Saturday, August 25, 2018

Welcome to Bayou Teche Dispatches. . . .

Source: The (New York) Weekly Graphic, 18 April 1874.

Bayou Teche Dispatches is a collection of my writings about south Louisiana history and culture. Often it consists of material I could not use in my books for one reason or another, but which I nonetheless found fascinating. I hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as I enjoyed researching and writing them.

If you publish information from these articles, however, please remember to cite this blog as your source and, if applicable, to supply a return link. Please do not repost articles in their entireties, but short block quotations that fall within range of "fair use" are acceptable.
~ Shane K. Bernard

to purchase the author's books 
and other south Louisiana history items. . . .

Table of Contents

 Portrait of a Cajun Woman: Andonia Thibodeaux 
of Bayou Tigre
An old tin-type photograph leads to a literary find

 Another Civil War Gunboat on the Teche: The U.S.S. Glide, aka Federal Gunboat No. 43

A legal document reveals the presence of one more gunboat on the bayou

 Now Available: My New Book about Bayou Teche

A narrative history of Bayou Teche and journal of canoeing the present-day bayou

 A Railroad History of Avery Island

An article I wrote for someone else's blog in 2010

 Sur le Teche: Exploring the Bayou by Canoe, Stage 1

Port Barre to Arnaudville

❧ Rough Rider Redux: A Photo of Theodore Roosevelt in Downtown New Iberia?
A forgotten photo of Theodore Roosevelt in Cajun Country

❧ A Fiction Interlude: My Short Story "The Phrenologist"

A short story about racism set in antebellum New Orleans

❧ A Floating Dancehall on the Teche: The Club Sho Boat

A riverboat that became a nightclub and restaurant

❧ A Meteor over Cajun Louisiana: Window on Atomic-Age Anxieties

Confusing a meteor for an atomic bomb

❧ A Film Documents South Louisiana's Logging Industry, ca. 1925: Responsible Stewardship or Environmental Disaster?

Digitized film about cypress logging along the Teche

❧ A Glimpse from 1968: Historic Films Looked at Cajuns and Creoles in Epic Year

Digitized French films capture an important year in south Louisiana history

❧ Now Available: My Children's History of the Cajuns in English and French Editions

Buy my Cajun book for kids so I can pay off my credit card

❧ "Cajuns of the Teche": Bad History, Wartime Propaganda, or Both?

A 1942 film with excellent images, horrible script

❧ A Snake, a Worm, and a Dead End: In Search of the Meaning of "Teche"

Searching for the meaning of the word "Teche"

❧ Galaxies, Bowling and Swamp Pop: Johnny Preston and The Cajuns in Escondido

Examining a Cajun reference in a chain e-mail about old gas stations

❧ Serendipity and Fort Tombecbe: Cooperation between Historians and Archaeologists

Accidentally finding a map of a fort coincidentally excavated by my friend

❧ Notes on Two Nineteenth-Century Engravings of South Louisiana Scenes

Vintage magazine images of Cajun and Creole women

❧ Finding History Right around the Corner: Heroism on the Cajun Home Front

A nearly forgotten World War II landmark a block from my residence

❧ My Father's Childhood Autograph Book on the History Channel?

When Dad met Hank Williams, Sr.

❧ My Oddball Collection of Cajun Warplane Photos

Cajun-themed combat aircraft

❧ Elodie's Gift: A Family Photographic Mystery

An old tin type image given to me by a great-aunt

❧ The Nike-Cajun Rocket: How It Got Its Name

A rocket named "the Cajun"?

❧ Middle Name or Clerical Error?: Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil and "Gaurhept"

Perpetuation of a historical error

❧ Debunking the Alleged Origin of the Word "Coonass"

Finding a word by accident that wasn't yet supposed to exist

❧ More on That Word "Coonass": A Labor Dispute Trial Documents Its Use in 1940

The earliest known use of this controversial word

❧ "To Err Is Human": Errata from My Books

Everyone makes mistakes

❧ An Old Bull Durham Tobacco Ad in New Iberia, or Palimpsests on the Teche

This vintage advertisement has since been destroyed

❧ Remembering Polycarp: A Cajun TV Show Host for Children

Everyone loved Polycarp!

