Raymond viguerie oral History Tape Begin tape # 16



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Begin tape # 16

Interviewer Emelia PITRE - Transcription by Phil CHAUVIN Jr.



[Start by stating your name and when you were born.]

I am Raymond {Wilbur} VIGUERIE, my wife is Rea GUIDROZ, I was born in Montegut in 1915 {6 Aug.} and I lived in Montegut until I was twenty-one years old. The only time lived out of Montegut, was when I went off to school. I finished at Spring Hill in Mobile, Alabama.



{VIGUERIE family 1920 Terrebonne Parish Census Ward 6.}


VIGUERIE, Arthur

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41

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hotelkeeper




VIGUERIE, Arthur C.

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16

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VIGUERIE, Russell

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14

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VIGUERIE, Hilda

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12

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VIGUERIE, Francis

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10

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VIGUERIE, Kenneth

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8

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VIGUERIE, Raymond

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4

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VIGUERIE, Andrew

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2

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[Is that college?]

That is Spring Hill High School. It is associated with Spring Hill College. When I finished there, I went to Grand Couteau, LA to the Seminary, a Jesuit Seminary over there. I spent a couple of years there.



[When was that?]

I finished at Spring Hill in 1933. I was in the Seminary in 1934 and 1935. I left the Seminary and then I married {November 8, 1936, Bourg, LA} Rea {Rea GUIDROZ d/o Joseph Lucien GUIDROZ & Mavelia AUCOIN}.



[In what part of Montegut did you live?]

We lived in the first house below the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church property was originally donated by my family {ca. 1842}, to build a Church.



[What is the name of the Church?

Sacred Heart, and we were in the same yard as the Church, practically.



[What was it like when you were a little boy in Montegut?]

When they brought me to be baptized, I was born on the 6th of August. Father Kouiak (sic) was the pastor at that time. He nick-named me “Sees Sous” – six cents. I stayed with name for a long time. The Montegut School was built in 1912, the building is still there. I can’t remember going to any other school, I think that is the only school they had. My Uncle Albert was one of the planners that formed the “Terrebonne Parish School Board”. Uncle Albert VIGUERIE and my father Arthur VIGUERIE had the Plantation and they were shareholders in the sugarhouse down there.


[The house was part of the plantation?]

The house is still there. Now they have a new rectory there, where the old church was built, the old church burned down. We were in the same yard, as the church. Father COLOMB was the first Priest that I can remember well, to say mass, as it was right next door.


[Is it the same Church building?]

No, the old church was a wood frame building. They had a nice alter in it. It burned down, I don’t know the year, this church was built after.



[Do you know the year the first church was built?]

I have no idea. It was there when I was born. It didn’t bother me when they had built it. We were country people, everybody down there were country, so our yard was divided in an area, where the fruit trees were, they had two separate chicken yards, a place to milk the cow and we had stables for the horses. My father owned the Plantation, he rode a lot of horses. He rode a horse in the morning and rode another one in the evening. He would let them rest, so he always had three or four riding horses. We grew up riding horses. The whole family rode horses.



[Was it basicely a sugar plantation?]

It was a sugar plantation. The horse business down there was pretty good. The mules were a tremendous thing. A plantation of the size they were operating took about 100 mules. They were not the small mules we know now, they were tremendous mules for sugar farmers. They were bought in Kentucky or Missouri. Periodically, I remember, my father going up and buying mules in Kentucky and he would buy a carload of thirty or forty mules at a time. Maybe not only for him but, for other planters.



[What were they using the mules for on the plantation/]

The mule took the place of the tractor. There was no mechanized farming. They had a little of it. a few tractors. I remember my father buying several different tractors, but they did not use them a whole lot, because they were not perfected, too much.


[Motorized?]

yes. The mule was the base of the economy, really, of the time, because without the mules, you could not produce all this sugar cane and all the things they do right now with machinery, all the plowing.


[Would the mules haul the cane to the mill?]

That was something you wouldn’t know, unless you grew up at that time. You see there was a narrow gage rail line, that went from Montegut all the way to Ashland Plantation, where it hooked up with the regular Southern Pacific Railroad. This railroad was built by the sugarhouse, the corporation that built sugarhouse, in which my family was a partner. It came to all the plantations. It went down below Montegut, to Sanders Plantation. There was a railroad bridge there, to cross the bayou. It was a narrow gage railroad. I remember two locomotives, one was named the “Clara” and the other was named the “Laura”, that was named after my aunt. They were my father’s two sisters. The “Clara” was a little saddleback.



[Tell me what a saddleback is.]

If you remember in the cowboy pictures, they would throw a pack over the back of the saddle. There was a pouch on each side, which carried what ever they needed to on their horses. A saddle back locomotive was built like that, it had a boiler in a pouch on each side, I don’t know what the pouch was for, I was too young, to investigate something like that.



[Did the railroad follow the bayou, more or less?]

It followed the bayou on the east side of Bayou Terrebonne and it stopped at every plantation. Every plantation had a spur. They would load the cane on this railroad, and the locomotive brought it to the mill in Montegut.



[Do you know about how many Plantations, there in Montegut?]

