THE HISTORY OF HACKBERRY, LOUISIANA

 

(transcribed by Leora White, 2008)

  

by

 

Velma Lowery 

 

October 7, 1991

 

Contributing Stories

By Rev. Theodore E. Brandley, M.S.

and

Nola Mae Ross

July, 1991

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

          The old saying, “you can’t go it alone” was never more true even for this small endeavor.  I am blessed with a number of talented and willing people, first being Mrs. Bruce “Sis” Vincent.  Much information and lovely hours of conversation was spent with her.

 

          To Gay Reeves who started me on this project for the Historical Society, all her help, my “editor” and her daughter Mary Lou Reynaud whom I have never met, yet typed the original manuscript for me.  To Father Theodore E. Brandley, M. S. for his generosity letting us print his story written in 1964 only helps us understand our history.  His love of the people of Hackberry is everlasting.  To James Lowery for his cover sketch, many thanks.  Homer Stoddard, our local history buff for the countless documents and hours spent helping me.  Daughter Cynthia for her photography and time during her busy schedule always put aside her work to help me.  Beulah Bradley for the many late night hours “sweating” over her word processor, many many thanks.  To the people of Hackberry who helped by digging up abstracts and helping relate life as it was, my deepest gratitude.  To Sheriff Sono and staff, Debbie Theriot, Supt. Sonny McCall, and Margaret Jones for their help.

 

          It has been an experience that left many unanswered questions that with God’s help I intend to pursue.  My only prayer is that this narrative will benefit our children.

 

 Table of Contents

 

Early Settlers  

Early Life in Hackberry 

Cattle  

Education 

Medicine 

Road System 

Transportation 

Oil Industry  

Salt dome storage  

Seafood and Trapping  

Utilities  

Military Heroes 

Hackberry Ramblers - By Nola Ross  

“As I Recall”  

 Holly Beach  

Johnson Bayou  

“They Called Her Audry” - By Rev. Theodore E. Brandley, M. S.  

Family Histories:  

          St. Germain Elender  

          Cuvillier 

          Devall            

          East          

          Elender          

          Gray  

          Hebert 

          Little  

          Lowery  

          Nobles  

          Portie  

          Sanner  

          White  

          Vincent  

          More of Our Roots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HISTORY OF HACKBERRY

 

          Many permanent records concerning the history of Hackberry have been lost forever in courthouse fires; in Alexandria during the Civil War in 1864, in Lake Charles in 1900, and in Cameron Parish in 1910.  This leaves family bibles, abstracts, and old documents the only data available to one trying to compile a history.  The personal stories of our older generation have been the most valuable source of information concerning events of early Hackberry.

 

 EARLY SETTLERS

 

          Geographically, Hackberry is located in the northwestern part of Cameron Parish, and is only about twenty-three feet above sea level at its highest.

 

          Hackberry is bordered on the east by Calcasieu Lake, on the north by Kelso Bayou, on the west by Black Lake, and on the south by marshes. 

 

          Attakapas Indian artifacts can still be found throughout the island.  It is not known why the Indians left the island, though it was probably due to the entrance of the white man.

 

          One story, told locally states that a small band of Indians wintered on the banks of Black Lake and when they prepared to travel north for the summer they left an elderly Indian thought to be too old to travel.  Alcendore St. German Elender, a pioneer settler of Hackberry, took the old Indian home with him.  After the man was well, he rejoined the tribe when they returned for the winter.  As the Indians saw him approach, they thought he was a spirit. 

 

          Our area has hand its share of Jean Lafitte tales, as the island was part of the “neutral strip” known as Rio Hondo.  This was the land between the Calcasieu and Sabine Rivers that was claimed by both the French and Spanish during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  This made it a haven for outlaws, rustlers, thieves, and a likely place for the pirate to bury his treasure.

 

          My family lived on the banks of Black Lake in the 1930’s, where my father, Ozama Cuvillier, trapped during the winter months and rented boats to fishermen during summer months.  A group of treasure hunters hired him to take them out to the west bank of the lake where supposedly three shell mounds were located, and the one with the cypress tree was to be the place where treasure was buried.  Of course, no treasure was buried so no treasure was found, but the tale gave us children the wonderful idea of roaming the marsh in our own version of the pirates.  Our schooner was a pirogue, and the treasure we buried was clam shell.

 

          It is not known how the name Hackberry came about, but an old document dated 1819 refers to this place as Hackberry and Hackberry Island.  It stated that Burrel Franks owned a 640 acre tract of land on the west bank of the Calcasieu Lake in a “place called Hackberry Island.”  It showed no survey, but simply stated that Mr. Franks owned the land.

 

          It mentioned in the Thomas Rigmaiden diary that a trader named Greenwood lived on the west bank of Calcasieu Lake at about the same time.  His first name is not given and no records can be found to clarify exactly where Greenwood lived.

         

          The first official government survey of the land was done in 1834.  Families by the names of Hampshire, Kelso, Phelps, Elender, Breaus, Duhon, and Hebert were some of the first settlers.  They obtained their land by homesteading, outright purchase, or land grants issued by the government for services rendered.

 

          George Kelso owned one of the largest sugar mills of the times. It was built of brick (Lake Charles American Press, April 1982) and was located near our existing Kelso Bayou Bridge.  This bayou was first known as Blake Lake Bayou on earlier documents.

 

          Mr. Kelso planted sugar cane all along the bayou, since he owned about half the land of Hackberry at that time. 

 

          His farm was worked by slave labor.  It is doubtful that Mr. Kelso actually lived on his land since all documents found concerning him listed Albert Phelps as his agent.  Mr. Kelso died in 1856 and the Civil War brought about the failure of his estate, so his entire property was to be sold in a sheriff’s sale for unpaid taxes.  Since there were no buyers, the property was seized by the state. An abstract states that the whereabouts of Albert Phelps was unknown.

 

          The Kelso heirs subsequently regained ownership of the land and ultimately sold it to Alcendore St. German Elender, an outstanding pioneer of Hackberry.  His wife was Rebecca Ryan, daughter of John Jacob Ryan of Lake Charles.  They had eleven children, and Mr. Elender did his best to settle all of them on the island.  As each child married, they were given a parcel of land.  In reading old abstracts you can detect his determination to expand his holdings.  He bought land from anyone willing to sell.  It would be safe to say that Alcendore St. German Elender was the father of Hackberry. 

 

          He had helped, as evidenced in a letter written to him in October 1875, by the Leesburg tax assessor, Andrew J. Kirby (Kingly), who bought a tract of land in sections twenty-two and twenty-three owned by George Kelso and stated, “Tax sale was held yesterday.  I bought land described in you name, please forward payment at your earliest convenience.”  However, when the entire property of Kelso was recorded by Elender that parcel of land was included in the final sale. 

 

          St. German Elender amassed a large herd of cattle which grazed the marshes during the winter and on the island in summer.

 

          He was also a man who recognized the importance of education for his children.  They were boarded with his brother-in-law, Thomas Rigmaiden, in order to attend the first public school in Calcasieu Parish.  John Batiste Hebert, William Little, Sr., John Peveto, and Joseph Vincent were sons-in-law of St. German Elender.

 

EARLY LIFE IN HACKBERRY

 

          Life in early Hackberry was not easy.  Archie Hollister stated it was beautiful country with little mounds throughout the prairie covered with salt grass, waving in the breeze.  The water in the marshes was fresh and was teaming with fish.  Wildlife abounded, with dear, otters, muskrats, raccoons, minks, opossums, alligators, red wolves, bobcats and black bear in residence.  Mosquitoes swarmed in clouds year round but were worse during the summer.  Sleeping was impossible without mosquito netting around every bed. 

 

          Access to the island was only by boat, either from the Gulf of Mexico or down the Calcasieu River from Lake Charles.  Some of the early settlers had their own boats, but many had to depend on the paddle wheelers that traveled the river from Lake Charles to Leesburg, bringing mail, supplies of lumber, groceries, or live stock to farmers living there. Many used row boats to take the river route to outlying towns.  Trappers and fishermen demanded on the dugouts or pirogues to travel the bayous and lakes.

 

          Hackberry was unique because there were no trees for building homes.  Lumber had to be brought in by boat.  The ones who couldn’t afford the lumber or freight took row boats up to the woods, felled their own trees, and rafted them down.  They then sawed them length-wise with cross-cut saws and air dried the rough lumber.  The homes were very crude and most likely one room pegged affairs, because they had no nails.  Many had no floors.  Wood for fuel was also a problem.  One can only guess the amount of wood needed for cooking and heating the whole year, all having to be hauled in by boat.

 

          Many early settlers were farmers, raising such crops as cotton, corn, sugarcane, sweet-potatoes, and other vegetables.  Some pigs were kept in pens to be fed garden refuse and table scraps; while the rest were released in the marshes to fend for themselves until there [they] were needed for slaughter.  They also raised chickens, guineas, geese, and turkey.  The extra eggs that were gathered were traded for staples such as flour, coffee, salt and sugar.

 

          Bread was always home baked, so each household had its own ready for yeast baking.  This was done by saving a small part of the dough from one baking to the next.  If by chance the housewife lost her supply of yeast, she would start her own, mixing together a small boiled potato, sugar, warm water, flour and a little soda.  This was left standing overnight to produce  yeast which was then ready for use.  The mixture could be dried, then when needed reactivated by adding little water and sugar to get the yeast working again. 

 

          Candles were made from tallow and a home spun wick.  If they were fortunate enough to find a beehive, it could be robbed for honey and the wax saved to make a good smokeless candle. 

 

          Homemade whiskey was never in short supply since farmers grew their own corn.  Wine was made from dew berries, elderberries, and fruit such as peaches.  Vinegar was made from wine which had gone bad.

 

          Pears, figs, peaches, plumbs, oranges, lemons and pecans were also grown.

 

          Doing the family laundry was an all day affair.  Clothes had to be loaded in a wagon and brought to the nearest body of water.  These clothes were beaten clean with a stick then brought home to be hung on fences, bushes, or a home spun rope.  Soap was made by saving tallow [and] other fats from cooking. Wood ashes from burned oak were saved in a barrel, then, when soap making time came, water was placed in the barrel.  The water was allowed to trickle out through a hole at the bottom.  The resulting “lye” from oak ash was cooked with the fat until thick.  This made a strong soap.

 

          Since there was no refrigeration to be had at that time, meat butchering had to be done weekly and shared with neighbors before spoilage occurred.  It was often salted and stored in large crock jars or kegs.  Some was also smoked into tasso or sausage or dried by the sun into jerky. 

 

          The family garden and field was a chore participated in by all members of the family.  Thomas Rigmaiden’s diary tells how even when visitors came, and they often hoed peas and visited.  With so much work to be done just to survive, there was very little time to sit idly during daylight hours.  Peas and beans were dried and stored in sacks. Potatoes and sweet potatoes were stored under hay in a dark place.  Molasses made from sugar cane was another product the farmers could trade or sell.

 

          Women held spinning bees and quilting bees.  That was a good time for them to visit with each other.

         

          Sheep kept in those days were often raided by packs of wolves, so they were penned close to home every night.  I’m told neighbors worked out an elaborate way to signal each other.  If a wolf was spotted during the day, one of the people would fire a gun.  This was notice for neighbors to be on the lookout.  Then they rode out and cornered the wolf and killed it.  Every farmer patrolled his part. 

 

          Each farmer had his own unique mark for sheep; and during laming time, they marked their own as well as their neighbors’ lambs by watching the lamb follow the ewe.

 

          Wool and cotton were cash crops which were shipped to Galveston by way of the Gulf of Mexico.  Several old timers told about how boat loads of wool or cotton were lost when storms sank the boat. This caused the farmer extreme hardship, since that was usually his only cash crop for the year. Any shed wool found in the prairie was also collected, washed, and stored to be spun and made into quilts.  Nothing was wasted.

 

          Fences were built by “splitting rails” from lengths of pine trees. There are still some old posts in use on our home place made from long leaf pine trees.  These posts are nearly 100 years old and if you cut a small piece, you’ll find it to contain mostly resin.  It is no wonder they could last so long.  Grandfather J. C. Elender said they were brought in 1900.

 

          Early milk cows were poor mild [milk] producers, so often more than one cow to be milked for the family.  Mild [milk] was cooled by storing in jugs and lowering it in the well.

 

 CATTLE IN HACKBERRY

 

It cannot be determined when cattle were brought to Hackberry.  St. German Elender had a large herd at the time of his death.  The establishment of cattle, tell the determination to survive the early settlers endured.  The lay of the land made access to the marsh areas, where they wintered their cattle almost impossible to reach.  One can only speculate the hardships, when the appropriate time came to move the herds from high land to marshes.  With no roads, they had to keep a weary eye on the weather.  A rainy season had to make the trek to the marsh almost impossible.  Mosquitoes “hanging in balls” from the belly of the poor animals. Young calves were being “smothered” by the pests hanging from their nose.

 

          Cattle Industry probably started earnestly by St. German Elender and Cyprien Duhon families.  Their descendents, the Sanner, Vincent, Little, and Elender families have maintained large herds throughout the years. A severe winter claimed large numbers; a 10% loss was common in the early years. Spring brought weakened animals susceptible to disease.  Insects and parasites caused untold problems for the cattle.  

         

          Although there were hardships, there was also entertainment in rodeo-type branding times for the boys of the island.  Hackberry has produced a number of rodeo stars in its time.  The Lenard Little family were avid rodeo performers including father Lenard, his sons, Sam, Lennie, Zero, and daughter Alice. Like the parents the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren continue to perform.  Patsy Little was a state all-around cowgirl and there were others that have attended college on rodeo scholarships.  There is a very active F.F.A. rodeo club that continues to produce promising stars today. 

 

          Thanks to Homer Stoddard, our very own history buff, I was able to copy a remedy for blind staggers from an old bill dated in 1885 that reads,  “First get a tin bucket, then take the yolks of three eggs, three tablespoons of good vinegar, three tablespoons good lye soap, and three turpentine.  Mix well and warm to a blood heat.  Then get a small stick and some soft cloth on the end of the stick.  Swab out the nostrils with the mixture.”  Note the mixture had to be in threes, but any odd number would do. 

 

          Cattle buyers would travel by boat down the Calcasieu River then hire local boys to make the drive to Sulphur, Lake Charles, or Vinton for shipment.  This was an overnight push and the customary place for the overnight stop was an abandoned home place with an old water well just about way to town. 

 

          There are many stories to be related of appearances and strange noises heard, that occurred at this location, whether they were superstitions, foxfires (marsh gasses) the sounds of cackling hens, crowing roosters, and the appearance of a little man called “Chaspare” was the most talked about. There were reports of mothers stopping there for a rest stop on the way to Sulphur for the children to nap.  While their children were sleeping they were slapped and the hand print was there to show this had happened. 

 

          One family moved into the place for a while.  The man would go to work every day leaving the mother and child alone.  The little girl was out in the yard playing when she screamed, the mother ran out to investigate.  The child told her there was a little man with a very long beard who approached her and when she told him to go away he slapped her, hard.  The mother tried to convince the child no one was around but he child lifted her dress and there on her derriere was a distinct hand print.  When the mother asked the child where the man had gone, the child said, “in the well.”  The mother grabbed a stick and approached the well, but the man had disappeared.

 

          The best story of Chaspare was the one told by the mailman from Sulphur who rode to Hackberry once a month with the mail.  A heavy rain forced the man to take refuge in the house for the night.  He barely had time to get settled for the night, using his mail bag for a pillow, when Chaspare appeared.  He asked the mailman to shave him and handed him a straight razor.  The mailman jumped up, ran to his horse and left at a full gallop from the place.  Only thing, Chaspare jumped on the horse with him, too, and they were off to Hackberry.  

         

          The next morning, he returned for the mail and there it was as he had left it.  His delivery completed, he decided he wasn’t going to stop at the place, but curiosity got the best of him, so he stopped.  He entered and settled for the night.  Chaspare appeared again and ask that he be shaved.  This time the mailman shaved him and Chaspare was never seen again.

 

          This was open range where cattle were free to roam the island at will.   In 1950, there were 152 recorded brands for the citizens of Hackberry.  Almost half the families had a few cows, either to provide meat for their families, or a milk cow.  The cattle ordinance of 1955 decreed that all main roads be fenced, brought an immediate reduction of available pasture, causing people to dispose of their cattle, but as mentioned earlier the Little and Sanner-Vincent families continue to maintain large herds.

 

          As roads improved, the need for cattle drives became unnecessary as trucks are available for such things.  However, cattle drives still take place south of Hackberry, along the beach whenever moving herds from winter range to summer range.

 

 

  EDUCATION

 

          Education was a concern for the early settlers.  The first school constructed was a one room school building.  The first school term was four months long, with children attending six hours a day.  Students had to buy their own books.  There was no paper available so students used slates to write on.  Heat for the schools was obtained from burning wood, then later coal.  A cistern provided the water for the school.  All students drank from the same cup.  The only lights for night programs were lamps brought from home.  The subjects that were taught were reading, grammar, arithmetic, geography and penmanship. 

 

          At one time there were two schools, one on each end of the Island.  Boys were excused from school when work had to be done at home.

 

          In 1916, Simen Duhon and his wife, Josephine Vincent Duhon gave the school board use of lands they were not using, which was more centrally located, a new school house was built in1916, and Ernest Sanner gave the right of way for access to the school. 

 

          The present school is still located here, but has grown and is now modern and offers among other things home economics, chemistry, science, athletics and has a rodeo arena and two gymnasiums.  Children are offered kindergarten and hot lunches. There is also an outstanding agriculture department that stresses modern methods and a meat processing plant. 

 

          School board members from the past were J. D. Demcerts, 1913; Dupra Vincent, 1922; Raymond Sanner, 1940; Joe Sanner, 1955; Johnnie Mae Parker Riggs, 1967; John DeBarge, 1979.  Betty Seay is the current member since 1985.

 

 

 

  MEDICINE

 

          During the early years of Hackberry, mothers had to depend on remedies handed down from generation to generation to help when there was illness, since no doctors were available.  Some of these remedies and their uses were even handed down from Indians and slaves. 

 

          One plant often used was the sassafras tree.  Probably no plant was ever more closely connected with American Exploration than sassafras.  G. B. Emerson in Trees and Shrubs of Massachusetts (1984) says, “This tree has the credit of having aided in the discovery of America, as it is said to have been its strong fragrance, smelled by Columbus, which encouraged him to persevere, and enabled him to convince his mutinous crew that land was near."  Historical writers generally agree that the Spanish explorers discovered sassafras in Florida and that its uses were learned from Indians by French Huguenot refugees living there.  It was described by the botanist Nicholas Monardes of Weville in 1574. It was used in Germany by 1582 and within a few short years, it became the universal specific, “especially for treating syphilis.”

 

          The demand for sassafras was so great, that ships sailed to the new world in search of it.  As early as 1603, the Englishman Gosnold, finding it growing on Martha’s Vineyard, dug up the roots, and took them back to England, making sassafras the first export from the States.  In the pamphlet, Good News from Virginia, written in 1612, another explorer, by the name of Whitaker, says “sassafras was called Winauk by inhabitants.  It is a kind of wood of most pleasant sweet smell and of virtue in phisick for cure of many diseases.” 

 

          The leaves are still used today in Cajun cooking as filé to season gumbo.  The roots were used to make teas for colds and flu, as a spring tonic and also as a  diuretic.  The filé was also used to make a poultice for sties.

 

          A plant variously called cud weed, life everlasting, cat foot,  silver leaf, rabbit tobacco and cotton weed, was also used medicinally.  It is native to most parts of the U. S., and produces white cottony flowers in August.  The whole plant is dried, and a tea is made from one teaspoon dried plant and one cup water.  It was considered great for bronchitis, malaria or mumps.

 

          Other plants and their uses were:

                  

1.    Whitehorse, horehound - the root of the plant was boiled in one quart of water till it reached taffy consistency, then cooled, pulled and chopped in small pieces and stored in airtight containers.  The result was a bitter cough drop.  

2.    Mullin, flannal plant, velvet mullin dock, candlewick, aaron rod, lungwort - In the old days mullin was used as a tea for coughs and for tuberculosis.  An ounce of dried leaves added to a pint of milk or water was boiled 10 minutes, strained and given with honey or sugar to make it more palatable and effective.  It was said that the Indians smoked the leaves to alleviate mild mental disturbances such as thinking “bad” thoughts or saying “bad” things.  

3.    Catnip, nep, catmint - a tea made from one ounce of dried leaves to a pint of water was good for colic, stomach pains, flu and colds.  

4.    Blackberry - Dried roots were boiled in water or milk for whooping cough.  Blackberry wine was made for adults.   

5.    Garlic - A most prized herb.  Crushed garlic was a treatment for pin worms.  It could be used as tea or eaten in food.  It was good for insect bites, earaches and bronchitis.  It was rubbed on the skin for arthritic pains and hung about the house to keep out vampires.  It was thought that a piece of the clove placed in a sore tooth would relieve aches; placed in the ear would relieve buzzing; and held in the mouth would stop a cold.  It is said you can put a garlic clove in your sock and you can smell it on your breath in two hours, to suggest its potency.  

6.    Curley dock, narrow leaf dock, sour dock - The root was used to make a tea said to be effective as a blood purifier.  The Indians mashed the roots into a pulp and used it on sores.  

7.    Prickley ash, toothache tree - Speaks for itself.  The leaf or the seeds could be used for toothache. It was also used as a general tonic and for snake bites.   

8.    Willow tree leaves - A person with very high fever was laid on a bed of wet willow leaves and covered with them. When the leaves were dried from body heat the fever would be gone.  The willow bark was also made into a tea for arthritis.  

9.    Live oak bark - Teas made from the bark was used to swab a sore throat. 

         

Some other remedies used were:

 

1.    Sheep tallow - Played an important part in frontier medicine.  It was used in a poultice with mustard seed in the treatment of pneumonia.

            The poultice was placed on the chest.  Warmed tallow was used in the ear for aches.

2.    Salt bacon - A piece of salt bacon was placed on a boil or sty to “draw out the infection.”  

3.    Castor oil - Any child that had a stomach ache was immediately given a dose of castor oil.  Then he really had a stomach ache.

4.    Alum was used to help heal a sore throat.  It was parched, then blown into the throat or brushed onto the sore throat with a goose feather.

5.    Smoke was blown into the ear for aches.

 

A booklet published in 1879 entitled Family Practice by Dr. C. J. Dunlop was often consulted.  It was a handbook of 100common diseases, giving symptoms and treatment. It was no doubt of great benefit to the settlers. For example, the patent medicine “Cascara Compound” was available in two sizes, a small bottle for 5 cents, or a large bottle for $1. It was a suggested cure for liver complaint, jaundice, dyspepsia, diseases of the kidney, and all diseases arising from disordered digestion. No doubt many people felt some comfort having some information available to them for illness.  Whether the patent medicines were beneficial is questionable.

 

          Treating by faith was another popular method of doctoring.  As in example a prayer was said for bleeding internally or hemorrhaging.  A man had to recite the prayer to protect the woman during her monthly period. 

 

          In later years, as doctors began practicing in the Sulphur and Lake Charles areas, and access to Hackberry improved, modern medical help was available to the residents. 

 

          Dr. J. A. Crawford, a pediatrician from Lake Charles, related the story of one house call he made to Hackberry in the early 1920s.  While driving a Model T Ford on Highway 90, he lost his radiator cap, making his car overheat by the time he reached Sulphur.  He spotted W. T. Burton’s Model T parked in front of the Calcasieu Marine National Bank.  He took Mr. Burton’s radiator cap and proceeded to Hackberry. When he returned to Sulphur at 5:30 p.m., he confessed to an incensed Mr. Burton that he had borrowed his radiator cap.

 

          By the 1930s three doctors were practicing in Hackberry; Dr. Leory Lambert, Dr. Lucus DiGiglia and Dr. John Colligan.  Dr. Lambert practiced medicine in Hackberry until his death in the 1940s.  Dr. DiGiglia moved to Lake Charles.

 

          Dr. Colligan has resided and practiced medicine in Hackberry since 1938.  He has seen the community through flu epidemics, helped us with child births, childhood diseases, general health care and death.  He is still advising people in Hackberry.

 

 ROAD SYSTEM

 

          For better than a hundred years, roads through the island were either cow trails or wagon trails. Settlers had also built a barge type ferry to cross Kelso Bayou.  It was operated manually.  The ferry was large enough to hold one pair of oxen and a cart, five horses or one buggy and a team of horses. Heading north through the marsh was a treacherous journey.  A good description of travel in early 1902 appeared in the Lake Charles American Press as follows: “it is rumored the oil companies contemplated putting in a tug to ply between Hackberry and Lake Charles.  This is good news, as there is plenty of business going on. Under the present system, the Hackberry people have to ride or walk 12 miles to Calcasieu Post Office.  Sometimes mud is neck deep to the horse and he bogs down.  Then one is obliged to walk two or three miles to get a team of oxen to pull the horse out.   Next he has the pleasure of going back home to give his wife or sister a week’s job of laundry.  Still the proprietors of the mail steamer Romeo will not hear our plea for them to make a landing.  The oil companies see our predicament, and if they will assist us out of the wilderness, we will remember them in the future.” 

