An old map marked with the bayou communities of St. Charles Parish serves as the last place some of them are recorded and remembered.
It’s heading is “Forgotten Bayou-Lake Villages,” a lingering vestige of the once thriving areas for settlers on the German Coast, according to authors Joan Becnel, Suzanne Friloux, Marilyn Richoux and Fay Louque, in their book, “St. Charles Parish Louisiana – A Pictorial History.”
Bois Choctaw, Black Prince Island and Down the Bayou Village are among the areas settled in the late 1800s or earlier.
Early Choctaw Indians and settlers named the village Bois Choctaw, which means “Oaks of the Choctaw.” Trapping, hunting and fishing provided the food and livelihoods for the settlers. Some lived in permanent houses while others were living in “chalands” or houseboats to stay mobile for seasonal hunts.
Parish Councilman Paul Hogan’s family, who relocated from Ireland to Bois Choctaw, lived in the area. Photos show the houses that were once there as homes for Jean and Mary Corrindon Dufrene, and Willie E. and Agnes Trauth Dufrene.
The Hogans were among the people who moved inland to Comardelle Village and later to Bayou Gauche and Des Allemands.
“My family … a lot of relatives lived up and down the bayou and along Lake Salvador,” Hogan said. “The map shows the communities that existed up and down the bayou where many of my ancestors lived and hunted and trapped and lived off the land.”
In Comardelle Village, he recalled the use of a “school boat.”
“There was a school boat that would ride around these communities, pick them up and bring them to school,” Hogan said. “It would bring them home at the end of the day.”
The schoolhouse that was the village was moved to Bayou Gauche and then to WPA Road across from Allemands Elementary where it is being renovated as a museum.
The late Edna Matherne recounted her life growing up as a pioneer family in Bayou Gauche, which included growing up on a houseboat in the area’s watery reaches.
In a historical account of Bayou Gauche, Matherne explained how they lived in Comardelle Village and attended school in a tiny, two-room schoolhouse through fourth grade until they moved to Bayou Gauche. From there, she took the school boat back downstream to the village to attend school.
“My daddy was a trapper in the winter and a carpenter in the summer, building boats, houseboats, skiffs and pirogues,” Matherne said.
Life was often hard on the bayou. Doctors were scarce and there came a time when she lost her father and several other relatives to tainted oysters when she was 13 years old. Dufrene grew up on the houseboat with a kitchen and two bedrooms. They got water from the neighbors’ cistern yet it was a time she recalled fondly.
When they moved, it was into a house in Des Allemands that seemed like a mansion with indoor plumbing and running water.
Black Prince Island is also among the forgotten communities that was once in Des Allemands.
Resident historian Roy Lunk, while researching the Des Allemands history of the 1800s, found information about the early Indian settlers that had three separate tribes. One of them, the Ouachas, lived in the area of what is now known as Black Prince Island and it was named after their chief, Louis Arouet Prince Noir.”
They were a wandering tribe that lived in the area between 1800 – 1900, and were eventually driven from Des Allemands by the influx of white settlers. They were relocated by the federal government to a reservation in Charrington, he said.
What was called Down the Bayou Village housed some of the earliest settlers including the Dufrenes and Comardelles. Comardelle Village included a school, the Sanctified Church, the Assembly of God Pentecostal Church, Frank Dufrene’s store, Camille Comardelle’s store, Joe Hogan’s store, Charley Plaisance’s store, Pierre Dufrene’s dry-dock and some 30 homes. The last resident to move out from Comardelle Village was Alcide Comardelle.