Foundations of French Colonial Pointe Coupee: 1680s-1740s

Pointe Coupée Parish, Louisiana-2006

Community Celebrates Pointe Coupée’s Early Beginnings

On a beautiful October cloud-free-blue-sky day—backfilled  with a distant aroma of burning sugar cane fields—the community and visitors came together to hear engaging stories about Pointe Coupée’s early beginnings. 

            One hundred-fifty people filled the auditorium at the historic Julien Poydras Center Saturday October 14th for the 1st annual Foundations of Community Series showcasing the French Colonial Foundations of Pointe Coupée: 1680s to 1740s. Visitors came from Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Mexico!  Staged inside was bountiful artful décor of autumn greenery, sugar cane stalks, mums, flowers, pumpkins, gourds, and early building replicas compliments of talented designers Mary Langlois Costello and Lynn Langlois Minogue. The event was hosted by Le Cercle Historique

Community performances kickoff event . . .

            The morning kicked off with performances from the community. Enveloping the auditorium with musical energy the newly formed 7th and 8th grade Pointe Coupée Central High School band and choir entertained all.   Under the direction of Reverend Raymond Allen, the band thrilled the audience from the balcony with When The Saints Go Marching In, followed by a patriotic tribute with The Star Spangled Banner.  Tenth grade student Norman Battley delivered the Pledge of Allegiance in French.  The choir followed with two patriotic pieces with director Nina Gray at the piano—a jazzy rendition of God Bless America rearranged by Nina Gray, closing with a heartfelt This Land Is Your Land.   The community performances continued with members of Les Creoles de Pointe Coupée singing their organization’s theme song Koman Sa Va in Creole a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment), written by Mary V. Jackson.

            The students were all invited to come to the front of the auditorium where they received a generous applause from the audience.  Les Creoles de Pointe Coupée members presented each with a special signed gift copy of Louisiana Purchase: A Dramatic Change for Pointe Coupéeans 1803-1815 authored by Julie Eshelman-Lee, printing sponsored by Les Creoles de Pointe Coupée.

            Just as moderator Julie Eshelman-Lee moved to begin the introductions of the presenters, panelists, and special guest speaker, Gail Hurst, President and Mary V. Jackson, Secretary of Les Creoles de Pointe Coupée interrupted for a surprise announcement presenting Julie with a Pointe Coupée flag and fleur de lis keyholder in appreciation for all she has done for their organization.

Explorers and early enterprise in Pointe Coupée . . .

            With the front doors at the Poydras Center open in the background—offering a glimpse of the sun-sparkled waters of False River—the presentations about early Pointe Coupée commenced. Taking the audience immediately to the past, when the sounds of explorers’ oars slapping against the waters of the cutoff of the mighty Mississippi would have been profoundly heard, Glenn Morgan began his presentation with his uncanny sense of imagery.  A lifelong resident of False River and ninth generation Pointe Coupéean who has meticulously studied early colonial Pointe Coupée through original maps and journals, Glenn took the audience on a journey of the experiences of Iberville, Bienville, and the expedition in March 1699 when they were surveying the newly established colony for King Louis XIV.  He pulled the experience together profoundly, interjecting the perspective of the great white pelican and its sense of community.  Further illustrating his presentation, the audience was given a handout—hand sketched by Glenn of the area along the river—so they could easily follow the journey of the explorers and place it into context of present-day landmarks.

            George DeCoux, resident of Gulfport, MI and descendant of early colonists of Pointe Coupée, continued the history as he brought the experiences of the first colonists alive! George has devoted years of study on the early days of the colonists as well as tracking the history of the ship La Loire which brought his ancestors and other early Pointe Coupée families to Louisiana.  For the audience, he retraced the journey of the passengers from Hainaut to the port of L’Orient (France), boarding the La Loire and its three-month journey to the beachhead at Biloxi in 1720.  George continued with fascinating details about the Ste. Catherine and Ste. Reyne concessions and their directors in France, the establishment of the first concession in the colony above New Orleans at Tchoupitoulas—present-day Old Metairie—to Pointe Coupée’s beginnings along the west bank of the Mississippi known as the coast of Pointe Coupée. He complimented his presentation with a rock, ship ballast, from Ship Island (MI) area and also shared a large sketch of the John Law camp at Biloxi.  The audience was invited look at copies of the original contracts the colonists signed with the concessions—documents found in Lille, France by André Haussy, resident of France and descendant of founding Pointe Coupée settlers.


