Category Archives: Louisiana History

A PRELUDE TO LOUISIANA – PART III

Comparing and analyzing the colonial sources along with modern studies of archaeology, tribal histories, and Native Louisiana folklore, a picture emerges of nomadic groups who survived along the edges of the marsh and the various rivers and bayous that is the Gulf Coast of south Louisiana. It may be useful to compare their wanderings to the semi-nomadic lifestyle of the buffalo hunters of the same era on the North American Plains or even further afield to the mammoth hunters in the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic eras of Europe. In simple terms, all of these family groups and clan/tribes followed the migrating herds. Seasonal villages were built along the group’s migratory cycle. People came and went with the seasons or with the flux in population. Different groups merged together and broke apart as climate conditions, landscapes, game populations, and human politics demanded. Unlike our neat Euro- American farmsteads, settlements, ranges, and ranches, which we claim and call our private property, the Native Louisianans lived in the best places they could find, given the moment. During the moments around 1718, one of those places was on or near the portage between the Mississippi and Bayou St. John. 

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One of Louisiana’s earliest chroniclers, le Page du Pratz, settled at a spot on Bayou St. John in 1718. In the process of building his concession, he acquired a female Indian slave to keep house and cook (and, no doubt, to perform other wifely services). He writes that his lady is of the local ”Chitimacha” tribe. He also goes on to record that the Chitimacha danced the calumet ceremony (smoked the peace pipe) with and for Bienville at the new settlement being built at New Orleans (Pratz & Fortier). Also, on Bayou St. John (near the southern line of today’s City Park), another early settler, St. Denis, is said to have settled on land that was once an “Acolapissa” village (Phares, p. 39). The overall picture of the native population is clarified by the presence of another local bayou called the Tchoupitoulas, which connected to Bayou St. John from the west. Today, Metairie Road more or less traces its route, but in colonial times, it led to the country (settlements) of the Tchoupitoulas Indians. These people lived along the Mississippi in today’s Jefferson Parish. Some sources say that the Tchoupitoulas had disappeared by the time the French arrived. However, there is evidence that they remained there well into the nineteenth century, Mr. Meloney Soniat, writing in the Louisiana Historical Quarterly in 1924, tells of childhood memories of the Tchoupitoulas on his grandfather’s plantation-which was named after the Indians. 

“The Indians of the Tchoupitoulas Village were gradually driven away by the white settlers and moved over the lake in the neighborhood of Mandeville, there joining other tribes. Every winter, however, some of them would come back and camp on a piece of ground called Terre Haute, in the rear of the Tchoupitoulas Plantation, where there was a large grove of magnolias. There the Indians would remain until Spring, when they would return to their village near Mandeville. These visits continued until the United States Government had the tribes removed to the Indian Reservation. I remember that, as a boy, I visited the Indians on several occasions at Terre Haute, and saw their huts, which were built of palmetto leaves. The reason given by the Indians for coming from over the lake, was that the winters were less rigorous on this side, but the real reason, no doubt, was that the older Indians who had inhabited the village of the Tchoupitoulas were drawn back to the neighborhood where they, in their youth, had been accustomed to hunt and fish without interference from the whites; then again their descendants also desired to visit the hunting grounds of their ancestors.” (LHQ 1924; V7, #2, p.314 ff.)

 

 

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Filed under Louisiana History, Tri-centennial, 1718, 2018, 300th, anniversary, author, writer, speaker, teacher, non-fiction, Bienville, Iberville, Bayou St. John, Natchez, Indians, Native American, Tunica, Bayougoula, Mississippi,

1698: A PRELUDE TO LOUISIANA con’t

 

We left the French sharing their “Gallic” attitude with the Natives, and so . . .

If you ask the proverbial ‘New Orleanian on the street today’ about the local Indians who were here at the founding of the city in 1718, you will undoubtedly hear that the Houma, Choctaw, Tunica, Tchoupitoulas, and/or Natchez were here when the French arrived (if you get an answer at all). Several factors played into the creation of this local Indian lore, not the least being the white man’s tendency to group all Native Americans together as one large homogeneous people. Beyond this, the fact that today, the Houma, the Tunica-Biloxi, and the Choctaw are all still viable groups living in South Louisiana makes it easy to assume that these were the groups who were here in 1718. In truth, all of these groups were present in colonial Louisiana before and after the founding of the city. But of the Indians who actually lived in the New Orleans area (listed below) none of these tribes or nations are counted. Much of the confusion arises because most of the people who did live in the area spoke dialects of the Choctaw language, known as Muskhogean. Since these languages were pervasive in the New Orleans area, many of the Indians were simply called Choctaws by the Europeans. It must be stated clearly that while the local (New Orleans area) natives spoke versions of the Choctaw language, the Choctaw Nation itself was located by all the original sources far to the north of the Ile d’Orleans. So the question becomes, who were the local New Orleans Indians in 1718? 

