(The tour sign for the Acadia Plantation oaks is located on the west shoulder of Highway 1, south of downtown Thibodaux, and in front of the John Folse Culinary Institute building at Nicholls State University, 918 LA Hwy. 1).
Acadia Plantation once encompassed a much larger tract of land that includes parts of the Nicholls State University campus, the John Folse Culinary Institute, the private home south of the Culinary Institute, and many more acres surrounding this location. The oaks lining the highway in front of the Culinary Institute and the oaks scattered about the property next door are remnants of the oaks of Acadia Plantation.
The largest and oldest oak on the old Acadia Plantation property is named the “Jim Bowie Oak” and was registered with the Live Oak Society in the 1960s or 1970s. With a girth of more than 24 feet, it is probably 250 to 300 years of age or older.
Acadia Plantation has a colorful history. It was once owned by Jim Bowie, the hero of the Alamo, and his two brothers Stephen and Rezin. The Bowie brothers had enjoyed a lucrative business based in Opelousas that involved buying goods and slaves in Galveston, Texas from the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte, and transporting them overland to Louisiana.
The trade route eventually became too dangerous due to Indian attacks; so in 1819 the Bowie brothers moved their operations to Houma, Louisiana. Then in 1819, a flood forced the brothers from Houma; and at the suggestion of Jean Lafitte, they set up their new headquarters outside of Thibodaux, where Lafitte said they would be in no danger of flooding from the Mississippi or the Atchafalaya rivers and would have access to the Mississippi and the gulf via Bayou Lafourche.
In 1828, the brothers bought several adjoining plantations with frontage land on Bayou Lafourche. They named their new plantation “Acadia” based on the name of one of the plantations they purchased – Acadie – and that area of Canada where many French Canadians had lived prior to being exiled and immigrating to Louisiana. Jim, Rezin Bowie and their mother lived in separate homes near the grove of oaks in the photo above, while their brother Stephen built his home closer to Thibodaux (near the current location of St. Joseph cemetery).
The old Acadia Plantation house was eventually consolidated into one building for future owners, and a sprawling Queen Anne-style plantation home replaced the Bowie family homes. Other notable owners of Acadia Plantation have been: Philip Barton Key, a nephew of Francis Scott Key (author of U.S. national anthem the “Star Spangled Banner”); and Andrew Donelson, nephew of President Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel. The old Queen Anne home was replaced in 2012 by the current brick home.
The new Chef John Folse Culinary Institute building at Nicholls opened in 2015, but the school has been offering culinary classes since 1995.
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.