Tuesday, March 11 St. Francisville, LA
Well, we are not in Minnesota anymore. Short sleeve shirts, humidity, my first mosquito, and flowers. The joys of staying at Bed and Breakfasts pales a bit when once again you are on floor 2 or 3 and there is no elevator. I asked Chris “Now when do we sleep in a regular hotel again???”
Today began in Vicksburg MS as we toured the Lower Mississippi River Museum. I found it not quite as exciting as hoped for given the number of museums we have been to. Part of the exhibit discusses the history and role of the Corps of Engineers-which is not new to us. Part of the exhibit talks about the ecology and species of the Lower Mississippi. Only a small portion discusses the floods and development along the Mississippi which interests me the most.
The flood of 1927 (which we read about when visiting the Herbert Hoover Museum in Iowa) was featured. This devastating flood lasted for months, resulting in large-scale evacuations. It is said that the flood accentuated the movement of blacks from the South to northern cities to find work. Hoover was the head of the Commerce Department and was instrumental in providing relief efforts. However, discrimination and inequity in relief camps were covered up at Hoover’s request,leading to his loss of the black vote in his presidential campaign.
The 1927 flood led to further powers given to the Corps of Engineers to improve flood control. Decades of levee building and river channel changes have followed. The Corps of Engineers eliminated many horseshoe bends in the Mississippi, speeding up river flow and shortening the length of the river by over 150 miles.
A river ship retired from service is located next to the museum. The MV Mississippi IV. This vessel served as a work horse tug for the Corps, delivering equipment and materials to Corps projects up and down the river.
Our lunch was at the Old Country Store in Lorman, MS, a true gem. The two couples at the Duff Green Mansion had mentioned it to us. We were not really hungry to we only had cobbler instead of the chicken buffet. Mr. D, the owner, was quite the character. He opened the restaurant after retiring from a Florida utility company. The restaurant gives him full rein to express his outgoing personality, singing, and to showcase his fried chicken recipe.
Now we are over the LA-MS border in St. Francisville. This is another small town featured in National Geographic’s Best Small Town book. We spent an hour and a half touring the Rosedown Plantation. Even though one can not agree with the slavery aspect of plantation life, it is part of our history so we believe visiting a limited number adds to our understanding of life in the Deep South.
This plantation had 250 slaves and 3500 acres. The owner and his wife owned a total of four plantations. After the Civil War, some of the former slaves continued working the land as sharecroppers until the boll weevil devastated cotton crops in the U.S. It was not until recently that efforts have been successful in eradicating the insect in much of the U.S.
The last of the descendants lived in the house until 1955. This was an unmarried daughter and she used the “ladies outside privy” until the very end. In the 1950s, a wealthy couple from Houston bought the plantation and spent $10,000,000 to restore it. It became a state historic site in 2000.
Dinner in St. Francisville was initially a challenge. One recommended place had closed, another was not open on Tuesdays. Finally we went after a place based solely on the name, The Bluffs. It turned out to be at a golf course in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. However, it is a community planned around an Arnold Palmer designed golf course with expensive homes. But the clubhouse restaurant is open to the public and had a pot roast buffet for a reasonable price so we lucked out.
St. Francisville started as a Spanish town. When the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory, West Florida, the area along the Gulf Coast, was retained by Spain. Governmental dithering kept the confusion going as to where the boundary line was. In 1810, a group of Anglo-Saxon planters attacked the fort at Baton Rouge, captured the Spanish governor, and set up their own republic. After 2 1/2 months, the U.S. Army marched in and said okay this area is part of the U.S.
Ed and Chris 8:30 pm