Chitimacha? Acolapissa? Choctaw? Houma? Tchoupitoulas? The probable answer is all of them… and a few others as well. LaSalle, in 1682, called the local natives at the southern end of the great river the Quinapissa. These were the Indians whom Iberville sought to contact to unequivocally prove that he had come up the same river which LaSalle had come down. In his journals, Iberville names the natives he encountered upon his arrival in 1699. He notes that on his first voyage during the spring of 1699, the following groups were below the joining of the Red and the Mississippi Rivers; the Pascagoula, and the Bilocchy aka Biloxi (on the coast), the Bayougoula, Mougoulascha, Quinipissa, Moctoby, Chitimacha, Chaouacha, Ouascha, Houma, and the Tangipahoa (on or near the river). (Iberville, p. 40-65) By the end of March, 1699, Bienville and Iberville had come into possession of a letter left by Henri de Tonti with the Natives in 1685. This letter, as well as a book, and some empty bottles had been given to the Natives by Tonti before he returned to Canada. In the letter he calls the Natives the Quinipissa. The LeMoyne brothers knew the same Natives as the Bayougoula/ Mougoulascha. (Iberville, p. 89) On the river, the French appear to have dealt mainly with the Bayougoula group(s) during their early explorations, Iberville notes that the Quinapissa (read Bayougoula) had deserted a village on Bayou St. John some years before their arrival. (Iberville, p. 111) This same village was associated with the “Acolapissa” by du Pratz and St. Denis (see below). Prior to discovering the Tonti letter, Iberville further clarifies the identification of these groups as he records a discussion with the Bayougoula on March 14th. Within this conversation, Iberville learned that the Bayougoula, Mougoulascha, Quinipissa, Chaouacha, Ouascha, Chitimacha, and the Tangipahoa were almost certainly kinship groups. Group names and villages were constantly in flux, joining and splitting apart probably in response to local economic conditions. The dialogue revealed that the Tangipahoa group had been destroyed by a Houma raid and therefore the Quinipissa were thus reduced from seven to six villages (Iberville, p. 61).

 

Raids such as these were common among the various Native groups and contributed to the population flux. Small tribal groups, like the Bayougoula, et. al. were prime candidates for slave raiding by more powerful neighbors, The Houma, the Natchez, and the Choctaw (proper) made many such raids that further decimated the populations, European diseases, against which the Indians were defenseless, were also part of this scenario, These factors, disease and raids, are most likely the cause of the disappearance or absorption of the Tchoupitoulas. Finally, we must consider the Chitimacha. The tribe holds (on their website) that they were the original inhabitants of New Orleans. The truth in this tradition adds strength to the above population outline. Today, the Chitimacha are located just to the west of Greater New Orleans, and very likely were part of the kinship groups who wandered the lower reaches of the Mississippi, Lake Pontchartrain, and Bayou Lafourche areas, now joining, now diffusing from their kinsfolk taking advantage of the abundant natural resources of the area (http://www.chitimacha.gov/index.htm). 

TO BE CONTINUED:

 

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The Lakes of Pontchartrain; What a Great title !!!!

Since a title cannot be copyrighted, I feel no compunction in commandeering Mr. Robert W. Hastings’ entitlement of his excellent 2009 examination of the history, geography, topology, and biology of our Pontchartrain Basin. And seeing that the Bonnet Carre’ spillway was opened this past week, it seems like an opportune time to reflect on how the lakes influenced the development of Greater New Orleans and SE Louisiana 300 years ago. It is commonly accepted that New Orleans is where it is because of the Bayou St. Portage from the Vieux Carre to Lake Pontchartrain.

Before exploring the Pontchartrain/New Orleans relationship, an editorial opinion needs to be stated regarding the Native American name of the big lake, “Okwa’ta” . I cannot help here but to recall a reservoir one passes as I-40 crosses the Arkansas/Oklahoma border out of Fort Smith. The highway signs along the Interstate inform the traveller that this relatively large body of water (apparently a natural outflow of the Arkansas River) was known to the Native Americans as – Lotsawa’ta. C’mon folks, the Indian name for a big lake is lotsa water – give me a break! and now the Choctaws are telling us that Lake Pontchartrain is OK water. This blogger would very much appreciate any Choctaw speakers in the audience to give us European-Americans a clarification of this situation. Personally, I can accept a reasonable linguistic coincidence, wa’ta = water. But lotsa and OK give me pause to think that our Choctaw friends might just be pulling our legs a bit.