 

          Every family using the road had to contribute a day’s work a month to help in the maintenance.  That consisted in carrying dirt from the island across the Kelso Bayou by cart and filling the holes.  This was very discouraging work, as each heavy rain washed the dirt away.  They placed logs on the road, which produced a rub-board effect.  That made it almost impossible to drive a wagon over it.  Then the rains came, the logs often floated away.  The persistent settlers built troughs, filled them with dirt, and placed planks parallel to the road.  But, this also lasted only until the next heavy rain.

 

          In 1896 a group of Hackberry citizens appeared before the Cameron Parish Police Jury to ask that a road be built through the island.  The first road was a dirt road, 32 feet wide.  In 1916 the Parish helped to extend this road to the Parish line.  It too was only a dirt road, so oil companies still had to haul equipment by boat.  In 1938 the road was shelled, allowing traffic to move much easier and faster and the road was finally hard surfaced in 1950.

  

 TRANSPORTATION IN HACKBERRY

 

          This is taken from the Geography of Hackberry written by the fourth grade classes of 1959-60 and 1960-61, under the direction of their teacher, Mrs. Bruce Vincent.

 

          Until 1916 there were no roads into the little settlement known as Hackberry.

         

          People came to Hackberry only by boats.  A boat called the Rex came out from Lake Charles once a week.  It went as far as Cameron and then made the return trip to Hackberry, and then on to Lake Charles. 

 

          The people of Hackberry made the trip to Lake Charles on the Rex to buy their supplies.  They got the supplies from the boat to their homes in buggies, wagons, and even on horseback.  These buggies and wagons traveled on trails across the prairies to and from the boat landing.

 

          The first boat landing was at what was then called Doiron’s Point.  It was later changed to the place east of the Drug Store where the children now swim in the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

 

          At first there were only trails over the prairie between Hackberry and Sulphur.  These trails were made more passable by the people who hauled many loads of dirt with their oxen.

 

          On this dirt, which they had hauled, the men laid planks to keep the buggies and wagons from bogging.  With each rain these boards floated away. 

 

          This was partly remedied by building troughs, filled with dirt.  These were placed cross wise on the ends of the planks, at either side of the road, to hold the planks down.

 

          This method was satisfactory until a real downpour washed the dirt out of the troughs, and then the troughs and planks floated away.

 

          At that time a crude hand-made ferry was used to cross on buggy or several horses, at a time, across the Kelso Bayou.

 

          The first real road into Hackberry was built by the Cameron Parish Police Jury in 1916.  This was a sixty foot wide road surveyed by Mr. F. H. Mandill and made of dirt. It was later shelled.  

 

          This road is now State Highway No. 27, and is paved.  There is a pontoon bridge, which can be opened to allow boats to go through over the Kelso Bayou.  There is also a pontoon bridge over the Intracoastal Canal.  This also can be opened to allow boats and oil barges to pass through the canal.

 

          People now travel in and out of Hackberry mostly by cars.  Trucks are used to bring supplies into Hackberry. There are still no trains or buses in Hackberry. 

 

          For a short time a bus made two regular trips daily to Hackberry from Lake Charles, but soon had to abandon the schedule for lack of passengers.

 

          Crude oil is taken out of Hackberry by large tank trucks, flat-bottomed boats, called barges, large ships and pipelines.  Salt is piped out in the form of brine.

         

          Cattle used to be driven to the railroad at Edgerly where they were loaded in cattle cars and taken to pastures in Western States.  Now larger cattle trucks take them from here to pasture in the West.

 

          In Hackberry people use bicycles, and motor-bikes, as well as jeeps, trucks and cars.  People also travel by boats, airplanes and helicopters.

 

 

   OIL INDUSTRY

 

          In the 1890s Washington Elender, father of J. C. Elender had discovered a large paraffin bed in the marsh south of Black Lake, and tried to drill a well.  He used horse power and an old fashioned syrup mill or cotton press and a cable tool, drilling to a depth of 280 feet.  Local people and companies alike were convinced there was oil under the lands of the island. 

 

          The companies had begun drilling in a helter skelter pattern through the island in hopes of finding the oil sands.  What followed were millions of dollars spent on leases, dredging, and drilling.  This bankrupted some, but nonetheless whetted the appetites of other oil men and local alike.  Still, the elusive sands seemed to escape detection for quite a while.

 

          The first known mineral lease for Hackberry was in 1886.  By the early 1900s leasing was occurring at a feverish pace, with every available acre of land leased by some company or individual.  Some of the companies that were active were Gulf Oil, Sun Oil, W. J. Gale, J. H. Putman, Aldoline Vincent, Producer Oil, J. M. Lyons, Yaunt Lee, Arkansas Valley Oil, and W. T. Burton.  These were only a few of the people and companies involved.

 

          Supplies and machinery had to be brought in by boat.  Boilers were operated by coal or wood. Many drillings were delayed due to lack of coal.  In those days, derricks were made of lumber.  Water for the boilers was barged to the location from several artesian wells in the area (a well drilled in a formation where pressure is sufficient to produce a constant flow of water to the surface without pumping). 

 

          Housing was a major problem.  Many crews lived in tents.  Some local families took in boarders, while some families lived in one room.  Some of the oil companies built bunkhouses for their men.  At one time there were two boarding houses on the island, the Calcasieu Boarding House and the Monceaux family.

 

          Cafés were quickly built to feed hungry crews. One of the first was owned by the Alexander L. “Mutt” Hantz family near the present home of Joe Sanner.   Mr. Hantz later built a store where Hackberry’s present water works building is located.  There was also a restaurant on a houseboat located on Kelso Bayou and operated by Eli Callahan.  Vallie Reed operated a mule barn near the Kelso Bayou Bridge leasing mules to companies.  Sometimes he moved the machinery across the island for drillers.

 

          One of the interesting tales related to me about some of the drilling activities is typical.  A rig built on a platform drilled a well near the present Jasper Little Home. After hitting salt, the rig was moved to a location near the present Cliff Cabel home.  It was laboriously pulled to that location by a mule team over pipes laid on the ground, only to find salt again. Undaunted, the company moved to the Adna Elender home place and hit still another salt well.  It wasn’t until 1924, after some 30 or more test wells had been drilled, that the prolific mineral sands were discovered.  By 1928 the Yaunt Lee Company was producing 1000 barrels of crude oil daily. 

 

          A tornado in 1935 destroyed about ninety percent of the wooden rigs scattered through the island.  They were then replaced by steel derricks. 

 

          Hackberry is mentioned as the “Venice of the Oil Patch” in a 1969 publication of Pan American Oil Company.  That company, now known as Amoco, was sold numerous times, and changed its name each time.  The company, like many drilling the marshes, has built an elaborate canal system to work their wells.  Despite more then 40 years of production with a capacity of 12,000 barrels a day, the search still goes on for oil, with new wells being brought in yearly.

 

          W. T. Burton played an important part in the development of the oil business in this area.  In 1919 he was made President of Hackberry Oil Company.  His job was drilling, leasing, or buying lands for drilling.  He was a well known and appreciated philanthropist in this area who helped many students finance their education.

 

SALT DOME STORAGE

 

          An enormous salt deposit running east and west approximately 3.5 miles long and 2 miles wide lies under Hackberry Island.  It is believed to be as deep as 5 miles. In 1934, the production of soda ash by the Mathieson Alkali Plant in Lake Charles initiated the drilling of four brine producing wells in Hackberry.  The brine was delivered via a 16” pipeline to Lake Charles.  Mathieson estimated then that the salt reserves would last over a hundred years.  Brine is still being produced in Hackberry. 

 

          Cities Service Company began using cavities in the salt dome to store propane butane in the 1950s.  They began with six wells and have increased the numbers since then, providing employment to many people in the Hackberry community. 

 

          In 1975 the United States Government decided to begin storing crude oil in the salt dome cavities as a hedge against embargos by mid-east countries.  The original storage of 60 million barrels from wells owned by Olin-Mathieson has been increased by the U. S. Government Strategic Petroleum Reserves to 750 million barrels.  The U. S. Government has become a major employer in Hackberry as a result of the salt dome storage of oil. 

 

SEAFOOD AND TRAPPING

 

          The seafood industry is a thriving enterprise today with crabbing, shrimping, and sale of food fish such as sand trout, speckled trout and other species available in our area lakes and bayous. 

 

          Trapping is now at a stand-still because of saltwater intrusion causing loss of habitat for fur bearing animals.

 

          In past years untold numbers of muskrats, minks, otters and raccoons were trapped.  The trappers’ families lived in camps in the marsh during the winter months.  The children would bring their school books there to keep up with their lessons.  Some trappers would also bring chickens and pigs to their camps.  The sale of the prepared hides would constitute the major income for these families. 

 

UTILITIES

 

          Electric service was begun in 1928 for industrial sites and for people who lived on the main routes in Hackberry.  A substation was built near the Intracoastal Canal on Highway 27.  Many years passed before harder to reach areas were served.  Service now extends even to remote marsh locations.

 

          For oil companies, communication is vital.  With oil exploration going on, it was necessary to provide better services in the area.  Mr. W. T. Henning organized the Cameron Telephone Company.  It is one of four thousand independent phone companies in the United States. 

 

          The first telephone lines into Hackberry were constructed using posts of 4 x 4’s with two wires strung.  Only one conversation at the time could be held.  Soon another set of wires was added, allowing two conversations.  The phone company lines, like the power lines, were run along the main highway in Hackberry, allowing stores and people living along the highway to have service first. 

 

          A small telephone office was built and run by two operators, a Miss Taylor and Miss Lilly Vincent, daughter of Prescott Vincent.  The Cameron Telephone Company history gives a great deal of credit to the later operators.  They were Madie, Susie and Sadie Little.  They manned the switchboard day and night for thirty-four years under trying circumstances.  They were equipped with a rollaway bed for the night shift and camped with the battery operated switchboard.  They accommodated the 109 ring-down type phones in Hackberry.
 

          The company replaced its wire route with radio microwave and a complete automatic dial office with all the newest features possible in 1952, bringing phone service to well over 200 customers. 

 

          United Gas started construction in March, 1965, to service customers in Hackberry.  The project was completed the same year.  Like other utilities, the gas line runs along the main highways.

 

SABINE WILDLIFE REFUGE

 

          Hackberry is a part of the Mississippi Flyway because the marshes have such vegetation as bull rushes, sedges, wild celery, duck potatoes, curley dock, and many others that provide an abundant supply of natural food for the million of migratory ducks and geese that winter in the marshes.

 

          Many sportsmen became concerned that steady conversion of the State’s marshland to agriculture lands would eradicate winter habitat.  To prevent this, the federal Sabine Refuge was established in 1937 to preserve a large block of marshland for wintering ducks and geese.  It is situated between Hackberry on the north and Holly Beach and Johnson Bayou on the south.  Sabine Refuge contains 142,846 acres, making it the largest refuge on the Gulf Coast.

 

          The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was given the job of constructing buildings for offices for management personnel and impoundments for protection against salt water intrusion for the Refuge.  The CCC was established in 1933 during the Depression to give work and training to young men in programs of flood control, forestry, and soil conservation.  The enrollees, as they were called, were under the supervision of the Army.  The Camp was built in Hackberry and housed in District E Company 1,446.  It was considered “outside the United States” because of its remote location.  In a CCC publication, they referred to it as the “last outpost of civilization.”   Only two men deserted during its time in operation.  The land for the camp was leased from Ernest Sanner for a period of ten years.

 

          The enrollees were paid a dollar a day with all but five or six dollars sent home to their families.  Their enlistment time was two years but anyone getting a permanent job could obtain a discharge.  Boat building and mechanics were taught there.  Some of the CCC boys attended classes at the high school.  Many of the Corps men married local girls and made their home here.  Edgar Johnson, J. T. Johnson, C.A. Riggs, A. B. Pearce, J. B. Constance, William Cormier, Wallace Louviere and Marcel Roya were some of the young men who served the CCC and stayed here.

 

          Among the major land management operations at the Refuge are burning, grazing and water level control.  Burning and grazing clear away the tall, dense, and dead vegetation to be replaced by green, tender growth that is attractive to ducks and geese.  Manipulation of water levels through dikes and gates increase the amount of waterfowl plant food in the fresh water pools. 

 

          Large flights of northern pintails and blue-winged teal heading for their wintering grounds in Central America pass through in late August.  This passage is followed by gadwalls, mallards, wigeon, green-winged teal, shovelers and other ducks.  Still later appear the wintering geese; the Canadas, white-fronted geese and snow geese.  Waterfowl concentrations reach a peak from December through mid-January.  Huge flocks of snow geese feed in the marshes along State Highway 27 while the regal Canadas and white-fronted are generally seen on the less accessible areas of the Refuge.  Mottled ducks and some blue-winged teals are residents and regularly breed in the Refuge.

 

          In former years, geese searching for grit had to visit the Gulf beaches and natural sand pits where they were heavily hunted. In 1954, sand was placed on the Refuge to provide a protected source of grit.  This practice was successful and large numbers of geese began using the sanded area.  There, visitors can easily watch the birds from the highway. 

 

          The coastal marshes in southwest Louisiana were formerly some of the most famous fur producing areas in the country.  Men seeking to exploit these and other natural resources dug access canals throughout the area to ease travel.  The resulting drainage of fresh water and intrusion of salt water, forming the Lake Charles Industrial Canal, produced major ecological changes.  The plant and animal life were drastically affected and the marshes may never regain the productivity of earlier years.  However, management of refuge lands is and has been directed toward maintaining the best quality marshes possible. 

 

          Surplus numbers of nutria, mink, muskrat, otter and raccoon are trapped under permit on the Refuge for their fur.  Other mammals common to the Refuge are whitetail deer, red and gray foxes, opossums, striped skunks, armadillos, cottontails, marsh rabbits, rice rats, cotton rats, and numerous other small rodents.  The rare red wolf once ranged throughout Cameron Parish and is still listed as a Refuge mammal.  Canids, tentatively identified as red wolves have been recorded on adjacent lands both north and south of the Refuge.

 

          The alligator, while once threatened with extinction and rare over most of its former range, is now common at Sabine.  Many alligators of all sizes can be seen from April through October.  Usually several can be observed in the roadside canal by carefully watching these waters when driving along the highway.  Even during the winter months, on warmer days, they can be seen along the nature trail.  These reptiles construct their nests in June.  The young alligators hatch in late August and stay at the nest for several weeks.  Poaching is still a problem for Refuge personnel because of the valuable hides.  Since 1962, thousands of alligators have been captured on Sabine by State and Refuge personnel in a combined effort to re-establish the alligator to extirpated areas within the State. 

         

          Wading birds are numerous on Sabine.  In recent years the number of nesting water and wading birds has fluctuated from less than 5,000 to over 10,000.  Rookeries, areas in which these colonial birds nest, are found in the interior of the vast Refuge.  Here and on Lacassine Refuge, are nesting sites of the unique roseate spoonbill, which nests in very few other sites in the State. Olivaceous cormorants, white-faces ibises, great blue herons, egrets, bicolor herons, and yellow crowned night herons nest in large numbers and are commonly seen feeding in the marshes. 

 

          Cameron Parish has long been famous as one of the better birding areas along the Gulf Coast.  This is especially true during the spring, March through May, when migrating warblers and other songbirds add their brilliance to the many resident species.  Attesting to the excellence of birding in the vicinity is the Refuge bird list of over 300 species.

 

          Sport fishing is permitted each year in the pools and canals under regulations that may be obtained from Refuge headquarters.  Fish in the fresh-water impoundments include large mouth bass, crappie, blue-gill, redear sunfish, warmouth bass, stripped bass, pumpkinseed, chinquapin, blue catfish, bullhead, bowfin, gar, buffalo and carp.  Among the fish in canals are redfish, flounder, spotted weakfish, drum, croaker, mullet, ladyfish, striped bass, gar, buffalo, carp, blue catfish and crappie.

 

          Permits for gill-net fishing in the Refuge canals are issued free at Refuge headquarters during the open season.

 

          Crabbing for blue crabs with lines and nets is permitted in the roadside canals adjacent to Highway 27.  This is the most popular family activity and accounts for a major portion of the public use of the Refuge.

 

          Waterfowl hunting has been permitted since 1967.  This popular recreation probably will continue in the future years.

         

          Visitors may walk the nature trail throughout the year during daylight hours.  The trail is one mile in length and provides those using it a better insight into marsh ecology than is possible to obtain by driving through the area.  A tower at the end of the trail gives the observer an overview of a tranquil, deep fresh water marsh.  The trail starts four miles south of headquarters on the west side of the highway. 

 

          Travel over the refuge is best by boat, using 125 miles of canals and bayous.  Observation of animal life and bird life from a boat is sometimes difficult due to the levees and associated tall vegetation which grows along the canal banks.

 

MILITARY HEROES

 

          Wars affected Hackberry, as in other places.  Some of St. Germaine Elender’s boys served in the Civil War, but there were no known casualties.  Other descendants served with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in 1898. 

 

          Though some local men served in World War I, there were no known casualties.  However, many of our brave men died during World War II.

 

          Some of these casualties known to the writer will be mentioned here, however, this is not a complete report and available records are not complete, so if any other casualties are not mentioned it is purely for lack of information.

 

          William Edison Stoddard died on the Battleship Arizona, Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941.

 

          Lt. Julius A. Prevost, a test pilot, died of injuries received in a mid-air collision.  He is buried in San Antonio, Texas.

 

          First Lt. John C. Ellender, Jr. was a bombardier on a B-17.  He died on May 27, 1944 when his plane collided in mid-air with another of our aircraft.  He is buried in Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is entered in a common grave with his crew members.

 

          Duplice East was killed in action during World War II, November 29, 1944.  He is buried in St. Peters Cemetery.

 

          Sidney Theo Barras, radioman 3rd class USNR, died in a naval battle in the Pacific. 
 

          Marvin Landry was killed in action July 31, 1944.

 

HACKBERRY RAMBLERS….

DEPRESSION TO HALL OF FAME

By Nola Mae Ross

 

          In the early 1930s Hackberry was an isolated settlement on a narrow road so filled with potholes that car batteries sometimes bounced out of their frames.

 

          Oilfield shacks were scattered here and there among the trappers’ huts, and a few long-horned marsh cattle roamed the streets as if they owned them. 

 

          Elsewhere in the nation, Amelia Earhart was preparing for her famous and ill-fated flight, the Light Crust Doughboys were singing Corinne, Corinna and a Dupont scientist had just discovered Nylon. 

 

          Something new was discovered in Hackberry, too.  Luderin Darbone, who played a fiddle, and Edwin Duhon, who strummed a guitar, brought the Hackberry Ramblers to life.

 

          Darbone and Duhon were listening to the Light Crust Doughboys play songs like The Waltz You Saved For Me and Birmingham Jail.  The two men learned to play those songs, adding their own snappy Cajun twang.

         

          The added songs like Lafayette and Jolie Blonde and before long, they were joined by Lennis Sonnier, Floyd and Lonnie Rainwater and Joe Werner. 

 

          They called themselves the Hackberry Ramblers. 

 

          It was 1933, and the South was struggling through its worst year of the Great Depression. 

 

          “I was graduating from Vincent’s Business College,” Luderin Darbone recalls.  “But there were no jobs.

 

        "Lake Charles had just gotten the first radio station - a remote from KFDM in Beaumont, Texas, located in the Majestic Hotel."

 

        "I went there and asked about a spot for the Hackberry Ramblers.  They let us play at 6 o’clock on Monday mornings."

 

          “Someone heard us and we got a call for our first job.  It was in Basile, in a dance hall that charged 25 cents per man--ladies free—and we got 50 percent of the gate."

 

          “We must have taken home about $10 that first night to divide among the three of us."

 

          “But that wasn’t really bad for 1933.  Even if we’d had a daytime job, we wouldn’t have been making over $1.50 per day." 

 

          “Of course, living was cheap.  Eggs sold for 15 cents per dozen and milk for 5 cents per quart."

 

          “Our competition in the early days were French accordion bands that played much louder music than our string band.  There were no sound systems yet.  Our lead singer, Lennis Sonnier, didn’t sing very loud, so we were at a disadvantage."

 

          “Then one day in 1934, I saw a wholesale catalog from Chicago, and it had a sound system in it.  I ordered it for about $60 and we used it for the first time in Evangeline."

 

          “The customers were flabbergasted.  Word spread, and our crowds really grew.” 

 

          Edwin Duhon, who in later years was a police chief in Westlake, remembers the first trips he took as a Hackberry Rambler. 

 

          “We went in Darbone’s 1929 Model-A Ford,” Duhon said.  “He installed a radio in the car so we could listen to other string bands on the way to and from dances and learn new songs."

 

          “The dance halls were different then.  When you saw a great big building that looked like a barn - and might have been - with all windows up, and kerosene lanterns hanging all around, you could bet it was a dance hall."

 

          “Many of the rural areas we played didn’t yet have electricity.  Traveling was different, too.  The roads were narrow and there were still lots of horses and buggies on them.”

 

          Darbone installed a generator that operated off his car engine to produce electricity for the sound system when a dance hall did not have it.  “But it sure was hard on the car,” he says.

 

          “In 1935, RCA was holding auditions in New Orleans,” Darbone recalls.  “We wrote to them and got an audition.  RCA signed us on a contract.  We made records every six months for the next four years." 

         

          “Playing on our first record were Edwin Duhon, Lennis Sonnier, Floyd and Lonnie Rainwater and myself.  Lonnie played a dobro, similar to a steel guitar.  That record included Hi-De-Hi, Jolie Blonde and Lafayette." 

 

          Darbone recalls that Wondering with Joe Werner as the vocalist was one of the most popular songs that Hackberry Rambles ever played.

 

          In 1935, when the Golden Gate Bridge was built, and Gone With the Wind was gaining popularity, the Hackberry Ramblers were still on their way up.

 

          The band was playing regularly in the Lafayette area, so the three unmarried band members - Darbone, Lennis Sonnier and Floyd Rainwater - moved to a more central spot in Crowley, where they shared a house. 

 

          Mary Lou Dupuis and her parents lived next door to that house.  They met, and a few years later, she married Darbone and they moved to Hackberry.

 

          The Darbones now live in Sulphur.  “We built our home with the money from the dances I played,” Darbone says.  “Each brick on our home represents one tune I played, during the 10 years of Saturday nights at the Silver Star on old Highway 90.”

 

          Another addition to the Hackberry Ramblers came before World War II.  In 1940, a young man named Crawford Vincent was sent to Hackberry with the Civilian Conservation Corps.

 

          “My Superintendent was Bob Human, later a postmaster in Sulphur, who played the fiddle.”  Vincent recalls, “Several other guys in our barracks had guitars and fiddles, and after work we’d sit around and play."

 

          “One day in Hackberry, I met Luderin Darbone, and I soon began playing with the Hackberry Ramblers.  They already had two guitars, so I ordered a set of drums from Sears - Roebuck for $50.  At that time, I received a salary of $30 per month from the CCC.  I was one of the first drummers in a string band."

 

          “We played a lot at Buddy Little’s Dance Hall in Hackberry, and also at homes in Grand Chenier and Cameron."

 

          “Those old dance halls were great big, drafty buildings.  They had board benches all around the walls, and the ladies sat there between dances."

 

          “The men had to stay outside, or behind the ‘bull pen’ near the band, until the music started. They’d go in and ask the ladies to dance.  There was a little room on one side with baby beds, so the babies could sleep while the mamas danced." 

 

          “No liquor was served in the dance halls because of the ladies and children.   If there was a bar, it was an entirely different room or building.”

 

          The Hackberry Ramblers might never have happened had not a determined mother decided that her son, Luderin Darbone, was going to be a musician.

 

          In 1924, she bought him a violin.  There were no violin teachers available so she ordered correspondence lessons costing $36 and paid for them at $2 per month.

 

          “In later years I played a lot by ear,” Darbone says, “but learning to read music gave me a good start.  I still have that original fiddle, plus one I bought at Montgomery Ward in 1937.  It’s still good today.”

 

          The Hackberry Ramblers made it to the Nashville Hall of Fame 30 years after their beginning.  Their pictures - taken from the record jacket of  Louisiana Cajun Music- are hanging there.

 

          And the Ramblers are still active 55 years later - with Luderin Darbone, Johnny Farque, and Glenn Croker as current members.  But they only accept jobs at special events, like folk festivals, television specials or at churches. 

 

          Many people in Louisiana and the South remember the Hackberry Ramblers in their hey-day.

 

          One of their fans - Tony Courville of Lake Charles has several of their original recordings and sums up what most of their followers feel. 

 

          “You really have to listen to their music to believe that they could do so much with fiddles and guitars,” he said.

 

          “They produced extra special music.”

 

“AS I RECALL IT”  

by Rev. Theodore E. Brandley M.S.

 

          HACKBERRY – Strange it is the names that men give to places!  Hackberry is the name of a tree belonging to the elm family; and if ever there was much of that tree in the Louisiana settlement that bears its name, it has now virtually disappeared.  But name-tags have strange relationships to things tagged.  Holly Beach is an example: there is no holly there, and the beach is a pretty shabby one.  Also, you can drive through the settlement known as Johnson Bayou and never see a bayou.
 

