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


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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.