But who is really François-Joseph Fournier who rests in this imposing white marble mausoleum in the cemetery of Porquerolles Island? This Belgian, born poor into a family of boatmen in central Belgium in 1857, had an extraordinary destiny straddling two centuries.
In Paris, after having been an auditor at the Arts 26 Métiers, a factory worker and having frequented the Bourdon family, engineers from father to son, he dreams of wide open spaces and new challenges. Under the wise advice of Eugene Bourdon, he embarked on a steamer bound for Canada where, with letters of recommendation, he was hired at the Canadian Railway Company’s construction site, which was working on the Canadian railroad.
Strengthened by this experience and the feats he had achieved, with his chest puffed out, he arrived in Panama where the French engineers saw in him only a “little” worker who, unlike them, did not come from the great Parisian schools. Old Bourdon’s letters allow him to be hired once again, but as a simple laborer. In Panama, it is the crisis, the disaster, the work is slowing down, the trans-oceanic shipyard is not working and in Paris, the echoes of a financial and human disaster are coming. He contracted malaria and was taken in by a native tribe who treated him.
Disappointed, weakened and realizing that he has not stopped working for 20 years, he leaves Panama for California, where he will finally enjoy a few weeks of vacation to think about his future.
hesitantly, he agreed to join a prospecting team in Nevada where his skills were quickly recognized and the company finally entrusted him with the responsibility of carrying out surveys for gold prospecting in Mexico. These prospectings are the trigger that François Fournier was waiting for a long time, his way is all traced.
He resigned and founded his own prospecting and mining company, Compania Minera Las dos Estrellas en El Oro Y Tlalpujahua S.A., with the help of French emigrants. A few months earlier, during his survey campaigns, he had reserved certain plots of land for himself, determined to exploit them for his own account. Once again, his instincts were not wrong, he uncovered the most important gold and silver seam ever discovered, among other things through the adoption of new experimental extraction techniques. he is now the head of a considerable fortune.
His first two marriages, although happy, did not satisfy him, his wives not being able to bring him what he dreamed of, an offspring. He no longer believes in it when he meets his third and last wife who will fulfill him by giving him 7 children.
It is to shelter this long awaited family that he will buy in 1912 the island of Porquerolles, opposite Toulon, for the round sum of 1.000.100 francs of the time. On the island, he will spend without counting the cost. In 1912, his fortune was estimated at 400 million gold francs. He will transform an island with only a small fishing colony and a parish into a magical place where its inhabitants will be free from want for a long time.
François Joseph Fournier died in January 1935, father of 7 children. He was the richest man of his time.