The Bouverans Oak

(The Bouverans Plantation Oak is located on the west bank of Bayou Lafourche on Highway 1 about 1.5 miles south of Lockport. In Lockport, Highway 1 turns away from the bayou, makes a large loop around the town, and then rejoins the bayou near the southern city limits of Lockport.)

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The Bouverans Oak, southeast view under canopy

The Bouverans Oak is registered with the Live Oak Society (#506), by Dr. Hebert Roy Graf, between 1974 and 1979, with a size of 17 feet in girth. As of April 2017, the oak is between 25 and 27 feet in girth – the exact measurement is difficult to determine because of a very large limb that branches away from the main trunk at about 3.5 ft. from the ground. The old oak predates the construction of the Bouverans home by probably 100 years or more. It’s an enormous and beautiful old tree with a long history. You’ll notice the two-story Bouverans home looks dwarfed to the right of the oak in the top photo.

In the 1780s, Jacques Lamotte received a Spanish land grant for this property.  It then passed through several owners before it was purchased in 1852 by Austin Cunio. Then, around 1856-57, Cunio planted his first crops and built several buildings on the property. It’s believed that Cunio named his plantation Arialo (from the French “ari” – meaning wholly drained, and “alo” or “alleu” – meaning land owned outright).

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Bouverans Oak, northeast view under canopy

In April 1860, Pierre Joseph Claudet purchased the plantation from Cunio and named it for his native village of Bouverans, France.  Within the next week, Claudet purchased several pieces of adjacent property until he had almost 1200 acres of farmland. Later, through marriage between the Claudet and Badeaux families, Claudet’s interests included several other area plantations on both sides of Bayou Lafourche.

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Bouverans Oak, study #5

The Bouverans house is a beautiful two-story brick and frame home and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It’s significant historically because it is a rare surviving example of the transition from Creole to Greek Revival architecture styles that began around 1820 and lasted through the 1860s in antebellum Lafourche Parish.

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Bouverans Oak, view of curving limb toward trunk

Except for a brief five-year period, the Bouveran home has been owned by descendants of Pierre Joseph Claudet.  The current restoration was done by Pierre’s great-great-grandson and wife, René and Barbara Claudet.

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.

 

 

 

Clotilda Plantation Oaks

(The Clotilda Plantation Oaks are located at 5753 LA-308, Matthews, LA. They are approximately 5.5 miles south of the Raceland intersection of Hwy. 182 and Hwy. 308.)

There are 10 live oaks on the property of Clotilda Plantation that have been registered with the Live Oak Society. The trees range in size 10 feet 4 inches in girth to more than 20 feet. If you turn off of Hwy. 308 onto Barker Road, you can view the oaks and the plantation home more easily, without creating a traffic hazard.  Remember, this is private property and not open for tours.

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Frank and Florence Barker Oak, 20 ft. 1 in. girth

The oaks were probably planted sometime around 1874 when the property was purchased by Francis Gilbert Barker, a commission merchant and sugar planter from New Orleans. Francis Gilbert in partnership with a Mr. Leblanc purchased Clotilda and Ravenswood Plantations in 1874 from John Lyall to grow sugarcane. Francis and Louisa never lived at Clotilda and in 1902 Francis died, closely followed by Louisa in 1905.

Their son, Frank Leon Barker, was a prominent commission merchant and sugar planter living in New Orleans. Around 1907, Frank built the Clotilda plantation home on the site of a previous home that burned. He originally intended the home for him and his sister Melodia. However, Melodia preferred life in New Orleans. Then in 1912, Frank met and married Florence Vizard of Mobile, Alabama, and they moved to Clotilda in 1925. The Frank and Florence Barker Oak, the largest oak on the property, located near the front right corner of the home, is named after them.

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John W. Barker Oak, 18 ft. 1 in girth

At Clotilda, Frank expanded the family sugarcane operations to include a partnership in both Laurel Valley and Melodia Plantations, closer to Thibodaux. He and his wife lived the rest of their lives at the Clotilda home and the plantation today is owned by their descendants.

