Dauphin Island, Alabama

Day 974

     We drove to the barrier island off the coast of Alabama. The south side of the island faces the Gulf of Mexico, and the north side, Mobile Bay.

     Madoc Gwynedd, born 1150 in Dolwyddelan Castle, Conwy County Borough in North Wales, was a Welsh navigator who came to this Island in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus’s voyage in 1492. He was a Welsh prince escaping the conflicts in his home country. (This obviously debunks the theory that people thought the world was flat.)

     In 1519, the explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda, born 1494 in Spain, was the first documented European to visit, staying only long enough to map the island.

     The French arrived on January 31, 1699, when the explorer Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, one of the founders of French Louisiana, arrived at Mobile Bay and anchored here on his way to explore the mouth of the Mississippi River. D’Iberville named the island “Massacre Island” because of a large pile of human skeletons he discovered here. The gruesome site turned out to be a simple indian burial mound which had been broken open by a hurricane, not a massacre site. 

     The island’s name was changed in 1712 (probably because it dampened tourism) to Dauphin, in honor of the eldest son of the King of France, who was the Dauphin of France (dauphin was the title given to the heir apparent to the throne of France). The city was incorporated in 1988.

      The island is a thin strip of land, 17 miles long, by a few feet to a mile and a half wide, which explains their thin houses.

     The main attraction of the island is Fort Gaines. I wanted to visit the fort as it is across the bay from Fort Monroe, which I blogged about on Day 322.

     Construction of Fort Gaines was begun in 1853. Congress named the fortification for General Edmund Pendleton Gaines who had died in 1849. While still a young officer, Gaines received national recognition when he led the detachment which captured former Vice-President Aaron Burr, who had been accused of participating in a conspiracy to commit treason. Burr was found not guilty. (So, how many of you were thinking Benedict Arnold, when I am saying Aaron Burr?) Burr shot his political rival, Alexander Hamilton, in a duel on July 12, 1804, ending his political career, not to mention Hamilton’s.

     During the Civil War, Mobile Bay was a strategic location because it controlled the junction of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

     The primary contribution of the Confederate Army to the defense of Mobile Bay were three forts. Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines at the entrance to the bay. In addition, they set up Fort Powell, which no longer is in existence. 

     The Battle of Mobile Bay took place on August 5, 1864. The Union fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, attacked the Confederate fleet and the three forts that guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay, which had been heavily mined by the Confederates (mines at that time were known as torpedoes). Rear Farragut is noted for his exclamation: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

     If you have been following my Civil War Battles on these posts, then you know the Civil War actually ended in Alabama (and for those not following, you probably thought it ended in Virginia). See Day 324.

Technical Stuff: Convent, Louisiana to Mobile, Alabama: 207.7 miles

4 hours 55 minutes

10.7 MPG

Diesel: $2.80

Abita Spring Brewery, Abita Springs, La

Day 971

     Jim Patton, born February 24, 1953, was a cultural anthropologist (a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans) and craft beer brewer. Considered one of the pioneers in the craft beer brewing industry, in 1986 he founded the Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs, Louisiana, which we visited. 

     The company brews its beer with water from the artesian wells in Abita Springs (see Day  874). An artesian aquifer is trapped water, surrounded by layers of impermeable rock which apply positive pressure to the water contained within the aquifer. A well sunk into an this aquifer would cause the water to rise to a height where hydrostatic equilibrium is reached. This is supposed to be the purist of water (no fish poop).

     Tidbit of Information: Artesian wells were named after the province of Artois in France, where many artesian wells were drilled by Carthusian monks from 1126.

     Some of us were not wearing proper footwear and therefore had to wear these blue booties. 

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.