❧ From Jet Fighters to Football: Origin of the Phrase "Ragin' Cajun"

Where this catchy term originated (as far as anyone knows)

❧ The Elusive André Massé, Pioneer of the Attakapas

An almost mythical explorer of the Teche region

❧ More on the Elusive Andre Massé, Early Settler of the Attakapas District

Revelations about him in a historical document

❧ La Chute: A Waterfall on Bayou Teche?

A waterfall in largely flat south Louisiana

❧ Gumbo in 1764?

The earliest known reference to gumbo in Louisiana

❧ On That Word "Gumbo": Okra, Sassafras, and Baudry's Reports from 1802-1803

More on the history of gumbo in Louisiana

❧ La Pointe de Repos — Early Acadian Settlement Site along the Teche

Colonial-era settlement near present-day Parks, Louisiana

❧ A 1795 Journey up the Teche: Fact, Fiction, or Literary Hoax?

It almost fooled me . . . almost

❧ All the Same Place: Isla Cuarin, Côte de Coiron, Île Petite Anse, Petite Anse Island & Avery Island

Evolution of a place name in the south Louisiana coastal marsh

❧ The Grevembergs, Early Cattle Ranchers of the Attakapas

When someone accidentally transposes two numerals

❧ Tracking the Decline of Cajun French

Research behind the language stats in my book The Cajuns

❧ The Secret CODOFIL Papers

I waited how long for the FBI to release these documents?

❧ Agnus Dei Artifact Found on Banks of Bayou Teche

A religious symbol turns up in the mud at Breaux Bridge

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Portrait of a Cajun Woman: Andonia Thibodeaux of Bayou Tigre

My assistant found the below tin-type image in the archives I administer on Avery Island, Louisiana. The tin-type had been stored in an old letter envelope, and on that envelope someone had long ago recorded the name of the woman in the image as "Mlle." [Mademoiselle] Andonia Thibodeaux of Bayou Tigre. That bayou (bayou is the Louisiana term for a generally smallish, slow-moving, muddy river) runs through coastal Vermilion Parish.

Andonia Thibodeaux of Bayou Tigre, [ca. 1887].
Source: Avery Island Archives, Avery Island, Louisiana.
(Click to enlarge)

On searching the Internet for information about Andonia I found a description of her in an 1887 issue of Harper’s. (Think about it: what are the odds of that!) Composed by noted nineteenth-century writer Charles Dudley Warner, the article seems to have appeared around the same time the image in question was taken. I say this because Andonia, in both the article and the photograph, is depicted as a young woman. Furthermore, the article describes Andonia as sporting "small corkscrew curls" — just as she wears in the photograph. (The article also refers to Andonia "waving her handkerchief," one of which, I note, she holds in the image.)

Titled "The Acadian Land," Warner's article not only mentions Andonia, it offers a glimpse into the lives of Cajuns (Acadians) in late-nineteenth-century south Louisiana. The article reads in excerpt:

"[W]e came into the Bayou Tigre, and landed for breakfast. . . . Resuming our voyage, we presently entered the inhabited part of the bayou, among cultivated fields, and made our first call on the Thibodeaux [family]. They had been expecting us, and Andonia came down to the landing to welcome us, and with a formal, pretty courtesy led the way to the house.

