Gramercy, Louisiana

Day 967

     Gramercy, Louisiana, is one of the small towns near us. It was originally a trading post between the Indians and French settlement. Although settled around 1739, it was not incorporated until 1947.

     It’s distinguishing mark today is The Colonial Sugars Refinery. Founded in 1895 by a group of financiers from Gramercy Park, New York, from which the town gains it’s name, the refinery is still in operation and currently owned by Savannah Foods.

Ok, I know, not very picturesque. It’s a slow day. 

Oh Good, Another Church

Day 966

     As you have probably noticed, Barbara is fascinated by churches as we have been traveling around the country. Something about beauty, style, and symmetry.

     Since we have been staying in Convent, Louisiana, we have been to Thibodaux a number of times, as it is the only sizable city in the area (and has a Walmart). By “in the area” I mean an hour’s drive.

     This necessitates us crossing the Mississippi River.

     Barbara has been driving recently, as we are sharing that responsibility. I get to be passenger.

     Because of it’s position on the Mississippi River, Thibodaux was an early settlement in the area, and attracted people of many faiths. Therefore it has quite a few churches (I don’t recall seeing any synagogues).

     The most notable is St. Joseph Co-Cathedral. The original church was built in 1819, then rebuilt in 1849 and destroyed by a fire in 1916. The present church was begun in 1920, and completed 3 years later. On March 2, 1977 Pope Paul VI established the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, and the church became a Co-Cathedral. 

     I can go over the architect style, but it bores me, so I know it will bore you. 

     The main feature in the interior is the 34 foot high Baldachin in the apse.

     The most curious item in the church was this

which is The Relic of St. Vitalis of Milan.

     I do have a question that you might answer. I notice that in some churches, like this one, Christ is depicted on the cross with legs crossed and one nail through both feet.

     In other churches his legs are parallel with a nail through each foot. Why the discrepancy?  

     Down the street was The Calvary United Methodist Church, dedicated to and built by the freed slaves of the Civil War in 1867. 

 

Plantations on the Bayou, Louisiana

Day 965

     Before the Civil War, there were over 200 plantations along Bayou Lafourche in Louisiana. When I think of Southern Plantations (you never hear of Northern Plantations), I think of Tara, or even Pouché Plantation, where we are staying.

     In fact, most plantation houses here are what I refer to as farm houses, that is, not mansions, but houses for everyday people. Such is the case of E. D. White’s Plantation House.

     This house is situated on the banks of the Bayou Lafourche near Thibodaux, and was the residence of two of Louisiana’s foremost political figures: Edward Douglass White, who was governor of Louisiana from 1835 to 1839, and his son, Edward Douglass White (what an original name), who was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1894 and served as chief justice from 1910 to 1921.

     There are 2 ways to get to E.D.’s house, take US 1, that parallels Bayou Lafourche, or boat down the Bayou. Of course, we took the boat.

     Edward Douglass White, born March 3, 1795 in Maury County, Tennessee, was the illegitimate son of James White, a delegate to the Continental Congress. He was the tenth Governor of Louisiana. The house was built in 1825 by Guillaume Romain Arcement, born January 6, 1772 in St. Suliac, Bretagne, France, and is an example of Creole plantation architecture. Eddie bought the house and plantation in 1829.

     Edward Douglass White Jr. was born in this house on November 3, 1845. Following in his father’s footsteps, he was politician and lawyer. He served in the confederate army during the war. After the war, he was a United States Senator.

     In 1894, President Grover Cleveland appointed White as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. In 1910, President Taft elevated him to the position of Chief Justice. White served as Chief Justice until his death in 1921.

     Barbara served coffee (made with chicory) and corn bread in the replica kitchen outbuilding.

     Tidbit of Information: Do you know what U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice was a former President of the United States? Tune in next week for the answer. Only kidding. It was William Howard Taft. Oddly enough, it was Taft that appointed White to be Chief Justice, and when White died in 1921 it was Taft who succeeded him.

     Ah! The good old days, when you could drink water off your roof:

Bayou Lafourche

Day 964

     Took a boat ride on the Bayou Lafourche. Although the boat holds 22 people, their was only us and one other person, as a large group that booked did not show. 

 

     The word “bayou” is almost exclusively used in Louisiana as it originates from the Louisiania Indian Choctaw word “bayuk”, which means “small stream”.

     Bayou Lafourche is 106 miles long and flows from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. 1500 years ago this bayou WAS the Mississippi River. During that period of time, because of hurricanes, storms, and flooding, the Mississippi has migrated at some points more than 50 miles, creating 5 distinct deltas.  The name Lafourche is from the French word for “the fork”, and alludes to the bayou’s large outflow of Mississippi River water.

     Nice, leisurely ride, birds but no alligators.

Thibodaux, Louisiana

Day 962

     Thibodaux is located in south-east Louisiana, about 40 minutes from New Orleans, on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, on Bayou Lafourche. It’s location on the Bayou makes it a logical place for commerce, and therefore the development of a community.

