Octave Fariola's Early Life
Octave Fariola’s application for American citizenship after the Civil War provided the valuable detail that he was born in Liege in the year 1839. Historical research now switched to Belgium. Censuses began there in 1846 but are closed to the public except where common descent can be proved. However readily available civil records were organized as far back as 1796 after Belgium was annexed by Napoleon for the French Republic. Because of this Fariola's birth/baptismal record was easily located.
Liege, Belgium, birthplace of Octave Fariola's mother, Marie Libert.
Fariola’s birth record is archived at the State Archives of Liege, and confirms the information he supplied on his American passport application. The record established that Fariola’s mother, Marie Marguerite Octavie Libert, was a native of Liege. “Libert” was therefore not a nom de guerre, but Fariola’s maternal name. Genealogical records indicate that it is a common surname in Liege.
With his mother’s name known, it was possible to test Fariola’s statement that his maternal relations settled in Texas. The background to this was that Texas approached Belgium in the 1830s with a proposal to offer settlement land in return for money. An official was dispatched by King Leopold to examine the scheme but he warned against the plan because of Mexico’s claim to the Texan territory. The proposal was rejected and so few Belgians settled in Texas, apart from the very few who accompanied French expeditions. Preliminary searches found no evidence of Fariola's maternal relations among them.
Locarno, Switzerland, birthplace of Octave Fariola's father, Louis Francois Fariola, a 30 year veteran of the armies of the Netherlands and Belgium
Octave Fariola’s birth record revealed his father, Louis Francois, to be an officier payeur - or paymaster in the army. This meant he would have military records.These were duly located at the Musee Royal de L’Armee Militaire, Brussels. They showed that Louis Francois came up through the ranks in a long career that began in 1816 in the Army of the Netherlands and ended in 1846 with a sub-lieutenancy in the Belgian Army. For most of his career Louis Francois had served as a sergeant with the Battalion of Sappers Miners and died in Brussels in 1852 when Octave was 13.
Important details emerged from this source, including Fariola Senior’s date and place of birth (Locarno, Switzerland), name of parents, and age of wife. Locarno (in Tessin or Ticino, is an Italian speaking canton which declared itself a republic in 1803 with Napoleonic support.) Although Louis Francois' mother was plainly Italian because of her name, Babbatini, his father was referred to by several different names in three separate documents, including Etienne Marie and Jean Jacques. In one document his name wasn't given. Illegitimacy is therefore suspected.
One unexpected feature was the level of material concerning Louis Francois' marriage to Marie Libert, which ran to eight pages. Marie Libert was described in one document as a rentière, someone deriving income from property. She also enjoyed a “bonne reputation”. Louis Francois was also an active freemason in Liege, as many military men at the time were.
Fariola senior’s name was also found in a series of naturalization bills brought before the new Belgian House of Representatives in 1840. These lists consisted of individuals, mostly French or Dutch soldiers, who were seeking votes to become Belgian citizens.
First in his Class
The military had also been a way of life for Octave Fariola from an early age, as his own records at the Musee Royal de L’Armee Militaire show. He received his education at the elite Royal Military Academy of Brussels. Always an excellent student, Fariola graduated first in his class in 1857. Prior to his admission, he belonged to the school of Enfants de Troupe, the usual route into military school for children of non-commissioned officers like Louis Fariola. After graduation he joined the Caribiniers, one of the heavy cavalry regiments, with the rank of Lieutenant. He remained there until his resignation in October 1862. Unlike his father’s military record, Octave's dossier revealed little personal information.
Royal Military Academy Brussels where Octave Fariola trained as an officer, graduating first in his class
Fariola often spoke of his time spent as a volunteer by the side of Guiseppe Garibaldi, a specialist at pitting small, passionately-motivated forces against superior numbers and a strong advocate of guerilla tactics. Historical sources on the Fenians emphasize this point, claiming that Fariola was one of the “red-shirted heroic thousand of Marsala” who prevailed over the Neapolitan army in Sicily, 1860. Undoubtedly the sympathies of this would-be revolutionary lay in this direction. Yet his military file at the Royal Academy of Brussels shows no reference to any leave of absence taken from the Belgian army during this key time. Since British intelligence were certain of his historic involvement with Garibaldi at the time of the Fenian rising, his military records may be incomplete and do not reveal the true extent of his movements in 1860. Fariola’s lengthy extradition papers are available at the National Archives, Kew. They may provide further evidence of his links to Garibaldi.