Monday, April 2, 2012

Sardine Point: Plantation Life

There were three large plantations on Sardine Point- the Australia, which was the largest, the Eliza and Medora.  All three of the plantations grew sugar cane.  Many of the residents were employed in the sugarhouse on the Australia until 1917, when the last grinding of sugar was completed there.  Rice was grown on the Eliza plantation for a few years and the men were paid twenty-five cents to cut rice all day in the early 1920's.  After the rice venture faded out, Eliza grew cotton and had a cotton gin. In addition, Eliza operated a dairy on its plantation for nearly a decade. The Australia and Eliza plantations operated commissaries and Victorin Comeaux also owned a small store on the Point.  All the merchandise that came to Sardine Point to be sold was transported by boat from New Orleans.  

Fishing was one of the primary means for earning a living, as well as providing food for their families.  River shrimp and fish were obtained from the Mississippi.  Shrimp boxes were plentiful. Some residents earned a living by catching logs floating down the Mississippi River.  A towboat would then bring the strapped logs to Plaquemine where they were sold to the sawmill.  Others sold pecans and dried moss which was used to stuff mattresses and furniture.   All the homes had a small garden where seasonal vegetables were grown for family consumption and for sale off the Point in nearby towns, Plaquemine being one.  However, refrigeration was a problem.  Meat that was not cooked the day it was acquired was either salted or smoked for preservation.  Freshly slaughtered meat was brought to the Point by means of a horse-drawn screened wagon, complete with scales.  Milk was boiled in summer months for safekeeping.  Those residents who had open wells could keep their containers of milk cool in the well water.  Most residents raised chickens, hogs and cows for their own use.  The diversity of occupations enabled most people to be self-sufficient.

The most common foods for consumption were staples such as beans and rice, meat when available, fish, fritters, gumbos and stews, couche-couche (fried cornmeal), lost bread (French toast), tot-tot (popcorn), cayai (clabbered milk), sugar cane syrup, cane sugar and coffee when available.  

There were three boat landings on the Point.  River boats came quite regularly to the settlement, delivered supplies and picked up cotton, rice and sugar or syrup that was to be sold for the residents or large landowners.  The expectations of the arrival of a riverboat were joyful and the people would flock to watch the unloading of supplies. 

Prior to the advent of automobiles, transportation was provided by horseback, horse and buggy, or horse and wagon.  A skiff was used to accomplish a trip across the Mississippi.  One of the residents, Mr. Smith, owned a large skiff and was hired by people who desired to cross the Mississippi into Burtville on the East Baton Rouge side.  From there, a train could then transport them to New Orleans.  According to some local historians, Mr. Smith was one time rowing some colored men who worked on the levee from the Baton Rouge side back to Sardine Point when the skiff overturned and one of the colored men drowned.  The accident was attributed to the weight of silver coins, the payroll for the levee workers.  In later years, a ferry boat was available for transport across the river.  There was also a train station at Addis, which was the hub for the Texas & Pacific, with a round house to service the departure of the freight trains.  

Houses on the Point were well constructed with cypress and galvanized (tin) roofs.  The wealthier residents owned some of the large, two-story houses on the point while most had simple houses with two rooms, a parlor and a bedroom, arranged in "shotgun" style.  The kitchen was usually connected by means of a "dog run",  a ramp or walkway that separated it from the main house.  If a fire occurred in the kitchen, it was usually confined to just that one room.  The kitchens usually consisted of a wood stove, a table and chairs, a counter which partially extended out of the window, providing fresh air for drying dishes or pots and pans.  There was no running water or refrigerators.  Water was usually collected from rain in a cistern, a large open container with a spigot at the bottom.  A drain spout from the roof was often connected to the cistern.  Some families had a shallow well with a hand pump for pumping the water from the ground.  The house parlor usually had a sofa and chairs stuffed with dried moss and very comfortable.  The bedroom had a large bed with a mosquito bar.  No one had windows, not even the wealthy people, so mosquito bars were necessary.  A dresser with a marble top was often in the bedroom, along with a pitcher and bowl for personal hygiene.  There was also a chamber pot, no one had indoor bathrooms.  The houses on the Point were located on the north and south inner sides of the low, narrow levee.

Sardine Point- A Lost Culture, Sue Fryoux Blanchard
West Baton Rouge Parish History, Joseph D. Chauvin DeCharleville
Chronicles of West Baton Rouge, Elizabeth Kellough and Leona Mayeux

No comments:

Post a Comment