Early Louisiana, Uncategorized

Early maps of Fort Balize/Balise

I love looking at old maps, and the Library of Congress has a nice collection. Even better, they’re online.

Here’s the handy dandy link: https://www.loc.gov/maps/collections/ 

Early maps capture a moment in time. It’s amazing how quickly things disappear. Not one of my mother’s childhood homes still exists. One of my own childhood homes was reduced to rubble not long ago. Outdated maps will show that they once existed.

Maps can tell you a lot of things. Historical, rural maps sometimes denoted landowners.

The maps below are of Fort Balize/Balise, an old Spanish fort that once existed at the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. I like the color of the first map and the detail of the second map. You get a sense of just how exposed to the elements this fort was – and why it’s no longer in existence.

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The fort was at the very bottom righthand corner.
Early Louisiana, House History, Uncategorized

A disappearing Shreveport

From death and mayhem, I thought I’d visit some of Shreveport’s lovely old homes. Most of them are gone now, but I enjoy looking at pictures of the grand old ladies that once were found in and near downtown. The landscape changes so quickly.

Houses burn down. They’re torn down. They simply disappear until ghosts get lost trying to revisit home.

The Zeigler house

On a bluff overlooking the Red River, the S. J. Zeigler house once stood. How beautiful is it? I can imagine standing on the widow’s walk and taking in the river views.

birdseyeThe Zeiglers apparently bought the house in 1881 from W. P. Ford. Ford had purchased the property from the Leonards. It seems likely that the Leonards built the house.

In 1901, Louie Ogden and her cousin Helen Kendall were driving in a trap with a couple of gentleman when the rear seat collapsed just outside the Zeigler home. Poor Helen was knocked unconscious. Fortunately, she recovered. She and Louie were guests of Mrs. W. C. Vance on Fannin street.

Interestingly, the 1900 census lists the Zeiglers as boarders. They also liked going by initials. They’re listed as S.J. and H.M. with sons Sam and Howell and someone named Vinnie.

In reality, S.J. was Samuel Jacob. He and his wife, Sarah, had five children. Only two lived to maturity.

Their daughter Sadie died age 9 at the Zeigler house in 1891. Another daughter, Susie, died aged two years, one month and 23 days in 1917. The family later made its way back to South Carolina.

If you visit the house site today, you’ll find the Chateau Hotel.

1608 Fairfield Ave. back in the day

If you go to 1608 Fairfield Ave. today, you’ll find a rundown office building. A century ago, you would have found this fabulous mansion. I would have wanted a room in the tower.

John and Toinette Scott lived here. John was listed as a planter in the 1917 Shreveport telephone directory. Census records show them living in that giant house without any live-in servants or children. John’s sister married into the Youree family and lived nearby so they wouldn’t have been too lonely.

The home was demolished in 1947 after becoming a funeral home. An advertisement was placed in the newspaper for anyone interested in beautiful woodwork, mantels, bevel plate, glass doors, stained glass windows, oak, wainscoating or inlaid flooring.

The shell hints at the planned grandeur

One of the saddest houses to stand in Shreveport was a shell of a building that was never completed. Walter Page started to build an enormous house on Jefferson-Paige Road. He stopped work on it when his son John died. A storm hit the property in 1917 and the shell later was razed.

The house was known as Page’s Castle. The Shreveport Journal described it as “two stories with a four story octagonal rotunda, surmounted by a dome and observation deck. From the hilltop house spread a sweeping lawn with thousands of rose bushes.”

Page came from a wealthy family that moved from Tennessee to Louisiana and bought tremendous acreage for cotton. Supposedly, in an attempt to lure his son from the drinking and fast cars of Nashville, Page began work on Page’s Castle. He envisioned a resort similar to Delmonico’s with ducks, roses, a fish pond and race horses. A storm heavily damaged the dream project in 1917. Then news of John Page’s death quickly followed, and the dream died entirely.

More likely, the storm created problems with the construction, and the rest of the story is just romantic nonsense. It appears that John Page died long before construction on Page’s Castle even began.

howellhouseThe Howell house stood at 819 Spring St. It was built by John Howell and evolved from mansion to apartment building before a fire destroyed it in the 1930s.

This picture doesn’t do the Hicks mansion justice.

My personal obsession is the Hicks home that stood at 416 Travis St. This antebellum mansion endured for years as modern structures rose around it.

