by Payton Suire

At one time, Louisiana’s coast was a white, sandy beach and blue-water destination. An oasis for the rich and powerful sugar planters. But the beauty of this paradise and the wealth of its visitors provided no protection from the deadliest storm to hit Louisiana’s coast. This unnamed storm that erased the summer resort of Last Island, Isle Dernière, was the worst to hit Louisiana until Hurricane Laura in August 2020.

“Those storms all have become legendary. It’s part of your psyche now. The difference between 1856 and any of those other storms that impacted LaFourche Parish, is that, and I say politely, those people could read and write,” said John Doucet, author on early Louisiana hurricanes and dean of Nicholls State University’s College of Sciences and Technology. “They say that 2/3 of all the millionaires in the United States lived in Louisiana at the time. Much of the wealth of the United States diminished that night. First because of the death of the planters, but also, when a planter dies, the wealth has to be divided between the children.”

Today, weather forecasters use data from radars giving residents days to prepare. Laura was tracked in the Gulf of Mexico more than a week before the storm hit. And while predictions and models are still imprecise — for Laura, hurricane warnings were in effect from New Orleans to the East Texas coast — any advance warning gives residents and officials time to order evacuations. 500,000 people during Laura were evacuated and prepared, according to news reports. Unfortunately, in 1856, the vacationers on Last Island were naive to the tragedy forming in the Gulf and largely unaware of what was to come.

Despite the warnings from crew on the steamboat Nautilus, capsizing only a few miles off the island, the cows pacing and lowering in the fields, or the waves as high as houses forming on the horizon, resorters believed everything was perfectly fine, according to the book Remembering Last Island. Even while the storm moved onshore and the winds swirled, vacationers partied at Muggah’s Hotel, the most popular spot on the island.

“We did not know then as we did afterwards that the voice of those many waters was solemnly saying to us, `Escape for thy life,'” said survivor Rev. R.S. McAllister of Thibodaux, Louisiana in his memoirs A Minister Tempered by the Elements.

Within two minutes water covered the island, washing away all structures and wildlife. Of the 400 on the island, 198 were dead, according to the 2017 Smithsonian Magazine article, A Hurricane Destroyed this Louisiana Resort Town Never to Be Inhabited Again. Those who survived barely escaped, witnessing the fate of those around them. In those times, the only way on and off the island was by boat and help took 5 days to arrive, leaving survivors scattered in the marsh, many injured, living off of crawfish and rainwater.

“The jewelled and lily hand of a woman was seen protruding from the sand, and pointing toward heaven; … and again, the dead bodies of husband and wife, so relatively placed as to show that constant until death did them part, the one had struggled to save the other,” McAllister says. “And, more affecting still, there was the form of a sweet babe even yet embraced by the stiff and bloodless arms of a mother. Sights like these suddenly presented, gave a shock never to be forgotten, and called up certain feelings which no language can describe.”

Even today, southwest Louisiana’s hurricane-Laura ravaged areas are still digging out from the debris and destruction a month after the storm hit.

Last Island, which was completely submerged and broken into multiple pieces, never again housed a community. The only evidence of the short-lived, yet vibrant resort oasis is the historical marker erected in 1959 in Gray, about 45 miles north of the former Last Island. The small strips of sand that once formed a single island are now a bird sanctuary for pelicans and other water birds.

Like all communities, members of the Grand Bayou community answered the call to serve in the U.S. military. From the world wars and beyond, the people of Grand Bayou and their descendants have served in the armed forces.

WORLD WAR II

army air corps

EARL P. ROUSSEAU

Son of Adele Dupré and Marcellin Rousseau, Earl Pierre Rousseau was a master sergeant in the US Army Air Corps during World War II. He was the top turret gunner in a B25 Mitchell and stationed in the Philippines for most of his service during the war.

While he was away, he’d write to his mother, signing his letters with love,

earl-sig
B-25 Mitchell was a medium bomber that was used by many Allied air forces in every theater of World War II.

army

HAROLD "PICOU" ROUSSEAU

Another son of Adele Dupré and Marcellin Rousseau, Harold “Picou” Rousseau served as a corporal in the Army. He served in the 363rd Army Engineers in Iran during World War II.

Harold also wrote letters to his mother, like the one pictured, signing it “lots of love to you,”

harold-sig

feature: from the past

Adele Dupré Rousseau

By Stephen Donovan

Adele Marie Dupre Rousseau’s influence on the people of Grand Bayou can still be seen through her many descendants today.

She was born on Dec. 31, 1886, in Bayou Corne, La. to Louis Isidore Dupre, Jr. and Marie Malvina Gastal Dupre and was baptized at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Paincourtville, La. on Jan 12, 1887.

She was married to Marcellin Rousseau on July 10, 1901, at the age of 14 at the first officiated wedding held at St. Elizabeth. Today, Adele Rousseau—or Mamere, as she is referred to—lives on in the memories of her grandchildren.

Her son Earl penned an article in The Bayou Journal on Aug. 2, 2005, detailing how she influenced much of the family.

“When I was a small child she insisted I arrange my clothes, my shoes, my books for school in one place before going to bed at night. She expected my bed to be made before leaving the house in the morning and fixed before retiring for the night,” Earl wrote. “She would always say to put things in order and you will always find them when the need arises. She preached on doing things right the first time, instead of leaving things half-way done and then having to do them over again.”

Nell Aucoin Naquin, her granddaughter, says she spent many nights “veille-ing,” or “sitting up,” together at Adele’s home talking and looking at old pictures.