[Let me ask you this first, was there boat traffic in the bayou?]

Up until 1925, we were getting all of our supplies by steamboat. The steamboats delivered to all the grocery stores and went down, when they got to your place. --- The orders were taken by drummers. The drummers were traveling salesmen. They came down the bayou and they called him a drummer, and he took your orders. He brought them back to in town or wherever the wholesale house was located. Sometimes in New Orleans. They sent your supplies down, they had to load it on steamboats, usually out of New Orleans, and they would transfer it to local “packets”. The steamer Houma, I remember the best, they had several steamers. The steamer Houma used to stop at all the grocery stores. If a plantation had ordered some particular stuff, they would stop there, too.


[What was the name of it?]

The Houma, like the City of Houma.



[They threw out what?]

The gangplank. It usually was a system of pulleys, that let it down, and they unloaded, --- off loaded, off the steamers. They were very dependant on the bayou. In fact, in Montegut, also the mail boat. The “Milka PELLEGRIN” family owned the mail boat. I don’t know where they would get the mail. I know at that time, they did not get that much, but they had to go get the mail, with the mail boat. The school kids were brought to school on a boat, too.



[What kind of boat would take the children to school?]

It was a regular old “Lugger”. They got on the boat and went to school.



[Was there families that would use their family boat?]

No, this was a boat hired by the School Board. The School Board must have been organized in 1900 to 1912, somewhere around there. I would not know those dates, but before that time, there was no real organized school system. Then the planters, the people, who had the money in those days, organized it and taxed themselves to put in the school system. So they were a pretty forward looking bunch. The schools they built in 1912, around that date, most of them are still there. There were hardly any more schools built until the 50’s.


[Were they school busses or school boats?]

School Boats in that period of time, then the busses came in. Mr. Wilson ELLENDER {h/o Lucille DESROCHES m. 16 May 1910, in 1920 census, f/o George, Louis, Florence and Nola Rose, he was son of Thomas ELLENDER & Evela DUPLANTIS} used to bring his family to school. The boat did not run up there or he did not want the kids to ride on it. They lived on Pointe-aux-Chene, so he had a,-- you heard of “a sulky with a fringe on top,” well he had a sulky like that. It was a two-seat buggy. It had a canopy with a fringe around it. He brought his family to school, in that buggy.


[What was the road like?]

Dirt.


[Did it follow the bayou?]

It followed the bayou, only on one side. The road on the other side is fairly recent. It hasn’t been a long time since that road has been built. I remember when they built the road. They built up the road, and put gravel on it. The roadbed was built up with mules. They had a mule scoop, with two handles on it, they would drive along and it would loosen up, and they built up the roadbed. Prior to that, every person was responsible for the road that passed in front of his place. If someone got stuck on your road, you were obligated to go pull him out. There were no cattle laws, so there were cattle all the way along the road there.



[How did you travel then, say you wanted to go to Houma, how would you travel there?]

I was born in the period, when the automobile came in and stuff like that. I can only remember going to town in a Model “T” Ford or some kind of car like that. I have gone into town with a wagon. My father had relatives living in Houma. Everybody would burn firewood, so he cut wood from the plantation, had it dry and at the beginning of winter, form an excursion over ther. It was a big thing, because they would load up four or five of those big cane wagons with firewood. They were all four mule teams. The plantation people were mostly black, not all black, they had a few white. They took their families and went to town. It was a big thing, like us going to New York City now, I guess.


[When they got there, what was there to do in Houma?]

Well, there wasn’t much. I remember we had a little black boy, that stayed with us, he lives in Montegut, right now, we had two boys, they had a room on the back of our house, especially for them, and they lived at home. One was a playmate to my brother and the other was mine. We were together all the time. They were younger, particular the one with my brother was younger than us, he had never been to Houma. I can remember the first time we took him to Houma, he had no idea what he was going to see, or anything like that. He was about seven years old, I guess, maybe eight. I can still remember, “Bull Giant”, we called him, he was William, that was something else. I remember taking him to his first picture show. Shows were not like they are now a days. They ran the film off, then a news reel and some comedies. So we went to the show, “Bull Giant” did not sit with us, he had to sit in the balcony, so we told Bull, that when you come to a part that you have seen before, come on out, that is where we came in. So when they happened to repeat a scene, after he was in there for about 10 minutes, they repeated a scene, he had seen before, so he came on out. We were pretty naïve and unsophisticated, I guess you would call it, in those days.


[Could you remember the name of that movie theater?]

They had the “Grand Theater”. The movies were silent, they played music, they had somebody, in there, playing the piano. They watched the movie and played the music for it.



[Was there any live entertainment on the stage?]

Very little, we would sometimes go to New Orleans and go to theaters like the “Sanger”, it had live entertainment.



[Getting back to Montegut, why is it named Montegut?]

