FREETOWN AS IT WAS AND AS IT IS THE FREETOWN HISTORY PROJECT FINAL REPORT

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1 FREETOWN AS IT WAS AND AS IT IS THE FREETOWN HISTORY PROJECT FINAL REPORT DR. C. RAY BRASSIEUR DR. LIONEL LYLES DR. MICHAEL S. MARTIN NOVEMBER 30,

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Introduction 3 2. Historical Development of the Ile Copal Plantation and the Freetown Community, ca Uses of the Freetown Database (1900-present): 31 Dr. Lee Butler 35 Mary Tante Marie Raymond 39 Martin s Hat Shop Appendices Bibliography 53 2

3 INTRODUCTION This research project was designed to provide an historical, geographical, and cultural understanding of the Freetown neighborhood as it existed in the past and as it functions today. The findings included in this report and in the electronic database (to be provided on an external hard drive) may be used to enhance current and future residents connection to their neighborhood, to grow the area s tourist trade, and to expand the community s sense of place. The research for the Freetown project brought together multiple fields of study history, geography, folklore, and architecture being the most prominent and occurred in a variety of ways. Historical research included archival work in UL Lafayette s Special Collections division of the Edith Garland Dupre Library and the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court s office; beyond that, a number of oral history interviews were conducted. Geographical research included the production of a series of Geographic Information System (GIS) maps documenting the neighborhood s development over time; these maps stretch back as far as the time of Governor Alexandre Mouton s Ile Copal plantation. Census records, newspaper accounts, and oral history interviews combined to provide an understanding of Freetown s local culture, and architectural analyses of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and the neighborhood s current structures provided a sense of the area s built environment. Combined, the information gathered offers a starting point for a comprehensive understanding of Freetown as it was and as it is. Because of the nature of the research engaged in, this report is divided into two sections. The first, which provides a narrative overview of the development of the area we now refer to as Freetown, covers the chronological period of roughly In it, the authors assess the arrival of Europeans to the area; the land s ownership by members of the Mouton family; the context of the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods; the coming of the railroad as a dramatic spur to development; and the creation of the Mouton s Addition subdivision. The authors also attempt to determine whether or not free people of color inhabited the area prior to the Civil War and how the place came to be known as Freetown. This section is based largely on archival research. The second section is suggestive of the types of information that may be found in the research that was compiled into a searchable and user-friendly Filemaker Pro database. That database includes historical and visual documentation for virtually every piece of property in Freetown, and it will provide a powerful tool for future researchers interested in the neighborhood s development. Due to time and space constraints, it would be impossible to include the entirety of the database s information in a written report. The authors therefore have provided two examples of the type of information that can be gleaned from the materials included in the database. These examples provide biographical information on individuals and businesses Dr. Lee Butler, Mary Tante Marie Raymond, and Martin s Hat Shop that called Freetown home and left their imprint on the community. It is our hope that the research embodied in this report and contained on the database will prompt future study of the Freetown neighborhood. C. Ray Brassier, Lionel Lyles, Michael Martin 3

4 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE ÎLE COPAL PLANTATION AND THE FREETOWN COMMUNITY, ca TO 1900 Geography of the Vermilion River and Early Settlement In the beginning, there was the river, or the bayou--vermilion. 1 The history of Freetown, including its geography, is inseparably connected to the Vermilion River. Throughout geological history, including the Pleistocene Epoch, the Vermilion created a natural floodplain as a result of centuries of overflows that deposited rich alluvial sediments on either side of it. According to the Bayou Vermilion District Board, the early geologic formation of the Vermilion River was created by the Mississippi River carving the channel in which today s river flows: A river s course, and what happens along its banks change with the times the Vermilion River is no exception. For millennia throughout the pre-historic era, each time sea level made a drastic change, so would the course of what we now call the Mississippi River and the Mississippi s changes affected all the waters in its vicinity. At some point between 25,000 and 125,000 years ago, the course of the Mississippi shifted to the west in fact, for a while, the river flowed right through the Lafayette area cutting a new course through the coastal plains. When it shifted back, it left a course through the prairie and created the channel for the eventual Vermilion River. 2 The Mississippi River formed the Vermilion channel during its slow, east-west and west-east windshield wiper action that built up the Louisiana wetlands and coast. As the Mississippi s flow gradually shifted to the east, enormous amounts of rich sediment were deposited on what bcame the Vermilion River Floodplain. The floodplain made an ideal location for early settlement, and it marked a clear distinction between lands that would ultimately be put to sugar cane cultivation to the east and lands that would be used for cotton, corn, and rice farming to the west. According to Donald Millet, the eastern extremity developed earlier than the western. The rich black and brown alluvial soil in eastern Saint Landry, Lafayette, and portions of Vermilion... attracted the earliest inhabitants of the Vermilion Floodplain. 3 In addition to the availability of rich soil, the Vermilion served as an excellent waterway for navigation. 1 Steven Cormier, Acadian Communities in Louisiana, Acadian%20Communities%20in%20LA.htm#Acadian%20Communities%20in%20Louisiana. 2 Bayou Vermillion District, 300 Fisher Road. Lafayette, LA 70508, (337) Donald Millet, The Economic Development of Southwest Louisiana, , Ph.D. Diss., Louisiana State University,

5 By the 1740s, early settlers had a profitable fur and deerskin trading business along the Vermilion River. The Old Spanish Trail reached the Vermilion right about where the current Pinhook Bridge is located. That landmark has been the epicenter of the Vermilion for centuries. In the midst of traders, ranchers and smugglers, the area around the Pinhook Bridge was the hub of what little commerce and activity happened along the Vermilion at the time. The small settlement was called Petit Manchac and served as a trading center for Native Americans, trappers and colonists. 4 In the midst of this growing commerce, the Attakapas people were the last natives to live along the banks of the Vermilion, fish its waters and hunt in the thick woods along the meandering river, but few, if any, Attakapas survived as the eighteenth century gave way to the nineteenth. 5 The Attakapas way of life steadily declined in the face of an upsurge in European colonization, followed by the beginnings of a plantation economy that came to dominate the Vermilion River region. During the French colonial rule of Louisiana ( ), hardly any land granted in the area we now call Acadiana was for settlement along the Vermilion River. The earliest important French outposts here were at the Attakapas Post (near today s St. Martinville) and the Opelousas Post (today s Opelousas). Closer to the Vermilion, any Europeans would have been primarily trappers, ranchers and smugglers. Some built their stores on barges that carried gunpowder, traps, tea, and other goods to the scattered settlers, who offered furs, hides, and farm products in exchange. 6 Spanish Land Grants Along the Vermilion River After France officially ceded Louisiana to Spanish rule in 1763, the latter gave land grants to any French settlers who were interested in establishing themselves along the Vermilion River. A map, Land Grants on Upper Vermillion River, created by Carl Brasseaux and Gertrude Taylor for the Attakapas Historical Association shows that the earliest land grants along the Vermilion were given by Spanish Governor Bernardo de Galvez between 1776 and This map shows that the Spanish governor awarded forty-five land grants along the Vermilion during this time. The main prerequisite for a land grant was an agreement to improve the land. Jim Bradshaw notes that the Spanish government awarded land grants to new settlers before 1800 on the condition that they would clear the land, and help build and keep up levees, bridges, and roads. 8 4 Bayou Vermillion Board, Op. Cit. 5 Bayou Vermillion Board, Op. Cit. 6 Bayou Vermillion Board, Op. Cit. 7 Gertrude C. Taylor and Carl A. Brasseaux, Land Grants on Upper Vermillion River, map, Attakapas Historical Association, Available in the Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 8 Jim Bradshaw, Early Settlers during days of Spanish rule, Daily Advertiser, June 24, 1997, p. 1. 5

6 n order for prime lands along the Vermilion River to be available for land grants, American Indians, especially the Attakapas, either sold their lands or were forced off of them by the Europeans. According to the Louisiana State Museum, over time, as they were forced off their lands by expanding cotton and sugar plantations in the antebellum era, Louisiana Indians retreated to swamps, marshes, and piney woods. Many lived on the fringes of plantations, raising vegetables and poultry, gathering herbs from the forest, and making baskets and jewelry. They sold and bartered these goods to planters and slaves or carried them by pirogue through bayous and rivers to New Orleans and other towns. 9 The earliest settlers to receive Spanish land grants in or near today s Lafayette were Rene Trahan, Joseph Broussard, and Michel Meaux, who received their grants on May 4, 1776; Theodore and Olivier Thibodeaux, who received theirs on January 5, 1777; and Claude Martin, who received his on May 4, Trahan s 20,240 acre grant dwarfed the others in size. It straddled the Vermilion, stretching from the site of the Lafayette Airport terminal and Simcoe St. in the north to St. Mary Blvd/Mall St. and Hugh Wallis Rd. in the south, with its east-west outer boundaries at roughly the edge of the airport s boundary and Jefferson Street. Near the center of Trahan s grant the banks on either side of the river were the highest, and the river ran north and south. That made it a natural river crossing, notes Jim Bradshaw. Furthermore, the same I 9 Louisiana State Museum, A Medley of Cultures: Louisiana History at the Cabildo, publications/medley_of_cultures/a_medley_of_cultures.pdf, p. 21, hereafter cited as Medley of Cultures. 6

7 place on the river marked the point at which it became unnavigable as one traveled upstream. Trahan s land grant encompassed the area we now know as Freetown. 10 The Development of the Mouton Lands When Trahan died in 1789, his daughter, Henriette Broussard, and his son, Louis Trahan, inherited his lands. Henriette received the upper portion of the estate and Louis the lower. Louis Trahan died in 1811 and left no heirs; his land subsequently was sold in large parcels in The portion of Trahan land containing what eventually became the site of Freetown was purchased by James Martin, who then sold it to William Brent, who subsequently sold it to John Norton. On September 2, 1816, Norton sold the land to Jean Mouton Sr. at the price of $3,300 for eleven arpents (approximately 2,112 feet) fronting the river. Combined with four arpents Mouton had purchased from Andre Martin in 1812, the purchase brought Mouton s total frontage on the river to fifteen arpents (approx. 2,880 feet). The record indicates that the tract of land began at Isle de Copal, which was the upper line of the [Louis] Trahan concession on the West side of the Vermilion River and went as far south as today s General Mouton Ave. 11 In June 1817, Jean Mouton designated a division of his property among his children and gave his son Alexandre a tract of land measuring 3.66 arpents wide by 40 deep, being one-third of a tract of land lying between Theodore Thibodeaux and Francois Broussard. Alexandre s brothers, Emile and Cesaire received the same amount of land at the same location located on the right [west] bank of Bayou Vermilion to be divided among themselves. Thus the portion of the Trahan lands that Jean Mouton purchased in 1816 would be divided evenly among his three youngest sons. 12 Jean Mouton had arrived in the area with his brother, Marin, in the 1780s. Their initial Spanish land grants were dated 1781 and were located at Bayou Carencro, where the two had settled and begun cultivating the land some time before then. Jean had been born in Acadie in 1755 and had endured the expulsion from their homeland that so many other Acadians had. He married Marie Marthe Bordat about the year 1783 [and they] became the progenitors of a distinguished line of descendants. They were the parents of 15 children, 12 of whom survived childhood. 13 All of Jean and Marie s children were born on the Mouton plantation located about 10 miles out near 10 The Daily Advertiser, Lafayette Remembered : The Centennial Album, (Lafayette, La., 1984), 13; Land Grants on Upper Vermilion River map, hereafter cited as Lafayette Remembered; Jim Bradshaw, Lafayette Grew up Around Jean Mouton Land Donation, Daily Advertiser, January 27, 1998, p, Lafayette Remembered, 13-14; Glenn R. Conrad, Land Records of the Attakapas District, vol. 1: The Attakapas Domesday Book: Land Grants, Claims and Confirmations in the Attakapas District, (Lafayette, La., 1990), hereafter cited as Attakapas Domesday Book. 12 Lafayette Remembered, 13; Attakapas Domesday Book; Alexandre Mouton, grandson, Louisiana Reminiscences, , unpublished memoir, 13, hereafter cited as Mouton memoir. 13 Descendants of Antoine Mouton: Generation No. 4., Oconnor/GENE html 7

