Monday, December 21, 2015

Atchafalaya Basin Oil & Gas Exploration 2015 - Ain’t like it used to be

Inland offshore  Drilling Rig 

in  the  

Bayou Pigeon _Grand Lake vector 

On Dec. 18, 2015 after 40 years of ban,  the U.S. Congress  lifted the U.S. Oil Export ban.  U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, said, “Lifting the ban will create thousands of jobs here in Louisiana and nearly 1 million jobs nationwide, while lowering prices at the pump and strengthening our national security.

This  could be a real boom  for all of  South Louisiana. but  more importantly the  levee communities  on the Atchafalaya  Basin eg., Bayou Pigeon, Belle  River, Pierre Part and especially  Morgan city.

How? Why ?

“Rising from the Ashes”

New overseas demand  may make it economic feasible  for the  deeper drilling of old oil & gas  fields. With a history of over 65 years of production, there are many old oil fields in the  Atchafalaya where the deep oil and gas potential  has not been adequately  tested. The deeper production is far better than from the original shallow wells, . 

With this news in mind, I thought I would share with ya'll  a pictorial essay on  just  such one of these wells. At the time of this drilling I did not realize this was  one those “Rising from the Ashes”oil fields. Note that deep drilling has  some safety issues to deal  with, ie., poisonous   sulfide gas  and  high pressures.

These  rigs  are towering structures !

Most folks remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP oil spill, the BP oil disaster, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the Macondo blowout) which  began on 20 April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-owned Transocean-operated Macondo Prospec. Part of the problem  was the  Blowout Preventers.  In case you have never  seen a blowout preventer the above pictures is of the blowout preventers on this well.

Drilling in the Atchafalaya  Basin has gotten a lot more complicated  because it is a National  Heritage Area and covered  by  Federal 'Wetlands'  Rules and regulations.   Technology has made  drilling a lot safer.  More  drilling should require  more support services and   jobs  for our communities.  Let's  do it safely and environmental sound.

Enjoy !

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Full Steam Ahead

Steamboats, Shipwrecks and the Bayou Pigeon

A while ago, Mr. Felix Berthelot (maybe the oldest living source of Bayou Pigeon History)  and  I were talking a little Bayou Pigeon  history,  I had my usual  questions on something that interested  me.  During the course of our conversation, he mentioned to me  a story about his neighbor, Zach Miller. 

Zach is a young guy that moved to Bayou Pigeon recently and he has a hobby of looking for and salvaging Sinker Cypress logs. Mr. Felix mentioned that Zach found a shipwreck somewhere ‘Down Below’ in old Grand Lake. 

I said, really a shipwreck!  You know, In God We Trust, All Others Bring Pictures!  One  conversation led to another ...

Which brings us to this story, “Full Steam Ahead”.  I picked up Rick Phillips and we went over to visit Zack. Sure enough, he had proof, he had stuff.  He did find an old abandoned shipwreck not that far away from what would be considered the Bayou Pigeon / Grand Lake vector.

Zach is an accomplished diver and uses scuba gear to find logs.  You can imagine he finds lots of stuff, some of it alive, when he is feeling around in murky muddy water where visibility is a few inches and you really do not see anything.

Needless to say this real life stuff got my attention; I enjoy learning about all things historic, and especially anything Bayou Pigeon, LA.   

Thus, I went back to my Bayou Pigeon  book research  data looking  for a  Corp Of Engineer's report on shipwrecks  in the Lower Atchafalaya Basin.  Research that I did not pay much  attention to  it when I first looked  at  it in 2011.  After-all, certainly there is no one alive today that can remember steam boats traveling through Pigeon.  

The only shipwreck I knew about  was the  Pogy Boat near Big Pigeon on Grand Lake... just kidding...L.O.L.  A lot of sunken  houseboats, yes, but  no shipwrecks... L.O.L. Again.

'The Ghosts of the past speaks to those that listen'

These two reports corroborates there was lot more steamboat trade the Lower Atchafalaya Basin than anyone  I know, thought.  I guess, I just thought of steamboats being on the Mississippi River passing and stopping by the big plantations.  These reports contain lots of  Information for anyone who wants to understand our history.  I recommend  them to all our history buffs out there.

