Big Plans for Black Prince Bayou
During the early 1900s in the far reaches of the parish, near Des Allemands, a speculative land deal was taking place. The St. Charles Development Company, Inc., of Waterloo, Iowa, was soliciting individuals to move to a tract of land which encompassed “thirteen thousand acres of smooth prairie land and five hundred acres of timber, consisting of cypress, gum, hackberry, and live oak,” according to a promotional brochure. The site was located on Black Prince Bayou. Already available to any newcomers was a hotel situated on a boat landing. Prospective buyers were told of the suitability of the land for planting, the availability of the bayou for fishing, the favorable climate, and the close proximity to the city of New Orleans.
Included in the brochure were letters from individuals who had already settled in and had experienced the “glowing promises” of the developers. The company offered to pay all expenses to anyone making the trip to the area. This included travel, hotel accommodations, and as an added bonus, a trip to New Orleans.
Like many other entrepreneurial projects, this one faded away over the years. However, the promotional brochure offered insight into the makeup of the parish in the early 1900s.
Following is a copy of a letter written by Mr. Wm. Ritchie, Des Allemands, Louisiana. The letter was dated August 30, 1916, was addressed to Mr. Chas. T. Knapp, Chicago, Illinois, and published in The Gulf States Farmer in the August 1917 issue by the Louisiana Meadows Company.
Dear Sir: In answers to your letter of August 22nd with reference to farming conditions, etc., down here in Louisiana.
I came here five years ago with my wife and five children from Ohio. We have not had one day’s sickness. Doctor has never been in the house. Few states have a more delightful climate than Louisiana. Those who condemn it as disagreeable and unhealthful do so through ignorance. There is no need to seek mountain and sea shore resorts in summer, for the breezes from the Gulf keep the summer months pleasant. The summers are long, but the maximum temperature never exceeds, and seldom equals, that of inland cities much further north. The winters are mild and all but the most delicate plants grow through the winter.“Oats, wheat, rye, barley, speltz, rape and all clovers, planted in September and October can be pastured all winters up to March and then left for grain crop, which will be ready to harvest in May and the same again planted in corn. We have a long growing season, corn can be planted from February to July 1st and we grow real corn. What we need most down here is real farmers – the fellows that stick. Just get them down here and let them see for themselves, and they will find the richest of soils here. I am convinced that we can raise cattle and hogs cheaper here than in any other state of the Union.
Yours very truly, Wm. Ritchie.”
“In two hours time one can get from the St. Charles property to the city by automobile. We can also take a motor boat from our property up the beautiful Black Prince Bayou and Des Allemands Bayou to Des Allemands – a 30-minute trip. Or one can go directly from the property to New Orleans by boat.
“Freight is delivered by boat from the city to our property. Any farmer on this tract can have this boat pick up his freight and deliver it into the harbor at New Orleans at a reasonable rate or can have freight brought out from the city and delivered on the property. Thus the people on this tract of land have three methods of transportation.
“This is primarily a country for Cane, Corn, Cattle and Hogs but if one wants to grow oranges or grape fruit or winter truck, he can do it here just as well as in Florida or California. The largest orange grove in the world is within 25 miles of our land 7,000 acres in one body.
“We have erected a commodious hotel on the property for the accommodation of our friends and prospective purchasers and, from the top of this hotel, one can see practically every acre of this land except that portion which is covered by timber which is in a compact body near one side of the property.”
James H. Collins, in an article in The Country Gentleman, said:
“If the Corn Belt farmer will follow his own soil down the Mississippi River to the Delta Country below New Orleans, he can find a new farm so fertile and deep that I should not give him too many particulars because he probably would not believe the facts until he sees for himself.”
“Mr. Collins is a writer on agricultural subjects who holds an enviable position among the best authorities on agriculture. What he says of the Delta Country near New Orleans is true. For centuries the most fertile soil of some thirtythree states drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries, has been deposited in this section.”
This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.