendeck!”
But who is this mysterious Mendeck? And what if Mendeck and Moneuse were in fact one and the same person? Grain and cattle dealer by day, bandit by night ... The rumour spread, without any evidence to support it.
6 Alexandre Buisseret
Alexandre Buisseret, known as “Gros” or “Mongros”, lived in Frameries and officially practiced the profession of coal miner there.
After being reported, Buisseret was arrested by the constabulary at Allard inn of Petit-Quévy, at the same time as Antoine-Joseph Moneuse, Nicolas-Joseph Gérin and the innkeeper. They were first imprisoned in Asquillies’ cantonal prison. Buisseret was tried for theft and robbery by the criminal court of the department of Jemmapes at Mons, and was sentenced to fourteen years in chains. The ruling stipulated that before serving their sentence, Buisseret and another accomplice “will be conducted beforehand to the public square of Mons; they will be attached to a pole placed on a scaffold; there they will remain exposed to the scrutiny of the people ... above their heads, on a sign, will be written in large print, their names, their professions, their homes, the cause of their conviction and the ruling handed down against them...”
Like Moneuse, Nicolas-Joseph Gérin and Felix Gérin, Buisseret appealed on points of law and should have been tried by the Northern Court of Appeals in Douai, but he disappeared mysteriously during transit.
7 Maison Fénelon or Belle Maison
The originality of the house lies in its extraordinary framework that can be considered as a masterpiece of its kind and which was undoubtedly built using the oak woods of Colfontaine seigneury.
It was converted into an inn (Belle Maison, owned in 1795 by Sieur Buisseret) and would have been a meeting place of the “Moneuse Gang” for a few years (1794-1798).
One afternoon, Moneuse was sitting there when a cattle dealer from Eugies and a worker named Celestin Carlot got comfortable. Moneuse accosted Carlot outside the inn, suggesting that he team up with him to rob the merchant. The man refused and answered that he was not what he thought. “Me neither, Carlot, I'm not what you think,” replied Moneuse. Frightened, the man fled while Moneuse burst out laughing and went to tell the story to the customers. One hell of a joker. He wasn’t to know it yet, but this very kind of teasing attitude would precipitate his downfall, simply fuelling the rumours to which he remained deaf.
8 Tour du Lait Buré
At the beginning of the 1900s, Achille Tillier, architect and founder of the Tillier brewery, purchased a pasture in the town of Eugies.
Based on his plans, he then built a building named “La Tour du Lait Buré” (according to André Capron and Pierre Nisolle, authors of the ‘Essai d’illustration du parler borain’, “lait buré” means “buttermilk”).
The owner set up an inn in this picturesque setting, which quickly became a guinguette in which he decided to sell his various beers (Stout Cedar, Saison, Belge, Blanche, Grisette, etc.).
Initially, this structure was equipped with a flat roof, which allowed people to observe nature, hunt, or served as a stage for musicians (until the arrival of the record player, which replaced the orchestra after the First World War).
It was only in 1955 that Victor-Léon and Léon-Willy Tillier, son and grandson of Achille Tillier, had the roof repaired and modified by a Dutch company, to give it a conical shape (the roof was renovated a second time in 1985).
In September 1972, the Tour du Lait Buré was fully renovated and inaugurated in the presence of the Town Council, including Deputy Mayor, Arthur Nazé. In particular, this renovation allowed a counter to be installed to fit the circular shape of the tavern and the (central) access to the drinks cellar, as well as the addition of an annex named "Gambrinus", which can host some twenty people; a terrace and games area were also built.
Since then, the Tour du Lait Buré has retained all its charm and has become the perfect rustic setting for relaxing after a stroll through nature.
9 The Populaire farm
10 The Vagrant
11 The attack
12 Tormenting flames
13 The alarm is raised
14 The stolen jewellery
A few days later, a stranger delivered a box to the inn, on behalf of Moneuse. Inside, there was a piece of gold jewellery and a message: “Sometimes jewellery falls from the sky for those who deserve it”.
15 A doubtful accusation
This jewellery seemed to prove Moneuse’s guilt. However, one significant detail was missing.... On 3 December 1795, the day of the attack, Moneuse was in prison! Indeed, following his involvement (although he was not found guilty) in the Houlette massacre in Roisin, Moneuse was only released from prison on 30 December.
This case gave him another layer of mystery. Often accused without real proof, Moneuse seemed to become the ideal culprit. In the following months and years, his name was cited in numerous criminal cases that occurred in the region. Was he guilty of everything? Guilty of nothing? The truth probably lies somewhere between the two.
- 64 meters of difference in height
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