Saint Francisville, Louisiana (December 22, 2021)

Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer came to mind when I stepped onto the balcony this morning. The shoreline and river were partially shrouded in low patches of fog and it was totally quiet with nothing in sight other than a lonesome tug pushing a long string of barges downriver. Very romantic in a river adventure sort of way. A gater or two gliding silently through the water was the only thing missing.

We were tied up at a faint little dot on the map 32 miles upriver called St. Francisville, Louisiana, population 15,000 including the 6,000 who are incarcerated. This part of Louisiana was settled by English and Scottish families in the 1700s who primarily bought Spanish land grants and became cotton planters. Jewish immigrants joined them in the early 1800s and slowly established businesses. At one point before the Civil War it is estimated that three quarters of the nation’s wealth was generated between Memphis and New Orleans putting these planters in the center of it all.

After breakfast our little group of four walked off the boat into the bright sun and navigated the steep wall of the levee to meet our bus for a tour of Rosedown Plantation. We got on the bus thinking we might have been silly signing up for yet another plantation tour since, as the saying goes, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Wrong! Rosedown, built in 1835 on the highest point of the plantation, has a stunning 8,000 square foot house, large formal and ornamental gardens (there’s a difference we learned), 12 outbuildings, and stately old trees draped in Spanish moss. It was one of four plantations owned by a prominent family that depended heavily on the free labor of their 450 slaves. Rosewood stayed in family hands until 1956, amazingly, when it was sold to an oil heiress and her husband who spent the following eight years and $10 million on the house and grounds. It was purchased in 2000 by the Louisiana Office of State Parks and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2005. This unusual history of good luck plus responsible guardianship plus solid construction plus advantageous location account in part for why it is such a treasure today.

The house is decorated as it was in 1850 with 90 percent of the furnishings original. The whale oil light fixture in the foyer, painted floor cloths (the precursor to linoleum), Canton (as in imported from China) grass floor coverings, punkah fan (also knows as a shoofly for obvious reasons) over the dining room table (operated by a slave child during meals), wallpaper, and jib windows were standard features in homes of the influential at the time. The totally forward thinking features of the house include six built-in closets and an honest to goodness (cold water) shower. Totally unique is a needlepoint done by the one and only Martha Washington.

Besides the standard outdoor kitchen, tool shed, men’s and women’s privies, chicken house, and woodshed, there was a large structure with one brick wall, three glass walls, and a glass roof that was used to keep delicate plants safe during the cold months. This orangery/conservatory was also used for concerts and gatherings. New to me is what is called a cold frame which amounts to steps down into a large hole in the ground that serves as a sunken greenhouse used to keep young plants warm in winter. I am not sure how it was decided what went in the orangery and what went in the cold frame.

Never missing a meal is our motto, so we were sure to be back on board in time for lunch. We ladies took the afternoon off (a nap for Cleone and a stroll on the levee and blogging for me) and the men took the shuttle into town to look around and do a little shopping.

We ended the day with short lectures on the hydraulics in New Orleans and the Battle of New Orleans before a show by Mario and Norm, our favorite entertainers so far.

For what it’s worth…..

Louisiana is the only state in the country that has parishes in lieu of counties.
There are 64 parishes.

John James Audubon painted 32 of his painting here.

Pecans are coming on strong as a cash crop in this area.

We passed quite a few newly constructed wooden pyramids on top of the levee bordering the river.
They will all be set on fire at the same time on Christmas Eve to pay homage to the old tradition of lighting bonfires to help Father Christmas find the homes of the children living along the river.

Spanish moss and mud can be mixed together to make a building material called bousillage.

Cajun style cooking comes from the French-speaking Acadian people who were
run out of Canada by the British and settled in Louisiana in the mid 1700s.

A story with a fun twist: France put New Orleans, the territorial capital of French Louisiana, on the market as a way to finance a war with England. The price: $10 million.
The U.S. sent delegates to France to hammer out the details.
Just as the deal looked promising the terms changed: no sale unless the U.S. bought
the entire Louisiana Territory for an additional $5 million.
The delegates readily agreed and sailed home to tell the president and congress about this unauthorized purchase. The U.S. borrowed $5 million from England (France’s arch enemy at the time)
and in a blink the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States.


6 thoughts on “Saint Francisville, Louisiana (December 22, 2021)

  1. Now I understand Dad’s Tom Sawyer joke much better

    Matt Mongeon, PMP, Technical Project Manager II
    Engineering Management Office
    PMP,ITIL Foundation, RCV, OSA, SOA, PPO
    5159 Federal Blvd., San Diego, CA 92105
    • 619.266.5675 (ex. 55675) |( 619.822.4661 | •


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