Life as we know told by Heather

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our trip to Laurel Valley

I love Laurel Valley. On my first trip to see Jason's hometown he took me to see it right away because he knew I'd like it, and I was excited for our sister-in-law, Sarah, to see it for the first time as well. Laurel Valley was originally settled in 1783 by an Acadian who was in exile from France. It's the largest surviving and functioning 19th century sugar plantation in the United States.

I've always thought that these were slave homes, but now I'm not so sure. According to information from the plantation, slaves were used for harvesting in the first half of the 1800's. Then from 1893-1926, after the plantation was purchased in a sheriff's sale, they had employees. Two of the structures still standing (country store and school) date back to 1906 and 1910, but I don't know when any of the little houses were built. Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, so the houses would have had to been on the property years before the store and the school if they were used to house slaves. Although, I have a feeling that slavery was still going on illegally even after it was abolished, so I guess we'll never know for sure.

I always get a little introspective when I'm at Laurel Valley. For one, I'm amazed that these tiny little structures have survived for so long after all the hurricanes that have passed through. Granted, they're in horrible condition, hence the fences that have appeared in recent years to keep people from venturing inside the unstable buildings. But the fact that they're still standing makes me think that maybe it's God's way of letting us realize the plight of the people who lived there. It's a voice for them all these years later. On the other hand, I could be completely wrong and maybe that many years ago these were great houses given the time period and they were inhabited by employees who worked at the plantation in the years after slavery was abolished. Maybe I'll have to do some research to find the truth. But either way I love to walk around and imagine what life was like back in the day, and you can get some really amazing pictures here.

As the mill and outbuildings sit about a mile off the main road it's always quiet so you can hear every little movement. I'm fascinated that this house still has curtains and find it a little eerie when they blow in the breeze.

Back at the country store we took the kids inside to see some old artifacts and also walked around the property where they were allowed to check out old farm equipment.

This is me with my sister-in-law at the back of the general store.

Sugar cane

Besides being on the National Register of Historic Places, Laurel Valley has also been seen in at least ten movies, including Interview with the Vampire, A Lesson Before Dying, and Ray. We stayed as long as the kids would allow and then went to walk around St. Joseph Cemetary. I wanted Sarah to see all of the above-ground burials that aren't typical here in the midwest and Jason and his brother wanted to try and find where their cousin was laid to rest. After that we all went to Frostop for lunch. It's kid-friendly with very ordinary hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese and fries. Adults go there for the homemade rootbeer served in frosty mugs.

Then it was time for some resting before the evening rolled around.

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