From what I heard, Bourg was named for one of the men in the Court House, his name was Bourg. When the post office people set up the Post Office in Bourg, they had to have a name, the area was called “Canal Bellenger”, because of the canal that {Hubert} Bellenger had dug, to transport the sugar, so water traffic could connect some way, to get to New Orleans. Montegut was named after some fellow that was clerk of court or some capacity lie that, in the City of Houma. I don’t want to be quoted as factual on that. It doesn’t have a French name, it was named after him, of course Bourg {in French} would be book. {To the best of my knowledge, the Postal Department named the area after the store owner, where the mail was brought. Most likely a BOURG was the owner of the store there and Gabriel MONTEGUTR owned the store that became Montegut}



[What are the boundaries of Montegut?]

Montegut is designated by Ward lines. Really. Montegut is the 6th ward. It starts off about a quarter mile below the Bisland Cemetery. There was a big colonial home at Bisland at one time.


[Is that where Bisland Plantation was?]

Yes, Bisland had a plantation there. Montegut went down until thee was no more land. We are talking about no more land. My family would bring wood to them. Some of them were the BLANDS. My cousin Annette BLAND’s husband died in the flu. I don’t know what year the flu was. I was about two and one-half years old, so it must have been in 1917. My brother wasn’t but a year old. My mother {Eloise Elizabeth Louise CHAUVIN d/o Augustin Filmore CHAUVIN & Marie Emeline HOTARD, b. 27 Feb. 1883, d. 13 Oct. 1918} died in that flu. Annette VIGUERIE {d/o Jean Pierre VIGUERIE & Marie Elvire DELAPORTE, niece of his grandfather Francois VIGUERIE}, was married to {William Henderson} BLAND, her husband died, she was with no means of income. Daddy was left with seven kids, so cousin Annette came down and stayed with him. Annette and her daughter Vivian BLAND {b. ca. 1893, d. 22 Sep. 1981, never married} came live with us. Annette {b. ca. 1870 d. 13 Mar. 1945} used to tell me, she was older than me, she told us a lot of stories about the time. {Note for more on the VIGUERIE family, see TLL v. 6 Winter page 53} Grandfather had a summer camp, a summer residence on Timbalier Island, the VIGUERIE’s still own some of Timbalier Island. He bought this, for what purpose, I don’t know. He must have had a beach house or, he must have had a big place, because a lot of people went down and stayed with him all summer. He was rather wealthy. So cousin Annette tells me, they took a buggy from Houma and went to Montegut, to go to Timbalier Island. Imagine going to Timbalier Island on a buggy, you have 35 miles of water, almost. They would ride a buggy to Caillou Island. At Caillou Island, they had a ferry. It was pulled across from Caillou Island to Timberlier Island, by a mule. The mule walked in the water, so it must have been awful shallow. You would drive your buggy up on the little barge, which was the ferry, and the mule would pull you a cross and you would get off on Timbalier Island. All that is gone. I can remember when there was land almost all the way there. There are big bays and things like that now.


[How far down did the railroad go?]

The railroad went jus about everywhere the big sugar planter were, {Allen A.} Sanders Plantation and another Live Oak, was below Sanders. It stopped only about two or three miles below Montegut. They hauled cane also by barges. They used a steamboat. They would bring a barge up to your place, and you had a cane hoist by the bayou. You drove your wagon of cane there and unloaded it and put it in the barge. The steamboat came by and brought the barge to the mill.



[The steamboat pulled the barges?]

When it got to the mill, they unloaded the cane and put it in box cars. The refinery was set up to take cane from the railroad. It went around to the yard, where they held the cane. The whole boxcar was weighed, and it was brought into the mill, unloaded, it went back to do its job.



[What were some of the names of the plantations?]

Below Montegut was the Sanders Plantation and Live Oak {Plantation} was Henry ELLENDER, {brother of Wilson ELLENDEr, previously mentioned} but the original people I don’t remember. They had the DUGAS down there. That is an old family, the DUGAS. In fact, the Cemetery down there is called Dugas Cemetery. I have a brother and mother buried in it. Dugas Cemetery. There was evidence they had rows all the way down, I remember seeing them below Madison Canal, so they must have farmed down there too. The railroad didn’t go there, so they must have brought their cane in with barges. That is something I can’t really fill you in, though. I do not know very much about it.



[When they were able to reach Timbalier by land and buggies, was that by barge?]

No, Bayou Terrebonne banks were pretty solid, but it diminished the amount of high land the further you went down there.


[When was that, what year about?]

It must have been in the 1800’s. The storms had washed, all of this out, I don’t know the dates of them. The first hurricane I can remember, our house was relatively strong, compared to the other houses, and it was high off the ground. The house started to shake, big as it was. The house was serviced by three big cisterns, which were built on a brick foundation. They were about five or six feet off the ground. The bricks were made in a circle and they had a little door. That room was used to store things underneath the cistern. Most of the plantation people were in the house. They moved into the cistern foundations. The eye of the storm must have passed, and they began to get worried. What if there was going to be high water. They could remember {Chenier} Caminada {October 1, 1893} and those places {Last Island}, {The storm of September 29, 1915, see TLL v. 12 Winter pg. 66}. They had heard about those, so they decided to get out of there and go to the store, which was a big strong building. I don’t remember the wind blowing very much. The store had a warehouse on the side. We went to the store, which was a mistake, because the storm had blown the warehouse roof off and we had to leave. I can remember a rescue at that time, that was dramatic, having a number of young men there, and they had this woman, she is still living, I think her name was Lyle WILLIAMS. When she was coming across the bridge, it was a swing bridge, it broke loose and was swinging around and Lyle was caught on the bridge and she couldn’t get off of it. She was yelling out there, of course, and they went over there and lassoed the bridge, and tied it down so Lyle could get through. The tidal wave came through, then,


[Was that when you was a young boy?]