The data I present below came mostly  from these two reports.

The information above is just a sample of steamboats  running the Lower Atchafalaya. 

Steamboats appeared in the Atchafalaya Basin by 1819. Traffic from New Orleans to the west side  of the Atchafalaya i.e., the Teche corridor and Opelousas, La. was heavy enough by 1827 for the new  State of  Louisiana to fund efforts to clear Bayou Sorrel and Lake Chicot  of driftwood / log rafts for  fast navigation. The first steamboats typically carried equipment and supplies from New Orleans into the sugar cane plantations in the Teche area and agricultural products out of it, or livestock across it. 

Most of the steamboat travel was from New Orleans to Opelousas / Washington, La.  and the river cities along the southern Bayou Teche, i.e., Morgan City, Patterson, St Martinville, etc.  

In 1860 there were recorded 93 steam packets operating in the Bayou Courtableau trade, and 94 in the Bayou Teche corridor.

My review of the reports yielded that there were basically 4 main routes used by Steam Boats across the Lower Atchafalaya Basin / Swamp.  

 All four of these routes went up the Mississippi to Bayou Plaquemine.  Thus the importance of Bayou Plaquemine as the main connecting artery from the New Orleans / Mississippi River to the Attakapas / Teche region is duly noted and celebrated every year with the International Acadian Festival in Plaquemine, LA.

1. Northern route - From  Bayou Plaquemine confluence with Mississippi River "follow Bayou Plaquemine past the confluence with Bayou Grosse Tete  to the Bayou Plaquemine - Grand  River (Jack Millers landing) confluence and then north on Upper Grand River, to the Atchafalaya River, and then to Bayou Courtableau to  the Bayou Teche at Port Barre – Opelousas – Washington, LA area (Gibson 1982:110-111) .  Often Upper Grand River chokes up with log rafts and debris. 

2. Middle route – When upper Grand River jammed up, a route  through Bayou Sorrel, Lake Chicot, Bayou Chene, and Bayou La Rompe to the upper Atchafalaya River Castille et al.1989:38) and then on the Port Barre – Opelousas – Washington LA  area.   Also this route could turn South at Lake Chicot go down and across Grand Lake to the Lower Atchafalaya River and on into Southern Bayou Teche near present-day Patterson. 

3. The Southern route - Accessed Bayou Teche via Lower Grand River, i.e., from the Grand River / Bayou Plaquemine (Jack millers landing) confluence southward past the Bayou Pigeon _ Grand River confluence to Bayou Long then to enter the Teche near Morgan City. 

All of the above routes were subject to become choked by log / driftwood rafts, forcing boat captains to shift to alternate routes.  

4. The Bayou Pigeon Route - Lower Grand River to Bayou Pigeon to Grand Lake entering into the middle of Grand Lake.   Where from there the steamboats could go both north to Port Barre / Opelousas or south across the lake to Patterson, LA. This route had been listed as an alternate route by some historians', however research from the Bayou Pigeon, LA. Spirit of the Atchafalaya book suggests that it may have been more than an alternate route and frequently used by steamboats hauling supplies.

Did you know there are 295 recorded shipwrecks in the lower Atchafalaya River Basin?  The tables of data  from the reports  mentioned  above, summarizes  the data  several different ways. 

Causes for ship wrecks In the  Atchafalaya Basin -  

Snag - a tree or part of a tree held fast in the bottom of a river, lake, etc. and forming an impediment or danger to navigation. 

Snagged - often in reference to steamboats caught on branches and stumps lodged in riverbeds. 

Most of the wrecks were boats caught on a snag.  One can easily imagine the paddle wheel becoming entangled with sunken logs and wrecking the paddle.

We found at least two wrecks listed that occurred on the Bayou Pigeon itself.

1842 - The wreck of the Panola 

 The wreck of the Panola just might connect some dots  for us  At Bayou Pigeon !  The Panola was engaged primarily in trade with the Washington and Opelousas area.   

What might have been  the reason the Panola was in Bayou Pigeon, in 1842?   Hmmm!

It just  so happens  that the first landowner at Bayou Pigeon, W. S. Maxwell and Susan Verami were from Opelousas.  We have evidence documenting Susan Verami at Bayou Pigeon in 1843.   See Page 73 in Bayou Pigeon Book. 