          It was one of those delightful evenings that bring joy and a feeling of thanksgiving to any soul.  The winter was gone, a brilliant green covered the fields, the tumbling fences were bending under the weight of blooming honeysuckle, the spring peepers were sending up a noisy chorus from every ditch and water hole, and neither the summer heat nor the clouds of mosquitoes had arrived.  A group of us was up on the roof of the little white church in Hackberry late that April day, just trying to get the last shingle on before darkness would send us down, when I noticed a fine new station wagon drive past in the direction of the Gulf.  In a few minutes I noticed that the same car was returning northward, the driver evidently looking for something.  Then, again he headed to the south, and very much perplexed.  He stopped, looked up at us, muttered a mild curse, and yelled, “Where’s the business district in this town?" 

 

          Business district in Hackberry, Louisiana!  To be sure, that poor man was a stranger.  So, I shouted down to him: “Turn around, Mister, go north again about two miles, and at a point where the pavement turns left, you will see a small cluster of houses to your right.  Turn off the pavement, and after you have run a few hundred feet, you will see a post office and a drug store all in one building, also a herd of boney cows noted for their exceptionally large hoofs, horns and tails. That’s the business district of this community.” 

 

          Hackberry is one of those small communities (about 300 families) scattered across that flat, low-lying country of Southwest Louisiana known as Cameron Parish.  In all Cameron Parish (territorially the largest in Louisiana) there is not one incorporated town or city.  There are no towns and cities, and names of places usually indicate a certain locality without any particular geographical limits or legal boundaries.  Hackberry is just such a locality, and very far from any other of its kind.  Begun over a century ago by a group of sturdy farmers and cattlemen, it remained for over a lifetime a very rustic and rugged community without much more than the rudimentary of equipment and home conveniences.  Linked with the world outside only by trails over the prairies and marshes or by the schooners and river boats that sailed up and down the Calcasieu River, these people lived an almost unknown existence until after the First World War.

 

          Under these prairies and marshes lies a huge salt dome, and around its rim, oil was discovered about 40 years ago.  This turn brought the prospectors and all the good and evil that go with discovery.  Fishermen, shrimpers, trappers, and stranded ship hands wandered in and settled.  Many of then squatted on the marshy banks of the Kelso Bayou and went no further; others acquired property and did well for themselves.  Those who had settled along the bayou stayed pretty much by themselves, and were looked upon with cold disdain by the farmers and land owners, who had preceded then by a generation.  Most of them were of French ancestry and Catholic, at least by profession, if not much by practice.  They were the poor, and in the midst of their poverty and untidiness one often came across children of extraordinary intelligence and exceptional beauty.  Rude, rough and powerful men, they could carry a 50 pound pirogue, along with a gun, across knee-deep marsh, or just walk to the next settlement to fight some other character that claimed to be tougher than anyone else.

 

          But if the poor “river rats” (as they were contemptuously called by the better heeled) were tolerated, the lot of another strange group that once inhabited Hackberry was far worse.  These were the “Red Bones” who were particularly unwelcome anywhere. Their origin does not seem to be very clear, though it does seem quite likely that they were of Afro-Indian descent.  Although they constituted a minority group and were definitely underprivileged, they did not want to be classed with the descendents of the African slave in Louisiana.  But whatever this may be, let us face the fact:  the “Red Bone” was soundly hated by other social groups, and was completely segregated.  Many of them bore French names, and according to the records they were predominantly Catholic.  Those of Hackberry even had a little church of their own, in the prairie along the Calcasieu River, not far south of the mouth of the Kelso Bayou, and according to the Baptismal and Communion records kept by the visiting priests from Creole; they were good and observant people.

         

          There is a strange little episode told about the marriage of a white man and a “Red Bone” woman – just another one of the strange things that happen in these places where fashion has yet to be introduced.  By no means the only one or the first one to do so, this man took this woman to wife in spite of the disapproval of the community.  So, by way of compromise he was at least partially observant of some of our equally unreasonable social demands and observed the finer points of the laws peculiar to segregation.  He ate alone, while his wife and children ate apart; he used the front door (such as it was) while the wife and children were restricted to the back door.  Yes, even in those rustic days before plumbing, there were separate out-houses for “Whites” and “Colored” in this family.

 

          The “Red Bones” have long been gone from Hackberry.

 

          By the time the Second World War came to disturb the nation, Hackberry was a long line of houses over a seven-mile stretch of highway (with a side road here and there that went nowhere) that followed pretty much the course of the Calcasieu River.  There might be a general store or a bar along the way; there might be a poor, shabby little house, where hogs, dogs, children and Muscovy Ducks all shared the benefits of life; or there might be one of those fine old mansions, with cornices and mullioned bay windows, nestled behind the massive live oaks and azaleas.  But there was not such thing as a business district or a residential area in Hackberry.

 

          It was in February of 1955 when I went to live in Hackberry.  This is the month that deals the year’s worst weather along the Gulf coast.  Therefore, according to schedule, it was cold and cloudy, and a northeast wind was blowing over the dead, gray fields, flattening the tall grass and bending last year’s golden rod stocks into the ground. There were only shell roads going to Hackberry in those days; and they were poor.  They were muddy when the weather was wet, dry and dusty during a drought, and on a bright sunny day their snow-white surface reflected a blinding light that was as painful as the shell dust.  Full of holes, they tortured both car and driver, and a pocket of loose shell could be as hazardous as any patch of ice.  To add to these road hazards and discomforts, herds of scrawny cattle wandered at leisure and inhabited along these country roads, milling around when the mosquitoes were bad or lying right in the way of traffic, as indifferent to automobile horns and lights as a stump in the woods.  This was open range country -  as much of it still is - and the idea that cattle could not roam wherever grass grew and water puddle, was inconceivable to the owners as to these half-wild beasts.  This was God’s pastureland, the cows came first, and such things as machines could adjust to all this or stay out.

 

          There had been a church in Hackberry for many years; indeed, the one existing at that time (1955) was the third structure.  The first one had been built shortly after the land now belonging to the Church had been acquired from Mr. Ernest Sanner in 1895.  This was before any road existed in Hackberry,  and the main entrance of this building was on the west side.  This church was destroyed by storm in August of 1918. Following this, a second church was built.  This one was destroyed by fire in the spring of 1927.  Thanks to the assistance given by the Church Extension Society, the third church house of Hackberry was completed that same year. It was this small wooden structure repaired and enlarged through the years that was to be the first mother church of the newly established parish of St. Peter the Apostle. 

 

          According to the accounts of the community - and there is very little written record prior to 1895 - whatever there was to Catholic life in Hackberry could be attributed, after the grace of God, to a few devoted families and the occasional visit by a priest out of Lake Charles or Creole.  We are told that as far back as 1858 this corner of Southwest Louisiana was visited by a Father Francis Raymond, who went as far as the Sabine River.  The brother of Father Francis Raymond (Father Gilbert Raymond) was the pastor of the parish church at Opelousas, while Father Francis Raymond was the assistant.  Their parish extended as far west as the Sabine River, and the assistant took care of the missions while the pastor cared for the parish church.  This seems to be the earliest record of any visit by a priest to these parts since the days of the Spanish Conquistadors. 

 

          When all of the civil parish of Cameron was committed to the care of Father John Engberink, who came to reside in Creole in 1890, Hackberry was included in that vast land of marshes and ridges. It was a long and difficult journey in those days out of Creole into the northwest country of Hackberry.  The priest could go by horseback or buggy as far as Leesburg (now called Cameron) and there take a schooner or steamboat to a point where he could be met on the river bank and there taken to the home of some hospitable farmer.  On the occasion of such visits there was little time for much instruction.  The children would be baptized, marriage witnessed and validated, and Mass recited.  The sick and the infirm would be given whatever spiritual assistance possible on these visits because there was little likelihood that a priest could ever come for the sole purpose of assisting the dying at the hour of death.  Then, if ever, was this ancient truth born out, namely, that as a man lives so shall he die.

 

          In those days children were often prepared for First Communion by lay-persons who specialized in this work and for modest fee would give a minimum instruction in the basic truths of Christian belief and practice.  Books were scarce, and the ability to use them even more so; our modern catechetical methods and our visual aids were unheard of at that time. The Baltimore Catechism, that modest forerunner of American Catholic literature, found its way into this back country, and the Bible (ironically, often the King James Version) was found in almost every home.  This latter was seldom read by these simple and unlettered people, but it often served for recording births and deaths in the family.  In spite of distance and isolation, it is a marvelous thing to note today that Catholic life among those rural people was often healthy; if there was no great knowledge there often was great love.

 

          From the time that there was a settlement in Hackberry, well over one hundred years ago, when St. Germain Elender and wife, the former Rebecca Ryan of Lake Charles, went there to farm the rich land of the ridges, there was at least a trail linking this outpost with the Vincent Settlement several miles north.  When, after the Civil War, the railroad was pushed westward through Sulphur and the mines began to attract the population in that direction, the trails that led out of Hackberry and the Vincent Settlement developed into roads and turned the interest of men toward that new life line for their necessities.  Because of this improved means of communication, in 1921, the Bishop of Lafayette confided the Mission of St. Peter of Hackberry to the care of the Lasalette Fathers in Sulphur.  This had the added effect of relieving the already overburdened pastor of Creole.

         

          During the years immediately following 1920, when Union Sulphur Company discontinued production of sulphur and started drilling for oil, the quest for this black gold went on through all Southwest Louisiana.  Along the bayous and across the drowsy fields of Hackberry the rigs began to rise and the hum of the drillers bit probing deep into the heart of the earth came to break the 19th century silence of this remote place.  Farmers left their cotton and corn fields either to lease their land to prospectors or to get employment with drilling crews.  New families moved into the area and the scions of the old families grew up quite different from their forefathers.  The Great Depression came and went.  Then came the Second World War to jolt the nation as it had never been jolted before even to the cow pastures and marshes of Hackberry.  It would never be the same again!

 

          In 1955, with the post-war industrial development moving into Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes at an almost unbelievable pace, many of the missions in this part of the Diocese of Lafayette had become economically self-sustaining and required parochial ministration.  They were to become independent parishes with resident pastor.  On April 1, 1955, the decree erecting the Parish of St. Peter the Apostle in Hackberry was issued by Bishop Jeanmard.

 

          In view of the fact that the decree erecting the parish was in the offing, with the assignment of the Bishop and with the permission of Fr. Veillard, then pastor in Sulphur, I took up residence in Hackberry in February of 1955, on the Saturday before Quinquagesima Sunday.  It was still winter, and the weather still rather inclement, but spring was in the air along the Gulf.  There was no rectory in Hackberry, so I took up residence in the little hall that had been built by Father John Callahan some years back and had been greatly improved under the administration of Father Veillard.  Toilet facilities here were not the best, but acceptable; the small kitchen attached served well for preparing breakfast and other light meals.  The principal meals could be taken at the little café in town.  There was no luxury, but at the same time there was no great privation.  Indeed,  it all proved more interesting than disturbing.  In the stillness of the Louisiana night and armadillo (that harmless little creature) can sound very much like a grizzly bear as he creeps past the water pipes that hang from the sills under the house; and an old bony cow rubbing her shaggy coat on the corner of the house at 2:00 A. M. is really quite harmless, but it can startle you out of your slumber; the bellowing of bull alligators and bleating of the nutria in the marshes may send you checking all the doors, but they never come into people’s houses. 

 

          Spring came early, and soon there were the clouds of mosquitoes instead of the bad weather, and herds of half-wild cattle coming out of the winter range with sleet, bullet-headed calves prancing and knocking heads in the evening sunlight.  And those mean, ugly beady eyed, big-headed bulls that looked like a cross between a goat and a camel, who had spent the winter lounging silently on the grassy ridges, now howled challenges at each other from every hillock.  During the day, this could be amusing, but when one of these noisy beasts lets out a roar in the night, only six or eight feet from your bed, it can be a bit disturbing.  This being open range country, and there being no fence around my temporary dwelling, the surroundings looked at times more like the Kansas City stock yards.

 

          In the summer of 1955, this hall was moved a few feet south to make room for the construction of a new rectory.  This work began early in July of that same year.  In keeping with the financial reaches of the infant parish, we decided upon a simple frame structure, decent and adequate in every way.  The summer rains delayed the work, so it was not until October 13th that the building was ready for occupancy. 

 

          When the new parish of St. Peter the Apostle, had been carved out of Our Lady of Prompt Succor of Sulphur and of Sacred Heart of Creole, there were two missions attached, both of which missions were taken from Creole.  There was the Mission of The Holy Trinity at Holly Beach, and the much older but abandoned mission at the southwestern most corner of the diocese known as Johnson Bayou. 

 

          HOLLY BEACH – About 18 miles south of Hackberry, right on the Gulf Coast, where there is no holly and very little good beach, was a summer resort that sprang up in the prosperous days after the Second World War known as Holly Beach.  It was a shabby little village of some 250 wooden houses, built with no regard for beauty, standing on pilings, tilted and sagging, bending and leaning as the sand shifted and the wind blew.  Horses, cows and fierce black hogs roamed the streets and trails that separated these little buildings; beer cans, pop bottles and old milk cartons littered the roadsides and filled the ditches; white shell dust hung as heavy in the air as smoke in the pool room, or when the rain fell, the soft brown mud was every where underfoot.  On a Saturday evening in the summertime, Holly Beach was overrun with tourists who came from the numerous towns and cities within a hundred miles or more.  They crowed into this area (a village of about one mile in length and a quarter of a mile wide) bathed in the muddy waters of the Gulf, danced at the “Bon-Ton Roule,” drank beer and munched on snow cones, and then moved out like an evacuating army the next afternoon.  In the winter, there was probably not a more dreary place in all Louisiana.  The visitors were gone, save for a few hunters, who usually did little more than spend the night, appear in the bars with their green boots and untidy clothes, and then silently steal away.  Perhaps not more than a dozen families remained the year round. 
 

          It was because of the visitors that a church had been built at Holly Beach about 1945. 

         

          I have seen some pretty sorry church buildings in my travels on two continents, but I had to Holly Beach to see the worst.  It is hard to believe that in a land like ours, where men of America have built Rockefeller Center and the St. Louis Cathedral, anything as shameful as this could exist.  Part of it was a Quonset hut, 20 x 48 feet at the base bolted to a concrete foundation little above ground level, at one of the lowest spots, between the marsh and the sea.  This proving wholly inadequate to accommodate the Sunday crowds, a flimsy frame structure, set on cement blocks, had been added to one end, giving the appearance of a huge locomotive stuck in the mud to the tops of its wheels, with its smoke stack knocked off. There was not the slightest resemblance of a church, and one would pass it by as a tool shed belonging to a construction crew.  When I showed pictures of this fantastic house of worship to friends of mine far away, they had remarked in a subdued and pitying tone:  “Hard to believe!”  Mass at Holly Beach in February of 1955.  In this miserable half metal shanty there was no glass in the windows on the south side, the salt spray from the ocean having reduced the iron frames to flakes of rust; the door was without latch or lock and slammed to and fro at the will of the wind.  The sky was heavily overcast and the north wind blew in over the marshes and off the lake, playing a weird and mournful tune through the cracks and open joints of the corrugated sheet metal.  A few brave souls defied the winter weather and came to Mass that morning.  Ah, yes, in spite of all that we have said, there were good souls in Holly Beach!  And as I turned to them during the Mass and told them that even in those bleak surroundings I was glad to be among them, I meant it, and to this day still do.

 

          After the crowd of not more than twenty of the faithful had dispersed and gone to their homes, I proceeded to look around this forsaken place, to see furnishings and whatever else there might be.  The altar was homemade, painted and worn out white, and so crude as to remind one of the ancient equipment seen in an abandoned railroad depot in an old New England town.  Over it were stretched the tree (sic) required linen cloths, ill-fitting, badly worn and bearing the foot prints of possums that romped and mooched at leisure during the long quiet hours of the week.  On the wooden tabernacle stood a battered statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, onto the head of which the wasps had stuck a mud nest the size of a grapefruit.  The few vestments that could be found were old, badly soiled and worn beyond all hope of repair; some of them were hanging on the wall, others were crowded into the drawers of an old bureau so dilapidated as to be unfit for use in any decent home.  Cobwebs, the traditional mark of the forsaken, and the dead victims of the spiders, filled the corners and cluttered the sills.  There were no screens nor glass in the windows to keep out the flying insects; and indeed there was ample proof of birds roosting on the candle sticks.  Even though the Blessed Sacrament was not kept in this unsightly place I could not help thinking to myself of the lament of old King David to the Prophet Nathan:  “Dost thou not see that I dwell in a house of cedar, and the Ark of God is lodged within skins?” 

 

          During the summer months that followed, and attempt was made to improve conditions at Holly Beach.  Money was scarce, and most of the visitors were just not interested.  Let us face the facts; the generous souls were just all too few.  There might be as many as 500 people assisting at Mass on a Sunday morning, crowed inside or milling around outside the old Quonset hut, and yet the sum total of the collection would seldom exceed $50.00 - ten cents apiece.  The humorous and amusing side was not altogether wanting; for in those days one could find in the offering basket such things as Mexican coins, street-car tokens, aluminum medals of the saints, yes, and even an occasional hot water faucet washer.  I had quite a collection of these museum pieces at one time.  Most of the permanent residents, however, were interested, generous and very helpful, and with their cooperation new windows and frames were installed, the interior walls were lined with marine plywood, new vestments and altar linen were purchased, and a general cleanup executed.

 

          To make a Quonset hut look like a church was difficult enough, but to make it serve like one was even more difficult.  To start with, it was an ugly thing, and could be enlarged only by lengthening it beyond all proportions.  Moreover, the slab on which this one had been set was badly cracked, and being just about sea level, water frequently entered and puddled under the pews.  The summer crowds just had to be reminded that if this church existed, it was largely for them.  It was of no avail to argue that they had to support their home parish.  If they could, and did, maintain a summer residence, then the building and maintenance of a church in the vacation land is part of the expense.

 

          Repeatedly, the suggestion was made that we appeal to Church Extension for help.  This I could not accept; for there were wealthy people visiting Holly Beach regularly, and these just had to be made to understand that even though they were visitors they were not guests.  They just had to pay for their accommodations.  At a painfully slow rate results began to show, and the income increased.  We repeated our promises, insisted that the church was their investment.  We were saving our money, spending a minimum on maintenance, and still trying to come to a decision as to whether we would scrap this whole monstrosity and start a new one from the ground, when in June of 1957 tragedy struck and settled the question. 

 

          When you drive through a village of some 250 homes on a Wednesday afternoon, see the inhabitants fretfully packing their belongings into cars and trailers, battening down hatches and boarding up doors and windows, and then two days later come back to the scene of all this activity and find not so much as a part of a single house left, rightly do you conclude that something terrible has happened.  That is what happened to Holly Beach on June 27, 1957, one of the most destructive hurricanes to strike these parts in a generation, bearing the picturesque name of “Audrey,” came up out of the Gulf, smashed this village to smithereens, and carried it away into the marshes, depositing it there in a heap of irretrievable ruins.  The church -  that ugly “Quonset 20” was torn from its foundations, rolled and flattened by the tidal wave like a discarded toy, and its contents scattered through the wilderness.  Holly Beach was not only destroyed; Holly Beach was gone.  Months later, in the winter of 1958, at the suggestion of, and with the help of one of the employees of the Sabine Wildlife Refuge, I went on foot and by boat deep into the heart of those vast marshes were the hurricane had deposited great masses of debris and there tried to find some of the furnishing of the lost church.  There, at a distance of eight or ten miles from the former site of Holly Beach, mixed with weeds, smashed houses, road signs, home appliances of every size and brand, skeletons of cattle that had been swept to their death, abundant supplies of beer and whiskey (the summer’s supply), children’s toys, and almost anything that the mind could imagine, I found some of the pews, stations of the cross, pieces of plywood that I recognized as the interior walls, rotting away and sinking into the black earth.  It was impossible to move anything out of there, so we left it to prospectors, adventurers and the discoverers of future generations to unearth it and wonder what unknown city had stood there. All this was providential.  No longer now did we have to debate and decide what we would do with this provokingly unhandy, unbecoming and thoroughly embarrassing piece of construction.  It was gone!

 

          Most of those who had fled or survived the hurricane either vowed never again to return to the scene of that dreadful tragedy, or just remained bewildered and undecided.  But men have the happy faculty of being able to forget, and the call of home, however humble and unadorned, is exceedingly strong in the human soul.  So they dried their tears, lifted up their hearts and started back, many to the only place they had ever known.  Only a few days after the devastation of the storm, when the waters of the Gulf had scarcely receded to their normal boundaries, people were back on this desolate beach probing the sands for property markers, searching for personal belongings or for whatever else might serve in the grim work of reconstruction.  Tents and temporary shanties began to appear where the village once stood, power lines were gradually restored, temporary roads were constructed, and in spite of their firm resolution to turn their backs forever on this storm-plagued and hazardous Gulf Coast, families were returning to start life anew.  As one man so rightly put it: “I am a man over forty; all that I have, or ever hope to have is down on ‘The Beach.’  I operate a small grocery store and service station, and cannot expect to do anything else at this age.  I feel that men will soon forget their sorrows and return, and I want to be there when they arrive.  It is not very likely that during the years remaining to me in this life a similar tragedy will recur.”

 

          So the lights that went out in June began to twinkle again along the ridges and across the lake in desolate Cameron.  Holly Beach was returning to life and within a matter of months the inhabitants and the vacationers were building on an average one house a day. 

 

          Among these buildings to spring up like mushrooms was the “Anchor Inn,” which, in spite of its pretty name, was a cheap combination bar and dance hall.  It was a hideous looking fire trap, looking like a large shoe box with a few windows cut in the sides, perched high on creosoted pilings. But it had floor space and a roof.  People were flocking there on weekends, and there was a need for Sunday Mass.  Therefore, with the permission of the Bishop, I obtained the use of the Anchor Inn to serve as temporary church in the new Holly Beach during the summer of 1958. In the orchestra pit, where only a few hours before a Cajun Band had been pumping out the hottest rags, a portable altar was set up and the Lord God of heaven came once more to this wooden town on stilts, only a few hundred feet from the ever menacing Gulf of Mexico. 

 

          Later in the summer, work was begun on the construction of a new church.  An effort was made to purchase a new site, more suitable and more favorable located than that of the former building.  But prices for land on those sand dunes were prohibitive - seven and eight thousand dollars for an acre of that precarious ridge.  So we purchased eight more small lots (100 x100 ft) from Mr. Austin Davis of Cameron, added then to what we had, and hoped that Holly Beach would never become a thriving city.  With the financial help from the Diocese of Lafayette, to the amount of $15,000, a modest building was completed and Mass recited in this new church for the first time on September 21, 1958.  However, it was only on July 26, 1959 that Bishop Schexnayder was able to and give it his blessing.

         

          Some months after the reconstruction of Holly Beach, when the earth around the new church was graded and a modest fence built, when roads were built and life appeared quite normal again, I obtained through the kindness of Mr. John Mecom of Houston, the use of a helicopter to take some aerial photographs.  It was a lovely sight on a summer morning to look down from an altitude of abut 1,000 feet and see this tiny village sandwiched in between the immense blue sea and the endless green marshes.  And as we hovered in the sky with the mid-morning sun on our backs, watching the sea clawing at the sandy shore, I looked to the northwest, to where the first Holly Beach was sinking into oblivion in the bosom of those wild marshes, and asked myself this question:  “How long will it be before the powers of the sea and the wind rise again, as they have done so often in the ages before the coming man to this country, and carry this new Holly Beach to a similar death in the wilderness?”  Those who live along the Gulf Coast must ever keep this in mind. 

 

          JOHNSON BAYOU - Like many other small towns of the Louisiana Gulf Coast country, Johnson Bayou is a settlement thinly spread across those extensive prairies and marshes that dissolve into the sea at that flat and dismal waste that is the southwestern most corner of the state.  According to the records (few and incomplete though they be) the oldest families of this locality were not of French extraction - with the possible exception of the Pevotos.  There were the Schmitts, Calhouns, Donahue, Erbeldings, Pavells, and others, who definitely were not from the old French colony of “Louisianne.”  But whatever their origin, wherever their native land, they were a rugged and daring group of settlers.  They were farmers, cattlemen, trappers, small store keepers, and just adventurers. In the face of almost unbelievable obstacles, such as clouds of mosquitoes, fierce deer flies, ticks, drought, floods, and the ever present threat of devastating hurricane from the Gulf, men actually dared to live in these parts and to stake all that they had of earthly possessions in the pursuit of what was at best a very hard and unrewarding existence.  There were no roads of any kind within many miles, and the only way in and out of the place was through the Sabine River.  Indeed, it was in this way that the community handled its mail and received other supplies from across the river either at Port Arthur or Orange, Texas.  There are many people still living, born and raised at Johnson Bayou, who still tell of taking the little steamer across the Sabine to the towns of Texas, there to receive medical care and other necessities of life not found in this far-away community.  If a man owned a car and wanted to leave Johnson Bayou, his only way out was to drive it onto the fore deck of the little river boat, ferry it to a point where some highway began and from there drive to his destination.

