Courtesy of L’Observateur
First Published in ‘River Current’ magazine, January 2000
Mozella is the Anglicized version of “Mosella,” a river in southern France which flows into Germany. That river was the subject of a classic Fourth Century Latin poem, “Evening on the Mosella,” by Demicus Magnus Ausonius, which translates as follows:
“What colour are they now, thy quiet waters?
The evening star has brought the evening light,
And filled the river with the green hillside;
The hilltops waver in the rippling water,
Trembles the absent vine and swells the grape
In thy clear crystal.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Moselle white German wine comes from the same area.
In some references, there is noted “Mosella Townsite,” and in earlier ones, “Mosella Plantation,” between Boutte and Paradis. During 1945 to 1965, it was known as the “Mozella Strip,” a string of nightclubs, bars, motels and lounges. Its origins go back to the Youngs family, prominent citizens for several decades in the Boutte/Paradis area.
Hicks Lewis Youngs and his brother, Elias, were born in New York City – Hicks in 1832 and Elias in 1836. The family had emigrated from England in the mid-1700s. Hicks and Elias came to Louisiana in 1851, and Hicks became the first railroad engineer making the run on the New Orleans and Opelousas Railroad, predecessor of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, which still runs thought the area.
He married Melissa Turnage of Springfield, La., apparently in 1857, and had a son, George, but Turnage died in 1861.
During the Civil War, he served with the Confederate Navy and was in charge of a gunboat at Morgan City. He married Isidora Stansbury of Morgan City, but it seems, she died in childbirth in 1862. In 1865, he married Frances “Lizzie” Culpepper of Mississippi, and they settled on their plantation, raising cotton, sugarcane and timber for the railroad.
His brother, Elias, joined them as well, along with his wife, Mosella Turnage Youngs, from Springfield, La. Mosella was likely the sister of Melissa Turnage Youngs.
According to Kicks Youngs’ great grandson, the Rev. Frederick Youngs of Baton Rouge, family traditions were that there was a falling out between the brothers, and Elias and Mosella moved to Florida.
Hicks, however, stayed and raised six children. Hicks was postmaster in Boutte for 16 years, a police juror for 15 years (serving as president throughout) and a school board member for 25 years.
In addition, he was a parish delegate to the 1898 Louisiana Constitutional Convention. Hicks Youngs died in 1905. Elias and Mosella Youngs both died in 1923.
Public service apparently ran in the blood. Son Luther Archibald Youngs became a physician and became a prominent citizen in Paradis. Another son, Hicks Jr., born in Mosella in 1867, became a pharmacist and served two terms as Mayor of Berwick. He died in 1926. His daughter, Emma, a teacher and distributor of Esso products in her mule-drawn wagon, married Thomas Sellers Jr., school superintendent.
The earliest landowner maps and record located in the St. Charles Parish Clerk of Court’s office, an 1856 map of land grants, note that ownership of the later Mosella Plantation area was to Joseph Mariomeaux, who applied on Oct. 15, 1853 to establish a plantation in the area. The practice at the time was for plantation establishment as a business enterprise to be done through a government patent. A lease for cutting timber for railroad maintenance is noted with area property owner Hicks Lewis Youngs.
However, through a series of buyouts, it appears that Elias and Hicks Youngs consolidated the area’s smaller farms into a plantation and established a sugar mill and cotton gin, called Mosella Plantation.
Mosella Plantation made a good attempt it seems, and lasted approximately 20 years before the property was broken up into smaller tracts though a series of purchases until it went into receivership at the outset of the Depression. It was sold out of receivership in February 1937 to Allan B. Crowder for $500, then to Charles Lynn Thompson in May 1941.
Enter Charles LeGarde Sr.
According to his son, retired attorney, Charles Jr., (still a resident of Mozella), “It was a little plantation, about a mile along the track.”
Charles Sr. and his partners, Archille Mongrue and Jack Pizzolato, bought the site and planned to develop a townsite there.
“He spearheaded the buying and wanted the part across the railroad tracks,” Charles Jr. recalled.
“He was a country boy from Lafourche, and he was running the Luling/Hahnville Bank in the mid-1920s. He finished law school and started a practice in Thibodaux.”
The area purchased for $7,150 included truck farmers, notably the Puglise family. LeGarde also rented acreage for cattlemen. Cane farming still continued in the area and, for many years, a “dummy” rail line transported cane to the sugar mill at Ashton Plantation in Luling.
Charles LaGarde Jr., 78, lives next to Hahnville High School, with Tiger Drive running alongside the east edge of his property, which faces U.S. 90. “Highway 90 took 30 feet of my yard when they four-laned it around 1960,” he recalled.
When he was a 5-year-old child, the family lived in Luling, and, “One night, Dad got up and showed us the burning of Ellington sugarhouse,” LeGarde recalled of that 1926 night.
His father later built a second house on River Road in Luling, which still stands, fronted by the massive LeGarde Oak, a member of the live Oak Society and one of the largest in the world.
LaGarde graduated from Hahnville High School in 1938. He earned his bachelor’s degree in prelaw from Loyola University in New Orleans, but the U.S. Army and World War II beckoned.
He was a member of the Army Air Corps of Engineers, building airstrips, which took him all over the world in his four years, from Oran in North Africa to Calcutta, India and Shanghai, China. “I didn’t do any fighting, but I got a lot of geography,” he recalled.
Meanwhile, after the war, Mozella mushroomed into what might be called the entertainment capital of the West Bank, with a host of nightclubs, bars, motels and lounges.
As Angelo “Buster” Puglise recalled, there were Joe Kadak’s; Betty’s Music Box, run by Betty Plazzo (which still stands, next to McDaniel’s Enterprises); Mike’s Place, operated originally by Mike Laque; the two story Round House Restaurant and Lounge of Frank Matis, the Matchbox of Jackie DePaul; the Raven, which was started by Joe Puglise as a bait shop and who later added a night club; the After Hours Bar run by Milton Matherne (which still stands on the south side of the highway), and Buster’s own The Angel Motel and Angel Lounge (which was knocked down by 1965’s Hurricane Betsy).
“It was a wide-open little town,” Puglise recalled, though with very little violence. He did recall, however, when a female armed robber made her way into a lounge and was shot and killed herself.
“It was never too rowdy,” LaGarde added.
Plans were developed in the late 1960s for a new high school on the West Bank to replace the 1922-era Hahnville High School, and a site was purchased for the school in Mozella.
A committee to name the new school called for the public in August 1973 to submit suggestions. Ideas were plentiful, including the following: St. Charles Westgate Senior High School (the committee’s initial favorite), Hahn Senior High School and West St. Charles Senior High School.
Finally, after public pressure was brought to bear, the name for the new school was made – Hahnville High School, which opened in 1975. This established a school named for a town several miles away, with a Boutte mailing address, a Paradis telephone exchange and physically located in Mozella.
With the locating of Hahnville High School, the Mozella area has begun a slow rebirth, as businesses have been trickling into the area to restore its reputation and good name.