The Oaks of St. Charles Community

(The St. Charles Borromeo Church is located at 1985 LA Hwy. 308, approximately 7.1 miles south of downtown Thibodaux. In its vicinity, there are some of the largest and oldest surviving oaks along Bayou Lafourche.)

History:  The Saint Charles Community south of Thibodaux draws its name from the Catholic Church parish of St. Charles Borromeo whose boundaries are roughly Lafourche Crossing on the north and the Ariel Plantation Road to the south. In 1874, Father Charles Menard purchased land from Vasseur Bourgeois on the west bank of Bayou Lafourche (Hwy. 1 side) to establish a mission church and school for the families living mid-way between Thibodaux and Raceland. The Sisters of Mount Carmel in Thibodaux staffed the school and offered classes in both French and English.

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Blanchard Oak, 26 ft. 7 in. girth, view from west side

The St. Charles Borromeo Church parish was established in 1912 and a new wooden church structure was consecrated two years later in 1914 on the east bank of the bayou on land purchased from the estate of Adele Toups Beauvais. Because the new church was on the east bank of the bayou, congregation members from the west bank had to cross the bayou by a ferry that operated until it was replaced by a pontoon bridge in 1932 and a metal one-lane bridge in 1949. The new St. Charles (Hwy. 645) bridge was constructed in 1996. The new modern brick church (to the right of the white wooden building) was built in 1989.

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Melanie Toups Oak, view from church driveway

There are more than a dozen live oaks with girths between 20 and 25 feet and a half dozen more older trees with girths between 25 and 30 feet along Bayou Lafourche in the St. Charles area. This is probably because this area has remained largely agricultural and rural, and sparing the old oaks the fate of being removed to make way for businesses and new housing.

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Blanchard Oak, 26 ft. 7 in. girth, view from the north side

Some of the oldest oaks stand near the heart of the community and close to the St. Charles Borromeo Church. Immediately north and behind the old white wooden church building lives the Blanchard Oak (pictured above). This wizened old tree predates the purchase of the property by Father Charles Menard by as much as 100 years. Church records note that Father Menard commented on the lovely live oaks growing on the property in May 1874.

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Cemetery Oaks, St. Charles Borromeo Church

If you turn into the church driveway and parking area, you can see the Blanchard Oak over the north boundary fence. And just south of the church and toward the rear of the private property on the south side of the new brick church building lives the Melanie Toups Oak with a girth of 26 ft. 9 in. (pictured below).

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Melanie Toups Oak, 26 ft. 9 in., close-up view 

Located approximately midway between Thibodaux and Raceland (7.5 miles from Thibodaux, and 8 miles to Raceland), the larger community emerged from several small farms and plantation communities including Melodia, Bush Grove, Blouin, Ariel, Oak Grove, Home Place, and Scudday plantations on the east bank of Bayou Lafourche and several other farms on the west bank.

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Landry Morello Oak, approximately 28 feet in girth, St. Charles area

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.

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