Yes, I don’t know the year of the storm, but I can remember it real well, I must have been about six or seven years old, that would put it in 1921 to 1923, or about then. That was when wonder lake was formed. The water started coming up, so we left the store, the wind was still blowing, and we went back to the house. Everybody went back under the cisterns, it was the safest place, and then the water came up. That was the only time I have ever seen water in Montegut at that point, around where the sugar mill and houses, and what have you. They must have had a tremendous surge of water somewhere. Back of Montegut, there is a lake they call Wonder Lake, it once was called “Viguerie’s Lake”, it was on some property we had. It was floating marsh. When the surge of water came in, the marsh just floated up and a lot of it ended up in Montegut. The lake is still there. It is a beautiful lake. If you get a chance to go to Wonder Lake, you go, because you can hardly believe how pretty that is. It looks like a “Post Card Lake”. It was mostly fresh water. It was formed during the storm. It will show you what the devastation a hurricane can do.



[Was it a tidal wave?]

I presume it was a tidal wave or some surge of water. A good many people lost their lives down there.. Dupont’s had a camp down there, no the Dupont’s lost their lives in the other storm.

End of tape # 16, begin tape # 17

[Going back, you spoke about the house, cistern and the general store.]

I was born with a silver spoon, so we had things that a lot of people did not have. We lost everything when the stock market went down and the sugar cane borer came down and they could hardly produce a crop. Then we had a couple of storms that flooded the land, so we immediately got poor too. We went to school in a pretty good schoolhouse, and it is still there down in Montegut, but additions have been put on to it. We had to bring our lunch. I can remember going to school and these boys would bring their lunch and they had home made bread and fried salt meat. Everybody would put up their own salt meat. My daddy had this general store, so we had ham and cheese available, along with our boiled egg or whatever. That was our lunch, with sliced baker bread, they called it. When we get to school, we would swap lunches. I wanted that home made bread with fried salt meat and a baked sweet potato, maybe. They wanted that ham and baker bread. It all depends on what you are used to, coming up. It tastes good or seems good to you.


[Where would you get the baker bread?]

The time I am talking about, I must have been in sixth or seventh grade then, I jumped ahead a few years. The baker would come from Houma. They had a baker wagon, and used to come. They had two bakers that used to deliver all the way down there. Fresh bread every day. They had wonderful bread, French bread and then they started with slice bread. That was something else.



[How was the plantation set up?]

The main part of the plantation, where the people lived was called the quarters. On this particular plantation, the road as it is now, had houses along it and another road, with houses on both sides. There must have been about 20 houses on it. There were about 20 families working on the plantation. They worked there all the time. Thee stableman had a house, he was a very important person, he had to know all about mules. The blacksmith, was very important. He usually had help and the stableman usually had help, also. One interesting thing, that was peculiar to plantation life, we had spoken previously about bringing the mules from Kentucky, well these mules were just halter broke. They were young mules and they were broken, so you could lead them around with a halter. They had never been ridden or broken to a plow. So when these things happened, that they had to bring in mules, like for instance, the plantation needed ten mules, I can’t be factual about this, but I think this is the way it went. A man like my father, would be commissioned by three or four other planters, to go to Kentucky or go to Missouri, wherever they raised the mules, buy the mules, bring them down , and each took their portion of it. To keep the expenses down, I guess. I remember my father coming back singing “Ta-ra-ah-boom-te-a”. He must have hit a few hot spots. He was a bachelor, you see. But anyway, they would bring the mules and each would take the number of mules you commissioned him to pick up. Then you would have, like a rodeo. You had to break them in. All of the people on the plantation would take part in the rodeo. They would get some kind of prize, if they could ride the mules or whatever. These mules were parceled out to the hands on the plantation. There was one man, the overseer’s assistant, who parceled out these mules, to the different hands on the plantation. Your pair of mules, the mules you got were your mules, just as if you had bought those mules. Nobody could borrow your mules, no one, say if, you wanted to plow a garden on a week-end or something like that, and you wanted to use this man’s mules, because he had a mule that was good for plowing gardens, he couldn’t go and ask the boss fro the mules, you had to ask the overseer, and man whose mule that was, to use that mule. Many a fight went, because some one used someone else’s mule. They were very particular about their mules. In the harness rooms, where they kept all their harness, every man had his own sets of harness, in there. They embellished them, decorated them, flowers out of leather and stuff, sewed them on and took care of them. Some of them took care of them haphazardly, you see, you couldn’t touch another man’s harness. You had to get his permission. A lot of times, he would not give permission, he would go with them, rather than give permission to use his harness. They were very possessive about their mules. Their mules were their mules. Old Batiste NIGHTSHADE was telling me, everybody worked for the mules. He said the biggest buildings on the plantation was the corn crib, the hay shed and the stables. The blacksmith shop, repair shop for the equipment and the harness house, was all for the mules. The biggest investment on a plantation was in the mules and the equipment it took. Half of the plantation was planted in corn and hay, to feed those mules. The mules were the backbone of the whole thing. When they brought the tractors in, they must have put a lot of people of business, in Missouri and Kentucky and those places. These mules were not the light mules we see nowadays. I don’t know the weight, but they must have weighed 12 to 14 hundred pounds.

