Friday, April 23, 2021

Lower Grand River Flooding 2021

The Water Comes Faster, Deeper & Drains Slower … Residents Are Getting Sick And Tired It… 

Bayou  Pigeon  Fire Department  - Hwy. 75 Sand Bag Depot

Pictorial Essay Of The Flooding April 2021


Bayou  Pigeon,LA. April 2021

Residents on Lower Grand River, Bayou Sorrel, Bayou  Pigeon, Pierre Part, Belle  River, and  Stephenville are getting sick and tired of flooding every time we get a hard rain. 

Imagine  living  with that every heavy rain means that the river is  going to rise and spill over it’s banks and flood your yard? 

Having to elevate the HVAC, electrical equipment and  dealing  with sediment  and debris laden water.

Spiders and snakes swarm during these floods.

Real estate  studies indicate that the price of a residential property located within a flood zone  is significantly lower than an otherwise similar house located outside the flood zone. On average, a location  that has flooded lowers  property  value about 8%.  If a property is prone to flooding  from 15 – 60%

Cost from business interruptions, and on  and on.

The Week of 4 / 12 / 2021 Flood waters were  moving down Lower Grand River to the Bayou Sorrel, Bayou  Pigeon (Iberville Parish). To  Belle River (Lower St Martin Parish), and Pierre Part (Western  Assumption Parish)   and 4 Mile Bayou & Stephenville flooding businesses, residences  and camps  along the Lower Grand  River and distributaries  and inundating low lying areas. 

There are real Iberville Parish residents  and campers dealing  with this to often.  People in Bayou Sorrel, Bayou  Pigeon, Pierre Part, Belle  River, and  Stephensville are getting sick and tired of flooding every time we get a hard rain. 

Hwy. 75 Verrett’s Shipyard  @ Jack Millers  Landing 

Hwy. 75 Verrett’s Shipyard  @ Jack Millers  Landing 

Bayou Sorrel Hwy 75

Bayou Sorrel Hwy 75 @ Pete Kelly’s Crawfish Dock & Bait Shop 

Mike  U.  Hwy  75  Bayou  Pigeon …not  again…

Hwy  75 No Relief …

Having to Paddle  your boat  to your door every day, T Lloyd  Hebert

Bayou  Pigeon Phillips Camp April 2021 Indigo  Bayou Area

Camp  Sanguine April 2021 Bayou  Pigeon ,Indigo  Bayou Area

Bayou  Pigeon Clay  Coleman The  Shack April  2021

Bayou Pigeon - The Blanchard Home  at  Indigo Bayou  - April 2021 

Bryan Vaughn  - Boo’s Campground - Bayou  Pigeon Road -April 2021
Vehicle Traffic No Wake  Zone Barrier - Some People Won't Listen

St. Joseph Church - Pierre Part, LA. - Bayou  Pierre Part

Parker Conrad Flood Control Plan Map  c 1980

I Became Aware  Of This Parker Conrad Plan /Map For First Time  4 /14 / 2021

I had not seen  this map before. In my 10 years of research in writing two books about the Atchafalaya Basin.
The map was posted on facebook, by Mr. Gregory Hedges of  Pierre Part, (a fellow  alligator  hunter), who got it from his dad, Johnson Hedges.  Greg posted  the map to point out that the overbank flooding  that was  coming to our area was going to take some  time  to drain, because it was  all the rainfall coming a large area.

In 1979, The Atchafalaya Basin Management Group comprised of the U S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana officials, the federal Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency began a series public meetings to determine how to "Save the Basin" for Wildlife  and Fisheries wetlands, Oil & gas industries and and at same time  maintain Flood Control. 

Parker Conrad, of Conrad Industries that builds tugs, barges, pushboats, liftboats, ferries and many other vessels. Was concerned about how extreme flooding  at Morgan City  in 1973 and future was threating  the economic  security of Morgan City.

Mr. Conrad produced  his own Flood Control Plan!

I  found the map extremely interesting  for  many reasons and  plus the fact I love looking  at old maps  and pictures  from the past.

1. The main reason, it clearly illustrates the boundaries of the Atchafalaya East Watershed and  the Lafourche / Terrebonne  drainage basin, ie., A Picture Is  Worth A Thousand Words. 
2. It is easy to see how large this  area is and compare to the  size of the floodway. That it can capture a lot of rainfall.

I wrote about how this new drainage basin came  about in my book,’ Heritage of the Atchafalaya, A Natural and Cultural History of the Atchafalaya Basin. Basically it exist because of the construction the Atchafalaya Floodway.

Before there was an Atchafalaya Floodway 

Before the creation of the  Atchafalaya  Floodway and the USACE became responsible for allocating the waters in the annual flood pulse  through the  floodway, extreme local  rainfall spread out because it had a large area to spread out The water went where it pleased, and people could not do much  about it.  

There was not  the overbank flooding we see today on the lower Grand River. 

After reviewing the Parker Conrad map I could easily see it  validated the current Bayou Chene Automated Barge Floodgate Structure, project which is under construction to alleviate  Backwater Flooding  caused by extreme flood conditions occurring inside the Lower Atchafalaya Floodway.

In my online / internet  research  I quickly realized, that backwater flooding  and overbank flooding are  different.  Both are complicated  but overbank flooding appears to me to be more  of a complex situation. No kidding...

Let Me  explain:

Relative to Backwater flooding, it is COMPLICATED, but the things  that are causing the backwater flooding can be separated and dealt with in a systematic and logical way.

Whereas  the overbank  flooding along Lower Grand River is  a little  more COMPLEX.  

Complex issues are ones in which you can't get a firm handle on the parts /components of situation.  There is extraordinarily little order, control, or predictability.  

Overbank flooding, you  can't control the weather,  predict when extreme rain is going to hit and how much it is going to rain.  

In my Six  Sigma training in an earlier career, I was taught it is best try to  'managed through' complex  situations, until you have  lots of  long-term data to make strategic decisions versus trying to  solve it quickly.

Thus, this latest round of exceptional heavy rain this past week (4 14 2021 over 13” in a 3-day period in Southwest  Iberville Parish area) That  is flooding Bayou  Grosse Tete  and over bank flooding  Lower Grand  River  with as much as 6 ft rise in  some places  would have not occurred  before the  creation of the  floodway.

Which begs the question, why is this extreme rainfall  and resultant overbank  flooding occurring more frequently, often several times in one year.  

Is it related  to Climate change?

The climate is warming! the climate is cooling! We’re all gonna die! 

The answer is...all of the  above. Folks just need to chill out and understand that climate’s gonna climate, and there’s not that much we can  do  about it.

If you really want more information about  Climate Change,  I suggest you read, “Dark, Cold Years Are Coming, So You’d Better Get Ready”.


Has it more to do  with the  Atchafalaya  Floodway System Than  Climate  Change?

Without a doubt, high water years in  the Floodway  and backwater  flooding are occurring more often.   I can remember my first recall of the back water flooding 50 years  ago,  1973 / 74.

May 1973 The Eloyd & Florence Blanchard Home  At  Indigo Bayou; 
Compare to same Picture  y 2021 above - Water Level Approximate;  No Different Than 50 Years Ago, I.e.., 1973 To April 2021

Those years  are  still considered  highwater markers  for flooding  along the Lower Grand  River.

