Category Archives: Attakapas District

How Surnames Change

The following is an interview which is part of the U.S. Slave Narratives Series.

It is peculiar for many reasons, which we will discuss after the interview below.

To contextualize, the interviewee was born Sylvestre Sosthène Paul in 1864 in a village in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, called Verdunville. His parents were Michel Paul and Lucille “Lucy” Hunt. His paternal grandparents were Honoré Paul and Marie Thérèse Verdun, both natives of the lower Bayou Teche, and his maternal grandparents were Erasmus Hunt and Catherine “Katy” Dyer – both natives of Tennessee and residents of the Verdunville area.

And now the interview, verbatim.

Wickliffe, Sylvester Sostan

SYLVESTER SOSTAN WICKLIFFE. of Ames, Texas, was born in St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana, in 1854. A free-born Negro. Wickliffe tells an interesting story about his life and that of his uncle, Romaine Vidrine, who was a slave-holder. Wickliffe has a nicely furnished home in Beaumont, and two of his children have been to college.

“I’s what dey call a free-born nigger. Its a long story how dat come about, but I can tell you.

“Three Frenchmen come to Louisiana from France. In three generations day mix with Indians and Negroes. Dey high-born Frenchmen and ‘cumulate plenty property. Before dey die dey make ‘greement ‘mongst demselves. When one die de property go to de other two; de last one livin’ git all three plantations and all dat’s on dem. It so happen dat old man Vidrine’s daddy live longes’, so he git it all. But he so good he divide up and my daddy gits forty acres good land. My daddy’s greatgrandpapa was one dem first three Frenchmen.

“My daddy was Michael and mama was Lucy and dey a whole passel chillen, Frances, Mary, Clotilde, Astasla and Tom. Samuel, Gilbert and Edward. My daddy was part Indian and I had some half-brothers and sisters what wore blanket and talk Indian talk. Dey used to come see daddy and set round and talk half de night and I never understan’ a word dey sayin’.

“Mama didn’t have no Indian blood in her, but she born in Louisiana and a right purty, brown-skin woman, probably some French or Spanish in her.

“My uncle, Romaine Vidrine, de son of old man Vidrine, he have de bigges’ property. He was a slaveholder. Dey was a number niggers in Louisiana what owned slaves. Romaine, he have ’bout thirty-eight. Dey was a big dif’ence make ‘tween slave niggers and owner niggers. Dey so much dif’ence as ‘tween white folks and cullud folks. My uncle wouldn’t ‘low slave niggers to eat at de same table with him or with any of us free-born niggers.

“Folks come down from de north sometimes and mistook de slave for de owner or de owner for de slave. My uncle was sech a purty, bright man, he must of been a quadroon. He had long burnsides and a long tail coat all de time. He was very dignified. He was good to all he slaves, but when he say work, he mean work. He ain’t never ‘low none de slaves be familiar with him.

“De old Pomaine house was a old-fashioned house make out of cypress. Dat everlastin’. It come to a peak on top and dere was one big room what run de whole length in de back and dat de sleepin’ room for all de li’l chillen. De growed-up folks have sleepin’ rooms, too. Dey have a cook shack outside. It a sep’rate house.

“Us live in a purty good house not very far from de big house. Dey have what dey calls a private school. It was kep’ by my uncle. Only de free-born niggers went to it. De older ones educated in French and de young ones in French and ‘merican, too. After de war dey hire a white man named William Devoe to be teacher. He educate de chillen to de third gen’ration. He come to Texas with me and die ’bout five years ago.

“When a couple want to git marry on de old Romaine place, uncle sent for de priest from St. Martin. Dey wasn’t no priest round Franklin or what dey call New Iberia later. When I’s most a growed boy de priest come baptise ’bout forty of us. He use de water out uncle’s cistern for de ceremony. When us goin’ down de road to de baptisin’ dey’s a squirrel run ‘cross de road and us chillen all broke and run to cotch it. Law, dat jus’ ’bout scare my old godmother to death. She took so much pain dat us all nice and clean and ‘fraid us git dirty. Her name was Nana Ramon Boutet and she live here in Ames settlement for many year. Us laugh many time ’bout dat squirrel.

“Dey used to call us de free Mulattoes from ‘cross de bayou. De nearest town was Pattersonville and it five mile away. Now dey calls de settlement Vidrinville for old man Romaine Vidrine. De plantation suppor’ a grist mill and a raw sugar mill. Dey make de sugar dark, big grain, ’cause dey ain’t no ‘finery in dem days. Dey put de sugar in big five hunerd pound hogshead and take it by boat down de Teche to New Orleans and sell it. Dey use de money to buy coffee and cotton. Us didn’t raise cotton. I never see no cotton till I’s a big boy and come to Fort LaFayette.

“De grist mill was built ‘way from de house. Dey have a long lever what stand out de side and hitch hosses with a rawhide belt to make de mill turn. Us folks all raise rice. Not like now. Lawdy, no. Dey jes’ plant rice in rows like corn and cultivate it like any other crop. Dey wasn’t no irrigation ditch. After de rice harves’ dey put it in a mortar make out a cypress log or block and knock de roughness off de rice with de pastle.