Now back to some history. While there “ is no clear evidence that any Europeans entered Lake Ponchartrain prior to Iberville (1699)…” p. 25 Spanish explorers of the northern Gulf Coast of the 1500s and 1600s knew of some kind of waterways in the region around the “lakes”. The Cortes map of 1520 may have been the first to actually depict the estuary in its approximate location along the coast west of Florida. The map shows two blobs at the mouth of two combined rivers named the Espiritu Santo as it opens into the Gulf. This could easily be the conflation of Mobile Bay, Lake Borgne, and Lake Pontchartrain with the mouths of the Mobile, Pearl, and Mississippi rivers. In later references, the lakes were often called bays (and also included the Chandeleur, Breton and Mississippi Sounds).

“ Even before New Orleans was developed, Lake Ponchartrain, Bayou Manchac, and Bayou St. John had become important waterways for the transport of goods to the French colony at Mobile. The voyageurs were active in the upper Mississippi Valley and would transport to Mobile by way of Lake Ponchartrain pelts, lead, bear’s oil, slaves, smoked meat, wheat, and flour, . . .” p. 37

In 1717 it was “suggested that store houses be built at “Biloxy on the Mississippi”, the future site of New Orleans, to shorten the journey of French Canadian voyageurs traveling down the river from the Illinois country. p.37

“Another idea presented long before its time was that of Darby (1816), who apparently was the first to propose a diversion of the Mississippi River flood water through an artificial channel at “Bonnet Quarre” to reduce the incidence of damaging floods along the lower Mississippi River.” pp. 38-39.

All of this information should remind us about the reasons for the European powers to push these efforts and spend lots of money on colonies. The prevalent economic theory in the 17th and 18th centuries was the Mercantile system. That is, the potentates and governments of the European powers back then wanted to establish colonies for two reasons. Colonies had natural resources and populations that could be exploited to increase a county’s wealth – in other words, to make money. The second reason can remind us of our own colonization efforts in 1990s and first decades of of this century. I am talking here about our colonization of the WWW. A common refrain during the fist dozen years or so of the Web’s existence was we (individuals, companies, and corporations) need a web site – why? – because our competitors have one ! – in other words, to make money. In the case of the emerging nations of the West in the 17th century, political and military power was also a driving force. To the point, Louisiana was founded by the French to exploit North American resources and to “balance the power” of Spain and Britain on the continent. The lakes of Ponchartrain were a vital conduit for the trade from and political/cultural expansion into the Mississippi valley.

Mention must also be made of the three very important connections in south Louisiana between the lakes and the extremely valuable trade highway we call the Mississippi. These bayou/portages formed the links between the easy passage through the lakes and the more problematic passage that the mighty river posed to navigation. First, of course is the Bayou St. John portage – the raison d’etre of our fair city. Water traffic from the Gulf and from upriver could easily be moved (in 18th century terms) to and from the city through the lakes and the bayou to New Orleans. Next upriver is the bayou/portage at Bayou Trepaigner (tre-pan-yay) at what soon became the German Coast and is today the Bonnet Carre. The third passage between the waterways was Bayou Manchac to the Amite river to Lake Maurepas. This outflow dis-tributary of the mighty river was very useful – but only during its annual floods. Constant dredging and tree removal hindered its year round use. Taken together these three passages to the lakes and the Gulf made a perfect trade route for traders and the furs and agricultural produce coming downriver from Upper Louisiana (aka the Illinois country).
Between the river and the lakes was THE natural place to locate the capital and chief port of Louisiana. It’s hard in these days of steam and diesel to visualize the amount the commerce that travelled over the waterways surrounding New Orleans. It was the fastest way to get cargo in and out before the railroads came, so it should come as no surprise. So next time you’re tooling around the lake in your Lafitte skiff or sailboat, or crabbing and fishing off the seawall, or even crossing the Causeway; the next time you’re at Spanish Fort at the mouth of the bayou, take a walk over to Robt. E. Lee Blvd and check out the Locks of Bayou St. John – say a silent thanks to that Bayougoula scout that showed the brothers LeMoyne where to build their city.

