By Roy Lunk
The public school system started in St. Charles Parish in 1879. Before then, education was provided by private tutoring, boarding schools and private companies. Creole lumber company had a school located next to its lumber mill on the Lafourche side of the bayou in Des Allemands. The school was part of a complex consisting of a commissary, recreation center and a boarding house that was provided for employees at the mill. The mill was located on the north side of the railroad tracks and the school as well as other buildings were on the south side of the tracks. Charles Hopkins owned the mill, all of the buildings and 5,054 acres of land in St. Charles Parish. On March 15, 1905, Hopkins sold all of his holdings associated with the mill to Bowie Lumber Company.
Before Des Allemands had a public school, children on the St. Charles side of the bayou were allowed to attend the Bowie School. Since there was no bridge at that time, children would paddle a skiff across the bayou to go to school. Miss Jeanne Peyregne attended the school at the mill and later taught and became the first principal of the Des Allemands School. She lived with her parents on Paul Island. Adolph Peyregne was the manager of the mill and built a floating walkway from Paul’s Island to the mill. This enabled Adolph and Jeanne to walk to work and school.
There were ten public schools listed in St. Charles Parish in 1879 with one teacher assigned to each school. School classes were conducted in churches and private buildings. Teacher’s salaries in 1881 was $40 per month and the school session was four months starting in March. In 1882, the school term was extended a month. However, the attendance fell off the last month which was attributed to the summer heat. There were 113 white children and 393 colored children enrolled in public schools. In 1884, schools opened with 104 white and 488 colored students. In 1886, there were six colored and five white schools open. Enrollment included 135 whites and 471 colored students. In 1888, there were six white and nine colored schools opened with 180 white students and 652 colored students.
On April 16, 1895, Charles Hopkins sold a building to the St. Charles school board for $325. The building was a three room shotgun style house with cypress lap siding and a corrugated roof. The lot that the building was on was donated to St. Charles Parish during the act of sale by Hopkins on April 16, 1895. Thus, began the school system in Des Allemands with Miss Effice Porteous and Mrs Carrie Hopkins as teachers.
The school property was low so elevated cypress plank walks provided access to the building and to three deep- pit out houses located in the rear of the school. The building faced the railroad tracks. A cistern provided drinking water and a pot belly stove was used for heat. When a train was heard coming down the tracks, the boys would be instructed to “get your sacks”. After the train passed, the boys would gather up pieces of coal that had fallen from the train cars to be used in the pot belly stove for heat.
In 1907, enrollment in the Des Allemands School was 602 white and 383 colored students. Miss Jeanne B. Peyregne became teacher and principle and continued in the teaching profession for 36 years.
In 1907, the salary of white teachers with a teaching certificate was $55 per month and without a certificate was $45 per month. Colored teachers were paid $25 per month.
In 1917, Des Allemands was one of several schools inspected by C.J. Brown, an inspector for the state education department. His inspection described a long three room building of cheap construction that was unsatisfactory in most respects for teaching purposes. The building was located on a half- acre site which was low and poorly drained. The three – deep pit out houses were well built and given close attention. There were 84 of the 127 students presently enrolled who were in attendance. There were three teachers assigned to teach grades 1 thru 8. The teachers were well acquainted with the contents of the courses of study. The discipline and organization were fairly satisfactory and play is given oversight but little direction. Third grade students were much below standards in reading skills, but fifth grade pupils were fully up to average in accuracy and speed. The inspector recommended more time for reading and a greater effort to teach French speaking children the correct pronunciation and use of English. The physical condition of the school is very inferior and seriously impacted teachers and pupils in their work.
Also in 1917, the school board endorsed the superintendent’s request to permit the grades seven and eight of the Des Allemands School to attend the Paradis Elementary School. At that time schools were open for a nine- month session. In 1918, the teachers at the Des Allemands School were Miss Jeanne Peyregne, Miss Bernice Lowe and Mrs. Grace Torres. The school system shut down from November 12, 1918 to December 2, 1918 because of an unexplained epidemic.