“Every fall us go huntin’ deer round Chicimachi Lake. Dey calls it Grand Lake now, but de reg’lar Indian name am Chicimachi. Dere was a tribe of Indians by dat name. Dey wasn’t copper skin, but more yaller like.

“When war commence it purty hard on folks. Us see soldiers comin’ ‘cross de bayou in blue suits. Dey raid de sugar mill and take de livestock and foodstuff on de Pumphrey place. Dey have a awful battle five mile away. Dat at Camp Boesland, on de Teche. Dat a awful battle. My brother go dere next day and see soldiers standin’ up dere ‘gainst trees with dey bay’nots still sot.

“De Confed’rates come and took all de slaves to build de fort at Alexandria. When dey come to de Fomaine place dey see niggers, and ain’t know which free and which slaves. Dey line my daddy up with de others, but a white man from town say, ‘Dat a good, old ann. He part Indian and he free. He a good citizen. He ain’t s’pose do work like dat.’ So dey didn’t take him.

“De Yankees damage de Romaine property ‘siderable. Dey take a whole year crop of sugar and corn and hosses. Afterwards dey pass a law and de gov’ment ‘low money for dat. It was ’bout twenty year before dey git de money, but dey git it. Romans and he heirs git $30,000 for dem damages.

“After war over, old man Romaine tell he slaves dey free now. But he say, ‘You is most born right here and iffen you is bright you stay right here.’ Dey all did stay. But dey ain’t never git to jine with de free-born. Dey still make a dif’ence.

“After freedom I ‘cide to larn a trade. I ‘prentice myself to de black-smith trade for clothes and board. I larn all I can in three year and quit and open a shop on Bayou Torti, ‘tween St. Martin and Lafayette. I charge $2.00 for to shoe a hoss all de way round. Den I beat plows, build two-wheel buggy and back. I make sweepstocks and Garrett and Cottman plow. Dat after de time of be wood mould boards. I make mine with metal.

“I come to Texas in 1990, to Liberty, and been right round dere and was for forty-seven year. I start me a gin and blacksmith shop when I first come. I marry in Houston to Epheme Pravda, ‘nother free-born nigger, and I still marry to her after forty-seven year. Dat a good long hitch. We have seven chillen, all livin’. One gal went to de Catholic church school in Galveston. One boy go to Predeau University in New Orleans. Dey two blacksmith, one farmer, one good auto mechanic and de three gals keeps house.

“”I ‘member lots of songs us sing in French but I can’t give ‘merican for dem. I know de song, LaLoup Garou. I try to translate one song for you:

“Master of de house Give me meat without salt; When de stranger come. He give me roast chicken.”

Wickliffe, Sylvester Sostan — Additional Interview

A good humored, small man with a face crinkled about the eyes from much laughter, and a smiling mouth, edged with a drooping gray-black mustache, such is Sylvester Sostan Wickliffe of Ames, Texas. Although not slave-born, Wickliffe’s story presents one of the most unusual angles of the slave situation. He was born in St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana about 7 years before the Civil War, the nephew of a free negro, Romaine Vidrine, who was an extensive slave-holder. Wickliffe, today, exhibits a lively interest in politics and other topics of interest. His home is tastefully furnished, and his children, two of whom have received some college education, are of a superior type.

“I’s w’at dey call a free-bo’n nigger. It’s a long story how dat come about but I kin tell you. Dey was t’ree Frenchmen w’at come to Lou’sana from France. In t’ree generations dey mix wid some de Injuns and later some negroes. Dey was high-bo’n Frenchmen and dey ‘cumulate plenty propity.”

“Befo’ these t’ree Frenchmen die’ dey mek a ‘greement ‘mongst deyse’fs. Dey ‘gree dat w’en one die de prop’ity be divided ‘mongst de other two and de las’ one livin’ git de t’ree plantations and all dat’s on dem. Well, it so happen dat ol’ man Vidrine’ daddy he live de longes’ and so he git it all. Dat leave all de sons and gran’sons of de other two men outen nuthin’. Ol’ man Vidrine so good that he ain’

like to see dis happen so he divide up. In dat way my daddy git 40 acres of good lan’. His father’s mother’s father was one dem Frenchmen.”

“My daddy’ name was Michael and my mama’ name Lucy. Dey was a whole passel of de chillen, four sisters name’ Frances, Mary, Clotile and Astasia and five brudders, ‘cep’in’ me, name Tom, Samuel, Gilbert, Sylvester and Edward.”

My father was half Injun, and I have some half-brudders and sisters w’at wo’ blanket’, and dey talk dat ol’ Injun talk I can’t even understan’. I talk mos’ly French until I come to Texas. Dem half-brudders and sisters dey uster come to see my daddy and dey sit ‘roun’ and talk half de night and I neber understan’ a word dey sayin’.”

“Mama didn’ have no Injun in her, but she was bo’n in Lou’sana too. She was a right purty brown-skinned woman. She prob’ly have some French or Spanish ’cause dey was lots of folks dat did down dere.”

“My uncle, Romaine Vidrine, dat was de son of de ol’ man Vidrine, and de one w’at had de bigges’ prop’ity, was a lan’ holder and a slave-holder. Dey was a number of negroes in Lou’sana w’at owned slaves. Romaine he have ’bout 38 slaves to wuk de big plantation. Dey was a big diff’rence mek between de slave niggers and de owner niggers. Dey was as much diff’rence between dem as between de white folks and de cullud folks. My uncle he wouldn’ ‘low de slave niggers to eat at de same table wid him or wid any of de free-bo’n niggers.”