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Historic marker on Hwy. 308 in front of Clotilda

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.

Jamie Oak and its neighbors

(The Jamie Oak is located about a mile south of downtown Thibodaux at 567 Highway 308. On three or four neighboring properties north of the Jamie Oak are a number of live oaks that are in the same general age range – between 150 to 250 years of age.)

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Jamie Oak, study 2

The Jamie Oak was registered with the Live Oak Society (#3910) by Dr. James R. Peltier who owns this property today. With a girth of approximately 20 feet 9 inches, the Jamie Oak is approximately the same age as several neighboring oaks on property north of its location.

In an 1810 census of people living along Lafourche Parish, two neighboring land grants at or near the site of the Jamie Oak were occupied by Doucet family members.  The Doucet family properties were just northeast of where the Laurel Valley Bridge is situated today.

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Zeringue Oak and home (center and right), Knight home in background

Just north of the Jamie Oak (toward Thibodaux) are several other old oaks not registered with the Live Oak Society but with a similar girth and age range.  The Zeringue Oak (shown in the above photo) is approximately 22 ft. in girth. The Zeringue home (to the right of the oak in the above photo) is a renovated French Creole cottage design. According to Mr. Zeringue, the original walls of the structure are insulated with bousillage, a mixture of clay/mud and Spanish moss, horsehair, or other fibrous grass.

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Leblanc oaks and home

The neighboring Leblanc home (in the photo above) also has bousillage infill between the wall timbers (According to Mr. LeBlanc). Mr. Leblanc said he grew up in his family’s home (he now lives in a newer brick home across the highway and a younger family member lives in the older home) and he says the old oaks surrounding the home were just as large when he was a boy some 80 years ago.

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.

The Henry Oak

(The Henry Oak is located at 3648 LA Hwy. 1, just about 1/4 mile from downtown Raceland on the west side of Hwy. 1– It’s hard to miss. It grows near the property line between two private homes.)

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Henry Oak, afternoon light

The Henry Oak is registered with the Live Oak Society (#7715) by Madelyn and Victor Tedesco and Robert R. Thibodaux. The tree measured 31 feet 4 inches when registered. According to Madelyn Tedesco, the old oak is named after her father, Henry Boudreaux. Her family lived in the home (to the left and behind the oak) for many years and her father was an amateur gardener with a bit of a green thumb. She said he would often bring home plants and cuttings of plants, replant them in his yard or garden, and they always grew.  Madelyn and her husband registered the oak to honor Henry and his green thumb.

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Henry Oak, with new spring growth

The Henry Oak has the largest girth of any of the other oaks on the Bayou Lafourche Live Oak Tour and is probably between 300 and 500 years of age. It was a mature oak before the first French settlers made their way south down the bayou to the area that would become Raceland.

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.

 

The Martin St. Romain, Sr. Oak

(The St. Romain Oak is located at 109 Myrtle Drive in Raceland, about 1/2 mile north of downtown Raceland. Myrtle Drive is and on the west side of LA Hwy. 1.  The old oak is just a hundred feet or so down the street and on your left.) 

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St. Romain Oak, view down Myrtle Drive

The St. Romain Oak is named after Martin St. Romain, Sr. and was an early registrant with the Live Oak Society – # 505. When registered, the oak was 25 ft. 3 in. When measured in late 2016, it was 27 ft. 2 in. making it approximately 250 – 300 years old.  The property where the oak grows has been in the St. Romain family for at least two generations.

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St. Romain Oak, side view

Martin St. Romain, Sr. was born in 1895 on a cotton farm near Plaucheville, LA. He studied telegraphy as a boy and worked with the LR&N and the Southern Pacific Railroads as a telegrapher, or telegraph operator. During World War I, he served with the 113th field signal battalion and the 32nd Division in France.

After the war, he returned to his job with Southern Pacific Railroad and was transferred to Raceland in 1920 where he made significant contributions to the growing community. He worked with or organized several local businesses including the Automotive Life Insurance Co. and South Coast Gas Company. He also served with a range of civic organizations including the Lions Club, the Boy Scouts, the Francis T. Nicholls Colonel’s Club, and the Knights of Columbus.