On February 4, 1919, T.L. Dufrenay presented his commission to serve as the fourth ward school board member replacing L.J. Dejean. Also, a process began to consolidate all schools in the parish. The fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at the Des Allemands School were moved to the Youngs School at Paradis.
In 1919, the school board recognized a need for a school on Black Prince Island. A total of 23 children were living on the island in 6 houses. There were 3 Touchard families with a total of 12 children and 4 Matherne families with 11 children. In December of 1919, the search for property for a school on Black Prince Island began. In February of 1920, a parcel of land was donated. A one room school was built and Alvin Candies taught grades 1 through 7.
In 1921, B.J. Tregle was the next school teacher. In1924, discussion arose of discontinuing the school and transferring the children to the Comardelle Village School. The next year in 1925, a two- room school house was built in Comardelle Village and a teacher was added. A transfer boat was assigned to pick up children at Bayou Gauche and Black Prince Island and bring them to the Comardelle Village School. The school at Black Prince Island was discontinued and children were assigned to the Comardelle Village School.
Although some of the early settlers stayed at Black Prince Island, the closing of the school encouraged some of the Touchard and Matherne families to move to Des Allemands. One of the early settlers who did move to Des Allemands was Felix Touchard. He, his son, and his grandson developed a grocery business in Des Allemands. One son, Felix Touchard, built and managed the Fun Theater. Charles Matherne, another settler from Black Prince Island moved to Des Allemands and established a well-known stuffed crab business. No evidence of any of the homes built by the early settlers at Black Prince Island exist today. One remaining cedar tree looks out of place among the Roseau cane, wax myrtle bushes and cypress trees.
On June 7, 1921, a search began for a new school lot in Des Allemands. In July, Miss Jeanne Peyregne and Mrs. Grace Torres continued as teachers in Des Allemands. B.J. Tregle was the teacher at Black Prince Island. On August 2, 1921, T.C. Dufrenay reported locating a lot for the new Des Allemands School. On May 1, 1923, the school board purchased a lot from Earnest Dufrene for a school building in Des Allemands. On July 3, 1923, J.A. Duhe submitted a bid for constructing the school which was approved by the school board. On November 5, 1923, the Des Allemands School was accepted as meeting specifications.
The 42’ wide by 31’deep by 12’ high building was of cypress wood construction. The foundation sills are 6” by 8” number 1 grade cypress with 2” by 8” floor joist. The flooring is ¾” by 4” hardwood tongue and grove number 1 grade pine. The 12’ interior walls and ceiling are covered with beaded ¾” by 2-¼” tongue and grove boards and nailed on 2” by 4” cypress studs painted light grey. The ceiling joist and rafters are 2” by 6” cypress. The roof decking is 1” by 8” pine boards covered with red cypress wood shakes. The exterior walls were covered with #1 cypress lap siding with 4” exposure painted white. The windows are cypress wood sash with 8” glass panes and cypress panel exterior doors. The class rooms were partitioned by a large chalk board. The left entrance left wall served as a cloak room.
The new school was located at N29 degrees, 49.485 minutes – W090 degrees, 28.209 minutes and became Des Allemands second public school house. Miss Jeanne Peyregne continued as principal along with teachers Miss Lutie Sommis and Mrs.Edith Torres. Grades 5, 6, 7, and 8 that were moved to Paradis School July1, 1919, were returned to Des Allemands School July 1, 1924. Children were required to walk to school and those living across or along the bayou would paddle a skiff or pirogue to the train bridge and walk the remaining distance. The Des Allemands first school was about 3,000 feet and the second about 3,800 feet from the bayou. Children were required to bring a lunch to school. Cistern water was available for drinking and out houses were located outside the school house.
On November 3, 1926, the building that was used for the Des Allemands School first was sold to T. C. Dufrene for $55. On February 5, 1929, the lot that was donated to the school board by Charles Hopkins was sold to W. E. Dufrene.
In October of 1928, the St. Charles Parish school board discussed an issue with Lafourche Parish of a “line school” near Lake Des Allemands. The project could not be justified and children on both sides of the bayou were picked up and brought to Des Allemands via school boat. On January 7, 1930, the school authorized a school boat for the up the bayou children. Hypolite Matherne was assigned to pick up children from Lake Des Allemands to Des Allemands living on the Lafourche and St. Charles side of the bayou. The school boat was called the Waterloo.
