By Wil Rhodes
Though Grand Bayou was once a thriving community, over time, its residents moved away. The reasons, like better jobs, were many, with the last remaining families forced to relocate in the early 2000s due to salt dome mining.
“There was just no work for the girls,” says David Schexnayder, whose grandparents and parents were residents of Grand Bayou. “My mom and one of her sisters left Grand Bayou and moved to Baton Rouge for work.”
Most of Grand Bayou’s jobs were either in the salt mines or water activities, so many residents moved away for jobs in agriculture. Betty Breland’s parents were from Grand Bayou initially but moved to Bayou Corne. When Breland was six years old, her family had to relocate to Houma because her father got a farming job.
“My dad was an overseer on a plantation, so that is why we left the area,” Breland says.
Residents say they knew that their beloved community was beginning to die because of all the people leaving for jobs elsewhere around the state.
“It was hard to make a living in Grand Bayou, there just were not many jobs in the community,” Breland says.
Yet while people moved away, they would visit often.
“My parents would always go back and visit, and mostly everybody stayed in the same spot,” says Schexnayder.
Nell Naquin, a former Grand Bayou resident, now resides in New Orleans and says moving from Grand Bayou to New Orleans was not that difficult because she could still visit.
But as former residents moved farther away and developed lives of their own, getting back to visit became harder.
“Growing up, I would always go back and visit my cousins frequently,” says Breland, who moved away from Grand Bayou at an early age and eventually settling in Belle Chase. “It was just hard for me to get back and visit after I got married and moved to Belle Chase.”
And now that it’s all gone, Breland says she misses things like crawfish boils.
“Many people were scattered throughout the area at first, so it was just the little things like that I wish I was still able to do.”