“Folks uster come down from de No’th and dey come ‘roun’ and mistook de slave for de owner or de owner for de slave and dat was lookin’ odd. My uncle was sich a purty bright man, he muster been a quadroon. He have long burnsides, and wo’ a long tail coat all de time. He was very dignified. He was good to all de slaves on de place, but he mean for dem to wuk w’en he say wuk. He ain’ never ‘low none of dem to be famil’ar wid him. He would allus say dat de darkes’ one dem darkies was de meanes’ one w’at he have on de place.”

“Ol’ Romaine’ house was a ol’ fashion’ house mek outen cypress, dat everlastin’. It come to a peak on de top. Dey was one big room in de back w’at run de whole length and dat was de sleepin’ room for all de li’l chillen. De growed up folks have dey sleepin’ room inside de house. Dey have a cook shack outside. It a sep’rate house from de other house. Dey do all de cookin’ out dere.”

“Us live in a purty good house and us trac’ was not very far from de big house. Dey have one place w’at dey call a school. Dey call it a private school. Dat was kep’ by my uncle. De ol’er people was educated in French but de younger ones git ‘Merican too. Right atter de war dey hire a white man name William Devoe to come and be de school teacher. He educate de chillen to de third generation. He come here wid me to Texas and die ’bout five year’ ago, clost to Houston. Dey uster have a li’l log house for a school buildin’.”

“When a couple want to git marry on ol’ Romaine place he sen’ for de pries’ from St. Martin. Dey wasn’ no pries’ ‘roun’ Franklin or de place w’at dey call New Iberia later on. De pries’ from St. Martin jes come to de plantation onct in a long while.

“I ‘member onct atter I’s mos’ a growed boy de pries’ come and baptise’ 30 or 40 of us. He use de water outen my uncle’ cistern for de ceremony. Dat was when I git baptize’ too. Us was goin’ down de road to de baptisin’ and I ‘member dey’s a long row of trees. Dey’s a squirrel run crost de road and up in de trees and us chillen all broke and runned to try to ketch it. Law, dat jes’ ’bout skeered my ol’ godmother to de’f. She tuk so much pain’ dat us all git nice and clean up and us has us bes’ clo’s on and she ‘fraid us git dirty. Her name was Nana Ramon Boutet and she live here in Ames settlement for many year’. Us laugh many a time ’bout dat squirrel.”

“Dey uster call us de Free Mulattoes from crost de bayous. De neares’ town to dere was Pattersonville, in dem days and it ’bout five mile’ away. Now dey calls de settlement Vidrinville for de ol’ man Romaine Vidrine. De plantation support’ a gris’ mill and a raw sugar mill. Dey mek de sugar dark, big grain’ ’cause dey ain’ no refinery in dem days. Dey put de sugar in big 500-pound hogshead. Den dey tek it by boat down de Teche to New Orleans and sell it. Dey use de money to buy supplies like coffee and cotton to mek clo’s on de loom. Us didn’ raise cotton. I never see no cotton ’till I’s a big boy and come to Fort LaFayette.”

“De gris’ mill where us grin’ de meal was buil’ away from de house. Dey have a long lever w’at ‘stends out de side and dey hitch de hosses wid a rawhide belt to mek de mill tu’n. Us folks all raise rice. Not like dey do now, Lordy, no. Dey jes’ plant dat rice in rows like co’n or potatoes and cultivate it jes’ like any other crop. Dey wasn’ no irrigation ditch or nuthin’ like dat. Atter de rice was harves’ dey tek it and put it in a mortar mek outen holler’ out cypress log or block.

Den dey mek a pestle to knock de roughness off.”

“Dey have sheep and hosses and cows ‘roun’ de place for dey own meat. Dey was lots of wil’ hosses in de woods ‘roun’ dere. My brudder went out one day to ketch one and he git los’ in de woods. Us was ‘fraid de Yankees done ketch him and mek him go off wid dem, but he fin’lly mek he way home ag’in. Dey ketch de wil’ hosses and tame dem.”

“Us li’l free-bo’n chillen play mos’ly togedder. Marbles and swing ropes was de fav’rite games, but us play a baseball game. It was play wid a hard ball on a diamon’, but I don’ reckilleck de details of de way to play it.”

“Ev’ry fall us go out huntin’ deer ‘roun’ Chicimachi Lake. Dey calls it Gran’ Lake now but de reg’lar Injun name was Chicimachi. Dat was from a tribe of Injun by de same name. Dey wasn’ copper skin’ Injuns but more yellowish like. Dat de kind of Injuns mos’ of dem was down dere. W’en us go to de Lake to hunt deer us would go ‘roun’ de lake in a skiff row boat. Us stay ’bout two week sometime on a hunt.”

