Category Archives: NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018

A Bonus Chapter from Vol.1

Native Americans and Seafood

Greetings from Dodge City, KS. Here on a business trip and I decided to finish this post which I began last week. Welcome to all my new likes on the Facebook page. I hope I can continue to provide a bit of historical entertainment for you pleasure. To that end and in a bit of shameless self promotion, here you will a find a “bonus chapter” from Vol. 1 of The Petticoat Rebellion. The chapter currently under composition in Vol 2 is also about the discovery and adaptation of the local watery resources to Gerard and Suzanne as they continue to mythologically create the cuisine for which New Orleans is famous.

A VISIT TO THE HOUMAS (Ch.13 from vol. I)

When my countrymen first arrived in Louisiana under the command of Sieur d’Iberville, the many villages of our Native brethren lined the river and streams between La Balize and the Arkansas Post. During the next three decades, we discovered an important fact about “les petits nations”. Here in the New World, or at least here in Louisiana, the people do not stay in one place very long. Entire villages and towns move about quite freely and quite often. For instance, my current visitation and mission to the Houmas nation will take me upriver to the Pointe Coupèe settlement, then back downriver to where the Mississippi forks a few leagues below the Baton Rouge. At that point, we will travel down La Fourche (the Fork) into the swamps, streams, and lakes that is the marsh to the south and west of New Orleans. In all of these places we hope to meet with the Houma people and bring them the Good News and learn from them the ways of catching and cooking the abundant seafood and fishes that inhabit our rich new land. I am traveling to these settlements with Father Anselm**. Pere Raphael has sent him to minister to the Houmas and the the Frenchmen at Pointe Coupèe and beyond. I am tagging along to help him in his work, and not accidentally, to learn as much as I can from our little brothers about the local food production.
Past Baton Rouge, the land begins to rise. To the east, the terrain rolls away in hills and gullies, with bluffs very much like cliffs along the river and other waterways. to the west stretches a vast flatness of grasslands and meadows, which we call praerie in French. The settlement at Pointe Coupèe lay on the western side of the St. Louis. More technically, it is situated on a loop in the river that has been “cut off” from the main stream and now forms a lake. Folks moving up from Baton Rouge and even the local Indians often call the place False River. Pere Anselm and our party stayed there a couple of months, while Father preached the Word, and made arrangements to start building on a permanent chapel to serve the population. Since the locals were Frenchmen like ourselves, and – more to the point – cooked with the same ingredients I do, following the same methods and cooking on a hearth, there wasn’t much done here in the kitchen that I did not already know. So I spent most of my time, helping with the chapel and exploring the surrounding country. The settlement side that is the western bank is the rich alluvial prairie, which is perfect for the plow. Large farms had already begun to be established. On the eastern side of the river, the land was much more broken up and vast forests covered the hills and bluffs along the bayous and streams running down into the St. Louis. It was a rich hunting ground for native and settler alike, and the forest trees were filled with nuts, berries, and fruits of all kind. This indeed is a wondrous land and The Lord has blessed our countrymen in being able to come and partake in its bounty.
Monsieur d’Iberville first found the Houmas on the hills and bluffs of the eastern side of the great river. But, as I said earlier, these New World folk do not stay in one place for long periods of time. Pere Anselm and I did, indeed, find some of the Houma nation at Pointe Coupée, but we also learned from them that most of their people had moved south to the big fork in the river below Baton Rouge. During the visit, I had concluded that my time would be best spent in learning about the watery food resources that abound in Louisiana. To that end, I was excited when Pere Anselm finally decided to visit the scattered Houma nation down La Fourche and minister to them there. So, after some pleasant months, we left the rich farmlands around the False River and headed down the St. Louis (aka the Mississippi) toward La Fourche. Our first stop was at the town which had been a native community since before we clumsy Frenchmen stumbled into the river’s mouths. Since we arrived some thirty years ago, it had been occupied by the Bayougoulas, the Chitimacha, and now the Houmas. Here where the river forks, we stayed for a few days to get some sense of where we were headed. As Pere Anselm sought information about their beliefs and their spiritual culture. I befriended the hunters, the women, and the fishermen to see what they fed their people and, more importantly, how they acquired it and how they prepared it for all to eat.

