Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Another Look At The Sugar Plantations Of Bayou Pigeon, LA.

Antebellum  Era - Sugar Cane Plantations at  the  confluence of  Little Bayou  Pigeon  and  Grand  River 

In Chapter 5 of the Bayou  Pigeon book you read  that there  were  working Sugar Plantations at Bayou Pigeon prior to the Civil War. Real people lived and worked there.  These folks  relatively speaking were wealthy people for the times, records indicate  they built  Sugar Plantations,  built homes   and owned black slaves.  

The  map  below provides the  Physical property  records  of the sugar-growing plantations in T 11 S, R 11 E near Little Bayou Pigeon and Grand River.

1859 Map of the Parishes of Pointc Coupee, West Baton Rouge, and Iberville, Including Parts of the Parishes of St. Martin and Ascension, Louisiana. Sarony, Major, and Knapp, New York.

There were four working Sugar Plantation’s,  at the  confluence of  Bayou  Pigeon  and  Grand River.

The  Justillien Michel plantation, George Mitchelltree Plantation, Laughlin, Down  Home Plantation, George Bollinger, Plantation 

The  map  provide the property details of the sugar-growing plantations in T11 S, R11 E near Little Bayou Pigeon and Grand River.

Only Known Photographs of the old plantation  homes of  the Antebellum period at Grand River / Little Bayou Pigeon including the Palfrey Plantation Home  below  Pumpkin point  on Grand  River.

The  Riggs  Family of  New  Iberia

The  Riggs Family of  New Iberia was  connected to all the  first Planters at  Bayou  Pigeon  / Grand  River.

Mary Reynolds  Riggs the wife  of  Eli Riggs inherited property he had purchased in Iberville Parish on Little Bayou Pigeon,  when  Eli Passed.

A John Mitcheltree was married to Elizabeth Riggs, daughter of  Eli Riggs and Mary Reynolds Riggs.

John and Elizabeth Riggs Mitchelltree and  Mary  Riggs,  another daughter of  Eli  Riggs and her husband Granville Clifford Laughlin   inherited from  Mary Reynolds  Riggs the wife  of  Eli Riggs his property in Iberville Parish on Little Bayou Pigeon, when she passed.

They split the property, Grandville Clifford Laughlin taking the property on the east side of Grand River at Little Bayou Pigeon confluence and John Mitchelltree to the property on the west side.

John Mitchelltree died in 1850 and his brother George Mitchelltree  and his wife Matilda  bought his property in the succession.

G.C. Laughlin was the tract's sole proprietor of his tract prior to 1858.  After 1858 it was Laughlin  and  Nettleton.  When the Nettleton  came in is not known.  But it is known he was the overseer of Laughlin Tract.

Adjacent to and below George Mitcheltree on Grand River was the plantation of George Bollinger.

 Researching the US census of 1850, we verify that Jasper Gall, George Mitcheltree, and  john  Laughlin lived  at the confluence of Little Bayou Pigeon and Grand River.

George Mitchelltree real estate was valued at $2000.  That was a significant amount of money in 1850.

1850 US Census, La. Iberville Parish Ward 

Justillien  Michel Plantation  -

Justillien Michel purchased his property  from Jasper Gall,  who was married to Frances Riggs, another daughter of  Eli Riggs, c 1858. There is no known Documentation of Justillen   Michel building  a  Plantation  house  on his farm.

The George Mitchelltree Plantation  and  Home

The  Civil war essentially  destroyed the plantations  at Bayou  Pigeon  / Grand River.  Union  soldiers  destroyed the crops , seed and farm equipment.

Mathilda  Mitchelltree  died in 1866 and George Mitchelltree  died in 1868. There adopted children, Henry Dale and  Ann Blockley inherited the property.  The Black slaves  had left the swamp and by 1870  the plantation houses  at Bayou pigeon were basically abandoned.