“Dere uster be a story on my father dat us laugh at many a time. He’s so skeer of bears dat he ain’ knowed w’at to do. He didn’ want us to know how skeered he really was. He git out in de woods so far he git to thinkin’ ’bout dat bear. One time he sen’ my cousin, dat Romaine ol’es’ boy, back to de house for de gun. He say, I’ jes’ goin’ git me a coon.’ But ev’rybudy knowed dat jes’ ’cause he skeered of de bear. Dey was a big bear, and I mean a big bear, come in de yard. One de men jump up and kill de bear wid a rice pestle. Dat muster been a fight.”

“W’en de war commence it were purty hard on de folks. Us could see de sojers comin’ cross de bayour in dey blue suits. Dem was de Yankees. Dey raid de sugar mill and tuk de livestock and foodstuff on ol’ man Pumphrey’ place. Dat was at de beginnin’ of de war.”

“I see dat dey have a awful battle ’bout five mile’ away. Dat at Camp Beesland ‘tween Morgan City and Franklin on de Teche. Dat was a awful battle. My ol’es’ brudder he go dere de nex’ day atter de fight, and see sojers standin’ up dead ‘gainst trees wid dey bay’nets still set.”

Author’s Addition

“De Confed’rates dey come ‘roun’ and tuk all de slaves wid dem down to buil’ de fort at Alexandria. When dey come to Romaine’ place dey see niggers and dey ain’ knowed which was de free ones and which de slaves. Dey line my father up wid de others but one de white men from de town come down de line and he say, ‘Dat a good ol’ man. He part Injun and he’s free. He is a good citizen. He ain’ s’pose to go wuk like dat.’ So dey didn’ tek him, but dey did tek all de other able men but ‘low dem to come back atterwards.”

“W’en de Yankees come dey tuk some of Romaine’ propity. Dey damage up de place con’siderable too. Dey tuk a whole year’ crop of sugar and co’n and hosses. Atterwards dey pass a law and de gov’ment done ‘low money for dese damages. It have been 20 year’ ago befo’ dey git de money, but dey git it. Romaine and de heirs git $30,000 for de damages.”

“Atter de war was over de ol’ man he call up de slaves and say, ‘Now you is all free.’ You kin do w’at you want. But you is mos’ bo’n right yere and you ain’ knowed nuthin’ else. Iffen you is bright you stay right yere.’ And dey all did stay. But dey ain’ never git to jine wid de free-bo’n. Dey still mek a diff’rence. De slaves wuk some de ol’ plantation lan’ on de shares.”

“One de t’ings I reckilleck mos’ atter freedom was de picnics us uster have. De white folks farmers uster come and have picnics wid us free-bo’n but dey ain’ ‘low de others to come. Dem picnics was hel’ at Gran’ Lake. Dat was a big lake on top a hill. Dat hill was ’bout a acre square and ’bout 20 feet above the surface of de groun’. It was s’pose to be a ol’ Injun burial moun’. Us li’l chillen uster go play on de hill and dig up skulls and teeth and jawbones. Dat hill is mos’ wash away now since I’s growed up, but it was a fav’rite place for us chillen to play. W’en de high water come up, dat hill’s where us uster go git to keep outen de flood ’till de water go down.”

“Dey say niggers is mos’ ‘fraid of sperrits. But us li’l chillen ain’ never seed no ghos’es even on de Injun moun’. Mos’ de folks in dem days did beleeve in ghos’es. Dat was prevalent. Dey was superstitious. I ‘member dey was a ol’ lady name Aunt Jane. Dey raise sugar cane on de place where she was. One day she was jes’ a-cuttin’ cane down de row and she fall fas’ asleep. She ain’ woke up ’till she git to de en’ of de row and den she fin’ she done cut de row jes’ right. She ain’ miss a stalk. Dat in her sleep, too. She sho’ was glad ’cause dey would have wored her out wid de rawhide. Some dem marsters sho’ liketer use de whip in dem day anyway.”

“Atter freedom I decide to learn a trade. I go ‘prentice myself to learn de blacksmith trade for my clo’s and bo’d. Dey ain’ pay no wages for de five year’ you s’pose to tek to learn de trade. Dat too slow for me though, so I learn all I kin in t’ree year’ and den I quit and open me a shop on Bayou Torti, ‘tween St. Martin and Lafayette. I charge $2.00 for to shoe a hoss all de way ‘roun’. Den I beat plows, buil’ two-wheel buggy’ and hack. It tek ’bout a couple of weeks to buil’ one dem buggy by jes’ one man wukkin’. I mek sweepstocks and Garrett and Cottman plow’. Dat was atter de time of de wood moul’ boards. I mek mine wid metal.”

“I come to Texas in 1890, to Liberty, and been right ‘roun’ dere and Ames for 47 year’. I start me a gin and blacksmith shop w’en I fus’ come. I marry in Houston to Epheme Pradia, another free-bo’n nigger gal, and I’s still marry to her atter 47 year’. Dat a good long hitch. Us move to Liberty under dat big pecan tree where de golf park now stan’s.”

“Us have seben chillen, all livin’. One gal went to de Cath’lic chu’ch school in Galveston, and one de boys go to Pradeau University in New Orleans. Dey’s two blacksmith’, one farmer, one good auto mechanic and de three gals keeps house.”

“I reckilleck I voted de fus’ time at a place name’ Broussardville on de Southern Pacific road. I was ’bout 21 den I beleebe. Dey niggers didn’ have no trouble votin’ in dem times but I hears later dat dey mighty skeerce ’bout lettin’ dem vote in Lou’ sana now. I ‘member dat ‘lection well. A man name’ Andre Martine he was runnin’ for clerk of co’t (court), and Nichols and I t’ink Womack was a-runnin’ for governor of Lou’sana.”

