Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Glimpse into Plantation Alley in Louisiana

It's been a long time since I joined in with Five on Friday.  And, now it's being held on the FAST blog.  So, I'm linking this post to the new host at FAST and joining in.  If you haven't visited, FAST and Five on Friday, it might be nice if you jump over and pay them a visit :)

For years and year's I had wanted to visit Plantation Alley in Louisiana and recently my wish was granted.  My daughter booked this tour through a local tour operator in New Orleans.  We left early in the morning and traveled about 50 miles, crossing the huge Lake Pontchartrain on our way to Vacherie, Lousiana along with our bus driver who was an excellent guide.

The first stop was at Laura Plantation.  This house might not look as grand as many, but the history attached to this home is amazing.  My daughter had bought the book written by the Laura Locoul Gore who was the last member of the family who started this plantation.  Her memoirs can be found here.  

Laura's great grandfather, Guillaume Duparc, came over from France in 1803.  The home tour starts in the basement of the home where they have reconstructed the history of the founding family members.  Laura was born in this home back in 1861.  The family were Creole, Catholic and slave owners.  Laura inherited the plantation in the later 1800's and ran it until 1891.  She sold the property in the early 1900's where the new owners occupied the property until 1984.  The land is now owned by a local sugar company and the buildings are held in a non-profit trust.

Our young tour guide did an excellent job of telling the amazing story of this family.  There was lots of infighting between this family let alone the atrocities they did being slave owners.  

Laura Plantation had a fire back in 2004 that destroyed most of the home.  It has been rebuilt for the most part.  It was amazing to see the original beams in the basement of the home that were original.

This is the back of the home and originally it was a U shaped floor plan.  


A few years ago I visited a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina.  I accompanied my husband on a business trip and one evening they reserved a large coach for us to travel to the plantation for a tour and dinner.  Right from the beginning I felt uncomfortable; there was a middle aged white woman dressed in her period southern finery who was our host.  The whole evening it made me feel like there is a huge line drawn between those who have and those who don't have.  Being from the west and raised in a small farming community, I grew up with no prejudice whatsoever.  But, I really felt it in Charleston, unfortunately.  Luckily, as I said above, our tour guide at the Laura Plantation painted a completely different picture for us.  He felt for all people who lived during this time; especially the slaves.  As you can see above a sample of the slaves and their cost.  Very sad indeed. . .

The land surrounding the plantation is beautiful.  It was a gorgeous spring day with no humidity but I can only imagine how hot it becomes during the summer.

A short walk away and we arrived at the slave cabins.  This was so interesting to hear about the stories of those people who lived here.  We found out that most of the slaves who came to the Laura Plantation at the beginning were from Senegal.

Our tour guide told us that some of the descendants of the Laura Plantation slaves lived in these cabins up to the 1970's. 
 
This is what is left of the large home that Laura's grandmother built for herself after Laura's father occupied the main home.  They are hoping to restore this home in the future.  Laura's grandmother was a very hard hearted woman.  Laura recalls a story of meeting an older slave at the family's well.  His forehead had letters inscribed on it.  She asked him about it and he told her that your grandmother branded me after I ran away.  Laura was appalled to say the least.  Laura's father was a gentle man and after the Civil War he was kind to the people who worked on his plantation.  As I mentioned, Laura grew up in a French speaking Creole family.  In her late 20's she decided to abandon the life she knew and she married a Protestant doctor from St. Louis where she moved and started her new life.  If you read the book, you will find that it's a fascinating story.

From the Laura Plantation we headed back down the road to the Oak Valley Plantation, also on the West side of the Mississippi River in Vacherie, Louisiana.  It has all the trapping of the Gone With the Wind scenery that was in my head . . .

This time we were on a self-guided tour around the outside of the grounds.  Here you see what remains of the slave cabins.

We waiting a bit outside before we were escorted inside the main home.  The woman attendant on duty was extremely dour and a bit rude to us.  Once inside, we had an Acadian tour guide, dressed in period clothing, who told us about this home.  It kind of made me sick to my stomach to hear the stories of slave labor that built this home.  But, I found it to interesting to see this "shoo fly" or as they'd call it in India, a "pukka" fan.  Someone stood in the corner and pulled the rope that made this fan move back and forth and keep the bugs away.

