Home Away From Home

Whitney Plantation and St. Joseph Plantation

It was a cold, blustery, wintry day in South Louisiana today but we trudged on! Our first stop was the Whitney Plantation which shows a very different side of the plantations, the slaves view. The plantation has only been opened to the public since 2014 but it is rich with history. Upon payment for our tickets we were each given lanyards with a picture of a former slave, their name and a quote from them. Mine was named Albert Patterson and Jerry’s was Mary Harris. Her quote was “Sure I remember slavery times. I was a big girl, turned eleven. I used to pull the fan that kep’ off the flies while the white folks was eatin’. It wasn’t hard work, but my arms used to get tired – ‘specially at dinner when they set so long at the table. I made the fires and brought in kindlin’ wood and carried out the hashes.”

Purchased initially by Ambrose Heidel who came from Germany along with his mother and siblings the main crop was indigo. Unfortunately that did not work so well so they turned to sugar cane which was very profitable but was literally harvested on the backs of the slaves. The hours, the homes, the treatment are all unimaginable.

Jerry at the Memorial Wall
Jerry at the Memorial Wall
There is a memorial wall on the grounds that names the slaves on the plantation and it shows some amazing quotes describing their lives. I would love to have spent more time there but it was so incredibly cold that we just couldn’t linger. One person even left and returned to the main building rather than continue in the cold. We continued to walk through the grounds entering another memorial for the children that died, then on to the jail where the slaves were held prior to the auction. The tour concluded with a brief tour of the house. Although none of the furniture is original to the house it is all from that time period some coming from Houmas House.

Our next stop was St. Joseph Plantation. Before we went in we sat in the car and ate our picnic lunch since we had plans to eat out tonight. Our visit at St. Joseph was probably the most authentic of all of our visits because it is still family owned, still producing sugar cane and the tours are conducted by family members. Interestingly enough the plantation was purchased by the doctor mentioned in a previous post. He came to Louisiana along with his family from France to treat the people along River Road.

The house is a typical Creole home where all guests entered through the back door. In fact, there are no stairs on the front. Our guide told us that if we visited Creole homes with front steps they had been added because originally Creole homes did not have them on the front.
There were many family heirlooms in the house.

St. Joseph Plantation
St. Joseph Plantation
In fact there was a christening gown that our guide had been christened in as had her great-grandmother and then her grandchildren.

One room was designated as the funeral room and there was black netting hanging around. There was also an old organ there and it works. She asked if either of us played and of course I answered yes so I sat down and played some ending with Amazing Grace. Playing a pump organ is not easy as you have to keep pumping the two pedals to get the sound. It’s easy to be playing with your hands and forget the feet thus the sound begins to fade.

Interestingly St. Joseph is comprised of what used to be three plantations, Le Petit Versailles”,named after the original Versailles burned down and Felicite which is still standing. In fact, we passed by the house and wondered what it was. It is only used for movies, etc. now as it is dire need of structural repair.

We did not tour any of the grounds as it was just too cold but we did look out the windows and see where some filming is going to take place soon. Several movies have been made there and is one source of income for the plantation.

After the plantation visits we returned to Gonzales and went to the mall as Jerry needed to buy a belt and he wanted to return to Direct Tools! After a quick trip to the grocery store we went to Cajun Catch to order our dinner. We had been told that they had the best crawfish in town. We ended up with crawfish to go plus some boudin sausage. It was all so good. Something was a bit spicy but we could never determine what it was. The crawfish because they were fried looked a lot like shrimp. I’m not sure what I thought they’d look like but I’d been told they were really just little lobsters so I guess I thought they’d look like that but they didn’t. Had we gotten them boiled I guess they would have resembled lobster – maybe!

We returned to the coach to eat dinner and start preparation for leaving for Abbeville tomorrow. In spite of the cold Jerry got the car on the dolly, a task that would be even more difficult tomorrow morning as it will be even colder. We got all of the clothes washed and dried so we are ready to go!