"[T]he inhabited part of the bayou. . . ."
Present-day aerial image of Bayou Tigre section.
Source: Google Maps
(Click to enlarge)

Does the reader happen to remember, say in New England, say fifty years ago, the sweetest maiden lady in the village, prim, staid, full of kindness, the proportions of the figure never quite developed, with a row of small corkscrew curls about her serene forehead, and all the juices of life that might have overflowed into the life of others somehow withered into the sweetness of her wistful face? Yes, a little timid and appealing, and yet trustful, and in a scant, quaint gown? Well, Andonia was never married, and she had such curls, and a high-waisted gown, and a kerchief folded across her breast; and when she spoke, it was in the language of France as it is rendered in Acadia. [By "Acadia" Warner presumably meant the Cajun-populated parishes of south Louisiana — now called "Acadiana" — and not colonial "Acadia" in what is now the Maritime Provinces of Canada.]

Bayou Tigre, south of Erath and Delcambre, La.
Source: Google Maps
(Click to enlarge)

The house, like all in this region, stands upon blocks of wood [inevitably cypress blocks], is in appearance a frame house, but the walls between timbers are of concrete mixed with moss [actually a mixture of mud, straw or moss, and sometimes animal hair called bousillage in Louisiana French], and the same inside as out. It had no glass in the windows, which were closed with solid shutters. Upon the rough walls were hung sacred pictures and other crudely colored prints. The furniture was rude and apparently home-made, and the whole interior was as painfully neat as a Dutch parlor.

Bousillage in wall of historical home,
Acadian Village, Lafayette, La.
Photo by Shane K. Bernard
(Click to enlarge)

Even the beams overhead and ceiling had been scrubbed. Andonia showed us with a blush of pride her neat little sleeping-room, with its souvenirs of affection, and perhaps some of the dried flowers of a possible romance, and the ladies admired the finely woven white counterpane on the bed. Andonia's married sister was a large, handsome woman, smiling and prosperous. There were children and, I think, a baby about, besides Mr. Thibodeaux. Nothing could exceed the kindly manner of these people. Andonia showed us how they card, weave, and spin the cotton [cotonnade in Louisiana French] out of which their blankets and the jean for their clothing are made. They use the old-fashioned hand-cards, spin on a little wheel with a foot-treadle, have the most primitive warping-bars, and weave most laboriously on a rude loom. But the cloth they make will wear forever, and the colors they use are all fast.

Madame Dronet and daughter carding and spinning
to make Acadian homespun cloth.
From the 1942 film Cajuns of the Teche.
(Click image to enlarge it; or view film here)

It is a great pleasure, we might almost say shock, to encounter such honest work in these times. The Acadians grow a yellow or nankeen sort of cotton [coton jaune in Louisiana French] which, without requiring any dye, is woven into a handsome yellow stuff. When we departed Andonia slipped into the door-yard, and returned with a rose for each of us. I fancied she was loath to have us go, and that the visit was an event in the monotony of her single life.

Acadian homespun cloth (coton jaune),
woven ca. 1900, in the Avery Island Archives.
Photo by Shane K. Bernard
(Click to enlarge)

[Later] all the neighborhood, accompanied us to our boats, and we went away down the stream with a chorus of adieus and good wishes. We were watching for a hail from the Thibodeaux. The doors and shutters were closed, and the mansion seemed blank and forgetful. But as we came opposite the landing, there stood Andonia, faithful, waving her handkerchief. . . ."

Addendum of 21 August 2018:

Sadly, genealogist Stanley LeBlanc informs me that Andonia Thibodeaux, full name Marie Andonia Thibodeaux, died 4 May 1889 — only two years after the appearance of the Harper's article. The cause of death is unknown. Moreover, Stanley tells me, as does Donna Caswell Murphy, that Andonia was born in 1854 (22 June 1854 to be precise). Her age at death was 34, so she may not have been, as I thought, a girl when she sat for her photograph. I have thus changed the title of my article from "Portrait of a Cajun Girl" to "Portrait of a Cajun Woman." 

Stanley and Donna's sources are the 1870 U.S. Census and Father Donald Hebert's Southwest Louisiana Records, Vol. 1, p. 107, and Vol. 2, p. 162.