Just maybe it took  the 40 years between   1930’s  and 1973  for the manmade changes  to the  Atchafalaya Basin rivers, streams  and  landscape to reach an inflection point, severe backwater  and over bank flooding.

Personally , I am inclined  to believe, that the more frequent high water  in the  Atchafalaya  Basin and subsequent backwater and / or extreme rainfall  overbank flooding in the  Lower Grand  River Drainage Basin  is a natural outcrop of exponential growth and progress of mid  America and  poor or no water / sediment management. 
Not  the apocalyptic talk of climate change by  global warming zealots.

Since 1973, 1974, 1975 there has been back water flooding in years 1979, 1983,1997, 2002, 2008, 2011, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. 

Overbank Flooding  at Bayou Pigeon is not new.

OverBank Flooding at Bayou  Pigeon 1974

USACE AeriaL Photo 1974

USACE AeriaL Photo 1974

The Atchafalaya Floodway System  Levees

The Atchafalaya Floodway system was designed and built to protect agricultural areas and towns along and in the Mississippi river valley flood plain from flooding  by using the  flood way when necessary to contain excess floodwaters of the Mississippi and Red Rivers on their way south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The  core of the  floodway are two levees  approximately 15 miles apart.

The East Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee (EABPL). The levee begins at the lower end of the east guide levee of the Morganza Floodway extends southward to and from Morgan City to the Avoca Island Cutoff, and includes the Bayou Boeuf and Bayou Sorrel locks. The length of this system is 106.7 miles. 

The West Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee (WABPL). The levee begins near the town of Hamburg, where it joins the Bayou des Glaises fuse plug levee. It extends in a south and southeasterly direction to the Wax Lake Outlet at the latitude of the East and West Calumet Floodgates and thence eastward through Berwick to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. This levee extends 128.7 miles and connects with 3 miles of flood wall along the front of the town of Berwick.

I  do not believe the people who created the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway plan  and the Floodway itself in the 1930’s  at that time considered thought  of any consequences regarding  natural drainage  outside of the  new floodway when designing it. 

Unintended Consequences  - The Lafourche - Terrebonne Drainage Basin

One  consequence  of landscape  change  by building the floodway was the creation of a new drainage system, it is now known as the The Lafourche / Terrebonne drainage Basin. 

It falls naturally between the Atchafalaya Floodway East Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee ( EABPL)) and the Mississippi River natural alluvial ridge.  It covers an area extending approximately 120 miles from the Mississippi River on the north to the Gulf of Mexico on the south. It varies in width from 18 miles to 70 miles.

Local Rain Fall / Water drainage east of  the floodway is totally between the EABPL  and Mississippi  alluvial ridge levees and has to drain through this  area.
I suppose it should have been considered  in the design phase how this new  drainage basin would interact over time with  the Atchafalaya  floodway.  

Such things as the effects of progress , like new  / more impervious surfaces like superhighways, streets and pavement, driveways, house roofs, shopping centers, Malls, etc.! 

A significant portion of rainfall in watersheds is absorbed into soils (infiltration), is stored as groundwater, and is slowly discharged to streams through seeps and springs. Flooding is less significant in these conditions because some of the runoff during a storm is absorbed into the ground, thus lessening the amount of runoff into a stream during the storm.

As watersheds are urbanized, much of the vegetation is replaced by impervious surfaces, thus reducing the area where infiltration to groundwater can occur.

When it rains the water no longer seeps into the ground, but now runs off into storm drains and then quickly into local streams / canals.

Couple this with inevitable  periodic extreme rain conditions at the same time as the Mississippi River annual flood pulse is passing through the Atchafalaya floodway and it seems like  someone should have brought up the question.

Today it is pretty obvious  that any extreme flow  in the  floodway overwhelms the exit of the water in  the Lafourche / Terrebonne  drainage Basin to the Gulf of Mexico  and Slows The Drainage, thus you  have extensive back water flooding.

I discuss this Lafourche drainage basin, in my book 'Heritage of the Atchafalaya Basin", on page 101.

USACE Flood Control  Strategy / Plan For Entire Mississippi River Valley

                        USACE Flood Control  Plan For Entire Mississippi River Valley

USACE Flood Control  Plan For Entire Mississippi River Valley
In  Louisiana, besides the Mississippi River,   3  floodways (West Atchafalaya Floodway, Morganza Floodway  and the Lower Atchafalaya Floodway) play a vital part of moving annual flood pulse of the Mississippi River Valley  through Louisiana to Gulf Of Mexico

Understand  the purpose of the USACE  and thus  the Atchafalaya Floodway is to control what is known as a 1000-year flood in the Mississippi River Valley.  Greater than the Great Flood  of 1927.

Let’s Talk About About Back Water Flooding  & Some Interesting Things About  The Parker Conrad Map / Plan, At Least They Are To Me

As I studied the map / plan, I realized, it purports to be an  alternative strategy / plan to the USACE ‘Project Flood” plan in the lower Atchafalaya  Floodway.

The USACE Atchafalaya Basin Flood Control plan passes  a the largest portion of the water diverted  (30 / 70) from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Floodway through  The  Atchafalaya  River main Channel  at Morgan city. A lesser portion of the flow through the Wax Lake Outlet.   This has been  the plan since the 1960’s. 

The Parker Conrad plan  validates that  the back water flooding that was occurring in the lower Lafourche-Terrebonne drainage basin above Morgan City was related  to  any extreme conditions  in the annual flood pulse passing through Morgan City.  

The problem is there has been an extreme  annual flood pulse, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1983,1997, 2002, 2008, 2011, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. 

The Parker Conrad plan recognized in 1980  that something had  changed … sedimentation had changed the hydrology of Atchafalaya River Basin and  the annual flood pulse   was extreme most of the time, ‘too much water, too fast and staying to long’.
Why wasn’t The Parker Conrad plan  given more  consideration  than it received in 1980.  One reason could be, at the time it was as 'mind boggling' as the  first plan was to create the Atchafalaya  Floodway in the  first place in 1928 / 29.  

His plan called  for blocking / controlling the annual flood pulse through the Atchafalaya River at Morgan City with a Lock & Dam structure, and  diverting the entire flow of the Atchafalaya River through the Wax Lake Outlet.

Mind Boggling  proposals of the Parker Conrad plan :

This plan recognized / devised a plan   for the Backwater flooding in  the Lafourche / Terrebonne drainage basin over 40  years ago!  

The map identifies the bottleneck causing the Backwater  flooding problem, ie., the Avoca Island  Cutoff at confluence with Atchafalaya River below Morgan City.

Parker Conrad  plan - A Bigger Outlet to the Gulf  at Wax Lake 

In the bottom left hand corner of the map, it shows  a proposed  spillway two miles wide, with plans to carry 100 % of Atchafalaya river flow under normal, I assume   that means including annual  flood pulse conditions.

