19.12.2004 - 20.12.2004 9 °C
December 19, 2004
We had breakfast at the motel again. I visited St. Martinsville for the first time when we lived in New Iberia/Jeanerette area in 1960. But I visited with another Navy wife and her sister and Bob had never been. So when we revisited New Iberia, St. Martinsville was a place I wanted Bob to see. I took the computer to be sure I had the right road to St. Martinville, as I had no detailed map. We got there about 9:45. All the signs including the street signs and museum descriptions are both in French and English. It's like being in Canada.
This area of Louisiana was settled by the "Arcadians" (corrupted to Cajan) - Catholics from France who originally settled in the Martime area of Canada beginning in 1604. When Canada became British (c 1755), the Arcadians were persecuted and deported. Many of them died, but some managed to make the trek to Louisiana, where they settled between 1764 and 1788 and obtained land grants.
I do not think I have ever read Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie the 1847 epic poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about the settlement of this area, and I'm pretty sure that Bob hasn't either. It starts THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
The poem is apparently about a young engaged couple (Gabriel and Evangeline) who were separated during the exile. Longfellow's version has her looking in vain, becoming a nun in Philadelphia and finding Gabriel on his deathbed.
This sign explains where Longfellow got the idea for the poem. Judge Emile Edourd Simon (1824-1914) studied law at Harvard. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was writing the epic poem and teaching at Harvard when Simon was a student there. Family tradition holds that Simon told Longfellow about the establishment of Arcadian exiles here in 1765 and described for him the geography and local color of the Teche country. But according to the museum, he may have heard the legend from Hawthorne.
Possibly, the real life counterparts of Evangeline and Gabriel were Evangeline Labiche and Louis Arceneaux, and they were supposed to have met here under the Evangeline Oak after Gabriel had given up hope and married someone else. According to the AAA (American Automobile Association) book, this is the most photographed tree in America. So I took pictures of it. It's a big tree, and hard to take a picture of.
I visited this site with a friend in 1960.
In the second picture, the park around the tree is decorated for Christmas. However you might notice that in this photo the tree does not appear to be the same.
And it isn't
The Live Oak, the site of their meeting, is actually the third such oak designated in Louisiana, and the one that was there when I visited in 2004 was scheduled to be retired in 2006 because the parking lot around it was killing its roots. A new oak was to be designated, with full historical pedigree, as The Evangeline Oak.
Around the Oak there was a park with a boardwalk along the Bayou Teche, a B&B, two museums and a visitor's center.
This 1829 Greek Revival 3-story brick building in St. Martinsville, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Homes since 1978. In the 19th century when travelers came to St. Martinville by river, the hotel had one of the area's most luxurious ballrooms and was the setting for community activities. When steamboat travel gave way to the railroads, the old hotel was sold to the Sisters of Mercy, who operated the Convent of Mercy School there for almost 90 years. It is said to be the only surviving example of the type hotel that served the trade along Bayou Teche during the era of steamboat transportation.
We walked along the boardwalk with the native plant garden as far as a bridge The visitor's center opened at 10, and we went in and got a very good local sketch map of St. Martinsville. We then visited half of one of the museums for $2 @ (the Arcadian Memorial side
The museum said the Longfellow poem was "beautiful and sad..." but didn't really tell much about who the Arcadians were. But the success of the poem led others to write about it and even movies to be made - Dolores Del Rio starred in the 1929 movie as Evangeline..
We skipped the other museum which had a list of the original settlers, a mural of their arrival and an eternal flame. It would have been another $2 @. We drove out to the Longfellow Evangeline State Historic Site which is free to those over 62. The road was being re-paved and all the manholes were sticking up out of it, but there was more of a problem with the reflectors for the lane lines which were also sticking up and looked quite sharp.
There was supposed to be a tour of the 1815 Olivier house on the hour, and it was now 10:50. I remember visiting this house with Ester Foxworth, and I have a picture of her beside the bell.
Because of construction, we could not drive, so we hiked out to the house,
where we met a little old lady in costume who told us all about the house.
There were camellias and roses in bloom in the garden.
She even let me take photographs
and occasionally sit down
She told the story about the tax on stairs, which the lady at Shadows had said was not true.
They had a rolling pin bed,
and Bob and a little girl that had come and joined the tour pretended that they were rolling out the mattress.
The tour guide lady was quite adamant that there was no place local worth eating at except Possoms, and the mom of the little girl said the same. [Possom's closed after we were there..] So, as it was getting on towards 12:20, we set off to find it.
They have a $4.95 lunch Sunday to Friday - 28 choices.
The guide warned us that if we got a salad, it would be $1.00 more, so we didn't. Bob got a stuffed catfish, a roll, a baked potato and rice (they give you a roll and rice with everything),
and I got "Puff n Stuff" which was a puff pastry stuffed with shrimp, crab and crawfish au gratin, and a stuffed potato (which I would have called twice baked) a roll and rice. Total before tip was $14.00 included iced tea.
We drove back into town, passing the courthouse
where one could do genealogical research if it hadn't been a Sunday, and went to the main square with the church. Behind St. Martin de Tour's church is a small cemetery.