8 Carencro. 14 Of the Mouton s fifteen children, their sixth child, Alexandre, became influential in Louisiana and national politics and crucial for the development of Freetown. From his initial base of operations near Carencro, Jean began expanding his holdings in the early 1800s. By 1800, he owned 800 acres, worth about $400. Three years later, reports indicate that he possessed 62 arpents of land and ten slaves. By 1809, he had purchased twenty arpents of land down the Vermilion, between Carencro and Lafayette, and in 1812 and 1816, he purchased land in what is now Lafayette, as mentioned above. Those 1812 and 1816 purchases extended back from the Vermilion for 40 arpents (7,680 feet) to the boundary of public lands known as Section 60. In 1819, Mouton purchased Section 60, which is the site of much of today s downtown Lafayette. 15 By 1820, Jean Mouton, realized that it was critical to establish a town, preferably a seat of government, to protect his business holdings and expand his wealth. In March 1821, donated a bit more than five-and-a-half-arpents of land from Section 60 to trustees of the local Catholic congregation. On May 15, 1822, Bishop Duborg created a new parish, St. John the Evangelist, with the church as its seat. Mouton s donation was at the site of today s Cathedral of St. John, and the new parish encompassed all of today Lafayette and Vermilion parishes, plus parts of Acadia. 16 Mouton s land purchases and donations set the stage for a showdown over the site of what would become the central town of Lafayette Parish. The parish itself was created by legislative decree on January 17, After that, a committee was appointed to determine the site of the new parish seat, and two rival sites emerged: a piece of land owned by John and William Reeves, Anglo settlers who owned property along the Vermilion near the site of today s Pinhook bridge, and Mouton s Section 60 land, where he had constructed a small Catholic chapel in 1819 and had donated the land to the local congregation. Both sides the Reeves brothers and Mouton clearly understood the implication should the parish seat be situated on their lands, and both stood to make a small fortune from land sales. In the end, a July 1824 vote by property owners in the parish awarded the site to Mouton. The Reeves brothers cried foul, but to no avail. 17 Prior to the vote, Mouton had received permission from the state legislature to survey and lay out a town, named in the request as Vermilionville. That land was surveyed by John Dinsmore Jr. and consisted of 156 lots, each 96 by 140 feet, situated along north-south and east-west dirt streets. Once the spot was chosen as the seat of government, Mouton began quickly selling off the lots typically at $150 a piece, payable over two years. He also donated twelve lots to the parish for the site of a courthouse and other official buildings. With the establishment of 14 Ibid. 15 Harry L. Griffin, The Attakapas Country: A History of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana (Gretna, La., 1974), 16, hereafter cited as Griffin; Pearl Mary Segura, Jean Mouton: Pioneer, Patriot, Attakapas Gazette 22:1 (Spring 1987), 4, 5, hereafter cited as Segura. 16 Griffin, Michael S. Martin, Historic Lafayette: An Illustrated History of Lafayette and Lafayette Parish, San Antonio, 2007, 10; Griffin, 28-30; Lafayette Remembered, 15-16; Segura, 4. 8

9 Vermilionville, Jean Mouton achieved his goal, namely, estate protection for himself and his descendants. By 1836, two years after Mouton s death, Vermilionville had grown to the point that the state legislature formally incorporated it. 18 Source: Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court s Office Before his death, Jean Mouton granted four lots in Vermilionville (lots 142, 143, 144, and 145) to his sons Alexandre, Cesaire, and Antoine Emile. Cesaire and Antoine Emile transferred their lots to Alexandre on May 5, At the time, Alexandre lived in a home (today s Lafayette Museum, 1122 Lafayette St.) adjacent to the lots. 19 Alexandre Mouton and Île Copal during the Antebellum Era Alexandre Mouton (b. 1804) was a graduate of Georgetown University and practiced law in Lafayette as a young man. In 1826 he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives, a position he held for ten years, and he served as speaker of the House in 1831 and In 1836, 18 Martin, 11, Griffin, 29-30, 33-34; Segura, Lucille Mouton Griffin Papers,

10 resigned from the House to fill a vacant U. S. Senate seat, a position he held until he was elected governor of Louisiana in He married Zelia Rousseau in 1826 and had four children before she died in 1837; his second marriage, to Emma Kitchell Gardner, produced six children. 20 Alexandre Mouton is central to the early story of Freetown, for it was from his land that the place for which we now use that term emerged, and it was likely his former slaves who first inhabited the place. According to historian William Arceneaux, upon Alexandre s marriage to Zelia in 1826, Jean Mouton gave the newlyweds as a wedding gift land that would become Alexandre s plantation, known as Île Copal. Whether this was additional land added to what the elder Mouton had granted his son in 1817 or whether it marked the fulfillment of that original grant is unclear. What is known is that while a home was built for Alexandre and his young bride, they lived in the town of Vermilionville. 21 In January 1836, Alexandre sold four of his lots in town and moved from what would from thence be known as his Town House to his new home at Île Copal, where he resided to the end of his life. According to his grandson s memoir, The Governor s [Alexandre s] property was composed of considerable ground, nineteen thousand acres. About half of it was on the east bank of the Vermilion Bayou. That there be access to all his holding, the Governor built a private bridge across this stream. His residence was on the west side, a mile from the village of Vermilionville, the limit of the town [today s Lee Avenue] was the boundary line of the Governor s property. 22 The main crop grown on the plantation was sugar cane, which was ground and processed on-site at Mouton s sugar house. By the 1840s, he had a steam-powered mill, which placed him on the cutting edge of sugar technology and allowed him to vastly increase his output of refined sugar. It soon became the norm that smaller farmers who could not afford such steam equipment would bring their cane to Mouton to be processed in his mill. 23 By 1850, the Ile Copal plantation was quite formidable in size. To get a visual picture of its sprawling geography, a prepared digital Geographical Information Systems ( GIS ) Map 1.0 is located in Appendix A. According to the map, the western boundary of the Île Copal Plantation included West Second Street and Lafayette Street; the eastern boundary consisted of Mudd Avenue and East Simcoe Street; and, the southern boundary was the Vermilion River. Although these geographic boundaries do not show the land area on the east side of the Vermilion, that 20 Mouton memoir, 11-12; Alexandre Mouton ( ) KnowLa Encyclopedia of Louisiana, https://www.knowla.org/entry.php?rec=932; William Arceneaux, Acadian General: Alfred Mouton and the Civil War (Lafayette, La., 1981), 16, hereafter cited as Acadian General. 21 Acadian General, Mouton memoir, Lucille Mouton Griffin Collection, Special Collection, Dupre Library, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, box 12, folder 1, hereafter cited as Lucille Mouton Griffin Collection; Griffin,

11 portion of the Mouton family holdings was divided up after the Civil War into smaller plantations operated by various other relatives of Alexandre Mouton. Furthermore, although Mouton owned lots in the town of Vermilionville, his plantation itself likely ended at today s Lee Avenue, not West Second and Lafayette streets. The Île Copal Main House Alexandre Mouton s residence stood in the exact spot where the LeRosen School is located today on Pinhook Road. Source: Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court s Office Slaves and Free People of Color Sugar plantations such as Île Copal required a tremendous amount of labor power to sustain their day-to-day activities. Land had to be drained in places and cleared for cultivation; areas where houses were built had to be cleared and maintained; the main house, slave quarters, sugar house, and other buidling had to be built; crops had to be planted and harvested; livestock had to be cared for year round; and food had to be prepared. In order for the Île Copal to thrive, a large number of slaves were imported, most likely from other areas of the American South via the slave markets in New Orleans. 11

12 On a statewide level, by 1810, more than 76,000 people, about half black and half white, resided in the Territory of Orleans. Not all blacks in Louisiana at the time were slaves, however, as more than 7,500 so-called free people of color (FPC) lived here as well. 24 Although slaves were not legally considered human beings, they were counted as human beings in order for Louisiana to reach the 60,000 person requirement for statehood, and on April 30, 1812 the United States admitted Louisiana as the 18 th state into the Union. 25 Table 1.0 White, Slave, and Free People of Color Populations, Whites Slaves Free Persons of Color Total 1803: (Orleans Territory) 21,224 12,920 1,768 35, : (Orleans Territory) 34,311 34,660 7,585 76, : (Louisiana) 73,383 69, , ,923 Source: Louisiana Business Challenge. Tourism in Louisiana: Background and Statehood Overview. Available for download online at Between 1803 and 1820, the slave population in Louisiana increased percent. At the same time, the white population increased by only percent, although in total numbers it remained slightly higher than the slave population. At the same time, the FPC population rose percent. According to the Louisiana State Museum, the FPCs increased their numbers as a result of their backgrounds in the colonial era: Under the French and Spanish regimes free people of color ideally had legal rights and privileges equal to those of white citizens. Local regulations occasionally curtailed their efficacy, but in general free blacks possessed property and contractual rights equal to those of whites Free blacks saved or borrowed money to grant freedom to their loved ones. Free blacks wishing to free their slave kin could pay the manumission price directly to the master or indirectly through government tribunals, thus avoiding the arduous process of first purchasing and then later freeing slave relatives. 26 This is the primary way many FPCs gained their freedom during the antebellum era. Though FPC population increase seems quite remarkable, the overall increase in the slave population was, relatively speaking, astronomically higher. By 1840, around 170,000 slaves lived in the state. Twenty years later, on the eve of the Civil War, 331,000 people were enslaved here. At nearly all times, the number of enslaved persons in Louisiana came to roughly one half of the state s total population. 24 Medley of Cultures, 9, Ibid. 26 Ibid.,

13 That overall population for Louisiana grew tremendously, from about 80,000 in 1812 to 700,000 in 1860 an increase of 775 percent. New Orleans s total population jumped from 18,000 to 170,000 during the same period an increase of percent. This population boom was fueled by the westward movement of free Americans and the forced migration of African Americans 27 Not all slaves in Louisiana came from elsewhere in the United States, despite the fact that the federal government outlawed the international slave trade in the early 1800s. As early as 1809, the Bowie Family, bought 640 acres of land along the lower Vermilion River. 28 The Bowies Family, including Reason Bowie, John J. Bowie, Rezin P. Bowie, and Jim Bowie (of Alamo Fame) were the first suppliers of African slaves to plantations located along the Vermillion River. According to the Bayou Vermillion District Board, The Bowie brothers would bring the slaves up the Vermilion River, then overland to St. Landry Parish, where the slaves were sold. 29 Ultimately, the Bowie Brothers made a fortune with the pirate Jean Lafitte, 30 and it is possible that many of the slaves they purchased from Jean Lafitte ended up in Lafayette Parish, and possibly on the Île Copal plantation. Slaves provided the productive forces that drove the economy of the antebellum South before the Civil War. This was just as true in Lafayette Parish as elsewhere, and it was just as true on the lands owned by Alexandre Mouton. But after emancipation, with freedom in hand, some of them would eventually become the first residents of Mouton Addition, a portion of which later became known as Freetown. Before we address Mouton Addition, we will briefly discuss some of the more important aspects of Lafayette Parish s antebellum economy. The Antebellum Economy Although local farmers engaged in a variety of agricultural pursuits, Lafayette Parish s antebellum economic engine ran on a mixture of three cash crops sugar cane, cotton, and increasingly in the 1850s, rice. Since its cultivation took off in Louisiana during the 1820s, sugar had been the most lucrative of those three. The production of sugar, unlike other cash crops, prompted planters to invest large amounts of money into technology and put significant thought into management of their crops and labor force. The result was a near constant increase in output of sugar in Louisiana. In 1840, the state produced 87,000 hogsheads (1 hogshead equates to roughly 1,500 pounds) of sugar; in 1850, it produced 211,201 hogsheads; in 1860, 228,758. The year the Civil War began, 1861, witnessed a record crop 459,410 hogsheads. Furthermore, Almost all the sugar grown in the United States during the antebellum period came from Louisiana. Louisiana produced from one-quarter to one-half of all sugar consumed in the 27 Ibid., Bayou Vermillion District. 29 Bayou Vermillion District. 30 Bayou vermillion District. 13

