Waterford: Agriculture to Industry – Introduction

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NOTE: The following research material is included on this website courtesy of Entergy and was prepared in 1988 for Louisiana Power & Light Company (presently Entergy) following their purchase of one of the most historical properties in St. Charles Parish dating back to the earliest settlements on the German Coast. Originally known as the Darensbourg Tract, this site at the time of purchase was Waterford Plantation, one of the last surviving plantations in St. Charles Parish.

Waterford Bell
The Waterford Plantation bell.

Acknowledgments

In the preparation of this work, a considerable amount of information and assistance was received from individuals, agencies, and institutions of St. Charles, Jefferson, and Orleans Parishes. Special recognition must be given to the librarians and clerks of these parishes, and to the librarians of the University of New Orleans and Tulane University for their time and help with this endeavor. Likewise, the staff members of the Historic New Orleans Collection were outstanding in their patience and skills demonstrated in pursuit of pertinent materials. 

A sincere expression of appreciation goes to the many individuals whose support and assistance have made this report possible. In addition to the many employees of LP&L who were interviewed, several people who were formerly associated with the Waterford Plantation willingly allowed us into their homes, lives, and world. A special thanks to F. Evans Farwell and George Marse for their guiding advice, and of course to those who lived and/or worked on Waterford Plantation: Leona Picard, Velma Austin, Frank Kenney, Mary Claire Fisher, Myrtle Boyd, Lloyd Guillot, Roland Champagne, Oscar Cannon, and Lenita St. Amant. 

This report is the result of research of much literature and includes some information from personal interviews. All of the information within is accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, human frailty must be considered in both our ability to reconstruct how things were from our reviews and the effect of time on the memories of those who were there. This report is considered an internal LP&L document, for limited distribution, intended to educate LP&L employees and instill a sense of history about the Waterford property in people who work there.


Introduction

“The prosperity of any city is linked very closely with the prosperity of the adjacent farm land lying in the logical trade territory of that city. The development of our idle farm lands, carrying with it the greater utilization of labor and the prosperity of our present farmers, is of paramount importance to the City of New Orleans.” – ­Robert S. Maestri, Mayor of New Orleans, 1936 to 1946.


Property Location

Although these words, by former Mayor of New Orleans Robert S. Maestri, were stated in the early 20th century, they can serve as a reference point for tracing the evolution and development of the tract of farm land that became known as the Waterford Plantation in the sugar producing years. Today it is the site of technologically advanced facilities for electric power production for the people of the state of Louisiana by Louisiana Power & Light Company (LP&L). Situated on the western bank of the Mississippi River about 33 miles up-river from New Orleans (see Figure 1-1), this property has a rich and varied history. This report will chronicle the people that were associated with the property and how the land and its people together influenced the economic development of this area.


“Creole & Cajun”

References to social demographic segments such as “Creole” and “Cajun” can have various meanings to individuals of various heritages and can be used as adjectives for hereditary as well as cultural classifications such as in food, art, or tradition. All references to these terms herein follow the definition as follows: a Creole is any person born in Louisiana, of purely French and/or Spanish lineage. The word “Creole” is thought to be derived from the Spanish “Criollo” referring to a child born in Louisiana. Creole also refers to traditions, attitudes, or characteristics such as food, dress, music, or customs associated with these people. The name “Cajun,” on the other hand, is applied to those persons and/or their offspring who were deported by the British from Acadia (Nova Scotia) with little more than the clothes on their backs. These Cajuns settled in various cities along the Atlantic seaboard, with a large number migrating to Louisiana. These hardworking people, who had originated from the rural and coastal regions of France, were welcomed by the territorial authorities in Louisiana.


Scope

Waterford: Agriculture to Industry begins with the first recorded settlement of this fertile segment of land consisting of approximately 3,600 acres. Through the years, it has provided its riches to the communities of St. Charles, Jefferson, and Orleans Parishes (a parish is an administrative division in Louisiana known elsewhere in the United States as a county) and to the economy of Louisiana. Generations of local families have worked this land and witnessed the industrial· and economic changes over the more than 250 years of its development. What were once gravel and dirt roads are now highways and paved streets. The change from the sugar cane plantation to the power plants and supporting facilities currently on the site portrays the historical perspective of American industry, which has prospered while maintaining a strong agricultural base. LP&L still leases a large portion of the plantation land for growing sugar cane and soybeans.


Vitality of Today

The land itself was probably nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain in the early years. However, the property has been a focal point for progress and development since then, from the implementation of advances in sugar processing to the generation of commercial energy. This property is now located in a network of railroads, factories, commercial industries, shipping routes and, of course, overland electrical transmission lines that carry energy to formerly isolated areas and to the industrial consumers located along the lower Mississippi River. This area remains today just as vital to our economy as it has for more than two and a half centuries. 

This concludes the research material on Waterford Plantation, originally the Darensbourg Tract.

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