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.

Blouin House Oaks

The double row of oaks in front of the Blouin house were probably planted in the late 1800s by Zephirin Toups, Jr. (son of Zephirin Toups, Sr., who lived about ½ mile north, up the bayou from this location). Zephirin Jr. purchased the property in 1874 from Alcide Chauvin who became his father-in-law when he married Marie Adele Chauvin in 1876.

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Blouin oaks, view down west row of trees

According to the Thibodaux Sentinel newspaper, Zephirin completed building a home on the property in 1894 (probably a small Creole cottage). The oaks surrounding the current home likely date to around that time – the late 1800s or early 1900s. Two of the oaks, one in the front right row, and another in the rear left of the house were knocked over by fierce winds from hurricane Betsy in 1965. Though leaning over almost to the ground, the oaks have survived.

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Blouin oaks, view from east corner of property

The property and oak trees later sold to the Joseph Blouin family in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and the current home dates to that time period. The Blouin family lived in the home until the late 1960s or early 1970s. As of this posting, the part of the property with the Blouin home and oaks is for sale.

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Blouin oaks view from east side of house

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.

Nicholls State University Oaks

(Nicholls State University is located at 906 East Highway 1 [or East First St]. The oaks on the tour can be viewed more closely by making a slow driving loop through campus—turn off Hwy. 1 onto Acadia Drive, then right on Glenwood Drive behind the administrative offices, then right again and out on Madewood Drive.)

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Oaks along Acadia Drive, view toward Hwy. 1

There are forty-five live oaks on the Nicholls State University campus that were relocated there in 1950-1951 from Georgia Plantation near Labadieville. They were planted on both sides of main campus streets: along Acadia Dr. and Madewood Dr., near the main driveway into the administration buildings on Rienzi Circle, and along Audubon Avenue along the north edge of campus.

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Oak, east rear side of Rienzi Circle

The oaks were donated to Nicholls and then planted by Mr. Leonard Lasseigne, the director of grounds for Nicholls at the time. Lasseigne was an avid gardener and live oak lover who is credited with planting many oaks in locations around Thibodaux.

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Oak and azaleas, east front side of Rienzi Circle

Though the Nicholls State Oaks are not as old as other trees on the Live Oak Tour, they are significant for the number of oaks on campus and the role that Nicholls State has played in the local history of Lafourche Parish. The school was founded by the state in 1948 and named Francis T. Nicholls Junior College of Louisiana State University.

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Oaks on corner of Acadia and Glenwood Drive

In 1956, Nicholls separated from the LSU system and was authorized by the Louisiana Legislature to develop a four-year curriculum. The former junior college began operation as Francis T. Nicholls State College and granted its first degrees in May of 1958. Then in 1970, through a state legislative act, the college changed its name officially to Nicholls State University.

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Two oaks in Quadrangle

The property on which Nicholls State University was at one time part of Acadia Plantation (described in a separate post).

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.

Melodia Plantation Oaks

(The Melodia Plantation Oaks are located on the east side of LA Hwy. 308 (not the bayou side), approximately 1/4 mile past the Webre Oaks, approximately 6.25 miles south of downtown Thibodaux, and 9 miles north of Raceland.  You are still within the community of St. Charles.)

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Melodia Plantation Oak and side of old schoolhouse

The Melodia Oaks are probably the least beautiful trees on the Live Oak Tour. Most visitors passing along Hwy 308 would notice the dilapidated buildings near the oaks and simply wonder what was once there. I’m including them because of the historic connection between Melodia and Laurel Valley Plantation, which is farther north on Hwy. 308 and about 2 miles from Thibodaux.

According to one local resident, the two weather-worn structures you see in front of the oaks are what is left of school houses. In the heyday of sugar plantations in the 1800s, they were filled with young children from Melodia Plantation and the surrounding area.