14 United States. In any given year the combined crop of other sugar-producing states Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama was less than five percent of Louisiana's. Sugar prices were highest in 1858, when hogsheads sold for an average price of $69 each, bringing the total value of Louisiana's sugar crop to $25 million. Most Louisiana sugar was exported by sea to Atlantic ports and upriver to western states. 31 According to historian Richard Follett, the antebellum elite achieved these rising production levels on modern, factory-like plantations with regimented and skilled slave labor. While sugar planting required a greater investment at the outset and thus was out of reach of the vast majority of Lafayette s farmers, for those like the Moutons who could afford to become sugar planters, the reward was well worth the cost. In 1860, the Lafayette Parish produced roughly 5,000 hogsheads [ca. 7.5 million pounds] of sugar. 32 Slaves, of course, performed practically all of the productive labor involved in Louisiana s cash crop agriculture. Slaves made cotton king in most of Louisiana during the antebellum era. Between 1840 and 1860, Louisiana s annual cotton crop rose from about 375,000 bales to nearly 800,000 bales, notes the Louisiana State Museum, and by 1860, Louisiana produced about one-sixth of all cotton grown in the United States. Pickers harvesting the crop averaged about 150 pounds per day, from sunrise to beyond sundown. Cotton picking was hard, backbreaking, finger-splitting work. 33 On sugar plantations, planting, growing, cutting, and milling cane was extremely hard work; most free workers refused to do this work or could not be relied upon during the busy harvest (called grinding) season. In addition, since the sugar growing and processing took up an entire year, planters could keep their slaves busy all the time. 34 Yet, the institution of slavery as it existed on sugar plantation defies commonly held assumption about its nature. As sugar production became increasingly mechanized even industrialized plantation owners had to induce their slaves to adapt to the changes. They did this partly through coercion and threats, but they also provided certain incentives such as Christmas bonuses, extra food, and payment for the produce of their gardens or overtime work. In short, the lot of an enslaved person on a sugar cane plantation was in many ways much worse than that of those on cotton plantations the backbreaking work of planting and harvesting cane, digging drainage ditches, and building and maintaining levees was much more grueling but the peculiarities of sugar production also provided certain benefits to the slave. Besides the incentives provided by planters, the slaves 31 Ibid., Richard Follet, The Sugar Masters: Planters and Slaves in Louisiana s Cane World, (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2005), 5, 22, hereafter cited as Follett; Carl A. Brasseaux, Prosperity and the Free Population of Lafayette Parish, : A Demographic Overview (1), Attakapas Gazette 12 (1977), 105, 108, herafter cited as Prosperity and the Free Population ; Carl A. Brasseaux, Acadian to Cajun: Transformation of a People, (Jackson, Miss., 1992), 6, hereafter cited as Acadian to Cajun; A hogshead equaled roughly 1,500 pounds, according to The American Mail and Export Journal, 18 (November 1886), Medley of Cultures, Medley of Cultures,

15 themselves gained skills that made them more valuable to the planter before the Civil War and gave them leverage as free laborers after emancipation. Those skills included all levels of processing the cane into granulated sugar from milling and evaporation to skimming, striking, and cooling. 35 The Moutons and Slavery in Lafayette Parish It is a commonly held misconception that Acadians and their descendants in south Louisiana had little interest in the institution of slavery. Yet the development of cotton and especially sugar cane agriculture in the region led to the embedding of slavery in Lafayette Parish by the antebellum period. Although the first slaves to arrive in the area probably came with the first Europeans, it was not until the first decade of the nineteenth century that second and third generation Acadians readily embraced slavery and the plantation system. In 1810, there were 437 enslaved persons in the Attakapas District, which encompassed most of southwest Louisiana, including modern Lafayette Parish. After that, the so-called peculiar institution became a cornerstone of the area s economic and social milieu. By 1850, there were some 374 slaveowners in Lafayette parish; of those, 68% were descendants of Acadians. All told, the parish contained 3,174 enslaved persons by then, a number that would increase to 4,367 a decade later. Although most Acadians owned less than ten slaves, and a smaller percentage owned between eleven and twenty, some of the Acadians in Lafayette Parish were very large slaveholders. Indeed, four Acadians Charles Trahan, Andrew Martin, Antoine Mouton, and Alexandre Mouton--held more than fifty slaves in 1850, with Alexandre Mouton at the top of the list with 91. On the eve of the Civil War, in 1860, Mouton had increased that number to 120, surpassed in the parish only by his brother, Antoine Mouton, who held Alexandre Mouton was remembered by his descendants as a particularly benevolent slave owner. Mouton s grandson recalled: The Governor s negro quarters were away from the Big House. There were many cabins, rather large; the proportions I am not able to give. Every negro family lived in a comfortable home. Each had his own garden. The were permitted to raise chickens and to gather moss, all of which they sold to get their ready cash. Their ood was the most wholesome. In the quarters was a special building known as their hospital; in it the infirm and sick gor proper attention. There was an amusement hall; the dancing hall. On all the holidays, Christmas, especially New Year, Easter, they gathered enjoying all sorts of music and games. There was no stopping their singing and characteristic dances. Apparently Alexandre Mouton allowed this to go on despite the Lafayette Parish Police Jury s declaration that it shall be unlawful for any one to permit or suffer a negro ball or other assemblage of slaves to be held on his premises. Mouton s grandson added that the slaves on Île Copal had a church and graveyard, where all the dead were given appropriate services and 35 Follett, 5, Vaughan Baker, Patterns of Slave Ownership in Lafayette Parish, 1850, Attakapas Gazette, 9:3 (September 1974), ; Acadian to Cajun, 5; Robert Steckel, Slavery in Lafayette, , Attakapas Gazette 10:2 (Summer 1975), 113; Mouton memoirs,

16 buried in sacred ground. Such were the benefits that Alexandre Mouton provided his slaves, much like those of the other sugar planters. We must remember, however, that Mouton s benevolence was a reflection of his efforts to maximize the productivity of his slaves. What s more, his good will, so far as we can tell, did not extend to emancipating his slaves until he was forced to. Indeed, as will be shown below, Mouton was among the staunchest defenders of the institution of slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War. 37 Slave ownership pervaded the extended Mouton family, as the following tables show. Table 1.1 Ownership of Slave by Some Members of the Mouton Family, 1850 NAME MALE FEMALE <10 TOTAL Rasimon Oneisine Alises Adeline Homer Sosthene Sidney Antoine TOTAL Source: Seventh Census of the United States, 1850, Slave Inhabitants, Vol. 3, Louisiana. The above data shows a majority of the slaves owned by this sampling of the Mouton family were forty years old and younger. Such an age distribution is consistent with the need for a young working-age population. The obvious absence of any slaves in the 60+ category is due to the fact that not many slaves lived this long as a result of their forced expenditure of labor. Table 1.2 Ownership of Slaves by Some Members of the Mouton Family, 1860 NAME MALE F/MALE <10 TOTAL Rachel Oneisine Martha Louise Omar Sosthene Alfred Elai Alcide ONEY Pidgnace Adolph TOTAL Source: 1860 U.S. Census of Population, Slave Population, Louisiana, Aleck Mouton memoirs, 10, 13; Joe Gray Taylor, Negro Slavery in Louisiana,

17 By 1850, this sampling of the Mouton family owned 142 slaves in Lafayette Parish. Ten years later, the U.S. Census reported that the number rose to 256. There was no major change in the age distribution of the slaves by 1860, yet there clearly was a growing demand for slaves who could work in the sugar cane and cotton fields among other occupations. Although there were four slaves 60 years old and over by 1860, the vast majority never reached this age as a result of years of sun up-to-sundown hard work. For Lafayette Parish as a whole, the total number of slaves rose noticeably. Although Alexandre Mouton, an presumably others, engaged in what may have been termed benevolent ownership of slaves, this did not subdue the spirit of slaves, many of whom resisted their enslavement. Although most resistance took the form of work slowdowns or running away, some slaves went farther in protesting their forced servitude. In 1840, for example, a slave insurrection emerged in Lafayette Parish. Although there is little documentary evidence of the insurrection, the fact that nine of its leaders were executed provides some indication of the potential severity of it. According to the September 1, 1840, New Orleans Courier, the leader of the insurrection was the son of his owner, a Mr. Clouset. We also know that the slaves who informed the authorities of the insurrection were granted their freedom. 38 Slaves in Lafayette Parish provided a vast majority of the labor that created the enormously high surplus value, or profit, for sugar and cotton plantation owners. Moreover, slaves served as important economic and cultural creators for Louisiana, as Jim Bradshaw has noted: African people came here with the first of the European settlers. The huge sugar plantations that made the region prosperous were built not only upon their labor but, in many instances, upon the expertise in growing cane and making sugar that people of color brought with them from French sugar islands of the Caribbean. Their contributions have played a large part in the creation and continuation of our unique way of life. Most people know that okra is an African vegetable that came to Louisiana by blacks by way of the West Indies, and that it became the basis for the first of the gumbos that have made Acadiana s tables famous. Black people in kitchens from New Orleans to New Iberia created many of the recipes and cooking techniques that are mistakenly lumped under the title of Cajun cooking. 39 Antebellum Free People of Color in Lafayette Parish The existence of slavery did not prevent the development of a population of free people of color (including both mulattoes and blacks) in Lafayette Parish. By 1850, their number of stood at 149, only 4.5% of the total free population. The numbers increased to 231 total and 5.4% in Although some of the FPCs lived in Vermilionville and engaged in trades such as carpentry, blacksmithing, or shoemaking, the vast majority of them, like the vast majority of whites in the parish, farmed for a living on land that they owned, and some owned slaves. Most 38 Joe Gray Taylor, Negro Slavery in Louisiana (New York, 1963), Jim Bradshaw, Cajun Culture is Black & White, Breaux Bridge Banner, Vol. 27, No. 25, July 31, 2013, p