The page references above point to passages in Robert Hastings’ book, The Lakes of Pontchartrain  ISBN-13: 978-1604732719

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Popular History, Creative Non-Fiction, the Histoire; A Reflection (perhaps a rant)

I recently turned 66 (last Saturday, the 19th), and like most birthdays – especially ones that mark an “official” change in life, like reaching the full retirement age for my generation (according to Social Security)  – this past week has been a time of reflection.  Where have I been,? where am I going? what have I done? what is there left to do?

I thought today about 51 years ago (or was it a millennia or two ago) sitting in Nick Revon’s World History class as a sophomore at Aloysius and deciding then and there that I would be a Historian ! Then I thought about the ensuing 51 years during which I spent being an ALMOST Historian. You see, having a Bachelor’s and a Master’s does not make one an official anything. Even during my academic career as a teacher of historical content and actual History classes, having a Ph.D doesn’t even do it anymore (BTW, I never had enough money to get a Ph. D.). So, in my mind, perhaps paranoiac, perhaps self-defeating, I never achieved attaining the rank of  an official bona fide “Historian”. So upon retirement, 7 years before getting to full retirement age, I decided to write a history book. A book to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of my home town, the Queen City of the the South, New Orleans.

Thus I put on the mantle of Historian which (as followers of this blog know) has evolved into being a student and writer of Culinary History. As such, the 1718 Project has mostly morphed into The Petticoat Rebellion.

Noting the above, I have decided to proclaim in as official a manner as I can muster that this “Culinary History of French Colonial Louisiana”  enters the ocean of published books as a  – Popular History, sub-category Creative Non-Fiction and with the French connection – A Histoire.

To this end, I feel that I must – for my own peace of mind – substanitiate and justify my life’s work with the quotes of not one but two actual Professional Historians. The first is from none other than what was – if it still isn’t – required reading for all students of history in the last half of the 20th century; Mr. Edward Gibbon:

“The confusion of the times, and the scarcity of authentic memorials, oppose equal difficulties to the historian, who attempts to preserve a clear and unbroken thread of narration. Surrounded with imperfect fragments, always concise, often obscure, and sometimes contradictory, he is reduced to collect, to compare, and to conjecture: and though he ought never to place his conjectures in the rank of facts, yet the knowledge of human nature, and of the sure operation of its fierce and unrestrained passions, might, on some occasions, supply the want of historical materials.”

Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. opening paragraph, V. 1, Chapter 10.

The second quotation is from a modern, still practicing scholar from the University of Chicago, and a MacArthur Fellow, and an expert and published (official, by the way) author of a history of French Colonial Louisiana, Dr. Shannon Dawdy:

“… these memoires, letters, and travel accounts are “a useful kit of knowledge” called Histoire, a combination of both “story” and “history” histoires were often a mixed bag of natural and administrative history, astronomy, fashion and culinary critique, and good old fashioned storytelling in which the tall tales spun by the writer were at times self-serving aggrandizements, or worse, gross distortions of reality.”

Quoted in Greenwald, Erin M. Marc-Antoine Caillot and the Company of Indies in Louisiana. p. 5

And so, hopefully avoiding those “gross distortions of reality” I conclude my rant and set my sights on completion of Vol. 2 of The Petticoat Rebellion. Have also decided that since 2018 is virtually upon us, I will set up a New Age publication sequence, in which the second volume will be published digitally via this blog, or perhaps a distinct one for the book, and then followed by a print/Kindle version after the work is completed.

Thanks for bearing with me through this ranting and raving, but as the work moves forward here is the recipe for Riz-au-Lait (rice pudding) from the Ursuline chapter:

Rice Pudding/ Rice and Milk/ Riz au Lait 

3 cups cooked rice (equals 1 cup raw)
3 cups milk
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 T vanilla
1 t. Mace (or Nutmeg)

Boil the rice and the milk until the rice is mushy. Beat together the eggs and the sugar, add to the boiling rice and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the egg mixture sets. While cooking add the vanilla and the mace (or nutmeg). Stir all together, let it simmer for a minute or two. Put into custard cups to cool.

If you wish to use cook the rice especially for the pudding, remember, one cup of uncooked rice boiled or steamed yields 3 cups of cooked rice. Overcook the rice until it turns into a mush similar in consistency to mashed potatoes. At this stage, begin adding the other ingredients.

This is also one of those dishes wherein you can let your imagination run wild. For instance instead of or in addition to:

… mace and/or nutmeg, use cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, allspice, etc.

… add small fruits like raisins, currants, chopped apples, mashed bananas, chopped orange peel, strawberries, blueberries, etc.