Background  info on The Wax  Lake Outlet 

Wax Lake was a lake in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana that was converted into an outlet channel, the Wax Lake outlet, to divert water from the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Wax Lake Channel was created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1942 to divert 30 percent of the flow from the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico and reduce flood stages at Morgan City, Louisiana. The  channel is approximately 15 miles long that begins at Six Mile Lake (and the "Charenton Drainage and Navigation Canal", that began at Bayou Teche in Baldwin, LA.

The Avoca  Island  Cutoff / Bayou Chene area, has been a major conduit for  this backwater flooding. 

Back water  flooding through  Bayou Chene is enhanced & facilitated  by a  navigation channel maintained  20 ft deep and 400 ft wide.

Avoca Island / Bayou Chene   Channel

2021 - Current  Project At Avoca Island Cutoff / Bayou Chene To Reduce Backwater Flooding

Gov. John Bel Edwards Announced in 2020 Construction will start on Permanent Floodgate at Bayou Chene in St. Mary Parish.  The projection is underway at the time of this writing.  

High water events in the Atchafalaya Basin, have precipitated  backwater flooding in the parishes of St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Martin, Assumption.   

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and St. Mary Parish Levee District (SMLD) are overseeing construction of the automated barge floodgate.

Diagram of Backwater flow through  Avoca Island  Cutoff  / Bayou Chene 

Artist Illustration Completed  Automated Barge Floodgate

Diagram of water flow to gulf when Automated Barge  flood control structure is  closed

The flood pulse eventually reaches  Lake Palourde  and is diverted through Amelia and  Bayou L’ourse and out  to Bayou Black and the Gulf of Mexico.

Problem Solved  For Bayou  Sorrel, Bayou Pigeon, Likely Not

Problem #1 Water / Sediment Management...

Lower Grand River in Iberville  and Iberia parish  have experienced rapid and substantial amounts of sediment deposition since the 1960's.  Particularly between the Bayou  Sorrel  Locks & Belle River. 

Severely aggraded and silted up areas of the Lower  Grand River  channel are holding back the water flow especially around the Bayou Pigeon Pontoon Swing bridge. 

Dredging  and channelization of Lower Grand River has not occurred  since the 1920’s.  In fact it may have not been dredged  for over 100 years.

Note the dates and depths of the dredging.

Documentation of last dredging in  Lower Grand  river

Barge Traffic on Lower Grand River at Bayou  Pigeon c 1950's or early 60's

Some local residents  say that  since the Grand River at Bayou Pigeon is no longer part of the Alternate  route of the Intracoastal waterway, ie, since the Bayou Sorrel  Lock.  The lack of barge traffic  does not help scour to keep channel open anymore.

Problem #2 - The Pontoon Swing Bridges On  Lower  Grand  River

The Bayou Sorrel pontoon-style bridge, built in 1964, carries La. 75 over Upper Grand River and Bayou Sorrel in Iberville Parish. 

Lower Grand River Bridge, Bridge Recall # 054480 constructed in 1957 /58 opened in 1959.  Carries traffic  from Louisiana Hwy. 75  to Highway LA 997) over Bayou Pigeon/Lower Grand River, Plaquemine, Iberville Parish, LA

When the Lower Grand River water level gets high, the bridge master pumps water into the Bridge  barge  to lower it into the water column so it is level enough for vehicular traffic to cross; otherwise the bridge would be too high above the ramps.  As a result the sunken bridge restricts the water flow even more, and especially at a time when maximum drainage flow is needed to allow the floodwater to drain downstream.

It has been said that the water level  elevation  on the north side of the  Bayou Sorrel Pontoon Bridge and the  south  side of the bayou  Pigeon Pontoon Bridge is as much as  11”.

If that difference can be validated, it means they are an significant impediment  to rapid drainage.

Which begs the question why the bridges can’t be in open position in the wee hours in the morning 11 PM to 4 AM except in cases of emergency.  There is essentially no barge traffic in The lower Grand river below the Bayou Sorrel lock

Note:  There are pontoon bridges at Belle River  and Pierre Part.

Problem# 3 - Lock  Structures 

Bayou Sorrell Lock on Lower  Grand River

Bayou Sorrel Lock & Dam

Lock structures have guidelines by water stages on when they cannot allow Boat traffic or leave open the lock gates. Boat traffic is ceased  at 6.5 ft at the Bayou Sorrel  Lock gauge. 

Even though  boat traffic  is  stopped the  lock gates remains  closed. You  would think opening the  lock gates,  that it would let some of the high water into the  Atchafalaya  Floodway, where there are no residents.

I presume the USACE has data to say the  flood pulse flow inside floodway  would overwhelm the Lower Grand River flow  and cause back water flow. 

An alternative proposal is a  large volume pump station somewhere north of Bayou Sorrel  lock to pump water over the levee into the Atchafalaya Basin during extreme rainfall  and  overbank  flooding. ( probably the most effective cost technology)

“Which brings to this point”

Will  the Bayou Chene Automated Barge Flood Gate alleviate all, most or some of the extreme Rain Water over bank flooding below Jack Millers Landing , through Bayou Sorrel, Bayou  Pigeon? 

Without addressing Water / Sediment  management and the pontoon bridges  situation and not being able to move  some of the high water out of Lower Grand  River  to the Atchafalaya Floodway. 

I think the answer is at best some relief  and most likely very little to none.

The water will still go out very slow.   Even if the  annual Atchafalaya Flood Pulse is  average.

Just saying …  We are still screwed !

Overbank Flooding Is An Economic Threat To Iberville Parish 

Overbank flooding is a threat to the sustainability and growth of the entire Lower  Grand River corridor. The Bayou  Pigeon Heritage Association is a voice for our local community we are pushing for flood protection that is critical to our survival and that will help us continue to improve our community and the ‘Down the Bayou’ part of  Iberville Parish.

Iberville  Parish  - The Eastern Gateway  To The  Atchafalaya


Bayou  Pigeon is the center point in the between I 10  and HWY 90


Bayou  Pigeon The Only Authentic Cajun Community In Iberville Parish

Aim Straight

Cliff LeGrange

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Ms. Anite Hebert Gaudet Gained Her Angel Wing's - Closing In On Another ‘End Of Era’


Ms. Anite Hebert Gaudet … a native and lifelong resident of Bayou Pigeon. 
gained her  angel  wings … Feb. 16, 2021. 

Here are some things about Ms. Anite  Hebert Gaudet from our Bayou Pigeon book library.

Hebert is an Old Acadian name. Most Heberts in North America are descendants of two Acadian Hebert brothers who came to the New World in the mid-17th century. Today, it is one of the most populous groups of people with Acadian surnames. 

Though you will find Heberts around the world, the greatest numbers, thousands in fact, can be found in Louisiana.

Evariste and Margurite Hebert from Pierre Part had 9 children. Of the nine, five made their way to Bayou Pigeon.

Emile Joseph Hebert, the eighth of nine children of Evariste Joseph Hebert, was born 01 Jan 1893 in Paincourtville, LA, and died 17 Feb 1967 in Plaquemine, LA. He married Onesie Hue, daughter of Emile Hue and Odilia Templet of Pierre Part, Louisiana. She was born 1904 in Pierre Part, LA. 

Emile and Onesie moved to Bayou Pigeon sometime before 1920. Emile moved next door to his brother Ernest, north of the confluence of Little Pigeon Bayou and Grand River. 

