Sunday, March 18, 2012

Poché Plantation and Convent

A large group booked all available spaces at Lakeside RV Park in Livingston for the weekend so we pulled up stakes and relocated to Convent... about halfway between Gonzales and LaPlace, Louisiana. Convent (pronounced Couvent in French) is the seat of Saint James Parish and is in the heart of Cajun Country.  The town, first called Baron, was settled around 1722. Convent is situated on the east bank of the Mississippi River and is just 16 feet above sea level.

We are staying at Poché Plantation Campground and this is our campsite:
The site is concrete with nice facilities.  The road, however, is made of dirt and large rocks.

Leaving the coach on our way to our "free tour"

Inside our new Big Blackie
The current owner of Poché Plantation calls it a "full service resort" and advertises a Bed and Breakfast along with the large but somewhat cluttered, overgrown and dusty campground.  Throughout the area, statues, art oddities and tree carvings like these are seen...
This is the nearest tree carving to our campsite.
It's chock full of carvings... crawfish, bear, otter and other animals. A brown pelican carving is atop.

This is the locally famous "Alligator Tree" with an eagle on top.

A closer view of the alligator. It's very good chainsaw carving.

About Poché Plantation Home...
Poché Plantation is architecturally unusual with Victorian Renaissance styling. Most plantations in this area are more along the Greek revival style. Poché Plantation is located along Highway 44 directly across from the levee of the Mississippi River. It's on the National Register of Historic Places.

That's our car... and the Wayner alongside the house.

Judge Felix Pierre Poché built the namesake plantation home in 1867. Until that time, the land was a 160-acre sugar cane plantation. Poché maintained the plantation as a residence until 1892 when he moved to New Orleans and sold Poché Plantation to Judge Henry Himel.
The plantation mansion's dormer windows make it somewhat unique.

A grand old porch goes around three sides of the mansion and a separate quarters are to one side.

Looking out from the front porch the levee obscures the view of the river.
Poche plantation home is one of only two ever moved by the Army Corp of Engineers. 
It was moved back (on rolling logs) some 275' feet from it's original location along the bank of the river bank.

Poché was an attorney, Louisiana Supreme Court Justice and co-founder of the American Bar Association. He was distinguished in his lifetime for work in the courtroom and as a diarist on the battlefields during the Civil War. His famous diary and it's detailed description of the world of a Confederate in Louisiana during the Civil War made him a controversial figure. Judge Poché wrote his Civil War diary in French. The diary which has been translated and published has long been an important resource for Civil War scholars. It is exceptional because there are only a handful of Confederate diaries describing the Civil War in print.

Locals have deferring opinions of Felix Poché. Some speculate he was a Northern spy.

As campground guests our visit here includes a tour of the mansion at which time, we met the current owner, who boasts he bought the property at absolute auction in which he was the only bidder.  Mark is a Louisiana native whose diction is undoubtedly authentic Cajun.  It took some time to get accustomed to his fast speaking dialect and understand everything he said.  He has a wonderfully refreshing humorous style, claims no serious knowledge of the history of the plantation home and kept us all in stitches during the tour. 
Current owner, motorcycle riding, sugarcane growing, tour guide, Mark.
An authentic and colorful Cajun fellow.

Mark welcomed four couples of us on the front porch of the mansion Saturday morning.
He "flew" across the yard on a yellow motorcycle and parked it right in front of the steps.

It's difficult to capture Mark with the camera as he is in constant motion.
In this room he's telling the story of the Poche Plantation ghost, Robo.

A good bit of the Poche Plantation home furnishings were donated.
Here, Mark is describing the circumstances surrounding the large wall hanging.  He accidentally tore it.
The second floor of Poche Plantation is available to guest to rent for a weekend and the price seems fair at $249. We snapped a couple more pictures here...
The upstairs hallway has a nice view overlooking the rear gardens and fountain.

The mansion tour lasted nearly two hours and we were ready for lunch when the group finally broke.We retrieved Lexie and Ozzie from the coach and headed out for a sightseeing drive and lunch. 
This is a typical view here.  Refineries, plants and sugar cane everywhere!

Approach to the bridge going across the Mississippi River to Donaldsonville.

A view from the bridge.  We could see seven barges at one time coming upriver.

Occidental Plant

A nice view of the bridge span.

Tomorrow we'll try to see the church and cemetery down the road.

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