From Charles Dudley Warner, "The Acadian Land," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, LXXIV (February 1887). This excerpt originally appeared, albeit without annotations, on my personal Facebook page in April 2018. I have reformatted the article slightly to accommodate the images.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Another Civil War Gunboat on the Teche: The U.S.S. Glide, aka Federal Gunboat No. 43

It is well-known that during the Civil War several Union and Confederate gunboats were active on Bayou Teche. These gunboats were the USS Calhoun, USS Estrella, USS Kinsman, USS Clifton, USS Diana (later captured by Rebels and rechristened the CSS Diana), and CSS Cotton. Also present on the Teche was the CSS Stevens (formerly the Hart), which the Rebels scuttled on the bayou between New Iberia and Jeanerette before completion. (See the chapter titled "The Teche during Wartime" in my book Teche: A History of Louisiana's Most Famous Bayou [2016].)

Recently, however, R. C. Sealy of Lafayette sent me a typewritten transcript of a document apparently from the St. Mary Parish Courthouse indicating the presence of yet another gunboat on Bayou Teche — the USS Glide, referred to in the document by its more prosaic name, Federal Gunboat No. 43.

The U.S.S. Glide off Brashear City
(Morgan City), La.,January 1864.
Source: U.S. Naval Historical Center, photo NH 102732,
per (Click to enlarge)

The document in question, authorized by St. Mary Parish Justice of the Peace Barthelmy d'Aquesseau Delahoussaye and St. Mary Parish Clerk of Court Charles Kerr, contains the March 19, 1864, testimony of F. Beaullieu [pron. BOWL-LYOE], agent of George Sallinger of Jeanerette. Beaullieu described himself as “a Frenchman by birth, [who] is disinterested in the matter of the loss of said property.” 

Corroborated by local residents Jules Basille and Pierre Cerf, “both subjects of the French Empire,” Beaullieu recorded that: 
[O]n the night of the 17th of March instant [i.e., that very month] 1864, some person or persons concealed in or near the old warehouse of one Florenz Hamm, late of Jeanerette, . . . fired into the Federal Gun Boat No. 43 as she passed opposite Jeanerette; that said gunboat was on its way to New Iberia; and that when said gunboat returned from New Iberia on the 19th day of March 1864 she landed on the same bank of said bayou [that the gunfire came from], and the officers of the boat under protection of a company of soldiers from on board of said boat sat fire [sic] willingly and deliberately to the house of Mr. George Sallinger, which was consumed to ashes in a few hours, also [with] several other extensive buildings belonging to said Sallinger, to-wit: a large coopers shop eighty feet long by thirty feet wide with double brick chimney; a large warehouse where he kept his barrels, one hundred feet long by thirty wide; another warehouse 50 feet long by 25 feet wide where he kept his hoops and other materials for making barrels; a small house in yard 25 feet long by 15 or 16 feet wide, well finished and in good order; one small kitchen; chicken houses; hen coops; a large quantity of fencing pickets around his premises, 500 to 800 in number; a good mahogany bedstead; a large quantity of cooper's tools, enough to employ 15 to 18 workmen as he generally did; a very large quantity of hoop poles, staves, headings, etc., together with his fruit trees, etc., etc.
Beaullieu added that "he intervened to prevent the Federals from setting the property on fire, but that he was told that the [gun] firing had come from the house of said Sallinger, that they had orders to set it on fire, which they did, and the property was consumed. . . ."

The Washington, D.C., newspaper The Evening appears to refer to this event in a brief article of April 1, 1864, about two weeks after the above incident. Offering a slightly different version of events, The Evening observed, “Rebel guerrillas, at Provost['s] Landing, on the Teche river, fired into one of our gunboats, but fled after a well-directed discharge of grape [shot]. The crew landed and burnt the buildings in the place.” (Provost's Landing, named for the local landowning Provost [pron. PRO-VOE] family, sat on the bayou just upstream from Jeanerette's upper limit at the time.)

Source: Washington, D.C., Evening Star, 1 April 1864, p. 2.

