Waterford: Agriculture to Industry – Chapter 8 (The People of Waterford)

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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 Sugar Cane
Many local people remember the plantation years when sugar cane was grown on Waterford. F. Evans Farwell, prior owner of Waterford Plantation, gave this picture of sugar cane in bloom on Waterford to Sam Alleman, present employee at Waterford 3. (From Waterford: Agriculture to Industry, November 1988)

Fond Memories

The exactitudes of history are dubious, at best, even under the most prolific pens. Naturally, the historian must consult those works previously written on the subject and, if possible, interview those individuals whose recollections can provide some verbal history of importance not found elsewhere. Attempts were made to interview individuals who remember life on the Waterford Plantation, and whose lives played no small part in its development and transition into today’s present use of the property by LP&L. Understandably, verbal traditions have to be weighed against previously written works for accuracy as well as content. Those found here may suffer from the ravages of time and memory, but serve to enlighten the reader with personal flavor not available from other sources. These memories serve to interject the thoughts of those people, and may be the only record of its kind. 

As a singular voice, the people who lived and/or worked on Waterford Plantation, and raised their families there, recall the plantation with fond memories. They recall that living on Waterford was «good living.” It seemed that the needs of these people were fulfilled either by their own efforts, by the plantation owner, or by their neighbors. Most grew their own vegetables, had milk cows and chickens, and each knew their neighbors and shared what they had with others in need. 

Most recall that one of the biggest problems for those who lived on the plantation, as it was for other area residents up until well into the 1940s, was that they were often plagued with swarms of mosquitoes that were not only a vexation, but in some cases were the carriers of serious diseases, such as yellow-fever. In the days before window screens, fans, and air conditioners, the tall and wide shuttered windows provided some relief on hot nights. Fine mesh mosquito netting was necessary to keep out the swarming pests, but made sleeping difficult because the netting blocked the delicate flow of air on suffocating nights.

Guillot Family

The Guillot family moved onto the Waterford Plantation in 1921, when Lloyd Guillot was only one year old. Lloyd, who now lives in nearby Ki Ilona, has many recollections of his life on Waterford. His father secured loans from Milliken and Farwell, Inc., the plantation’s owners, to buy mules and equipment. He leased a portion of the land and became a tenant sugar cane farmer. 

The Guillot family had six mules and farmed about 90 acres of sugar cane. Lloyd recalls his father making a dollar a day, and the field hands making 75</. a day. Everyone remembers the work days being 12-hour days, and the farm activities were manually performed using hand operated equipment. 

The tenant sugar cane farmers on the Waterford Plantation lived in houses provided, with free rent, by the plantation owner. As time progressed, electricity, water and gas were added to the houses. Waterford had a deep water well, and every so often the water was tested. Lloyd remembers being the last man to move off of the plantation in 1973. Two small houses were moved to a lot that he purchased in Killona, and the houses were joined to create his present home.

Waterford Board House
Figure 8-1: The Boarding House and Grocery Store on Waterford. Source: Leona Picard. (From Waterford: Agriculture to Industry, November 1988)

Leona Picard

Leona Picard, who still resides close to Waterford, worked along with her husband at the commissary store on the plantation (see Figure 8-1), and raised her family in what she remembers as a very good lifestyle. She recalls that the workers’ time records were submitted on Thursday afternoon, and the workers got paid on Saturday. Mrs. Picard remembers frequently staying up and working all night in order to get all of the over 100 workers’ money ready for payroll. When people were actually being paid, a man sat with a gun in the store to guard the money. The workers received cash, not checks. 

The workers would leave their grocery lists at the store in the morning before going to work, and then they would pick up their groceries after work. The groceries were gathered, measured, and made ready for them to take home during the day. At that time, the rice and sugar were held in bulk form in barrels, and the store clerks had to scoop the rice or sugar out of the barrel to measure out the required needs. In the Plantation grocery store, one could buy almost anything one wanted for daily living, including tobacco products, food, clothing, etc. It was said, “If there was anything the store did not have, you did not need it anyway.” People would come from all over to buy products from the plantation and to work on the land, and many would stay overnight in a rooming house located on the plantation. The number of workers would increase at planting and harvest times.