Since I was expressly seeking information about the acquisition, preparation, and consumption of the local fruites de mer, the very first thing I learned from the Houmas is that – most interestingly – the native nations do not eat their symbol or sacred animals. The Houmas, recognized by the red crawfish, would not have consumed it. It was the same for the other petits nations as well. Each nation has its sacred animal, and will not consume it. Now as to the crawfish or, in French, la ecrevisse, this water dweller is very like a miniature lobster. while most of the nations find it very tasty, specifically the tail meat, it is small and rather difficult to extract the meat. But, once one has peeled enough of them, they make a variety of delicious dishes.

Anyway, since the Houmas do not prepare or consume them, for now we will consider the other fishes and their kin. La Fourche itself as well as the numerous streams, bayous, lakes, and ponds that are the Houma homelands provide a wealth of tasty species, including gar, choupique, catfish, paddlefish, sunfish,bass, eel, sac a lait, sturgeon, gizzard shad, and buffalo fish. As we travelled down the La Fourche closer to the Mexican Gulf, the natives took drum, croaker, speckled trout, redfish, flounder, and mullet from the coasts and bays. Along with the various finfish, during our extended visit we caught and consumed oysters which were abundant in the lakes and coastal waters. Everywhere from the river down to the Gulf, there were huge amounts of mussels, shrimp and crabs. From the marsh itself, I learned to prepare and – surprisingly, really enjoy – frogs of extraordinary size and even turtles, terrapins, and alligators. Finally, even though my Houma friends and guides showed me how, I couldn’t bring myself to consume the snakes.

Gathering the harvests of the waters occurred in many methods. The Houmas (and, most other natives) harvested the catch with hooks, lines, hoop nets made of rabbit-vines, cone-shaped traps made with wooden slats, trot-lines (a local creation where many hooks are dangled from one strong line stretched over the entire stream) and weirs ( sort of a fence or corral set into the stream, which were first used by the Natchez nation). Sometimes, fish were speared in shallow water by night and sometimes poisoned.This technique was usually employed in summer when the small streams were low. Poison was obtained from the horse chestnut, or buckeye; the root of the devil’s shoestring, or catgut or from green hickory nuts or walnut hulls. The natives would crush these materials and stir them into a pool, where the fish, with their gills paralyzed, floated to the surface.

Once the fish and/or shellfish are gathered, there is virtually no difference between our “civilized” way of cooking and preparing the meal, and the cooking ways of Houmas and other nations in the region. Well, maybe one difference, all of their cooking is normally done outside over a fire pit, whereas ours is usually done over the fire of an indoor hearth. Nevertheless, boiling, baking, broiling, roasting, frying, and parching are all accomplished on the bayous and marshes surrounding La Fourche just as in the royal kitchens of Paris. Separate pots are used for each type of food prepared, meat, vegetable, grain , or fish are usually cooked separately, except when combined in common soups, porridges, stews, and mush. Here, in this part of the new world, at least, bear oil serves as quite an adequate substitute for olive oil. I can only wish that my readers can see from this, that even to its most level, we Europeans are really not much advanced in the ways of life as our “little brothers” of the Americas. ‡

After a large catch, the Houmas would put the extra fish on a grill over a low fire to smoke and dry for later use. This common method would also be used for any game or other meat they wished to preserve over time.

As to the cooking of the fish, as is normal among all folk, there is a traditional set of cooking styles for any and all of the fish to which then are added all sorts of variations. For instance . . .