“Now you wanter know sump’n’. I kin ‘member jes’ lots of de songs us sung in French, but I kin not give de ‘Merican for dem. Dey was a dance song name’ Mam’selle Marie, but I can’t give you de spellin’ of de words. Dey was anudder call’ LaLoup garou’ and I daresay when I bring dem up dey’s others I could ‘member. One dat de slaves sung I try to translate for you. It go:

Master of de house

Gimme meat widout salt

When de stranger come

He gimme roas’ chicken.

Dey was one say:

‘I sittin’ on de riverside

Weepin’ all de day

For I never see my darlin’

Any more.’

De very las’ I kin think of:

‘What’s de use of repinin’

For while dere’s a will

Dere’s a way.

Tomorrow de sun

May be shinin’

Although it be cloudy today.'”

This interview is amazingly informative regarding social conditions in Louisiana and Texas during Reconstruction and the earlier Jim Crow Apartheid years.

The dialogue equally exposes growing trends during this period of U.S. history of migration to other states and regions of the United States for increased economic opportunities where employment was more favorable.

Sylvestre’s migration from Louisiana was not unique in that such migrations began as early as 1817 when Spain issued a Cédula de Gracias (Royal Decree) offering free land and tax breaks to Spanish citizens and others interested in developing land in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and other places in greater Latin America still fledgling colonies of Spain.

Just before the U.S. Civil War, thousands of Louisiana Creoles (from all over the state) fled to Mexico, perhaps a result of the French and Francophile interventions in Mexico at that time,  to form communities like the Eureka community, Guttiérez Zamora, Tampico and Veracruz, where tax breaks and land were again offered in exchange for land cultivation, which was not a rare profession in Louisiana. Those migrations continued between Louisiana and Mexico until well after 1890.

Jim Crow Apartheid may have legally divided U.S. citizens along so-called color (later, racial) lines, but it equally allowed for greater standardization of Anglo-American culture through enforced English language education.

Many individuals in Louisiana villages, towns, faubourgs and small cities escaped anglicization until after World War 2, but their communities lacked diversity in employment and Louisiana French, Louisiana Creole and Louisiana Spanish languages could only be useful in those locales.

Better employment opportunities offering increased pay, better working conditions and perhaps stability required leaving the state. But for many who left during Jim Crow Apartheid, it also meant change in identity, from a Louisiana Creole to an American, even if only on paper names were completely anglicized, despite maintaining a heavily Latin-based vocabulary and Louisiana Creole-based syntax in the newly adopted language – English (e.g. interviewee’s English above).


Sylvestre’s interview was odd in that he was born free in 1864, however the series is for former slaves. What’s more is that Sylvestre descends from a long line of free people of color: his parents and entire paternal lineage were free since the 1760s. Only his mother’s Hunt and Dyer parents were born slaves in Tennessee and were emancipated in Louisiana when in their early 20s.

He does mention, however, that his grandfather Romain Verdun, Sr. (whom the interviewer transcribed as Romaine Vidrine, instead of Verdun. Vidrine is a common surname in Southern Louisiana, however neither related to nor is a linguistic relative to Verdun.) owned slaves and touches briefly on (from oral tradition, since he was born in 1864) his grandfather’s treatment toward those slaves.

At one point in the discussion, Sylvestre mentions his uncle, Romain Verdun, Jr. and refers to Romain’s father as “ol’ man Verdun.” Then the relationships become a bit amorphous throughout the rest of the dialogue.

Romain Verdun, Sr. was born in 1793 in New Orleans, a personne de couleur libre (free person of color), son of Jean Baptiste Verdun of New Orleans and Marie-Thérèse Grégoire of Bayou Teche, a griffe libre whose parents and grandparents were Atakapas, Chitimachas and Wolofs. Marie-Thérèse’s paternal grandfather, André Masse, was born someplace near the Sénégal River in 1720 and became a slave of André Masse (his namesake) of Grenoble, France, one of the first Frenchmen to trade with populations indigenous to Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas. Marie-Thérèse’s grandmother, wife of André of Africa, was Catherine, also known as Catiche, an Atakapa.

A town south of New Iberia and Jeanerette on the Bayou Teche carries Romain’s namesake, Verdunville, for his original tracks of land encompassed the entirety of the present town. Verdunville is one of very few pockets of speakers of Louisiana Creole remaining in St. Mary Parish in 2011. And the entire community originates from the Verdun, Pellerin, Paul, Hunt, Conner and other families – all free persons long before the Civil War, many of whom descend from Wolofs, Frenchmen, Atakapas and Chitimachas. The interviewer transcribed the town as Vidrineville.

Honoré Paul, Sylvestre’s paternal grandfather, was the son of Paul Masse and Marie Jupiter. Honoré Paul was a first cousin to Marie-Thérèse Grégoire above, both grandchildren to André Masse of Sénégal and Catiche.

Marie Thérèse Verdun, Sylvestre’s paternal grandmother, the daughter of Romain Verdun, Sr. and Catherine “Kitty” Crow, was married to Georges Sénette, a son of Jean Baptiste Sénet and Marie Jupiter (same Marie Jupiter as above).

