Dwelling of Edg. LeBranche and Widow Dame Norbert Fortier.
Red Church Presbytery rear elevation. Father J. M. Paret lived in this presbytery from December of 1848 until October 1869, which spanned the golden age of the antebellum years to the era of Reconstruction. This included the Civil War and its profound social changes. The levee was raised only five to seven feet during this time. Wood was gathered from the Mississippi River twice a year during December and March, which the residents considered a Godsend. (Photo courtesy of LSU Press)
Front Elevation. Father Paret enjoyed gardening and breeding of animals. He wrote to his brother, “I would like for you to see this big garden and how pleasant and inviting it is. Without false modesty, I think the inhabitants of St. Charles will be jealous of it.” At that time Fr. Paret had planted 488 trees consisting of orange, pomegranate, persimmon, peach, plum, mulberry, crepe myrtle and magnolia along with althea and rose bushes. (Photo courtesy of LSU Press)
Firewood is being cut and prepared for sale for those traveling along the Mississippi River in the mid-1800s.
"Parish of Plenty" created in 1807 from the County of the German Coast. Sketch by Janis Blair.
Red Church, March 20, 1859. The Little Red Church on a Sunday afternoon. The German cemetery is one of the oldest in the South, with tombs dating back to 1770. Many earlier gravesites fell victim to the Mississippi River. Deceased west bank residents were transported across the Mississippi River in boats to be buried at the Red Church cemetery. A replica of the Red Church is on display on the grounds of St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan at the entrance to the cemetery. (Watercolor by Fr. Joseph M. Paret, Plantations by the River by Marcel Boyer, Edited by J.D. Edwards, Published by LSU Press)
Oxley Plantation. The residence of Charles and Martha Kenner Oxley, daughter of William Kenner (Roseland), was located in the presentday Bonnet Carré Spillway. Charles Oxley was a native of Liverpool, England, and became a New Orleans cotton broker. The Greek revival architectural style became popular in Louisiana as early as 1830. However, the Creoles continued to favor the West Indies style. Located at this site is an African American cemetery named Kenner Cemetery. Fr. Paret displays his sense of humor by including himself in this painting.
Ranson Plantation. Louis Ranson was a member of a very prominent and influential New Orleans family that were formerly involved in Spanish government. He was the son of Zenon Ranson, one of the wealthiest planters in the parish, and married Flavie Troxler, a descendant of early German Coast settlers. The Ranson Plantation was located across the Mississippi River from present-day Destrehan. In 1866, as head churchwarden, he was asked by Father Paret to find a site for a west bank chapel. He served briefly in 1866 as sheriff of St. Charles and served as a captain in the Confederate Army. During the Civil War his property was seized and not returned until 1867.
The Scheckschneider (Schexnaydre) and Zeringue families standing in front of Ormond Plantation in Destrehan. (Photo courtesy of Larry and Sharon Schexnaydre)
Good Hope Plantation was the home of brothers Thomas and Edouard Oxnard and brother-in-law, Brice Similien LaBranche. Brice LaBranche served in the militia, was a member of Captain Trudeau’s Troop of Horse in the Battle of New Orleans, and served as a churchwarden and member of the Louisiana State Legislature. The Oxnard family remained involved in the sugar industry throughout the twentieth century. Good Hope was bought by Leon Sarpy after the Civil War. This site is now the town of Norco and home to Shell/Motiva. Note the many dwellings and support buildings (“dependencies”). Each plantation was designed to be as self-contained as possible.
The new St. Charles Borromeo Church was dedicated on January 25, 1922. In the 1978 restoration and expansion of the church, the old Stations of the Cross were restored and the solid cypress pews were used as paneling and the balcony railing. St. Charles Borromeo Church continues to serve Catholic parishioners in the 21st Century and is the second oldest church parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Support of clergy and laity over the years has contributed to the preservation of the integrity of this historic landmark.