Another newspaper, the New Albany Daily Ledger of Indiana, contained a few more details about the incident. It observed, "A few days ago a company of guerrillas fired into one of our gunboats on the Teche, mistaking the vessel for an unarmed transport steamer. . . . The rebels were concealed in some underbrush, into which a broadside of grape was discharged. The rebels fled on discovering the mistake they had made, taking the killed and wounded, if there were any, along with them. . . . A boat's crew was landed from the gunboat, and the building near the place burned." 

A more detailed account
in the New Albany (Indiana) Daily Ledger,
4 April 1864, p. 1.

(The Daily Ledger identified Provost's Landing as sitting "about twelve miles from Franklin" — which is indeed the approximate linear distance between Franklin and Jeanerette. I asked Mr. Sealy, however, if he knew exactly where along Bayou Teche in Jeanerette the torched structures stood. He matter-of-factly replied “On Cooper Street” — which would make sense.)

Location of the burned cooperage and dwelling
according to Mr. Sealy. Source: Google Maps
(Click to enlarge)

According to the online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, maintained by the U.S. Navy's Naval History and Heritage Command, the Glide

was a wooden sidewheeler* built at Murraysville, Va., in 1863 and purchased 30 November 1863 at Pittsburgh, Pa., by Rear Admiral Porter. She was converted to Navy use and sent to New Orleans for duty with the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron, Acting Ens. L. S. Fickett in command. . . . From March 1864 to August 1865, Glide served as a blockading ship in Berwick Bay, La. During this period she made numerous short expeditions in the bayous surrounding the bay, suppressing guerrilla activity and capturing small blockade runners. 

Furthermore, the Glide is known to have carried two 32-pounder cannons and four 24-pounder howitzers. 

On August 1, 1865, she was sold in New Orleans at public auction to a buyer named J. W. Young, who used her as a merchant vessel. On January 1, 1869, an explosion destroyed the Glide near New Orleans. As the Louisiana Democrat newspaper reported at the time, “[A]bout forty-nine miles above the city [of New Orleans], she ran aground, and shortly afterwards, between 12 and 1 o'clock, exploded her laboard [port or left-side] boiler, destroying almost every part of the boat" and scalding many of the passengers and crew, some of whom died from their injuries. 

Source: The New Orleans Crescent,
14 January 1869, p. 1.
(Click to enlarge)


I thank Mr. R. C. Sealy for sharing the document with me that inspired this article. Mr. Sealy informed me that someone gave the document to his wife because she was a descendant of Beaullieu. 

I have corrected and standardized spelling and punctuation in all quoted primary-source material. 

The USS Glide should not be confused with another USS Glide built in 1862 in Shousetown, Pennsylvania, and which also served as a Civil War gunboat.

*As an observant reader commented, the vessel in the photograph at page top is not a sidewheeler, even as the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships describes the USS Glide as "a wooden sidewheeler." At present it is unknown whether the photograph or the Dictionary is incorrect. See, however, the below posting by 1000voices.

Addendum of 11 February 2018:

Nancy Lees found this article, which was reprinted in a New York Times issue of 20 July 1865 (shortly after the Civil War's conclusion). It documents the presence on Bayou Teche of yet another gunboat, the USS Carrabassett. The article reads:


From the [New Orleans] True Delta, July 11 [1865]. 

The gunboat Carrabassett, six guns, arrived at this port on Thursday evening, from a fifteen months' cruise in the waters of West Louisiana. During her eventful, and at times trying, voyage, she passed through nearly all the bayous, creeks and streams of that portion of our State, at times penetrating to points never before reached by a steamer. 

The report of her operations shows that the Carrabassett has rendered excellent service in the way of capturing arms, ammunition, horses, &c. [etc.]; but her principal service has been in preventing and breaking up the contraband trade which was carried on previous to the removal of trade restrictions, and in this service her efforts proved very successful. 