The half-brothers and half-sisters that Sylvestre mentions in the interview as being his, were actually his father, Michel Paul’s half-siblings (children of Honoré Paul with his wife). These Pauls, the descendants of Michel’s half-siblings, are members of the Chitimacha and other nations in South Louisiana today.

Note that Sylvestre describes the Chitimacha from his childhood as not “copper colored, but more yellar.” See related blog entry below on physical descriptors and U.S. indigenous populations entitled “Coal Black Hair & High Cheek Bones.”

In the interview, Sylvestre Sosthène Paul informs the interviewer that he was born in 1854 to Mike and Lucy. He was 10 years from the mark of his actual birth in 1864.

1870 U.S. Decennial Census Louisiana St. Mary Parish Ward 4 Page 52 Dwelling 508

When Sylvestre moved to Houston in 1890, his name was not only anglicized to Sylvester Sostan, but, most curiously, his surname changed entirely from Paul to Wickliff. In the 1900 U.S. decennial census, we find him in Liberty County, Texas, as Sylvester Wickliff with wife, Euphémie “Epheme” Pradier and several of their children.

1900 U.S. Decennial Census Texas Liberty County Justice Precinct 1 Page 20 Dwelling 353

In 1890 at Houston, Texas, Sylvester married Euphémie Pradier, born 5 October 1869 near Youngsville, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana to Joseph Pradier and Azélie Mire. The interviewer transcribed Euphémie Pradier’s name as Epheme Pradia.


This is one example in history where textual documentation can assist in locating original names used, migratory paths and familial and professional relationships in addition to an entire host of other topics.

The Wickliffe family would be searching for Wickliffe ancestors, when in reality, they should be carrying the Paul surname and searching for the Pauls.

Thankfully, I immediately recognized the names and relationships when my cohort, Rodney Sam presented the narrative above to me. I was able to recognize them right away because I partially have a photographic memory, but I had already completed the genealogies on Sylvester’s family (both paternal and maternal), as my cousins descend from these families and their genealogies are part of my Louisiana Genealogy database.


URL to interview

Complete Genealogy:

Louisiana Genealogy

Related Articles:

Physical Descriptors in Louisiana
Hunting André Masse and His Business Partners
Louisiana Creole Diasporas & Spanish Decree of 1817

Mexico-Louisiana Ties
Coal Black Hair & High Cheek Bones

Related Websites:

Verdunville, Louisiana
The United Houma Nation
Sovereign Nation of the Chitimacha
Second Mexican Empire (Napoléon III of France)
French Intervention in Mexico


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New Iberia & Malagueños



My goal here really is to offer a quick briefing on the city of New Iberia and the 16 families by whom the city was named.

Before jumping to the Malagueños, I must make known to you a few things.

Most people have heard that the city of New Iberia (Nueva Iberia, in Spanish; La Nouvelle-Ibérie, in French; and Ibéry, in Louisiana Creole) was founded in 1779 by Spaniards from the province of Málaga, Spain.

What people do not know is the Malagueños were not the first to resettle in what’s now the city of New Iberia.

The area had long been a crossroads between the lower Teche, where the bayou spills into the Atchafalaya River at Wax Lake, and the upper Teche at Port-Barré where it draws water from Bayou Courtableau. These were the lands of the Eastern Band of the Atákapa-Ishak, who lived all along the Teche (the name of disputed origin) until the late 18th century.

Historically, the Eastern Atákapa-Ishak had villages at Charenton, Grand-Coteau, just north of Abbéville and at the Mermentau River (aka Le Menton).

Their Western band cousins lived along the Brazos and Trinity Rivers in Southeast Texas (where the Eastern band migrated in the latter quarter of the 18th century and where they all still live today).

André Masse, a native of Grenoble, France, was contracted by the French Crown to establish a cattle ranch in the 1740s along the Teche. The cattle was to feed the population of the colony. He wasn’t the only one, by the way. He purchased 20 Sénégal, Manéga and Wolof slaves around that same time, and a handful of Atákapa and together, they established his first ranch around present-day Charenton.

Legend has it that in the Spring of 1765, when Acadians were sent to live in The Attakapas District by Governor Charles-Philippe AUBRY, André Masse and his business partner, Jean Antoine Bernard d’Hauterive, also a native of Grenoble, but resident of The Iberville Post, complained to Governor Aubry and Gabriel Fuselier de la Claire, Commandant at The Opelousas Post, about the Acadians trespassing on their lands.

The issue was resolved by a transfer of land, where Masse turned over his ranch at Charenton and established a new one on what was then known as Lac Flamand, named so for the Grévenberg dit Flamand [sic] brothers from Belgium. Masse’s new cattle ranch stretched from Lac Flamand to the Vermilion River.

Reality is such that not one single civil act exists for transfer of land, sale of land or donation by Masse or d’Hauterive to Acadians in the St Martin Parish courthouse, the only one along Bayou Tèche until the 1820s. I’ve not even located this in the Spanish legajos for the period.