 

          In 1931, however, the State of Louisiana built a road from the ferry landing on the west bank of the Calcasieu, across from the town of Cameron, to the boat landing on Johnson Bayou.  It can truthfully be said - and those who have been there know - that one of the dearest sights ever to strike the eyes of man was seen when he stood on the river bank where this road began and looked down the coast, late on a winter day, into the face of the setting sun.  There were no trees, and are now; only a flat, endless expanse of marsh and low ridges, washed by the muddy waters of the ocean running away to meet the sky in the cold, pale glare.  Then there would come over a man that feeling half-way between wondrous delight and awesome fear - something like reaching the very end of the earth. One would hardly believe that this shell road went anywhere.  But it did. It followed a treeless shore for about fifteen miles, then turned slightly inland behind a brush covered ridge, continued on for about another ten miles, passing an occasional farm house, then northward for a short distance to a landing on what used to be known as the “Deep Bayou,” then eastward again along Smith’s Ridge, where the road ends almost imperceptible in a Louisiana cow pasture.

 

          Save for the passing of the river boats and the coming of the radio, Johnson Bayou was much the same right up to the mid 20th Century.

 

          In 1889, Archbishop of New Orleans erected the ecclesiastical parish of the Sacred Heart in Creole, which embraced the entire civil parish of Cameron. It is not known now if the new pastor, Fr. John Engberink, with so vast a territory, ever visited “the farthest west” of his jurisdiction; there is no record of it. His successor, however, Fr. William Teurlings (later Msgr. Teurlings and vicar general of the diocese of Lafayette) made the following entry in the register of Baptisms at the church in Creole:  “1897 - Johnson Bayou.  On this, the 28th day of March 1, the undersigned rector of Cameron Parish, have baptized at the residence of Mr. August Pavell, the following children ….. Rev. W. J. Teurlings - Rector”.

 

          It is evident that Fr. Teurlings, a remarkable man in many ways, visited Johnson Bayou during his administration in Creole, but it is not clear now just how many times he went, how many parishioners he found there, and just what the religious conditions were.  That was a lifetime ago, and there are none living today able to recall the events of the 1890s.  Certain it is, however, that there was no church house in those parts until twenty years later, when Fr. Bussink undertook this project.

 

          In 1915, a disastrous hurricane struck the Cameron Coast, and Johnson Bayou, for the second time within 30 years, suffered heavily.

 

          A small community of Colored people, living on what was locally known as “Hackberry Ridge” - just across the marsh from the present parish school - was completely wiped out.  Many others, whose homes had been destroyed and property badly damaged, left the area, never again to return.  Among those to abandon life at Johnson Bayou was the Pavell family.  Mrs. R. J. Domatti of Port Arthur, niece of August Pavell (mentioned above) was a young girl at that time and was among the few who survived by clinging three days to a rooftop.  She and her mother, the late Agnes Pavell, were to become outstanding benefactors of the Church in Johnson Bayou 40 years later.   When the water had subsided and the winds calmed, once more, as in 1886, the population was decimated and the land laid waste. It is the same Mrs. R. J. Domatti of Port Arthur, Texas who later contributed land and thousands of dollars to the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Johnson Bayou.

 

          But these Gulf Coast towns have an uncanny ability of rising from their watery graves.  Father Bussink was there for the second resurrection of Johnson Bayou.  In 1917, he purchased an old abandoned school house that stood on the Gray property about a mile east of the present high school. Let it be said to the credit of Mr. Henry Gray, a man whose kindness and generosity are still subject of conversation in those parts, that he withdrew his bid on this old building in favor of Fr. Bussink, remarking that the Catholics needed it for a church more than he did.  According to all who recall this old school building,  it was in very poor condition.  But it was repaired and converted into a church house, the work being done by a carpenter named Luther Vaughan.  Mrs. Mae Trahan, widow of the late Elli Trahan, who still lives at Johnson Bayou, remembers all this, and tells me that it was in the year 1917, and that Vaughan boarded at her house while the work was in progress.

 

          How often the priest visited Johnson Bayou to recite Mass in this church is not all clear now.  The distance was great (about 40 miles), there were no roads, and there was the Calcasieu River to be crossed.  Moreover, the pastor of Creole at that time had at least seven mission chapels.  But we rightly conclude that these visits were frequent, all things considered, and that those priests who cared for this far-flung territory were in some degree men of heroic build.  In October of 1916, Fr. Bussink baptized members of the Isaac Jinks family, in June of 1917, he baptized members of the Erbelding family, and in March of 1918, he baptized members of the Billeaud family; all of which families were well known and long established resident of the place.  In 1925, Fr. Perronnet (known as “Prince Albert” for his beard and long black coat) wrote in the registry that he baptized Louise Billiot at Johnson Bayou.  Mr. Robert Billiot, older brother of Louise, state that this baptism took place in that first church. 

 

          After the departure of Fr. Perronnet from the parish of Creole (about 1927) there seems to have come over Johnson Bayou a period of religious decline.  By this time, the mission of Hackberry had been confided to the care of the Lasalette Father in Sulphur, so the pastor at Creole, already over-burdened, remained more and more to the east of the Calcasieu.   The poor little church on the ridge at Johnson Bayou was gradually abandoned:  the grass grew tall around it, and the sun and rain bleached and wore away it walls.  It shared the lot of any vacant house:  the rowdy drunks and hooligans -of whom there were always plenty in that frontier town - amused themselves by raiding the place, shooting out the windows, making targets of the small plaster statues, and even went so far as to steal the altar vestments and with them dress up an old bull from the prairie.

 

          In 1928, Bishop Jeanmard of Lafayette, concerned with the way things were deteriorating, asked the Lasalette Father of Sulphur to assume the responsibility of the spiritual needs of the Johnson Bayou.  Father James McCarthy was the first who undertook this task.  Once a month he would drive to Orange, Texas, there leaves his car, take the little mail boat down the Sabine and thus reach Johnson Bayou at what was known as the “Deep Bayou” landing.  The owner and operator of the boat was Mr. Leo Billiot, and it was at his home on Smith’s Ridge that the priest was guest of the family during his stay.  He would spend the night there, recite Mass there the next day, administer whatever sacraments necessary or possible, and then return to Sulphur.  Often he would stay at the home of Antonio Raggio, now the home of Joseph Erbelding.   This arrangement continued until the arrival of Fr. Bischoff in 1930. 

 

        From the days of the French colonists, especially in the older and more prosperous colonies on the Mississippi, there had existed in Louisiana the custom of hiring professional catechists, who for a stipulated fee would prepare children for First Communion.  And even in Johnson Bayou, with all its disadvantages and circumstances hostile to the Faith, it was this practice that helped to prevent the complete disappearance of religious practices.  It was just about this time that a school teacher at Johnson Bayou, Miss Ruby Stewart, performed this task, even though she herself was not a Catholic.  Ironically, there is many a practical Catholic today, who would not otherwise be that, had it not been for this good soul.

 

          When Fr. Francis Bischoff, a man who loved the rugged life and possessed the physical stamina to live it, came to Creole as pastor, he went to Johnson Bayou to gather up the fragments of Faith that remained.  For a while he recited Mass at the home of Able Billeaud.  Later, he purchased an old school house that stood over near the bayou, a locality abandoned after the hurricane of 1915, and this building was converted into the second church. But progress was slow.  Many Catholic families had moved away, others had lost the Faith as a result of bad marital unions or just neglect and were not about to return.  Through the bleak years of the Great Depression, into the tragic years of the Second World War, the mission of Johnson Bayou lived a feeble life.  Many now who remember those times recall how they would trek three and four miles along dusty roads or across cow pastures only to sit and wait on the church steps to no avail, and then return home because the priest just never came. Fr. Bischoff, now gone from this world, left his imprint on Johnson Bayou having been pastor of Scared Heart in Creole longer than any who either preceded him or followed, but the looked-for revival of the old mission just never came.  In spite of the generous efforts exerted by a dozen or more priests for over thirty years, many Catholics of Johnson Bayou were losing the Faith.

 

          It had always been a lost corner of the immense parish, for almost a lifetime inaccessible except by water; settled by heterogeneous elements of human society, ever menaced by lawless men, smashed and depopulated by two devastating hurricanes in less then thirty years (in 1886 and 1915), and just had never had enough of that real agricultural society that has always seemed necessary in the building of a lasting community.  By 1945, there was little left to the Catholic population, and the few who remained seemed almost willing to apologize for their existence.  One of the chilling experiences even today is to visit the place and meet up with many who were baptized by a devoted priest thirty or forty years ago and are now no longer Catholic.  To ease, and some way excuse their departure from the church of their childhood, these people often have joined other denominations; but they are not at peace (as they seldom are), and are remiss in their new allegiance as they were weak in the true Faith.

 

          As we have already seen, the summer resort of Holly Beach came into existence at the end of the Second World War.  When Fr. Theo Hassink succeeded to the parish of Creole in 1945, he made provision for the building of a church there.  As a result, the mission at Johnson Bayou was closed, its second church demolished and what was usable, such as pews, altar, and even some of the lumber, was taken to Holly Beach, some sixteen miles east.  For the next ten years this would be the nearest church to Johnson Bayou, and save for an occasional visit, it would be a long while before a priest would be seen again on those dusty roads and dreary ridges. 

 

          It was in the spring of 1955 that I met with an important senior citizen of Johnson Bayou - Mrs. Eunice Billeaud.  She was one of those brave souls that had made the long trip to attend Sunday Mass at Holly Beach.  The altar boy who had accompanied me from Hackberry was her grandson and the resemblance was so striking that I introduced myself.  I told her that I was interested in that old mission and that I intended to visit the place soon.  I saw immediately that I was dealing with a person of real sincerity, and I believed her when she told me that her home was always open.  It happened that I drove down there that very day.  And after a few more visits and a little inquiry I found that there were still some twenty-five Catholic families, that they were sincerely interested, especially in getting some instruction for their children.  Among other things Mrs. Billeaud told me that Fr. Bischoff had often used her house as a church and that it was at my disposal at any time.  Certainly the Lord of the Harvest was removing all obstacles. I came away convinced that not all of the discouraging and disparaging things that had been told me were true and that all in Johnson Bayou was hopeless.

 

          I wrote to Bishop Jeanmard, acquainting him with the situation and requesting permission to reopen this old mission.  I received an enthusiastic reply, in which the bishop granted my permission and authorized the use of a private dwelling for Sunday Mass until such time that a church could be built. So after Mass at Holly Beach, I would drive down the long dusty road where I would find a friendly crowd every Sunday at the Billeaud home.  They would gather in the front room and on the porch outside, accommodate themselves to anything from a kitchen stool to a finely upholstered sofa; and sometimes the quarters were so close that the celebrant might unintentionally kick a squatting youngster at every genuflection.  But this usually brought nothing more than a muffled giggle from the child and somewhat restricted genuflection the next time.   On Tuesday afternoon, the school children would gather in the same room for religious instruction; and when the school term ended those who were old enough and sufficiently instructed drove to Hackberry for the summer school classes.  Several received their First Communion that same year.

 

          During the course of events it came to my knowledge that there was a tiny frame house, vacant and setting in an abandoned cotton field not far from the home of Mrs. Billeaud.  We immediately purchased it for the modest sum of $540.00 – perhaps the lowest price paid for a church since the Louisiana Purchase.  Some willing and very capable young men latched on to this small building and dragged it from the field where it stood onto the property of Mrs. Billeaud.

 

          Through the hottest weeks of the summer, some of the parishioners, and the pastor as well, worked to transform this little wooden building into a church.  We had no money, so no help was hired.   The materials used were donated or taken from the scrap heap at Hackberry or Holly Beach.  Everything was homemade, even the altar.  Since it was just at this time that new metal window frames had been shipped to Holly Beach, the crates were salvaged and turned into pews for Johnson Bayou.  Church Extension Society was very helpful with timely gifts of furnishings.  Among other things, they sent us metal tabernacle, set of candlesticks, ciborium, processional cross, stations of the cross, and vestments of all the liturgical colors.  This unadorned church had the distinction of costing less than any other in America, was the smallest (18 x 26 ft.) and was not mortgaged on the day of the first Mass.

 

          On Sunday after the Feast of Our Lady of the Assumption in 1955, Mass was celebrated for the first time in this third church of Johnson Bayou.

 

          On that memorable day of June 27, 1957, when the frightened citizens of Hackberry took refuge from Hurricane Audrey in the school house, I was among them.  As I watched the water rise in the fields around us and listened in fear to the awful howl that only a hurricane can raise, I wondered about the two mission churches down on the coast.  I felt sure that the steel structure at Holly Beach would stand, since it was securely anchored and apparently indestructible.  As for Johnson Bayou, I had in my mind, written it off as a complete loss, never even expecting to see any part of it again.  How mistaken I was has been recorded elsewhere.  The damage sustained by that poor little shanty of a church was negligible.  Aside from being pushed off the cement blocks on which it stood, there was no structural damage.  Inside, the only casualties were the grill on a pedestal fan and the finger of one statue.  For several months to come this little church would be the only one where Mass would be celebrated on the Gulf from the Calcasieu to the Sabine.  As the inhabitants of Holly Beach began to take courage and return, it was to Johnson Bayou they went for Mass on Sunday, Way of the Cross in Lent, and it was where their children went for instruction.

         

          In 1958, Mrs. Agnes Pavell, widow of Fred Pavell, who had lived in Johnson Bayou until the storm of 1915, donated four acres of land.  This property was only a few hundred yards east of where the church then stood, so it was moved to the new locality.  That same year, it was enlarged by 12 feet, a new composition roof put on, metal window frames to replace the decaying old ones, and the entire building covered with asbestos siding.

 

          With the sweeping past of deadly storms from out of the Gulf of Mexico, with the rise and fall of the fortunes of men, with the coming of the new and the passing of the old, Johnson Bayou has suffered much and undergone much for so small a settlement.  During its strange and turbulent existence, much of which never will be know to man, there came and went two churches with a generation; and now there is a third.  It is strange and significant that this last one has already weathered and survived a hurricane.  May it, unlike its predecessors, survive the hands of men.   (March 1964)

 

“THEY CALLED HER AUDREY”
or

(What Color is a Hurricane?) 

 

          The following is a personal account of what I saw and felt on the occasion of the hurricane that swept over southwest Louisiana.  This hurricane was know as “Audrey” and came ashore east and west of the mouth of the Calcasieu river on June 27, 1957. 

 

          Rev. Theodore E. Brandley, M. S.

                   Pastor of St. Peter’s Parish, Hackberry, LA

 

          February 1955 – June 1960

 

                   Mildred and Rose, the two small girls that were with me in the cab of the pickup truck on the way from Holly Beach to the summer school classes being held at the church in Johnson Bayou, chattered and giggled in a light hearted manner on the morning of June 26, 1957.  They were discussing the big news of the day, the hurricane that threatened the Gulf Coast on that occasion, and in their childish unawareness asked the question:  “What color is a hurricane?"  The two youngsters, among those preparing for First Communion, had never lived through a hurricane, perhaps never heard of one, and were curious to know just what kind of a creature this could be, and why everybody was talking about it and listening to storm warnings that day.  Little did I think, and much less did these two small girls, think that they had spent the last night in their poor little dwelling in the shabby and almost unheard of community of Holly Beach on the desolate shore of southwest Louisiana.  The monster that was to carry off that little village was at that moment rapidly advancing across the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

          As we traveled westward along the shoreline, following the dusty shell road that runs down to the Sabine river, the ocean chopped angrily at the beach, and a few ragged clouds hurried northward across the colorless sky.  The season’s first hurricane, “Audrey,” was officially reported located some 400 miles southwest of New Orleans, and placed just about due south of where we were traveling.  Busy as I was with the summer school program, I myself had not given the storm warning (then sounding across the air ways) anything more than passing consideration.  Like many another citizen of the dangerously low lands of Cameron Parish, I was willing to let myself off with the comforting thought that this hurricane was going to come ashore somewhere else.  The air was terribly depressed that early summer morning, the horizon to the south was murky and the sea roared as I had never heard it before.

 

          After class we dismissed the children in time to allow them to reach home for their noon day meal.  After the sisters had left to return to Hackberry, I drove away leaving tiny Johnson Bayou in its lonely isolation on a ridge in the marshes.  I noticed that the tide was coming in fast and that the waters of the Gulf were muddy and extremely rough.  Passing Holly Beach I turned north in the direction of Hackberry.  I was, like everyone else around me, wholly oblivious that this little village of some 250 houses was to be completely wiped out before another day would pass.

 

          That afternoon I made a hurried trip to Sulphur, and on my return home I noticed that the northbound traffic was very heavy.  People were fleeing inland from the coastal regions as more and more of them became aware of the fact that “Audrey” was really a deadly threat and was obviously coming ashore somewhere between the Sabine and Calcasieu rivers. The foamy claws of the ocean were already reaching for the top of the first ridge, and, indeed, if the first ridge went under, serious damage to life and property was sure to result.  Hearing these reports, little Hackberry began to batten down its hatches, and as the yellow skies darkened, inhabitants went to their beds with anxious and restless hearts.  Consistently and persistently came the announcement that the hurricane was approaching southwest Louisiana, and, more alarming still was the news that Galveston, Texas, far to the southwest of us, had now been declared out of the path of the storm.  Move inland from the immediate coastal areas, store up fresh water, check dry-cell batteries and portable cooking equipment, was the repeating warning coming from every radio station. One announcer went so far as to say: "The general opinion is that it (the storm) was coming ashore with a full punch.”

 

          One local announcer, however, it seems took upon himself to calm people at the cost of life by repeating (as I myself heard): “Once more we repeat, there is no concern for tonight.”  This was a rash and costly remark, for which the network refused to assume any responsibility. 

 

          All night the wind pushed furiously and howled ominously out of the southeast and when I was awakened very early it was driving a fine, penetrating rain before it.  At dawn, just about five o’clock, I believe, the telephone rang.  The call came from the family across the street.  “The storm is expected to go over Port Arthur by mid-morning,” the excited female voice cried.  “What are you going to do?” she asked.  “I am staying here,” I assured her.  And then went on to tell her to keep calm and not pay attention to rumors; for it was too late now to take any elaborate precautions.  The only overland escape from Hackberry was now flooding and the ferry over the Intracoastal Waterway was tied up. Many a neglectful soul breathed a prayer that morning - perhaps the first in many a long year.  I felt it my duty to remain with the people at all costs; so I too breathed a morning prayer and faced the inevitable.

 

          Hardly had I hung up the phone when the doorbell rang.  It was a young couple from Holly Beach, well-known Catholics from that shabby and threatened locality.

 

          “Have you seen by brother?” the young man inquired.  I certainly knew him very well; but no, I had not seen him - at least that morning.

 

          “The water is over the first ridge,” he said.  “We just fled with the children and a few belongings, with the tidal wave licking at our tailgate.  I know Norris (his brother) was still there when we left.”

 

          Obviously the storm had taken an eastern turn and was coming up the Calcasieu River and not the Sabine.

 

          “Have you a Rosary that I could have?” asked the young wife.  I reached into my pocket and gave her the only one I had.  This was only the first call for help for the enormous tragedies that were to unfold during the next few hours. 

 

          Daylight revealed a steady stream of cars headed for the school house, but no longer did anyone come up along the road that led to the sea.  The school building was the only sturdy shelter in the town, and it was there that most sought refuge.  The church was an old wooden structure, built high on brick pillars, and no one, not even altar boys, came near it that day.  Although I felt secure in the rectory (if any place offered security) I thought it better to be with the people, since the majority of the people in this small town are Catholic.  So I extinguished all candles in the church, for fear of fire, filled a fifty-gallon barrel with fresh water and stored some drinking water in glass vessels, moved my car out into the open field against the danger of falling buildings, secured all the doors and windows, and then, after throwing a few cans of food and juice into the pick-up truck, with it I made the rounds of the island with a view of being of assistance to someone.

 

          The hurricane was upon us; the mistry (sic) winds blew with tremendous force, the high power lines swayed and hummed like the strings of a mighty fiddle, and far up in the darkening heavens gale winds howled and roared ominously, in a manner I had never since nor before heard.  My little Ford truck, with its fiberglass passenger cab, literally danced on the road as I drove slowly along, and as I glanced out over the flooded fields and overflowing ditches, I contemplated having to abandon it when blown out into those rising waters.  As I drove past a stand of huge old oak trees I glanced back through the rear vision mirror only to see a massive tree uprooted and blown down across the road where I had passed only a second or two before.  Had I been seconds later I surely would have been badly injured or killed.  Then again I breathed a prayer:  “Lord, if you get me in from this, I’ll stay inside until this is over!”  He heard my prayer and I arrived at the school house amid a hail of asbestos shingles stripped from the roof like autumn leaves.

 

          Hurricane blasts were now moving across the plains of Hackberry; trees were falling, branches flying through the air, hundred-foot oil derricks tumbling like pins in a bowling ally, shingles fluttering down like giant, black snow flakes, and small buildings crumbling like paper sacks.  The school house was crowded; people were huddled in small groups, subdued by fear and anxiety; some pious ladies led the recitation of the Rosary, and those who knew not how to pray just wished that they could, as they sat silent and bewildered.  I noticed the presence of many from Holly Beach and Johnson Bayou; and those most concerned for their belongings down on the coast were those who had the least to say.  Events were to prove that they had reason for concern. About mid-morning the winds reached their greatest velocity and strength, reported officially (right or wrong) at between 105 and 120 mph.  As the shingles were blown from our shelter like playing cards from a garden table, some misgivings were entertained as to the endurance of our safety.  Power lines were disconnected, lights went out and pumps went dry.  It was about this time that one woman asked me for the time of day, and when I told her that it was then about 9:15 a.m. she grimaced and remarked that it was the longest day she had ever lived.  While babies slept on the floor, lovers held hands, the more sober minded peered through the rainy windows and watched some poor, bony, red cow get blown over by the rain and rushing wind or saw the part of someone’s roof go cart-wheeling through the fields.

 

          I had brought along a battery operated radio and left it with a friend, never thinking that under such conditions any reception was possible.  But he stayed with it, and it was during this time that he brought the news of the tragedy of Cameron down at the mouth of the Calcasieu.  Cameron is the parish (or county) seat of Cameron Parish.  It is situated on the low, flat lands at the mouth of the Calcasieu River, surrounded on three sides by water.  It was up the valley of the Calcasieu that “Audrey” decided to come into the United States, and that decision was fatal for Cameron.  Hurricane winds forced the waters of the Gulf up the river and over the shallow banks, driving and smashing, smashing and driving everything before it.  And then it was that one could look out over the fair fields of Hackberry and see a solid wall of water rolling into town, carrying in its deadly and filthy wash every thing from angry water moccasins, to butane tanks, to Brahma bulls, to someone’s shattered house.  That same wall, when it was perhaps five times that height, had rolled over the ridges and across the villages of Holly Beach and Cameron and was now fairly well spent after its fifteen-mile journey inland.  Mid shrieks of wind it rolled right to our doors, within a few hundred yards of the church, dumped its unearthly load of dead animals, logs and grass, and then began to retreat.

 

          When, as little children, we played by the seaside and watched our mud houses and tin toys get washed away by a small wave, how little did we stop to think then how whole cities could be washed away by far greater waves - tidal waves!

 

          The Hackberry High School on that fearful day in June was the seedbed of more wild rumors than any place I can recall.  It was rumored that somebody’s house was blown down and destroyed, somebody had just left the refuge and gone out into the storm and was  lost,  the steel drawbridge over the Kelso Bayou  (Hackberry’s only overland escape) was washed away, etc., etc.  In the time of public calamity imaginations run wild, and even the most optimistic person tends to believe any story.  Those who have sat through hurricanes, a terrifying experience, know that when what is called the “eye” passes over not a breeze, not a breath of air stirs. One can take a match, as I did, go outside, strike it, and the flame stand straight up.  So, it was during this period, which lasts about 15 or 20 minutes, that some of us got into a car and made a rapid round of the island, especially down around the Kelso Bayou, and found no large buildings destroyed and found no one in need of help.  The tidal wave had swept to the city gates, so now with the storm half over; we felt that we could indulge in the luxury of breathing a bit easier.  The wind would soon blow again, this time from the opposite direction, and with the same fury; but the tidal wave would subside and the danger to human life be greatly diminished.

 

          As the day wore on and our shelter became nastier and more foul smelling, the storm subsided and people began to gather up their children and other belongings and return to what might be left of their homes.  Almost every building had suffered some structural damage; at best floors were flooded, roofs were leaking, glass was blown from windows and doors were jammed.  One of the greatest hardships was an almost total lack of fresh water.  Private wells were the only source of fresh water and there was no electricity to work the pumps. Torrential rain fell in the wake of the hurricane, and everyone was wet, tired and hungry.  But as one brave soul put it: “I cannot complain; I am alive, my family is alive.  The rest we will fix!”

 

          At the end of day the torrential downpour let up, the black hood of clouds broke, and the sun, pale and forlorn, shone just above the horizon before complete darkness came on.