In the  1930 US census, Emile listed his principal occupation as moss picker. 

In the early 1900’s practically all the men picked moss at one time or another during the off seasons for fishing and trapping. At that time, there was demand for Spanish moss to supply the numerous moss gins located through out south Louisiana. Moss picking was a steady way to make a living and moss was plentiful.

Onesie, Nellie (Na-lee) and Mr. Emile  Hebert

Anite second from left was the fourth of 5  childtren.

Mr Ed Gaudet & Ms Anite  Hebert Wedding  1952

Anite married Mr. Ed Gaudet  of  Bayou  Pigeon.  This wedding has the distinction of being the very first wedding to be celebrated in the Bayou Pigeon Mission Church, known at the time as Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Chapel. 

Fr. George Barbier, who was the associate pastor in Plaquemine, Louisiana, was the priest who married Ed and Anite in Bayou Pigeon. 

Anite said  they did not have a  formal wedding reception but that her parents did cook a big meal for entire wedding party.

The Gaudet Barroom, Dancehall  And  Grocery Stor

Gaudet  Barroom Dance Hall - c 1957

Paved Road  1958

Gaudet Bar, Dancehall and Grocery c 1960's

The business was part of Anite’s life. She had to blend helping run a business and raising her family in the same building.

When The  Original Gaudet  Grocery, Bar And  Dancehall was demolished  to pave Hwy. 75 , the  store  and a new  barroom  and dancehall were moved to the  east  side of  the road.  

Ed and  Anite  lived  in a  small house between the  store  and  Wallace  Gaudet’s house.

In 1964 they converted dance hall to living quarters and a grocery store.  

Then in 1975 they closed the store and remodeled the living quarters to what it is today.

The old bathroom in the dance hall with all the graffiti writing on the wall stayed for a while, until it was removed in the 1990’s.  

Glenda Gaudet Barlow says she wishes they would have taken pictures of it.  It was so unique, it was written history of the people who came to the dancehall.  The  Richard Brothers  band was extremely popular  and packed  the  people in.

Glenda, says  at the time the graffiti  was removed her mom evidently didn’t feel the history  and  heritage  of Cajun Bayou  Pigeon.  

30 + years later  we recognize  that we have  almost lost the Cajun French  language and we do not want to lose the  history of Gaudet Store, Bar and Dancehall it is a  part of the fabric of  Bayou  Pigeon. 

Closing In On Another ‘End Of  Era’ … 

Except for Ms Anise, all of the other children of Emile  and Onesie  Hebert are now passed.  

That leaves Anise as one of handful of people of Bayou Pigeon where Cajun French was the first language in the home growing up.

She leaves behind six grandchildren, Bruce, Brad, and Amy, Steven, Michelle, and Brenton and Nine great grandchildren… Lauren, Ryan, Andrew, Brayden, Lilly, Corinne, Chandler, Graham and Brantly.

Ed and Anite enjoyed playing bingo in their retirement years.  Diane  and I would see  them  at the  St. John  Fathers  Club bingo  when we  worked it on Tuesday nights.  They kept us up to date on all the people who attended the bingo and what they were talking about.

Anite  kept  her close ties  with the Gaudet  family after  Ed passed  away.  She  was a welcome everyday visitor to Diane’s mom, for many years.

Extended  Gaudet  Family 

Children, in laws, what ever… Cajun  families  stay  close to other

Anite attended the Rosary every Tuesday at Bayou Pigeon Heritage hall shrine room to Our Lady Queen Of  Peace.

Anite will be remembered as a devoted daughter, dependable sister, beloved wife, loving mother and proud grandmother.

R I P  - Anite … Diane and I are forever grateful for the time you  spent  with her mother in the last years of her life.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

White Castle L & S Co. - Lake Natchez/ Railroad

 The Hunt  For The  Elusive Route Of The White Castle  L & S Co.  - Lake Natchez/ Railroad 

By Clifford J. LeGrange  with assistance from James  ‘Fry” Hymel, Rick Phillips, Ethan Joffrion, Jeremey Coupel and Ian Marsac, Jeanerette  L&S Co. Land Manager

White Castle Sawmill 1901 - Skidder Loading Logs On Rail car -  Railcars
Images used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107 

Note to the readers: Knowing  the history  of the  Atchafalaya  Basin  and  the Lake Natchez swamp,  relative  to the use and importance of our natural resources will provide better understanding  of how to manage, restore, improve and  sustain our forested lands for the future.

Abstract - 

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. were part of the Henry Downman  Cypress Interest. 

These companies formed the largest operation in cypress manufacture and  were at one time among the six largest lumbering operations in the world, and as such deserves special attention.

White Castle is on the Texas & Pacific railway seventy-four miles from New Orleans and is reached by Western Union telegraph and by  the Pacific express.

Situated at this place it  was the pioneer "dry land” cypress plant, the plant which was first known in cypress lumber production as a "railroad” proposition.  It lasted more than fifteen years as an active mill.

The Lake Natchez Logging Railroad  built by White castle  L&S is the highlight to this story  because it shows the difficulties which had  to be overcome by skillful engineering and layout.  Where men exposed themselves daily to all sorts of dangers to make a living, Snakes,  Alligators, mosquitoes, spiders, fire, steam, mechanical cables and blocks and  summer heat.

The White Castle & Lake Natchez railroad has a total length all told, including the spurs in the yard and elsewhere, between  18 and 22 miles. It is fair to say it was the most expensive railroad that has ever been built for the purpose of carrying logs to a mill. —the road to Lake Natchez took two years to build all on high but very solid piles, running straight through the woods.

A Journey through the History of The  'Cypress Queen'  of the  Atchafalaya Cypress  Logging  Era.

History buffs and local historians are always excited about  learning the hidden history of things, places,  and or events.  It is amazing  how fast  the history of  something  can be lost in relatively short period of time.  Many examples exist that have shown how quickly and completely history can be lost in a short period of time.  Just  ask  someone  from  White Castle, LA.,  under 50  about the  White Castle Lumber & Shingle Co. and the Lake Natchez railroad.
The  history of the  White Castle  Lumber & Shingle Co. and the Lake Natchez  railroad  is a great example.  All firsthand informants are no longer alive to preserve  such  a historic period for  Iberville  Parish, White Castle, LA. and the  Atchafalaya  Basin.
The purpose of this blog  story is to document, preserve  and educate  on the history of the White Castle Lumber & Shingle Co. and the  Lake  Natchez railroad.
In the  late  1800’s, the swamp  east of  Lake  Natchez, Iberville Parish, between the natural alluvial  high ridge of the Mississippi  River lying between  Bayou Plaquemine   and Bayou  Lafourche, was the furthermost eastern edge  of the  Natural Atchafalaya  River Basin.  In the  1800’s and early  1900’s it was a primeval place,  no roads just paths / trails  through the swamp   and only 2 open bayous  allowed travel into the interior of this  area, Bayou Tegrie  at White Castle and Grand Bayou below  Donaldsonville.  Until the 1840’s the mysterious interior repulsed all but the most intrepid hunters and trappers.  The interior of this  area remained mostly impenetrable until the era of Industrial Cypress logging in late  1890’s and  early 1900’s

USGS Map (base map  1954)

1935 USGS Maps (earliest available

Early History of White Castle Lumber & Shingle Co.

