Genealogy tools, terrebonne parish

Memories of Terrebonne

Years ago, when I was a teenager, I took a humanities class in high school. This would become my favorite class ever, even edging out third grade at Chapel on the Campus (third grade is my second favorite class because it introduced me to literary heroines Amelia Bedelia and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle).

Humanities sent us on scavenger hunts for different types of architecture, introduced us to Puritan church services while dressed as Puritans and required us to build family history scrapbooks.

In other words, it was nonstop fun. And it didn’t require math or science.

The scrapbook included pictures of family heirlooms, a family tree and oral histories. I had to sit each of my parents down and record them talking about their life pre-me.

To me, oral histories are fascinating because they give you a glimpse into a life you never experienced. Tbey also may be a genealogy tool you might not have considered since they can be a little hard to find.

Here are some oral histories from Terrebonne Parish:

I love the one by Robert “Jack” Hebert, who was born in 1899 “right here in the little town of Gibson.” He describes a tough life of living off the land and the bayou.

Here’s one of my favorite passages:

[When you grew up, did you speak French or English?]     

I could not speak a word of English, until I started going to school.  The four children that I reared, couldn’t speak a word of English, because my mother could not talk English and my daddy didn’t talk English.  I got married and lived with my daddy and mother, all the way through, until they died.  I inherited this piece, that the home was on.  My brother and sister said they had a good home, and they was going to give me the old home.  That is how I came to get this home.  I always stayed with them.  The old man couldn’t work, I figured, if I get out and pay rent, I just as well stay here and pay it to them.  We always got along together.  If the good Lord spares me, as long as I live, it will stay right here.  I am not going anywhere.

[In the old days, did most of the people around here speak French?]

Oh yeah.  Not anymore, hardly.  I have only one daughter that can hold a conversation in French, the other three can’t.  They forgot it all

terrebonne parish

The 1927 flood and Gibson

If you grew up in Louisiana, then you know about the 1927 flood. This was the big flood that devastated south Louisiana. At least one song has been written about it.

I came across the picture above in the Houma Courier. The Walthers were once the leading family in Gibson (Terrebonne Parish). Their house and church still stand.

This is what the Walthers’ store looked like in 1927 after the great flood. Until the water receded, you needed a boat in order to shop.

The caption accompanying this photo mentions a 1978 memoir on the Walther family. Give a shout if you know where a copy of that is.

terrebonne parish

Gibson society news

This is courtesy of the Houma Courier on Sep. 29, 1900:

Mrs. J. Walthers and little ones have returned from a pleasant visit to Thibodaux.

Miss Mido Melancon on Arnaudville is the guest of her brother, Mr. A. Melancon.

Mr. and Mrs. Will Mount are occupying their lovely home in Ashland Park.

Mr. Peter Fandal Jr. paid a flying trip to Morgan City.

Capt. P. Fandal Sr. Is having a dredge boat built.

Mrs. M. Candelier has left for her home in Edgerly, La., to the regret of her many friends.

Rev. Clifford of Morgan City held services at St. Anne’s Church last Thursday.

Mr. M. Titus of “Don’t Know” was a pleasant visitor in our town last Saturday.

Professor Robert Jerbeau and H. Bierman treated a number of their friends to a few nice selections on mandolin and guitar, those present were: Mr. and Mrs. Peter Fandal Sr., Mr. and Mrs. J. Fandal, Misses Lizzie Fandal, Jennie and Gracie Picou and Messrs. L. Smith, John Fandal, B. Jerbeau, H. Bierman and Masters Julius Fandal, Charlie and Aloyius Fandal.

Miss Josie Picou has left for her home in Bayou Sale. She was accompanied by her cousin, Master John Picou.

Mr. Henry Walther and sister Miss L. Pratt are visiting in Eunice.

Mr. A. J. Bergeron was a recent visitor to Morgan City.

Drs. La Palme and Bourgeois are occupying a room at the Fandal residence.

Mrs. J. Moody and little Hilda have returned from a pleasant visit to Mrs. Jennie Verret.

The organ for the Catholic Church was received lately.

Fun facts about Louisiana, terrebonne parish

Miss Teen’s house

A few years ago, I took a picture of the inside of Miss Teen’s house in Gibson. This was her kitchen, where she made chicken spaghetti. The only bathroom in the house was off the kitchen – probably because it was an addition.