 

           Next day, Friday, Feast of the Sacred Heart, broke over a storm torn country from the Atchafalaya to the Sabine.  Like everything else, Mass was off schedule on that doleful day, when nerves were taut, souls were terrible depressed and even the briefest conversation could end in a burst of tears.  Yet, by way of irony, punctual as ever, grinding on his squeaky bicycle, came my small altar boy.  Blessed are those who cannot recall yesterday!  What could possibly be wrong in the mind of this small boy?  The sun was out and there was no school.  What more do you want?  After Mass and a cup of coffee (for which I had little appetite) I turned my attention to what might have happened in the missions of Holly Beach and Johnson Bayou.  No one knew what was left and what had been carried away as the waters receded, except that we did know that all roads south were impassible.  I was just about to join a group of cowhands on a trip by horse to Johnson Bayou when an opportunity to join a group bound by boat down the Calcasieu presented itself. Stanolind Oil Company was sending a crew boat down to Cameron and was glad to take me aboard.  From stricken Cameron I had hoped to find some way of reaching Holly Beach and Johnson Bayou - a distance respectively of about 10 and 18 miles.

 

          Whoever has made that trip by boat from Hackberry to Cameron comes away with a fairly good notion of eternity.  Very much unlike a trip down the Hudson or the Potomac, where ever-changing scenes are being open to the view of the fascinated traveler, a trip along the lower Calcasieu is an hour of the most dreary sailing.  Nothing under the sky can be seen for miles by gray-green waters and the tall marsh grass falling back to meet the horizon. However, on this day, as our sturdy little steel craft plowed these waters there were scenes unprecedented.  All along the shore there were strewn mounds of lumber that were once dwellings, furniture, refrigerators, television sets, toys, almost anything that would be found in a home, and a few people scrounging through the huge mass of wreckage hoping to find something of value.  All around us in the water also were just such floating objects, including dead livestock.   On the muddy shore, up to his back in water, was a large Brahma bull, exhausted and alone in his fight for life. Right before us he collapsed, rolled into the water and drowned.  We picked our way through just such obstacles, hoping to find human bodies, for some twenty miles, until we came to what was left of Cameron on the left bank. 

 

          We tied up at what was left of the shrimp boat docks.  One of the first things to strike my attention was the presence of a large sea going tug completely out of the water, standing right on the main street of town.  Around it was the wreckage of what used to be Cameron.  I climbed and walked cautiously over fallen roofs and walls, passed a mixture of dead animals, automobiles half covered with marsh grass, all pushed into one huge heap like toys on a playroom floor.  It all gave one a terrifying feeling.  Although the bodies of human victims had already been picked up and taken to the old icehouse for identification, it was a pitiful experience to meet with persons wandering around, almost in a daze and inquiring about their lost friends and relatives.  One poor fellow, soaking wet, weeping like a child and clutching his shoes in his hands, came up and asked me if I had seen his wife.  It was a painful experience to have to tell this sorrowful man that I knew neither him nor his wife.  So I told him to follow me to the courthouse, the only building to withstand the force of the tidal wave, and there he might get some help.  But he was just one of hundreds in the same sad state of mind.  How could I direct him to the icehouse, where there were only dead relatives? 

 

          Cameron, a town of about 2,000 inhabitants and one of the largest shrimp ports of the Gulf Coast, was a massive heap of ruins and death, defying the imagination and baffling the most courageous as to how to clear and restore it. 

 

          I went up the steps of the courthouse and found the building crowded with all manner of activity.  The National Guard had moved in with its amphibious “ducks,” but they neither knew where to start nor where to go.  Out in those miles of marshes to the north of the town, people were still dying, yet nobody seemed to be in command, nobody knew how to begin.  The men who knew that great wilderness were either dead or scattered and no one could replace them.

 

          I went to the state police and spoke with the lieutenant:  I told him who I was, that my territory lay across the river, and was there any possibility of getting over to Holly Beach and Johnson Bayou?  He courteously promised to help me and told me to stay close at hand.  In a few minutes an officer came up carrying a walkie-talkie strapped to his shoulder and beckoned to me to follow him down to the water front.  There, tied up, was a single-engine hydroplane.  The officer introduced me to the pilot, who was with the press out of New Orleans.  He invited me to get aboard, and as he and two others entered the little cabin I just wondered if we were not tempting Divine Providence by loading this small, single-engine craft with about 800 pounds of men. But the pilot revved up his engine and raced down the river with complete disregard for everything that might be floating in those waters.  But we took off and headed westward out over the marshland and down the coast.

 

          “We can’t get enough help out here,” the pilot remarked.  “Over in New Orleans they just won’t believe that it is this bad over here.”

 

          From an altitude of about 1000 feet we could look down on the inundated marshes and notice the water still streaming back to the ocean.  There, lodged in the deep and tumbled grass, was a trailer tank-trunk lying on its side.  Little did we realize that at that moment the driver was dead in the cab, drowned and caught by his trouser leg in the shift handle.  We flew on and suddenly the pilot remarked:  “There’s Holly Beach!”

 

          I looked at it in dismay.  I could not believe it.  So I asked the pilot to turn and fly over the spot again.  This he did.  And I looked down on a sandy ridge completely devoid of any buildings, as pock-marked as a battlefield where the houses had stood. Holly Beach was not only destroyed; it was gone.  Not a house, not even a part of a house could be seen.  Either they had been washed out to sea, or more likely they had been swept into the great marshes to the north.  Like a great open tomb, half submerged under the greenish waters, one could see the concrete foundation on which the little church had stood.  It was a Quonset 20, bolted to the concrete with 5/8 inch bolts, but such was the power of the waves that they tore it loose and carried it away.  Almost by way of irony I could see, half buried in the sand, what was the red chasuble.  And there, where the road turns northward to go to Hackberry were three men, huddled together on what remained of a bit of pavement, like men on Mars. Later, I learned they were members of the group that I was to accompany earlier in the day.  They were looking for their cattle, but evidently found very little.

 

          Following along the coast we flew on to Johnson Bayou.  All the cabins that were thinly spaced along that wild coastal road were smashed and pushed into a disorderly cluster, their contents scattered out in the marshes or hung in the surrounding brush.  I had expected to see just such desolation right through to the Sabine River, but to my surprise, as we approached the settlement to Johnson Bayou, conditions suddenly changed and within a very short distance little or no damage was visible.  Either this area was out of the path of the storm or the wooded ridge between Johnson Bayou and the sea, furnished a containing barrier.  In any case, the dwellings and other buildings in this village were left standing, though flood waters still stood high around some of them.  To my greatest astonishment the tiny wooden church still stood.  It had been blown off its small cement blocks, but no further damage was visible. I knew the place well, knew every house and where it stood, and I noticed that the home of old Oran Trahan was gone, the cement blocks left in place just as if a moving van had come and picked it up and wheeled it away.  This baffled me! But we will come back to this strange freak of nature.

         

          It was really a beautiful day; the storm may have defaced the earth, but it had swept the skies to a brilliant summer blue.  We flew on to within sight of the Sabine and the Texas border, but not finding any place for a safe landing, we returned eastward to Cameron and its slowly unfolding woes.

 

          Looting and all manner of deceit that goes with it, are always present along with public disasters such as this.  The local bank building in Cameron had been completely demolished, leaving only the two large vaults securely locked and standing like two furnaces amid the debris around them.  The colored janitor, for the sheer lack of anything else to do, had come to work that morning.  I saw him sitting there with his homemade walking stick greeting and chatting with others as bewildered as he was.  Going along a little further I met up with a young fellow holding a rusty, single-shot 22 rifle. 

 

          “What are you doing with the pop-gun?” I asked him with a tone of well measure insolence.

 

          “I’m watching that goddamn niger (sic) over there, who’s trying to rob the bank!” he replied rather gingerly. 

 

          “Aw, come on!”  I remarked.  “You know perfectly well that nobody here, much less that poor fellow, could ever open those vaults.”

 

          “You don’t know these nigers (sic),” was the stock reply.

 

          I learned later that the poor old man was shot dead - picked up as just another victim of the storm.

 

          Cameron Parish was savagely segregationist. To this day no black is allowed to spend a night in Hackberry or Johnson Bayou.  The few blacks that lived in the parish inhabited an isolated ridge out near the ocean.  As a result, when “Audrey” came with her gales and tidal wave, these poor people lost everything, and the mortality rate among them was as high as 80%.

 

          Many other such examples came to disgrace a people that should know better.  Tribulation should bring out the best that is within us; but at times it brings out the worst. 

 

          Once back in Cameron we gathered our party, boarded the Stanolind boat and sailed up the river and back to Hackberry.  As we sat on the after deck of the vessel, no one had much to say.  All were subdued and very depressed, and through every mind ran the same thoughts - the tragic sights of a rare day in the lives of all of us, the smell of death and the unfolding woes of the days ahead.  All news was bad news for the crowds awaiting us at the dock in Hackberry, when we tied up an hour later.  I returned to the rectory with a deep feeling of failure - I had accomplished nothing that day.

 

          Late that evening, just about dusk, a young man walked up to me in front of the church and asked me if I had room for two dazed and tired priests.  The two were Fr.  Gilbert and Fr. Lanue, priests from the parish of Sacred Heart in Creole, where devastation and death had been even more widespread than in Cameron. 

 

          They, as well as all other inhabitants of the coastline, had been obliged to evacuate.  I let them have my car with a driver and instructed them to go up to the Superior Oil lease where there was abundant fresh water, and in the meantime I threw some clean sheets on the extra beds in the house.  I went over to the school house where emergency vehicles and helicopters were coming in.  The Civil Defense had brought in food along with a portable generator to furnish light and work the water wells.  About all I could offer was 100 ft. extension cord and my presence among the refugees who were bedding down for a second miserable night.  Back in the rectory at about midnight, my guests were resting, and I myself laid down for a few restless hours.

 

          The next day a Saturday and fiery dawn broke out of the east with all the heat of a day late in June.  The hideous sight of Holly Beach haunted me, and I felt that I should get down there to where the church stood and make an attempt to recover some articles belonging to the church. So, in a borrowed pickup truck I set out over what remained of the highway, wondering how many of the eighteen miles I could traverse without bogging down hopelessly.  On the way the same awful sights unfolded as we had seen the previous day from the boat; houses and parts of houses, beds, mattresses, refrigerators, dead animals, all mixed with a terrible tangle of power lines and driftwood, all scattered for miles over the great sea marshes.  What was left of the road was just passable, and after picking my way through water holes and mounds of shell, I saw the ocean in the distance and reached the place where Holly Beach once stood. There on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico I seemed to be walking through the valley of death.  A few twisted wires, some overturned and battered vehicles, light posts standing at a sickening tilt and mounds of silent brown sand was about all that remained of Holly Beach.  No houses, not even a part of a house remained; instead there were pools of ocean water in which trapped mullet swan while waiting coons and birds of prey, sand dunes where streets once ran and deep, black ditches where bathers once frolicked.

 

          I advanced slowly to where the church once stood, for two good reasons; there was a tremendously strong odor of skunks in the place and angry water moccasins were everywhere.  These creatures had been tossed and frightened by the high water and were ready to fight anything at any moment.  Did you ever, or do you now believe in ghosts?  I now incline toward that belief.  For there I saw one of those freaks of nature that occasionally happen, especially during great tempest.  Such was the might of the wind and the waves that the 5/8 inch bolts that secured the “Quonset 20” (that was the church in Holly Beach) to the concrete slab were broken off and the entire metal structure rolled over and flattened out and lying a twisted mass in the ditch across the road. The sashes on the south side facing the sea, which were of metal and only recently installed, were torn from the frame and, as if some tidy hand were there, lay on the sand in a line perfectly parallel with the remaining foundation.  The altar and the tabernacle (containing only the empty chalice and ciborium) were gone, and yet, standing against the cement wall, there was the little wooden processional cross that was used for the Way of the Cross.  The rest of the church furnishings and poor, hand-me-down vestments were carried away, excepting the now useless red vestment that I had seen from the plane.

 

          Yes, Holly Beach, dirty, crude and notorious for its rowdy times, was gone. And as I stood in the midst of this desolation I recalled the silly little question of an innocent child:  “What color is a hurricane?”  Only a few hundred feet from where I stood was the vacant lot where Mildred’s house was, and just beyond was the place of Rose’s home.  The twisted stumps of a few small trees were the only remaining signs.  These two children, as I learned later, had fled to safety.  In their childish simplicity they had tried to imagine just what this approaching monster looked like.  Now they had learned, to some extent at least, that although there was no distinguishing color, a hurricane is a deadly thing.

 

          Storied Holly Beach, where there never was much beach, and never was any holly, where saints and demons often lived under the same roof, famous for its ugly brown houses, bony cattle on the loose and those fierce half-wild hogs, on the scorching and treeless ocean front, was gone.  Buried under its shifting, whispering sands or borne by winds and waves out to the impenetrable marshes was the story of its last tragic hours.  I was sadly impressed and equally depressed, and sat on the bumper of the pickup truck and wept.

 

          The next day was Sunday, and it was in the church in Hackberry that the only Mass in all Cameron (civil) Parish was recited.  It brought many and strange faces; some were red from weeping, others burned by exposure to sun and rain.  The sermon for that day had already been delivered during the days preceding.  So we prayed in thanksgiving for deliverance, prayed for the dead, the missing and the stricken, and after curtailing the services as much as possible dismissed the people to get about the arduous and painful tasks that remained.

         

          I then had a little boat and motor (12 hp. Sea Bee) and I made a public appeal for a companion to go with me by boat to Johnson Bayou, if, indeed, the canals were open to passage.  Almost immediately after lunch (which was a can of stale soup) a young man of the parish came to the rectory and offered to go with me.  He was an angel sent by God; a man born and raised on the banks of these bayous and who knew the geography of this immense territory like his living room. 

 

          Now, if you want to take a trip through untouched wilderness, come with me through the Sabine Wildlife Refuge, about 400 square miles of marshland maintained by the Federal Government, especially for the protection of migratory water fowl.  It is surrounded by navigable canals, all of which I knew, but hesitated to pilot alone.  With no more than a couple of gallons of fresh drinking water and dressed like tramps, my friend, J. A. Lowery, and myself drove to the Starks Canal and put our small craft in the water and set out westward.  All along the way, through that wild country, we scared up a few deer, ran over a few alligators, and observed many wild hogs, washed inlaid by the tide, crossing the lakes and canals on their way back to eat up the many carcasses that were scattered all over miles and miles of devastated country.  When we came to Black Bayou we turned south into what is called the Burton Canal and from there we sailed for several miles as far as navigable waters would permit. Amid the bodies of bloating and rotting dead cattle the waterway came to an end.  There on the embankment, straddling the levee was a white house, that of Oran Trahan, the house that I noticed mysteriously missing from its foundation when I looked down from the plane on Friday.  It had been picked by the flood water and carried to this point and deposited there as the water subsided.  We looked in the windows and tried the door in search of possible survivors.  We found none.  It was just another freak of these storms; the house was undamaged, except that the front door screen had become unlatched.  Inside the pretty lamp stood undisturbed on the living room table and every piece of furniture precisely in its place.

 

          We set out on foot along the levee in direction of the coastal road that would take us to Johnson Bayou, and came out at a point known as Mecom’s Landing.  I noticed that there was a helicopter overhead and it appeared to be coming toward the landing where a man was waiting.  On occasions such as this we strain the good will and confidence of our fellow man to the breaking point, and that is just what I did here.  I walked up to the man on the ground, told him who I was, and asked him if he could fly me down about six or seven miles to the Johnson Bayou settlement.  I was dressed like a tramp, my shoes were unlaced because they were wet and hurt my feet, half the buttons were gone from my old blue shirt and on my head a wide brimmed hat that had fallen into the water on the way down.  The man looked at me sympathetically, and I felt that he wanted to say, “Anyone who is crazy as you must be safe and honest.”  He told me his mane was Mead, and it turned out that we had met before in far more normal circumstances.  He told me to hop aboard the “chopper” and then took off and landed me in a cow pasture not far from where the church was. Immediately he flew away, leaving me with the feeling that I was alone in the world.  How could I ever get out of here?  I had even lost my boat companion down at Mecom’s Landing, and I hoped that he would not take off with the boat.

 

          I heard the sound of an automobile and noticed an old blue Ford approaching.  I hailed the driver.  He stopped, and I learned that he lived here.  I inquired about the people up on Smith’s Ridge.  He told me all were well, that the high water had done some damage, but the inhabitants had the necessities of life.  Then I noticed that there were others on hand.  The young man on whose property the church stood had also come down by boat and found himself a tractor instead of a helicopter to reach his destination.  We went into the church and found that about all the damage that had been inflicted was from a pedestal fan, which had broken the finger of one of the statues when it fell.  Although the building had been thrown off of its small concrete blocks, no further structural damage had been sustained.  After a brief inquiry aground the neighborhood and finding that no great tragedy had occurred, I and my friend got on the tractor and rode the six miles back to Mecon’s Landing.  From there we went on foot to where our boats were tied up, cranked up our engines and sailed the dreary way back to Hackberry.

 

          The following days were gloomy in spite of the bright summer sun.  Many of the inhabitants of little Hackberry, who had relatives down the coast at Cameron and Creole began to learn the worst; mothers and  fathers, the old folks at home, brothers and sisters, were being found dead in the marshes, and sometimes in most unsightly conditions.  Whole families had perished.  When one poor little frame house cracked and crumbled, and as the tide bore it away, mother took a bed sheet, tied her children to her and with her husband, abandoned themselves to the water; the family was found dead, floating by the pilings of a bridge. Another mother, waist-deep in the waters of those merciless swamps, was holding her child from drowning, when a water moccasin struck and fatally bit the child in the ear lobe, leaving it to die in the arms of its agonizing and helpless mother. With every hoist of the derrick and every shove of the bulldozer more and more of these shocking stories were coming in.

 

          Fourth of July, one long and painful week after “Audrey” a young man, his wife and mother, with other members of the family, who had taken refuge in Hackberry, wanted to return home to Johnson Bayou.

 

          “Would I go along also?” they asked.

 

          I was anxious to get the tiny church in order again and resume regular Sunday Mass.  The fact that it was still standing was reason enough to use it, and I did not want anyone to conclude that any storm would scare us away from this far off corner.

 

          So we set out in their car and my truck with provisions and the personal things they had brought up with them.  When we reached that place on the coast where the road turns west in the direction of Johnson Bayou, two young fellows with ancient, single shot rifles stepped up and stopped us.

 

          “Where are you going?” they asked. 

 

          “To Johnson Bayou,” I replied.

 

          “You can’t,” one said.

 

          “Who are you, and what have you to say about it?” I inquired.

 

          “We are from the sheriff’s office,” he said.

 

          “Where are your credentials and your badge?” I asked.

 

           “They didn’t have time to give them out to us,” he stupidly answered.

 

          Then I recognized the fellow who had been playing guard at the bank in Cameron a few days ago.  And with that I revved up, released the clutch and drove on.
 

          After about sixteen miles of awful roads, driving in and out of ditches and across improvised bridges, we reached our destination.  Nothing in the little church beyond what a few mops and brooms could accomplish was required, and soon we had the place ready for regular Sunday services.

 

          All through the summer and into the winter I continued to make the 35 mile run to Johnson Bayou for Sunday Mass, and the inhabitants of Holly Beach, who had the courage to return to their battered places on the sandy ridge, attended Mass there also.

 

          The winter of 1958 was a particularly severe one.   The salt water incursion had almost ruined the pasture land, and the few remaining cattle went into the winter hungry and weak.  The death toll was extremely high.  I looked out over about four acres of pasture and within sight one could count 50 dead ones.  Between the hurricane and the freeze of the following winter, the resulting losses reached 40,000.  The buzzards feasted and those mean, half wild hogs grew as round as apples.  That was a sad year.  How often, on a winter night did I drive out of Johnson Bayou and look across the plains to where the lights of Cameron used to shine on the horizon and see only darkness.  Only after several months did a few lights begin to appear.

 

          How wrong can we be! Every storm seems to bring with it mysterious and inexplicable happenings.  Stuck on the side of what they call a spoil bank, on the west bank of the Calcasieu within a mile of the open sea, there stood an old school bus, inhabited by an old fellow who sold bait and did some fishing.  Right across the river, equally exposed to the force of the storm, Cameron was reduced to rubble, while the old bus stood firm.  On a ridge in Johnson Bayou there stood and hay barn so dilapidated and rotted away that it swayed when the cattle rubbed against it.   Yet after the storm had passed there was the shaky barn. While we huddled in the school in Hackberry, I had written off the church in Johnson Bayou as a complete loss and was quite reconciled to it, while I felt confident that the metal and concrete of the “Quonset 20” in Holly Beach would weather any storm.  How wrong I was.

 

          It was a bleak winter day, early in 1958, when my old friend Johnny Mouton came to the rectory telling me of a discovery deep in the heart of the Sabine Wildlife Refuge.  Johnny worked at the Refuge and was engaged in the cleanup of the canals.  Now Johnny was a simple, God-fearing man, although he never threatened to wear out the church floor, so I was amused and hopeful when he told me that he had found something belonging to the church, but that he did not think he should touch it.  At first I thought that Johnny had located the tabernacle of the church at Holly Beach.  I told him to bring it in to me, no matter how sacred it might seem to be.  A few days later in comes Johnny with the beat-up, water-soaked, wicker collection basket.  I thanked him for his zeal for the house of the Lord, but told him that it was really of no more use.

 

          He went on to tell me that there were many more things out there, and that if I wanted to accompany him, he would take me in a government boat.  I agreed to go, and on a pleasant day in January we set out.  There in the heart of the game refuge, about 8 or 10 miles from the site of Holly Beach, were the remains of the town; flattened houses, butane tanks, television sets, refrigerators, furniture of every kind, dead animals and mingled with it all were pews from the church, and pictures of the Stations of the Cross.   After searching in this huge mass of debris, I failed to find anything worth bringing out, least of all the much sought tabernacle.

 

          Some day, a thousand years from now, if men should start to did into that soft black earth and find all these things. From TV sets, to the bones of horses and cows (and possible some human remains), will they not conclude that indeed there must have been some large town here in days long gone?

 

          We cannot run away from all storms, even though the ability of man to detect their approach is ever improving; and even if we could flee, losses would always be great and painful.  And though man’s knowledge of the future is most imperfect, and even though we can gather some comfort in knowing that seldom does a second hurricane following in the same path of one immediately before it, we come away from disaster each time more convinced that this human is very frail and perishable being.  Because of these ancient teachings an eternal truths, Holy Mother Church, with wisdom and every good reason, prays in the liturgical litanies: “From lightning and tempest, O Lord, deliver us!”   (August 1980)

 

 FAMILY HISTORIES

 

ST. GERMAIN ELENDER

 

          Almost all the early settlers in Hackberry can trace their heritage to St. Germain Elender the son of Michel Elender of Lancaster County, German settlement in Pennsylvania and Christine Trahan of St. Martinville, Attakapas country, was born in 1809 in St. Martinville.  His brother and sisters were:  Julia born in 1800, Marime born in 1802, Marie born in 1804, Michel born in1806, Joseph born in 1808, George born in 1811 and Christine born in 1815.  Details are sketchy as to when St. Germain arrived in the Lake Charles area.  He married Rebecca Ryan November 9, 1829, daughter of John Jacob Ryan, Sr., and Mary Ann Hargrove.  St. Germain’s brother-in-law, Thomas Rigmaiden who married Eliza Ryan, was the first school teacher in the Lake Charles area.  St. Germain lived at Vincent’s Settlement for some time before moving to Hackberry.  Records show in 1836 St. Germain of Hackberry Island adopted Arthenise Reviea, the daughter of his sister Julie, to look after her interest as he would his own in education and church privileges until maturity of womanhood and marriage. 

 

          In the Thomas Rigmaiden diary established in Journey’s End by Flavia Reeds he mentioned Alcendore a number of times, for instance:  Feb. 11, 1836, hard rain before day.  Alcendore and family here.  Grubbed a little.  Oct. 16, 1836 - John and Mathilda (Hampshire) and Mr. Robert came up from the lake (Big Lake).  John started with his sister for Sabine.  Sent him Jack (mule) to put to Alcendore’s cart. Nov 7, 1836 - Went to Presidential Election.   There were 44 votes.  All for Van Buren, Dec. 7, 1836 – Heard Santa Ana passed through here on way to Washington Dec. 21, 1836  - Assisted a Pierre’s daubing.  Dr. Nebbitts came there having visited Louis Reon.  Dec. 22, 1836  -  Went to Mr. Reon’s heard of Nebblett’s schooner having got ashore.  Mr. Moss, Alcendore, and others went down.  Aug. 17, 1838  -  Alcendore finished daubing.  Eliza taken very sick, got pills from Dr. Sally (or Tally).  Gave her much relief.  Dec. 25, 1838  -  Drizzling.  Returned home and in evening a ball at Alcendore's.  Jan. 6, 1839  -  Got 10 bushels of corn from Alcendore.”   

 

          Corn, cotton, and sugar cane were some of the money crops they cultivated.  They planted fruit and pecan trees.  Game was plentiful.  They also raised cattle.