In 1888, Texas businessmen, William Cameron, R. H. Downman, W. B. Brazelton, C. L. Johnson, George M. Bowie and Fred Meyer formed a lumbering interest in the White Castle Louisiana area. The swamp  east of  Lake  Natchez was the location of one the largest  stands  of  Virgin  cypress  forest  on  the east  side of the Atchafalaya basin.  
Capt. George M. Bowie, who was well and favorably known in all the southland as a successful managing man in lumber interests, was appointed general manager.
The first plant which was erected / begun in 1889 and began running in 1890. The first purchase of timber amounted to 12,000 acres in the swamp lands west White Castle, LA. toward Lake Natchez. 
After 10 years, Captain Bowie left the management of the plant in April 1901, and at that time R. H. Downman purchased 70% of the White Castle Lumber and Shingle Co. LTD. 
Robert Henry Downman Cypress Lumbering Empire

Robert Henry Downman, was building a cypress lumbering empire. He eventually was primary stockholder and the president of five different lumber companies and functioned as general manager of all the business of those companies.
The R.H. Downman cypress interest 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.
The R. H. Downman cypress interest’s office was located in  New Orleans, LA. The officers of the company at the time were R. H. Downman, president and general manager; Sam R. Ely, vice president and assistant general manager; W. B. Brazelton, secretary and treasurer, and A. C. Johns, manager. 
These companies formed the largest operation in cypress lumbering and is considered among the six largest lumbering operations in the world.
A map of the red cypress territory of southeastern Louisiana was produced by the Downman Interest and deserves special attention. It was first of its kind ever produced in print. At the time of its first publication no government map was obtainable by the 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.  . 
This map continues to be of great interest even in this day and age. It was made Mr. Downman’s Engineers and Timber Cruisers. It is  most  accurate  map of the Atchafalaya Basin when it was a free-flowing waterway, and the bayous were not altered by man.

Swamp  Lands  Map of the Red Cypress Territory of Southeastern Louisiana 1892 - 1915

No government map ever was obtainable by the general public which truthfully portrayed the water courses of the  Atchafalaya and no private enterprise had ever before undertaken to make such a map for general circulation.

The lands of the R. H. Downman cypress interests were marked by Mr. Downman’s engineers and were shown on the map in regular and irregular squares of black. The  map continues to be of great interest. It shows the  Atchafalaya River Basin when it was a free-flowing river system.

The cypress timber properties shown on this map cover the parishes of Iberville, Assumption, LaFourche, St. Martin, Iberia, St. Charles and St. John, in the state of Louisiana. The cypress timber holdings of the Downman interests at one time consisted of  161,000 acres in extent. 

Map Courtesy of Jeanerette L & S Co. ; Used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107 

Location of the  White Castle L &S  Sawmill 


The Many Faces of Plaquemine And Its  Surrounding  Area; A photographic History of Plaquemine, LA.; Collection of  Photographs by Anthony Fama Sr. 1999
Image used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107 

Think  about  it,  where  is a suitable location for a potential  mill  for timber,  in the red  circle  (Lands of   the White Castle L&S Co.) on the  above map.   Typically, first requirement   for a  mill, is  logistics, ie., deep waterways  or railway lines  to move the  product  to market and access  to power.  There is no optimum river / stream, lake to locate a lumber mill in the White Castle  L&S  Co.  lands. There are just two small bayous, in the  area  Bayou Tigre,  and Grand Bayou .  Neither  are large   enough or connected  to  a  stream or lake  or anything  to maintain a waterway  to a large mill.  
For  example, The F.B. Williams Mill in Patterson, LA. on the Bayou Teche, or the Schwing Lumber Co. Mill on Bayou Plaquemine, The Jeanerette  L&S  mill  located on Bayou Teche.  All located on deep waterways with rail connections and power. Those companies could remove the timber from the interior of the  Atchafalaya  basin and raft and float the timber to their mill. Where they  could then be sawed and processed  for customers.
Thus, it was understood by investors that any Industrial Lumbering operation in the White castle, LA. area would be a “railroad” proposition.  
White Castle , LA. being seventy-four miles from New Orleans on the Mississippi River with Texas & Pacific - Southern Pacific Railroad Co. running through the length of the town. The plant  was built next to the main track. The railroad  runs due east and west and from the south windows of a northbound train the plant was the most prominent  building in town.  Thus the site location offered both rail and marine  shipment of product.

The Many Faces of Plaquemine And Its  Surrounding  Area; A photographic History of Plaquemine, LA.; Collection of  Photographs by Anthony Fama Sr. 1999
Image used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107 

The Sawmill Facilities

The saw mill was the most prominent building of the White Castle plant.  At the time it was pride of the  area.  Over the north end of the sawmill were the large letters "Cypress Queen." 

The sawmill was divided into ground floor, subdeck, engine room, dynamo room and mill deck.  There was a boiler house and engine room on the cast side. The building was 173 feet and overall, in length and has a breadth of 103. A series of  lumber sheds  for storage  and  shipping. 

The planning mill and sash and door factory in a sense were  separate factories. 

There  were  two  primary dry kilns.

The piling (storage) grounds for the lumber  held 15,000,000 feet of lumber in stock. 

A track of 40-pound rail over three-quarters of a mile long ran  from the plant to the river for convenience in handling lumber etc. and bringing back freight brought by boat from New Orleans. 

The White Castle plant  had electric lights,  350 16-candlepower incandescent lamps and seven are lights.

The White castle  L&S Co,  office  and  mill was located in the area of the current  White Castle  Catholic  Church  and  White Castle  High  School.

Site Plan /Layout of White Castle Lumber Mill

Site plan courtesy of Mr. James  Fry  Hymel  lifelong resident of White Castle, LA.  Given to him by Mr. Charlton Bajon.

Aerial view looking  North / North West  towards  Southern Pacific Railroad / Mississippi River

Mississippi  River at Horizon line 

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.            Image used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107

Site Plan - Door And  Sash Factory

Site Plan – Saw Mill

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.  
Image used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107

Site Plan – The Main Pond 

The overhead picture (above) and the  site plan beg an interesting question.  

What was the main pond for?

We know from well documented White Castle Lumber Co. records that logs  were brought by rail to a log ramp, conveniently situated at the tail of the mill and were moved into the sawmill by a skidder contrivance that was used for that purpose alone.

So, we know they did not use the main pond  for maneuverability. 

After consulting with  several timbermen, we came to the conclusion that Log Ponds  were common in that era of logging, and many mills had a "log pond" where they  would soak their logs.  It was explained that was to keep logs  from drying out and warping unevenly.  Not to mentione  that logs milled better when mud / dirt  was removed and damp plus it helped reduced dullness of blades and to control dust in the mill. If there was  not a log pond,  then the logs had to sprayed with water before entering the mill. 

Cypress Logging  in the Swamps Pre – Steam Driven  Skidder Operations

Prior  to large  scale industrial era (c 1890’s ) of Atchafalaya  Swamp logging , trees  were  deadened  in low  water periods  and were  cut in the  spring  bucked (cut)  into manageable lengths then floated out of the  swamp in high  water to a staging  area. 