Miss Teen was an old woman who was friends with my granny. Her husband died years before she did. Because they were childless, she lived alone in this house and spent a lot of time on the front porch watching the world go by.

The house was a shotgun shack, and there was nothing fancy about it. One room flowed into the next. Most of the rooms had a bed in them.

I always liked Miss Teen’s house because of the details. Look at those beautiful columns in the kitchen. I had to stick my phone through a broken window pane to get this shot. Now I’m glad that I did. The house was torn down recently after sitting abandoned for decades.

A lot of old houses in small towns are disappearing across Louisiana. Beautiful carpentry disappears with them.

From my high school humanities class, I know that Miss Teen’s house was a shotgun shack. It wasn’t a narrow shotgun shack like you’ll find in New Orleans. This was a wider house with Queen Anne trim. However, if you fired a shotgun through the front door, the bullet still would go through the house and out the back door in a straight line.

Look at the high ceilings! It’s such a shame that this beauty is gone.

If you’re like me and you’re fascinated by the beautiful bones of old buildings, visit the Facebook page for abandoned Louisiana and Mississippi:

terrebonne parish

Old Gibson Post Office?

According to the real estate listing, this building used to be the post office in Gibson:

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It certainly looks old!

I only remember the brick post office on Carroll Street. Now the post office is across the bayou near the school.

By the way, this property could be yours for $58,000. It needs a lot of work.

I’m always curious about buildings that have what appear to be doorways on the upper level. Maybe there used to be a balcony there? Or did they prop up a ladder? Inquiring minds …

Fun facts about Louisiana, terrebonne parish

Finding family history on Facebook

A modern day photo of the fabulous town of Rodney, Mississippi.

First, I’ll warn you that what I’m about to share could result in an addiction.

I’m slightly obsessed with this photo of little Arcola Alston and her mother from Rodney History and Preservation Society’s Facebook page. I think it’s the hats. 

I regularly fall down a rabbit hole with two Facebook groups. One is the Bayou History Center Inc., which shares photos and stories from south Louisiana, including Lafourche, St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes. The other is a preservation group dedicated to the ghost town of Rodney, Miss.

Someone kindly posted this photo on the Bayou History Center’s Facebook page. It’s of a general store that once stood in Gibson. It closed in 1961. During its lifetime, it also was the Greyhound Bus Station. Look at the shadow of the photographer with the huge camera. 

I can explain my fascination with the Bayou History Center’s content since I was born in Thibodaux. I have no ties to Rodney other than a slight obsession with the place. Rodney almost became the capitol of Mississippi. It lost by a few votes. It also used to have newspapers, an opera house, stores and a thriving population. It’s even said that Zachary Taylor was paying social calls in Rodney when he found out he had been elected president of the United States. After the river shifted course, Rodney dwindled away. All that’s left today are a few churches, a heck of an old country store (no longer open), abandoned homes and deer camps. You should visit if you get a chance though! We visited for my birthday a few years ago.


This was a prisoner of war camp in Thibodaux during World War II. During the war, captured German soldiers would be brought to Louisiana and put to work in the fields to replace American soldiers who were overseas fighting. Also from the Bayou History Center Inc.

Both sites can suck me in for hours. What can I say? I love old photos. Rodney’s site is searchable. Bayou History Center’s site isn’t. Hint. Hint.

First Communion in 1931 at St. Patrick in Gibson. In my memory, the church windows were stained glass that wouldn’t have opened so they must have updated the windows at some point. 

The great thing about these sites is people will dig up old photos that you didn’t even know existed and post them. They’ll post stories about photos that are shared. It’s oral history without the audio.

How often I sat fidgeting inside St. Patrick Catholic Church in Gibson through Mass. The stairs lead to the organ loft. 

I’m sharing some photos (hope the sites don’t mind) and links to the groups. But I warned you! They’re addictive.



terrebonne parish

A tenant farm experiment in Terrebonne Parish

I love old photos. They’re such a wonderful glimpse into the past.

The other day, I happily spent some time browsing through the Library of Congress’ photos of Terrebonne Parish in 1940. Granted, few of the photos contain identifications so you don’t know who’s photographed. But they’re still wonderful images.

There’s something even more interesting about these photos. They showcase the federal government’s attempt to prop up a collapsing sharecropping system in Terrebonne Parish by turning plantation land into tenant farms.

This one’s simply labeled as “Cajun children” near Schriever.

This young man carried water in a cart to men working in the fields.  This was also taken near Schriever.