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Group of oaks at Melodia Plantation Road

Laurel Valley is one of the largest nineteenth-century sugar plantation still intact in the country. The two plantations, Melodia and Laurel Valley, were owned by Frank L. Barker (who lived at Clotilda Plantation below Raceland) and J. Wilson Lepine in the latter part of the 1800s, and the two properties were joined by railroad tracks and two working steam locomotives, enabling them to share one sugar mill (at Laurel Valley). The two locomotives, the Melodia B. and the Maud L. carried cut cane from Melodia to the Laurel Valley mill where it was processed and refined into sugar and molasses. From Laurel Valley, barrels of refined sugar and molasses were hauled back toward Melodia and on to New Orleans markets via the Melodia switch, a spur that gave the inter-plantation track access to the larger Southern Pacific Railroad line. Today, the Maud L. is still alive and chugging at Disneyland in Southern California, and Melodia B. is the hospitality operations train at the Santa Margarita Ranch, also in California.

Driving from Thibodaux , you will see the Laurel Valley Store and Village at 595 LA Hwy 308, right past the Laurel Valley Bridge. The general store is open to the public and guided tours are available. Surrounding the store, you’ll see old wooden houses and barns like what you would have found on the plantation in the 1800s. There are displays of tools, tractors, and farm implements used in the cultivation of sugar cane, as well as a steam-operated train similar to the two trains that once carried sugarcane between Melodia and Laurel Valley up until the 1930s.

If you take a turn off of Highway 308 onto Laurel Valley Road and drive 2 to 3 miles, you’ll pass through the remnants of the Laurel Valley community, a group of weathered and worn workers quarters as well as the ruins of the once massive sugar mill. Laurel Valley was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 24, 1978, and the restoration of the buildings along Highway 308 has been funded through the work of The Friends of Laurel Valley Village, a local non-profit group.

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.

Zephirin Toups, Sr. Oaks

(The Zephirin Toups, Sr. Oaks are located on an unmarked property approximately at 2115 LA. Highway 308. This is a group of 5-6 oaks set back in a line, about 200 feet from the highway with sugarcane fields behind.  The Joachim Oak and Telesphore Oaks are on the property immediately next door or south of these oaks.)

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Zephirin Toups, Sr. Oaks

I identify these trees as the Zephirin Toups, Sr. oaks because this was the original location of Zephirin Toups, Sr’s. home, built circa 1866 and moved in 1974 to a new location. Zephirin was of German descent. His father, Telesphore Toups, Sr., was born in Louisiana’s German Coast, and his father, Gaspard Toups, immigrated to Louisiana in 1721 with one of the first groups of Germans to settle along the Mississippi River in the area of present-day St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes.

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Largest oak, north end of grove

Philip Toups, Zephirin’s great, great, grandson provided this excerpt from Zephirin’s obituary: “All of his (Zephirin’s) life was spent in this neighborhood (the St. Charles Community) and he, along with his brother Olezie… were pioneers in settling and reclaiming lands in what is now one of the fairest and most fertile spots in the Valley of Lafourche.” Zephirin died in his home (where these oaks still stand) on October 2, 1908, at the age of 81.

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Zephirin Toups, Sr. home, prior to moving it in 1973, courtesy of Philip Toups

The Zephirin Toups’ home is on the National Register of Historic Places, and I felt the oaks at the home’s original location should receive some historic recognition as well. It’s likely that these oaks were already mature trees when Zephirin built his home on this land. They provided shade and shelter for his home and family and witnessed the passing days of their lives for many years. This link connects to the Louisiana Historic Preservation website with additional information about the Zephirin Toups, Sr. house, a one and one-half story frame structure in the French Creole style.

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Oak at south end of grove

The following poem was written by Philip Toups after he and his wife visited the home and before they purchased it and moved it…

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Bayou Lafourche was settled by a variety of descendants from these first immigrants to Louisiana’s German and Acadian Coasts — Germans, Austrians, French and French Acadians, English, Africans, Spanish, and Canary Islanders. They all made Bayou Lafourche their home, and over time, they merged and blended their various cultures into what today we recognize as Cajuns and Creoles.

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.