… top with cinnamon sugar, cane syrup, (only Yankees 😁use maple syrup), cocoa, instant coffee, etc.

ENJOY and keep on reading!

 

 

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Filed under 18th Century, Creole Cooking, Louisiana History, NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018, Recipes

300 Years Ago: Summer, 1717. 

Jean Michiele de L’Epinay
Birthdate: circa 1665 (56)
Birthplace: Fougères, Brittany, France
Death: January 3, 1721 (52-60) Martinique
Occupation: Governor of French territory of Louisiana

Managed by: Joel Scott Cognevich, Last Updated: February 3, 2015

“Through patronage of comte de Toulouse, head of the Conseil de la Marine, Jean Michiele de L’Epinay secured appointment as governor of Louisiana on March 16, 1716. On October 21, 1716, while awaiting departure he was awarded the Cross of St. Louis. Left France in December 1716, he reached Mobile March 9, 1717, and immediately took over his duties as governor. During his short term in office he met with almost constant wrangling among various royal officials. Because of this, following the transfer of the colony’s trading rights to the Company of the West in late 1717 he was recalled on February 9, 1718. Shortly before leaving Mobile for France he was notified of his nomination as governor of Grenada. Before accepting his new position he was forced to defend himself against charges of corruption and malfeasance in office. Exonerated of all charges he sailed from France May 18, 1720, for Grenada, reaching there on June 28, 1720. Died, January 3, 1721, while visiting the governor of the French West Indies in Martinique. B.C. Sources: Marcel Giraud, Histoire de la Louisiane française, II (1958), III (1966); Emile Lauvrière, Histoire de Louisiane française (1940); Dictionary of Canadian Biography, II (1969).”

https://www.geni.com/people/Jean-de-L-Epinay/6000000010492638218
(accessed 8/5/2017)

Summary and paraphrases from Giraud, Vol. II, Chap. XII:

After Louis XIV’s death, the regency passed to his brother. Louisiana was still under the proprietorship of Crozat. Realizing that his business venture wasn’t going anywhere. Crozat began to extricate himself from the deal. In 1716, Cadillac was relieved as governor which left Bienville’s “boots on the ground” in Louisiana. In 1717, the new appointee of the Regency, Jean Michiele de L’Epinay, arrived to take over. Beinville was once again shoved aside, given the Cross of Chevalier de St. Louis and made Lieutenant de Roi (military commander ) to keep him quiet. Lepinay was destined to stay just a year in Louisiana, but Beinville became his chief local opponent despite his honors. The irony here is that while Beinville was an acknowledged master at handling Indian Affairs, Lepinay was quite the opposite. In fairness, the policy of the colonial authorities in Paris was to provide “constantly repeated distributions of gifts” and “kind actions toward” the Natives to guarantee their support. Unfortunately the Council never came through with any resources for Lepinay to effect such a policy. The new governor’s failures to treat with the Natives, whether through the policies of the council or through his own attitudes, resulted in a marked decline of relations between the Natives and the French. Fortunately, for the colonists, the long established connections between the colonists and the Natives, especially among the coastal tribes and the Natives along the lower Mississippi were able to outlast the temporary incompetence of the new governor.

“Louisiana” Natives according to Giraud; {Paraphrase}

In and around Mobile (the capital in 1717) were the Chaktaux or Chatot, and the Apalachee. On the rivers feeding Mobile Bay, were the Tawasa, the Mobilians, Taensa, Toome (aka Tohomé). Between Mobile and the Mississippi (what New Orleanians call the Gulf Coast) lived the Pascagoula, the Capina, the Biloxi, and the Colapissa (whose “hunting grounds” were from the Pearl River west covering today’s Northshore. In and around today’s New Orleans lived the Tawasa (aka Chawasha), the Biloxi, and the Washa. In the “River Parishes” were the Tchoupitoulas, Bayougoula, and the Houma. Further north, up to the Red River were the Tunica. All of these groups got along well with the colonists It was those further north, in those areas of no-man’s land between French and British influence, that the Natives were put off by the actions (or rather the inactions) of Lepinay and/or the Parisian politicians. These groups included the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the Natchez, the Alabamas, and the Creeks. These nations had traded with both the French of Louisiana and the British of South Carolina all through this period. Some like the Choctaw and the Natchez mostly favored the French. The Creeks and Alabamas mostly sided with the English. The Chickasaw mostly played both ends against the middle, remaining neutral and benefiting from the traders of the moment.

A comparison beween Giraud’s research and the Penicault’s journal (including 1717) are noticeably the same.