How did she (Susan Verami) get there?  Could the Panola have been bringing supplies  to build the George Mitchelltree Plantation? 

Susan Verami on  Susans Point  c 1850

1850 – Steamboat - Grey Eagle 

The steamboat Grey Eagle sank on Grand River, near Bayou Pigeon, carrying a heavy load of sugar, again maybe from the sugar plantations s of Bayou Pigeon., The Mitcheltree Plantation made 30,000 pounds of sugar in 1850.

1860 - River travel Bayou Pigeon - page 83 

We show some partial excerpts of letters from the Grace Family history, Ms Camilla Elizabeth Laughlin that corroborates the Steam Boat travel on Bayou Pigeon and the logic that the Bayou Pigeon route may have been traveled more frequently than thought.

It took lots of resources to build & maintain the 4 sugar cane plantations on Bayou Pigeon. It would have taken many trips  for all the resources needed. The letter of Elizabeth Laughlin Grace confirms that  the steamboat travel through Bayou Pigeon  every two weeks seems to confirm that Bayou Pigeon was more than just an alternate route.  Once again Bayou Pigeon demonstrates it is an overlooked part of Iberville Parish history.

The Civil War - 1864 - the USS Carabasset Steam powered Gunboat

During the Civil War, Lower Grand River / Bayou Pigeon area was patrolled frequently by steam powered gunboats.  Grand River was the western defense perimeter of  The Lafourche district of the Union command.

Capt. Jesse Miller arresting Confederate irregular at George Mitchelltree Plantation on Bayou Pigeon, see page 90 in the Bayou Pigeon book

1865 - E.H. Barmore

The steamboat E H Barmore, carrying cargo on Bayou Pigeon sank on April 1, 1865, after hitting a snag in the bayou.

The Civil War essentially ended commercial agriculture in the lower Grand River / Bayou Pigeon Region and greatly reduced the travel of steamboats in the area.  It would take the next  era of Bayou Pigeon history to bring back the steamboat, ie, Industrial Cypress  Logging. 

The Sewanee – 1906 – 1914 

The Sewanee was a wooden hulled, steam powered, sternwheel towboat built in 1904 at Patterson, Louisiana. Her hull measured 116 by 25 by 3.2 feet draft.

She was originally owned by the F. B. Williams Cypress Company of Patterson, Louisiana, and later by R. D. McKneely of Morgan City, Louisiana. 

The Sewanee towed the timber booms from the F.B. Williams Timber Camp that operated at Bayou Pigeon / Grand River from 1906 – 1914.  The boat burned at Patterson, Louisiana, on November 18, 

The Sewanee was a weekly traveler to  Bayou Pigeon for 8 years  1906 - 1914  for the F.B. Williams’s timber camp.  See Chapter 8 in the Bayou Pigeon book.  

Shown above pulling a log boom at Bayou Pigeon / Grand River.

The Carrie B Schwing – 1927  

It is highly probable that the last Steamboat at Bayou Pigeon was the Carrie B Schwing in 1927. Mr. Edmond Berthelot personally told me that in 1927 a “pin wheel” boat came and evacuated the residents of Bayou Pigeon during the Great Flood of 1927. The animals rode on the bottom deck and the people on the upper deck.

The Great Flood of 1927 at Bayou Pigeon and the Carrie B Schwing by Stan Routh

Mr. Wildy Templet Cajun Historian from Pierre Part  built this  model of the Carrie B Schwing

Worth Noting! 

This story of Steam Boats at Bayou Pigeon… documents that economically and culturally Bayou Pigeon has played a significant role in the history of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area and Iberville Parish since 1842.  Steam boats were a large part of that history.  

This is an era that is long gone and could be easily forgotten without our Bayou Pigeon book and stories like these.  

Thus was our purpose  for writing about it…Inherit the Atchafalaya and pass on the culture, history and heritage to our  children and descendants of  Bayou Pigeon folks.

Think about another thing…how many unique things  Bayou Pigeon Has to offer  Visitors...

An interpretative / educational  type center documenting the long Bayou Pigeon history and its connection to the Atchafalaya National Heritage area, Iberville Parish could be a great investment attraction for tourist and international visitors.