Court  Document Sheriff's  sale of  Mitchelltree  Property in  1875 

Official transcript  of sheriff’s sale of  the George Mitcheltree Plantation for failure to pay property taxes. This property was inherited by the adopted child  Ann Blockley or Boschle in 1866-1868 and obviously  she was unable to pay the property taxes.

This is the only known record of what building and structures were on the Mitcheltree property during the era of the sugar plantations.

Note the location of the graveyard, main dwelling and the sugar house. The cemetery was probably destroyed in the construction of the modern Atchafalaya Floodway East Protection Levee.

Stan Routh illustration  of the George Mitcheltree 
and Laughlin & Nettleton Plantations in 1859  

The Mitcheltree layout  is based  on written records from 1875 Iberville  Parish Sheriffs sale.  Since the property was  sold for lack of payment of property taxes, all non moveables went  with sale..

In 1895 Nestor Michel bought  parts of the old George Mitchelltree plantation from  F.B. Williams  Cypress. His purchase contained all the buildings and dwellings on the property which included the George Mitcheltree Plantation  house.

Iberville  Parish Court record 1895

The  house became the Nestor & Clementine House which was the most prominent dwelling in Bayou Pigeon at the time.

Nestor lived in this house with second wife Clementine Berthelot, until they divorced in 1924.

Justillen Michel, Nestor's  father lived there  with Nestor and Clementine.

Clementine lived in the home until her death in 1947. The house was demolished sometime after her death in 1947.

The picture above  shows the Mitcheltree / Michel Plantation house in the background.

This is the only known  picture of the house. Ms. Florence Vaughn Dupre in the foreground circa 1940’s.

Ms. Joyce Percle daughter  of Adeia  Michel Percle, youngest daughter of  Nestor and Clementine and Mr. Dealis Vaughn youngest son  of Sidney Vaughn described the interior of the house.  The house  was torn down by Paul  Michel / Sidney Vaughn in 1949 .  The  sketch  below provides the layout  of the house  as they remember it in 1947 / 48  time frame.

Google Earth  Satellite  view of  Modern  day location of Susans  Point

Down Home Plantation  - Laughlin Family

Mary  Riggs and husband Granville Clifford Laughlin   inherited  the plantation  as  described above.

Granville Clifford Laughlin  passed in 1859. The Laughlin's hired Thomas Edmond Grace, a lawyer from Plaquemine to handle the succession.  Elizabeth Laughlin, called Lizze, age 19, caught the eye of the young lawyer. Thomas sought and received permission to court Lizze from her mother. Their courtship was documented in a series of letters chronicled in the Grace Family history, by Joseph McDowell Campbell.  They were married at the  Down Home Plantation… see below.

Mary  Riggs Laughlin was the great grandmother of  Mrs.  Lorraine  Dupont an Grand Dame of Plaquemine.

1860 Census Iberville Parish Ward 8 Bayou Pigeon 

Folks at the  confluence of Grand River and Bayou Pigeon starts at bottom of page with Mary Riggs Laughlin family,  page 60, line 98. George Mitcheltree Family, George Bollinger Family follow.

In the early 1870’s  The Laughlin's had abandoned the  Down Home Plantation William Hedges  bought the property.  William Hedges  lost the property  to debt.

Enter Anatole Berthelot & old  Laughlin Plantation

 Anatole acquired the  old Laughlin plantation in 1913, he purchased existing buildings  including the “Down Home”  Plantation house for $475.

Iberville  Court Document March 27, 1913

Anatole Berthelot house (the Down Home Plantation House) in the background. Circa 1930’s.  

J.C. Berthelot, grandson  of  Anatole Berthelot, J.C. at his Big  Communion, in the foreground.  

Modern  Location of  Down  Home Plantation  House

The George Bollinger Plantation

George Bollinger  established the fourth Sugar Plantation at the Grand River / Bayou Pigeon confluence. Not much is known about  Bollinger except that he did live at Grand River / Bayou Pigeon for at least 10 years (U.S. Census records) and produced  Sugar.

