Birding at Oakley Plantation House during Audubon Pilgrimage 2017, St. Francisville, Louisiana

In March, Oakley Plantation House near St. Francisville was the site of Audubon Pilgrimage events honoring John James Audubon who painted images

Murrell Butler, naturalist and artist, described the birds of the area today. C.C. Lockwood, Louisiana’s famous wetlands photographer, described how he takes world-class photos of wildlife. Dr. Tom Tully, wildlife veterinarian, explained his work and took the class on a birding expedition around Oakley’s grounds. The exciting siting of the day was a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker! Try it, you’ll like it.


Juan St. Malo & Cimarrons – Corrections & Additions to New Orleans Advocate article

The New Orleans Advocate newspaper on August 7th, 2016 carried an article about Juan St. Malo, runaway slave in Spanish Colonial Louisiana. The article in the Historically Speaking section referred to him a Jean Saint Malo. In the Spanish judicial records he was known as Juan St. Malo in 1780’s. He had run away from the D’Arensbourg Plantation upriver from New Orleans on the “German Coast” near today’s Hahnville LA. He made his way to Lake Borgne (see map) and rose to be the leader of two villages of runaways, known as “cimarrons”. The villages, Chef Menteur and Ville Gaillarde, numbered together about one hundred villagers. They traded with the slaves behind plantations, sold cypress trees from the swamps to a British sawmill operator, grew crops and gathered the bounty of south Louisiana wetlands.

After a few years Spanish authorities closed in on the cimarrons. Those captured were interrogated and their testimonies are in the Spanish archives (translated into English in the Journals of the Louisiana Historical Society in the 1930’s). They were not plotting an insurrection, merely seeking their own freedom.

Read more of the story of Juan St. Malo, the village and events that led to their capture and punishment on pages 27-28 in my book DOWN IN NEW ORLEANS: True Stories of a Fabled City.

Louisiana Trust for Historical Preservation “Ramble” in New Iberia, Louisiana

“Ramble” in New Iberia

The Louisiana Trust for Historical Preservation had a downtown restoration of the old city was the first feature on display. The 1930’s era movie theatre being restored provided seating for the opening introductions and historical review of Iberia Parish on the banks of Bayou Teche.

It was being readied for a production of  Jesus Christ Superstar Saturday evening. Old buildings on the Main Street have been purchased by interested citizens for restoration and repurposing. A grand museum has been opened displaying the industries, people, and history. I enjoyed visiting with Howard Kingston, proprietor of Books Along the Teche, a small, but packed, book store at 106 East Main Street. The sugar industry has dominated the  culture since the Eighteenth Century. Together with the influx of Acadians, the arrival of the steamboat, rails and highways, plus salt mines, Tabasco sauce, and a crawfish farms, Iberia Parish has evolved to produce a prosperous population.

The old town tours were followed by visits to two Acadian cottages just off of Main Street being restored by Leo Watermeier. Visits followed to Olivier Plantation Store in Lydia and the restored ancestral residence of Peter Patout in Patoutville. That community celebrates Enterprise Sugar Mill, the oldest operating sugar mill in the United States. The Patout Plantation main house is a magnificent example of the prosperity that sugar made. A final visit to artist Hunt Slonem’s Albania Plantation is a dazzling example of the best of restoration accomplishments. Plus, the three story home on the banks of the Teche is filled with the finest in period paintings and Hunt’s own imaginative art work.

The twenty-four hours immersed me in a region busily preserving its past to benefit the  present.