Deadened (ringed) trees   and  bucking  of logs for removal from  swamp. 

Pictures from  Henry Downman  collection, 
Images used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107 

In  times of low  water, and / or  terrain / conditions  permitting,  logs were  sometimes skidded  out of the swamp.

These manual   skidders were some  sort  of manmade device that was designed to hold  one  end of the log  slightly above  the ground   and  dragged   to  a staging  area. Sometimes horses / or oxen were used.   However, The use of animals in getting cypress out of the swamps was never widespread, 
Staging  areas  were typically on a body of water deep  enough, where the logs could be tied  to together  then towed to the mills in rafts. The constraints of this process typically limited logging to within a short  distance of a usable waterway. 

As a result, Cypress lumbering remained almost totally seasonal until the pull boat  and overhead  skidder was developed in the  late  1880’s.

Large  Scale Industrial Log  Skidding c1890 

In the  late 1880’s mechanical  steam driven  skidder machines  were  developed to pull the logs  from the  forest to  a landing  point. This method of logging  used a mechanical skidder  device /  structure, which had  a system of cables, blocks, iron spools  and  gears. The mainline was attached to single logs and then wound up on a large spool powered by the steam engine, pulling the timber along skid roads to  a landing point.
By the  1890’s mechanical skidders  and  steam  engines  had  developed enough technology  to make it economically viable  to harvest the timber  from heretofore un-reachable  areas such  as  the  Atchafalaya   Swamp. Two types methods /  systems  were  developed  and used  in cypress logging era.
 1.  The Overhead skidder (high lead logging) and a logging railroad system to move the bucked logs to a  landing point or all the  way to the mill location.
2.  Pull Boat system - a steam engine and cable system mounted on a barge and located in a lake, natural river, bayou, or dredged canal.  The logs would be dragged  from the  swamp interior into the canal (ground lead logging) and moved  to a larger navigable  stream where they were rafted  and towed  via a log raft  by steamboat through natural  waterways to the sawmill.

The  White  Castle L& S Co.  Operating System c1890

The  White  Castle L& S Co. used  the  overhead   skidder  (high  lead logging) and Railroad system.  Easily distinguished in three ways from a pull boat system.

A. Rail Spur lines are cleared through the swamp

B. The Railway skidder was an aerial operation, one end of the logs attached by cable above ground to pull the cut logs to the railroad spur. There was no need to clear debris from the skid roads( runs) and logs could be transported at rate of six hundred feet per minute, faster than a pull boat system. The logs did not dig deep ditches or runs like a pull boat.

C. Main lines will be present in railroad skidder systems.
Overhead High lead logging required the use  of  a tall head  spar tree for the  rigging. See the diagram, below.  Rigging a spar  tree, a logger used climbing spikes attached to his boots and a wire-cored rope looped around the tree to clear the branches. To climb the tree was dangerous and  daring task.

Overhead  Skidder  set up Next to Logging Railroad, Logs Being Loaded On  Railcar 

Images used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107  Pictures from  Henry Downman  collection

High  Lead  logging - How it  works

High Lead Blocks & Pulleys
Image used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107

High Lead  Logging  Diagram 
Image used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107 

Steel Spar Tree

Sometimes  after  1910,  an innovation  of mounting a skidder machine  on a railcar  with a metal tower mounted was used, versus using a spar tree, this  system was extremely efficient, i.e..,  you would not have to find a good spar tree so the entire overhead (high  Lead) system could be set up in a short time. 

This  speeded up operations  significantly  and  logging railroads  became very efficient and safer.    The White Castle Lumber Co. more than likely used this  system at the  later years of the mill.

Railcar  With  Skidder And With  Steel  Spar Tree

Image used is available on internet, and is used in accordance with Fair Use, Title 17 USC section 107

The  White  Castle L& S Co.  Operating Methodology c late 1890’s  -  1915

Logging railroads are a unique and interesting aspect of the Cypress logging industry that occurred in the Atchafalaya Basin.  Why ?  Have you ever seen firsthand or walked in a cypress / tupelo swamp bottom? How in the hell would it hold up a railroad? It is quite surprising to most that a railroad could be built in swampland.

Building a logging railroad in the swamp in early 1900’s was a daunting task. Stories about gators, snakes and mosquitos are not myth.  
The White Castle  L & S Co. Logging Operations was  different than the other logging railroads in the interior of the Atchafalaya Basin.  Eg.,  the  railroad  logging camp  on Lower  Lake Verrett near 4-mile bayou, where the staging area was located on  Lake Verret. 

The logs were loaded on the rail cars and towed by the locomotive to the log staging area / landing  point. Where they were dumped in the lake they were then rafted and towed to the mill.  The  same situation existed  at  F.B.  Williams  logging camp  at  located on Grand  River  - Little Bayou  Pigeon. 

This required  logs to be deadened prior to cutting so they would float.
White Castle  L&S loaded  green logs on railcars, and they were carried  directly to the mill and  skidded off the rail cars  to a  loading ramp  at the tail end of the mill.

1914 Map showing rail lines through  White Castle, LA. Area

White Castle  L & S Co. Logging Operations

The White Castle  L & S Co. Logging Operations was  different than the other logging railroads in the interior of the Atchafalaya Basin.  Eg.,  the  railroad  logging camp  on Lower  Lake Verrett near 4-mile bayou, where the staging area was located on  Lake Verret. The logs were loaded on the rail cars and towed by the locomotive to the log staging area / landing  point. Where they were dumped in the lake they were then rafted and towed to the mill.  

The  same situation existed  at  F.B.  Williams  logging camp  at  located on Grand  River  - Little Bayou  Pigeon. This required  logs to deadened prior to cutting so they would float.
White Castle  L&S loaded  green logs on railcars, and they were carried  directly to the mill and  skidded off the rail cars  to a  loading ramp  at the tail end of the mill.

The White Castle L&S  Lake Natchez Railroad Facilities

All total,  including the spurs the  White Castle  L&S Co.  built between eighteen and twenty two miles of  railroad.  Rail spurs were built to bring  the  logs to the main  line. 
It is fair to say that it was the most expensive railroad that has ever been built for the purpose of carrying logs to a mill—certainly the most expensive of any part of the south.
There was a full-time pile driver that actively engaged in the building of the ‘White Castle Lumber Co.  - Lake  Natchez Railroad’ system. The system was built on very solid piles, running straight into cypress swamps. 
There were three Lidgerwood skidders in use. 
Altogether three locomotives and sixty six railcars were used to haul logs and do the other necessary work of a logging railroad. 
The  White  Castle  L&S  Co. had a large ramp area at the tail of the mill  where the logs unloaded  from the railcars another  skidder contrivance  was built  to move the logs to the mill.
Engineers and Operators spent over two years building the rail system to Lake  Natchez.

Lands of  White Castle L&S Co.

Main  Line of the White Castle  Lumber &  Shingle  Co.  Railroad
Image  courtesy of Ian Marsac , Jeanerette  Lumber Co.