[Was there sugar houses on the plantations?]

The sugar houses went from one man operation to co-op’s, like Terrebonne sugar mill, the mill at Montegut, it was owned by half a dozen different planters. They owned their own particular share in it. My family owned a share in the “Terrebonne Sugar House”. My uncle Albert VIGUERIE, was the manager of the sugarhouse, he lived in the big house at the sugar mill. My daddy managed the plantation and the General Store. You had asked me, what was the set up. The first set up was the houses where the people stayed, the mules in the mule lot and the blacksmith and all that related stuff. The general store usually sold everything. The hands from the plantation were not required to, but usually dealt at the store, because they could get credit. Like everybody still needs. (Laughing). The general store was the old type general store, with pickle barrels and salt meat, cheese, with underneath the wooden cover, the cheese cutter. In the line of cheese and eating, this came a little later on, I must have been 13 or 14 years old, they learned how to catch the shrimp with the trawls, and caught them in quantities, their boats had motors in them. They were able to trawl. William PRICE and some other people opened a peeling house. A shrimp factory, they called it, in Montegut. When the shrimp were in, the people from all around came to peel shrimp. They paid you by the bucket. They had a little metal bucket, that would hold about a half gallon, I would say, you peeled and put the shrimp in it, and they leveled it off and paid a dime to peel a bucket. Women could peel the dickens out the shrimp. When we would get a chance, young boys, would go down there and try to make a few nickels. We would peel shrimp, imagine a young boy peeling a half-gallon of shrimp, it would take him a good while. We were up to making twenty-five cents. When we got twenty-five cents, we would quit. With the twenty-five cents, you went to the general store and bought a nickel ginger cake, which was two and a half by five inches stage plank ginger cake. You got two of those for a nickel and you got a dimes worth of cheese and then you bought a bottle of pop. Those bottles would put today’s bottles to shame, because they held twice to three times, what they hold now. That left you a nickel to buy some candy or something. You would live it up for twenty-five cents. A nickel ginger cake, dime cheese, bottle of pop and a nickel left over. When we got home, we had to wash our clothes and catch some kind of sam. “Why didn’t you come home and eat, we have all kinds of stuff to eat here, instead of going out and get your clothes all stinky?”


[Where was that factory?]

In Montegut, about the middle of where Montegut is right now.



[Was there other people living on the plantation that made their living other than on the plantation, like fishing?]

Where the plantation stopped, right below our house, they had this general store in Montegut and the school house, the town of Montegut, these were all tradesman for one way or another. They were sugarhouse workers, barber, constable, down there, Justice of the Peace.



[Where was the center of town?]

The center of town was right where it is right now. From the schoolhouse to Sanders’ plantation, about a quarter of a mile, I guess. Then they had some fishermen. The fishermen lived all the way down as far as you could go. The Rhodes family and the Cenac’s, all got their start down there.



[Do you know some of the family names that were in the sugarhouse?]

There was the Guidry’s, the Ellender’s ---



[Did the sugar mill have a name?]

Terrebonne Sugar Company. The plantation the family owned was Point Farm Plantation. It is a long point going out into the marsh. It is seven miles to the tip of it. It was good land, all the way.



[Who owned that?

The VIGUERIES owned that, it was called Point Farm, because it was a point.


[Tell me where the railroad passed.]

The railroad went from Montegut to Ashland where it made a connection with the main railroad. On the way up from Montegut to Ashland, it passed thru a number of plantations, the first was Point Farm, my family plantation, it had a railroad bridge, a spur of the railroad crossed Bayou Terrebonne and went back on the plantation, for a number of miles. Then it came up to Ellender’s {plantation}, this was the next bridge. The Ellender’s had a bridge at Pointe-aux-Chenes, the road to Pointe-aux-Chenes was originally the railroad. It had a spur that crossed and picked up the cane there. The next plantation was----I can’t remember the name, a Leblanc had that plantation, so there was a spur there that crossed Bayou Terrebonne. It had to be a heavy brides, to hold the cars.


[Did the railroad bridges open?]

Every one would open. They were open all the time, they only closed when the train came and when they needed to work the property on both sides. The fourth one was at the Ellender’s plantation, the fifth one was a Kondyke. There was one in Bourg and I think there was one around Presquille, I am not sure about that one. I am pretty sure there was one. When you got up near Myrtle Grove, which is where the air base is, they had a little railroad of their own, they had a spur that crossed over, that was a railroad bridges. There were quite a few. The railroad was a big thing.



[They crossed to here?]

On the Kondyke spur.



[I want to get to the lumbering, the road here, was called?]

The Bourg – Larose road.