Meanwhile, from extant civil records, I know that d’Hauterive had land located at and around Fausse-Pointe, just outside of present-day Loreauville, and land encompassing the entirety of present-day St Martinville, where many tracts were sold to newly arrived Acadians in 1765 (e.g. Amand dit Beausoleil Broussard’s family at Fausse-Pointe).

By 1779, when Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Bouligny arrived with 16 families of Spaniards from the provinces of Málaga and Granada, the local population numbered no more than 900. The 1 April 1781 Census listed 1,118 souls, though none were Malagueños, curiously.

Now, on to the Malagueños.


Málaga: port city on the Mediterranean Coast of Spain in the Province of Málaga in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia.

A total of 16 families, roughly 82 heads, embarked the San Josef and Princesa de Asturias for Spanish New Orleans in 1778. They were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Bouligny. Only about 60 actually made it to Louisiana, others remained in Puerto Rico and Cádiz, Spain from illnesses.

Louisiana Governor Bernardo de Gálvez, himself a Spaniard, approved a settlement for the Malagueños on Bayou Tèche in the vicinity of present-day Charenton (St. Mary Parish).

Don’t be so quick to think that all was peaches and cream with their arrival, though. Recall that in 1768, when the official representatives of the Spanish crown arrived in New Orleans to take over the colony, they were quite literally met with militia of Francophones to run them out of the city. In 1779, when Bouligny, who originally wanted to settle the Malagueños someplace along the Ouachita River near The Arcs (Arkansas) Post, and de Gálvez compromised on the Teche, the local Commandant of the Attakapas, Alexandre-François-Joseph, Chevalier de Clouet, reportedly did not care for the idea one bit.

Bouligny settled them there, anyways, along with 75 slaves, 32 pairs of oxen, 20 cows, and 12 horses.

Spring floods reportedly inundated the encampment in April of 1779, which they called Nueva Iberia. Some of the original families remained at this original resettlement.

When Bouligny and a handfull of the families arrived further upstream at a bluff and bend in the Teche (part of present-day Bouligny Plaza in downtown New Iberia) as a result of 6 feet of water in their original encampment, it was discovered that the land was a concession awarded to François Prévost. Bouligny paid Prévost 400 pesos for a track of land 30 arpents deep by 8 arpents width facing Bayou Teche and there resettled the families that had followed him.

Street signs I designed.
Downtown New Iberia.

In June 1779 another 9 Malagueños relocated from the original encampment near Charenton.

When Bouligny left the new site in August of 1779, he reported that the Malagueños at the new site had planted 75 arpents of corn and 35 at the original encampment. Additionally, they had cultivated 25 arpents of rice, 6 arpents of potatoes and a small amount of tobacco.

With the aide of hired local Acadians, homes were built for them at the new site, equal in size of 15 by 28 feet and raised 9 feet off of the ground to avoid inundations from the bayou during rainy seasons.

Some of these families at the new site relocated in the 1780s to the outskirts of New Iberia and settled on Lac Flamand, which later became known as Lac des Espagnols, or Spanish Lake, for them.

By the early 1790s, only 7 of the original Malagueño families remained at Nueva Iberia (de Artacho, de Segura, Garrido, López, Míguez, Romero, Villatorro).

Of the 10 children born (in Nueva Iberia #2) to Francisco de Paula Joaquim de Segura and María de Prados (natives of Málaga),  4 married local francophones, the other 3 married Romero siblings and 3 married Villatorro siblings.

Raphaël Segura, the eldest of the sons of Francisco and María above, married to María Carmelita Romero, was by far the most economically successful and well known of the 1st generation of Malagueño-Louisiana Creoles. He owned a plantation on the banks of Spanish Lake in an area later called Segura precisely for him. His plantation home, a two-story traditional provincial Louisiana brick plantation with front galery and high raised roof, stood until the 1960s or 1970s, when it was demolished.

Anyway, Raphaël and Carmelita produced a family of 6 children. Only 1 married a son of Malagueños, the others married local francophones.

Given their small numbers from the get-go, and at both sites, and immersed in Francophone, Creolophone and Atákapanophone culture, by the 2nd generation, not only did the name giving practices shift among the Malagueño families from Spanish traditional given names to local Creoles ones, but the grandchildren of the Malagueños were nearly all francophone and marrying francophones – a good indication of why very few vestiges of Spanish language exist in the New Iberia area today.

Breakdown of surnames and hometowns of San Josef passengers


1. Barroso


1. Garrido (Gary)

2. Villatorro y Gómes (Viator, Gómez)

3. Gómes (Gómez)

4. Gonzáles


1. Solano


1. López Ríveros

2. Ruíz

3. Fernández


1. de Porras


1. Romero


1. García


1. Ibáñez


1. de Lagos

2. Moreno

3. Grajales

4. Muñoz

5. Jurado

6. de Molina Póstigo

7. Cabrera

8. de Puentes


1. de Aguilar

2. Durán

3. Moreno

4. Mancebo

5. de Prados

6. de Quero

7. de Segura

8. de Castilla

9. Grano

10. Guzmán


1. de Ortíz

2. Blanco


1. Maldonado

2. de Villalba y Maldonado


1. Míguez


1. de Artacho

2. Villegas


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Mother Emancipates Son


7 Sept 1816

St Martinville, Attakapas County

Conveyance Book 1A p 237 #2987


Pardevant moi, Paul Briant, Juge de la Paroisse St Martin du comté des Attakapas dans l’Etat de la Louisiane et en présence des témoins ci après nommés et soussignés ;