Boiling seafood
A very common method of preparing shellfish, especially crabs, crawfish, or shrimp is to boil them. The process is similar which species is being cooked. There are actually two stages in the boiling method, cleaning and boiling. Begin with live crabs or crawfish, with shrimp this is not necessary. Cleaning the shrimp is a simple matter of washing them in clean water. Some people like to devein the shrimp. There is even a special tool, sold in most local supermarkets, which is like a long curved toothpick which makes this easier. This usually works best with larger shrimp, with small shrimp, the vein does not make that much difference. When boiling fresh shrimp, remove the heads (reserve for stock), but do not peel the shrimp, then proceed to the boil.
Since live crabs or crawfish is used in boiling, the cleaning process is a bit different. The first stage is gently hosing down the shellfish to remove all the external dirt, mud, vegetation, etc. Once cleaned the animals are then “purged”, that is coved in a bath of brine, which serves to internally clean them out. From the purge the crabs or crawfish are dropped live into the boiling water.
Before starting the cleaning process, it is useful to set up the boiling pot and start the seasoning and boiling. While there are large pots sold for the specific purpose of boiling seafood, stock pots are also commonly used. Also, if you are cooking for two (or one), a large 2 or 3 quart saucepan works equally well. Start with enough water to cover the intended quantity and then some. The first seasoning is salt, which is used liberally to make a strong brine. The second essential is some form of pepper. Cayenne is usually used, but there are several cayenne and spice/herb mixtures commercially available under the name of “crab boil”. Experiment with several of these to find your preference. After these two, the boiling pot is open to interpretation. A standard combination is onions, celery, garlic, and lemon. The combinations, however, are endless and totally up to the cook. Bay leaf is often used, and most boils include fresh corn-on-the-cob and new red potatoes in the mix.
The actual cooking of the shrimp is done very quickly, for two minutes to be exact. The overall procedure, though is somewhat lengthy. Adherence to the strict timetable will insure a perfect boiled shrimp every time.

Step 1; Add your chosen seasoning to the boiling pot and make the stock first, boil for about 10 to 15 minutes minimum.
Step 2: Add the potatoes to the pot, return to boil and let boil for four (4) minutes.
Step 3: Add the corn to the pot, return to boil and let boil for eleven (11) minutes.
Step 4: Add the clean shrimp to the pot, return to boil and let boil for two (2) minutes.
Step 5: Turn off the fire, remove the pot from the burner, add one half a bag of ice to quick cool the shrimp, the shrimp will sink into the flavored stock and begin to soak up the seasoning.
Step 6: Let the shrimp “soak” for 15 to 20 minutes, the longer they soak, the more seasoning they absorb.
Step 7: EAT !!!
*The above procedure is adapted from Frank Davis Cooks Cajun, Creole, and Crescent City. By Frank Davis, Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, LA: 1994.

Basic fried fish or shellfish
Frying means cooking something in hot oil. In colonial Louisiana that meant either bear oil, olive oil, lard, or butter. Seasoning the seafood with some salt and placing it into the heated oil is the simplest method. One can fry in deep fat (about an inch or two deep in a home kitchen) or simply in a pan coated with the fat or perhaps a quarter to a half inch in depth. Seafood generally cooks through very quickly. Depending on the size and thickness of the food being cooked, anywhere from a minute on each side to no more than five minutes a side should do. If deep fat is used the fish, oysters, shrimp, etc. will be done when it floats. That’s it!
The art of turning cooking into cuisine is what makes a culture like the Creole famous and sought after. Knowledge, experience, openness to new ingredients and methods, a sense of simplicity, and even some playfulness all combine to make a process as simple as frying into a work of art. A first step may be adding more spices and herbs to the seafood before the frying. A common second step is to “bread” the seafood in flour, breadcrumbs, or a combination of both. After these have been done and tested to your taste, the addition of sauces or the combination of other meats or fish with the fried morsels is a final step in the potential endless line of variations on the “frying” theme. To get started, lets do three dishes to explore the basics of fried, breaded and sauced seafood.

