Throughout 2007, the Herald-Guide will feature seven trivia tidbits about St. Charles Parish in each of our weekly issues - a total of 365 historical facts - in celebration of our Bicentennial Year.
1. In 1810, the Louisiana State Legislature created the office of sheriff in St. Charles Parish. But the parish’s top lawman didn’t merely keep the peace - he was expected to collect taxes, too.
2. At one time, Boutte was known as "Boutte Station" because a prominent family headed by Tisaphane Boutte and his son, J.L., lived in the area - and there was a railroad switch there.
3. Slaves outnumbered white residents of St. Charles Parish by five to one in 1860 as the War Between the States began. On parish books, those slaves were valued at $2 million - $500,000 more than the land value of the entire parish.
4. Parish VIP Alcee Labranche was so powerful that he was chosen to represent the United States as an ambassador to the "Republic of Texas" before it became a state.
5. A once-elegant antebellum plantation house, built in what is now Norco by Jean Francois Trepagnier, was in time deserted and abandoned by his family. A succession of progressively poorer people moved in and lived in the home until 1957, when it collapsed.
6. Speaking of Trepagnier, he was killed in an uprising of slaves that may have had something to do with him promising to free one of them - and then reneging on the deal. It is said that 500 black men swarmed the plantation, killing Trepagnier in short order.
A white militia hit back, capturing and killing "many," as one historian put it. Insurrectionists who were captured were either hanged on the spot or carted off to New Orleans to stand trial, after which their heads were chopped off and displayed atop poles that were positioned at intervals along the Mississippi River as a warning to other slaves not to cause trouble.
7. St. Charles Parish voted to secede from the Union prior to the beginning of the War Between the States. Unusual? Let’s put it this way: all surrounding parishes voted NOT to secede. History was on St. Charles Parish’s side, however, as, eventually, the State of Louisiana as a whole seceded on Jan. 26, 1861.
Source: A History of St. Charles Parish to 1973 by Henry E. Yoes III