Velma Austin

Velma Austin has many happy memories of her father, Deacon Timothy Morris, who ministered to the spiritual needs of many of those who spent their lives on Waterford. She recalls that he traveled to New Orleans every Thursday to work for the Farwells, and he continued his ministry until his death at the age of 79. Velma also recalled that the owner, F. Evans Farwell, was a generous man who constructed and operated a school on the plantation. She recalls that at one time an overseer had broken his leg, and Farwell continued to receive his pay while disabled.

“BoBo” Kenney

Frank “BoBo” Kenney, who arrived on Waterford in 1937 and stayed until he went off to war in 1942, recalls that he had a good, clean life on the plantation, and that everyone worked well together. He recalls the long twelve hour days, the ringing of the bell that was used to call the hands to work, and “lunch breaks and knocking off times.” During the harvesting and grinding season, he recalls the hands working six hours on and six hours off in the sugar mill. He also tells how in the summer time they would store the molasses and sugar in tanks. He does not, however, recall these times as “hard times,” rather he remarks that, “Times are hard only if you believe they are going to be hard.” Frank remembers the Waterford Plantation, ” … as a place where everyone knew one another and everyone got along just fine.” 

In his memories of life on Waterford, “BoBo” recalls that some of the surrounding plantations did not enjoy as many benefits as the people of Waterford. All workers were sent to New Orleans twice a year to get medical examinations. The workers always had three meals a day ready for them. When they made money on the harvest, the owners gave the workers bonuses. One year a hurricane ruined the harvest and F. Evans Farwell, the owner, gave the workers a bonus anyway. At Christmas time, the Farwells would buy every child under twelve a toy, and everyone else would receive candy. “BoBo” also tells of visiting the home of one of the owners, Charles Farwell ill, having to remove his shoes before entering the house, and wearing slippers while at the house. Four or five pairs of slippers were always kept at the door. While reminiscing with “BoBo”, one got the feeling that he was happy during his days on Waterford and missed the serenity of those gone, but not forgotten days.

Waterford Children
Figure 8-2: Waterford Plantation Children. Source: Leona Picard. (From Waterford: Agriculture to Industry, November 1988)

Roland Champagne

Roland Champagne and others who lived and worked on Waterford never refer to their experiences as anything but fond recollections of a good way of life. They formed a bond with one another with hard work, sharing and mutual assistance. 

Many others who shared the experience, such as Myrtle Boyd, Ada Bremmer, Oscar Cannon, and Lenita St. Amant, said that theirs was a unique and warming experience.

Mary Claire Fisher

Mary Claire Fisher laughs as she recalls how her five brothers loved to hunt and fish on the plantation. She said it was like a “Sportsman’s Paradise.” Her father, A. J. Maloncon, was county agent of St. Charles Parish for 35 years, and rented the large house on Waterford for a time to shelter his large family. 

Mary Claire tells of how the people of Waterford really cared about one another and took care of their own. Standing out in her memory are the people of Waterford coming to the aid of her brother. As he was returning from a Sunday afternoon dance, he was involved in a car accident on the rain-soaked River Road near the plantation. Even though the family had moved from the plantation several years before, the people recognized her brother, wrapped him in blankets, and tended to his needs for hours until additional aid arrived.

F. Evans Farwell
Figure 8-3: F. Evans Farwell. Source: The Times-Picayune. (From Waterford: Agriculture to Industry, November 1988)

Sam Alleman

Sam Alleman works at the present Waterford site, and says that we can still see some of the concrete foundations of Waterford’s sugar house to this day. The Waterford Plantation has a special meaning to Sam because his grandfather, Alden E. Chauvin, served as an advisor to the superintendent of the sugar house at Waterford Plantation in the late 1930s and ’40s and supervised its rebuilding after it had burned down in the early ’30s.

F. Evans Farwell

F. Evans Farwell, the last owner of the Waterford Plantation prior to the purchase by LP&L, resides in New Orleans and recalls that Milliken and Farwell, Inc. had extensive holdings, including Waterford, Smithfield, Westover, Little Texas and St. Emma Plantations. These holdings represented over 10,000 acres of farm land that was leased to tenant sugar cane farmers. Mr. Farwell recalls that there were 72 sugar mills in Louisiana in 1936, and these have dwindled to a handful today. He remembers that the Waterford sugar mill ceased operation in the early 1950s when it was no longer profitable. 

Most of the people of the Waterford Plantation have moved on to other places and other things, but they share in the remembrance of the land and of a serene period of time in their lives, a tranquillity that will always be a part of their memory and influence their lives. 

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