FRIED SHRIMP

Remove the heads and peel the shrimp, reserve the heads and peels for making a seafood stock. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, fennel and/or ground coriander add that “Louisiana” taste. In a pan heat up your fat of choice until a small ball of meat or some bread sizzles when it is dropped in. Keeping temperature in mind, add one or two shrimp until they began to sizzle, then add the rest of the shrimp one at a time until they all are happily sizzling away. Let them fry until pinkish brown in color and they begin to float in the fat. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels until cool enough to eat. Enjoy!

Breading catfish (or anything else)

Breading (simple) Mix a cup of flour and a cup of cornmeal together, add some salt and cayenne pepper. Begin with this simple mixture, then add other herbs and seasoning to taste. Vary the type and grind of the flour and cornmeal as well. Place the mix in a clean, empty butter tub. Get the deep fryer or a heavy pan ready, place the pan on the heat and add about one half inch of oil (of your choice). Have the fish soaking in water or beer. Place a fillet or some “nuggets” in the flour, close the lid and shake the tub until the fish is coated. Using the same test for temperature (as above) place one small piece in the oil, when it begins to sizzle, add the fillet or the nuggets. Bread the rest of the fish in the same manner, and fry for about five minutes. Judge the time by the thickness of the fish, and turn over at least once in the hot oil. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels until cool enough to eat. Enjoy!
Breading (complex) Use two types of breading, a flour mixture as above and some breadcrumbs in separate plates. Soak the catfish as above, but also prepare and egg/milk wash (seasoned as you like). Prepare your hot oil and proceed: Shake the wet fish in the flour mixture, from her though move the fish to a quick dip into the seasoned wash, then roll in the bread crumbs. Repeat until you have enough to fill the pan. Place all the fish into the pan and let fry for five to eight minutes (depending on size).Turn over at least once in the frying process, Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels until cool enough to eat. Enjoy!
These same breading techniques work well with shrimp, oysters, any fish fillets you like, chicken, pork chops, and small, thin cuts of beef.

Ramoulade Sauce (1693)the following recipe is translated (by the author) from Massialot, Francois. Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois, Chez Charles de Sercy, au Palais, Paris, 1693.

For several fillets of fish, one makes a sauce called Ramolade, it is made of chopped parsley, chopped leeks, chopped anchovies, chopped capers, put it all in a plate (bowl) with a little salt, some pepper, nutmeg, oil and vinegar, mix together well in a little water; Set your (cooked) fillets on a dish, and sprinkle with this Ramolade. Now, some dishes add some lemon juice, to serve it cold.

 

SOME HISTORICAL NOTES
About 50 miles upriver from New Orleans, the Mississippi opens one of its largest distributaries in SE Louisiana. On its western bank a large bayou drains some of its mighty waters through a rich and fertile plain down into the Gulf. So large, in fact, that its name defines it, not as a bayou, but as a fork in the great river. Later usage has demoted it to a bayou, but Bayou LaFourche still remains the fork in the river at present day Donaldsonville. Even in the earliest French records, this river fork, and the land around it was occupied.

Figuring out which Native group lived where in Lower Louisiana is an on-going puzzle. Between 1699 and 1750, the Louisiana Indians grew and shrunk in numbers, moved around, merged together, broke apart, fought with each other, lived with each other in the same villages and towns, battled the French settlers, traded with them, intermarried (or at least interbred) with Frenchmen, Spaniards, each other, and even some British wanderers. It is safe to say that basically they were rovers of the swamps and rivers of SE Louisiana. 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. In simple terms, all of these family groups and clan/tribes followed the game migrations. 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, Native Louisianians lived in the best places they could find, and the distributary at Bayou LaFourche remained a “best place” for this entire period and beyond.

Here in 1699, Iberville found the Chitimachas. Upriver he met the Bayougoulas and the Houmas. Further on were the Tunica. Later the Tunica joined the Houmas, then fought with them. The Tunicas eventually moved north to the Red River confluence and the Houmas south to Bayou LaFourche. By then, the Chitimachas and Bayougoulas had merged, and had been absorbed by the Houmas.* In any event, the now consolidated Houmas spread out down LaFourche and over the marshlands on either bank. It was here that Frere Gerard finds them in the 1730’s.