18 of them enjoyed many of the same privileges of citizenship as the whit population, except they could not vote. 40 More than 90 percent of Lafayette s free population (white and of color ) lived outside the incorporated village of Vermilionville in the 1850s. At that time, the town itself was a small commercial village housing artisans, such as blacksmiths, carpenters and merchants, who catered to the needs of Lafayette Parish s rural residents. The decade before the outbreak of the Civil War brought substantial change to both the town and the parish, however. The boom in rice agriculture opened economic opportunities for relatively small farmers who could not afford to engage in large scale production of cotton or sugar, and thus led to the emergence of an agrarian middle class. Although some of the parish s citizens were left out of the rising economic tide (historian Carl Brasseaux points out two important groups that did not appear to reap the rewards school teachers and Eastern European Jewish peddlers), other groups such as free people of color and newcomers to the Parish saw their real estate and personal property holdings increase. In short, the 1850s were a period of relative prosperity for Lafayette Parish. 41 The Civil War If the 1850s brought rising economic statuses for most of the free population of the parish, it also brought grave concerns among the same population about the maintenance of slavery. As debates on the national level focused on limiting expansion of slavery into western territories, in Louisiana leaders of the Democratic Party came to increasingly focus on slavery as the single most important political issue of the day. Foremost among those top Democrats was Alexandre Mouton, despite the fact that he no longer held political office. Mouton had been the state s first Democratic governor ( ), and he had overseen the implementation of a constitutional convention in 1845 that did away with the old Constitution of 1812, a rigidly artistocratic document, and replaced it with the Constitution of 1845, which grated the right to vote to all white males over the age of 21 and instituted the first structures for a statewide public education system. Following that success, Mouton retired from public office, but he remained politically active behind the scenes, and as the Democratic Party became a single-issue party in the 1850s, Mouton championed its defense of slavery. By 1860, according to historian Carl Brasseaux, Mouton had emerged as the undisputed political kingpen of the western Acadian parishes. In that year, he served as chair of the Louisiana delegation to the Democratic National Convention, and he led the way when the delegation bolted over the national party s lack of a strong statement in defense of federal protections of slavery. At a rump convention, Mouton led the calls for the nomination of John Breckenridge as a southern Democratic nominee. Finally, once Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidency that year putting into the Oval Office the leader of a political party avowedly opposed to slavery Mouton was elected to the Louisiana Secession Convention, where he served as president and oversaw the dissolution of the state s political ties with the United States Frank C. Borello, Free Blacks in Lafayette Parish to 1860, Attakapas Gazette 10:2 (Summer 1975), Brasseaux, Propserity and the Free Population, 105, 106, Acadian to Cajun, 51-52, 54, 57, 59 18

19 The election of Abraham Lincoln and the secessionist movement in the South led to the Civil War, of course. Initially, it seemed as if Louisiana might escape the most traumatic effects of the war, but that was not to be. By 1862, the war arrived in the form of Union forces moving up the Mississippi River and taking New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In the spring of 1863, Union General Nathaniel Banks began pressing to the west and north from the lower stretches of the Missississippi. Vastly outnumbered, Confederate General Richard Tayol tried his best to slow Banks s progress. This set the stage for a confrontation at Vermilionville. 43 Following a course that roughly traced today s Highway 90 from Franklin up through New Iberia and Broussard, Banks reached the Vermilion River by April Brigadier General Alfred Mouton, Alexandre s son and a Vermilionville native, was charged with protecting his hometown. Alfred Mouton had graduated from West Point in 1850 and had been at the head of the Lafayette Parish Vigilance Committee in 1859 before gaining battlefield experience in 1861 and On April 17, 1863, Mouton attempted to slow Banks s advance at Pin Hook by burning the bridge there after his men retreated across it. He then set up a defensive breastwork at what is now Girard Park. That evening, the Union troops attempted to rain artillery fire upon the Confederates, but their aim was off, and the shells exploded either in the air or behind them. Mouton knew that the bridgeless Vermilion would not hold the Union forces for long, however, and that night he and his troops escaped to Opelousas. The very next day, Banks s men built a new bridge across the river. 44 Alexander Mouton s grandson, whose family home, Walnut Grove, was on the Vermilion and was burned by Union forces, evacuated with his mother to Île Copal, his grandfather s plantation. He recalled: We were here [at Ile Copal] a day before the Union army. In less than no tiem, they could be seen approaching from all directions. The plantation was well surrounded. The army had taken possession of all our things, including the family kitchen and our cooking stoves and cooks. In front of the residence were the tents of General Nathaniel Banks, General Grover Whitsell and General [William B.] Franklin, all pitched. 45 In a stinging bit of irony, Banks established his headquarters at the home of his adversary s father, who himself had presided over the Louisiana secession convention. Alexandre Mouton was arrested and sent to New Orleans for imprisonment. Banks did not stay long, however, and soon set off in pursuit of his adversary. In yet further irony, the following year, at the Battle of Mansfield in northwest Louisiana, Banks's soldiers killed Alfred Mouton Martin, Ibid. 45 Mouton memoir, Martin,

20 In the space of only a few weeks in 1863, residents of Vermilionville had experienced something locals before or since never did warfare in their own backyard. Two armies (Confederate and Union) had barreled through the town, one in retreat, the other in pursuit. It must have been discouraging for Confederates in the town to view the discrepancies in numbers between Taylor and Mouton s forces and Banks s. Conversely, slaves in the town and its surrounding areas must have found it great encouraging. Although slave owners undoubtedly tried to keep their slaves in the dark about the causes and progress of the war, a northern army marching through the town would have been evidence enough for some slaves to understand the significance of what was happening. 47 Reconstruction The end of the Civil War brought with it a new historical era called Reconstruction. Reconstruction meant two things: first, reconstructing the war-torn South, which had been the site of most of the Civil War s fighting and which for decades following reeled from the devastation; second, reconstructing the nation, which had been torn apart and now had to be mended. In Louisiana, the tensions of Reconstruction spilled over into racial intimidation and terrorism. Simply put, many whites did not wish to have former slaves, or freedmen as they were now called, put on an equal footing with themselves. On top of that, many whites believed that their own rights would be trampled in the effort to establish the rights of the freedmen. 48 Although the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellia dominated efforts to vanquish black freedoms elsewhere in the South, in Lafayette Parish the White League prevailed. Oft-romanticized by contemporary and later commentators, the White League used threats and even deadly force to intimidate Republicans and blacks throughout Louisiana. 49 The first White League in Lafayette Parish formed at Vermilionville in August It was quickly supplemented by thirteen other clubs from around the parish. Total membership numbered nearly 500 men, roughly five percent of Lafayette Parish s population. The Lafayette Parish White Leagues believed that, although the freedmen posed social and economic concerns, it was the former slaves newly granted political powers that most threatened white dominance. Therefore, the violence and intimidation that the White League brought were geared toward political activities and were often portrayed as attemptd to root out corruption. 50 Not all African Americans took the outrages of the White League and their racist counterparts lying down. According to at least one source residents of the area we now call Freetown led the way in countering such terrors Ibid., Ibid. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid., Glenn Armentor, History of Freetown and the Good Hope Hall, hereafter cited as Armentor report. 20

21 Freetown Although oral tradition persists that Freetown was established before the Civil War, there exists no written evidence to that effect. Indeed, it is much more likely that Freetown became the site of a community of freedpersons former slaves only in the aftermath of the war. Yet the stories remain, such as this one from local attorney Glenn Armentor s report History of Freetown And The Good Hope Hall : Ultimately, before the Civil War in the 1840's and 1850's, in the Town of Vermillionville (a town which was later to become the City of Lafayette) these "free men of color" settled in a newly engineered subdivision known as the "Mouton Addition". The Mouton Addition was populated by a heterogeneous mixture of lower and middle class Caucasians and Free Men of Color. Nonetheless, because of the presence there of the freed African-Americans, the Mouton Addition became known, in the years immediately preceding the Civil War as "Freetown". The land used for the "Mouton Addition" had been part of the plantation of Governor Alexandre Mouton, and many of the "free men of color" had worked on that plantation, called Ile Copal. With the end of the Civil War, slavery ended in the South and the newly freed slaves sought the counsel of the older "free men of color" who peopled the Mouton Addition at the time. As a result, the "free men of color" lent their experience in living at liberty to their newly freed brethren.many of the newly freed slaves also settled in "Freetown" and a common bond quickly developed between the original "free men of color" and the newly freed slaves. 52 If the oral tradition is taken seriously, however, it does raise some interesting historical possibilities. Towards the end of the antebellum era, it is possible that Alexandre Mouton fortuitously recognized the idea for railroad development in Lafayette Parish was rapidly approaching. In order to play a central role in its development, he set aside an area of land on his Île Copal plantation in which his slaves and FPCs would live. At the time this was done, Mouton, by virtue of his service as the 11 th Governor of Louisiana, more than likely had knowledge of planned railroad developments in Louisiana, and, therefore, moved to have the labor power of his slaves available to help construct it. According to this view, the land set aside eventually became the earliest beginning of the Freetown community that we know today. Yet, Armentor s statements and the oral tradition more generally are problematic in that they are made with no supporting documentation. What s more, the engineered subdivision of Mouton Addition was not opened until 1884, well after the Civil War, and there is no evidence that Alexandre Mouton ever freed his slaves or allowed anyone to live on his property in this area until after it was subdivided. A more likely scenario is that the creation of a community at the site of today s Freetown 52 Armentor report. 21

22 emerged during and immediately after the Civil War. Such was the pattern at the time, when other places called Freetown sprang up around the South, notably in St. James Parish, Louisiana, Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and Reno City/Tenleytown, a suburb of Washington, D.C. These places were founded either by contraband slaves freed by the progress of the Union army during the Civil War or by freedmen after emancipation. All but one existed before the war. 53 The one exception to the post-civil War pattern of Freetowns straddled the modern boundaries of Algiers and Gretna, Louisiana, and had been the plantation of John McDonogh. McDonogh, a forward-thinking planter of his day, worked out a system by which he paid his slaves wages for labor they did beyond their standard work week (overtime, in effect) and allowed them to save up that pay towards purchasing their own freedom. Although this gradual emancipation plan suggested that the slaves who thus bought their freedom should be sent to Liberia (a group of them went in 1842), upon McDonogh's death in 1850, he emancipated his house slaves and allowed them to remain in the residence, according to stipulations in his will. It was they who created the Freetown community, but eventually those former slaves died off, and their community with them. By 1890 both the residence and a sizeable portion of McDonogh's land eroded into the Mississippi River. 54 We can not say for sure if Alexandre Mouton had similar proclivities toward systematically freeing his slaves, but we can say that there is no existing evidence of this. Emancipating a slave in the decades before the Civil War would have required approval of the parish police jury, and there is no indication that Mouton ever sought such approval. Furthermore, in the 1850s, the state of Louisiana put more and more restrictions on the freeing of slaves, ultimately making it a virtual impossibility. Beyond that, the Parish Clerk of Court's index to conveyances indicates that in only one instance did Mouton provide a former slave (it does not indicate if the slave was his) with a lot of land. In this instance, the former slave, Desire, purchased the lot and, as the purchase was enacted in 1853, the lot would have been inside the contemporary limits of Vermilionville, not on Mouton's plantation, which had yet to be subdivided into saleable lots. 55 On the other hand, we can say with certainty that Lafayette Parish's Freetown eventually emerged on land that Mouton owned. The back portion of his Île Copal plantation that section nearest downtown Vermilionville apparently became a popular site for former slaves to settle after the Civil War, and, as time went on, the older Freetown residents could be counted on as useful stores of knowledge about how to survive, and perhaps thrive, in a free environment. 53 Discussion string, H-Louisiana, Louisiana&month=1112&week=c&msg=QqUqfKPAc%2BKt8pAG9/J4EA. 54 William Allan, Life and Work of John McDonogh (Metairie, La., 1983), 43, 45-53, 75; John Smith Kendall, "New Orleans' Miser Philanthropist: John McDonogh," Louisiana Historical Quarterly 26 (1943), 15; G. Leighton Ciravolo, The Legacy of John McDonogh (Lafayette, La, 2002), 9, Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's Office, Vendor Index to Conveyances, M-N-O, From Jan. 1, 1840 to Dec. 31, 1935, record F341, file