1860 US census  ward 8 Iberville Parish  

The Bollinger Plantation was  sold at  sheriff's sale several times and  was purchased by Nestor Michel  in 1917.  Nestor sold it to Henry Dugas, in 1929.

Leo  Landry of  Bayou Pigeon on porch of his  houseboat,  with His  spouse  and  gentleman  form Louisiana  Baptist mission.  The house in the background is  The  Bollinger Plantation  house.

 Sometime after 1929, Clebert Frioux son in law of  Anatole Berthelot  purchased a part old Bollinger plantation house

Clebert Frioux and Natalie Berthelot Frioux c  1910

The Palfrey Plantation Located  in Iberia  Parish, on  Grand  River

The Palfrey Plantation house was located ¾ miles north of Bayou Postillion on Grand River, approximately 2 miles south of the confluence of  Bayou Pigeon and Grand River,  south of Pumpkin  point.  Alcide  Clement moved his family to the property in the early 1900’s . .There, the family cultivated cotton, corn, raised hogs, chickens, geese ducks and cattle.  His family was self supporting,  they were known for  the beef, salt  pork, boudin, sausage, cracklings,  butter and milk  and periodically sold  and or bartered this with folks at  Little Bayou Pigeon . Even though located  in Iberia parish, it was synonymous with Bayou Pigeon.

Report of  Major Jesse Miller of the Union Army in 1864. 

Objective evidence of the Palfrey Plantation, and  location. The official Report of  Major Jesse Miller of the Union Army in 1864.

Alcide Clement  and Grand Dame Mary Matilda Morales  Clement

Alcide Clement  moves to the Palfrey Plantation

Alcide Clement does not appear in the 1920 US Census record in Bayou Pigeon.   Alcide  moved his family to the property once owned by Mr. Charles Palfrey in  Iberia Parish..  That  was approximately 2 miles south of the confluence of  Bayou Pigeon and Grand River in area known as Chopin Chute close to  Bayou Postillion.

There, the family cultivated cotton, corn, raised hogs, chickens, geese ducks and cattle.  His family was self supporting,  they were known for  the beef, salt  pork, boudin, sausage, cracklings,  butter and milk  and periodically sold  and or bartered this with folks at Bayou Pigeon Proper. 

 At that time the plantation was considered  a hamlet of  Bayou Pigeon.

Cliff  LeGrange  at the  Grand Dame Matilda Oaks July 2020

Grand Dame Matilda  Oaks  at  Palfrey  Plantation 

Grande Dame  Oaks
375 + years old 

Enjoy... The ghost of the past  are  speaking !

Friday, June 19, 2020

1922 - A Trip Down the Grand River, the Eastern Gateway of The Atchafalaya Basin

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album, LDL /  Louisiana State University /  LSU Libraries Special Collections. 

I recently became  aware of the Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album, LDL /  Louisiana State University /  LSU Libraries Special Collections.

The Joseph S. Tate photograph album (unbound) contains 103 black and white photographic prints mounted on paper, c 1920’s.  The  LDL  clearly states, it is not known whether Joseph S. Tate was the photographer, but it is known that the album was his property. The photographs  are listed  as circa 1920 with the understanding that the actual dates are not given.

These images includes scenic bayou images and  cypress lumbering images.  I have seen  some of these pictures in  this collection used in various  other publications / papers on the  internet.


All the images used in this paper are available on internet, and are used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107 in this writing.

Colonel Joseph S. Tate Bio:

Was born in Pennsylvania in 1894. A 1917 graduate of West Point, Tate was a field artillery officer who served in both World Wars. In 1950 he was appointed commanding officer of the Louisiana military district. Tate died in New Orleans, December 10, 1963.

Since he graduated from West Point in 1917 at the age of 23, the decade of the 1920s would be a possibility for his photos.

Reviewing the collection I quickly realized, that some these photographs  are images  from several locations on Lower Grand  River  from Bayou  Plaquemine  to Morgan City  (ie, Eastern Corridor  of the  Atchafalaya  Basin) and then they follow Bayou  Black  on to the  Houma, LA.  area.  The photographs  all have  similar  markings and lead one to believe they were  /  could have been taken on the  same trip.