(This is not the town graveyard which is outside of town a little way.) But here there is a little mausoleum
and also a nice grave with a bronze statue of a seated woman on it. There is a plaque on it which says "Evangeline"
But this is not really a grave - the grave is empty. The model for the statue was Dolores Del Rio, a Mexican movie star, who played Evangeline in the silent movie that was made from Longfellow’s poem. The statue was a gift from cast and crew to the people of St. Martinville.
And actually there is no one really buried here either. All the bodies were dug up and re-intered in the St. Michael's Cemetery. Some of the old stones were moved beside the church, but no bodies are there now.
I wanted to look in the church itself (St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church - established in 1765, but the present church was built in 1844), but it looked as if wreaths on the doors would keep them shut.
The Saint Martin that the church was named for was a originally a soldier in the Roman army stationed in France. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, which has a medal in his name. One day as he was approaching the gates of the city of Amiens, he met a scantily clad beggar. He impulsively cut his military cloak in half to share with the man. That night, Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me. Martin was subsequently baptized at the age of 18.
Many churches in are named after Saint Martin of Tours including the church of St Martin-in-the-fields at Trafalgar Square in the centre of London and Saint Martin's Cathedral, in Ypres. Martin Luther was named after St. Martin, as he was baptized on November 11 (St. Martin's Day), 1483. Many older Lutheran congregations are named after St. Martin, which is unusual (for Lutherans) because he is a saint who does not appear in the Bible. (Lutherans regularly name congregations after the evangelists and other saints who appear in the Bible but are hesitant to name congregations after post-Biblical saints.)
The statue in front of the church is of Rev. Ange Marie Jan
Eventually I noticed that on one door the wreath wasn't a complete circle, but was in two halves, and we could go in.
Cajuns call St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church the “Mother Church of the Acadians” for it was here in St. Martinville that the largest immigration of Acadians occurred in 1785. But the church was established before the Acadian’s arrival, in 1765, and church records hail back even further. It is the fourth oldest church in the State of Louisiana.
Built in 1836 The current Gothic Revival structure was constructed around 1836 on the site of a previous church and is the center of the town’s square.
The "gated" or box pews are a throwback to era when churches reserved pews for individual member families. The stained glass windows cast beautiful colored light onto the pews.
Many parishioners recall days of their youth sitting on the floor playing with the bright blocks of color.
Doric columns run through the cypress pews separating the nave from the side aisles.
The original baptismal font, thought to be a gift from the King of France, is an exquisite ornamental marble design. There is also a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes on one side.
Guided tours (free) and Masses of St. Martin de Tours are routinely offered in both English and French.
The church is flanked by the Presbytere (home for the priests) on one side
and the Petit Paris Museum on the other.
There was a statue of an Attapaka Indian out front.
But the Museum was not open, so we drove back out to the State Historic Site.
I had not seen the museum in the visitor's center, nor the Arcadian cabin (representing life as it would have been when the refugees first arrived) nor the farmstead. It was getting colder and more windy, and I did not want to walk all the way out to the farm, so we settled for visiting the cabin
and the exhibits in the main center.
I remembered there being a zoo with monkeys, and they said that indeed there had been one, but it wasn't there anymore.
We left and went back to the motel. We had a somewhat unsatisfactory dinner at Shoneys. They gave Bob a cheeseburger when he really only wanted a hamburger.
December 20, 2004 Back to Florida
Bob set the clock radio, and we got up early and were checked out by 7:30 in spite of the fact that I'd taken my door key out of my pocket so I wouldn't lose or forget it, and then when we went out to dinner, I picked it up again, and stuck it in my dress pocket and then packed the dress with it in there. I was wearing all my warmest clothes - layered on because none of them were really warm. I ate a bagel and cream cheese that I had leftover from breakfast yesterday, and had one of the oranges that she gave us at the Jeanerette Museum. Bob refused to eat anything.
We got gas in New Iberia, and then drove toward the New Orleans airport.
We missed the turn off the highway and went around a different way, and ended up on the access road to the airport, and then didn't go the correct way off of it, but that enabled us to get gas again, and we were turning the car in before 9:30. This was good in that we didn't have to pay extra, but it was bad because we were at the airport too early to curbside check our bags. But we did get our boarding passes out of the machine, and got baggage tags.
Now we were at the airport with 4 hours to kill. It did take us some time to go through security. I went and got lunch and made Bob eat some tuna fish. I should have gotten that for me too. Planes from Boston and NYC were delayed. NY because of high winds at the destination. Boston because the plane didn't get to NO in time due to de-icing. Our plane was a bit late getting in too. Our daughter said to say hello to the pilot, so I did.
When we finally got to our seats (we were the last group to board) which were 12 A and 12B, there was someone in 12A. He tried to convince us that he was in 12C. I was afraid there would be no room for our luggage as they were announcing that it was a full flight, but everything went OK. After we got airborne, the guy in 12C moved across the aisle, and so Bob moved to 12C and we had the seat between us empty.
The flight was uneventful, and we saw lots of boats anchored in various places around Miami when we came in to land.
I could see people around Dinner Key, and in
Our daughter got to our location just as we got our luggage, but on the way to her house, the traffic was terrible. We went to our grandson's baseball practice, and then came back to the house.
The rest of the winter is in the next section:
Spring Migration by Mercedes 2005