Sunday, October 30, 2016

Laura Plantation - Vacherie, LA (The Slave Trade)

2247 Highway 18
Vacherie, LA 70090

            As unfortunate as it was, slavery was a regular fixture of everyday life for much of the south during the 1700’s and 1800’s. Without this massive workforce, much of the south would have starved and been homeless. Many, if not all, of the grand plantations of the south were built by the hands of slaves. These same hands would harvest crops from thousands upon thousands of acres of farmland. Fortunately, many now recognize the hard work that these poor souls were forced to put forth, as they played a crucial role in building the south. Yes, slavery was wrong and many were mistreated, but diaries from former slaves have acknowledged that such was not always the case. Not all plantation owners were violent sadists who gained great pleasure in the misuse of their slaves, such as the previously mentioned Madame LaLaurie. In many instances, even once slavery was abolished, some black families actually chose to remain on the plantations that they called home for so many years. Especially in the case of the house maids, who had literally raised many of the plantation owners’ children; they were often considered a part of the family.
            For many of these massive plantations, workforces commandeering hundreds of slaves were needed to keep the homes and land operating. To house such large groups, slave quarters were built in numbers that often caused them to become their own small villages of sorts. To the rear of the larger homes, these quarters were placed in rows with a main road down the middle. As with our next location, where slave quarters grew to fifty or sixty, these makeshift communities would have their own cooking areas, farmland, livestock and even commissaries.

            During its prime, Laura Plantation sat on over twelve thousand acres with a manifest of nearly two hundred slaves. To house such a large workforce, a total of sixty-nine slave quarters were built behind the “big house”. Prior to the home’s existence, the land was seasonally inhabited by the Colapissa Indians. According to Laura Plantation’s website, “By the early 1700s, a large Colapissa
Duparc-Locoul Family Tree.
ceremonial center was located here.  The village was named, in the Mobilian tongue: Tabiscanja or "long river view" because, atop the central temple mounds, one could see downriver for a stretch of about six miles.  The village huts, located on the higher, natural levee next to the river, extended from the ceremonial mounds upriver and downriver for about four miles. In the mid-1700’s, a Catholic missionary came and chopped down the Colapissa's 14ft-high, red-painted totem (baton rouge).  The priest was upset because the totem was an erect phallus.” The property became a French royal land grant and was given to Andre Neau in 1755. In 1804, the land was purchased by Guillaume Duparc with the hopes of establishing a large sugarcane plantation. Duparc did not force the Indians off the land, as some of them remained on the outskirts of the property as late as 1915.

            Completion of Duparc’s plantation home occurred in 1805 and was originally called l'habitation Duparc but was later changed to Laura Plantation, perhaps by Guillaume’s descendant, Laura Locoul. In 1891, Locoul would finally sell the home out of the family’s name to A. Florian Waguespack with the stipulation that the name of the plantation had to remain the same. Laura Plantation would rest within the Waguespack family until the remaining descendants would move out in 1980. Today, the main
One of many on-site slave cabins.
plantation remains, along with six of the slave quarters as well as several outbuildings. The home is available for specially-themed tours and events.

            Those who wander the ground of Laura Plantation, especially at late hours of the night, feel as though they are not alone. In 2004, Laura became victim to a large electrical fire that destroyed nearly eighty percent of the house. This was a disastrous blow, as so much history had been wiped away in moments. Owners of the home refused to see it smolder into mere memories so a massive reconstruction project immediately went into action. Remodeling was briefly halted in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, but it didn’t slow things down for long. The home was brought back to its former beauty in 2006 and reopened to the general public. Staff and visitors noticed that activity seemed to pick up following the rebuild. Such is quite common, as paranormal activity will often intensify after major refurbishments are made to a location. Perhaps it simply arouses slumbering spirits while others feel the disturbance angers them, as they still feel that the home belongs to them. Whether the hauntings are intelligent or residual in nature, eyewitnesses feel they pose no threat nor do they wish to cause any harm. Perhaps the spirits are simply echoes in time, clinging to a past they are eternally fond of.

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