Enjoy !


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Catfishing's Secret Weapon _ Catch More Fish

I believe it is unquestionably good to preserve the Folk life / Culture of  Bayou Pigeon. 

Thus I post this story… enjoy !

In Chapter 16 of the Bayou  Pigeon book, page 358 we have a  chapter on Commercial fishing and we discuss Hook and Line (trot line) fishing.   Where as we describe  that in the 1930’s and  40’s  most of  commercial fishermen at Bayou Pigeon  started as a hook and line fisherman  and then most  moved up to Hoop Net fishing. 

To keep big Cat’s from twisting themselves off a trot line, requires  a metal swivel  from  the staging to the main line…

Everyone knows that, well did you know… 

Huey Perera, of Bayou Pigeon,  lived the first part of his life with one foot on a boat and one foot in the water.  His early life was on a camp boat  in the Little Bayou Pigeon/Keel Boat pass  area of Grand Lake with his father, Aldoras Perera  and brothers & sisters.  His mother died when he was 5 years old in 1943.

Aldoras Perera  made his early living  by hook and line fishing from their camp boat in the swamp, with Huey at his side. It was not until 1954  that  the Perera's moved their Camp boat  permanently to Bayou Pigeon, one  of the last families to abandon to the heart of the Swamp. Huey married  Annie Michel and he has raised his family there.

It was the  research for Chapter  16 where I first learned of the homemade  trot line swivel. Researching, the book  I had talked with as many old fishermen  from Pigeon as I could about Hook and Line fishing. Thus, this is where Huey Perera  fits in in this story.

Big catfish  are known  for twisting themselves off  a trot line staging.  Thus  to put more fish in the boat, required the use of a swivel.  Most fishermen of the 1930’s and 40’s did not have the money nor could they find a manufactured swivel.

Keeping with the Spirit of  the Atchafalaya  Swamper,  to overcome, adapt and  improvise as needed,  the fishermen made their own swivels  out  of a  wire and nail.  After some internet research, I managed to find a picture of one these homemade swivels  on Jim Delahoussaye's  “River Logue’ blog.   Jim is a accomplished  outdoor writer and Naturalist.  I consider him to be one of a few legitimate Subject Matter  Experts on Atchafalaya Basin folk life, Wildlife and Fisheries, Flora and Fauna. I had never seen one these homemade trot line swivels before this, anywhere, until I discovered his blog.

Example of Homemade Line Swivel, source Jim Delahoussaye, Atchafalaya Riverlogue, blog

I happen  to mentioned the homemade swivel to Huey  when I was interviewing him about  living on a  camp boat in the Swamp.  He, to my surprise stated that his dad taught him how to make those swivels and they used them on their  trot lines, all the time. Huey was the only one  from Pigeon to ever mention the homemade swivel. He tried to explain to me how you made one , but I could not picture twisting the wire in my mind.

Sometime after the Bayou Pigeon book was published,  I ran into Huey at the store in Pigeon and mentioned to him that Mr. Delahoussaye had actually given me one those homemade trot line swivels.  I thought  it was really innovative.  It was then that he casually mentioned he still had the pliers that his father modified to make those swivels.  I said , Oh yea ! Can you make one?

 In God We Trust All Others Show me Pictures!  

One thing led to another and I found myself at Huey’s house for him to show me. A visit to Huey's  house quickly reveals  that his shop looks  like a retirement home  for vintage outboard motors. He is well known shade tree mechanic, he taught himself outboard motor repair and other mechanical  tool skills  of the swamp out of necessity.  There  were no repair shops, supply stores on Grand Lake. If you were to survive you had to improvise.

Sure enough, he made a couple of those swivels, right in front of me…

I am impressed…here are the pictures ?

The "folk" are the bearers of the folk life traditions,  when the human thread is lost, the  art/ technique / tradition invariably fades away.  Huey please tell us you have passed on this art to someone !

Where are the pliers?

A Retirement Home For Old Outboard Motors

The red motor is a 1940’s 4 H.P.  Royal Outboard Motor. Huey says this is the motor  that he used to push their Camp Boat  from Keel Boat Pass  to Pigeon in 1955.  He also has a 1949 7.5 hp Mercury … and he says they are both in working order…  

The 4 hp Royal was obtained from Roger Combel !  