 

          The home they built was made of daubing (Spanish moss and clay in staves and slats).  The barn was called pegged because of the use of wooden pegs instead of nails.  This home has been modernized both inside and out and the daubing walls have been covered.  The home is still occupied today and is the current residence of Cecil “Moose” Thompson.  St. Germain and Rebecca had eleven children:  Selamine born in 1832 married Jonathan Wing, Simeon Elender born 1833 married Maramne Elender, Washington E. Elender born in 1834 married Odelia Hebert first and Mary Landry second, James ELENDER  born in 1835 married Mary Rolf, Pierre Elender born in 1837 died young, Ellussee Elender born in 1839 married William Stine, Jacob Elender born in 1843 married Minerva Stine, Christine Elender married John Baptist Hebert, Susanne Elender married William Little, Eliza Elender married John Peveto, and Josephine Elender married Joseph Vincent.

 

          At the time of his death, St. Germain had vast land holdings that included the majority of the present town of Hackberry.  A clear title to the lands of George Kelso, consisting of 2200 acres, was not obtained until Oct., 1883 which was only two months before St. Germain’s death in Dec. 1883.  The said property was sold at sheriff’s sales twice between 1875 and 1881 for delinquent taxes. Rumors also prevail that St. Germain bought the land from a swindler.  Finally after giving power of attorney to Oliver Moss of Lake Charles, in Aug. 1883, the title was cleared.  Mr. Moss traveled to Baltimore, MD., to finalize with the heirs of George Kelso.

 

          St. Germain and his wife, Rebecca Ann Ryan, are buried in the family cemetery behind their home place in Hackberry. 

 

CUVILLIER

 

          It’s doubtful any person knew the marshes of this area better than Ozama Cuvillier.  From the early 20s when he moved here to fish and trap, Ozama was out in his pirogue roaming the marshes to hunt alligators and fish with trot lines during the summer and trap during the winter.  Alligator hunting in these early days was done at night with the aid of carbide lights, a chemical compound of carbon and metal.  When burned, gave off acetylene gas.  The contraption was worn on the head, like a battery operated head light.  The method of taking the alligator was by the use of a hook pole to pull or shooting. 

 

          Ozama was more at home standing in his pirogue rather than using a gasoline motor.  As a child, daughter Velma recalls her father staying afloat in rough waters using an unusual technique.  He would paddle one stroke out of the pirogue followed by a quick bailing sweep with his paddle into the pirogue to remove unwanted water.  No matter how rough or blustery the lake became he always managed to run his trap lines.

 

          In the depression years when city dwellers were in bread lines, Ozama and his family were living off the land.  During the summer months they rented boats to fishermen from as far away as Houston, Texas.  They had many Texas friends to camp on the banks of the lake.  Doctors, lawyers, and oil people soon learned that the lake was a haven for fishing. 

 

          The novice fisherman who returned on the lake provided the family with many a chuckle as they tried to master a set of oars.  Velma says “We would give them a shove away from the wharf then sit back and watch the fun.”

 

          Ozama was the son of Homer Cuvillier and Camelia Landry from the Abbeville area.  He married Azalia Broussard, daughter of Arthur Broussard and Julia Benoit from Lake Arthur.  They had thirteen children.

 

          Euna served in the Navy during World War II.  She married Eugene Torres, has six children and now resides in Socorro, New Mexico. Curtis served in the army of the Second World War.  He married Odessa Reon, has four daughters and remained in Hackberry. Vida Mae worked as a nurses aid and in sales.  She married Robert Hawn, has five children and resides in Lumberton, Texas. Velma married John Anthony Lowery, parents of eight children and remained in Hackberry. Lucille, an Air Force 1st Lt. registered nurse, served during the Korean conflict, but never left the states.  She married Michael Moore, now lives in Napa, California and has four children. Ozama John made the Air Force his career, married Phillis Levey of England and are the parents of seven children.  Now live in Boise, Idaho. Shirley, a registered nurse, married Tom Dycus, has four children plus two adopted children.  She is married to Ron Young, a career officer in the Air Force, and lives in Mas Coutah, Illinois. Leroy, served in the U. S. Army, married Laura Mae DeLavne, lived in Morgan City and worked as an oiler for offshore supply boats.  They now reside in Hackberry.  Judy, a registered nurse, married Robert Fatham, second husband Stanley Marks, has three children and lives in Lumberton, Texas.  Gerald (Jerry) served in the U.S. Air Force, married Beverly Cunningham, has seven children and lives in Benton, Washington. Eugene served in the Navy, married Helen Fontenot, has two children.  He is a sheet metal worker and lives in Lake Charles. Ronald (Ronnie) works in communications, lives in Savannah, Georgia and is married to Pam Avalene Meeks.  They have five children. Eva Joyce lived only 18 months, a drowning victim; fell from the back porch of their house boat on the Calcasieu River where the family lived in Cameron for two years before returning to Hackberry.

          

DEVALL

 

          Leroy Devall established himself in Hackberry in about 1929.  He can certainly be considered one of our rugged people who settled here.  Considering the hardships he endured just coming to this job.  He was employed by the Louisiana Land Company, later becoming Texas Company.  For the two years before he moved his family here, his daily route to work was to row across Calcasieu Lake from Big Lake having to leave home before daylight and arriving back across the lake well after dark.

 

          He was born in the Big Lake area, and his wife, Eula Benoit, was from the Black Bayou area, south of Lake Charles. 

 

          When he was finally able to move his family here, like so many others, it was by house boat.  The leaky house boat had to finally be pulled up on land around the John Portie home.  The house boat had two rooms, a kitchen and a bedroom. 

 

          Leroy and Eula had two children, Alfred and Martha Evelyn.  Alfred tells about his athletic endeavors playing basketball on a dirt and sand court with classmates, Lenard and Lenny Little, Dewy Portie, and Speck Duhon.

 

          Alfred married Lavell Whatley.  He worked for J. S. Albercombie in Sweeny, Texas in the “Old Ocean” oilfield.  From 1942 to 1945, Alfred served in the Army of World War IIs 544th Command Force in the South Pacific.  After the war he started his boating service operating crew boats.

 

          Alfred and Lavell have eight children, five boys and three girls.  Loretta married Charles Seay and has three children; Michael married Francis Murphy and has four children.  Mike served a year tour of duty in Vietnam as an Army Sergeant.  Francis was an elementary teacher for a number of years. James married Lana Pollete and they have three children.  He served in the Army Medical Corps during the Vietnam War, but was fortunate enough to stay in this country.  Janie married Albert Vick who works as a boiler maker.  Janie is a first grade teacher in Grand Lake.  They have three children.  Joseph married Cathy Tenny and they have three children.  Claude married Celi McClain and they have two children.  Theresa married Ludwig Lenards and has five children. Theresa taught school a number of years.  Allen married Debra Herandez and has two children.

 

          Alfred and Lavell have now retired from their boating business and their five boys and Ludwig Lenards have taken over the boating service.  They now spend their free time traveling. 

 

          Leroy and Eula’s daughter, Martha Evelyn, married Allen Whitley Reed from Mullans, Texas and lived all her married life in Texas and New Mexico.  Her husband worked as a superintendent for Humble Oil until his death in 1982.  Evelyn now resides in Hackberry.

 

          Evelyn and Allen had four children.  Pam married Keith Kovach and they have two children.  Rocky has three children and works for Richard Construction.  Jimmy married Cathy Meche and has three children.  Jimmy works at Hackberry High School in the Agriculture Department. Chad is now a student at McNeese State University. 

 

EAST

 

          Martin East was one of the first operators of a commercial hunting club. It was located along the Mermentau River area in Little Cheniere.  His sons, Erson, Phillo, Felix, and Ambrose alonge with Jack Benoit and L. J. Kershaw were some of the guides he used for his operation. 

 

          In the 1920s he moved his family to Hackberry by houseboat, landing at Benjamin Elender’s landing.  He began earning his living here by fishing, trapping and hunting.  His grandson remembers being told how they caught huge soft shell turtles by seining in Black Lake.  In those years water in the lake was fresh.  Large rafts of ducks and coots covered the lake during the winter.

 

          His wife, Mary Benoit, was born in Little Cheniere.  They had a large family, most of whom lived out their lives here on Hackberry island.

 

          Alida married Carl Stromer, also lived here.  Mr. Stromer, originally from Sweden worked at Union Sulphur.  They had one son, Johnny.

 

          Phillo married Alicia Meaux.  They had thirteen children; Raymond, Irene, Mary Jane, Rena, Norman, Norris, Morris, Lena Mae, Rose Mae, Letha Doris, Roy, Florence, and Ella Mae.

 

          Erson married Ida Chession.  Worked as a tug boat operator, trapped and shrimped all his life time.  They have two sons.

 

          Ambrose married Azelia Little, worked for Yount Lee helping to develop the oil fields here.  He also maintained the crew boats for Stanolind Oil.  They had two daughters.

 

          Felix married Hazel LeBlue and lived in Carlyss. 

 

          Raymond married Alice Swire and was a resident here till his death.  They had five children; Alma, Joseph, Margarette, Wilson, and Leroy.  Raymond worked as a tub boat captain.

         

          Pierre married Ester Daigle.  He worked on the road maintenance until he retired. He now lives in Lake Charles. They have one daughter.

 

          Matilda married Jack Rutherford, had one daughter who died young.

 

          Dorcele (man) married Cecile LaBove.  They had two boys and four girls; Helen, Dolores, D. J., Carrie, Catherine, and Gary.  He worked as a tug boat captain, crabbed and operated a restaurant for years.  Cecile’s stuffed crabs were well known throughout this area.

 

          Duplice married Mary Ann Burch, worked as a boat captain and is one of Hackberry’s World War II casualties.  He was killed in action in Germany.

 

          Phillo East like his father was a fisherman, trapper, and hunter.  He was a well known builder. He married Alicia Meaux and was a resident till his death.  Their children, thirteen in all can be proud of their family. 

 

          Raymond married Jackie Caddo.  He made a career of the Army, served occupation forces of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and retired as a Sergeant.  They have four boys and reside in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

 

          Irene married Able Kershaw.  They have two sons Roland and Martin and one daughter Mary Jean.  Able earned his living as a carpenter, hunting guide, shrimper and trapper.  He is buried in the Hackberry Community Center.

 

          Rena married Alvin Broussard who was a bridge tender here for years.  They had one daughter Betty Ann and one son Alvin, Jr.

 

          Ray married Lou Anna Babineaux.  He made a career of the Army, retired a Sergeant and served in Korea and Vietnam.  They have one daughter and reside in Sulphur, Louisiana. 

 

          Norman married Wilda Ann Touchet. His military service was in the Navy.  He worked as a boat captain until he became disabled.  They have eight children and reside in Hackberry.

 

          Norris married Patrichia Anderson.  He has worked construction, fished, shrimped.  They have four children; Ester, Floyd, Helen and Donald.  They reside in Hackberry.

 

          Morris married Becky Reynolds.  He made the Army his career and has retired as a Sergeant.  He served as an advisor to the French in Vietnam.  He is now employed by the Department of Education in Baton Rouge.  They have three children. 

 

          Lena Mae lives in Sulphur, Louisiana.  She never married.

 

          Rose Mae married George Authment, lives in Sulphur, Louisiana and has three boys.

 

          Letha Doris married Alan Hebert.  They resided in Johnson Bayou, Louisiana until Alan’s death and she now resides in Sulphur, Louisiana.  She has one daughter.

 

          Roy married Delta DeBarge.  He works as a boat captain.  They have two children and reside in Sulphur, Louisiana.

 

          Florence married Larry Caroll, who is a musician and owns a car lot in Sulphur, Louisiana.  They have three children. 

 

          Ella Mae married Larry Douget, who worked as an oilfield worker.  They have three children and reside in Jennings, Louisiana.

 

          Phillo and Alicia are buried in St. Peter’s cemetery in Hackberry. 

 

ELENDER

 

          John Clarfa Elender was born September 26, 1875, the son of Washington E. Elender and Mary Landry. 

 

          After he completed the education Calcasieu public schools provided he attended college in Waco, Texas for 2 years. His education was ended abruptly by a fever epidemic.  Fearing a quarantine, he left college to return to Sulphur.

 

          He married Clara Elender, daughter of Levi Elender and Melisse Reon in 1897 and settled in Hackberry in about 1898 on land bought from his father.  Their home consisted of only two rooms.  After the birth of their first child Agnes, doctor bills they incurred because of her illness, forced them to leave Hackberry where he worked in the Sulphur Mines for total of four years in order to pay off the debts. 

 

          They returned to their Hackberry home in 1911 earning a living by farming cotton and corn, trapping and raising cattle and sheep.

 

          With the exploration of oil, they enlarged the house adding an upper floor to provide housing for oil field workers.  One family per room.  They had four families living upstairs.  Providing meals for the drilling crews that drilled near their home was another source of income.

 

          Agnes married Ernest Lowery and had eleven children; Leo, Geraldine, Loree, John Anthony, Lorane, Lauris Earl, Arthur Lee, Peggy, Doris, Lawrance, Jr., and Clarfa John.  John Anthony was the only one making his home in Hackberry.  Their working years were spent in the lumber business.  They operated a lumber yard in Hackberry in the latter part of the 1930s. 

 

          The second child, Eva, had to leave home at the tender age of seven to attend school for the deaf in Baton Rouge, the only one available in the state.  She married Carl Crabb in 1944 and lives in Houston.  Her husband worked in an upholstery shop. 

 

          Mary Elem, born 1915, married Ernest Hamilton and spent her early married life in Houston, but returned to Hackberry in the late 1930s. Ernest worked with J.C. as a brine well operator.  They now live in Baton Rouge.  They had two children, Polly Ann and Ernest, Jr.

 

          John Clarfa, Jr. was born in 1919.  He was a member of the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He plane, the Sunrise Sernade, collided with friendly aircraft killing all on May 27, 1945.  First Lt. Elender is buried in Lexington, Kentucky, a military cemetery, in common grave with his crew members.

 

          John Clarfa and his wife worked long hard hours to provide for their family.  His joy was playing a card game called “set back.”  They taught friends and family the game with matches being the ante, many times the betting limit being a nickel a game.  This provided fond memories of the good old days.

 

          John Clarfa and his wife Clara are buried at the Farqukar (sic) Cemetery.  The land for the cemetery was donated by her father Levi Elender.  It is also the resting place of John Jacob Ryan and wife and many other local pioneers. 

 

GRAY

 

          Elmer James “Jim” Gray, son of Amos Robert Gray and Matilda Yellott was born March 17, 1898.  He married Mamie Little, born May 5, 1901, daughter of Nathaniel Little and Honora Duhon.  They had five children. 

 

          Verna Lee married first J. B. Erbelding, no children, second Johnny Wood, they had one daughter, third John Alton Savoie, they had one son and one grandchild.  Verna Lee died in 1966.

 

          Clayton James joined the Navy after he graduated from high school.  Later married Joyce Marie Vaussine, daughter of Fred Vaussine and Cecile Landry.   They have one daughter, one son and one grandchild.  They reside in Sulphur, Louisiana. 

 

          Royce Ray married Bobbie Jeannie Riley, daughter of Robert “Bob” Riley and Lottie M. Trahan.  (The Riley’s moved to Hackberry in 1933 with Gulf Oil Company and lived there until 1952.)  Royce served in the Korean war 1951-1952.  They have three girls and four grandchildren.  They reside in Westlake. 

 

          Douglas Rudell married Isabel Seay, daughter of Pete Seay and Lillian Guidry. They have two sons, one daughter and five grandchildren.  They reside in Hackberry. 

 

          Donald Joseph married Ann Byler, daughter of Lloyd “Hot T” Byler and Annette Delauney.  They have one daughter and one son and reside in Hackberry. 

 

          Jim worked for Union Sulphur Oil Company and for a short time about 1924 lived in Richmond, Texas.  They moved back to Sulphur, then about 1928 they moved and settled back in Hackberry.  Jim worked, firing boilers on rigs for different oil companies that moved into the area.

 

          Jim also farmed and raised cattle and sheep.  In the mid 40s he worked as a deputy sheriff under Archie Little.  He later worked for the parish. 

 

          Jim died May 13, 1986 and Mamie died February 24, 1989.  

 

HEBERT

 

          John Baptiste Hebert, son of Jean Baptiste Hebert and Carmelite Duhon, married Christine Elender, daughter of St. Germain Elender and Rebecca Ann Ryan, in the mid 1800s.  They had seven children.  John Dupre born Feb. 23, 1867, Carmelite (Millette) born July 12, 1870, Arisse born Sept. 5, 1872, Aladin, Marcisse born Aug. 19, 1881, Drozan born May 15, 1884 and Armogen born June 12, 1886.

 

          John Dupree married Ametile Hebert and had seven children; Issac Dupre, Ezra, Lesly, Cornellia, Inez, and Odelia.  Carmelite (Millette) married Will Lacy and they had five children; Lavonia married Benard Duhon and had two sons Willie and Ernie.  Her second husband was Raymond Sanner.  Maude married Bradley Ellender, and Lillian married Alington Ellender, Sedonia married Andrew Young, and Adelia married Cleveland Ellender.

 

          Arisse married Jule Portie Oct. 3, 1898.  They had seven children; Allie married Charles Nobles, Avis married Willie Newman, Elma married William Gross, Pearl married first John Torbon, second Charles Shindlebower, Lucy married Olie Peveto, Mable married George Dees, John married Alma Duhon.

 

          Aladin married Martha Doiren.

 

          Narcisse married Olivia LeDoux.  They had four children; Hester, Garland, Marlin and Junius. 

 

          Drozan married Maggie LeDoux.  They had one son Charley who died when he was 20 or 30. 

 

          Armogen married Ida Benoit.  They had no children.

 

          John and Christine (Grandma Bee as she was called) lived just west of where A. J. Hebert now lives.

 

          John died Aug. 10, 1021 and Christine died Mar. 15, 1941.  Both are buried in St. Peters Cemetery. 

 

          Dupre Hebert Sr. was born in the Big Lake Community in Cameron Parish.  He was the son of John Dupre Hebert and Ametile Hebert.  He married Ellen Broussard, daughter of August Broussard and Eva Boudoin of Creole. 

 

          He came to Hackberry to work as a farm hand and later went to work for an oil company.  Several times he worked in other places but he drove back and forth instead of moving the family. 

 

          They had five children; Dupre, Jr., Lester Joseph, August John, Eva Earline, and Linda Lou.

 

          Dupre, Jr., married Nata Lee Little, daughter of Floyd Paul Little and Ethel Moss.  They had three children; Paula Yvette, Kevin, and Kirby.

 

          Lester Joseph married Theresa Ann Moss, daughter of Isaac Morris Moss and Eletha Dronette of Sulphur.

 

          They had two children; Fabia Ann and Lester Joseph, Jr.  Fabia Ann married Rayford Thomason and had two daughters; Julie Ann and Jodie.  Lester Jr. married Jeanita Faye Hendrix and they had two sons; Joseph Paul and Robert Allen.  Faye had a son Douglas from her first marriage.

 

          August John married Nathalie Trahan, daughter of Uriah Trahan and Hattie Jinks of Johnson Bayou.  They had five children, Ronald David, Michael Dale, Brenda Sue, Carolyn Jean and Patricia Ann (Patty).  He adopted Beverly Kay Bailey who was born to Nathalie during her first marriage; Beverly Kay married Kenny Simon and had one son Michael.  Her second marriage was to David Tingler and they have two daughters; Hope Ellen and Amy.  Ronald David married Cheryl Jean Larian of Grand Salive, Texas and they have three children, Shannon Keith, Kaylon Renee, and Stacie LeeAnn.  Michael Dale married Vickey Welch and had no children with her.  His second marriage was to Diane Spicer.  They have one daughter, Angelica Diane.  Dine has two sons from her first marriage, Chad and Chris.  Brenda Sue married Clyde Truax of Eagen, Louisiana and has three children, Alissa, Ardeen, Joshua, and Steven Wayne.  Carolyn Jean married David Wayne Welch and they have two sons Jaimie Lee and Jake Allen.  Patricia Ann (Patty) married Kenny Brown and they had two sons; Josie Ann and Jessie Wayne.

 

          Eva Earline married Billy Franklin Deason and has three children, James Franklin, Jack Anthony and Cheryl Ann.

 

          Linda Lou married Edward Hebert of Holly Beach and they have two sons, Patrick and Terry Wayne.

 

          Dupre, Sr. died August 5, 1968 and Ellen Broussard Hebert died October 6, 1984.

 

          Dupre Hebert, Jr. was born in Hackberry, Louisiana on September 28, 1928.  He is eldest son of Dupre Hebert, Sr. and Ellen Broussard.  On August 18, 1952 he married Nata Lee Little, daughter of Floyd Paul Little and Ethel Moss. 

 

          Dupre, Jr. graduated from Hackberry High in 1947.  He entered the Army October 21, 1952 and they moved to Camp Roberts, California for Basic Training. He went to Korea and was wounded on July 9, 1953.  He spent three months in Osaka Army Hospital in Japan, then two months in Brooks Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.  He was discharged on July 21, 1954 from Fort Hood, Texas. 

 

         

 

     After spending the next three years working in the oil fields of east Texas and south Louisiana, they moved back to Hackberry and built a home in 1957 near Nata’s parents. 

 

          All three of their children were born in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Paula Yvette on August 5, 1955, Kevin on May 23, 1957, and Kirby on Oct. 28, 1958. 

 

          In 1970 they built the first washateria in Hackberry which they still own. 

 

          The children all graduated from Hackberry High School with honors. 

 

          Paula went to Demmon’s School of Beauty and owned her own beauty shop at age 19.  She is engaged to Lonnie Lee Suire from Carlyss and they have purchased and reside in the former home of her grandparents, Floyd Paul and Ethel Little, in Hackberry.

 

          Kevin graduated from Sowela Tech and now does construction work.  He married Carla Desormeaux April 6, 1991. She has one son Allen attending Hackberry High School.

 

          Kirby married Amy Sue Langerberger of Brielle, New Jersey on July 17, 1982.  Their son Dustin Dupre was born on July 20, 1984 in Lake Charles, LA.  Kirby now works as an operator at the Federal Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Hackberry.  In 1985 Kirby opened the first outboard motor shop in Hackberry near his home. Now, Kirby is waiting on a patent for one of his inventions, the Marshmaster, which is now under patent pending.

 

          All three children live on Floyd Little Road in Hackberry.

 

          Nata Lee died December 27, 1988, Dupre Jr. married Ruth Bishop of Benton, Tennessee in May 1989 and now lives in Tennessee.

 

LITTLE

 

          William Little, Sr. was born in Ireland and came to America as a young man.  In middle 1800s he married Suzanne Elender, daughter of St. Germain Elender and Rebecca Ryan. They had nine children:

 

          Nathaniel married Nora Duhon.  Their children were; Mamie, Edith, and Columbus.

 

          Adrian married Virginia Benoit.  Their five children were; Ada, Jasper, Azzie, Noland, and Addie.

 

          William, Jr, (see below)

 

          Jasper (single)

         

          Arsilla married Olezime Duhon.  There five children were; Ovia, Milbra, Sadie, Ester and Ray.

 

          Lenard married Alzina Hebert.  Their eleven children were; Albert, Inez, Sam, Susie, Sadie, Zaddie, Madie, Zephrine, Sam, Leonard, Lenny, and Alice. 

 

          Archie married Beulah Norman and had one son Norman Lee.

 

          Hillard (single)

 

          Lucrecia married Adam Granger.  There were four children; Lola, Ollie, Otis, and Dewey. 

 

          William Little, Jr.  was born in Hackberry, on July 20, 1873.  He was the son of William Little and Suzanne Elender.  On Feb. 2, 1899 he married Mary Eugenie Portie, daughter of John Portie and Emily Montie, born Nov. 4, 1876.

 

          They built their first home on what is now West Hackberry.  William was a farmer who even raised his own sugar cane and then made his own syrup.  The whole family helped with grinding the cane and enjoyed a family get-together while the cane juice was boiling.  The ruins of the mill and boiling vat can still be found in a wooded area near the old home place. 

 

          Their children Lloyd Eugene, Hazel, Floyd Paul, Azalie, Ethel and Arthur were born in this home.

 

          Lloyd was born June 3, 1900.  His first wife was Gladys Faulk and his second was Chloa Bonsall.  He died August 9, 1947 leaving no children. 

 

          Hazel was born September 14, 1901 and died March 21, 1925.  She married Percy Toups of Southeast Louisiana and had three children; Leona, Dorthy Mae and Percy Louis.  Leona married Ralph Davis of  Belmont, Louisiana and had one son Ricky (who died at age 9) and one daughter, Eloise who married Earl Nelson of Belmont, Louisiana.  They had three children; Earl Wade, Natalie Sue, and Mary Lanay. Dorthy Mae was born December 13, 1922 and died June 24, 1937 without marrying or leaving any children. Percy Louis was born September 28, 1924 and died August 2, 1976.  He married Margaret Kara of Pennsylvania.  They had two children; Debra Sue and Terrance Lee.  Debra married Kenneth Hebert; they divorced without having any children.  Terrance married Donna Goodwin and they have one daughter, Jennifer Lane.  Donna has one son, Jason from a previous marriage.