A month or so ago, information having been sent to the officers of the boat, she proceeded up the Teche Bayou to St. Martinsville, where a large quantity of machinery, belonging to the light-houses on the coast, was found and taken possession of. These light-houses were dismantled some time since by order of Gen. LOVELL, and the fixtures, which are of a very superior description, were taken to St. Martinsville and secreted. The recovery of them comes at a most opportune moment, and will be a saving to the government of about $30,000. The Carrabassett was the first Union gunboat that ever visited St. Martinsville, and was an object of great curiosity to the people. Hundreds of ladies and gentlemen visited the vessel during her stay, and many friendships sprang up between them and the officers. 

The last duty performed by the Carrabassett was convoying transports and carrying troops to Washington [the town in Louisiana] and other points on Bayou Courtableau and Teche. This gave her officers a fine opportunity to see the country and converse with the people, all of whom seemed anxious that the authorities should send a provost-guard at once. The well-known guerrilla, BAILEY VINCENT, has a gang of about a dozen men, who commit the most outrageous acts. The citizens of Franklin have joined with the Federal soldiers in several attempts to capture them, but have failed thus far. This band has several times entered the town of Franklin, robbed the stores, shot into houses, and committed other dastardly acts. When the Carrabassett left Brashear City [now Morgan City] on the morning of the 4th inst., a guard had not occupied Franklin; but, at the earnest solicitation of the citizens, a guard of the Third Rhode Island Cavalry was ordered to leave Brashear for that point on the same day. 

The wrecks of the gunboats Cotton, Diana, Hart and several others, destroyed some two years ago, are still in the Teche, and greatly impede the navigation of that stream. The bridges across this bayou are also destroyed, and the wrecks float about in the water. 

Many of the plantations are in excellent order, with crops in good condition and plenty of laborers. Others are deserted by both proprietors and hands, and are all in ruins. The gunboats in this section are invariably welcomed with demonstrations of joy, as bringing protection from the acts of lawless persons.


"Another Steamboat Disaster," The Louisiana Democrat, 20 January 1869, p. 3. 

"Battle at Natchitoches, Louisiana — Another Success of the Red River Expedition," New Albany (Indiana) Daily Ledger, 4 April 1864, p. 1.

"From West Louisiana," New York Times, 20 July 1865, p. 2,, accessed 11 February 2018.

"Glide II (StwStr)," Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, 13 July 2015,, accessed 1 May 2017.

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series II, Volume 1: Statistical Data of Union and Confederate Ships; Muster Roles of Confederate Government Vessels (Washington, D.C. : U.S. Government Printing Office, 1921), p. 96. 

Routh Trowbridge Wilby, Clearing Bayou Teche after the Civil War: The Kingsbury Project, 1870–1871 (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1991), 28, 30.

Testimony of F. Beaullieu, State of Louisiana, Parish of St. Mary, 19 March 1864, typewritten transcript, 2 pp., photocopy in possession of R. C. Sealy, Lafayette, La.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Now Available: My New Book about Bayou Teche

Teche: A History of Louisiana's Most Famous Bayou

My newest book, Teche: A History of Louisiana's Most Famous Bayou, has been released by my publisher, University Press of Mississippi. (To order the book from, click here. It's also available from all other booksellers, including local independent booksellers.)

Cover art for my new book.
The painting is by noted south Louisiana
artist Melissa Bonin.

As the book's description reads: 

Shane K. Bernard’s Teche examines this legendary waterway of the American Deep South. Bernard delves into the bayou’s geologic formation as a vestige of the Mississippi and Red Rivers, its prehistoric Native American occupation, and its colonial settlement by French, Spanish, and, eventually, Anglo-American pioneers. He surveys the coming of indigo, cotton, and sugar; steam-powered sugar mills and riverboats; and the brutal institution of slavery. He also examines the impact of the Civil War on the Teche, depicting the running battles up and down the bayou and the sporadic gunboat duels, when ironclads clashed in the narrow confines of the dark, sluggish river.

Image from the (New York) Weekly Graphic (18 April 1874).
Author's Collection.