23 Freetown became the site of the home of the first schoolmaster for blacks in Lafayette in 1868, when Walter Williams, Sr., a native of Canada whose parents had fled there to escape antimiscegenation laws in Louisiana, arrived to teach in the Good Hope Baptist School. Williams split time as a school teacher in Vermilionville and a customs house official in New Orleans before being appointed by the American Missionary Association as headmaster of the Excelsior School in Lafayette in He ran the school until 1902 and educated some of Lafayette's earliest black leaders, including Paul Breaux, who went on to a distinguished educational career of his own. 56 As one might expect, during Reconstruction Freetown s denizens chafed against the White League s terror, and they reportedly took the lead in countering it. According to anecdotal evidence, in order to defeat such an organized and powerful enemy, the inhabitants of Freetown organized the True Friends Society. This society managed to foil attacks by the White League and similar groups by first finding out where the next attacks or terror activities would occur and then gathering en masse at the site. Purportedly, outright battles occurred between the two sides, and it is thought that the organized nature of the opposition weakened what could have been a much stronger white supremacist element. 57 The Railroad The story of the impact of railroading in Lafayette begins with Alexandre Mouton. 58 The single most important event for Vermilionville s economic development in the late 1800s was the coming of the railroad. Alexandre Mouton had long held an interest in the economic benefits a railroad might bring to his hometown and to himself as well, and in 1852 he had served as president of the Southwest Railroad Convention in New Orleans. The Convention, one of the most influential gatherings of the sort ever held," provided a springboard for "ambitious programs of state and municipal aid" and made "clear the broad outlines of a proper railroad system for the whole Southwest." More than six hundred delegates from eleven southern and western states or territories attended the convention, at which they proposed the organization of several railroads as a means of establishing connections with New Orleans "that city is a natural market," noted one report. The Convention also recommended constructing a national railroad to the Pacific Ocean, including a southern branch "commencing upon the Mississippi [River], passing through the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, [and] uniting in a common stem at El Paso." Interview with Austin Sonnier, Jr., October 19, 2012, Freetown Collection, Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Terry Flucker and Phoenix Savage, African Americans of New Orleans (Charleeston, S.C., 2010), Martin, Jim Bradshaw, Railroad Opened up Sleepy Town of Vermilionville, Daily Advertiser, January 27, Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History (http://www.answers.com/topic/railroad-conventions); Annual Reports of Officers, Board and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, (available online via Google Books,

24 Jim Bradshaw writes of the convention, The businessmen [at the convention] wanted to build a railroad westward from New Orleans. As a result of the convention, the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad was chartered in March 1851 [sic]. The delegates heard a Mr. Payne who expressed astonishment that so beautiful and fertile a country as found in the Attakapas District was unknown." He said that this was because the area was "cut off from direct communication with the Mississippi River and New Orleans by swamps, trembling prairies, lakes, and tortuous bayous." Mr. Payne said that he could fix all of that with a railroad, and that it would only cost $10,000 a mile to build it. The folks at the convention thought the money could be raised, and told Payne to get started on surveying a route Groundbreaking for the railway took place in October 1852, with the first depot built at Algiers, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. 60 Alexandre Mouton lived thirty-three years after the ground was broken on the railroad. This phase of his life allowed him to nurture the development of the railroad Vermilionville. Among the final keys to that development was the creation of a residential subdivision that could provide a place for railroad laborers to live, particulary if Lafayette were to be granted a roundhouse. GIS Digital Map 2 shows this vacant area of land where the railroad developed. Mouton Addition (surveyed and mapped in 1884) is also located in contiguous to the area on Mouton s plantation where the railroad s roundhouse was built. The heart of railroad development occurred in a geographic space that separates the Mouton Addition and the McComb Addition. Perhaps as early as his time as governor, Mouton had laid the groundwork for providing a potential labor pool for railroad developers in the state. As governor, Mouton had approved the leasing out of convict labor from the state penitentiary, then located in Baton Rouge. 61 Douglas Blackmon, in his 2008 book Slavery By Another Name, compares the convict-lease system to antebellum slavery: It was a form of bondage distinctly different from that of the antebellum South in that most men, and the relatively few women drawn in, this slavery did not last a lifetime and did not automatically extend from one generation to the next. But it was nontheless slavery-a system in which armies of free men, guilty of no crimes and entitled by law to freedom, were compelled to labor without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced to do the bidding of white masters through regular application of extraordinary physical coercion. 62 In Louisiana, most of the convicts leased out before the Civil War engaged in textiles production. There is no evidence that they worked on railroad construction. After the war was a different 60 Bradshaw, Railroad Opened up Sleepy Town. 61 Jeff Forret, Before Angola: Enslaved Prisoners in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Louisiana History 54 (2013), Blackmon, Douglas A., Slavery by Another Name (New York, 2008), 4. 24

25 matter, however. Matthew Mancini notes that beginning in 1870 the leases revealed a shift from using convicts primarily in textile factories to working them [in] fields. Though convicts sometimes worked on levees, especially after 1882 Mississippi flood, and on railroad construction, most of their labor went toward the cultivation of cotton. So, at least a portion of leased out convicts worked on building railroads in the years the railroad through Vermilionville was being completed. No evidence exists as to whether they worked on this railroad, however, or whether they worked on some of the other major lines that were being built at the time. 63 A picture that documents the use of convict laborers at work on railroad lines after the Civil War is located in Appendix E. William G. Thomas puts the use of convict laborers into context Southern railroad companies owned many slaves and built most of their lines with enslaved labor. We know that southern slaveholders were the principal stockholders and directors of many railroad companies and that the South moved quickly in the 1830s to build railroads. Southerners built some of the earliest and longest railroads in the nation. By the 1850s southern railroad construction was in full swing, with crews grading thousands of miles of track. One historian, Theodore Kornweibel, has recently begun to research in detail the southern railroads use of slave labor. Kornweibel found documented evidence for slave labor on over 75 % of southern railroads. He has also estimated that over 10,000 slaves a year were working on the railroads in the South between 1857 and These figures seem entirely plausible and accurate... Railroads bought slaves both in large groups and one at a time. 64 Thomas adds that most of the slave labor on southern railroads was hired or rented from local slaveholders to grade the tracks. Enslaved women and children were also forced to work on the railroads, running wheelbarrows, moving dirt, cooking, picking up stones, and shoveling. Some skilled slaves, especially blacksmiths, were hired as well on these construction crews railroads began buying slaves outright in the mid-1850s. 65 It is perhaps plausible that as early as the 1850s, some slaves owned by Alexandre Mouton were hired out to work on the railroad, although the railroads built before the Civil War would not have been considered local to Île Copal. The railroad to Vermilionville was a long time coming. By 1860, the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Northern line coursed through southern Louisiana from Algiers westward to Brashear City (now Morgan City). 66 The Civil War destroyed that railroad, and the rebuilding did not begin in earnest until the late 1870s. Finally, in 1880, rail service between Lafayette and New 63 Matthew J. Mancini, "Convict Leasing." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Article published May 27, William G. Thomas, Did U.S. Railroads Own Slaves-How Many?, posted July 2, 2008, 65 Ibid. 66 William J. Thibodeaux, Morgan s Star, Railroads+In+The+1800+And+1900s.doc. 25

26 Orleans was established. Alexandre Mouton and his associates were provided a special car by the railoard company for the first trip to New Orleans. Within two years, travelers starting in Lafayette could reach San Francisco to the west. 67 In order to build this railroad line, and others across the Atchafalaya Basin, convict laborers and others were forced to work through mud, water infested with snakes and alligators, mosquitoes, and more. The work rivaled the outpouring of labor power expended by slaves, during the antebellum era, to cultivate and harvest cotton and sugar. It should come as no surprise, given Mouton's longstanding interest in railroads, that the tracks were laid straight through the center of his plantation lands. This would have benefited him in multiple ways. First he would have reaped an economic windfall by selling the land for the tracks and the roundhouse (completed in 1883) to the railroad company. Second, he or his descendants could expect profits in the near future through the development of residential and business sections on his land contiguous to the railroad. They did just that with the development of McComb (1881) and Mouton Addition (1884), both built on Mouton s former plantation land and divided only by the railroad tracks.. And third, he knew that the railroad would decrease the cost of shipping sugar produced on his plantation to the market in New Orleans. In addition, once the first railroad line reached Vermillionville in 1880, its development did not stop there. The railroad line was extended initially to an area we know today as the City of Scott, and it is in a document about that place that we find evidence of convict laborers building the railroad: Scott was named for J. B. Scott, then the Superintendent of Southern Pacific. According to records, the railroad was built in 1880 using convict labor and originally had no name. This was when Lafayette was known as Vermillionville. Dominic Cayret [personal friend of J.B. Scott ] persuade[d] his friend to build a depot. It was started in 1870, and it took 10 years to build it; the work being done by the convicts from the State Penitentiary. 68 The importance of the coming of the railroad for Vermilionville (renamed Lafayette in 1884) and Lafayette Parish can not be overstated. Its transportation efficiency revolutionized the way people and things moved about in a manner akin to the creation of the interstate highway system following World War II, but this was only one portion of the story. Just as important, the railroad, and its joined-at-the-hip ancillary, the telegraph, revolutionized communications in Vermilionville and elsewhere in much the same way that the internet sped up and sophisticated the same during the late twentieth century. 69 The railroad had a profound effect on Vermilionville. After the Civil War, the community had 67 Bradshaw, Railroad Opened Up Sleepy Town ; Guaranty Bank & Trust Company, Lafayette: Its Past, People and Progress, (Baton Rouge, 1980), The History of Scott: The City of Scott, Louisiana, 69 Martin,

27 been economically adrift. Small farmers in Lafayette Parish continued to work the soil and harvest their crops as they always had, but there was great change above them. The large plantation owners of the antebellum era had lost most of their earning power during the Civil War when their workforce had been emancipated. Such losses trickled down to those citizens of the parish who, while they might not have owned acres and acres of prime agricultural land, did earn a living providing goods and services to those who did. Vermilionville, in other words, had been a small town providing needed assistance to a largely rural and agricultural Lafayette Parish population before the war. That economic identity had fallen by the wayside during and after the the conflict, and not until the railroad arrived would a new one be forged. 70 Shortly after the first passenger train rolled into Vermilionville, the town became division headquarters for Morgan s Louisiana & Texas Line. Expansion facilities at first were simply a freight yard and a roundhouse. By 1890, a new eighteen stall roundhouse was built, and within the next five years, the freight yard expanded. A workshop, freight depot and storehouse were also built. Probably the most important aspect of the railroad activity in Vermilionville was the payroll of more than fifty men. For the first time since Reconstruction, hard cash was circulating in the community. 71 As an example of the amount of impact the railroad had on Lafayette, William Perrin Barrin, in a report filed in 1890, noted the following railroad shipments made at Lafayette from September 1, 1886, to August 31, 1887 Bales of cotton...29,411 Car loads of cotton in seed...66 or 66o tons, or pounds 11,320,000 Cotton seed, ten car loads, or pounds...200,000 Hides, pounds...40,300 Corn, car loads...3 Brick, car loads...23 Barrels of honey...7 1/2 Barrels of tallow...9 Barrels of potatoes Barrels of molasses...7 Bales of...25 Sacks of wool...11 Sacks of paper junk...12 Barrels of pecans...4 Eggs, dozens...108,710 Poultry, dozens...29,392 Scrap iron, pounds...42,655 Scrap brass, pounds...4,325 Empty oil barrels Empty bottles, barrels Mattress moss, bundles...10 Freight Received-Lumber, 316 carloads; stock received, fed and watered, Shipped from Vandenbaumer's switch: cotton in seed, 504,254 pounds. From 70 Ibid. 71 Ibid., p