Fut présente en personne Zaïre, négresse libre de la dite Paroisse, la quelle a déclaré et confessé qu’en considération de la tendre affection qu’elle a pour son fils mulâtre nommé Isidore, son esclave, le quel est mentionné dans la déclaration ci annexée, et en considération de la bonne conduite qu’il a tenue et des bons et fidèles services qu’il a rendus à ses anciens maîtres et maîtresses, Messieurs et Dames Delahoussaye, ainsi que ceux qu’il lui a rendus et la conduite qu’il a tenue depuis qu’il est son esclave ;

Elle l’a affranchi et lui donne la liberté et par ces présentes de son propre et plein gré, elle affranchit et donne la liberté au sus dit mulâtre nommé Isidore, abandonnant et renonçant dès à présent et pour toujours à tous ces droits, prétentions et réclamations sur le dit mulâtre nommé Isidore, voulant et entendant que dorénavant il soit libre.

Duhamel, témoin<span> </span>Zaïre x (sa marque ordinaire) – négresse libre

Ls. Lengois, témoin

Paul Briant, Juge de la Paroisse St Martin



Before me, Paul Briant, Judge of St Martin Parish, Attakapas County in the State of Louisiana, in the presence of the witnesses hereinafter named and undersigned;

Appeared in person Zaïre, free negress of the said Parish, who, in consideration of the tender affection she has for her mulatto son named Isidore, her slave mentioned in the declaration hereto attached, and in consideration for the good conduct and loyal services to his former masters and mistresses, the Delahoussayes, and in consideration of the comportment he maintained since being her slave;

She [Zaïre] emancipated and gives him freedom and herein present of her own free will, she emancipates and gives freedom to the aforementioned mulatto named Isidore, abandoning and renouncing henceforth and forever all rights, expectations and complaints on the said mulatto named Isidiore, wishing and understanding that he be henceforth free.

Duhamel, witness<span> </span>Zaïre x (her ordinary mark) – free negress

Ls. Lengois, witness

Paul Briant, St Martin Parish Judge


Marguerite-Orté-Zaïre, born c. 1730, was a slave of Paul-Augustin DE LA HOUSSAYE and his son, Louis DE LA HOUSSAYE. She died 6 March 1836 at age 106 (SM Ch v 5 p 55 #12).

She bore one son, Célestin dit Isidore DE LA HOUSSAYE, born c. 1768, for unknown DE LA HOUSSAYE male. He fathered two children with Charlotte BENOÎT – quarteronnée libre, daughter of François BENOÎT de Sainte-Claire and Charlotte DE CLOUET – quarteronne libre.

Isidore DE LA HOUSSAYE died 29 Nov 1830 at age 62 at his home (SM Ch v 4 #2096).

Children were:

1. Paméla-Charlotte ISIDORE – quarteronne libre, b. in 1818. She was the concubine of Charles NEVEU, mulâtre libre, son of Jean-Jacques NEVEU of France and unknown mother (at this point). She then married on 4 Dec 1869 Édouard DETIÈGE, native of Hamme-Mille, Belgium, son of Jean-Philippe DETIÈGE and Marie-Josèphe LAMBEAU (SM Ch v 10 #126).

2. François Gaëtan Théodore Chevalier ISIDORE DE LA HOUSSAYE – quarteron libre, b. 1821. He married 29 Jun 1846 Estelle Louise ROCHON, mulâtresse libre, daughter of Jean Narcisse BOISDORÉ ROCHON and Charlotte CRANE – both mulâtres libres (SM Ch v 8 p 296). He fathered children with Marie Azélie BRODEUR dit Lavigne, daughter of Joseph BRODEUR dit Lavigne of Québec and Marie Jeanne RODRÍGUEZ of St Charles Parish.

Families descending from Isidore DE LA HOUSSAYE & Charlotte BENOÎT

(all originally from St Martinville):





















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Attakapas & Opelousas Military Commandants


Gabriel FUSELIER de la Claire

Alexandre François Joseph DE CLOUET de Pièdre

Jean-Louis FARAULT de la Villebœuvre



Louis-Charles DE BLANC de Neuville

Honoré FUSELIER de la Claire


Captain John BOWYER



Louis-Gérard PELLERIN

Jacques Guillaume COURTABLEAU

Gabriel FUSELIER de la Claire

Alexandre François Joseph DE CLOUET de Pièdre




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Drozin Breaux & Arsène Balquer

Lafayette & St. Martin Parishes

Abbreviated Surname Index

Document length 3 pages

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Jean-Louis Bonin et al.

Mobile & Attakapas Districts
Lafayette & St. Martin Parishes

Progenitors of lineage:
Jean-Louis BONIN & Isabelle BREAUX
Jean-Louis BONIN & Louise

Abbreviated Surname Index

Document length 6 pages

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Gathe/Gothe/Gott & Domingue Family

Attakapas District
Iberia, Lafayette & St. Martin Parishes

Progenitors of lineage
Christophe GATT of Kolmans, Germany & Magdeleine TAYLOR of Hagerstown, Pennsylvania

Abbreviated Surname Index

Document length 22 pages

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