Frere Gerard indeed found them on the LaFourche in the 1730’s. Today, native Houma Indians may be found all over Louisiana. Our readers need to be aware that although the evidence is overwhelming, the Federal government still does not recognize the Houmas as a native nation ! Typical of the injustice caused by the silly action or non-action of the US bureaucracy, we should do all we can to right this wrong. To learn more about Louisiana’a largest Indian nation and their battle for recognition and against this blatant injustice, please visit:

http://www.southernstudies.org/node/4730Share.      OR.        United Houma Nation at http://www.unitedhoumanation.org

* In modern times, the Chitimachas again split from Houmas and are now their own group – the process continues.
** Vogel, The Capuchins in French Louisiana, p.60
† Kniffin, et. al., pp. 202-204.
‡ All of this has been paraphrased from Kniffin, et. al., pp. 204 ff.

If you enjoyed this bonus chapter, why not enjoy the whole book. Unlike this blog entry,  it is illustrated and contains many more recipes. The Petticoat Rebellion; A Culinary History of French Colonial Cuisine  978-0990737896
is available from
Amazon.com in print or Kindle
And via CreateSpace though
Biblio.com, alibris.com, B&N.com and many many other venues

HAPPY READING!

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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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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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Culinary History, Xmas Chapter, 1st Draft

As many of my readers may already know, this blog is spinoff of “The 1718 Project”. Today I am trying something new. To date, (since 2010), the main energies of the project have been channelled into the production of a Culinary History of French Colonial Louisiana. The preceding entries have included some recipes and/or other mentions or inclusions from The Petticoat Rebellion (the book’s title), But now I have decided to present a finished chapter, albeit the first draft, (the full recipes will appear in the final published text) to see if it garners any reaction.If you care to, please leave your comments, or e-mail me, and/or visit the project website at http://1718neworleans.com. I would appreciate any and all feedback.

And don’t fret, my 300 Years Ago columns will continue.

PRC Chapter 11:  Suzanne Cooks for Christmas

The wheel of the year has turned once more, and Noël is fast approaching. This is easily my most favorite time of the year. Here in Louisiana, the weather is almost perfect throughout this season. It isn’t as warm as when I was a little girl in the islands, nor as cold, Icy, and snowy as the people from France often describe Noël in their homeland. The pleasant weather, cold enough to brace the blood, but not so cold as to slow down the business and commerce of the city, only serves to create a prosperous and vibrant holiday season.

By now, I have been here long enough to establish the Marigny’s household kitchen and garden as a well run operation. So its only with a glad heart that I sit down at the beginning of December to plan the Christmas season. The first step, of course, is to set the menu. Not just the menu for the main meal, but also all the accompaniments for before and after, as well as foods and treats to keep around the house throughout the festive season. This plan will serve to structure the shopping and food gathering for the next several weeks.

Once the menu is decided and along with the necessary shopping, it is also time now to begin decorating the house for the Yuletide gatherings and festivities. As long as there has been a France, Gallic homes, villages, and towns were hung all about with evergreens gathered from the local forests. People liked to mark these long dark nights with reminders of the greener times to come as the year turns and the days begin once again to lengthen with their local firs, pines, and other green and growing things. Here in Louisiana, the vegetation never really dies off and the pines, oaks, and evergreen shrubs happily give up their branches to decorate our homes. The ancient custom of the Yule Log burning throughout the long Christmas nights is also, for many, a fond memory of the Old Country. Our Rhenish (German) neighbors from upriver even have a custom from their old homes of bringing a whole tree, a smaller one of course, into the house and decorating it with colored ribbons, little keepsakes, and even some candles. These folks from the Rhine valley also had a wonderful custom of lighting bonfires along their rivers and waterways to light up the long solstice nights and some even say it marks the way for St. Nicholas or Pere Noel to pass over and bless their homes and settlements. These also help to light their families’ way to Midnight Mass, after all, this is the “main event” of the Christmas celebrations,