Louisiana Natives: Frem Penicault’s Journal*:

Chactos, Taouschas, Apalaches, Tinsas, Mobiliens, Tomez, Gen des Fourches (forks of the Alabama and Tombigbee, not Bayou La Fourche). Chactas, Pascagoulas, Passacolas, Capinans, Colapissas, Bayougoulas, Oumas, Tonicas, Chaouachas, Natchez, Chicachas, Nassitoches, Yatachez, Alibamons, Canapouces.

In 1715, many of the “northern” nations staged an uprising against the British which drew in the French to a limited degree. Such a situation could have been of great advantage to the French. Between the departure of Cadillac and the arrival of Lepinay, however, the administration was in more than it’s usual turmoil.

Life continues, however,  and one chronicler, M. Penicault makes some interesting entries in his journal. In 1717 we can read about:

  • In an unabashed entry, shortly after Lepinay’s arrival, he sent a ship to Vera Cruz to sell a load of trade goods from France. The ship, Le Dudlot (probably Dudlow or Ludlow), landed some distance from Vera Cruz at a place called Villa Rica, sold the shipload at a tidy profit, and returned to Mobile. This entry is phrased in such an offhand way that it testifies to the NORMALITY of such trade (i.e. smuggling) between the colonies of different empires around the Gulf.  Within a few days after its return to Mobile, Le Dudlot, sailed away to France taking Cadillac and his staff back home. Over the next month or so, Lepinay had a fort built on Dauphine Island to secure the harbor. While it was under construction, an English ship stopped over at Mobile, and along with the usual illegal trade, took away several British men and women (Carolinians) who had been prisoners there since the 1715 Indian rebellion.
  • In August of 1717, a storm (most probably a hurricane) closed the port at Dauphine Island. The administration then decided to move the capital and the roadstead to Isle aux Vaisseaux – aka Ship Island. A town was built on the back bay a Biloxi, called New Biloxi, and the government moved there. Old Biloxi across the bay eventually evolved into Ocean Springs (due to the presence of some fresh water springs in the area).
  • In a testament to the quality of colonial journals, Penicault places an entry at the end of 1717 that most historians today note as happening in March of 1718. Think you can guess what its about? Seems a ship called La Dauphine arrives at Ship Island, loaded with workmen (salt smugglers) and carpenters. They were immediately employed to build houses, barracks, and warehouses at New Biloxi/Ship Island. In the vague time period called “the beginning of winter”, many of these workers went with Bienville to “a place quite suitable for a settlement on the bank of the Missicipy thirty leagues above” the mouth of the river. *

And so fellow revelers, we can pick the start of the Tri-Centennial celebrations any time during the upcoming winter. Party like its 2017-2018 !!!!!

* McWilliams, Richebourg Gaillard, Ed. Fleur de Lys and Calumet: Being the Penicaut Narrative of french Adventure in Louisiana .  Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1953, renewed 1981.  p. 208

 

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A Way-Overdue Entry; Not Exactly 300 Years Ago

A Very Simplified Timeline of French Colonial Louisiana and a timely Springtime recipe from Volume 2 (in progress)

The 1718 Tri-Centennial is fast approaching, so I thought a quick overview of the French Louisiana timeline was in order. Be advised that while the dates and entries are as correct as I can make them – all fact-checked and verified as not fake. Within the entries, my tongue (as the saying goes) is planted firmly in my cheek. And included below is one of Tante Suzanne’s recipes for a springtime roast chicken.

1699 – March 3, Iberville and his kid brother, Bienville, with their expedition pass into what seems to be a river running fast into the Spanish Gulf. According to Iberville’s calculations it turns out to be none other than LaSalle’s Fleuve de St. Louis, what the locals call the Mississippi. The next day, March 4, Mardi Gras that year, a friendly local, probably a Bayougoula, show the brothers a portage from the river to a large lake that connects to the Spanish Gulf and the islands where their ships are moored.

1704 – The ship Pelican arrives at Mobile (then Louisiana’s capital) carrying a boatload of young ladies (NOT THE CASKET GIRLS, they came later) who are quickly married to the Canadian settlers of the new Louisiana colony. These are the new wives who just as quickly rebelled (while properly wearing their petticoats) against the oversupply of Indian maize and the undersupply o-f French wheat.

1714 – In December, the first settlement within the borders of present day Louisiana was founded at the Natchitoches villages along the Red River.

1718 – Beginning in March, Bienville and some 50 or so workers spend the spring clearing the palmetto/cypress at the portage to lay out a new capital city for French Louisiana.