[Was there always a path between Terrebonne and Lafourche?]

No, at the time when I was born, there was no connection, between the two places, maybe just a walk through the woods. People went from one to the other, but there was no commerce. They walked through the woods over there or by boat. They had a few people that were living in the woods over there. Most of these settlements, like you have at Grand Bois back there, the land was cleared out by the lumber company and many people moved in. There was a few “Grab Bois”, we called them, that always did live in the woods.



[How far did this railroad go?]

The railroad just went about a mile, for this spur. It satisfied the needs of the plantation. The plantation went further. I don’t think the Ellender’s went more than a mile or so, maybe two miles. Point Farm had a longer spur, maybe three miles.


[Let’s get into lumbering a little bit. You said you were involved in the lumbering a little bit?]

I have saw-milled for a good portion of my life. I did a little bit of everything. I came up at the time when there was no big industry around and the oil field was just getting started, so we had to learn a lot of things. If they needed electricians, we got to be electricians or needed carpenters, we would be carpenters. One time in my life, I got into the lumber business. My brother Andrew and I built a “pecker wood” sawmill, a small portable sawmill. It was never a big operation. Being in that business, we kind of got into the folklore and hearsay, what have you, of what happened in the lumber business, and a lot of factual stuff. For instance some of the big tidewater cypress swamps were down this way, right back here at Grand Bois. The Ellender’s had plenty of it, and the Viguerie’s had a good bit down here. They were bought out by the St. Louis Cypress Company. The cypress trees were harvested by the St. Louis Cypress Company. They would send men in there to ---.



[What time are we talking about, 20’s – 30’s?]

We are talking about 1925, or there about.



[You said it was a big operation in the woods?]

It was a tremendous operation. The sawmill was in Houma.



[Why don’t you give me a set of how they would do that.]

I remember Batiste {NIGHTSHADE} telling me, he was working in the business. He was working with the pull boat people, at that time. These were the people who went out ad dredged the canals, then they set the pull boat up and ran a line out into the swamp, dynamited anything that was in the way, it might be a mile or mile and a half long. I have seen the evidence of them and you can’t believe they had things like that, in those days. It was a line to pull the main cable out. They had a pulley at the en of the line, lets say a mile away, there was a return line, and they would bring it back to the pull boat. It’s purpose was to haul the main line out there. I have seen some of the cables, and it looked like an inch and a quarter steel cable. It was a big thing, so they must have had a tremendous drum on there and powerful steam engines. They would ser up and the engineer would tell them, we will put a line here and harvest these trees. Before this was all done, the swamps had a lot of water in them, the trees could float pretty good. Before this was done, somebody had to go back there and survey the trees, get an idea where they were and set up as to how they were going to do this operation. They would send the men back there and they would deaden the trees, so they would float. They would ring the tree, cut the outer bark and the tree would die, the sap and all would dry out and the tree would float, so they could raft them, when they got them out of the swamp. The next operation was to go fell the tree. The line was surveyed so when they knock the trees down, it was in a herring bone pattern, they made all the heads of the trees fall one way. That was the thing, Batiste said they insist on. If it was anyway possible, that the head of the tree would fall and face the pulling line, so they could hook on to it and pull it out. It was a big operation.


[I was wondering what you meant by the pulling line?]

They would buckle the tree to the line with a thing they called the buckle, in those days.



[Now they still have the canals that were dug?]

Yes, the canals are still there. Anywhere you go and see a St. Louis Canal, the St. Louis Cypress Company dredged it. They was the big operators in this area.



[Was that the only way they would get the trees out of the woods?]

That and where the land was hard enough, they used oxen.



[Where did they get oxen from?]

An oxen is a bull that had his mind changed. (laughing). They raised them. Batiste was telling me that when they were finished with the oxen, they just fattened them up and fed them to the pull boatmen. (laughing) Poor devils. That was where they got the oxen from.



[The trees that were pulled out were just any kind of tree?]

They were all cypress. When they left it was clean, there was nothing left.



[When they felled the trees, they killed the trees near them?]

The nature of – these are all alluvial lands that were built by the Mississippi River or Atchafalaya River, or what ever river built them, I think we were built by the Mississippi. The nature of those things, this is a bayou and it floods, the water goes over the banks, settles out and build ridges, the land tapers off, on the sides and build the swamps. That’s where the cypress were. The cypress just wasn’t anywhere in the swamps, they were mostly on the edges of points, you see, so they were kind of in line, really. If you fly an airplane over, you will see that is the way the trees grew out, in this part of the country.



[The cypress was the only tree they harvested?]

In this area, that was the tree they were after. You can go right over there to Donner and they had a lot of other trees, like Tupler Gum.


[Where was this at?]

At Donner, on the way to Morgan City from Houma. They had a tremendous mill there. They had a lot of Tupler there. Tupler was a water tree, like a cypress. The St Louis Cypress Company was a tremendous operation, there must have been a lot of money behind them. They bought the Viguerie’s cypress rights. Then they cut the trees, hauled them in, whatever. When they bought the cypress, all the cypress was theirs, until they got out of the area.


[What happened to them after?]