After the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, all the shopping and decorating would come to purpose as the festivities and feasting commenced and proceeded through the morning meal and throughout the day. Now to begin, I think for the meal after Mass this year we will have:

Baked Glace’ Bananas,
Eggs, scrambled and deviled
Grits & Grillades
Daube Glace’  >>>> Rump Roast, Veal Rump, Pig’s Feet, Salt meat, onions, turnips, garlic, Bay Leaf, Lard, Sherry, Thyme, parsley, Salt, pepper, cayenne

(Note) Suzanne’s post-Midnight Mass Creole breakfast, which was mirrored throughout the colonial creole homes in New Orleans and beyond, later evolved (in Ante-Bellum days) into the Creole Reveillon.
As the great feast day wears on, the celebrations consist of general revelry/and playing pranks, songs, dancing, parades, parties, carol singing, etc. (Today, 2017, we call this goofing- off). Here in New Orleans, a curious custom has also evolved. To beautify and somewhat humanize the new city as it was (and is) being built up, the city fathers decided to plant the streets with orange trees (easily obtained from my home islands). As a consequence, during the Yuletide season, we have oranges all over the place. As such oranges have become an essential part of the New Orleans Christmas scene. Needless to say, orange cakes, orange jam, and stewed oranges are part of the Yule menu. Good children, even in the poorest homes, can usually find an orange or two among their gifts from Pere Noel.

But for me and my kitchen, the climax of every Christmas season is the Christmas dinner. Usually, the Marigny family ( extended to include aunts and uncles, cousins from the country, and other close friends and relatives from around town). The meal is traditionally the sit-down meal with all the trimmings. However, every family had its own traditions, and it may become a day-long buffet, or a picnic in the courtyard (weather permitting). This year, I am cooking my:

Creole Christmas Feast

Brandy Candied Pecans, Brown Sugar Nut Clusters,
Pecans, Walnuts, Brandy, Brown sugar

Oyster Dressing: The Trinity, Garlic, Oil, Bread Crumbs, a pit. or qt. of Oysters

Trout Meuniere: Butter, Flour, Lemon, Parsley, salt-pepper

Chicken Espagnole: Chicken, the Trinity, Garlic, Seasoned flour, bacon grease, ½ cup flour, qt. of chicken stock, salt-pepper-bay leaves- sugar

Orange Cake >>>>>Flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda, OJ

Wine, Coffee, Lemonade, and apres diner, brandy, coffee, tobacco pipes, and fine conversation.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
HISTORICAL ADDENDA
A Note on French Catholicism

Recently a quote I encountered reading about the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef sets the perfect tone for a consideration of French Catholicism; “He was a good Catholic without thinking much about it.” Never has there been a better or more succinct description of French and/or Louisiana Catholicism.

As France, and the rest of Europe, emerged from the Catholic Middle Ages, society was rocked by the tidal wave of Luther’s Reformation. This is not the place to mark all the horrors, injustice, and tragedy of this ridiculous situation when Christians slaughtered each other because they went to the wrong church. It was little different in the European colonies. In North America, vast distances between the Protestant English, Catholic French and Spanish, and pagan Native Americans minimized this silliness, but it was never far from the surface. Besides, simple survival often trumped philosophical differences. Here in Louisiana, this cultural aspect of life was defined by French reaction to the ground shaking social changes rocking Europe during these centuries. The virtual theocracy of Richelieu’s reign during the 1600’s and the legacy of Marazin’s influence and the “divine’ kingship of Louis XIV’s long rule produced a curious riff on tradition Catholicism known as Gallicanism.

