Friday, December 20, 2013

Exploring To The South

Today we headed to the south to check out a couple of places people said are worth exploring, Jefferson Island and Shadows On The Teche.

Jefferson Island is a large estate once owned by Joseph Jefferson, the "Dean of American Theater". Jefferson was best known for his performance of Rip Van Winkle which he performed over 6,500 times! He performed all over America and Europe and had three houses in the USA. He spent three or four months per year in each house. This was his favorite and the only one he built himself.

Jefferson was very progressive for his time (late 1800's), insisting on treating his black servants as equals. Every mansion of it's time had two staircases, the main one used by the homeowner, family and guests and the other, in the back, used by servants. This mansion has only one staircase, used by everyone. This is causing problems now because the law insists that every building open to the public must have two staircases for safety purposes. The result is that everything above the main floor is closed to the public.

The grounds are very well kept with lots of flowers, plants, oak trees with Spanish Moss and peacocks. Here are some photos. Scroll down for Shadows On The Teche.

Shadows On The Teche was a Civil War mansion and cotton plantation encompassing thousands of acres on the shore of the Bayou Teche. Cotton was a crop that at the time people believed could not be grown without the use of slave labour. It was a very labour intensive crop and having to pay any form of wages would make it uneconomical to grow so Shadows On The Teche had hundreds of slaves. Every year after the crop was harvested the slaves were given two weeks with no work to do, an unheard of practice at the time. The owner was a judge and a Senator in the Confederate Government and fled when the Union forces approached. The slaves were freed although many former slaves stayed on as paid employees working for three dollars a month plus room and board. The house was saved as a historical location while the adjoining cotton farm eventually became the town of New Iberia.

The grounds here are beautiful as well and the steamboats docked right at the house when there was cargo to load or the owners wanted to travel to New Orleans. It seems that the owner knew from the start that the house would be left to the public and every record was kept. She saved every receipt for furniture, taxes, wages paid, repairs... everything. The entire attic was found filled with all the plantation records plus all of  the family's clothing. Nothing had been thrown out. Today she would be called a hoarder. In her case, she created an historical treasure. 17,000 individual records have been processed so far by the University of Louisiana.


  1. A fine line between hoarding and historical collection. Looks like saving paid off.

    1. Bill, I am assuming someone will want my used socks in 100 years or so.

  2. Just love all the interesting stories of the south, oh and the great food too.