Describing the misery of the postbellum era, Bernard reveals how epic floods, yellow fever, racial violence, and widespread poverty disrupted the lives of those who resided under the sprawling, moss-draped live oaks lining the Teche’s banks. Further, he chronicles the slow decline of the bayou, as the coming of the railroad, automobiles, and highways reduced its value as a means of travel. Finally, he considers modern efforts to redesign the Teche using dams, locks, levees, and other water-control measures. He examines the recent push to clean and revitalize the bayou after years of desecration by litter, pollutants, and invasive species. Illustrated with historic images and numerous maps, this book will be required reading for anyone seeking the colorful history of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

The author (right) canoeing on Bayou Teche.
(Click to enlarge.)

As a bonus, the second part of the book describes Bernard’s own canoe journey down the Teche’s 125-mile course. This modern personal account from the field reveals the current state of the bayou and the remarkable people who still live along its banks.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Railroad History of Avery Island

This is an article I wrote for someone else's blog back in 2010.  I reprint it for the first time here:

My name is Shane K. Bernard and I'm the historian and curator for McIlhenny Company and Avery Island Inc., located on Avery Island, Louisiana.

Map of Avery Island, Louisiana,
with railroad routes highlighted in yellow.
Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

Avery Island is a salt dome in lower Iberia Parish, Louisiana. It's not an island in the traditional sense; that is, it's not surrounded by a body of open water. In fact, it's located about 3 miles inland from the nearest body of open water. But it is surrounded on all sides by wetlands — either grassy salt marsh, wooded cypress swamp, or slow-moving, muddy bayous.

The railroad came to Avery Island in 1883, primarily to serve the Island's salt mine. The railroad also served the factory that produced the world-famous TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce. It, too, was (and still is) located on Avery Island.

Photo by author

I took most of the photographs in this series on restricted private property with the permission of the landowners, McIlhenny Company & Avery Island Inc. (my employers).

Photo by author

The railroad reached Avery Island by crossing this trestle bridge over Bayou Petite Anse (actually the confluence of Bayou Leleu and Stumpy Bayou, which in turn flows into the nearby Petite Anse). I took this photo around 2000.

Photo by author

This is what the trestle bridge looks like today (May 2010). Hurricane Rita washed away the top part of the trestle in 2005. Because the railroad no longer serviced the Island by that time (the rails on the Island having been ripped up in 2002), no effort was made to repair the bridge. (By 2000 the salt mine used eighteen-wheelers and barges to transport salt; McIlhenny Company likewise used eighteen-wheelers to distribute TABASCO® Sauce.)

Photo by author

Photo by author

Photo by author

Here is Engine 455 crossing the same trestle bridge. This photo was taken in the early to mid-1950s; a diesel engine replaced Engine 455 around 1955.

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

Although Engine 455 ended up in a Houston scrapyard, someone at Avery Island salvaged its headlamp, which now sits in the McIlhenny Company & Avery Island Inc. Archives.

Photo by author

Here is a circa 1955 photo of the diesel engine that replaced Engine 455. As you can see, the diesel engine is crossing the trestle bridge that leads onto the Island. (The boy in the photo is reminding the railroad workers that they are entering private property; I have been told this ceremony occurred annually for legal reasons.)

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

A few hundred yards down Stumpy Bayou are the trestle bridge parts washed away by Hurricane Rita.

Photo by author

Note the marine life that had grown on the trestle. (My foot is in the image for scale.)

Photo by author

Here is the rail bed — the elevated whitish hump running between and parallel to the grass and bamboo — as it looks today, heading south on Avery Island toward the salt mine.

Photo by author

I took this photograph looking south on the same section of rail bed.

Photo by author

Moving south, I found a small section of track still in place at the entrance to the McIlhenny Company corporate office.