On May 12, 1931, a lot was purchased from E. D. Peyregne for a new and larger school in Des Allemands. The lot faced what then was Highway 90 which later became Highway 631. A two- story brick school was built that served the school system until it was destroyed by fire on February 24, 1974. Students were temporarily housed in trailers and in temporary classrooms in local churches. After repairs were completed to the damaged section, it continued to be used until a new school was built at 1471 W. P. A. road in 1977. The building remained idle for several years and was used as a storage facility. Attempts to sell the building and property by the school board failed. It was finally declared a liability and demolished. St. Charles Parish purchased the property from the school board and presently maintains a walking path and benches on the property.
The fourth Des Allemands School is located on highway 631 at 1471 W. P. A. road. It is just several hundred feet from the second Des Allemands School building that traveled the roads and waterways of the area to its final resting place. The fourth school now offers a French class and has a Cajun cultural program.
In 1931, the school board the school board decided that all school buildings no longer needed in the parish would be sold with the exception of the Des Allemands School. The school board decided that there was a need for a larger school in Comardelle Village. The village was located about 12 miles downstream of Des Allemands. In May 1931, W. E. Dufrene submitted a bid of $1995 to move the school house to Comardelle Village. A cypress log tram was constructed and the building was rolled about 3,800 feet to the bayou. It was loaded on a barge and transported to Comardelle Village.
On October 4, 1932, Albert Dufrene with the school boat called The Transfer replaced Hypolite Matherne who was assigned to pick up children along the bayou from Lake Des Allemands to Des Allemands. Besides picking up children, mail and small household items were delivered. A popular item was a loaf of French bread.
The stock market crash in 1929 and the start of the great depression eventually took its toll on the parish school system. In 1932, the school term was reduced from seven months to three and one half months. In March 1932, banks refused to loan money to schools. In August 1932, script instead of money was issued at six percent interest. On January 3, 1933, teacher’s salaries were cut forty percent and were given until Friday, January 13, 1933, to accept the pay cut. On January 18, 1933, all teacher contracts were terminated. They were replaced by volunteer teachers who were required to accept script on the basis of a forty percent cut of teacher’s base pay. Some of the schools were given permission to use the school building for entertainment such as movie showings, dances and basketball games provided the profits would go to the school. On March 7, 1933, parish banks closed and transfer operators were having problems purchasing gasoline for their vehicles.
On October 3, 1933, W.E. Dufrene, a long- time supporter of the Des Allemands school system died and a page was set aside in the minute book in his memory.
Prior to 1933, there was no distinction as to children being picked up on the Lafourche or St. Charles side of the bayou. In December of 1933, Johnny Dufrene, the boat operator of the down the bayou boat, and Albert Dufrene, the up the bayou boat captain, were instructed to pick up Lafourche children only after they had crossed the bayou to the St. Charles side. Johnny Dufrene piloted the boat W.E.D. and picked up children starting at Bayou Gauche and continued down the bayou until Comardelle Village. He would drop the children off at the Comardelle School and then continue downstream to the entrance of Lake Salvador and then return to the village. He also transported teachers that lived in Des Allemands as well as small household items.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, fishing and trapping were the primary industries in the area. Comardelle Village was a centrally located settlement in the fertile trapping and fishing grounds. Along with houses located along the bank of the bayou were houseboats tied up against wharves. During trapping season families would arrive from the neighboring communities of Gheens, Westwego, Raceland, Des Allemands and Bayou Gauche. During its peak times the community had as many as thirty families with about one hundred school children. The first school opened in 1912 with Miss Zoe Petit as teacher. She taught for four years followed by Miss Martha Berthelot and then Jeanne Claiborne in 1918. In June of 1920, Jeanne Claiborne was replaced by Lutie Sommis.