They were brought to the pull boat was in the canal. The Idea of the pull boat, it was put in this canal, so when it brought the tree out, 90 percent of them floated, so they were rafted, made into a raft, and a steam boat would come and get them and bring them to the mill in Houma. The raft could be a mile long.



[How would they get there, would they use the bayou?]

They used the bayou. There was a percent of those trees, that wouldn’t float. They called them sinkers. When they came out, the log would sink, the men making the raft, would see them, they had hooks on poles, they would bring them up, they were light in the water, run a chain under and chain them to a log that would float.


[Was there a difference in the wood, when it got to the mill, weather it was a sinker or floater?]

In a part of my business, I used to go into areas that they had been logging, and I made a little study of this, one of my wife’s uncle was a pull boat operator, he told me, in the summer time, where ever they were operating, they did not lose many sinkers, because the water was warm and the men didn’t mind getting wet and they would go in it. In the wintertime, if the boss wasn’t around, if the log sank, nobody would go and get it. So if you can find a place where there was a pull boat in the wintertime, you would find a number of sinkers. The pull boat operator pulled the levers that operated the winches. He operted a pull boat for a number of years, so he knew where they were operating in the wintertime. I went back and pulled out quite a few beautiful sinkers and all the lumber was “A” grade. It was beautiful lumber. It was what we called cistern lumber. I will tell you a story Batiste told me, about Rea’s uncle, he was a hard worker, when he pulled the logs in, he would send the cable back and you had to hook another log on, and he would send it back again. When they were tired, and wanted to get a rest, they would tie the end of the cable to a big stump and he couldn’t pull it. They would fool around, like they were doing something out there, to relieve the pressure of the log, and they would get a break like that. He was pretty smart on the other end, so he figured this out. So one day they tied the thing to a stump, he put the strain on it and tightened it down and set the dog, so they couldn’t untie it, then he got the boss and went back there. (laughing) They were caught, that put an end to that. They couldn’t untie the cable, cause he had put a strain on it. (laughing). They were mighty slick, in those days too.


[How would they get the cable back out, somebody brought it?]

When I first started, talking about this, I explained that, they had brought a line out there, it was a light line, they would pull it there by mule or by hand, any kind of way they could get it back there, The block, the big pulley, we call it a block, was so big that it had to be carried back there in parts. It was assembled back there.

End of tape # 17 - begin tape # 18

There was that black man that I mentioned a few times in here {Batiste NIGHTSHADE}, in the times he worked with me, he taught me a lot of things. He was a real woodsman, I mean a woodsman of the first order. He worked over there in the big swamps over on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain, where they used Swedes and Norwegians, to get their trees out. They would highline a spy tree, it was stripped and used like a spar, on a ship. They hooked a pulley up at the top and guy line it, and run the cables out. They used these Swedes and Norwegians, because they were familiar with that. They came down here for the lumber business. Morgan City had a lot of them. Some of our good friends are descended from them, the Olsons, Spud OLSON, down your way. They were all mechanics and machinists and ship people.


[Did you speak French as a child?]

I will give you a little history of our particular branch of the {VIGUERIE} family. My grandfather {Francois VIGUERIE} came from France. He was a rather young man and settled in New Orleans. He got into the land business, they were four of them, boys. We don’t know if they got run out of France or whatever. Evidently they had a little money, and set up in business. My grandfather ended up selling lands and properties. You can hardly pick up a piece of land, around here, that doesn’t show ---. For instance that Kondike plantation, he had bought one time. He bought it and he sold it. That was his business. He was in real estate, really.


[Your grandfather, what was his name?]

Francois {VIGUERIE}. He ended up in Montegut. He decided to settle there, that was where his base of operations was. He started off Point Farm Planting Company down there. He was French, real French. There was no English connections with him. He married my grandmother {Georgians METCALFE}, a red headed woman, she was English. He was her third husband. I don’t know what happened to the other two. She was real English. My father was raised speaking English, drinking tea, and we carried all the English traditions. We had things like plum cake, plum pudding, mince meat pie, and stuff like that. The French people don’t have down here. We were raised with that. We had tea, we had regular tea breaks, just like they had their coffee breaks.



[What was her family name, your grandmother?]

She was a GARRET, one of her husbands was a GARRET. We trace her family all the way back to the beginning of the country. That is another long story, that one. In our household, we spoke English. Everybody around us spoke French. I grew up with a smattering of French. Mostly speaking English.



[When you went to school, the school was English?]

The school was English, when all the kids came, they spoke French, that is when they forbid them from speaking French and messed up the whole thing. All my friends spoke French. One time I had a sawmill, and I had a crew of men and none of them spoke English. I was saw-milling at one time and I had about six men working, and none could speak English.


[Did they understand you?]