The same Roger Combel who  hunted ducks on what would come to be known as 'Rogers Cove" (page 659 in the book) 

You never know what you will learn when you interview someone… There are always connections to the stories we learn about Bayou Pigeon… e.g.., Co author - Adam Landry, his father Wilbrod (Kaline) Landry [pronounced with more of a  C than  K to me, but I am a non French speaker, i.e.., ‘Carline’,]  was a mentor to Roger Combel about the  ways  of the  Atchafalaya and  who took him  to a secret Cove in the bed of old Grand lake and that would eventually be named  for him.  He probably used that 4 HP royal to get there!

Preserve the Heritage !

Saturday, July 4, 2015

1940 US Census LA., _ Iberville Parish , Police Jury Ward 8 Outside Plaquemine town

1940 US  Census:

U.S. Census  records  are  included in the Bayou Pigeon book, but stop at 1930. That is, because when the Bayou Pigeon book was published the  US Census data was only public up to 1930.  Census records are created every decade by the federal government in order to determine the number of delegates each state may send to the U S  Congress. Due to the sensitive nature of census information, the U.S. adopted a 72-year privacy rule (other countries use a 100-year restriction).

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census was conducted using an official  census date of April 1, 1940. Therefore all census data specific to an individual was restricted until April 1, 2012.  Once the 72-year privacy restriction is met, population schedules are released to the National Archives and Records Administration.

The 1940 US census has been available for  about 2 years now and I have spent some time researching it.

I believe the 1940 census is important  to Bayou Pigeon, because in 1940 Pigeon was a pure unadulterated Cajun  Fishing community, not influenced by outsiders and modern society. The cultural / folklife traditions  that the authors of the Bayou Pigeon Book are trying to document and preserve  were  at their peak.  After WWII  the French / Cajun Culture & folklife began  to be Americanized

1940 census is also personal to me  because my wife’s paternal  and maternal side of her family ( the Solar's 1933_ Gaudet's 1936) came  to Bayou Pigeon.  And this  is the first official recording  of their move to Pigeon and I wanted to document that..

A word about Cajun names in the Census records;

I had to search awhile  to find  the  Solar’s in the actual census records, because their names were misspelled.  I have determined  that was quite  common  at  / for the Bayou Pigeon census.  Not that the names  from Pigeon, should be that hard to spell, but because of our Cajun French language and the way pure Cajuns pronounce names, they were frequently misunderstood and therefore misspelled by  the census takers who did  not speak French and thus did not understand what  the people were saying.  For example  Solar,  you would think   that should be easy… but in the old  days when my Mother in  Law  would pronounce it;  it sounded like ‘So_laa” , which I suppose  would  sound like  ‘Saurage’  to an Anglo, which was the way it was spelled in the 1940 census record. 

Another example, Mr. Felician Berthelot,  the English version would be Felix. But that is not close to how  the old  folks at Pigeon say it  'fa les e ain.'

If you have an interest , I have tried to provide this data in high resolution, so you can enlarge  and read the actual index page. I know a lot of folks may not be interested  if they cannot read the names easy.

But to me  looking at the actual census index page gives the reader a real sense… yes that is my Grandparents  and Parents.  They are gone, but I feel like I can still touch them !

Keep in mind, 

The census workers worked there way  down Hwy 75  from Plaquemine house to house, so the order of the families  that were recorded does provide  some indication of who lived next to who and where eg., it is easy to determine someone who lived at  Indigo Bayou… because well known,   several  families were known to live there  and only there, ie., the Blanchard's,  almost the entire family lived within eyesight of each other at Indigo,  thus if you lived close to the Blanchard's you must have  lived at  Indigo at one time..

Example, Diane’s (my wife) maternal side of the family, The Gaudet’s are listed right next to the Blanchard's.  Corroborating that the Gaudet’s lived at Indigo  at one time. Whereas most people remember them only living above the current Grand River_/ Pigeon bridge, where the Gaudet store  was located.

