Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Charles Parish--1860

J.W. Dorr left New Orleans in the spring of 1860 to travel up the Mississippi River as a correspondent for the New Orleans Crescent Newspaper. This is his account of St. Charles Parish.

St. Charles Court House--April 26, 1860
     Dear Crescent, I thus begin serving up to you the first slice of Louisiana, intending to keep doing so, if horse-flesh and your correspondent hold out, until I have cooked up in style, which I hope will suit the taste of your readers, the whole of the State. Since Wednesday morning, when I left the city and the Crescent office behind me, crossed the river at the Stock Landing and started with all the State before me, I have been buggying along the levee "up the coast", amid the charming and peculiar scenery of that region.
     There are many in New Orleans who have lived there many more years than your correspondent, who have a very poor idea as to what the "coast" is. They fancy that they have seen it from the deck of steamers plying on the river, but they are mistaken. They have only had glimpses of the country and dissolving views of the tops of the houses behind the high levee as they dashed past. To see and appreciate this Acadian land they should be behind a good horse and rattle along the levee road, which is now as smooth as the New Canal shell road. A constant succession of wealthy estates keep interest alive, for there are few of them that will not repay pausing to admire. Splendid old homesteads dot the road at the distance of a quarter of a mile apart, the out-buildings, negro quarters, etc, forming at each a considerable village, so that the road up the coast is almost like a street of vast, thinly built city. The plantations having a narrow front on the river and running far back, the houses are thus brought close together, and render the levee road a suburban avenue unequaled in the world, the clustering steamers and other crafts on which give an animated variety to the changeful scenery.
     It is no sort of use for me to attempt to describe any of the splendid residences of the princely planters, for during yesterday's journey I passed dozens, each worthy more than a passing notice. All that tasteful architecture, ornamental shrubbery and magnificent moss-hung trees can do towards the beautifying of the sugar planters' residences in Jefferson and St. Charles parishes, as far as I have seen, is effected. The farther I go from the city the more costly, elaborate and extensive the planters' houses seem to be.Seven or eight miles above the city the estates begin to show the most striking evidence of wealthy and refined occupancy, though there are a few fine places in the lower part of Jefferson parish.
     Since I have been traveling up this "coast" it has occurred to me that people who take the trouble to travel thousands or hundreds of miles from New Orleans to find some pleasant and healthful locality to sojourn or settle, are taking a great deal of unnecessary and unremunerative trouble, for they can certainly find nowhere else a more delightful country than they have right at their doors.  Along the pathway of the wide river a constant currant of cool air pours above the rolling tide below, and thus the temperature is kept comfortable in the warmest season. A continued draft is created by the cool air of the river rushing across the banks to supply the heated interior.
                                                                       to be continued

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