1719 – A few shiploads of unwilling Africans from Senegambia arrive in the colony. They are settled across the river (nicknamed Algiers) from the new city, now named after the Duc d’Orleans.  The African ladies had managed to smuggle in some “gombo” seeds woven into their hair and this along with the heritage of rice farming in Senegambia, as well as their placement in and eventual dominance of colonial, antebellum, and Southern kitchens constituted a MAJOR influence on Creole and southern cuisine. Gombo, of course is the West African term for okra.

1727 – The Ursuline nuns arrive at New Orleans. One of their number, a young novice named Marie Madeleine Hachard, Sr. Stanilaus, has left us a number of letters describing life in the new city and colony including a most valuable catalogue of the food regularly consumed at the convent.

c. 1729 -30 – The Natchez War – the Natchez lose and effectively disappear from history. As a result of the Natchez uprising, The Company of the West, which had been ruling Louisiana since 1717,  finally gives up on the colony in 1732. The king re-appointed the long-suffering Bienville as governor, who upon his return mounted a campaign in 1736 against the new or rather ongoing threat of the Chickasaw (allied with the British).

1736. 1739, et. al. – The Chickasaw War – the Chickasaw stalemate the French and their Quapaw (aka Arkansas), Choctaw, and Illinois Confederation allies for years. From roughly 1735 through the British victory over the French in 1763, the country east of the Mississippi from the mouth of the  Arkansas river to the Ohio confluence was a see-saw struggle for influence between the Natives, the French, and the British.

1742 – Pierre de Riigaud Vaudreuil, Le Grand Marquis, becomes governor and sets the tone of New Orleans Creole “cul-tchah” until the middle of the 20th century. Under his regime, all the elements of Creole Cuisine were falling into place. The 2nd or Creole generation of French colonists were coming of age. The middle and upper classes were established, if not flourishing. Trade and food supply networks were in place between Upper Louisiana (the Illinois county), the settlements and plantations between Pointe Coupee and New Orleans (extending over to Mobile), Natchitoches and points west (into Spanish “New Mexico”), Pensacola and the Spanish Caribbean, as well as the French islands, etc. Homes, kitchens, taverns, hunters, gardens, fishermen, markets, and merchants all provided the resources for the fetes, dinner parties, Mardi Gras balls, and frivolities prompted by the presence and extra-governmental activities of Le Grand Marquis.

1753 – 1763 – Louis Belcourt, Chevalier de Kerlerec. Although not officially the last governor of French Louisiana, he was effectively the man who closed out the French regime in Louisiana. As had become usual in Louisiana, there were dirty politics all around. Not a whole lot happened from the cultural  or culinary point of view.

1756-1763 – The French and Indian (aka The Seven Years) War.

1763 – France loses its North American empire, aka Louisiana and Canada.

Mid 60’s – our fictional cooks – Frere Gerard and Tante Suzanne pass on to the heavenly dining room, where they can eternally enjoy their creations of the original Creole Cuisine and never have to cook again (unless they want to).

1768 –  The Rebellion of 1768 was an unsuccessful attempt by Creole and German settlers around New Orleans, Louisiana to stop the handover of the French Louisiana Territory, as had been stipulated in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, to Spain in 1762.

1769 – The rebellion aimed to force the new Spanish Louisiana Governor Antonio de Ulloa to leave New Orleans and return to Spain. The rebels did indeed force Ulloa but his replacement Don Alejandro O’Reilly was able to crush the rebellion, execute five of its ringleaders and firmly establish Spanish law in the territory.

1777-1783 – Another Spanish governor of Louisiana deserves special note,  Bernardo de  Galvez. His major claim to fame in Louisiana history is his generalship in several victories over the British during the American Revolution. He was victorious against the British in campaigns at Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez. He then recaptured Mobile and went on to capture Pensacola in an 1781 amphibious assault. The next year he captured the British port in the Bahamas. When the war ended, he was preparing to invade Jamaica. In modern times, he was one of the only eight people to be awarded American citizenship.

1803 – The Louisiana Purchase, Here come the Caintuks.

As volume 2 of the Petticoat Rebellion, a culinary history, progresses, I find that for several reasons – I hit a old-fashioned writer’s block in my story telling and historical chronicling. However, since the Petticoat Rebellion also contains a colonial cookbook of sorts, I have altered my focus to the heretofore neglected creating and testing of the recipes to be included therein. And so to mark the coming of what has turned out so far to be a marvelous spring in the New Orleans region here is one of Tante Suzanne’s springtime chickens.