28 Gerac Brothers' gin: 930,150 pounds. From J. E. Mouton's switch, Alexandria, switch):cotton in seed, 609, Even Vermilionville s physical geography altered when the railroad came through. The railroad tracks, then as now, jutted through town at an odd angle compared to Jean Mouton s right-angled and orderly downtown area. Because the town s streets would have intersected the new tracks at odd and dangerous angles, most of the streets that crossed the railroad line had to be curved as they neared the tracks. The bends resulted in proper angles at the tracks, but they led to strange intersections with street that had been plotted under the old system. 73 The railroad also brought about a gradual shift in Vermilionville s town center. Originally focused on the cathedral-courthouse corridor, the town s business district began to tilt to the north and east in order to be closer to the customers and cargo that came aboard the trains. With the completion of connecting rail lines to Houston and Alexandria, as well as a later branch to Baton Rouge, the town s first incarnation as a hub city was born. Vermilionville, and Lafayette after 1884, became the hub of transportation in southwestern Louisiana. 74 Mouton Addition In May 1881, the portion of Alexander Mouton s Île Copal plantation closest to downtown Vermilionville was surveyed in preparation for being subdivided into lots. In the years leading up to this subdividing of land, Mouton had been gradually selling off or donating lots already inside Vermilionville's corporate boundaries and contiguous to the new neighborhood. Some of those transactions would have long-term effects on Freetown, including his donation of a lot on the northwest side of Lee Avenue to the Colored Methodist Episcopal church. Just as important, Mouton donated one lot and sold another to the Good Hope Baptist congregation at the corner of Polk St. and Congress St. The church built there would serve not only as a house of worship but also as an early school for black children William Barrin Perrin, History of Lafayette Parish, Southwest Louisiana Historical and Biographical. Pub. 1891, 73 Martin, Martin, Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's Office, Vendor Index to Conveyances, M-N-O, From Jan. 1, 1840 to Dec. 31, 1935, record V252, file 12396; ibid., record S245, file 9555; Good Hope Baptist Church, "About," Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/good-hope-baptist-church-of- Lafayette/ ?id= &sk=info, accessed August 23,

29 Mouton Addition Roundhouse Source: Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court s Office The official map for the new neighborhood, called Mouton's Addition, was filed with the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court s office on August 19, The addition was bounded by Lee Avenue to the northwest, Garfield Street to the northeast, Lamar Street to the southeast, and Oak Avenue (Jefferson Street) to the southwest. It included lots , which were on the southwest side of Jefferson Street between Johnston Street and Lee Avenue (the site of Keller s Bakery and the Filling Station restaurant, among other businesses, today.) It is notable that the new subdivision not only bounded the original town of Vermilionville, but, like McComb Addition, another portion of Mouton s plantation surveyed and subdivided in the early 1880s, it also was situated adjacent to the new railroad tracks. 76 GIS Digital Map 2, located in Appendix B, shows Mouton Addition in relation to today s street grid. 77 As should be obvious, Mouton Addition was set up strategically to capitalize on the coming of the railroad. A portion of Mouton s Addition (commonly known as Mouton Addition today) became that area we now know as Freetown. Before his death in 1885, Alexandre Mouton saw his dream of a full-fledged railroad system development in Lafayette. Gis Digital Map 4 in Appendix D shows the roundhouse and railroad track lines in the geographic space between Mouton Addition/Freetown and McComb Addition. 76 Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court s Office, Lafayette Parish Plats, #258, Mouton s Addition, Corporation of Lafayette, Louisiana, Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Office. 77 Lamar Avenue and Oak Avenue are documented as principal street boundaries of the Mouton Addition by the Map of Lafayette, LA showing Layout and Municipal Improvements. The map is carefully arranged and compiled from the latest and most authentic surveys and maps on file at the Office of the Clerk of Court. 29

30 By the last decade of the nineteenth century, Freetown residents, who worked for the railroad and downtown Lafayette businesses, did not need transportation to get to work; they walked the few blocks from their homes. 30

31 USES OF THE FREETOWN DATABASE (1900-PRESENT) Statement on Sources and Methodology Throughout its existence, Freetown has been a place of diversity poised on the margins. As part of the back of a huge estate owned by Alexandre Mouton, it was near the boundary between plantation and undeveloped nowhere. At the establishment of Vermilionville, it occupied the space just beyond the fringe of town. Before the Civil War, Freetown possibly collected people who shared the color of slaves but were nevertheless free gens de couleur libre. After Emancipation, Freetown attracted former slaves, freedmen who knew very little about freedom. Freetown came to find itself with one edge on a railroad, the other on a college campus. A blue collar neighborhood, Freetown also has been home for merchants, skilled artisans, artists, and scholars. Jews and Lebanese Catholics joined Creoles of Color, African Americans, Cajuns, and various immigrants to make Freetown a place of no specific ethnicity. Racially mixed, Freetown was a place where Jim Crow fired up the desire for civil rights. Freetown residents have struggled to decide whether it was French or English speaking. In Freetown, Prohibition and religious zeal challenged the robust enterprises of saloons, gambling parlors, pleasure houses, and cockpits. Creativity in Freetown, from at least the heyday of the railroad, has been as diverse as its music, food, and art. Freetown is such a special place, but relatively little of its remarkable history and contemporary culture has been documented, assembled, and made available to the public. This section attempts to illuminate a few of Freetown s many fascinating stories. A number of tools are available today to help historians explore such stories. For example, Federal Census records provide chronological glimpses into the makeup of households, the ages, educations, and occupations of individual residents, sometimes kinship associations, language competencies, immigration details, and more. Decennial population records were recorded every ten years from 1790 to present, with some exceptions. A variety of other records were collected by governmental authorities the Social Security Death Index, Federal Mortality Indexes, City Directories, various immigration and residency registries, and so forth. Many of these records are now available on computerized databases. Some of the information shared in this section was located through one of the most popular of these databases Ancestry.com. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps also provide a wonderfully detailed overhead view of the streets and built structures of neighborhoods. These map sets are available for Lafayette neighborhoods for the years 1892, 1898, 1903, 1906, 1912, 1921, 1928, 1940, and The area of Lafayette that came to be known as Freetown is featured within the map sets beginning in Before that time, whatever structures existed in Freetown were apparently either not insured against fire loss or not considered significant enough in value to document on a map. At any rate, the great advantage of these maps is what they tell us of the chronological history of the development of built environment. The position and size of lots in a city tend to remain consistent over time, but the dwellings and assorted structures placed on them change along with the inhabitants who live and work in them. Sanborn Maps record these changes and thus provide us with relative 31

32 dates of construction, fairly accurate footprint illustrations of building, and a wide variety of other historical information. Of course, much of the compelling history of a neighborhood revolves around the biographical details and cultural expressions of residents. These details can sometimes be found in newspaper accounts, advertisements, obituaries, genealogical works, photographic collections, and other printed historical sources and archived records. Increasingly, these items are available online. Some of the most valuable and interesting human information can only be accessed through oral history interviews. Such interviews require considerable time to acquire, process, and analyze, but they are certainly worth the effort. Local history study of a neighborhood like Freetown should incorporate an ongoing commitment to oral history research. As a research strategy, oral history is never complete there will always be others whose memories carry the fascinating story of people and places. One challenge of local history is to combine and integrate various types of information so that it can be used to develop more meaningful accounts. This Freetown project spent some efforts at assembling a database with the intention of integrating various sorts of available information. Our attempt utilized software called FileMaker Pro (Version 8). The intention was to assemble the sorts of demographic data provided through Federal Census records and integrate it with geographic place data, photographic illustration, built environment analysis, and biographical information. The goal was to permit researchers to access historical information about Freetown properties and residents by searching for specific street addresses, for individual names, or for various selected thematic subjects. One of the first steps in this database project was to develop a computerized form that helped us collect data from the field and organize the input of this data into a FileMaker Pro database (see below for an example of one of these forms). Our graduate intern student, Todd St. Julien, led this development. Todd, then on his way to earning a master s degree in architecture, provided the needed expertise in conceiving of and customizing our software design. His help was essential. During the fall of 2012, we organized and conducted a photographic survey of the built structures in Freetown. Students from Dr. Brassieur s University of Louisiana at Lafayette seminar class helped with the photographic shoot. Each structure was photographed from at least three different perspectives front elevation, right front corner angle, and left front corner angle. This photographic shoot was successful, and it also provided a chance for our research team to meet many Freetown neighbors who generously shared information and well-wishes. Work on the database proceeded through a complex set of design and information processing steps. St. Julien and a talented undergraduate student worker, Yesmar Davis, devoted a great deal of time to these steps. Here is a partial list of our database development process during the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013: Created a field sheet and recording system for the photographic house survey. Created a concurrence file to track historical street address changes. Created an Excel flat file to enable correspondence of data through a Master ID system. Developed protocols for linking images to the database structure. Formatted each survey image to comply with the database structure. 32

33 Created image clips of each property depicted on Sanborn Maps (5 different map series). Formatted each Sanborn clip to comply with the database structure. Developed the database design field to hold predetermined values based on research data. Applied appropriate protocols to develop and populate the database. Developed analytical tool to classify material culture features. Developed Excel flat file structure to receive Federal Census Record data. Transferred Federal Census data to Excel flat file to prepare loading into FileMaker Pro. Prototype of field survey form and FileMaker Pro data input sheet used during fall We were partially successful is developing a useful database. The basic barriers to completion can be summarized in the following comments: We underestimated the time required to transfer data from Federal Census sheets to our Excel flat file. The quantity of data is extensive and it must be keyed by hand. We overestimated the quality of Federal Census data. Many historical census sheets do not include the street addresses for the dwellings of residents enumerated. Verifying the location of households recorded by census takers can be difficult and sometimes impossible. The poor quality of census data is compounded by the spelling difficulties that census takers encountered with French names in Freetown. Categories of census data change greatly from one decade to another. We were constantly adjusting our database design to accommodate these changes. We underestimated the time required to prepare individual categories of digital data (clips from Sanborn maps, individual photo images, etc.) for linking with the database. While experiencing barriers and difficulties, we did achieve some interesting results from our work with this database. The flat file mentioned above is a large Excel sheet that stores a very wide variety and large quantity of data. Our purpose for it is to prepare data to be linked and uploaded into the FileMaker Pro system. One advantage of FileMaker Pro is that it is highly compatible with and easily imports data from an Excel program. As a result of constructing the Excel flat file, we realized that we could conduct Excel operations apart from the FileMaker Pro system. For example, Excel operations include the ability to create pie charts from numerical data. Since we were able to transfer all of the 1930 Federal Census demographic data to the Excel flat file, we were able to experiment with the creation of pie charts based on that 1930 Freetown demographic data. Here below are some examples of pie charts that indicate relative distributions of racial populations (black/white) for 1930 within the U.S. in general, within the State of Louisiana, within Lafayette Parish, and within our Freetown sample. The results are interesting and a bit surprising. As we might expect, the percentage of blacks is much lower within the general U.S. population than it is within any Louisiana sample. However, the percentages of blacks throughout Louisiana, and the percentage of blacks in Lafayette Parish are both higher than the percentage of blacks in our 1930 Freetown sample. These numbers are not astonishing but they remind us that blacks were a distinct minority in the old quarter of Freetown in Did percentage change from the decades of 1900, 1910, 1930? This is but one question that might be asked of this sort of Federal Census data. Other demographic questions could be asked: what were the 33

34 percentages of French/English speakers; blue collar workers/merchants; married /unmarried heads of household, etc. Obviously our database concept and design need to be reconsidered. I remain convinced that FileMaker Pro is a useful software system for many historical uses. In addition, the newest version of this system, FileMaker Pro (Version 13), has some superior features. For example, this new system is designed to work with hyperlinked text, and it is compatible with the new smart phone technology. So, a useful set of historical information could be programmed and accessed by a tourist or researcher strolling through Freetown on a selfguided tour. This possibility should be considered for future phases of historical development in Freetown. With or without a computerized database, it is possible to integrate geographical, historical, and ethnographic information into useful interpretive presentations. Here below are several demonstrations of such interpretive Freetown historical accounts. The examples provided can be useful for the development of historical signage, or for incorporation in various visual or textual presentations. US Race Distribution 1930 Race Distribution Louisiana 1930 Black 37% Other 0% White 63% Race Distribution Lafayette Parish 1930 Black 34% Black 10% Other 2% White 88% White 66% 34