In Early Modern times (1500 – 1800), an ongoing conflict between church and state centered around the appointment of local or regional leaders (e.g. Bishops). The Catholic Church (for better or worse) since the fall of Rome had been the only recognizable form of authority throughout much of Europe. as a result the local bishop in a given region was usually a political as well as a spiritual leader. The Reformation in the 1500’s threw a wrench into this ancient system. Additionally, as Kings and nobility grew in political power, conflict about these episcopal appointments grew more VIOLENT. In France, the 1600’s saw the apex of this episcopal power under the reigns of Richelieu and then Marazin. When Marazin passed on, young Louis XIV shifted his authority to the throne. As part of this general move away from this Roman (papal) influence, a theological movement known as Gallicanism began to take form. But let us let the online Britannica explain in clearer terms than your poor author.

“The most notable champion of parliamentary Gallicanism was the jurist Pierre Pithou, who published his Les Libertés de l’église gallicane in 1594. This book, together with several commentaries on it, was condemned by Rome but continued to be influential well into the 19th century.
The best expression of theological Gallicanism was found in the Four Gallican Articles, approved by the assembly of the clergy of France in 1682. This declaration stated: (1) the pope has supreme spiritual but no secular power; (2) the pope is subject to ecumenical councils; (3) the pope must accept as inviolable immemorial customs of the French Church—e.g., the right of secular rulers to appoint bishops or use revenues of vacant bishoprics; (4) papal infallibility in doctrinal matters presupposes confirmation by the total church. Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet drafted the declaration in Latin and defended it in a conciliatory preamble. Though the articles were condemned at Rome by Alexander VIII in 1690 and were revoked in France by Louis XIV in 1693, they remained the typical expression of Gallicanism.”

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/224387/Gallicanism
More details can be found in the Wikipedia article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallicanism
In far away, isolated Louisiana, these factors produced an easy-going, common sense approach to religious matters. Most folks did not ponder the philosophical niceties of the Gallican interpretation of their faith. They were too busy trying to stay alive. Besides the Pope, and the King for that matter, were literally thousands of miles away, and even priests were few and far between. It was, to the Catholics of Louisiana, enough to be “a good Catholic without thinking much about it.” Thence, it not a quirk, that customs like Midnight Mass, Mardi Gras, All Saint’s Day, and Catholic schools have anchored themselves along the French Gulf Coast and have become hallmarks of our “Catholic” culture.

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300 Years Ago – 1717:

Crozat, Cadillac, et.al. FINALLY go away! After five years of attempting to turn the sow’s ear of Louisiana into a silk purse and relieving the Crown of France from the expenses of running a colony, Antoine Croat gave up his monopoly over trade, supply, garrisoning, and managing Louisiana* so he could line his pockets with all that gold and silver, and all those jewels and mineral resources lying around in and on the bayous, rivers, lakes, and Native villages of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri watersheds. These guys never really got it, did they?

So, instead of building the infrastructure for a potential trading empire or developing the agricultural production of this vast territory, they wasted their time trying to find the mountains of precious metals that the Spanish had stumbled on in New Spain and Peru.Meanwhile the settlers and soldiers in Louisiana twisted in the wind. Here is the origin of colonial Louisiana’s reputation as a place of “starvation and woe”.

In August of 1717, the Regent accepted Crozat’s resignation.** Although Louisiana had to survive another monopoly (John Law and then after his disgrace (aka the Mississippi Bubble), his Company of the Indies), things did indeed began to change (New Orleans, the settlers of the German Coast, Africans (enslaved & free), the Capuchin mission and the Church of St. Louis, etc. And although many in France didn’t quite know what was going on, Louisiana’s population, production, culture and trade continued to grow throughout the ensuing four decades. By 1750, the cities, towns, plantations, and trading posts of French Louisiana were well established and thriving.

By the way, Cadillac (c. 1714, 1715) did find some rich lead mines in what is today Missouri. So Louisiana had plenty of ammunition, not too many soldiers, but lots of ammo.

* January, 1717; Memoire de Crozat (? Requesting the Regent to relieve him of running Louisiana?)
** Multiple documentation in the colonial and naval archives of France.

This “resignation” info was summarized from Giraud, V. 2; pp. 66 & 67.

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