The first school was a two- room building constructed by Lawrence Dufrene. He had intended it to be his home however it became a two room school house. Access to the school was by an elevated plank walk which connected all of the houses along Comardelle Village. William Egnase Dufrene who was the political power in the area had the walkways installed by St. Charles parish. The school had a single outhouse and a cistern which provided drinking water for the teachers and children. A bucket of water was drawn from the cistern and placed at the rear of the class room. A tin cup was issued and placed on each student’s desk. During recess and lunch students were allowed to get drinking water from the bucket. Students brought lunches in a brown paper bag or tin bucket. Lunches consisted of can meats such as potted meat or Vienna sausage or wild game such as rabbit, deer or ducks.
On April 3, 1924, the school board established a public school at Comardelle Village. A lot owned by Noel Dufrene was selected and a building on the lot was purchased from W. E. Dufrene. On May 8, 2024, the school board accepted the Comardelle school building. Prior to that date school was conducted in houses owned by private individuals. In 1924, Lucile Lowe taught seven grades at the Comardelle School. On May 5, 1925, a picket fence surrounding the school was authorized by the school board.
In July 1925, a gas transfer boat route was created for the Comardelle School. The boat W.E.D., piloted by Albert Dufrene, was used to pick up children along the bayou. This resulted in an immediate increase in attendance at the school. An additional teacher as well as an annex building was ordered in September 1925.
The teachers at the Comardelle School in May 1929 were Miss Cora Ferris and Miss Margaret Brandt.
In May 1931, the Des Allemands school house arrived in Comardelle Village. In October 1932, Albert Dufrene was replaced by Johnny Dufrene as captain of the boat W.E.D. Albert then replaced Hypolite Matherne who had the up the bayou route.
In October 1937, repairs were authorized for the Comardelle school building. The school building continued to serve the children until 1941. Settlers were moving to the surrounding communities of Gheens, Bayou Gauche, and Des Allemands. Modern conveniences of roads, electricity, and running water were becoming available at these locations. The muskrat population was on a decline and no longer provided adequate income to sustain a family. Many of the settlers continued in the fishing industry with motorized propulsion available in their boats. They could now have access to fishing areas away from their homes. In July 1941, Mrs. Ethel St. Pierre served as teacher and principle of the Comardelle School. She advised residents of Bayou Gauche and Comardelle Village to petition that the school be moved to Bayou Gauche. The school board agreed and authorized moving the school to Bayou Gauche. The school building was again loaded on a barge and moved to a lot in Bayou Gauche leased from L.J. Simoneaux for $120 per year. F. H. Bourgeois Inc. was contracted to move the building at a cost of $480. The school boat continued to run and pick up children along the bayou and bring them to Bayou Gauche. In July of 1943, the school boat was discontinued since there were only eight students.
Also in 1943, the school bus which began picking up children in Bayou Gauche in 1931 was discontinued. In 1931, a shell road was built along the sunset drainage canal. The road provided access to the town of Bayou Gauche. At the time there were thirty children that resided along the shell road. After the arrival of the school house from Comardelle Village the children were schooled locally.
Mrs. Ethel St. Pierre taught school in Comardelle Village and then at Bayou Gauche. There was no dress code and most children did not wear shoes in the summer. The French language was spoken less and less by students. The students were required to bring a lunch to school. A cistern was the source of drinking water. A single out house was located at the rear of the school. School supplies such as a ruler and pencil were donated by Coca-Cola. The school’s front porch remained unscathed during the moves to Comardelle Village and then to Bayou Gauche. It was the focal point of pictures taken at the three locations.
The building remained in Bayou Gauche until 1959 at which time it was purchased by the American Legion post 316 in Des Allemands. The legionnaires were part of the Luling post. However, on March 4, 1960, the American Legion post 316 was formed in Des Allemands. A corporation was formed with a board of directors who dedicated the post in honor of Morris A. Loupe and Elvin J. Boudoin. Mr. Morris A. Loupe was born June 4, 1918. He was married on February 3, 1940, to Annie Mae Malbrough in the presence of Father Andrew Schorr of Our Lady of the Most Holy Catholic Church in Hahnville, Louisiana. Morris was enlisted in the PVT 347 division and died December 16, 1944, during battle in World War II. Mr. Elvin J. Boudoin was born September 24, 1918, and was living with his parents in Paradis when he entered service. His parents were originally from Raceland, Louisiana. He was killed May 10, 1944, during the invasion of England and is buried in England.