If you have access to and want to look  up the information yourself.The actual census records are under...1940_ LA. -Iberville Parish _Police Jury Ward 8_ outside Plaquemine town_ Crescent  Enumeration District 24-21_ pages  #49  - 60  

For those interested … and do not have time or access to 

The 1940 US Census recorded approximately 100 Heads of Household and 390 souls at Bayou Pigeon.

Page 49

I start My Census review On Page 49( below),  I find two names, I can recognize, Orillion Berthelot and Alger Simoneaux.  I surmise  that Mr. Orillion Berthelot (house number 474) and Alger  Simoneaux,  house number  480, lived somewhere between the Bayou Sorrel Lock and  Bayou Choctaw.

Can any one help explain  and / or verify where they might have been located  by these numbers… they are 6 numbers apart.

Page 50

On Page 50, I pick up names of  Bayou Pigeon I can recognize,  Mr. Claiborne Landry, in house # 487.  Now assume  that Mr. Claiborne was living at his  farm  at Choctaw and Grand River.   That would put Mr. Orillion Berthelot and Alger Simoneaux  above  that residence, since they were at 374 and  480 .  

Earnest Hebert at #488.  I am told  That Earnest Hebert  and family lived  just above where the current Hwy 75 Bayou Pigeon fire station is located now.

Note  all the people from line 44 to 72, have occupations  other than fishing.  I wonder where this group  was  actually located.  Anyone got  any clues ? I think they were located between the  Bayou Sorrel Locks and Choctaw Bayou.

All interesting questions ?

Page 51

On Page 51, all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families, most long time residents can recognize.  The order seems to match where people remembering everyone living.

However, there is one  family with surname of  Case.  Is this  family related to Case  family  we know of in Plaquemine?

Page 52

Note  Line 42, the first entry is actually Mr. Clement Landry, the Census  taker recorded it Claymore Landry.  The Pigeon pronunciation s would have sounded 'Clay_Mon' to an  Anglo.The census taker at the time was  a Mr Warren Hebert from Plaquemine.  It seems to me with a name like Hebert, he would have got ' Clement' right.  L.O.L. 

Page 53

On Page 53, all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families. The order seems to match where people remembering everyone living.  On the very last entry the census recorder , Mr. Warren Hebert was confused he listed Clement Landry  a second time, what / who he really meant was Leo Landry.

Page 54

On Page 54, all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families. The order seems to match where people remembering everyone living. The Census taker must have left the Pigeon area and went back to Plaquemine or White Castle, the last two names are Black people. 

Page 58

Pages 55 - 58 of the census is of another area, the Census  recorder returns to the Bayou Pigeon part of the 1940 census picks back up on page 58.  Bayou Pigeon Families start again on line 49. 

The last line# 80 we go toward Indigo Bayou…  How do i know that?  Because that’s the listing is Mr. Archie Settoon... everyone knows he lived half way from current bridge and Indigo Bayou. You see… you can connects the dots…it all makes sense   

Page 59

On Page 59, we are the Indigo Bayou area, eg., the Blanchard's , and the Gaudet's and others. My mother in law, Ms Beulah Gaudet Solar, 92 years young is on line 37. 

Page 60

On Page 60, we are still the Indigo Bayou area, eg., the first name on the list is a carry over from page 59 Ms. Shirley Gaudet, who recently passed this year. She was the pillar of the Gaudet store. This is where the Solar family name is misspelled, line 42. It is Solar, not Saurage, how could the census taker mess up that bad, maybe old Man Casamire and his wife Lucy did not talk any English. 
The census taker must have left Indigo Bayou and went to across Grand river at the confluence with little Bayou Pigeon. The last two names on the page are Devillier Daigle and Evelyn Vaughn, who were know to live near Ms. Clementine Michel. 

Page 61

On Page 61, the census taker is still on the west side Grand River going in order toward the current Bayou Pigeon bridge. By recognizing the sequence of recording you can connect the dots on where people lived. Line # 26 is Mr. Felix Berthelot 14 years old.

Page 62

On Page 62, The Bayou Pigeon Census ends. The census taker is still on the west side Grand River, and he butchers more names.  I am not quite sure of who some of the names are.  If anyone can figure our  who is talking about on lines 57 to 60, please let me know. 

The last name on that page must not be from Pigeon, because the occupation is listed as a farmer.

Preserve the Heritage !