Cotton, Southern Accents and Family Lore
As reported earlier I had yesterday off from work and decided to make a trip out of it. The results of German Shepard Roullette had me taking Highway 80 through Louisiana and seeing what I could find. On Tuesday night I sat down with a glass of wine and started plotting my course. I had the idea to take a different route across Louisiana to Mississippi and then return via 80. Two possibilities quickly emerged. US 84 or take a bunch of state highways starting with 154 and 4.
Then it jumped out at me. Blume, Louisiana. I had never heard of this place before - a quick look at a different map revealed the same town to be named Lucky. Hmmmm - the name jumped out at me because it is a family name and is often given to males as a middle name. I started to look at what was around there and spotted Castor. Why did I know that name? I knew I had never driven through there but also knew that it was important. This sparked a late night phone call to my 90 year old Great Aunt. Blume was her mother's (my great grandmother) maiden name and the reason I knew Castor is because that is where she is buried. Family lore holds that the Blumes were very wealthy and had been plantation owners well into the 1890s when the family fortune was lost in a stock market crash. Well - I had to go check this place out.
This got me to pondering. Where were the rest of my great grandparents from? For me studying my ancestry doesn't lead to England or Ireland. It leads to the South. My family has been in the South since before the American Revolution. Most were living in Louisiana and Mississippi by 1800 and some in East Texas by the 1860s. So this is what I was going to find. I added Harrisonburg, Louisiana and Gloster, Mississippi to my itenerary and plotted a very general path.
My trip started at 7:45 yesterday morning. I took US 71 (that sounds oddly familiar) south to LA 154 to LA 4. I stopped at the General Store in Castor and asked where the Old Castor Cemetary was. Received directions and finally found the turn-off after a couple of tries. It was a beautiful old cemetary with graves dating back into the 1800s. I was looking for my Great-Grandmother's grave for my own personal wishes and the wishes of my elderly aunt. It took forever. I wandered around that place for over an hour and was getting seriously jumpy. I was ok being alone in an old cemetary in the woods for about 45 minutes and then it really started getting to me. I almost gave up and then I spotted the grave of her sister. I found her nearby - took a picture of the grave and took pictures standing on the grave back towards where I had parked the car so that I could find it next time.
It was now 10:30 and I was only about 40 miles from home. Time to start moving. I never could figure out anything about Lucky/Blume. I passed through it, but it's just a typical rural community. I took LA 4 to Jonesboro (hometown of Jimmie Davis) caught US 167 to Winnfield (hometown of Huey P. Long) and caught US 84. In Winnfield they were holding the "Hog-Dog Festival". It seemed to consist of a lot of pig statues around town that were being decorated by the locals. I asked, but never could figure out anything.
US 84 has been dubbed the East/West Corridor El Camino Real. Didn't know that until I started seeing signs. It was a pretty road that meandered through central Louisiana towns and swamps. I passed through Jena, Louisiana at one point. Didn't see any signs of the recent issues. And kept going until I hit Jonesville. I took LA 124 north to Harrisonburg and took a quick drive around the town where another Great- Grandmother has been raised. She's buried in Oak Grove, LA - too far away from todays journey to even contemplate visiting.
Harrisonburg is on the Ouachita River. I found a nice little park and sat watching the rive while I ate the lunch I had brought with me. It was now around 1:00 and I was starting the think that I wouldn't make it to Gloster, Mississippi. Back in the car and back to Jonesville where I was stopped by a draw bridge. I knew I was in trouble when I looked back and saw the driver behind me slam his steering wheel, turn off his truck, open the door and lay down. We sat there for approximately 30 minutes. I'm happy to report that they're furiously working on a taller bridge. So that at least gave me something the do. Gloster was now definitely out.
84 had been passing through cotton country all afternoon. I saw fields of cotton and cotton harvesters working in the fields. There were bales of cotton along the sides of the road. Cotton was rolling through the streets like tumbleweeds and the sides of the road looked like it had been snowing. This is one of my more favorite sights. I passed several plantations and cotton gins offering tours, but none seemed to actually be opened. I also started spotting lot of Mounds left by the Mound Builders.
I crossed the Mississippi at Natchez, stopped briefly at the visitor center and caught the Natchez Trace north-east to catch Highway 61 (part of the Great River Road). Along the Natchez trace I spotted a sign to see Emerald Mound. This is when I had my Mississippi Mr. Darcy moment (except he was't wet).
I climbed the hill towards the mound and spotted this tall guy with dark curly hair coming from across the fields. He spots me taking pictures and says in the most wonderful Mississippi accent "I wish there were clouds today so that you could get a better picture". He then asked me if I was from around there (sob!). I had to tell him no, he gave me a disappointed look and then wished me a good day and kept walking across the fields. I have no idea who he was, where he was from or anything. That accent alone is enough to make my toes curl in delight. (Laura swoons at the memory).
Just to further set the stage. I was wearing blue jeans, a Carlsbad Caverns t-shirt with a giant bat on it, little makeup and I hadn't bothered to fix my hair. Therefore, he was obviously crazy.
After finding some cold water to splash on myself - I got back in my car and somehow lost the Parkway. I may have been on Mississippi 553, but I didn't even realize I had lost the Parkway until I saw signs directing me back to it and ultimately picked up US 61. I passed through Port Gibson that has a giant welcoming sign proclaiming the town to be "To Beautiful to Burn". I almost ran off the road when I saw that.
Arrived in Vicksburg at around 4, couldn't find Highway 80, so took the I-20 bridge over the Mississippi and caught up with 80 just on the other side. 80 through east LA picks up portions of General Grant's March in 1863 (at least that's what the signs proclaimed). I saw many scary railroad trestles that seemed to be held in place with wood (didn't even want to think what the bridges I was driving over looked like). Lots of cotton and rice fields through this area also.
Louisiana really needs to fix this Highway. I don't know if it was because of all the farm equipment that uses the road or what. But it was in terrible shape. I was a bit worried about my shocks. And if a native Louisianian thinks a road is in poor shape then that's really bad. However, it was a good alternative to I-20 and passed through many rural towns like Delhi (sounds like hi at the end), Rayville, and Start (hometown of Tim McGraw. I briefly lost the road in Monroe, but was able to find it again off of I-20.
I had begun to notice the disturbing tendency for people to use 80 as a footpath. It was annoying and a bit frightening during the day, but when night fell it became an all out hazard. I had to abandon 80 around Ruston and wound up taking I-20 back into town. I arrived home at 8:45, happy and tired.
Sounds like quite a day trip!
I'm glad to hear that you had a good trip. It's always nice to get out into the areas that are nearby that are still unknown to the person traveling through them.
Interesting trip, Laura
The family history stuff can be really intriguing. I only have one branch of the family in this country before 1905 and the have graves in Oregon from the late 1800's so it was cool to pay them a visit. You sure did a lot in one day!