A home nurse making a visit to a house in Terrebonne Project. I am fairly certain that this house still is standing.

More kids near Schriever.

Here’s a mother and her children.

Here’s the complete set of photos: 

I noticed something as I read the captions. The photos contain one key identification. They’re identified as being taken in or near the Terrebonne Project.

School attended by the children of Terrebonne Farms.

I had no idea what that was so I did a little digging. It turns out that the Terrebonne Project was actually Terrebonne Farms, a settlement that grew out of the New Deal. I’ve driven through Terrebonne Farms my whole life without knowing what it was.

Lexington_Herald_1940-04-29_6.pngIn the 1930s, the federal government established an experimental farm in Terrebonne Parish. The government bought four sugarcane plantations – Julia, Waubun, St. George and Isle of Cuba – with the idea of creating small farms that would used by practical farmers. Whatever a practical farmer is.

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The families of Terrebonne Farms included Benoits, Bergerons, Naquins and Waguespacks.

Really, the small farms were a new spin on sharecropping and a solution to failing plantations. Farmers worked big chunks of land cooperatively while also tending to individual farms. Each family received six acres: two acres for a frame house and four acres for the individual farm. By 1940, the farms totaled 40 families.

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Here’s the selection of house choices on Terrebonne Farms.

The federal government really set you up with a pretty house and a nice little bit of farmland.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Blanchard later told a researcher that they had a baby in a blanket and $8 when they joined Terrebonne Farms. Mrs. Beady Roddy recalls her amazement at living in a brand new house. The wives were given cooking lessons.

I don’t believe the families actually owned the individual farms during the experiment. At least not at first. It seems that the government held onto ownership. So it was 40 acres and a mule without a deed.

World War II seems to have brought an end to the experiment.

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I think this house – on Main Project Road – might be a Terrebonne Farms’ house.

Here’s a really great account of what happened to the farms:  It sounds like families were allowed to purchase them after World War II when the federal government got out of the tenant farming business.

If you’ve driven on Main Project Road on the outskirts of Thibodaux, then you’ve driven through this piece of history. Project is a leftover term from the Terrebonne Project or Terrebonne Farms. How about that?



Newspaper articles, terrebonne parish

House of Seven Sisters

7tjweyhyt5ern1bnwh3wwqHere’s the last contribution from my grandmother’s attic. This is from the Dec. 31, 1972, edition of “The Houma Daily Courier & The Terrebonne Press.”

Sheriff Field is at left in this photo.

A house in Houma at the corner of Goode and School is known as the House of Seven Sisters because seven sisters grew up there. Catchy, huh?

Odelia Chauvin Field brought seven girls into the world.

Sheriff John H. Field and his wife, Odelia Chauvin, were the parents of these many girls:

  1. Sarah who married William Wright
  2. Josephine who married Tom Sherburne and later Andre F. Chanfreau
  3. Eunice who married Francis Grinage and later Ozeme Trahan
  4. Mamie who married E. W. Condon
  5. Maria who died of yellow fever
  6. Eliza who married Mr. Gagne
  7. Elizabeth who married James Edmond Foolkes.

The House of Seven Sisters began as a four room cottage with a single floor. It’s survived at least two fires. Elizabeth moved in with her family after her husband died.

And … it’s still there! Granted, it’s surrounded by ugly government buildings. Ah, progress.


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Newspaper articles, terrebonne parish

Secrets of Gibson

An old house in Gibson.

My cousin and I were reminiscing about Gibson the other day. She grew up there, across the street from our grandmother. I spent a lot of time there as well. In our childhood, Gibson had a country store, a post office, a church, a library and lots of little old ladies who sat on their front porches and spoke Cajun French. Everything was within walking distance. We dearly miss the Gibson of our childhood.

I even blogged about the town here:

So I perked up when I saw a history of Gibson in my grandmother’s newspaper trove.

TIGERVILLE: Gibson was known as Tigerville (bobcats in the woods) until the Civil War when it was renamed Gibson for U.S. Sen. Randal L. Gibson.

MOUNDS: I had no idea that there are Indian mounds in Gibson. Apparently a bomb shelter was built in one of them during the Cuban Scare (whatever that was). Two are located on the south side of State Highway 20.

CIVIL WAR: Federal troops camped where the school is now. Dog tags later were found on the site. The soldiers used the Methodist Church as a hospital. At the time, the church was only a few years old.