Creole lunch . . .

            Breaking for lunch everyone was treated to delicious Creole seafood gumbo and potato salad prepared by members of Les Creoles de Pointe Coupée—Mildred Duhe, Kathleen Saizon, Mary Derosin, Linda Battley, Genevia Croom, and Louise Martin—followed with desserts by both the Pointe Coupée Historical Society and Les Creoles de Pointe Coupée.  While enjoying lunch, everyone toured the exhibits which included vintage maps from private collections of Glenn C. Morgan and Joanna Wurtele, as well as books, maps, and other items for sale by Pointe Coupée Gallery, Pointe Coupée Museum and Tourist Center, and New Roads Printing. The afternoon resumed with Gail Hurst distributing Pointe Coupée lapel pins, compliments of Joanna Wurtele, while the audience returned to their seats in the auditorium.

History continued . . .

            Brian J. Costello energized the afternoon with his encyclopedic knowledge of the beginnings at the coast of Pointe Coupée with detailed information about the overall history and early families.  A lifelong resident of False River, eleventh generation Pointe Coupéean, prolific author on Pointe Coupée, and fluent speaker of the Creole dialect, Brian’s wealth of knowledge is unsurpassed. His early exposure to stories from his elders motivated him to devote ongoing discovery in various archives as well as extensive research in civil and church records.  After laying out the historical foundation—now almost speaking from memory—Brian  personalized the history expounding on a list of early French colonial family surnames, native people, and Africans describing where they originated before coming to Louisiana and when they arrived.

            Segueing beautifully to Brian’s presentation, special guest Robb Mann, Ph.D., Southeast Regional Archaeologist at the Museum of Natural Science at LSU, tied the past to the present with details of his recent field study along Pointe Coupée Road.  He also shared the 18th century artifacts discovered during this study.  This was a unique opportunity to hear from a scholar about archaeological studies, its process, as well as a firsthand account of a recent field study in Pointe Coupée with possibilities for further studies.

            Throughout the sessions, panelists Julie Eshelman-Lee, Brian J. Costello, George DeCoux, Randy DeCuir, Glenn C. Morgan, and Paul Roy engaged in discussion with presenters and answered questions of the audience.  In addition, Randy DeCuir and Felix Lee facilitated further discussion from the audience with portable microphones.  Paul Roy extended an invitation to the audience to talk further with him afterwards about his extensive research for the Roy and allied families. Attendees were given a comprehensive program which included a generous list of resources for further study.   The presentations and discussions were well received by all with generous compliments.


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Bien Merci . . .

            Extensive gratitude is given to all who made this first forum a great success—as well as the community and visitors in attendance; participants; exhibitors; vendors; those who documented the event—Angelique & Dustin Gardner and James and Danielle Romer; the Pointe Coupée Historical Society; Pointe Coupée Tourism; The Pointe Coupée Banner; New Roads Printing; and sponsors Les Cercle Historique, Creole West Productions, Glenn C. Morgan, Les Creoles de Pointe Coupée, and Randy & Susan DeCuir.  Additional thanks extend to all of those who made unsolicited donations to Les Cercle Historique, Les Creoles de Pointe Coupée, and for the benefit of the band and choir.  

Website . . .

            The entire program publication and other pertinent content for the French colonial era for Pointe Coupée will be available soon on the Pointe Coupée Parish History website at: Pointe Coupée Parish History.  Please check often as content is continually added.

2nd Annual Forum Fall 2007 . . .

            Mark your calendars for the 2nd annual forum—October 6th, 2007—and look for further details about the topics and presenters on the French Colonial Foundations of Pointe Coupée: 1738-1769.   Any questions, suggestions, or comments, please contact director@creolewest.com