These images are prior  to the  Atchafalaya Floodway being built. A  fact  that makes these photographs much more important , because they are the last photographs of this  specific  area before the U.S.  Corps of  Engineers  started manipulating  water  flow the Basin.

Eastern Corridor  of the  Atchafalaya  Basin

This  Eastern edge of the Atchafalaya  River Basin was  traveled north by  south by many famous early  Louisiana explorers.  William Darby, James Leander Cathcart, Mathew Carey  and Maxfield  Ludlow  to name a  few of the  early  explorers.
Bayou Plaquemine  served as the Gateway  to the  Basin, because  it was the first distributary  of the  Mississippi  river  northward from  New  Orleans to the interior  of the Atchafalaya Basin.

Although, Bayou  Lafourche shoots  off  from the Mississippi before  Bayou  Plaquemine  it does not lead directly into the interior of the  Atchafalaya.

Bayou  Plaquemine  has been  the Eastern Gateway to  the Atchafalaya  Basin  since  the late  1600's.

The  water route starts at the  Mississippi  River entrance into  Bayou  Plaquemine, where as Bayou Plaquemine  joins  upper grand river, south of that  confluence is known as  Lower  Grand river.  From there the  Grand River  flows past  Bayou  Sorrel and  Bayou Pigeon, into  Bay Natchez pass.   Where Little  Bayou  Göddell intersects  Bay Natchez the lower  Grand River  becomes known as  Big Bayou Göddell.  (Göddell is a  cajun shorten version of ‘Bayou  Go To  Hell from early  1800’s) .  Below  the intersection of  Old River  with Bayou  Göddell, the names changes  again to Belle River.  Where Bayou  Long insects Belle River, the name  changes  again to  Bayou Magazille which leads to 4 Mile bayou, to the north is  Lake  Verret  and to the south  through Grassy Lake  and  Lake  Palourde  to Berwick  Bay.   From there you can  access  Bayou Black to go east  to Houma  and  Thibodaux.

My theory about  some of the Tate  collection, is, that the photographer  of these photographs more than likely  followed  the water route  outlined in   the paragraph above in some type of large boat, ie. in one photograph  the caption says  ‘from the forward  deck”, leading you to believe he was not in pirogue or  bateau, but a larger boat..

To  support my theory, I viewed  the Tate Collection   photographs in a sequence using the base map  of the lands of the R. H. Downman Cypress interests.  Source: American Lumberman. "A Journey through the Vast Downman Cypress Interests with Camera and Pen", American Lumberman, Aug 5, 1905 pp.43-82. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1905.

This map of the red cypress territory of southeastern Louisiana was the  first ever produced in print.  At the time of its  first publication no government map was obtainable by the general public of which accurately portrays the water courses  of the  Atchafalaya  Basin. Heretofore no private enterprise had ever undertaken to make such a map for general circulation.  This base map is  from the  time period  1892 - 1919, making it even  more valuable because it is a map of the Basin  when it was a free flowing  waterway and the bayous  were not  altered by man.

This map will be found to be of great interest to  all . It was made Mr. Downman’s engineers and  timber cruisers.

A that time , the R. H. Downman cypress interests.  Consisted of the White castle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at White castle, La.; the Bowie Lumber Company, Limited, at Bowie, La.; the Jeanerette Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at Jeannette, La.; the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, at New Iberia, La., and the Des Allemands Lumber Company, Limited, at Allemands, La. These companies formed the largest operation in cypress manufacture and is considered among the six largest lumbering operations in the world, and as such any map put  together  by Downman Interest deserves special attention.

Swamp Lands Map by  Henry Dowman interest

Route of  Atchafalaya  River through the Basin

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album route of  selected  photographs 

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album route down Grand River Corridor 

Picture  1 - The Big  Store

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Jack  Miller's  store

How  do we know that this picture of ‘The Big Store’  is the  Jack Millers  store  at the confluence  of  Bayou  Plaquemine  and  Grand  River?