The new St. Charles Borromeo Church was dedicated on January 25, 1922. In the 1978 restoration and expansion of the church, the old Stations of the Cross were restored and the solid cypress pews were used as paneling and the balcony railing. St. Charles Borromeo Church continues to serve Catholic parishioners in the twenty-first century and is the second oldest church parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Support of clergy and laity over the years has contributed to the preservation of the integrity of this historic landmark.
Little Red Church. Tradition holds that the 1740 St. Charles log chapel was destroyed by fire in 1806 and rebuilt the same year. It was replaced by a wood-framed structure and painted red. The “Little Red Church” became a famous landmark for river travelers. Passengers going downriver were relieved to see the Red Church because it meant New Orleans was only 25 miles away. (Photo courtesy of Fay Walker Louque)
Ormond Plantation in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of Chip Zeringue)
The Ormond Plantation is one of the few houses that escaped fires, floods, and the Civil War. It was originally built in 1790 by Pierre Trépagnier on land granted to him by Spanish Governor Bernardo deGalvez for his service during the time of the American Revolution. In 1805, the property was acquired by Richard Butler, who named the plantation Ormond after an Irish ancestor, the Duke d’Ormonde. Upon his death, Ormond was deeded to Butler’s sister whose husband was naval officer Samuel McCutchon (Fr. Paret spelled it McCutcheon). Ormond Plantation adjoined the Little Red Church property, housed a post office, and had a large boat landing. Ormond is the only plantation included in Fr. Paret’s series of watercolors that survives into the twenty-first century.
The Hermitage Plantation was owned by Judge Pierre Adolphe Rost and was located at the center of the present Bonnet Carré Spillway. Judge Rost was married to Louise Odile Destrehan and also owned the former Destrehan Plantation. He was considered one of the most significant and wealthy plantation owners along the German Coast. The Hermitage was seized by the federal government after the Civil War and later returned to Judge Rost. George Frederick Kugler served as overseer for Judge Rost and later acquired Hermitage Plantation. The property was subsequently sold to the United States government to be used as the site for the spillway project. Lumber from demolition of the Hermitage Plantation was used to build houses on Apple Street in Norco. Another African American cemetery known as the Kugler Cemetery is located at this site. Legend lends an interesting story that George Kugler planted many of the oak trees along the River Road.
Father Paret’s watercolor painting depicts the Little Red Church and its surroundings in the heart of St. Charles Parish. The area displays present-day locations of Dufresne (Esperanza) and Hahnville on the west bank, across the river from Destrehan and New Sarpy on the east bank. The east bank Little Red Church, its cemetery, and the presbytery are surrounded by several dependency buildings. A visual of pre-Civil War St. Charles Parish. (Watercolor by Fr. Joseph M. Paret, Plantations by the River by Marcel Boyer, Edited by J.D. Edwards, Published by LSU Press)
Home of M. O. LaBranche. La Branche Plantation. The German Zweig family surname was Gallicized to LaBranche. Octave was the son of Alexandre LaBranche. He was a member of Captain Trudeau’s Troop of Horse and a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans. Octave served as speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1827 to 1829. The LaBranche family and Fr. Paret enjoyed a warm relationship. The LaBranche’s owned several plantations. The house pictured was located in the present St. Rose area. Watercolor by Father Paret.
Judge Jean-Louis LaBranche Plantation. Judge Jean-Louis LaBranche was born in 1805 in St. Charles Parish. A major crevasse occurred on May 8, 1858, at this site, followed a few days later by another levee break in the same area. On February 13, 1869, the L’Avant Courseur reported, “The hard times, the family losses, the brutalities of subordinate officers who acted like military police in St. Charles during and after the war, and finally the recent death of his aged mother all took their toll on Judge LaBranche’s fragile constitution.” He died on February 7, 1869.
Estate of Jean Baptist LaBranche. After Widow J. B. LaBranche (nee Marie Trépagnier) died in 1868, her three sons, Judge Jean-Louis, Euphemond, and Cyprien, inherited the Jean Baptist LaBranche Plantation. By 1850, it was one of the German Coast’s most prominent and successful. Note the Spanish style dependency building. This is the site of the present-day Esperanza Plantation owned by Judge Edward A. Dufresne, Jr.