The founding Executive Committee members of post 316 were Milton Matherne, Wilton Hue, Louis Somme Jr., Harold Crow Jr., Roland Rogers, P.J. Rogers, and Jessie Dufrene. On Thursday, October 22, 1959, the St. Charles Herald Guide posted an article, “Wilton Hue; Commander of Post 316 announces the grand opening of the American Legion Park Sunday October 25 1959.” A delicious chicken bar-b-q will be served beginning at 11:30 AM; adults-$1.00, children-$0.75. Favorite drinks, hamburgers, assorted cakes and candy will be available. Highlighting the bar-b-q will be a political rally featuring speeches by local and state candidates running for office in the coming elections. Funds derived from the event will be used for renovating expense to the building.
The legionnaires took on the task of relocating the school building that was in Bayou Gauche. It was rolled onto a barge and brought to the bayou Des Allemands bank edge in front of the Catholic Cemetery. At that point it was rolled onto a low boy trailer truck and driven to the American Legion Ball Park. Milton Matherne was the driver of the truck. The school building was unloaded where it stands today. The front porch faced east towards the ball fields. The rear of the building faced the WPA road. It was set up on concrete blocks placed at eight foot centers and extended two feet above the natural ground level.
The building was to serve as a meeting place for the American Legion Post 316. In the 1950’s through the 1980’s the Legion had a strong presence in the community and maintained 35 to 40 active members. A room was attached to the front side of the building facing the ball park area. The room housed two bathrooms that provided facilities for the legionnaires and participants of the ball park. The attachment also housed a kitchen area with cooking appliances. Hot dogs, hamburgers, poor-boy sandwiches and drinks were sold to patrons attending ballgames. The kitchen was also utilized to prepare food to sell during events sponsored by the Legion such as weekly bingo, baseball games, Easter-egg hunts, Mardi-Gras parades, pirogue races, weddings, receptions, and family gatherings. The building was also used as a distribution center for the Council on Aging.
In order to accommodate the events that the Legion sponsored, 30 foot additions were added to each side of the 43 foot by 31 foot original building. The result was a building with 3,100 square feet of interior room. The material for these additions came from a school house in Lucy, Louisiana. The Berthelot Grammar School house in Lucy, Louisiana was no longer being used. On April 16, 1910, by motion of Mr. Gendron and seconded by Mr. Leger, the St. John The Baptist school board passed a motion to advertise bids for the erection of a grammar school in Lucy, Louisiana. Corbin Brothers was the successful bidder. On June 4, 1910, the school’s first principle professor Dycote along with his assistant Miss Cole conducted the first closing exercise. The Honorable Paul Berthelot donated the property where the school was built. He gave an inspiring talk on the importance of public education and the progress of the school system in the parish. He was followed by Judge J.L. Paneaire, Mr. Charpentier and Mr. Dycote who spoke of the successes achieved and a need for education.
On June 5, 1915, the new principle Professor W.S. Frazee replaced Professor Dycote as principal. His assistant was Miss Hattie Plaisance. Nellie Henderson served as vice principal. Their pay at the time was: W. S. Freeze – $80 per month, Miss Hattie Plaisance – $50 per month and Miss Nellie Henderson – $50 per month. On September 16, 1916, Mr. Freeze continued as principle with Miss Blanchard McClintock and Myrtle Mauberret as his assistants.
Schools had fund raising events during the year to help support the operations and maintenance of the school. Their largest fund raising event was dancing which was held in the school auditorium. The events were advertised in the Le Meschocébé newspaper. One such advertisement appeared in the June 13, 1914 edition. “Grand and elaborate preparations are being made for a grand dance in the school auditorium. A celebrated and unexcelled New Orleans orchestra has been procured for the event which promises to be the greatest of the season. Forget your troubles, but don’t forget the time, the day, and the place of the grand dance.”
Just as the Des Allemands School had rendered its service to the community so had the Berthelot School in Lucy, Louisiana. The school board decided to bus the Lucy School children to another location and the school was shuttered. The Des Allemands American Legion was in need of material to enlarge its building in Des Allemands. It purchased the Lucy Grammar School, and its membership went to the location and salvaged the material and transported it to the Des Allemands site. It was used to build the two wings to its existing building.