 

          Floyd was born September 28, 1903.  He married Ethel Moss of Sulphur, Louisiana and had two children, Luby Lee and Nata Lee. He died April 16, 1980.  He was survived by Ethel, their children, seven grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

 

          Azallie was born September 19, 1907 and died June 13, 1948.  She married Cleve Parker and had two children; Bertha Lee and Richard Jacob.  Her second husband was Ambrose East and they had two children, D’Ann and Donna Marie. Bertha Lee married Stanly Pescheret of New Orleans and had one daughter, Andrea who married Matthew Eldrige.  They had one son, Jaygon.  They are now divorced.  Richard married Florence Dirks and adopted her three children, Herbert, Rachael, and Pamela.  D’Ann was married first to Joseph Simon of Vinton, Louisiana, second to Roy Jackson Brinker, which there were three children of this marriage, Roi J., Robin Jade, and Ron Jason.  Her third marriage was to Michael Shiber.  Donna married Albert Leo Hantz of Hackberry and have one son Anthony. 

 

          Ethel was born October 4, 1909.  She married Derrall M. Watts of Bon Amie, Louisiana.  They had one son, Kenneth Madison who died as an infant February 6, 1946.  Derrall died May 23, 1962. 

 

          Arthur was born June 3, 1911 and died January 27, 1972.  He married Evie Kibodeaux of Crowley, Louisiana and they had four children, Clifford James, William Ray, Gene Arthur, and Robert Lewis.  Clifford married Mary Lou Guidry, they had one son Brian Keith.  William (Bill) married Patricia Ann Bonsall and had one son, William Ray Little, Jr., Gene married Ann Atwell and had two sons, Michael Thaddeus and Michael Hampton.  Robert Louis married Suzanne Dugas of Carlyss, Louisiana and they had five children; Jonathon, Robert, Jeri Elizabeth, James William, Jessica Leigh, and Joseph Dugas.

 

          William Little, Jr. died December 29, 1947.  His wife Mary Eugenie died November 21, 1954. 

 

          Nathaniel Little,   son of William “Billy” Little and Suzanne Elender, married Honora Duhon, daughter of John B. Duhon and Marie Osea Benoit , March 19, 1896.   They had three children; Edith married Adna Ellender, they had five children.  Columbus married Alice Boudreaux, they had eight children.  Mamie married Elmer James (Jim) Gray, they had five children.

 

          Floyd Paul Little was born in Hackberry, Louisiana on September 28, 1903.  He was the second son of William Little, Jr.  and Mary Eugenie Portie.  On May 26, 1927 he married Ethel Moss, daughter of Johnson Joseph Moss and Sarah Lyons of Sulphur, Louisiana in Calcasieu Parish. 

 

          They built their first home in Hackberry near his parent’s home.  Their two daughters, Luby Lee and Nata Lee were born in Sulphur at their maternal grandparents’ home on the Old Spanish Trail. 

 

          While working in the oil fields, Floyd moved his family quite often.  In Texas they lived in High Island, Dayton, and Anahuac.  In Louisiana they lived in Iota, Jennings, and Lafayette.  One school term the girls attended three different schools.  After reaching high school they didn’t move anymore so they graduated from Hackberry High School. 

 

          Floyd took great pride in his cattle herd and took part in many cattle drives from Hackberry to winter pasture on the Sabine Wildlife Refuge then returned them to Hackberry for summer range.   

         
          Luby Lee married Johnnie Martin Thomas, Jr. from Weleetka, Oklahoma and they had four children; Johnnie (Bud), Randy, Floyd, Luby Lee and Michael Scott.

 

          Johnnie first married Doris Jean Humphries May 30, 1970.  They divorced and had no children. He then married Janie Ruie Sexton December 28, 1978.  She had two children, Lisha Michelle Towery born December 14, 1976 and Thomas Laron Towery (Tiger) born April 11, 1978.    They divorced and Johnnie had custody of the children.  Randy married Elizabeth Ogea on December 30, 1971 and they had six children; David John (March 3, 1974), Steven Paul (May 7, 1975), Ryan Joseph (March 2, 1977), Cherié Elizabeth (December 12, 1978), Melanie Marie (June 29, 1980), and Jeffery James (February 16, 1983).  Randy owns a cabinet shop and works at a local hospital.  Elizabeth (Beth) in a school teacher.

 

          Luby Lee married Dan Seely, they divorced having no children.  Luby works for a law firm in Lafayette. 

 

          Michael Scott is single.  He enjoys playing the guitar when he is not working.  All of the Thomas children live in Lafayette and the surrounding areas. 

         

          Nata Lee married Dupre Herbert, Jr. on August 18, 1952.  Dupre is also from Hackberry, the eldest son of Dupre Herbert, Sr. and Ellen Broussard.  Nata and Dupre had three children; Paula Yvette - Aug. 5, 1955, Kevin - May 23, 1957, and Kirby - Oct. 28, 1958. 

 

          Floyd dies on April 16, 1980 and Nata died December 27, 1988.  Johnnie M. Thomas, Jr. died December 22, 1989. 

 

LOWERY

 

          John Anthony Lowery spent his early childhood at Salem Ferry, Louisiana where his family operated a sawmill.  The son of Ernest Lawrence Lowery and Agnes Elender, he attended grammar school at Hyatt and later Merryville High where the family moved in the early 40s.  Constant flooding problems of the Sabine River was the reason the family moved the sawmill to Merryville.  At the beginning of World War II he enlisted in the Navy and survived boot camp.  Navy doctors were informed by the family doctor of a physical condition and was issued a medical discharge.  On his return he began working for Olin Mathieson as a brine well operator in Hackberry in 1946.

 

          He married Velma Cuvillier, daughter of Ozama Cuvillier and Azelia Broussard in 1947. They became parents of 8 children:

 

          James the oldest has a degree in Wildlife Management and Environmental Science.  He is employed at Olin Chemical and is the father of two children Elizabeth and Jeremy.

         

          Cynthia, married to James Carpenter, has a degree in Home Economics and is presently employed as lunchroom manager in Hackberry.  She is the mother of one son Benajamen.

 

          Catherine is a math teacher in Zachary, Louisiana.  She is married to Charles Munson, has two children Scott and Vickie.

 

          Stephen is employed by Strategic Petroleum Reserve, attended McNeese for two years and has two daughters, Valarie and Tricia.  He is married to Pat Perron.

 

          Phillip attended McNeese 3 years, is presently employed for Occidental pipeline.

 

          Patrick works for Wildlife and Fisheries in Baton Rouge as an investigator. 

 

          Joan has a P. H. D. in Biochemistry presently at Duke University.  She is married to Charles Hauser.

 

          John, a mechanist is employed in Collingwood, New Jersey. 

 

          J. A. was a manager for the Hackberry hunting club from 1957 to 1973 when he suffered an aneurism he was disabled and died in 1985.  He is buried in Hackberry St. Peter Church Cemetery.         

 

NOBLES

 

          Charles Nobles, son of Charles Leonard Nobles and Margrit Helen Hurley, was born in Centralia, Wisconsin, June 22, 1894.  He was third born of seven children.  Charles attended Business College in drafting and served in World War I.  He came to Louisiana as an engineer for W. S. Streeter Dredging Company.  His dredge was working in Black Bayou digging what was to become a part of the Intracoastal Canal when he met Allie Portie, daughter of Jules and Arrisse Portie, who was teaching in Black Bayou.  They were married September 9, 1921.  Of this marriage five children were born; Helen Allie, Beulah May, Marguerette Emily, Charles Lawrence, and James Russel. 

 

          Helen graduated from Southwestern State University, in Lafayette, Louisiana.  She married Walter Saucier from Cotton Port, Louisiana.  Helen taught in Hackberry in 1945 and 1946 while Walter was serving in the Air Force in England.  They have seven children; Walter Joseph, Jr., Susanne Clare, Diane Helen, Janie Marie Gerard Thomas, Laurence Edmund, Loraine Annette. They have 15 grand children.  Helen and Walter now reside in Raleigh North Carolina.

 

          Beulah May died at the age of fourteen.

 

          Marguerette Emily married James C. Pitts of Carthage, Texas and has one daughter Beulah Mae, two grandchildren.  Margaret had resided in Hackberry all her life.  Like her father she is a “jack of all trades,” as she help him on most of his electrical and carpenter jobs.  James died Jan. 24, 1988.

         

          Charles Lawrence served three years in the Army after high school.  He was attending McNeese when he received his appointment to Annapolis Naval Academy.  After graduating from Annapolis he joined the Air Force making it his career retiring at the rank of Major.  He died November 1, 1978, never married.

 

          James Russel attended McNeese and served in the U.S. Army.  He has two daughters, Nona and Tressa and five grandchildren.  He now resides in Hackberry.

 

          In 1923 Charles moved his family to Cleburne, Texas where he worked for GCSF Railroad.  When the job there was finished they returned to Hackberry and purchased five acres of land from Allie’s father, where they built their home. In later years they purchased an additional nineteen acres joining the original five.  Two of these acres, on which Ged Iron Works had a machine shop, were sold in 1927. Like many other families in Hackberry their home was opened to oil field workers and teachers for a place to room.  The children all slept in one bedroom.  Teachers who roomed at the Nobles’ were Eunice Domingue Cohen, Sophia Dolan, Elaine Dolan, and Ruby Sells. 

 

          In the 1940s Charles worked in the Orange Shipyard as an inspector for the Naval Department.  In the 1950s he worked for the government on the building of the spillways at Sabine Refuge.  He was a self-employed electrician, carpenter and a “jack of all trades.”  Of Irish and Scottish descent he had the humor of both.

 

          Allie attended school through the eight grade, which was all that was available in Hackberry at that time. She then went to Black Bayou to teach in a one room schoolhouse much like the one she was taught in.  She boarded with the Oscar Granger family where she later met Charles.

 

          Allie was an active member of St. Peters Catholic Church. 

         

          Charles died Nov. 21, 1977 and Allie died Nov. 19, 1988. Both are buried in St. Peters Cemetery.

 

PORTIE

 

          John Edward Portie, son of Mathew Portie and Mary Artemise Broussard, was born Feb. 8, 1852 in Grand Chenier, Louisiana. He married Emily Montie, daughter of Valsaint Montie and Eugenie Miller of Grand Chenier.  John was a cattleman and farmer.  He served as Justice of the Peace in 1910 and 1915.

 

          John and Emily had four children;  Jule, born Nov. 23, 1871, married Arisse Hebert, Paul, born Oct. 24, 1873, married Julie Duhon, Mary Eugenie, born Nov. 4, 1876, married William Little, and Julia born, Mar. 16, 1879, married Eugene Ellender.

 

          Emily died Aug. 10, 1912.  John’s second marriage was to Amelia Griffith.  John died Mar. 30, 1935 and is buried in St. Peter Catholic Cemetery in Hackberry next to Emily. 

 

          Jule Portie, son of John Edward Portie and Emily Montie, was born Nov. 23, 1871.  He married Arisse Hebert, daughter of John Baptise Hebert and Christine Ellender.  There were seven children; Allie, Avis, Elma, Pearl, Lucy, Mable, and John Edward. 

 

          Jule served as Justice of the Peace 1901, 1902 and 1910.  He was mail carrier in 1902, as stated in the Lake Charles American Press, May 31, 1902, “Mr. Jule Portie, the new mail contractor went up to Lake Charles and bought a fine double-seated wagon for the mail service.” 

         

          Jule died Aug. 14, 1934 and Arisse died Oct. 1, 1960.  Bothe are buried in St. Peter Catholic Cemetery in Hackberry.

 

 SANNER

 

          Ernest Sanner settled in Hackberry in 1881.  Great-grandson Vernon Paul Sanner says “he was the kind of grandfather every kid wants.  He homesteaded 160 acres on the corner of Highway 27 and Highway 390 in Hackberry. I remember years later his having a special place in his orange grove where he usually entertained the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

 

          “He built little stools for us to sit on, and he’d tell us stories and tales of long ago.  He had pet chickens, especially one named Pat that was crippled, which he let the children pet.” 

         

          Today Vernon Paul Sanner is proud of the fact that he lives on the land his grandfather originally homesteaded in Hackberry in the 1880s. 

 

          Ernest Sanner’s own cold, barren childhood may have influenced his later affection toward children.  Sanner’s early childhood is sketchy.  He said he was once told that he was born in Matamoras, Mexico, in 1859, shortly before his family moved to Brownsville, Texas. 

 

          His father, who was originally from France and worked on a boat out of Brownsville, fell overboard and drowned.  His mother died soon after that, leaving Ernest and at least one other son. 

 

          Ernest Sanner was taken in by a family that later moved to Galveston.  The youngster was mistreated, often went cold and hungry, and would wander around the Galveston waterfront, crying and forlorn. 

 

          It was on the Galveston waterfront that a schooner captain known only as “Captain George” from Lake Charles discovered the child. 

 

          The captain took the little by aboard his boat, and waited for someone to claim him.  When no one did, he brought Ernest Sanner home to Lake Charles.

 

          This part of Sanner’s life remains a mystery.  His descendants have never found the last name of the “Captain George” with whom he spent the next several years of his life.  They do know that Sanner was raised on the east side of Prien Lake, and that he worked for Captain George Lock, but there is no proof that Captain Lock was the boy’s rescuer.

 

          The mysterious Captain George died in about 1880, and Ernest Sanner went to live with Martin Kaough at Shattuck’s Ditch.  As Ernest grew into adulthood, he joined Martin Kaough on frequent boat trips across the lakes and waterways to Hackberry in a skiff. It was on one of those trips that Sanner met Aurelia Duhon.  He fell in love with her, and they were soon married. 

 

          The marriage is recorded in Cameron Parish, listing Marguerite Duhon as the bride, Ernest Sanner as the groom and the date of the wedding as January 5, 1882.

 

          Homesteading 240 acres of land on the corner of Highway 27 and Highway 390, Ernest Sanner planted a portion of his land in oak trees, a requirement of the Homestead Act.  This was the beginning of a life-long passion for planting and growing trees.

 

          Joe Sanner, grandson of Ernest and son of Raymond Sanner, recalls, “My grandfather planted rice where St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church is located today.  He also raised cattle there on the corner and operated a store on the corner.  And he trapped and hunted alligators at a time when they were so plentiful that they were easy to find.

 

          “When oil was drilled in Hackberry in the late 1920s most of grandpa’s sons went to work in the oil industry.  No well was ever drilled on his land, although he did have oil leases." 

 

          “When oil was discovered on my dad’s (Raymond Sanner’s) land, it brought about 30 cents a barrel, and the Moon Oil Company did most of the drilling."

 

          “Since the oil well happened to be drilled on his land, Raymond bought each of his brothers a Chevrolet from Glenn Overman in Sulphur and gave each of his sisters the amount of money a car would have cost.” 

 

          In 1895 Ernest Sanner donated part of his land for a church.  A copy of a deed is in the possession of great-grandson Norman Sanner of Sulphur, and it states that Ernest Sanner gave to the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans “one lot, measuring one acre, for $15.” 

 

          The deed was signed by Sanner on January 18, 1895, and witness by Simeon Duhon and Francois Duhon.

 

          Later, Sanner gave three additional acres to the church, and many of the oak trees he planted over a hundred years ago are still growing there. 

 

          Norman Sanner, whose parents died while he was young, lived with his grandparents, Lasand and Eva Broussard Sanner, in Hackberry. 

 

          “For many years, we heard bit and pieces of information about Grandfather Ernest’s early years,” Norman said.  “We were told that his father was buried in Brownsville, Texas, in the Courthouse Square, a military cemetery.  We were also told that following the yellow fever epidemic of 1898, the graves were moved to Alexandria." 

 

          “Grandfather Ernest had a brother named Gustave, and we would like to find his descendants.  Some of the older members of the family said they thought the “Captain George” who raised my grandfather was named George Laviller, but we can’t find proof of this.” 

 

          Ernest Sanner and his wife, Aurelia had six children – Lasand, Theophile, Raymond, Garfield, Evelyn and Clarville.  Evelyn left no heirs, but the others have many descendants in the area. Alden Sanner, a grandson of Ernest and the son of Clarville and Estelle Sanner, lives in Hackberry today.  He recalls his grandfather’s great love for trees and plants.  “He loved to grow things.  Besides planting many trees, he always had a garden." 

 

          “But he hated grass with a passion, and he hoed it so much that he wore his hoe down to about one inch across.  He even hoed most of the grass in his yard."

 

          “He played a violin, and he often played it at the Saturday night dances that were so popular in his day.” 

 

          After Aurelia Duhon Sanner died, Ernest married Laura Vincent Johnson, who had six children by a previous marriage - Preston, Burl and Brend Johnson, Etna Ducote, Hilda Williams and Estelle Sanner. Most of their descendants live in Hackberry and the surrounding area.

 

          Marguerite Sanner (Mrs. C. J. Thompson), daughter of Garfield and Blanche Sallier Sanner, says, “I, too, remember Grandpa Ernest as a tree planter.  He planted the pine trees around Hackberry High School."

 

          “In later life, he became a school janitor and he was well loved by the children because he always had kind word for them.”

 

          When Ernest Sanner reached his 100th birthday, another granddaughter, Annette Sanner (Mrs. Harold Totem) of Hackberry, wrote an article about him which stated, “He spoke French, English and a little Spanish.  He particularly liked to find a French-speaking friend to talk to."

 

          “He often talked about people “cheating” the earth.  He believed in giving back to the soil what it gave to him, and he always worried that people were not taking care of the earth.”

 

          Ironically, the Hackberry Salt Domes were within three miles of Sanner’s homestead, but he was no longer around to express his opinion about this.

 

          A fond memory of Ernest Sanner is carried by his great-granddaughter, Glenda (Mrs. Don Guillotte) of Carlyss, who says “Grandpa loved cats - all cats, any cats, and any number of cats. After he became bedridden, he was given a stuffed cat which he often stroked.”

 

          Theophile Sanner’s daughter, Myrtle (Mrs. Allen Dorman) of Orange, Texas, says, “We always had fun around Grandpa Ernest.  Since we lived quite near him, we went to his home for every holiday and special occasion and those are fond memories for me.”

 

          The eight-year old child who was found crying on the Galveston waterfront came a long way in his lifetime.  Living to be 101, Ernest Sanner was able to enjoy a homestead of his own in the presence of children and grandchildren, and he left the world a better place, not just for his descendants but for the community in which he lived.

 

WHITE

 

          Isaac A. (Ike) White was born in Chenier Au Tigre on September 15, 1906.  Son of Walter White, Sr. and Florestine Ditch.  During his childhood they farmed cotton, raised cattle and trapped for a living. 

 

          In 1926, after a successful trapping season, clearing $1,700 he bought a Model T Ford for $700 and headed for the greener pastures of Texas.  He stopped in Bradey, Texas for three months where he was employed in the construction of that city’s sewage lines.  He then worked the summer as a ranch hand in Junction, Texas.  After roundup was completed he traveled toward Old Mexico and Oklahoma.  Nine months later he was trapping on Black Bayou and hasn’t left the marsh since.

 

          He moved his family to Hackberry on August 8, 1936 to take over land management for the purpose of trapping from the Stanolind Oil and Gas Company.

 

          He built trapping camps in the marshes to accommodate the families trapping for him moving chickens, pigs, as well as the families for the duration of the trapping season.  His boat, the HOPP, made many a voyage between Hackberry, Orange, and to Black Bayou keeping trappers families supplied with the things they needed while in the marsh. 

 

          The furs were all delivered to his fur house where two or three large fur sales were held yearly.

 

          Summer season was spent preparing the marsh for winter trapping. Plowing ditches for trappers, and planting three square grass.  In 1940 he engaged in stocking the nutria in the Black Bayou area.  He has tried to maintain a levee system there to control salt water intrusion.

 

          He was muskrat skinning champion in the 1959-60 Fur Festival.  He was also parish and state champion in 1961.  He attended the Outdoor Show in Maryland in 1959, but relinquished the trip of 1960 to someone else from Cameron. 

 

          Ike has always been interested in youth.  He has been a supporter of the 4-H livestock program and has bought numerous livestock animals.

 

          Ike is known for his barbeques and fish fries after trapping seasons are over for all workers.  At 85 he still rides his horse, helping to care for his cattle that range in the marshlands he manages. He still oversees the alligator hunters and duck hunters that occupy the lands he leases.

 

          His wife is the former Mim Miller.  There are three children from his first marriage to Zoie Trahan; Robert E. Lee, Mary Lee, and Howard Pelham.

 

VINCENT

 

          The story of the Pierre Vincent family duplicates that of the St. Germain Alcendor Elender family in many ways, as the two families lived at the same time and in a more or less isolated place, and many of the individuals intermarried.

 

          Pierre Vincent’s father, Joe Vincent, was among the men and boys who gathered in the church in Grand Pre in September of 1755 at the order of the British Government of Nova Scotia.  Pierre, only seven years old, was not of this group. 

 

          These men were told that their land and goods were no longer theirs. They and their families were to be sent in ships elsewhere.  Pierre and his family were to be sent to a colony in Virginia, but, due to sickness of smallpox on the ship, they were not allowed to come ashore and were sent to England. Pierre’s father, Joe Vincent, died in England.  His sister and mother went to France on the island of Bell-Isle en Mer.  The soil was so poor they could grow no crops, so in 1772 they moved to a port in France. 

 

          At this time a Frenchman, Peyroux de la Coudraniere, had just returned from Louisiana, where he had prospered.  He talked to the Acadians and took pity on those poor, unfortunate people.  With the help of the Spanish Consul at St. Malo, he showed the King of Spain, who was governor of Louisiana, how he could benefit Spain as well as the Acadians by allowing the Acadians to settle in Louisiana.  The Spanish king was thankful that a solution to the problem could be solved and consented to allow the Acadians to have land in Louisiana.  Coudreniere outfitted several boats to transfer these people to Louisiana.

 

          Pierre Vincent, Sr., son of Joe Vincent and Dame Marie Cotard were two of the forty Acadians who sailed on the Le Beaumont, the third of the boast to leave Bell-Isle en Mer to Louisiana in 1785.  Pierre, Jr. (1795) married Sarah Cleste (Sally) Ryan in 1816.

 

          Jacob Ryan, Sr. and Pierre Vincent, Sr. decided to move with their families west to a “no-man’s land” called Rio Hondo, a prairie land whose ownership was claimed by Texas and the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.  This isolated and unsettled country was on the west bank of the Calcasieu River across from Lake Charles.

 

          It was later called The Settlement or Vincent Settlement. Simion Vincent (1820) married Tabitha Lyons (1839).  He built a large two-story house at Vincent Settlement and reared a large family.  Simion Vincent’s children were:  Nathaniel (Jan. 4, 1842), Henrietta (May 6, 1843), Joseph Martin (Mar 5, 1847), John, Daniel, Josephine, Bennet, and Albert (Nov. 27, 1868).  Their oldest son Nathaniel Vincent was lovingly called “Uncle Bud” by the whole Vincent family, even today.

 

          Nathaniel married Sarah Le Doux.  Their children were born in his father’s home where he and his wife lived.  When he died, this estate was sold at a sheriff’s sale on the steps of the court house in Lake Charles for taxes. Benson Vincent bought the old home.  Nathaniel Vincent’s children were:  Sephronia (Nov. 22, 1860), Zemily (June 11, 1862), d. (June 26, 1862), Lethean (Mar. 5, 1864), Laura Jane (Aug. 18, 1866) d. (Aug. 24, 1866), Medora (July 17,1867), Albert (Nov. 27, 1868), Able (July 7, 1870), d. (July 7, 1870) Arthur (Aug. 4, 1873) d. (Aug. 9, 1873), Sinthean (Aug. 4, 1873), d. (Aug. 9, 1973), Sarah (Sept. 2, 1874), d. (Sept. 8, 1874), Prescott (Nov. 2, 1875), Doratha (July 19, 1877), John N. (July 9, 1878), S. Lastie (Jan. 1, 1881), Tabitha (May 9, 1882), Hardie (Sept. 26, 1883), Bailey (Aug. 5, 1886) d. (Aug. 11, 1886).

 

          Across the prairie from Nathaniel’s home is a large two-story, square white house.  This was the home of Joseph Martin Vincent and his wife, Josephine Elender, the daughter of St. Germain Elender and Rebecca Ryan, the daughter of John Jacob Ryan and Mary Anne Hargrove.

 

          Clarisse Vincent pointed out this house as her birthplace to her granddaughter, Willadene Vincent Rawley.  Clarisse told Willadene many interesting facts about her mother Josephine.  She said how Josephine washed the family clothes in a stream flowing on the east side of her home.  The same stream flowed on the west side of Nathaniel’s home. 

 

          Josephine Elender (b. Aug. 17, 1848, d. Jan, 26, 1931) and Joseph Martin Vincent (b. March 5, 1947, d. Feb. 13, 1907) were married June 20, 1867.