35 Butler s Drug Store Lee A. Butler, Physician and Pharmacist 411 Gordon Street Current residents fondly remember their visits to Dr. Butler s Drug Store on Gordon Street. It was known as a place that provided affordable health and comfort to the ill and large vanilla ice cream cones to the youngsters. Dr. Butler s story is important to Freetown because it represents a very special African American success story. Lee A. Butler, born in 1868, was raised on various farms in St. Martin Parish. His parents were former slaves who moved around between various farming positions along the Bayou Teche, between Parks and Arnaudville, during the last half of the nineteenth century. By some unknown circumstances, Lee Butler was able to elevate his status from farm boy to physician. He accomplished this during difficult times of Jim Crow inequity and racial segregation. Well into his 50s, Dr. Butler moved from Breaux Bridge to Freetown where he acquired an existing residence and grocery store located at the southeast corner of Gordon and E. Main (see below). The pharmacy having been removed, probably during the 1960s, only his former residence remains at this location. Sanborne Map 1921, Sheet 11 Southeast Corner of Gordon and E. Main Eventual Residence and Pharmacy of Dr. Lee A. Butler Sanborne Map 1940, Sheet 11 Southeast Corner of Gordon and E. Main Residence and Pharmacy of Dr. Lee A. Butler In 1870, Lee Arthur Butler was a three-year-old toddler living near Parks, Louisiana (Ward 3, St. Martin Parish). He lived with his father, Coleman Butler, a laborer born in Mississippi, his mother Elmira, born in Tennessee, and two brothers, Albert and Andrew. The Butler family was listed as mulatto. The family had moved up the Bayou Teche to Cecilia (Ward 5, St. Martin Parish) by the recording of the 1880 census. At that time, Lee was 12 years old, living with his 35

36 parents, six siblings, and an 18-year-old border named Emma Goldston. Lee s father was a farm laborer, as were his brothers, Albert and Andrew. During the next forty years, , Lee Butler s life changed drastically. We are left to wonder how the son of a colored field hand from St. Martin Parish moved into the professional ranks of society. On the national scene, historians characterize that forty year period as a transition from the Reconstruction, through the Gilded Age, and into the Progressive Era. But most blacks living in Louisiana during that period experienced it as a continuation of social and economic constraint and a struggle for human and civil rights. Lee Butler s experience was quite exceptional. By 1920, Butler, age 50, was listed in the census as a medical surgeon. He owned a home in Breaux Bridge (Ward 4), and lived there with his wife Louisa (age 36), and daughter Frances (age 9). Their household included Paul Vallire, a nineteen year-old yard laborer. It is unknown how or where Dr. Butler attained his medical training such educational opportunities were rare for African Americans of his day. By the time Butler was old enough to attend a medical school, Howard University in Washington D. C., and Meharry Medical College of Nashville, were open to blacks studying medicine. An opportunity closer to home occurred in 1889, when Butler was around 21 years old. That is when Flint Medical College of New Orleans University began offering medical training to African Americans. 78 Although as of yet, we have found no solid evidence to indicate which medical school(s) he attended, the 1940 Federal Census recorded that Dr. Butler had received four years of college education. Solid evidence does suggest that Lee Butler attained significant statewide respect as a physician. In May of 1920, at the New Orleans meeting of the Louisiana Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association (LMDPA), he was elected secretary-treasurer of that association. 79 The following year, in May of 1921, Dr. Butler attended the 17th annual session of the Louisiana Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association, held in Shreveport. At that meeting, he was elected treasurer. 80 The LMDPA was an affiliate of the National Medical Association (NMA), formed in 1895 as the first national organization of African American physicians. When the 1930 census was recorded, Dr. Lee A. Butler, at age 61, lived at 409 Gordon Street, in Lafayette, along with his wife Louise (age 39), and daughter Frances (age 19). His occupation was listed as physician in general practice. By 1940, Dr. Butler s daughter Frances had married a man from Tyler, Texas, named McCoy Gibbs; the couple lived with Frances s parents on Gordon Street. At the age of 72, Dr. Butler was listed in the 1940 Lafayette City Directory. His listing read: 78 Baker, Robert B., et al. Creating a Segregated Medical Profession: African American Physicians and Organized Medicine, Journal of the National Medical Association. VOL. 101, NO. 6, June 2009 pp Journal of American Medical Association. Medical News Louisiana. Vol 75, No. 1, July 3, 1920, p. 40. [Google Books, accessed August 9, 2013]. 80 Journal of the National Medical Association. Society and Personal Jul-Sep; 13(3): 220. [PubMed Central (PMC) online database, accessed August 10, 2013] 36

37 Butler Lee A (c; Louise V), Physician and Surgeon, Supt of Goodhope Sanitarium mjkand Owner L A Butler s Drug Store, h 409 Gordon, Tel 686-J An entry for the Goodhope Sanitarium is also recorded in 1940 Lafayette City Directory: Goodhope Sanitarium Inc. (c), Clarence Parker Pres, Lee A Butler V-Pres-Supt and Mgr, Wallace James Sec Treas, Full Hospitalization Facilities and Accommodations, 221 Cameron. Good Hope Sanitarium, 210 Cameron Southeast corner of Cameron and Bienville Sanborn Map 1940, Sheet 17 Dr. Butler s association with the Good Hope Sanitarium deserves considerable mention. In 1940, Butler was serving, with his neighbor J. Wallace James (1003 Lamar Street, in Port Rico), as administrative officer of this hospital. We don t know how long this association had been in place, but the Good Hope Sanitarium was founded as early as 1913, with the help of one of Dr. Butler s associates, Dr. Rivers Frederick, of Flint-Goodrich Hospital in New Orleans. 81 Amazingly, Lafayette s Good Hope Sanitarium was providing health care for black patients only a couple of years after the establishment of Lafayette s first hospital, the Lafayette Sanitarium. 82 Ironically, the Lafayette Sanitarium evolved into the current Lafayette General Medical Center, while the Good Hope Sanitarium has faded almost completely from local memory. By 1949, the Sanborn map shows that the lot at 210 Cameron Street was dedicated to the sale of used cars. 81 Ward, Jr., Thomas J. Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003, p Griffin, Harry Lewis. Attakapas Country: A History of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. Pelican Publishing,

38 But, while Dr. Butler was practicing medicine at the Good Hope Sanitarium, he was also keeping up with his drug store business in Freetown. His Freetown pharmacy is listed in 1940 as follows: Butler L A Drug Store (c; Lee A. Butler), Prescriptions and Toilet Articles, Manufacturers of Red Cross Worm Remedy 423 Gordon, Tel The Butler pharmacy was still listed in the 1957 Lafayette City Directory, but Dr. Butler was no longer listed as resident/owner; apparently he had passed away (at approximately 88 years of age). His daughter, Mrs. Frances B. Gibbs and her husband, O. McCoy Gibbs, were listed as residents of 411 Gordon Street, and operators of Butler s Drug Store. It is undetermined how long Mrs. Frances Gibbs maintained the drug store after that; she herself passed away in Reflecting on the amazing life and career of Dr. Lee Butler, it seems evident that his story deserves more attention, more research, and considerably more recognition. His personal development from rural farmer, born in the wake of the Emancipation, to pioneer African American physician, pharmacist, and businessman is relatively unknown. Even less is known about the impact of Dr. Butler s life and work on the struggle for African American human and civil rights. In 1913, Dr. Butler was already allied with Dr. Rivers Frederick of New Orleans this alliance resulted in the founding of Good Hope Sanitarium, one of the first hospitals for African Americans in Louisiana. But Dr. Rivers Frederick was not only a physician. In 1915, he founded the New Orleans Branch of the NAACP; he also organized chapters of the Urban League and was a founder of the United Negro College Fund. 83 How important and active was Dr. Butler as a civic leader? In 1940, Dr. Butler, having already provided some fifty years of humanitarian service, was allied with his neighbor, J. Wallace James, in their work at the Good Hope Sanitarium. Mr. James (b. 1888), twenty years younger than Dr. Butler, is perhaps better known for his local role in the civil rights movement, especially in advocating for African American voting rights. And certainly, the important contributions of J. Wallace James s son, J. Carlton James, also from Port Rico, were significant in promotion of African American education and social equity. 84 Although Dr. Lee Butler remains relatively unknown, he was a human bridge stretching from slavery through Reconstruction and through decades of Jim Crow right up to the advent of the Civil Rights Movement. His contributions deserve recognition, and his Freetown residence and former location of his pharmacy remains unmarked and unrecognized -- at the southeast corner of Gordon and East Main Streets. 83 Thomas J. Ward, Jr., Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South, Carlton O. James ( -1993). Oral History Collection, 1979, Collection 161. University Archives and Acadiana Manuscripts Collection, Edith Garland Dupré Library, Special Collections and Archives. 38

39 Mary ( Tante Marie ) Raymond Residence of Former Slave 319 [currently 325] Stewart Street Mary ( Tante Marie ) Raymond was a long-time resident and Creole-speaker of Freetown. Born a slave, she became a homeowner early in the 20 th century. She raised, and secured an education for her daughter and several grandchildren, while taking in occasional borders. For several decades, Mary Raymond cooked for the students at Southwest Louisiana Institute, and her special personality and traditional Creole cooking skills earned her recognition by the Louisiana s Writer s Project, which promoted her story in Louisiana: A Guide to the State in In the 1920 Census, Mary Raymond (age 64, born about 1856), a widow, was already listed as owner of her home, at 319 Stewart Street. Her house was free of mortgage, so perhaps she had already lived at this location for a considerable time. Mary Raymond was working as a school cook, living with her daughter Louise Raymond (age 27), and her grandson, Claude Nicholas. Her daughter Louise was employed as housekeeper at a private home. The census records indicate that Mary had never attended school but her daughter, Louise, had been to school and could read and write. By the time of the 1930 Census, Mary Raymond (age 75) was still owner and resident at 319 Stewart Street, and her house was then valued at $1,800. Mary was living with a granddaughter, 85 Federal Writer s Project. Louisiana: A Guide to the State (compiled by the FWP of the Works Progress Administration). New York: Hastings House,

40 Hilda Mouton (age 18), and two grandsons, Claude Nicholas Mouton (age 15) and Robert A. Mouton (age 18). Mary was still working as a cook, and her grandson, Claude (age 15), was a delivery boy for a meat market. Mary s three resident grandchildren all could read and write. Additionally, evidence from Sanborn maps indicates the likelihood that Mary Raymond also was a homebuilder. The 1921 Sanborn map clearly shows that the lot at 319 Stewart was occupied by a simple, side-gabled dwelling with a rear asymmetrical T plan [see below]. The 1928 Sanborn map shows a different house located at 319 Stewart. Mary Raymond s house, 319 Stewart 1921 Sanborn Map, sheet 11 Mary Raymond s house, 319 Stewart 1928 Sanborn Map, sheet 11 The new dwelling, a gable-front bungalow with a front half-porch, is the same one appearing in a photograph taken by the Louisiana Writer s Project in 1941 (see below), and it is the same structure that currently occupies that lot. Since census records indicate that Mary Raymond was owner/resident at that location in 1920 and in 1930, she was the owner of both the earlier sidegabled house, and the later front-gabled bungalow. Thus she was probable builder of this new gable-front bungalow with Craftsman-style features, some time between 1921 and This bungalow, typical of many built in Freetown during this period, must have been a source of pride for Mary Raymond. In Freetown during the 1920s, a French-speaking Creole widow in her mid- 70s, a school cook who had been born a slave, could furnish herself and family with a brand-new fashionable house. Mary Raymond was reported in the 1939 Lafayette City Directory as still living at the same Stewart Street address. She was 83 years old at the time. It was probably during that same year that she was visited by workers from the Louisiana s Writer s Project. These workers were engaged by the Louisiana branch of the Federal Writer s Project, which was organized under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Program. It employed out-of-work writers and editors during the Great Depression. The Louisiana Writers' Program had an office in Lafayette and other offices in towns throughout the state. Material on the state was gathered from these various centers by field workers and directed to the main office in New Orleans. The famous Louisiana writer, Lyle Saxon, edited all material, and supervised the production of two travel guides the WPA Guide to New Orleans (1938); and Louisiana: A Guide to the State (1941). This same program also produced a folklore 40