Illustration by  Stan  Routh

My research   came up  with  this illustration of  Jack  millers  store,  by Mr. Stan Routh, renowned  architect.

An exact match.

Picture 2  - Grand  River, LA.

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Grand  River, LA.

I grew  up at Bayou  Pigeon along  Grand River,  on it almost every day until  I was 18 years old. This  picture   could have  been taken anywhere   along  Lower  Grand  River from  Bayou Sorrel  to Bayou  Postillion, the cottonwood trees, wax myrtle  and swamp privet  scrub shrub very  similar to this picture.  Especially in the area  known  as  Punkin  Point / Chopin Chute .

Picture 3  - Bay  Natchez ?

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Bay Natchez- LA.

This picture   is somewhat of a mystery to me.  Bay  Natchez  would be south of Punkin  Point  a mile or two at most.  I know of no houses or  an area  that looks  like  this  in what is  known as Bay Natchez  today.  

Modern  USGS Grand  River, Bay  Natchez, Bayou Goddell area

It certainly looks like this picture could have  been along  old  Bayou  Pierre Part.  Was it mis-labeled by the photographer, maybe.  But it is in the  Tate  collection, same format as the other pictures.

Picture 4 - Petit (Little) Göddell, Originally  ‘Bayou Go  To Hell’ from  Civil war era … shorten over the years by the Cajuns

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Petit (Little) Göddell,

The photographer obviously was trying to capture something about the terrain , but the picture being  B&W, it may have lost  something that caught of the eye of the beholder or was  it the palmettos.  The description does say ‘from the forward deck’ , indicating the photographer  was  in a  large boat other than a bateau.

Picture 5 - Steamboat Owens  sunk in Big  Göddell, LA.

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Steamboat Owens  sunk  in the Big  Göddell…

This picture is most interesting, a steamboat in the Goddell! Rare  good photograph of a steamboat on the bayous of the Atchafalaya, outside of   the Carrie B Schwing and the F.B.  Williams Sewanee mostly what you see are drawings / illustrations. 
Note the handwritten spelling of Goddell in this picture and the one just before… obviously same handwriting but different spelling.  Double d’s and l’s is the way USGS  map spells it.

Can  we validate  this is the real steam boat 'Owens'.

Double stacks, looks like the same boat to me !

Picture 6  Belle River,  LA.

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Fishermans  Camp - Belle  River LA.

Without  any landmarks in the photograph it is impossible to determine exact location. Due  to the width and breath of Belle  River in this  photograph, I would say it somewhere  south of current day  Graveyard Island.

USGS MAP - Belle  River below  Graveyard Island - 1931

Note the 4 structures on the map, 10 years after the fact.

Picture  7 - Fisherman's  Camp Belle  River, LA.

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Fishermans  Camp - Belle  River LA.

Without  any landmarks in the photograph it is impossible to determine an  approximate location of Photograph  7.  However the same location as  picture 6  is likely, note the trees.

Picture 8 The  Camp - F.B.W. Cypress

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album  The Camp F.B.W. Cypress

This is the photograph that caught my most attention in the Tate  collection. The  Lana Laws Downing, Heaven & High Water, 2011, self published book  relates first hand   information  from her mother who was raised  in the  Williams Skidder camp on East  Lake Verrett. It is  of the exact time period 1922- 1928, of the  Tate  photograph  Collection.

It is hard to tell if this is Lake  Verret, but there are  subsequent  Tate  collection pictures that corroborate  that it is. 

USGS Map F.B.Williams  timber camp  Location

Picture 9 - Manhattan Elevated #151 in  Lumber Camp, LA. 

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album  

On Railway  Preservation News - Surviving Elevated steam locomotives – James Hefner; posted March  17 2004.

Remains of a cypress logging locomotive are located in the Atchafalaya Basin,  Lying in its final resting place on private property on the south shore of Lake Verret ... this locomotive was accidentally derailed and landed on its side. The wheels, fittings, cylinders, and other parts were salvaged; and the wooden cab has since rotted away leaving only parts of the frame and boiler lying on the embankment.