 

          Joseph Martin’s children born in Vincent Settlement were:  Clarisse (1868), married Joseph L. Vincent, Dorisse (1869), married first Adam Hebert, second Martin Kaough, Hulda (1871), married Ludger Duhon, Raymond (1872), married Natalie Duhon, Dupra (1873), married Sarahann Kaough, Samantha (1875) married Raymond Sanner, Laura (1877) married Fred Johnson first, second Ernest Sanner, Florence (1878), married Stanford L. Walthers, Benson (1879) married Leda Ann Mellon, Westley (1881), Ophelia (1883), and Lawrence (1884) married Flo Parks. Westley and Ophelia died in infancy.  Born after the family moved to Hackbery were Idonia (1886), married Columbus Moss, Soney (1887), married Inger Cavanaugh, and Nore (1889), married Ora Moss, Dorisse, Samantha, Laura, Benson and Dupra remained in Hackberry.  They married and reared their families here.

 

          Another of Simion’s sons, Bennet never married.  He acquired land from the United States Government (1880) which was sold by a sheriff’s sale, after his death in 1928, to pay his debts.  This land was divided into 10 acre strips. His nephews Raymond, Dupra, and Benson bought several 10 acre strips of this land.  McKindley Vincent and Lee West bought some.  The residue of his estate was payable to his heirs. 

 

          Benson sold five acres of this land to his nephew, Bruce Vincent and his wife, Naomi.   She sold the five acres to her nephew and his wife, Luther and Althea Pitre, after Bruce’s death.  They built a large house on the land, and he raises a large garden there every year.

 

          St. Germain Elender died in 1883. Joseph Martin Vincent moved his family from the settlement to Hackberry in 1884.  According to St. Germain’s will, his legal heirs were his surviving wife, Rebecca Ryan Vincent, and their children; James Elender, Washington Elender, Simeon Elender, Josephine Elender, wife of Joseph Martin Vincent, Jacob Elender, Malica Elender, deceased wife of J. B. Peveto (represented by her daughter Sarah Stine, wife of Asa Elender, and Christine Elender, wife of John B. Hebert.

 

          Rebecca Ryan Elender inherited a child’s share of one-half of her father’s estate in 1884.  Joseph Martin Vincent bought the one-half of the estate that Josephine’s mother, Rebecca, had inherited.  This share included the home that is still sometimes called the “Joe Vincent Home” today.  This old home is believed, by some, to be the oldest home still standing and in use by the family.  

 

          This first home of Joseph M. Vincent and Josephine Elender Vincent was a two-room building with walls that were daubed, that is made of clay, moss, and saplings.  The permanent house was constructed around this building of two rooms in 1859.

 

          It is believed that the house was being restored and enlarged in 1861.  That date is carved in the marble fireplace in the living room.  The construction work was interrupted when the boys went to war in 1861, and completed when they returned after the war in 1865.

 

          The building was remodeled, repaired and enlarged in 1921.  Four dormer windows were added, two facing the front and two facing the back.  Two separate rooms were created at this time. 

 

          The old building was covered with cypress shingles.  The shingles were hand-split, about 30 inches long.  These shingles were removed and new saw-mill-made shingles were installed.

 

          The walls of the house were first made of clay, moss and staves, or small trees.  These were called daubed walls.  The walls are still there but are now covered with paneling.

 

          Some of the old furniture is still in use.  The house has been kept in good condition.

 

          Benson Vincent lived here with his mother until her death in 1931 and managed the home for the family.

 

          At Benson’s death, the family sold the home to Benson’s sister, Samantha (Aunt Mantie) and her husband, Raymond Sanner.

 

          There are many interesting objects in this old home.  One is a clock sitting on the marble shelf of the fireplace.  It has two round dials, one placed above the other.  One dial tells the time; the second dial tells the year, month, and date.

 

          Joe Vincent wound the clock when he moved into the house, and it was still keeping good time when the present residents moved in.

 

          Upstairs in one of the two large bedrooms is an item of interest.  It is a large, oblong box made of the crude, left-over lumber when the house was completed.  This box is 5” x 24” x 42”.  It is well padded and covered with a printed cloth.  The young girls kept their freshly ironed skirts in good condition until they were ready to wear them by wrapping the skirts around a broomstick and laying them flat in the box.  This box was placed at the foot of one of the two double beds.

 

          The large walk-in lockers hold many interesting relics of the past. 

 

          The dining room furniture was made by Vernie Sudwischer’s husband at his furniture factory in Crowley. The table can be enlarged by adding leaves, to seat sixteen people comfortable.  This is convenient at Christmas time and when the men are working cattle at the home place.

 

          Dorisse, Samantha, Laura, Benson, and Dupra remained in Hackberry.  They married and reared their families here. 

 

          In the year 1873 Dupra Vincent was born on November 22.  He lived in Vincent Settlement in Calcasieu Parish.  In the year 1883 he came to Hackberry as a small country boy.  In the year 1895, December 5, he married Sarah Kaough.  Together they had eight children.  Dupra was one of the first school board members for Ward Six in Cameron Parish.

         

          Dupra and Sarahann Vincent celebrated their fiftieth wedding Anniversary in the year 1945. They reared six children.  Grace and Tevis died in infancy and are buried in the private cemetery just north of the family home.  Sarahann died on June 2, 1949 and Dupra on October 6, 1967.  They are both buried in the Catholic cemetery in Hackberry. 

 

          Everett Vincent was born on November 23, 1898.  He was the second to the oldest child of Dupra and Sarah.  Everett married Eugenie Young in Creole, La. on November 10, 1921.   They had five children together.

 

          In the year 1927 they got part of the old wooden school house (Hackberry School).  They got the high school section.  It was moved from the school site by a team of eight horses. The building was placed on logs and was rolled to its present site.  Archie Brannon moved the house. The house is still at its present site.  The house is being lived by Melba Lea Vincent.

 

          Everett ran the Everett Vincent General Auto Repair Shop for many years.  He retired from Pan American Oil Company.  He died on December 9, 1960.    Eugenie was very active in the Catholic Church.  She was honored April 26, 1981 with the Devoted Service Award by the Bishop (Jude Speyrer) for all the work and devotion at St. Peter Catholic Church.  Eugenie died on March 2, 1987.  Everett and Eugenie are buried in St. Peter’s Catholic Church Cemetery in Hackberry, LA.

 

          Their children and grand children are:  Ernest Vincent married Mary Ashy, children, Donald Vincent married Jeanette Theriot, Ronald Vincent, Paula Vincent married James Taylor, and Karen Vincent married Randay Whitehead Gregory Vincent.

 

          Russell and Vincent married Elma Richard, children, Craig Vincent, Russell Vincent, Jr., Charlene Vincent married Kenneth Ebersole, Shanna Vincent.

 

          Helen Vincent married D. L. Moses, M Melba Lea Vincent. Gloria Vincent married Albert Little, Jr., children, John Kirby Little married Bonnie Jean Church   Karlyn Ann Little married Joseph Meyers, and Kelly Ann Little married Dennis Mosley.  There are 14 great grandchildren.

 

          Amos Vincent was born in 1897.  He married Rose Grove.  They had three children; A. J., Jr., Rose Marie, and Martin Van.  Amos died in Lake Charles and is buried in Highland Memory Gardens.

 

          Britton Thomas was born in 1902.  He married Hazel McCall from Grand Chenier.  Being an oil man, they moved where his work took him.  They finally settled in Lafayette, Louisiana.  They both died in Lafayette and are buried in Lake Charles.  Their two sons are Britton Thomas II and William Robert.  Britton Thomas, Sr. (Apr 30, 1902) married Hazel McCall; children are Britton, Jr., married Bonnie Stendebach and William Robert.

 

          Bruce Jule Vincent was born in 1904.  He married Naomi Landry, who was born in Lafayette, Louisiana and came to teach in the Hackberry High School in 1937.  She retired from teaching in 197?

 

          Bruce worked in the oil fields for Pan American Oil Company.  He left the oil fields and bought a small grocery store from his Aunt Laura.  He enlarged the store and retired from the store in 1969.  Bruce also owned and worked cattle.  He managed his father’s herd of cattle with the other members of the family group until he died in 1977.  Bruce is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Hackberry next to his father and mother.

 

          Elsie Rose Vincent was born on June 14, 1907 and died on September 3, 1982.  She married Charles Lawrence Arceneaux, Sr.  He was born on January 8, 1903 and died on February 4, 1978.  They settled in Lafayette after moving to different towns as his oil field work directed.  Both died in Lafayette and are buried in Hackberry, where his parents were buried.  Their children are: 

 

          Charles Lawrence Arceneaux, Jr. married Emma Armita McCall.  They had four children:  Patrick Ross, Mona Sharon, Phyllis Ann, Robert Brian.

 

          Peggy Genevieve’s children are Thomas Wayne, Natalie Ann, Alvyn Charles, Yvonne Marie, Sarah Ann, and Richard Lofton.

 

          Robert Bruce, born May 9, 1934 and died Sept. 1936.

 

          Joan Marie has four children, Kevin Neal, Karen Judith, Kenneth Bryan, and Kathleen Marie.

 

          Gladys Vincent, youngest child of Sarah Ann Kaough and Dupra Vincent was born on Sept. 19, 1912. She married Robert Lee Trahan on Dec. 27, 1933.  Lee was born on Mar. 3, 1906.  He worked in the oil fields.  He also raised cattle until his death, Jan. 13, 1981.  His two sons also like farm and cattle work.  Their children are:  Robert Lee Jr., Sarah Ann, Randall Joseph.

 

          Dorisse Vincent was born in 1869 at Vincent Settlement to Josephine Elender and Joseph Martin Vincent.  She moved with her parents to the home of her grandparents, St. Germain Elender and Rebecca Ryan about 1884.

 

          Dorisse married Adam Hebert, son of Julia (Dalzan) and Zephran Hebert in 1893.  Adam died at a young age of a fever.  There were three children from this marriage. 

 

          Hester, who married Gibbs Duhon. Hester and Gibbs had seven children, Willie Lee, who married J. H. Redick of Houston, Texas, Doris, who married T. Reese Parker, of Sulphur, Royce, who married Dorthy Pitts, Loraine, who married George V. Vernon of Lake Charles, Gerald, who married Janet Roy, Delores, who married E. P. O’Malley of Brenham, Texas, Fleta Ann, who married Homer Clyde Mayes of Houston, Texas.  Gibbs Duhon was the second son of seven children of the pioneer family of Hackberry, John B. Duhon.  He was a member of the fifth generation descended from John Louis Duhon and Jeanne Clemenceau, a merchant of St. Mazier Parish, Lyon, France (1681).  His brothers and sisters were; Lee Duhon, who married Lucy Jackson,  Honora, who married Nathaniel Little, Azema, who married Wesley Trahan, Julia who married Paul Portie, Claiborne, who married Julia Clay, and Lilly,  who married Ivy Ravier.

 

          Vernie married Herbert Sudwischer.  They adopted Thomas.  A son was born to Vernie and Herbert, John Martin.   

 

          Otis who died in infancy.

 

          Samantha Vincent,  Mar. 8, 1875, died May 18, 1964, married Raymond Sanner. They had two sons, Gardie Sanner, July 14, 1912, died Mar. 6, 1914, and Joseph Abe Sanner, Jan. 7, 1914.  Joe married Anita Benoit and they have three children: Anita Jo, Cecil Raymond and Ruth Clair.

 

          Benson was born on September 28, 1879.  He remained in Hackberry after his mother died.  He took an interest in public affairs.  He served as president of the Police Jury for a number of terms.   His nephew, Bruce, drove him to meetings when he had to go to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Alexandria and other towns. 

 

          He was a cattleman and after the death of Raymond Vincent, he automatically was looked up to as the leader of the dealings with the cattle.

 

          Benson married Leda Ann Mellon who had once taught school in the Cameron Parish schools.  She had been helping to care for her mother who had lived with her sister, Camille, in Port Allen.  When Camille died, Olivia Mellon, her mother, came to Hackberry to live with Benson and Leda.  Theirs was only a short marriage as Leda died just a few years after they married. Her mother only survived her a few short years.

 

          Benson carried on the family tradition of having “Christmas in Hackberry” for the whole Vincent family.  All looked forward to that celebration.  Benson was noted for his sausages .  He butchered four large hogs and made sausages with all the meat, then smoked the sausages in the smoke house in the back yard. 

 

          Laura Vincent married Frederick B. Johnson on December 30, 1897.  He died August 26, 1911 and is buried in Dutch Cove cemetery in West Calcasieu parish.  She died June 3, 1961 and is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Hackberry, Cameron Parish, Louisiana.  Six children were born from this marriage:  Estelle married Clairville Sanner Aug. 4, 1916.  They had six children.  Neva (deceased), Dean (deceased), Freddie Alden, Rosa Annete, Arlene and Laura Mae. Clairville died May 16, 1965 and Estelle died June 22, 1965.  They are both buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Hackberry.

 

          Preston J. Johnson was born Feb. 1, 1901 and married Hilda Larpenter in 1921.  They had four children; Wilda Jean, Carl Preston, Betty Jo, and Fred Gordon.  Hilda died June 13, 1982.  Preston died in 1984. They are both buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Hackberry.

 

          Burl A. Johnson was born Feb. 10, 1901 and married Euphemie Pecot in 1927.  They had two children; Rita Ann and Marion.  Burl is now married to Lois Johnson. 

 

          Etna Johnson was born Feb. 1, 1903.  She married Roy Ducote June 1, 1925.  They had three children; Lionel, Kenneth and Marilyn.  Roy died Mar. 12, 1949, and Etna died Sept. 4, 1982.   They are both buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Hackberry. 

 

          Hilda was born Dec. 24, 1904.  She married Lawrence Paul Williams.  They had one child, Lawrence Paul, Jr.  Lawrence Paul, Sr. died Nov. 3, 1944.

 

          Brent M. Johnson was born Sept. 26, 1906 and married Florence Hobson, Jan, 14, 1932.  Florence died Apr. 9, 1960.  Brent married Galdys Gallien, Mar. 14, 1963.

 

          Laura Vincent Johnson married Ernest Sanner (second) in 1922.

 

          Hulda Vincent was born on Jan. 12, 1871.  She married Ludger Duhon.  Hulda died at he early age of thirty years, May 24, 1901.  She left two small children, one age five years and one four months.  These girls, Beulah and Maydie, were reared by their grandmother, Josephine Vincent.  They were sent to boarding school at St. Charles Academy in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

 

          Beulah married Dave Dugas and lived in the Carlyss community.  They had three children; Bernice married Leon (Sarky) Currie Aug. 14, 1914.  Their sons are Larry and David Currie.  Alton Ludger married Winnie Perry on Apr. 1, 1939.  Lettie Rue Dugas married Bill Burkholder.

 

          Maydie, Hulda’s second daughter, married William McKinley Vincent.  She left two daughters, Lola, who married Whitney Stelly and Hulda Bell married Oakley Pittman.  William McKinley Vincent later married Annie May Mac from Lake Arthur.  She taught piano lessons for a while.

 

          Raymond Vincent, born 1872, was the fourth child of Joseph Martin Vincent and Josephine Elender.  In 1894 he married Natalie Duhon, and in 1898 their only child, Flavia, was born.  Flavia married E. C. Reeds in 1931 and had three children, Raymond Vincent Reeds, Flavia Martha, and Ammye.  Flavia died in 1981.  She had fourteen grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren. 

 

          Flavia treasured her childhood memories of growing up in Hackberry and told many stories to the children and friends.  One of her earliest memories was of her mother putting her in a small cart behind the faithful horse and going to Grandpa Jo Vincent’s grocery store alone.  He would fill the written grocery list; give her a piece of candy, turn the horse back homeward and the horse would take her home.

 

          Her mother, Natalie, was the seamstress for her many sisters and sisters-in-law.  She would make their dresses and wedding dresses, while the sisters would do the cooking and babysitting for Natalie.

 

          Flavia said there were many dances in Hackberry, and the whole family would attend.  She remembered all the children sleeping on benches in the adjoining room while the parents danced until the wee hours of the morning.  Then she would sleep again in the buggy going home.

 

          Flavia remembered her mother telling her about a huge snow storm (in the late 1800’s) when all the sheep died.  The women took the wool, spun it, dyed it, and the ladies spent days making it into blankets. 

 

          Flavia attended a one room school in Hackberry. One teacher taught all eight grades.  Upon finishing there her family moved to Lake Charles so she could attend high school. 

 

          Clarisse Vincent was born to Josephine Elender Vincent and Joseph L. Vincent at Vincent Settlement in Calcasieu Parish, on Mar. 11, 1868.  Clarisse married Joseph Lawrence Vincent, and of this union were born; Jesse Joseph Jan 18, 1889, Agnes Nov 2, 1890, Floyd Joseph Jan 17, 1894, Maurice Anthony Nov. 21, 1899 and Burton Leon Oct 17, 1906.

 

          Idonia Vincent youngest daughter of Josephine Elender and Joseph Martin Vincent was born in Vincent Settlement, June 13, 1886. She came to Hackberry with her family at an early age.  She lived in the family home teaching music, fine sewing, as well as academics in school setting until 1911 when she married Columbus Joseph Moss, son of Eliza Vincent and Erastus Carning Moss of Toomey.

 

          The young couple moved to Lake Charles and lived on the corner of 9th and Ford Street, next door to Nore and Ora Moss Vincent, Idonia’s brother.

 

          Their first child, named for Donia’s sister Hulda, died in infancy.  Six more children were born of this marriage.  Verle Mae, Vincent, Geraldine Josephine Moss, Hubert Davis, and Mary Ruth.

 

          Hackberry was the “place in the heart” for all these people.  When the third generation from Josephine Elender and Joseph Martin Vincent, married it was under the great oaks of the home place, that the marriage was celebrated.

 

          The cattle roundups, the Christmases, the family gatherings and experiences all of us cherish.  Truly, happiness was going to Grandma’s!

 

          Soney Vincent was the fourteenth child of Joseph Martin and Josephine Elender Vincent, born July 15, 1887 at Vincent Settlement, south of Sulphur.  His family moved to Hackberry about two years later.  Soney served in the U. S. Army during World War I in the Dairy at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  On May 29, 1919 he married Inger Cavanaugh of Big Sandy, Texas.  They had three children, Luella Elaine, Standford Lyle, Marjorie Ruth.

 

          At Soney Vincent’s death, he and Inger had been married 48 years.  He was 80 years of age.  Soney is buried in Highland Memory Garden Cemetery in Lake Charles.  His wife, Inger Cavanaugh Vincent is still living at age 95 in Midland, Texas with her daughter.  Ruth McFarland.  At this time, she is the only living spouse of a child, or a child of the fifteen children of Joseph Martin and Josephine Elender Vincent.  Her health is poor. 

 

          Soney enjoyed going to Hackberry each spring and fall to help with the moving of the family cattle to and from the marshes in South Cameron Parish from Hackberry.  This became a “Sociable Time” for many of the brothers and some of the nephews.  The wives and sisters enjoyed this time by cooking for these “cowboys.”

 

          Florence Vincent was born Mar 8, 1878 to Joseph Martin and Josephine Elender Vincent.  She and Stanford Lee Walters were married Nov 10, 1902.  They celebrated their golden wedding anniversary Nov 10, 1952.  Florence and Stanny (as he was known) lived in Lake Charles; most of their lives except for a few years in the early 1940’s when they lived in San Antonio, Texas for health reasons.  In the early years of their marriage, they had a dairy and farm south of Lake Charles at what is now 4010 Louisiana Avenue.  They also had “riding horses”.  Many folks from town enjoyed riding their horses. There were no children of this marriage.

 

          Florence V. Walters died July 4, 1953 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Lake Charles.  Her husband, Stanford Lee Walters, died Nov 29, 1959, and he too, is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Lake Charles. 

 

          Nore Esley Vincent was born June 25, 1889, he was the youngest of the fifteen children of Joseph Martin Vincent and Josephine Elender.  He married Ora Camilla Moss.  Both attended the Lawrene Vincent Business College in Lake Charles.  They were married June 28, 1921, after Nore’s return from service in the Army in France.

 

          They built a home in Lake Charles on Ninth Street, on land originally owned by Nore’s brother Raymond.  He began his career in the oil business as a truck driver for T. L. Huber, and later founded the Quality Oil Company in Sulphur, Louisiana.  He was a prominent rice farmer and cattleman in partnership with his brother-in-law R. E. Moss of Sulphur, Louisiana. 

 

          Nore died Nov 8, 1954 and Ora died July 13, 1981. They are both buried in Graceland Cemetery in Lake Charles.  Their children are; Alice Norinne, Rodney Moss Vincent, Raymond Wayne Vincent.

 

          Lawrence Vincent was born to Josephine Elender Vincent and Joseph Martin Vincent Oct 22, 1884, the twelfth of fifteen children. He married Floy Parks, and they maintained their residence on East Street in Lake Charles.  They had no children of their own but adopted Willie and Ethel Lurline.

 

          Lawrence Vincent was the founder of Vincent’s Business College located in the 300 block of Broad Street in Lake Charles, and operated the school from about 1910 until his death on October 20, 1946.  During that time young people from Hackberry, Cameron, Lake Arthur, Jennings, Sulphur, and other Southwest Louisiana towns attended Vincent’s Business College.  Many of them were boarders at the home of Clarisse and Joseph L. Vincent.  Among the teachers at the Business College were Flavia Vincent and Agnes Vincent. Willadene Vincent attended the business college in 1936 and at the request of Lurline Vincent, took in shorthand the eulogy of Lawrence Vincent on October 20, 1946, transcribed it and presented to Lurline who was ill at home at the time. 

 

MORE OF OUR ROOTS

 

          This is some of the background of our families in and around Cameron Parrish.  James Root was born in Louisiana on Jan 31, 1833.  He died Jan 27, 1895 and is buried in Dutch Cove Cemetery south of Sulphur, Louisiana, where a number of his children, grand children, etc., are buried.  He married Sarah Ann Lindstrom June 14, 1855, at Grand Chenier, Louisiana.  They were married by Parson Carter. This information was obtained from his bible.

 

          Sarah Ann Lindstrom was the daughter of Elias Lindstrom, who was born in approximately the year 1801 in Stockholm, Sweden, and died in the year 1889 in Cameron Parish. There are two stories settled in Cameron Parish.  The first is that he left Sweden in 1821 on a ship bound for the United States but jumped ship in New Orleans.  Since this was illegal he went into the lowlands and finally settled around Grand Chenier (probably at the time located in Lafayette Parish).  The other story is that the ship on which Elias left Sweden was wrecked off the coast near Cameron, Louisiana, and he came ashore and stayed there.

 

          Elias Lindstrom married Mary Smythe in about the year 1835 and three children were born to them.  The oldest was Sarah Ann, born in 1839.  Mary Smythe Lindstrom died shortly after the birth of her third child in 1842, and the children were raised by a slave, Elsie Ketchum.  Elias supported his family by way of a plantation.  He had twelve slaves, and family legends say he foresaw the freedom of slaves long before the Civil War and gave his slaves their freedom, but most stayed with him. 

 

          In his later years Elias supposedly disappeared for months at a time, leaving by way of pirogue, going down the bayou towards the Gulf. These stories inevitably involved a tale of treasure around Pecan Isle.

 

          The following is an excerpt taken from a booklet published by the Cameron Parish by the Cameron Parish Development Board:  “These first settlers were mostly men from the older eastern states and by their names they were largely of Scotch-Irish descent.  Early records bear such names as McCall, Armstrong, Smith, Lindstrom, Harrison, Carter, etc.”  In the Southwest Louisiana Biographical and Historical Book, James Root is referred to as an early settler of the west part of Cameron Parish.  On Aug 19, 1887, James Root filed a dedication of property in Calcasieu Parish, as a cemetery in which to inter his entire family and all other good white persons, also upon any portion of which said property could be erected a church building.  Subsequent to the deaths of James Root and Sarah Ann Lindstrom Root, their succession was filed in Calcasieu Parish.  The Administrator was B. L. Root and an inventory of the property was made, after which the property was sold to George W. Root, Ben L. Root, and August Johnson.  George W. and Ben L. were two sons and August Johnson had married their daughter Catherine Augusta.  August and Catherine Augusta had seven children.  Their second was a son named Frederick Bernardt.  He married Laura Vincent (daughter of Joseph Vincent and Josephine Elender) Dec 30, 1897.   They had six children before Frederick died on August 26, 1911.  They were Estelle, who married Clairville (Jim) Sanner, twins Preston Joseph, who married Hilda Larpenteur, and Burl Augustus, now married to Lois Crolley, Etna, who married Roy Ducote, Hilda, who married Larry Williams, Brent, now married to Gladys Galleon.  Our parents were Hilda and Preston Johnson.  They were married December 26, 1921.  There were four children;  Wilda Gene (married to George Asanovich), Carl Preston (married to Lou Ester Kibodeaux), Betty Jo (married to Wilbert Mark Dean, Jr.) and Frederick Gordon (now married to Adele Vallery).  Hilda died in 1982 and at the time of Preston’s death in 1984, there were fourteen grandchildren and sixteen great grand children.  They are scattered from the state of Washington to California to Texas and Louisiana.  And the roots go on.

 

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