Pictorial history spans more than 300 years

October 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Several impressive watercolors by Father Paret, such as the one above, are included in the pictorial history.
Several impressive watercolors by Father Paret, such as the one above, are included in the pictorial history.
For more than five years, a group of parish historians worked through three hurricane evacuations and other emergencies to complete a history of the area told through a mixture of black and white photos and graphics, maps, historical documents and sketches.

Authors Joan Becnel, Suzanne Friloux, Marilyn  Richoux and Fay Louque, who passed away last year, did all they could to make sure that “St. Charles Parish Louisiana - A Pictorial History” will provide a broader timeframe and timeline than most histories of the area. The book also provides numerous references and resources which history students and buffs might find beneficial.

The book, which was released last week, covers more than 300 years of history.

“For many years, we have been fascinated with history and preservation,” Richoux said. “In preparing for the Bicentennial of the civil Parish of St. Charles, we decided that producing a pictorial history would be a perfect Bicentennial project, which the St. Charles Historical Foundation initiated and carried forth.”

The group faced their own challenges while writing and gathering material for the book, such as the three major hurricanes that hit the area while the pictorial history was in production.

“When authors evacuated for the hurricanes, each brought complete text, resource materials, and all photos and graphics along for safekeeping,” Becnel said.

Researching also took a lot of time, and finding graphics and old photos sometimes proved to be very challenging.

“The authors are grateful to those who went into their attics and old albums to provide photos, documents and accounts of their families and St. Charles Parish to assist in the production of St. Charles Parish Louisiana - A Pictorial History,” Friloux said.

While writing and researching the parish’s history, the group was struck by the hardships with which the early settlers had to contend.

“In fact, these settlers were so resourceful that they provided enough food to prevent starvation in New Orleans and were some of the very first farmers to participate in the French Market,” Richoux said. “It is reported that multiple boats and priogues could be seen carrying produce, meat and dairy products downriver to New Orleans to the French Market.”

Friloux said the farmers would then return to St. Charles via Lake Pontchartrain and a bayou which ran into the Mississippi River where Van’s Lane is now located in New Sarpy.

Some of the other interesting events covered in the book are the Hymelia Crevasse and the Black Prince Bayou Development in Bayou Gauche.

On May 14, 1912, the Hymelia Crevasse ripped through the levee above Killona and below Lucy (in St. John the Baptist Parish), near the site of Hymelia Plantation. This area had a crevasse earlier in 1904.  The crevasse gouged out the Hymelia Slough, which drains into Lac Des Allemands to the west, starting as a 300-foot break, growing to 700 feet by morning and spread to 1,600 feet before efforts to stem the flow began to make headway.

“The Hymelia Crevasse was epic in proportion to other crevasses,” Becnel said. “It was widespread and caused major damage and heartbreak.”

The pictorial history contains photos of the devastating event.

“The Black Prince Bayou Development in Bayou Gauche is also a fascinating story of the Bayou Gauche area and a development which received widespread attention,” Friloux added.

Among the illustrations, the group says that Father Paret’s watercolors are the most impressive. The watercolors depict the area before the Civil War.

“Each plantation seems to be self-contained, with dependency buildings, chapels, schools, mills, etc.,” Becnel said. “Father Paret also made sure to include modes of travel on land and water and the beautiful flora of the region.”

Some works from Clarence Millet, who was born in Hahnville and went on to become an internationally renowned artist, are also represented in the pictorial history.
The book, which cost $20, may be purchased at the following upcoming book signings:

•Oct. 15, from 2-4 p.m. at the East Regional Library.

•Oct. 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the East Regional Library.

•Oct. 19, from 5-7 p.m. at the West Regional Library.

•Oct. 23, from 9 a.m. to noon at the East Bank Farmers’ Market.

•Oct. 27, from 3-6:30 p.m. at the West Bank Farmers’ Market.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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St. Charles school system gets 'A' on state report card
St. Charles school system gets 'A' on state report card
St. Charles Parish Public Schools got an "A" on its 2016-17 report card keeping it among the top performing systems in Louisiana.

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