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.

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: 

Life on the Mississippi River – Part One

Day 954

     Because of the recent heavy rains, we again walked the levee of the Mississippi River across from our campground. The river is 12 feet above it’s normal level. Controlled by 3 gates, this dumpster would normally be on dry land.

     In the early 1900’s this portion of the river was the slowest and most shallow, because of the bend in the river at this point. I was surprised that the Mississippi was not a straight river, as it appears on maps. Actually, it winds around and around. Here, at Convent, you could walk across the mile wide river. At that time a rope was strung across the river and for 1 cent you and your horse could walk from shore to shore. 25 cents if you had a wagon. 

     Plantations grew up along River Road, which provided transport to Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Today, you see a plantation, then a factory, a plantation, then a factory. These are no small factories, covering 30 acres or more. Next to the plantation we are staying is a fertilizer factory. After the next plantation is a coal shipping factory. Coal is brought in by trains and transferred to barges. 

     If there are 2 houses together and a church, that is a town. Convent is the Parish Seat because there are 4 houses, a church, and a courthouse. 

     Fact, fiction, or plain bull crap. You never really know. We have now traveled around the Country for 954 days. I document in this Blog where we have been, what we have done, and the history of places we stayed and visited. I rely on the local townspeople to supply this information. 

     We are staying for the month of May at Poché Plantation in Convent, Louisiana. I retold the history of Judge Poché and the Plantation House and grounds as told to us by the campground manager, who was our tour guide. 

     Today, we took another tour of the Plantation House, this time our guide was the owner and lifelong resident on the Mississippi River, Mark Anderson. His family has grown sugar cane here for generations

     Mark, himself is an amazing guy. At a young age he invented and patented a mold for making cement pathways that he sold for a profit. He owned over 28 local newspapers around the country, which he ultimately sold. He is a national foosball champion. He owned a string of muffler shops. He has developed a number of RV parks, and owns several historic buildings that he is renovating for public display. On April 29, 2013 he won $70,000 (after taxes) in the Louisiana Scratch-off lottery. 

     He originally went to the auction of the Poché Plantation House to buy a rug for his RV. They auctioned off all the contents of the house, and moved on to the house itself. No one put in a bid, the price kept dropping until Anderson said it was a steal. 

     In giving us a tour of the house he told us what I suspected in tours of other mansions we have seen. On Day 946 our tour guide told us since the contents were auctioned off prior to the sale to Anderson, he acquired furnishings for the house from the same era, 1800’s. Anderson informed us every single item in the house he got at an auction, cheap sale, or donation. For example, this chandelier in the dining room he saw for sale for $85,000, but he bought this one on e-bay for less then $10.00.

     This cabinet he purchased at an auction after Katrina for $200.00, which was an amazing price for this beautiful artwork. A short time afterwards the police arrived looking for items stolen from houses after the storm. Evidently they were not able to confirm if it in fact was stolen. 

     He acquired beautiful red wood lumber from Brazil that came to the US, but the entry fee was not paid. He got a good deal and then had craftsman David Oubre make this tester bed. 

     You might ask, why is there a cross on the bed? The answer is, to cover a hole in the covering. 

     He informed us some of the rugs in the house he purchased on QVC. A short time after he restored this property, he had a party for those in the area to put together the history of the Plantation. He found that the stories he was making up were far more interesting. 


Donaldsonville, Louisiana

Day 948

     Across from where we are camping, on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, is Donaldsonville. In 1806, William Donaldson subdivided a farm which he owned, and platted the city which would adopt his name. The Louisiana legislature incorporated the city on March 25, 1813. For a short period, January 1829 to January 1831, Donaldsonville was the Capital of Louisiana. 

     Strolled through the “historic district”. While there were some unique buildings.

     Most were just old and run down.

     I guess “historic” means “dilapidated”.