ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (KLFY) — In the early 1800s, a wealthy Creole acquired property along Bayou Teche in St. Martin Parish to raise cotton, cattle, and sugarcane.
“Et bienvenue aux Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site,” said Tommy Guidry, volunteer with Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site.
A French welcome to Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville. A true greeting from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Philip Frey, Ranger with Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, explained, “We cover Acadians in Louisiana, Creoles in Louisiana, enslavement, sugar plantations and we try to give you a slice of life of mid-19th century on a sugar plantation in deep South Louisiana.”
Pierre Olivier Duclozel de Vezin built the Maison Olivier, a plantation house built in the early 1800s. It’s the central feature at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site. It’s the oldest state park in Louisiana.
Philip Frey, Ranger with Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, explained, “The big mover and shaker was in 1840, Pierre’s son, Charles, inherited this house. He doubled the size of the house. He tripled his land holdings. He tripled his slave holdings and by 1845, he was making nearly 60,000 pounds of sugar a year just off this plantation.”
“There is just so much history in St. Martinville. We get lots of visitors from Canada, from the islands, from the French part of Europe, but it’s so interesting to just talk about them and get to know a little bit about other cultures,” said Elaine Guidroz, President of Les Amis de Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site.
Guidroz demonstrated how brown cotton was made back in the day.
“You just want to go over and under, over and under, but it takes such a long time to do it manually that if you have a loom, it’s operated by a foot pedal and if you look at it from the side, you can see there are triangles, and when I release the foot pedal, those that are up, go down and those that are down, go up,” explained Guidroz.
A blacksmith shop is also on the site showcasing how tools were made.
Tommy Guidry, volunteer with Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, added, “The fire gets up to approximately 2,000 to 2,500 degrees which is very, very hot. You have to get the metal that hot for it to be able to be molded and shaped with hammer blows. This is a fork that was made here, and it’s got a simple hook to hook when you’re done. These are some of the tongs, pliers.”
“This is sort of a gem, a feature that doesn’t exist much in this region anymore,” said Frey.
Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site is open daily and offers free guided tours.