Chicken Roast (w/ Rosemary) – olive oil, salt, pepper, sage, onion, peppers, 4 sprigs rosemary, sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350°,

Coat a deep frying pan liberally with olive oil. Season of 5 to 6 pound chicken liberally with salt, pepper, and Sage. Roll chicken around in olive oil in the pan. Rub in the seasoning, add more if needed. With four freshly cut 8 inch sprigs of Rosemary, strip the leaves from one twig and rub on the back office the chicken. Roll the chicken over stripping the leaves the rosemary rub between the thighs of the chicken place in the twigs in the cavity of the chicken. Rub the remaining sprig of leaves completely over the chicken breast.chunk up one half of a small onion and one half of a medium bell pepper. Place the chunks in the cavity of the chicken with the Roseberry twigs salt-and-pepper as needed.

Place chicken in oven, raise temperature to 400° for 20 minutes, generously cover the chicken with sesame seeds, cover chicken, lower temperature to 300°, roast for 2 to 3 hours.

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Filed under 18th Century, Creole Cooking, Louisiana History, New Orleans Tercentennial, NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018, Recipes

300 Years Ago, 1717: We Got Cows!

Momentous changes were in store for Louisiana in 1717-1718. The old Crozat monopoly was done for and the new Company of the West began to get things done. For the next decade, the Company would run the colony. Although the new company’s rule was not always a panacea, the population continued to grow during the 1720’s and more and more of the Louisiana territory came under French control.

In 1717 the new shape of the colony began to take on more and more focus. Over the next several months, arrangements were being made to recruit Germans (really Alsatians and Lorrainer’s) for Louisiana. On a more somber note, the slave trade was ramping up for transport from West Africa to Louisiana. But these things were planned not actuated for many months. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Meanwhile from two more or less reliable sources, we learn . . .

Jean Baptiste Bernard de Le Harpe: Summary of his chronicles of 1717:

March, 1717. Two royal vessels arrived at Dauphine Island carrying the new ?transition? government as Crozat’s regime ended and the Company of the West took over Louisiana. Within a few weeks,{towards the end of the month} one of the ships, the Ludlow, was sent to Havana to buy cattle for the colony. They purchased 60 cows, but loose lips sink cows, and the Spanish governor found out about the purchase and removed 45 cows from the ship, leaving the colony with only 15.

August, 1717. “a commercial company was formed in France and named the Company of the West” Also under the August entry: “. . . The colony numbered 700 people and about 400 head of cattle . . .”

From Giraud’s History of French Louisiana, Vol. 2, p. 122.

The new Company of the West “decided that the ships should pick up some cattle at Havana,a scheme that was to come to nothing.”

Here, once again, from the standard academic history and a primary source, testimony is provided that even though times were tough early on for Louisiana, these 700 Europeans did indeed have some food sources. Better than one head of beef cattle per every two colonists provided milk and beef on an on-going basis. and while the French settlers have achieved fame as being lazy and not interested in agriculture, most everybody had a garden and access to the rich bounty of the vast forests (game, nuts, and fruits) and endless waterways of south Louisiana. After all, these 700 people “had to eat” something.

SNEAK PREVIEW: 1717-18 SET UP OF THE TRICENTENNIAL:

{{{{{{Throughout the autumn of 1717, the company began to get organized and at the end of the year, ships sailed to Louisiana and arrived in February of 1718 with what was the kickoff of whole new era for the colony – To Wit:

• The ships landed a fourth company of infantry.
• M. de Boisbriant arrived, commissioned as royal lieutenant of the colony.
• Governor L’Epinay was recalled and Bienville was commissioned a Commandant General (aka governor) of Louisiana.
• M. Hubert was named named director general (the money guy) of Louisiana.
• 60 French immigrants arrived.
• An abortive expedition to St. Joseph’s bay in Florida was attempted but ended in failure.
• Bienville began to scope out “a suitable spot on the banks of the Mississippi” to build a new capital, then sent a group of 50 or so laborers to clear the land where the Bayou St. John portage met the river – 😉 and you’ll never guess what happened then :-0 }}}}}

But these events are really the part of the opening blog entry for next year.

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Filed under Louisiana History, New Orleans Tercentennial, NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018, Tri-centennial, 1718, 2018, 300th, anniversary, author, writer, speaker, teacher, non-fiction, Bienville, Iberville, Bayou St. John, Natchez, Indians, Native American, Tunica, Bayougoula, Mississippi,