Overall Main  Line Route

 Main  Line Railroad Overlayed  On  Modern Goggle  Earth  Satellite, with Section Lines & GPS coordinates and line measure. The total Length of the main line is 10.77

Main Line  relative Bayou's

Expanded / close up view  of the main line of the Lake Natchez  Railroad  where it  crosses Whaley Canal and where it meets   Lake Natchez.

Building The  Logging  Railroad

The railroad was literally built in the front of a steam driven pile driver mounted a rail car.

Railroad  reaches Lake  Natchez

Railroad Iron Artifacts on Whaley  Canal  and Texaco Pipeline

Rick  Phillips  and  Cliff LeGrange on Whaley Canal

Salvaged Artifact of Railroad iron found  Whaley  Canal  and Texaco Pipeline

Special thanks - Ethan Joffrion and Jeremey Coupel

What can you say about the past by using artifacts? It is evidence  that supports  or refutes a hypothesis. Our Hypothesis  in this paper is that  Whaley  Canal and parts of Texaco pipeline  right of  way were once part of the White Castle Lumber Co. Railroad  - Lake Natchez system. 

Why  would the tracks be there? 


About  the Logging Operations at  White Castle L&S  Co.
Swampers – the men who spent their time cutting cypress in the swamps – worked from dawn until dusk.  They were paid $1.50 for a 10-hour day. Mill owners did not discriminate against any segment of the population in those days.  Men, women and children of different races were hired. People of all ages “from 12 years old were given a chance at employment.

A typical day started at 5:30 AM, i.e. the train left the camp at 5;30 and the workers rode the train to the slashin area, where the cutting of the trees was going on.
The crews consisted of, fallers, sawyers, track layers, riggers, tong hookers, and signalmen. 

The riggers attached the logs to the cables which were attached to tall trees, the engine raised them, and they went swinging over the underbrush and / or water and dropped onto the cars. 

The loaders adjusted them and when the train was made up, it chugged out to the sawmill. 

The crew was made up of white and black workers .  It was rugged dangerous work  and as such ‘race’ issues  just  did not seem to be much of an issue, when you had to watch out  for each other  to survive. 

As soon as the timber in one area was exhausted the rails were shifted to a new, yet uncut area.  This may explain  why there is not many places  where the  remnants  of rail  spurs can be  found in the  swamp.

Another aspect of  White Castle L & S  that may have been  different was  the typical Mill Town communities.  

The logging camps located in isolated areas were self-contained communities. Normally, the camps consisted of an office, company store (operated part time only with sales charged against pay due), bunk house, mess hall and kitchen, blacksmith shop and barn. 

The normal size for such camps was between 75 to 125 men, although larger camps were not uncommon. 

These camps usually lasted for between three to six years. 

When an area was logged out, the camps were either torn down and moved or simply  abandoned.

The  author  could not  find  any documentation on  such a  situation  at  White Castle La.  Mr. Fry Hymel wrote in his book “ the impact on  Oil & Gas on Iberville parish” that many mill workers lived in a two story hotel on Railroad  Ave. in  White Castle. 

The End of  an  Era 1923 – 1930 


The White Castle Lumber & Shingle Co. site in White Castle was shut down  and  demolished by late 1923.  The cypress logging industry in general  was gone by 1930. Mother Nature dealt the Cypress logging industry a series of harsh back-to-back blows.  

In 1924 a severe drought dried most of the water in the swamps.  Then a  hurricane in 1926 ripped through the Atchafalaya  Basin cypress land, leaving fallen trees blocking the pull boat canals used for floating trees from the swamps

Then  in 1927 a great flood,   flooding the logging camps and equipment. On top of that, the Great Depression  of  1929 affected the demand  for lumber in The United  States.  

What else could go wrong?” thought the workers as they fought to restore the industry to its former production level.  

Only three months after the industry was back on its feet ( c1930), swampers and millers got word of a catastrophe they could not adjust to. It was a problem they could not conquer. 

The logging companies of the East Atchafalaya Basin met the  logging companies of the West Atchafalaya Basin, the red cypress supply was depleted, and the mills would have no cypress  to cut.

Most of the big industrial cypress  logging  companies of the area  investigated the possibility of moving their lumber operations to other areas of the  country but larger ones like the Henry Downman companies made the decision to stay in Louisiana because of the poor national economic outlook.  

Company survival in the first years of the great depression was  difficult and many  small landowners  sold  their logging property  to the larger landowners.  

White Castle L &S Co. – From  Timber to Minerals - Oil  & Gas  Development 

The White Castle Lumber Co.  basically left  White Castle as a resident business in 1924 and only remain as an  absentee land owner.  The White Castle L &S Co. maintained  business from an office in New Orleans, LA.

Whatever you want to call it, luck, know how to wait, providence, Oil and Gas was discovered on the former cypress logging lands in the  Atchafalaya Basin  the late  1920’s. A new chapter in land management was established / opened up  for the Henry Downman lumbering  empire.

The Oil companies  were  welcomed  with open  arms,  by the logging  communities. It was Great Depression years; Iberville parish and municipal governments  were going broke. 

Many workers  from the timber industry moved to jobs in the Oil & Gas Business. Particularly the men  with experience  working with  the steam boilers of log  skidders found  work easily.  The  early oil rigs  used  steam boilers to run the Drilling Rigs. 

Preparation  for the  first  oil well to be  drilled  involved opening a right of way to the  well location.  This right of way was made from Hwy 993 ( Richland  road)  to a point 5 miles to the west.  On property owned by Thomas  Whaley.  The name  sake of  Whaley canal .

Getting to the drilling  site  was not without  difficulty.  Modern equipment of the time was no match for the swamp. After several attempts  where bull dozers bogged  down.  Mr. Walter Rushing  from Plaquemine, an owner of a team of oxen was brought in and they were able to move the necessary equipment to the drill  site.

The first producing  wells  in the  Shell Oil White Castle  Field  were  on White Castle L&S property.  The first  drop of oil produced from the White Castle oil field   was  sold on  Oct. 9, 1929. 

Prior  to Oil& Gas companies coming to Iberville parish, there were few jobs in the area that paid the salaries or provided  the benefits the oil and gas  industry did.  The logging  companies paid $1.50 a day during the boom years of White Castle L&S. The first  Shell Oil workers on drilling rigs in the mid 1930’s  were paid 1.25 an hour.

Many of the new workers thought they were rich.

Rough Necks on Shell rig # 4 in White Castle Field
C 1939
Picture  courtesy of - 'The Impact of  Oil on Iberville  Parish by James (Fry) Hymel

White Castle L&S Co. – White Castle  Hunting Club 

Modern hunting leases first caught on in the southern United States in the 1950’s. In the  Atchafalaya Basin  area, the large landowners resisted leasing their land for hunting.  The local folks hunted the land  free and the landowners  tolerated  trespassing  on their lands because that is the way it was back in  the day.  

There was very little law  in the Atchfalaya basin  from 1920's to mid 1950's.  The first full time game  warden in Iberville Parish was in 1954. 

The area around the  White Castle Canal  began to see many more fisherman and  sport hunters i.e., with good jobs, money to spend and as a result of an  affluent America. They were armed with latest high tech outboard motors and boats and equipment  that many rural  folks  could not afford. 

