Wednesday, September 07, 2005

My Cajun Roots Run Deep

Parlange Plantation near New Roads, Louisiana

The family history says Sarah was a Civil War widow by 1862, her late husband a true son of Louisiana and Dixie. He left her with two small children, a milk cow, and a leaky roof over her head.

One day a raggedy and hungry bunch of Confederate soldiers showed up on her doorstep needing a meal and a place to bunk for the night. There was talk among them that evening about stealing the lone cow and whatever else they could find in the dark and slipping away. The soldier in charge was furious at their intended mistreatment of a poor Southern widow's hospitality, and threatened to shoot any looters. The next morning, Willis thanked Sarah and told her he would be back.

He kept his word. Sarah and Willis were married in 1864. These were my great great grandparents. The full geneological history does not reveal if Willis had been an occasional AWOL soldier, but I suspect it was entirely possible. Many otherwise honorable men felt the pull of hearth and home especially when it was obvious the South was not going to win the war.

Of grandfather Willis' family I know very little. More than a few hints abound of Indian blood from the Georgia Cherokee, but I have never discovered anything more than the random passed down story, certainly no paper trail to validate such beliefs.

My research on grandmother Sarah, on the other hand, has turned up a rich old Creole history with long long French bloodlines. Her great great grandparents were immigrants from Hainaut - now southern Belgium. These Hainaut families have been likened to the Mayflower of Louisiana. Lovely old names such as DeCuir, Mayeaux, Montpelier, Nezat, and Dupuy. Some settled in New Orleans, some near the towns of present day New Roads and Cane River. My notes reveal these now very familiar parish names: St. Landry, Opelousas, Catahoula, and St. Tammany.

The recent tragedy in New Orleans and the Gulf coast has reawakened my love of my French ancestral connection. An email today from a distant DeCuir cousin* assured me that the area around Marksville did not sustain great damage. I am grateful.

(*The cousin also told me that Lt. General Russell Honore, the "Ragin' Cajun", is a distant DeCuir relative as well. Good thing ole Cuzzin' Russell is kickin' butt and takin' names!).

The picture above of Parlange Plantation was taken about 4 years ago. It, too, has a link to my past. I have not heard any news about its survival, but I am hoping the old Spanish moss and the lovely ancient trees escaped the kind of destruction I see on the nightly evening news.

That old mantra of "the South Shall Rise Again" keeps whispering through my thoughts this evening, and I certainly hope its true. My great great grandparents would have wanted it no other way.

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