(St. John’s Episcopal Church is located at 718 Jackson Street just west of downtown Thibodaux.)
The live oaks on the grounds and around the cemetery of the St. John’s Episcopal Church were planted around 1850 by Thomas Trader, rector of the church between 1854 and 1869. The land for the church and cemetery were donated by George Seth Guion, former owner of Ridgefield Plantation.
This structure is the oldest Episcopal Church west of the Mississippi River. It was built between 1843 and 1844 by local contractor James Frost using slave labor and was designed by Bishop Leonidas Polk. Polk was known as the “fighting bishop” because he served as a Lieutenant General in the Confederate army during the Civil War as well as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana.
Religion in early Louisiana – Throughout Louisiana’s colonial period, Catholicism was the only faith sanctioned by the government (both French and Spanish). German Lutherans who settled along the German Coast of the Mississippi River (St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes), as well as Jews, Muslims, and African faiths had to practice their religions underground, in secret. But after the Louisiana Purchase, a new wave of Anglo-Protestant groups began to move into the area, especially from the Southern coastal states including Episcopalians.
Under the arched branches of the old cemetery’s oaks, you can find the shaded resting places of several historically significant individuals from Thibodaux history.
They include former Louisiana Governor and Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Francis Tillou Nicholls (the namesake of Nicholls State University), George Seth Guion and his wife Caroline, and many veterans of American wars beginning with the War of 1812.
This cemetery is a historic gem set in the middle of Thibodaux on Jackson Street. Since the site is open to the public, stop, visit, and enjoy the shade under the oaks.
The Lafourche Live Oak Tour was created through the generous support of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Tourism. For more information on Lafourche Parish events and activities, visit their website at LACajunBayou.com.