     The community was named for Henry Schuyler Thibodaux, Louisiana State Senator, born 1769 of Arcadian parents who were expelled by the British from what is now Quebec, after the defeat of the French in the French and Indian War. Thibodaux received a land grant from the Spanish Governor, who controlled this area at that time, to developed a plantation here. 

     Upon arriving we were greeted by two dozen Muscovy ducks. They are actually considered an invasive species in Louisiana. 

      I want to let you know, it was not easy to get one male and one female duck to pose for me like that.

     We went on a private tour of Thibodaux, where the ranger pointed out the various historic buildings and the changes in architecture over the last 200 years. For example, the Courthouse was built in 1856, replacing the original one built in 1818. The land was donated by Henry Thibodaux. 

     After eating cajun cooking at a local restaurant, we went to the Jean Lafitte Cultural Center to listen to a Cajun fiddle player and singer. All the songs he sung were either in the Cajun Dialect or French. 

     In the audience with us was Frances Martin. She was born on a Plantation not far from here where her father was an overseer. She is a Cajun descendant of the Acadians who were expelled from Canada. 

     She informed us that at home she was required to speak French. In school, Louisiana law prohibited the speaking of Cajun or French. She runs a bed & breakfast that caters to French and European visitors. 

     We strolled down Bayou Lafourche, where we are making arrangements to take a boat tour later this week. 

Houmas House Plantation, Burnside, Louisiana

Day 956

     We followed the Mississippi River, passing alternating plantation and factory, until we reached Houmas Planation. We were told this plantation, and it’s gardens, were the most lovely along this part of the river.

     The name comes from the Houmas Indians who inhabited this area when the first French settlers, Alexander Latil and Maurice Conway, arrived here in 1774. The plantation was part of the Louisiana Purchase, and passed through many hands over the years. The current mansion was built in 1840. 

     We toured the mansion and surrounding buildings, where we were met by the woman of the house.

It contained some interesting things,

like this voodoo death mask,

This Lincoln carving 

was done by Gutzon Borglum, who carved Mt. Rushmore (see day 168)

Complete with spiral staircase

And the usual chandelier 

There was a formal dining room

But you had to dress to the nine’s

Dine in the Marie Antoinette tradition 

The gardens and fountains were neat

bet those Muslim congresswomen want to have this statute removed.

This is the remains of a southern torpedo boat, built about 1863 to attack the ships of the Northern blockade. I don’t know why it is here.

No frogs on the Lilly pads, but I did find a turtle.

For some reason, turkeys were roaming around.

The grounds contained this 500 year Oak

with birds wandering around

Don’t worry, I won the battle.

We came upon this caged cockatiel, all it would say was “Rita”.

Hope you don’t get behind in the readings of my blog.

Life on the Mississippi River – Part Two

Day 955

     Mark Anderson is a great story teller. He told us of the ghost of Poché Plantation, a black ghost (unlike Casper, a white ghost that could walk through objects and walls, this black ghost could not. Instead if it walked into something, it would back-up and go another way). Mark does not believe in ghosts, however a number of guests told him that during the night they heard one moving around upstairs (when Mark first fixed-up Poché Plantation, he rented it out as a bed and breakfast). Finally he decided to track the ghost down. One night he went searching for what he thought would be nothing. Then he heard it. He peered into the rooms, and in one room he saw 2  glowing eyes looking at him. He jumped, so scared he thought he might die. A cat then jumped out and ran away. But he still heard the noise. Trembling, he carried on. Then he found the black ghost, and trapped it under a bed. Reaching down he grabbed it. It was an IRobot, programed to clean between 11:00 PM and 2 AM. At 2 AM, it would return to it’s docking station. One of Anderson’s helpers had purchased the item. 

     Being the entrepreneur that he is, Anderson went to local restaurants and convinced them if a customer came in and said they saw the Robo Ghost at Poché Plantation they would give them $5.00 off. Sort of a verbal coupon.

     He bought a couple of pianos for the house, one of which was a grand piano which he placed in the corner of one of the rooms. The floor was so weak that the weight of the piano broke though and landed on the floor below, shattered. Always looking for an opportunity, he had the legs of that piano made into this piano stool.

     Interesting observation: Judge Poché built the house in 1867, after the Civil War and at a time when Carpetbaggers were raiding the area, and poverty was everywhere. Nevertheless, this magnificent house was built, using materials that were in scarce supply, and containing fireplaces that were made before the Civil War (which means they probably were looted from other houses).

     The rumor is that Felix Pierre Poché was a Northern Spy. While other Plantation Houses were being burned and looted, his was being built. 

     Adding to this conspiracy theory, it was learned that during the war, Captain Poché kept a detailed daily diary. The diary was found hidden in the house 20 years later. Poché wrote the diary in French (so it could not be read by the confederates if found?). The diary was translated and published into this book: