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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
Creole Jack Bastiste in winter garden
Home of old Creole family Cousin on Bayou Lacombe in Tammany Parrish, ca.1840. Photo: Owen F. Murphy, 1999

Le Tour du Iberville

The rich cultural and geographic history of the Louisiana bayou country can be traced along the route taken by French-Canadian Pierre le Moyne, Sieur du Iberville, who in 1699 led an expedition to explore the Mississippi River and secure the claim of the Louisiana Territory as a French colony. Le Tour du Iberville was an official part of the Louisiana Tricentennial Celebration, known as "FrancoFete '99," a year-long commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of Louisiana by du Iberville. His route extended from Mobile, Alabama, across the Mississippi Gulf coast, up the Mississippi River to the Houmas Native American Nation settlement at the confluence of the Red River, and across the north shore of Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. On March 28, 1999 the Lacombe Heritage Center celebrated the 300th anniversary of the encampment of Iberville and four Canadians on Goose Point near the mouth of Bayou Lacombe.

The Lacombe Heritage Center is a nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1983 to coordinate all heritage activities of the region. It prepared this legacy documentation, which highlights the historic and cultural heritage of St. Tammany Parish, encompassing early southern Indians to 20th century Creoles, using du Iberville's route as a unifying theme. The center's goal is to initiate and coordinate a cooperative tourism program that would promote the region's legacy through a series of markers, monuments, museums, and activities.

The town of Lacombe is in St. Tammany Parish (county), a community of about 8,000 people, just north of New Orleans and covers about 900 miles. It is bordered on the east by the state of Mississippi, and on the south by Lake Pontchartrain. The area is known for its scenic beauty, comprising dens of pines and majestic moss-laden oaks. Lake Pontchartrain, which is surrounded by the city of New Orleans and northern parishes, was the unifying environmental, historical and cultural element in the development of colonial Louisiana along the northern Gulf of Mexico. All rivers and bayous on the north shore drain into the Lake Pontchartrain basin, which ties the estuarine system to the Mississippi River.

Early journals by explorers describe the immense terrain of this area, which was once covered with vast aquatic prairies, huge cypress swamps, and panoramas of tall pine forests. After defeat in the Civil War, and during Reconstruction, a coalition of civil and military occupying forces plundered the area, including carpetbagger corporations that clear cut huge 1,500-year-old cypresses in the Manchac Swamp and ancient long-needle yellow pine forests. The area was left with a legacy of erosion, subsistence, and drainage problems.

To protect and restore the natural resources, several parks, preserves, and wildlife refuges have been established in St. Tammany Parish during the 1900s. The Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge was created on October 24, 1994, along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The refuge currently contains about 14,000 acres, of which 12,000 acres are marshlands and forested wetlands. These wetlands were threatened by urban expansion from the city of New Orleans. The Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, which includes 40,000 acres, much of it bottlomland hardwoods, is located in Washington and St. Tammany parishes and part of the state of Mississippi. Other areas are being reforested as a linear park a long an abandoned railroad line, called The Tammany Trace, it will have 2,100 oak trees, and also bluebird houses for the Mountain bluebird, which was nearly extinct. Other heritage projects include the Bayou Lacombe Rural Museum, which is housed in a restored 1913 school house, and plans for a Choctaw and Creole Heritage and Art Museum.

By 1999, St. Tammany was the fastest growing parish in Louisiana. Because much of the development has been unplanned, local citizens have organized "Visions 2025" to develop a master plan for the parish.

Documentation includes catalogs, booklets, brochures, festival information, newspaper and magazine articles, and books that document this legacy of St Tammany Parish. These include books on Bayou Lacombe, the Creoles of New Orleans, the cities of Slidell, founded in 1888 in St. Tammany Parish as a railroad town, and Mandeville, founded in 1840 on the lake, and a history of Madisonville.

Also included are a video and script of the play, Christmas in the Bayou, about missionary Adrien Rourquette who tended to the Choctaw Indians; a book of recipes that have been passed down through generations; a chronology on the Houma Indians; a 19th century diary by Francois Sidone Pichon; information and photographs of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Davis Memorial Post; a video of the 1995 Wooden Boat Festival in Madisonville; a collection of oral histories and stories; a map of the tour; reunion information about the LeFrere/Cousin family; the autobiography and family history of Morris R. Alfred; and articles and photos regarding the area's Scottish heritage, including the first Highland Games of Louisiana in 1999, held in Jackson, an area that would have been along du Iberville's route, and later settled by English, Scots, Irish and Welsh.

Originally submitted by: Mary L. Landrieu, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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