It was built at the conclusion of the Civil War with logs shipped from St. Louis. The original owner was Daniel Smith, but the deed soon passed to Col. F. M. Hicks. Hicks lived there until moving to Texas for his health. His son Samuel B. Hicks then moved into the home with his bride Mamie.

The home came down in the 1950s to pave the way for a skyscraper.

Acadiana Genealogy, Uncategorized

A Christmas-time drowning


The Weekly Times-Democrat on 29 Dec. 1893

Jennings, La., Dec. 22 – Passengers on the trip of the steamer Olive from Mermenteau to Grand Cheniere, Dec. 20, bring news of a very sad accident that occurred in Grand Lake, 30 miles south of here, during the heavy windstorm of Friday night, Dec. 15.

When the Olive reached a point in Grand Lake one half mile east of Grass Point, the crew and passengers were horrified to find floating in the water the dead body of a woman, who proved to be Mrs. D. Thibodaux, of Mermenteau, who had left home some days previous on a visit to friends at Cheniere Pardieu, 40 miles south of her home. The party consisted of herself and husband, a Mr. Miller, Widow Thibodaux and her three little girls, who had made the trip in a skiff, as has been the custom among the old residents of the river and lake country.

The same day the corpse of Mrs. Thibodaux was found in the lake, a hunter, A. Nunez, came across her husband, D. Thibodaux, on the east shore of Grand Lake, about three and a half miles from where his wife’s body was recovered. Mr. Thibodaux was half starved, his feet terribly swollen from exposure and he was in a half dead condition, having been four days and nights alone on the bleak lake shore without food or shelter, and exposed to several days of cold, windy, frosty weather. His sufferings had been greatly increased by his continued wanderings in vain search for some trace of the rest of his party.

He was taken on board of A. Nunez’ boat, and after receiving all possible care was able to give an account of the terrible ordeal through which himself and companions had passed.

The party had left Cheniere Pardieu on the return trip to Mermentau the morning of the 15th in their skiff, and went along without hindrance until the wind rose about 2 p.m. to a high gale, and they were compelled to land near the south end of Grand Lake to await calmer weather. About sundown, the wind calmed and they pushed out into the lake. All went well until about 10 p.m. when the wind suddenly rose from the west and blew a gale. The skiff was running about half a mile from the west shore and the lake became very turbulent in a few minutes, so that the skiff became unmanageable. In spite of every effort to keep the boat clear with her head to the wind she soon began filling with water. Not long after the boat filled and swamped, throwing all the party but Mr. Miller in the water. Thibodaux caught his wife and attempted to swim toward shore supporting her. Soon he became worn out with exertion and beating of the waves and lost hold of his wife, who could not have survived many minutes in the rough sea. It is remarkable how Thibodaux managed to weather the stormy lake, but in some way he managed to swim and float until he touched the east shore.

The searching party this week found Miller in the skiff on shore, frozen to death or drowned, it cannot be told which. Up to date the bodies of Widow Thibodaux and children have not been found.


Sometimes a tree burns and hits you

In 1878, a tree at Lake Verret fell and killed poor Auguste Arsement. 

My grandmother’s parents, Albert Gauthreaux and Isabelle Giroir Gauthreaux, didn’t live long. Albert died in his early 40s of kidney disease. Isabelle died in her early 20s of appendicitis. Their daughter (my grandmother) made up for it by living to 95. But I digress.

Our ancestors died of all kinds of things: Yellow fever, typhoid, childbirth, etc. Life was hard before vaccines and urgent care centers.

And, sometimes, a tree just up and hits you and your “lady friend,” creating a family of destitute orphans (anyone else picturing Oliver Twist here?).

Pioneer of Assumption
March 30, 1878

On Thursday, the 28th, Auguste Arsement, more familiarly known under the sobriquet of Joami, a fisherman, was killed by the fall of a tree. It appears the deceased, in company with several other fishermen and a lady friend, had encamped for the night on the shores of Lake Verret, near a partially decayed tree, in close proximity to which the ordinary camp fire was left burning. In some inexplicable way, during the time all the party was wrapped in deep sleep, the fire came in contact with the decayed tree and readily ignited the same. Soon after, the flames having weakened the tree, there was a crash and poor Auguste was mortally wounded and the lady seriously injured. Mr. Arsement survived until the next day. He was about 50 years and leaves a family of destitute orphans, his wife having died some two years since.