"This engine, when seen by Judge Ford, a recognized authority on South Louisiana Logging railroads in the early 1960's appeared to him to be a old elevated locomotive. As mentioned above. These rather strange tank engines came south after the big cities electrified their elevated lines and were used on logging and quarry lines. The  engine appeared to be a Napoleon Cypress Co (ex-Manhattan El Forney) class E #156... If this is true, this may be the oldest locomotive remains in the state of Louisiana. It was sold to Napoleon Cypress Co. in July 1904"

Remains  of Locomotive in  Skidder Canal - Cliff  LeGrange June 6, 2020

Cliff  LeGrange at  the Remains of Locomotive  at  Skidder Camp  site ; June 6  2020

From Lana Laws Downing, Heaven & High Water, 2011, self published book ... "Uncle  ed's career as the driver of  engine  #30  was cut short when he wrecked the train  while operation under the influence ..he was immediately fired ... but was  asked to return  because  no one  else   knew how to operate the remaining train... the remains  are  still rusting undisturbed at the  site"

 Steam chambers, matches description of Manhattan Elevated  locomotives

The  entrance Canal at the  Skidder Camp, Lake Verret entrance  in background June6, 2020  Cliff  LeGrange


Picture  10  Logging  Road through Cypress  Swamp  LA.

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Logging road through  Cypress Swamp LA. 

Since it same background coloring  and handwriting it is logical  that this is a  spur of the rail line of the  Timber Camp on  Lake Verret.

Picture 11 - Hauling  out  and  Loading

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album  Hauling out  and  Loading

Again, since it same background coloring  and handwriting it is logical  that it is part of the rail line of the  Timber Camp on  Lake Verret.

Picture  12  - Tying Dead man in  Lumber  swamp

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Tying deadman in Lumber  Swamp

Again, since it same background coloring  and handwriting it is logical  that it is from the  Timber Camp on  Lake Verret.

Picture  13 - Just  Waiting

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album Just waiting 

Again, since it same background coloring  and handwriting it is logical  that it is from the  Timber Camp on  Lake Verret.

Picture  14 Morgan City - LA.

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album 

From the Lake Verret  skidder camp , the Tate  expedition , continued  to Morgan  City.

Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album 

It’s hard to follow the route of the Tate photograph  route and not yearn to have seen the landscape at that time period.

Lake Verret Cypress Timber Camp - Abandoned But Not  Forgotten

Swampers were plagued in their work by alligators, snakes, extreme temperatures, mosquitoes, bears, hurricanes, floods and low water.

The process was, cut trees were hauled to the rail line via steam-powered winches on a device known as a skidder. They were then loaded onto special flat cars via a steam-powered log loader. Logs were hauled  by steam locomotives to the  shore  of Lake Verret  and  drop into the Lake from the rail cars causing a big boom ! . Where they were bound together by chains and spikes and hauled away by steamboats to the sawmill in  Patterson, LA. It was sunup to sundown hard and dangerous work.

The  Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album  was  documenting  the   'Last  Stand',  the end of an era... for Atchafalaya  Basin  cypress  lumbering industry, albeit  he did not realize that. The multimillion-dollar cypress industry  that boomed in the Louisiana swamplands from the 1880s to the 1930  was ending. .

In 1928, when the FB  Williams Lake Verret Cypress Timber Camp pulled out  it was one the last operating old time  timber camps.

Expensive  camps for boating, fishing  and hunting now make up the area of the timber camp...

The isolation of the Timber Camp on the Lake Verrett shore (only travel to / from was by boat) made for independence from the rest of the outside world produced a strong-willed breed of people. A trait that followed   the swampers of the camp when the camp closed. Described so well by Ms. Lana Laws Downing’s book, “Heaven and Highwater, self-published 2011.

"The Ghosts of the Past Speak to All Who Will Listen"

Preserve The Heritage

enjoy the virtual tour...