This plantation dates from the mid 1800's and the 300 year old Virigina Live Oaks are so majestic.

Here's my lovely daughter, Heidi, standing in the front of the home with the mighty oaks lining the walkway.  Oak Valley Plantation doesn't have the same appeal to me as the Laura Plantation. After the original owner died, the plantation passed to a couple of owners and after the Civil War it became very difficult to keep up the property.  From what I understand, it was in ruins until it was bought in 1925 by Andrew Stewart who bought it was a gift for his wife Josephine.  They restored the home and lived there until Josephine died in 1972.  

 
I thought I smelled a gas leak but I think it was the mold growing on these trees from what I had read about them.  I've never seen anything like these magnificent oaks (except maybe the giant Redwood trees in Northern California).

Our day at the plantations ended and we soon found our way back to the bus (after having tried mint juleps) and headed back to our hotel in New Orleans.  Here's a few of my thoughts;
1.  If you are ever in this area, I highly recommend going to see the Laura Plantation.  
2.  It's not fancy compared to the others but it really gave me an insight into the life these people lived.  3.  And, it let you feel how life would be if you were on the other side as a slave. 4.  I always feel history is one of the most important things we need to learn about as it does and can effect our daily lives.  5.  I feel fortunate that I was fortunate to visit this area and learn about an era of our country that caused so much pain.

Wow, it's taken my a long time to write these words.  It's so much easier when I just pop in a photo of my knitting project and rattle on.  But, I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into a long forgotten world.  And, please feel free to share what you've been doing, too.

With my best wishes,

Pat

PS - Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers who read my blog! 


10 comments:

  1. I have been to the Laura Plantation, as well as many others, and found it to be exceptional. True to the history and way of life, which I think is rare.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this part of your trip, Pat. I moved from MA to MO when I was about five and lived in MO for fifteen years in the 50's and 60's. While the area around us still faced the tensions of racial prejudice, my New England bred parents did their best to help me appreciate and promote racial equality. One time when visiting a plantation in the South with some friends, the mistress of the plantation ordered me to to something. I must have looked startled because my friends chuckled uneasily and explained to the mistress that they had invited me as their friend and not their servant. In a small way that helped me understand how the master-slave relationship can be negative, even though there is so much beauty in the area, as your lovely photos show. xx

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  3. Hello Pat, long time no see 😊 what an great tour, it must have been so interesting, how times have changed. It looks a lovely sunny day with all the shadows.

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  4. That was so interesting, I had no idea that so much was preserved from that time, thank you for sharing xx

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  5. I really enjoyed reading this, thank you! We are so blessed to have not suffered like those slaves! Lord have mercy!

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  6. An enjoyable tour with you. Very interesting.
    Happy mother's day to you as well.

    Diana

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  7. Happy Mother's Day to you Pat. The plantations are sad and beautiful. When we visit historic homes I always want to see where the servants lived and worked because that's where my family would have been.

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  8. Very informative post thank you. I see your Lily is a Maine Coon. QT is a Maine Coon too. Totally adorable and special as Coonie's can talk- sort of with their chirruping sound they make. They also seem to make a loud sound as if grumpy swearing crossly possibly.
    We though he was 8 years old, he'd had 2 deceased owners and was awaiting re-homing again at an animal sanctuary. My teens and hubbie fell in love straight away. I love all cats but thought he looked small and scruffy. He was allowed to wander the corridor instead of being in a pen. I picked him up and chatted and cuddled him and asked him if he wanted to come and live with us. I think he was happy about that, he purred lots anyway. A few days later we collected him. After the vets and re-registering his micro chip details, we found he was 14.5 yrs (now 16). He's loved to bits. Cathy x

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  9. Interesting to see the plantations and hear your thoughts on things, Pat. There are so many injustices in history - hopefully there are lessons learned from it. I love the big old trees there. I hope that you had a lovely Mother's Day with your family. Hugs xo Karen

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  10. What a fantastic post, thank you for sharing this with us. I always love to explore the beauty in historical places and landmarks. The price list for the slaves is saddening, to think that humans can put a price on the value of others is very sad indeed.
    Thanks for joining in with Five on Friday, we hope you have a wonderful week and can't wait to see more of your posts in the future :)

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