The Donaldsonville Chief – Nov. 17, 1906

– The building at Dutchtown occupied by A. J. Landry as a barber-shop was totally destroyed by fire at about 10 o’clock p. m. last Saturday, together with its contents.

– Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Bouchereau are receiving the congratulations of their numerous friends anent the birth of
their first child, a sweet little daughter, who arrived from Storkville Monday afternoon of last week.

– Miss Mabel Barton’s many friends in Ascension and elsewhere will be delighted to learn that she has almost
completely recovered from the severe attack of typhoid fever with which she suffered during the past summer.

– A bouncing boy made his appearance at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bennie Savoy early yesterday morning, and the auspicious event’is eliciting congratulations galore from the many friends of the happy young parents.

– Mr. and Mrs. John Coquille came up from New Orleans last Saturday afternoon on a visit to Mrs. Coquille’s
mother, Mrs. John Bourg. Mr. Coquille returned home Monday afternoon, his attractive wife remaining over until yesterday morning.

– Mr. and Mrs. John Schaff’s baby daughter was christened at the Catholic church at 10 o’cl.ck last Saturday (
forenoon, Rev. L. G. Baudin officiating. The pretty name of Anna Lily was bestowed upon the dainty little lady, Miss Anna Ohlmeyer and Richard Ohlmeyer acting as sponsors.

– Attorney R. J. Chauvin left for New Orleans Wednesday morning to be at the bedside of his little son, Rend,
who is seriously ill with pneumonia at the home of Mr. Chauvin’s parents in that city. A message received to
day conveys the gratifying information that the patient is considerably improved.

– A dainty little girl arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Alcee Rodriguez at 8:50 o’clock yesterday morning,,
and the numerous friends of the proud young parents are proffering their congratulations anent the auspicious
event. The Chief takes pleasure in adding a share of felicitations, and trusts that the diminutive damsel will
be blessed with a long and happy life.

– The marriage of Joseph Austin Moore, of Terrebonne parish, to Miss Leah Margaret Knobloch, of West Baton Rouge, was solemnized Wednesday afternoon at St. Joseph’s Catholic church, Thibodaux, in the presence of a large gathering of relatives and friends of the contracting parties. Miss Gertrude Folse attended the bride as maid of honor, and Ernest
Roger, Jr., officiated as best man. After the ceremony the happy young couple drove to Shriever, where they will make their home and share each other’s joys and sorrows for the remainder of their lives. The bride is a niece of Hon. W. C. Ragan, mayor of Thibodaux, and a sister of V. J. Knobloch, a well-known young busiiness man of the same town. She is an extremely pretty and popular young lady, and has a legion of friends and admirers in this community who will rejoice with her in her new-found happiness. Mr. Moore is a son of John T. Moore, a leading sugar planter and prominent citizen of Terrebonne parish, and has before him the promise of a bright and happy future.

– For Sale! The Well-Known LAUDERDALE PLANTATION Situated in St. James parish on the west bank of the Mississippi river. six miles below Donaldsonville, at the head of the Mississippi and Lafonrche Drainage District, containing nearly 1600 acres of land-1000 of which are in high state of cultivation. Balance in woodlands, with
considerable cypress timber. This money-making plantation, with all necessary adjuncts-mules, implements, carts, etc.-will have enough corn and hay for its requirements until the new crop of 1907. half of the cane crop will be D.74.
Texas and Pacific station and Lauderdale postoffice on plantation. A large modern cottage, surrounded by live oaks, magnolias and forty grafted bearing pecan trees, makes a picturesque home. Offered for sale on account of departure of owners. Apply on premises or to E. B. LAPCE

obituaries, Uncategorized

Giroir family obits

July 3, 1918 – New Orleans Times-Picayune

Franklin – Mrs. J.B. Giroir, 76, died at her home today. Interment in the Franklin cemetery. Mrs. Giroir is survived by two daughters and two sons.

Nov. 8, 1919 – New Orleans Times-Picayune

Paincourtville – Amedee Giroir of Klotzville died Wednesday. Burial took place at the Elizabeth Catholic Church. He was a Confederate veteran, 80 years old. Survived by wife and two sons, Frank and Charles.

April 8, 1915 – New Orleans Times-Picayune

Baldwin – Mrs. Addie Mora Giroir died Tuesday night at her home here. She was 33 years old.