I could speak enough French to run a sawmill and they were sawmill men, so they what we were talking about. The area down there was all French. We had a Doctor friend, Dr. MASSE, from Canada. We met him through my daughter, who was a nurse. He said he had come down to New Orleans and he could not find anybody, who could speak French. My daughter told him, my mamma and daddy are coming over here, so I will show you that there are some French people down here. When I got to Houston, at my daughters apartment, the Dr. lived in the same apartment house, she sent my wife over next door to borrow something, and ask for it in French. They later came and visited us down here and we took them down to Isle de Jean Charles, and showed him some people where English was a foreign language to them. I was bringing a boat from Beaumont, a week before Christmas, for her nephew. We were coming down the canal, and on the radio, tug boat people talking to each other, between boats, rather. Some of them were speaking in French. Her nephew said that is against the law, to use a foreign language on the radio. I told him, “Don’t you know English is a foreign language?” He laughed, it was the truth.


[Tell us what you have done with the bees, the queen bees.]

I hate to get started talking about the queen bee business. It is a long story. The reason for the business was just to raise bees and have honey. Bees are used for pollinating in a lot of places, and they have a late season. The flowere bloom early and the bees are not ready to pollinate them. They depend on people like we were, to furnish bees for them.



[When did you begin this?]

I did it off and on for about twenty years, I guess;



[And it varies?]

I started of in 36, when I got married, ‘til about in the fifties. It was quite an operation. When it was going the best, I had twelve hundred beehives. They were scattered out in yards, with 60 to 100 hives to the yard, separated by three miles intervals, all over the parish. We would rent a piece of land, and put the bees there. The reason for that is, I will tell you that later. Then we had a queen yard -.



[Would you say this was the largest.]

My outfit wasn’t the largest, but I managed “Red Stick Aviaries”, which was the largest in the world. I operated 3,000 nucleus hives, which was a small hive, of a sufficient size that the bees could raise a queen. We had 3,000 of these hives, and we raised queens, to sell to people that were furnishing package bees, to ship up North or where ever they were needed, and replace the queens in their hives, that were failing. This was quite an operation. We raised anywhere from 20 to 30 thousand queens a year.



[This was in and around Montegut?]

I was partner with my brother {Anthony Murray VIGUERIE}, and part of the operation was across the river at Convent. It was a better area for shipping bees over there. This was a better area for raising queens. It was a big business.


[Spell your last name for me.]

Ok. It is Viguerie, Raymond VIGUERIE.

Baptiste [NIGHTSHADE}had three of his sons working with us. He was kind of a patriarch kind of fellow, he ran the family and these three boys, working with us, along with the daddy, so at noon time when we stopped to eat lunch, we would sit on the logs and make a pot of coffee. The way he made a pot of coffee, he would take a stump, most of the cypress stumps around the mill, had a hollow in it. He would take one, not too big, lay two pieces of metal across it and put the coffee pot on top. He would start a fire in the stump, it didn’t take long, and you had your water boiling. You put your coffee in a sock, it was really a pouch, that looked like the toe end of a sock. We made a little ring out of wire, you put it on it and dipped it down there and made your coffee on the stump. Now that is the best coffee that can be made. When your coffee was finished, you took it out of there. So we would sit around the log talking. He was telling me one day, how smart the animals were. He said he was on a canal bank, where he had some chickens, over at Smith Ridge, he was just sitting there and being quiet. He was watching the bottom of the canal, the water was clear, it was just a big ditch, really. It had about two feet of water in it. There was a big crab sitting on the bottom, he was watching the crab, and the crab was sitting with its pincers up and open, just sitting there, waiting. Here comes a small snake, swimming across the water, and passed by the crab, the crab reached up and caught the snake with his pincers. There was a tumbling and shaking by the snake to get away, but the crab was just too big. The crab held on, until he cut the snake through and the crab turned the tail loose, the crab was smart enough to know the tail was not going anywhere. The crab brought the head end down and started heating on the head. That was the kind of fellow Batiste was, he could tell you stories like that.

[About the animals?]

About the animals? One day we were cutting behind the graveyard in Montegut, the Dugas Cemetery. We were cutting some trees back there, Buster STOUFFLET and two of the boys were working for me at the time and Batiste and the other boy came along and was picking moss. When we fell a tree, he would pick the moss out of it. He wasn’t working for me, he was just there to take advantage, when we cut the tree down. So I was talking to Baptiste, what we wanted to do, and he was getting ready to start on a tree, so while were talking, the two boys were taking off the Poison Ivy vines and cleaning it up, so we could start cutting, we didn’t have chain saws, in those days, so one of the boys said, hurry up pop, let me start. He said what are you in a hurry for? He said there is a coon up in that tree. When the other boy, that was cutting the moss, heard that, he started cutting some sticks, so I stayed there to watch the front. It wasn’t too big a cypress, and there was the old coon up in the top of the tree. They hurried up and got their sticks ready and they were going to cut the tree down, and when the tree hit the ground, they were run there and get that coon. What they didn’t know. was that the coon was digging out some honey. They had a hole in the tree up there and he was trying to get the honey out, so he had the bees stirred up. When they cut the tree down, grabbed the sticks, ran up to the top of the tree just in time to get those bees coming out there. (laughint) That was the funniest thing. (laughing) So that story is not worth keeping.

[That was pretty good.]

{Note all additions from Terrebonne Parish Census Records, Terrebonne Life Line Quarterlies and South Louisiana Vital Family Records.}



[Interviewer Emelia PITRE] {Transcribed by Phillip CHAUVIN Jr.}





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