Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Spanish Lake

The story goes that Great Great Grandpa Romero lost his share of Spanish Lake and the property adjoining it in a card game. I don't doubt this story to be true (or was it Grandpa Segura, or Grandpa Landry....I'm a little fuzzy on the details.)

Do you have a family story that sounds interesting but you don't know for sure that it's true? Have you ever tried to find out? Some of your family might be delighted they have an outlaw in the family and embellish just a bit and others might be mortified and even though they know the truth of the matter won't breath a word of it. So we end up trying to reason out the "facts" of the story, based on history and other sources. Here's mine and it's a doozy. 

I'd like to be clearer as to who it was that lost the property and just which property it was. (Guess that's my research focus) That the land would be lost in a card game is not surprising. Apparently, according to family and accounts of horse racing in the area, gambling was a concept my family and many others were well acquainted with long before the casinos moved into Louisiana. 

If you've never been to South West Louisiana my ancestors helped settle the area, and I've been there several times, so let me tell you a little about it. The area is much the same as it has been for at least the last hundred years. Oh, some of the buildings are newer and new houses have replaced some of the older ones, but life still moves at a slow, friendly pace. The towns for the most part are still small and are more of "old town" or Mayberry kind of feel with a Bayou twist to it. While the new "town" area is more likely to be along the highway and aimed at not really serving the residents (with the exception of the warehouse hardware stores and Walmarts) but more like fast food places designed to catch the passer through. You can still drive for miles and see nothing but sugar cane fields and farm houses. One can drive from Iberia Parish through St. Martin Parish, and into Lafayette Parish with nothing to note the change except for a sign. (maybe)

There are no large race tracks like I am familiar with living in California (we have dog racing and horse racing both at Cal Expo and there are several large race tracks in the Bay Area) so when I discovered that horse racing was big in S. W. Louisiana prior to and after the civil war I was floored. Where were the tracks? Ok, I get that it's been 150 years, but there are still houses and remnants of burned plantation homes that date back that far; why, if there were several tracks in the area, is there no sign of them and very little mention? 

I don't have an answer to that yet. But I'm investigating. 

The story goes that Grandpa lost the farm (hence the term "betting the farm" ??) and the next day, mad as a wet hen, Grandma went and bought back the house so as to keep a roof over the heads of her babies. (You go Grandma!)

This is one of those family stories that I may never be able to prove or disprove. For any of my cousins reading this please, clear up any details you can...do you remember which Grandpa it was??

According to the book "La Maison Duchamp" written by Amy Chatham in 2000, "Court records show that during these years (1876-1885) the Duchamp family seemed to have undergone some financial difficulties.  For example, in June of 1885 the Sheriff seized property owned by Eugene A. Duchamp, (my second great grandfather) property which included his house on Main street as well as a sugar plantation called LaMartiniere...."

Could it be that the story is really about Grandpa Duchamp and somehow just moved to Spanish Lake? 

Or could it be Grandpa Romero? (Sylvester Romero was another second great grandfather) According the the book, "New Iberia" compiled by Glenn R. Conrad, Grandpa Romero was one of the townsfolk who would follow a favorite horse to out of town events to see it race. " In early June, 1873, Bernard Suberbielle, L. Fontelieu, Theogene Viator, Martial Bonin, T. A. Babin, Louis Miguez, Derelle Romero, Sylvester Romero, and Lacroix Hebert travelled to Breaux Bridge to watch a challenge race between horses owned by Louis Delcambre, a New Iberian, and Emile Babin of Pont Breaux." (this bit of information was taken from the weekly newspaper Louisiana Sugar Bowl, May 1, 1873)

But it was Grandpa Segura who settled in the Spanish Lake area. (one of my fourth great grandfathers) Could it have been one of his descendants who lost the land?

Then there is Grandpa Landry (reportedly a "mean man") who I am told liked to gamble. Grandpa Theaux was also from the area, it could have been him the story was about as he was married a very strong woman.

About the area itself...that is almost as much a mystery. 

I'll tell more of the story of my Segura and Romero families and the settlement of this part of Louisiana in a later post. For now let me say that I can find a small amount of information on Spanish Lake during the time of its settlement but not much after that. (See below)

From the book "New Iberia" compiled by Glenn R. Conrad, "...most of the remaining MalagueƱo families moved away from the original area of settlement and secured tracts of virgin land, particularly in the area of Lake Flammand, which now came to be known as Spanish Lake."

That (and various versions of that kind) and the information below (found online) has been just about all I could find on Spanish Lake. I find this strange as it is a Louisiana Historical Site and the site of a fort. 

Where's all the information?

So I have a research problem that will take some untangling and a whole lot of work. Want to help? See what you can find out about Spanish Lake. Consider it this weeks challenge.

According to Wikipedia:

Spanish Lake (FrenchLac Espagnol) is located in the Bluff Swamp on the Iberville - Ascension Parish line. It is fed into by Alligator Bayou, Brand Bayou, Bayou Braud, and Bayou Paul. Spanish Lake is a part of the Bluff Swamp Wildlife Refuge and Botanical Gardens, a national non-profit organization which has preserved 901 acres (3.65 km2) of Bluff Swamp.

Spanish Lake, originally called Lake Flamand and then Lake Tasse, is located off of LA Hwy 182 in Iberia Parish and St. Martin Parish,Louisiana.

According to a 1936 Works Project paper
Spanish Lake had a population of 200 in 1936. (Figures can't be much higher now.)

According to Stopping Points.com
First known as Lake Flamand for Jean B. Grevenberg, one of the earliest settlers in this area; called Lake Tasse by the French because of its round cup shape, later known as Spanish Lake for the Seguras, Romeros, Villatoros and others who lived by its shores.