Photo by author

Right past the corporate office stands the McIlhenny station sign. There was never an actual station here, however, because the TABASCO® factory itself was the "station." (The older part of our corporate office served as the TABASCO® Sauce factory from 1905 until around 1980.) Incidentally, the station sign that appears in this photo is a new replica. The original sign shows up in the next image below; it is now preserved in the Archives. [Actually, as of February 2016 the sign is on display in the Barrel Warehouse section of the new Tabasco Museum tour.]

Photo by author

In this circa 2000 image of the same spot, you can make out the spur (see arrow) leading from the main line toward the TABASCO® factory.

Photo by author

This is looking at the station sign from the opposite direction. The yellow lines on this present-day photo show where the main line and spur (at right) would have been located.

Photo by author

Following the spur toward the old TABASCO® factory leads to some kind of device on the ground (which I assume is related to the railroad). [I have since learned that the device permitted TABASCO® factory workers to manually move boxcars back and forth along the spur.]  The yellow line shows where the side track would have continued. As you can see, it would have gone right between the two buildings (where an enclosed walkway now stands). There the spur ended.

Photo by author

This photo, taken around 1980, shows a diesel engine on the track between the two buildings. TABASCO®-related material would have been loaded/unloaded from the train at this location.

Source: McIlhenny Company Archives

A close-up image of the device that I assume to be railroad-related [See above bracketed note about the purpose of this device.]

Photo by author

Heading south again on the Island, the rail bed passes this old sign with the number "9."

Photo by author

Moving farther south the two rails became six rails. (Note the third set of rails below the arrow.) I was told that the extra set was a siding. This picture was taken in 2000.

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Here is the same spot during the railroad’s demolition in 2002.

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Here's another photo from the same area, showing the excavator and bulldozer that tore up the track; note the scrap in the dumpster.

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This is the same section of track, but looking in the opposite direction (north).

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This is what that same area looks like today.

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A close inspection of that spot reveals signs of its previous purpose — in this case, a railroad spike stuck in a rail plate.

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A few feet away is a rotting railroad tie that the demolition crew evidently forgot to pick up.

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This switch, photographed in 2002 on the same stretch of railroad, is no longer to be found. [I have since been told that someone on the Island made this switch into a mailbox.]

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We're now getting close to the Avery Island salt mine, which I'm unsure was ever so crowded with trains as depicted in this circa 1940 advertisement.  But perhaps it was, during the heyday of railroad transportation.

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

The rail bed reaches the salt mine and runs into this fence; note the salt mine structure in the background.

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Looking back northward from the same spot reveals this presumably railroad-related sign reading "D."

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Here is an 1899 photo of the salt mine with box cars present.

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

This circa 1930 aerial photo shows the salt mine; I've added yellow lines next to the railroad tracks. Note a spur leading off the main line.

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

This circa 2000 photo shows the railroad as it continued onto the salt mine property. I don't know if these rails still exist today because I did not return to the salt mine lease. (Perhaps another day and, of course, only with permission of the salt mine lessee.)

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A close-up circa 2000 image of the rails on the salt mine lease. These could be rails from the 19th century or early 20th century, given their decrepit condition. Most of the rails ripped up in 2002 appeared in good condition — nothing at all like these rails.

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Backing up a little, I found the rails that made up the spur shown in the above circa 1930 aerial photo.

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A close-up image of the spur rail as it appears today — almost buried beneath the topsoil.

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The spur rails lead into thick woods.

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This is where the spur rails once led: A gravel and sand pit on Avery Island. It shut down in 1917.

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

Shane K. Bernard, Ph.D.
May 13, 2010
Avery Island, Louisiana

Addendum of 19 May 2010:

Source: Avery Island Inc. Archives

With help from others it's been determined for sure that spur #1 on this aerial photo is the spur that led to the old salt mine (dismantled after the mine caved-in at that location in the 1890s) and spur #2 is the spur that led to the sand/gravel pit that closed in 1917. This photo is interesting because it shows both spurs in the same image. Again, the rails that make up spur #1 remain in good condition as of last week; while the rails that make up spur #2 were in terrible shape when I last saw them several years ago.