School Board Members
H.C. Youngs – Paradis, LA
J.L. Boutte – Boutte, LA
Dr. Luther Youngs – Paradis, LA
Louis Dejean – Des Allemands, LA
T.C. Dufrenay – Paradis, LA
Wilson Cantrelle – Des Allemands, LA
Landry Dufrene – Des Alleamands, LA
Weldon Aupied – Paradis, LA
Percy Dejean – Des Allemands, LA
Clarence Savoie – Des Allemands, LA
The American Legion hall was used for weddings and receptions. Listed are weddings and receptions that were held at the Legion.
- Perry & Loretta [Champagne] Zeringue –May 6, 1967-reception
- Quinsen & Connie [Cologne] Matherne-reception
- Michael & Lucia [Dufrene] Savoie-reception
- Tony & Marylane [Schaubhut] Bevil reception
- Gary & Janet [Melancon] Folse –February 26, 1972-reception
- Jeff & Jan [Hurtin] Thompson- December29, 1972-reception
- Ernest [Tootie] & Cindy [Luquette] – Cortez-December 6, 1974-reception
- Richard & Linda [Dufrene] Chiasson –June 9, 1973-wedding and reception
- Frank & Gerry [Savoie] Herview –February 3, 1968-reception
- Jerry & Deborah [Matherne] Tregle –March 25, 1972-reception
- Curry & Pamela [Comardelle] Schaubhut-reception
- Harry & Fae [Matherne] Aucoin -January 11, 1964- reception
- Jimmy & Beverly [Bergeron] Dufrene-October 16, 1965-reception
- Todd & Roxane [Evans] Schaubhut-June 22, 1979-reception
- Craig & Candy [Heurtin] Ford-June 3, 1977-reception
- Clarence [Sonny] & Merle [Dejean] Savoie Jr.-February 19, 1966-reception
- Roland & Janice [Graubert] Tastet JR.-Janruary 29, 1966-reception
- Tim & Sheila [Guidry] Bryant -July 3, 1971-reception
- Lowell & Karen [Matherne] Boxer- May 16, 1975-reception
- Shane & Georgette [Folse] Lunk –April 16, 1982-wedding & reception
- Sherwood & Ruby [Folse] Frickey- December 17, 1981- wedding & reception
- Samuel & Janet [Folse] Flood –April 5, 1975 reception
The American Legion hosted the first, second, and third Des Allemands catfish festivals held on the second weekend of July in 1975, 1976, and 1977. Father Mac was the founder of the catfish festival. The event’s profits were used to support various religious projects within the St. Gertrude Catholic Church. Father Mac’s promotional skills resulted in the festival and town of Des Allemands proclaimed as the “Catfish Capitol of the World” on February 20, 1975 by Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. On July 9, 1980, by Act. 132 of the Louisiana State Legislature, proclaimed Des Allemands, “The Catfish Capital of the Universe”. The festival continues today and is held on the St. Gertrude Church grounds.
The legion also hosted the first, second, and third mardi gras parades. Judy Comardelle was the first queen and rode in a boat for the parade. It also sponsored the pirogue races, a yearly Easter egg hunt, weekly bingo, family gatherings and birthday parties. The legion sold sandwiches, hot dogs, barbecue and drinks for these events. In the early 1990’s, the Legionnaires membership dwindled and Post 316 was discontinued. The building was eventually sold to St. Charles Parish on April 23, 1999, for $15,000. The recreation department used the building for a while and finally shuttered it.
On March 23, 2011, a town hall meeting was held at the Des Allemands fire station to determine the fate of the building. It had become a liability for the parish and they wanted it sold. A suggestion was made during the meeting to restore the building to be used as a museum. A twelve-member volunteer non-profit board was formed and charged with that mission.
- Comardelle Village
- Bayou Gauche School
- Black Prince Island School
- Torez Island
- Paul’s Island
- Bowie Lumber School
- First School
- Second School
- Third School
- Fourth School
- American Legion