A few hunters from White Castle convinced  the landowners  that leasing hunting rights would be a good conservation effort for the landowners to sustain the  resources, not to mention the concern for "Protection from Property Liability as a result of  an increasing litigious  society. 

The  White Castle Hunting  club may have  formed unofficially as early as 1952, it was incorporated in 1956 and has been in continuing operation since that time.  It may be the oldest incorporated  hunting club in Iberville parish.  The membership was limited to residents of  Ward 1.  Originally the club leased 17,000 Acres, in later years drainage  reduced  the amount to 14,000 acres  and today it is approximately 10,000 acres. 

It is well  documented that Hunting leases can provide a viable and sustainable source of supplemental income for landowners and at same time  provide a better opportunity to hunt for sportsmen, especially when managed properly to keep  wildlife populations at sustainable levels.
In this setup, the hunter (or group of hunters) typically pays a fee and has exclusive use of the property during all hunting seasons. Generally  Hunting leases are year to year with a guaranteed option to renew for one year. 

However, it is fairly common  to have longer leases, i.e.,  four years  allows  for game management plan. There is always an escape cause  for 'Conduct Unbecoming' and Mineral exploration. Some leases are  evergreen and renew  every year upon payment of   the annual fee.

Hunting leases work well because both parties are interested in the ongoing health of the land and its animal inhabitant and do not over hunt  the fauna or damage the  flora. 

 Many hunters believe they  achieve a richer fair-chase hunting experience on leased land because there are rules, and it requires  discipline to follow them.  Rogue hunters are usually weeded out quickly. That is why hunters with modest income will save up for the yearly dues to belong to a hunting club.

Old  Hunting  Clubs have fascinating  histories - 

The fee  for first lease to the White  Castle  Club was  10 cents per acre.  The bylaws stipulated  that you had to a resident of Ward 1  Iberville  Parish to join. There are other intersting stories  but to protect the guilty they won'y be mentioned here.

Here’s Your Sign

Old Railroad  route  along  Callaghan Ditch  to Whaley canal

Hunting  club  signs are put at  access  / entry points to keep out trespassers 
and to  protect  the landowners  as  well.

Camp Site  Leasing an added Bonus

One of the first things a hunter searches after securing  a hunting rights lease, a place that  will make it easier to hunt more frequently. Landowners providing camp site leases is a nice bonus for hunters. Hunters  are willingly to pay for that opportunity.  There is nothing like telling ole stories around the campfire. Most hunters dream of sharing the experience of hunting with  their friends  and seeing his child harvest game. Nothing beats spending time in the woods with like-minded people  and family.  That’s how you pass down the hunting heritage  and tradition down to your children and perpetuate the  sport.  

Joffrion Camp Site on  Whaley  Canal

The White Castle Lumber Co.  allows  Camp  site leases on their property.  It helps create new hunters, that is called  Sustainability.

Conclusion / Summary -Why  do this  story ?

Growing up at Bayou Pigeon, LA. in the hamlet known as ‘Indigo,’ for Indigo Bayou. I spent most of my free time in my adolescent years hunting Indigo Island and Lake Natchez. I was always intrigued by the eastern shore of Lake Natchez. 

It was never explorable for us, sloughs and entrances to the marsh  like  area  were  always choked with water lilies and marsh type grass and very boggy. If you tried to walk along it you would sink up to your waist in muck. It had remained a mysterious primeval place  to me until a few years ago. The availability  of  air-cooled surface drive  propeller driven engines  allowed access  and exploration.


Eastern shore of Lake Natchez at Con-tie slough entrance in the  Spring

The research  for this paper opened up a whole new history and perspective of the area to me.  ie., The ‘Cypress  Queen’ White Castle L &S Co.  Sawmill and  Lake Natchez railroad.

Even though there  are no traces of the proud “Cypress  Queen White Castle  Sawmill”,  today.  She deserves a better telling of her history in our community.  More than a few old pictures.

The Sawmills brought ample opportunities for employment  to local people and many new entrepreneurs  and business people moved to the area during the first three decades of the 20th-century. Many of these people  continued to live in the  community and became  community leaders after the mill shutdown. 

There are streets names of people  that were part of White Castle L&S  that many people have no idea of the origin of the name. White Castle  was part of a thriving timber industry during the 1904 to 1915 period  which ranked Louisiana in second place of lumber-producing states in the United States, behind  State of  Washington . 

The White Castle L&S / Lake Natchez Railroad,  in and of itself was an extraordinary  engineering  feat and worth  documenting.

Document, Educate, Preserve the History.

This is a  story from our past ... Iberville Parish, Atchafalaya Basin ... a  story our history / heritage .... value it, care for it, enjoy it, understand it ...


Source: American Lumberman. "A Journey through the Vast Downman Cypress Interests with Camera and Pen", American Lumberman, Aug 5, 1905 pp.43-82. White Castle Lumber & Shingle Company at White castle, Louisiana, in 1905; excerpts from American Lumberman magazine.  

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

Jeanerette;  About Us

"The Sawmills" (from "A History of William Cameron & Company", 1925)
 Source: Tolson, R.J., "The Sawmills" chapter excerpt, A History of the William Cameron & Company, 1925, Wm. Cameron & Co., Waco, Texas. 

The Many Faces of Plaquemine And Its  Surrounding  Area; A photographic History of Plaquemine, LA.; Collection of  Photographs by Anthony Fama Sr. 1999

The Impact of Oil on Iberville  parish , 2011; By James ‘Fry” Hymel 

High-Lead Logging on the Olympic Peninsula 1920s-1930s;
Logging railroads of  North  America;

About The  author:

Cliff is an American patriot, after serving in the US Army 1969 – 71. He earned a B.S. Degree in Industrial Education from  LSU.  

He grew up in Bayou Pigeon, one foot in the water and one on dry land. At that time, life for the people of Bayou Pigeon still revolved around the Atchafalaya Swamp’s yearly cycle of natural events to make a living. Primarily, commercial fishing, crawfishing, frogging, crabbing, alligator hunting, fur trapping, moss picking, and turtles. 

He has written two books about the Swamp Cajun Culture. "Bayou Pigeon, LA - Spirit of the Atchafalaya" and "Heritage of the Atchafalaya - A Cultural and Natural History of the Atchafalaya Basin". The first, winning a national Independent Publishers Award in 2012, in New York City, New York.  He has made himself knowledgeable and conversant in the history and folk life ways of the Atchafalaya Basin.

He is the Iberville Parish representative on the Lt. Governors, Atchafalaya National Heritage Area Trace Commission.

Since his retirement in 2008 he has given several dozen presentations and lectures on the history, heritage and folklife of the Atchafalaya Basin.

He is a master license Alligator hunter since 1981.


Co - Founder of the Bayou Pigeon Heritage Association, serves as Vice president.

He is a  Senior member American Society of Quality, Certified  Quality Engineer, Certified  Quality Auditor. Certified Reliability Engineer, Certified  Six Sigma Master Black Belt

Ex officio of the Catfish Hunting Club in the Atchafalaya Basin.

Past President St. John Parochial School Fathers Club

Member of the  NRA

Member of   the Boone & Crockett  Club

All rights Reserved

Clifford  LeGrange
225 776 2686