41 collection Gumbo Ya Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales (1945). 86 The Louisiana Guide, one of the major accomplishments of the LWP, contains a fairly detailed history of the state along with descriptions of every city and town. Among all of the interesting locations in Louisiana, the Freetown residence of Mary Raymond of Freetown was chosen for presentation in the Louisiana Guide. A photo of Mary s gable front bungalow, with her sitting on the front steps, was featured along with a map encouraging tourists to visit her residence. Mary Raymond s place was provided with the following description: Home of Marie Raymond At 319 Stewart St. is the home of Marie Raymond, an old Negress who makes a local pastry called oreille de cochon (pig s ear). The process by which they are fried in a deep iron pot, with a fork-like instrument made of split cane, is interesting to watch. Tante Marie understands some English but speaks only local Negro French patois. (Louisiana Guide, p. 279) At some later point, the original photo used in the Louisiana Guide became part of the photo collection of the State Library of Louisiana, and today that photo is accessible online through The LOUISiana Digital Library [http://louisdl.louislibraries.org/]. The online version provides the inscription written on the back of the original photo: Home of Mary Raymond, 319 Stuart [sic] Street, Lafayette, La. Mary Raymond, known as "Tante Marie" is an expert at the making of oreille de cochon (pig's ears). She was called "Tante Marie" at University of Southwestern, where she cooked for 13 years. Among other white friends she is known as "Lafille." The ears are a delicate pastry served with syrup which she makes for the purpose, at the unheard of price of 5 cents apiece (the ear about the size of a plate). Lafille had children and she has grandchildren, but to quote her, she "never had a husband" she preferred to keep her own name. Born a slave, she is indeed a character. (Source: Louisiana State Library) 86 Richard Megraw. Federal Writer s Project. KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 10 Jan Web. Sept. 23,

42 A Family of Hatters Martin Hat Shop 312 Stewart Street Martin s Hat Shop in Freetown flourished during an era when hats were central to men s fashion. When John Martin Sr. (born October 7, 1896) began learning the trade as a young teenager, hats were worn daily for work and play, by professionals and laborers, young and old, rich and poor. Men considered hats essential to their well-being and necessary expressions of identity. Hats were custom fit to the wearers heads and to their tastes in fashion. At Martin s Hat Shop, raw felt blanks were cut to desired brim width, blocked, creased, brushed, and accessorized. Crowns and brims had to be shaped and rolled perfectly. Crushed and dirty used hats needed new hatbands, new trim, re-shaping, brushing, cleaning, and repair. A good hatter was a celebrated artisan, and a good hat shop was cherished. Martin s Hat Shop became top of the line between New Orleans and Houston. John Martin Sr. appears to be the first in his family to develop the skills of a hatter. In the 1910 Federal Census, John Martin is listed as a 13 year-old living with his grandfather, Charles Victor (age 52), who was head of the household at 312 Stewart Street (this house address changed to 314 Stewart by 1940). Charles Victor was a coal laborer for the railroad and his wife, Philomene Victor (age 62), was a laundress. In the 1910 census, the occupation of John s older brother, Joseph Martin (age 17), is listed as tailor. Opportunities obviously existed in early twentiethcentury Freetown for young black men to develop artisan skills, and some in the Martin family took advantage of those opportunities. By the time John Martin registered for the military during WWI (on June 5, 1917), the twenty-one year old was listed as a hatter, barber, and shoe shiner employed in A. A. Darcup s barber shop. Perhaps John Martin received his initial training as a hatter from Mr. Darcup, though nothing more is known of Darcup or his shop. In 1917, John Martin was living at 308 Stewart with his mother, his wife (Yolande), and one child (probably the newborn Marguerite). They were living next door to John s former residence (312 Stewart), the one identified in the 1910 Federal Census as headed by Charles Victor. Home of Charles Victor 314 Stewart Street Martin s Hat Shop 312 Stewart Street 42

43 It would be fascinating to learn how the Martin family came to live on Stewart Street. Did they descend from antebellum settlers of Freetown? Did they have gens de couleur libre (Free People of Color) ancestors? Unfortunately, the early history of Freetown seems destined to remain enigmatic. John Martin was living in the household of Charles Victor in 1910 and in However, in the Federal census of 1900, he and his siblings are listed under the family name Francois. Here below is a comparison of the names of residents living in the Charles Victor household (312 Stewart Street) in 1900 and in 1910: 1900 Federal Census household at 314 Stewart Street Charles Victor, 53, head, single (b. 11/1847) Philomene Francois, 55, single, concubine (b. 1/1845) Mathilda Francois, 30, daughter Euphemie Francois, 26, daughter Joseph Francois, 8, grandson Lena Francois, 6, grand daughter John Francois, 4, grandson James Francois, 4, grandson Walter Francois, 3 grandson Federal Census Records accessed through Ancestry.com Federal Census household at 314 Stewart Street Charles Victor, 52 [ 62? ], head, married Philomene Victor, 62, spouse Matilde Victor, 40 Joseph Martin, 17 John Martin, 13 Villere Martin, 10 Freddie Martin, 3 Surnames of members of the Charles Victor household changed from Francois to Martin between 1900 and 1910 for reasons unexplained. In 1900, it appears that the children and grandchildren of the household had taken the family name of their maternal grandmother, Philomene Francois Charles Victor s concubine. From where does the Martin surname derive? Searching for Philomene s place in this story, we find a fifteen-year-old mulatto girl named Philomene Francois listed in the 1860 Federal Census of free people living at Bonnet Carré in St. John the Baptist Parish. This Philomene Francois was born in 1845 the same birth year of Charles Victor s concubine. In 1860, Philomene Francois from Bonnet Carré was living in a house along with four other females, none of whom shared surnames. Philomene s house mates, all single mulatto females, included head of household Agathe Chenet, age 60; Mariette Portier, age 55; Lise Leroux, age 36; and Marie Cyprien, age 30. Is it a pertinent fact that Philomene s next door neighbor in Bonnet Carré was a certain white immigrant storekeeper from France named Jean Martin? If not, we are still in search of the Martin ancestral progenitors. At any rate, Philomene Francois from Bonnet Carré indeed was a free woman of color. If she was the same Philomene who came to live on Stewart Street she likely arrived there some years after the end of the Civil War. Regardless of the details of ancestral lineage, John Martin continued to live at 308 Stewart Street for most of his life, and the Martin family retained the two contiguous Freetown lots numbered 363 and 364 for many years. John Martin continued to develop his trade as hatter. The 1920 Federal Census lists John Martin as a mulatto hat and shoe cleaner residing at 308 Stewart. However, we find no indications that Martin maintained a hat shop on Stewart Street prior to the 43

44 mid-1940s. During the years between the world wars, Martin s Hat Shop was located nearer the Southern Pacific rail depot commercial district. The 1939 and 1941 Lafayette City Directories and the 1940 Federal Census indicate that John Martin owned and worked out of a hat shop located at 115 Cypress Street. The new Martin s Hat Shop was eventually built on Freetown lot 364, at 312 Stewart Street, sometime between 1941 and By 1946, the Lafayette City Directory lists John and his wife Yolande Martin as hatters working from their shop located at the same address as their residence. The 1949 Sanborn Map clearly shows the footprint of the shotgun-style building currently known as Martin s Hat Shop. John Martin Jr. (born ca. 1920) was listed in the Lafayette City Directory as a hatter helper in At that time, John Martin Jr. was a recent graduate of St. Paul s High School, the first Catholic high school for blacks in Lafayette parish. 87 Within the next few years, John Martin Jr. met Thelma Goodie, a daughter of Lucien Goodie of Judice. Thelma had grown up picking cotton and shucking corn on her father s farm in the country. The couple were married in 1951 and made their home at 308 Stewart Street. Thelma remembers that the Martin s Hat Shop on Stewart Street was completely furnished with tools and very busy when she met John Martin Jr. Reflecting on her early memories of the shop, Thelma said: "I knew he (John Jr.) was a hatter, but I didn't know I was going to get to working in there. 88 As it turned out, Thelma became a hatter as well. She worked in Martin s Hat Shop side-by-side with her husband, his mother, and his father for many years. After John Jr. died in 1976, Thelma continued working as a hatter in the Stewart Street shop well into the next century. She was still custom-fitting and cleaning hats for select customers until Future Site of Martin s Hat Shop 312 Stewart St. Sanborn Map 1940, Sheet 11 Martin s Hat Shop 312 Stewart St. Sanborn Map 1949, Sheet Hernandez, Don J. The History of Holy Rosary Institute. PhD Dissertation, Louisiana State University, 2010, p Interview with Thelma Martin and Gloria Linton by C. Ray Brassieur. June 14,

45 The Martin family s contributions to the commerce and to the social fiber of Freetown are inestimable. They fashionably covered men s heads for nearly a century (approximately ). John Martin Sr., along with his wife Yolande, worked as hatters for over fifty years; his son, John Martin Jr., growing up in a household where both parents were hatters, plied the trade for forty years or so; and John s wife, Thelma, carried forth as a hatter for nearly sixty years herself. Of course, the hatter s trade is much more than shop work. Along with shoe shiners and clothiers, hatters have a special social role in a community. The Martin hatters functioned within a social space that kept them in touch with people of various ages, races, statuses, and political orientations. To maintain a respectful and personable business for so long, the Martins surely became the purveyors of local news, ideas, and values across a complex range of social boundaries. Though Martin s Hat Shop no longer operates, the building, its contents, and the many memories associated with it provide an incredible cultural resource for Freetown today. A rare and remarkably complete collection of historically significant hatter s tools and machinery remain in the shop. The shop and its contents have the potential to help interpret the story of a century of trade and fashion that unfolded in a very special mixed-racial, working class neighborhood. An important part of this story is how Freetown provided opportunities for people of color to develop and maintain skilled trades and successful businesses throughout the tumultuous and racially-charged twentieth century. And of course, part of the story is the biographical history of the remarkable Martin family. 45

46 APPENDIX A GIS DIGITAL MAP 1 ILLE COPAL SUGAR PLANTATION, 1860 TO

47 APPENDIX B GIS DIGITAL MAP 2 MOUTON ADDITION,

48 APPENDIX C GIS DIGITAL MAP 3 LAND SET ASIDE FOR FUTURE RAILROAD DEVELOPMENT IN VERMILIONVILLE/LAFAYETTE, LA 48

49 APPENDIX D GIS DIGITAL MAP 4 RAILROAD ROUNDHOUSE AND RAILROAD YARD IN LAFAYETTE, LA 49

50 APPENDIX E CONVICT LABOR USED TO BUILD RAILROAD TO VERMILIONVILLE Source: Guaranty Bank & Trust Company, Lafayette, LA, It s Past, People and Progress, pg

51 APPENDIX F RAILROAD ECONOMIC BOOM IN EARLY LAFAYETTE, LA Source: Guaranty Bank & Trust Company, Lafayette, LA, It s Past, People and Progress, pg

52 APPENDIX G GIS DIGITAL MAP 5 RAILROAD S ECONOMIC IMPACT ON DOWNTOWN LAFAYETTE DEVELOPMENT,

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