“For the most part people didn’t have televisions much till the ’50s,” Naquin says, “so I can remember spending the night veille-ing with her talking about stuff and looking at pictures. It’s sad, with the advent of tv and computers, that kind of visiting doesn’t happen anymore.”

Naquin says the family didn’t want Adele sleeping alone, so she was sent to keep her company. Naquin says Adele deeply appreciated the time she spent with her and would often treat her to milk-punch.

“It had eggs and milk and sugar and vanilla, and she would float a meringue on top. I still make that drink today sometimes,” Naquin says. “She treated me like a queen.”

Angela Rousseau Diez, daughter of Earl Rousseau, Adele’s youngest child, and the genealogical hobbyist of the family says

“Between the age of 31 and 43, “Mamere” lost four young children, her parents and her husband,” Diez wrote in a Facebook post. “In April of 1917, she had her eleventh child, a son named Raymond. When Raymond was 14 months old, he died of Infantile Diarrhea. Four months after Raymond died, while she was still grieving this loss of this baby, she had her 12th child, Aunt “Sis”. In 1920, “Mamere” had her 13th child, another son, Malvin was born. And, two years later, on February 15th another son, Philton was born. Tragically, Philton died when he was 7 months old of gastroenteritis. Just a year after Philton’s death, “Mamere” had her 15th child, Olga was born September 19, 1923. Olga’s life ended before she was five weeks old as she had been born with a heart defect. Eleven months later, Malvin died on August 27, 1924; he was just 4 years and 8 months old. His death certificate lists the cause of death kidney failure. Again, as she is newly grieving the loss of Malvin, just three weeks later she gave birth to their last child, my father, Earl.”

Diez also lists an unnamed child as being stillborn and wrote that Adele’s father died on April 19, 1927, her husband died July 8, 1929, of stomach cancer—two days before their 28th anniversary—and her mother died on Dec. 18, 1929. According to a 1940 census, Diez says Adele’s occupation was listed as a servant in private homes.

“She would stay with a woman who had a baby for 6 weeks and take care of both the baby and the mother. Then she’d move on to another who had given birth,” Diez says.

Diez says she and her cousins always knew Mamere was a “hard woman,” but that she realized that Adele had a tough life, as she lived longer as a widow than most people of her generation lived at all.

Adele Rousseau lived to the age of 97. According to her obituary, Adele lived to see the birth of all 59 of her grandchildren, all 161 great-grandchildren, and 48 great-great-grandchildren. According to her death certificate, Adele Marie Dupre Rousseau passed away at 4:15 a.m. on Feb 7, 1984, at Assumption General Hospital in Napoleonville from respiratory heart failure caused by pneumonia that brought about blood poisoning.

marriage

CERTIFICATE

obituary

NEWSPAPER

By Devin Griffin

Of all the things that went into living in Grand Bayou, the children that were lucky enough to grow up there knew what made it so special. In the close-knit community, kids of all ages grew up with adventures like crawfishing, swimming, climbing trees and, most importantly, growing up with family and room to explore.

“Growing up in Grand Bayou was very different than even growing up five miles up the road in Paincourtville and so very different from the big city of Napoleonville,” says Loretta Rousseau Lirette, who grew up in Grand Bayou. “During the summer in Grand Bayou, we swam in the bayou, took afternoon boat rides in the bayou, made up so many games, read books, and were very often ‘bored.’ But we did have FUN, FUN, FUN.”

In times of high water, she and her siblings would sit on the front porch and try to catch crawfish right outside their house.
Clarence “Bud” Rousseau says he also spent his childhood crawfishing.

“As a kid, we ate crawfish, but we also made money crawfishing.”

Rousseau says they used to sell crawfish for 6 cents a pound. Behind his house, there were crawfish everywhere for Rousseau and his cousin to catch.

“We would go and as fast as I could catch them, he would haul the sacks to the front of the street,” Rousseau says. “We would sell as much as we could sell in a day, six, seven sacks for like $3 a sack.”

Greg Leblanc, another Grand Bayou native, says he would go fishing with his parents and help run the trawl lines during the day, and at night he would run around the porch knocking down lightning bugs.

“And we would all swim in the bayou all the time,” Leblanc says.

June Dupre Bouchereau, who grew up in Grand Bayou, says, “The adults never wanted us to go in the bayou by ourselves. There were no problems with alligators, but there were snakes. Whenever someone saw a snake they would just yell snake and we would all kick our legs, then it swam away,”

But still, Bouchereau says the children spent a lot of their time swimming in the bayou, swinging from ropes hanging off tree branches tied in big knots, standing on tire tubes or tractor tubes and playing in paddle boats.

“No matter the age, whether a few years older or a few years younger would all go to the big oak tree in someone’s backyard.” Bouchereau says.“I can remember being so little that I couldn’t wait till I could get this branch that stuck out enough to swing off the rope into the bayou. It was just so much fun.”

While the outdoors was the landscape of childhood, the close-knit community was the heart.

“There was a lady, everyone called her Aunt Lou, but she wasn’t everybody’s aunt,” says Nell Aucoin Naquin, who also grew up in Grand Bayou. “She was someone related to all of us like third, fourth, firth cousin whatever, but we all called her Aunt Lou.”

Aunt Lou was really Lousie Dupré, Howard Dupré’s sister, says Jessica Rousseau Baye, Grand Bayou native. Lousie Dupré was a widow at a young age with four children and a waitress her entire life to provide for her family.

Baye says when the tugboat operators would pass by down the bayou, Dupré made them draw out a pocket in the bayou side to make miniature levees, leaving a bench for the parents to watch their children swim in the bayou.

“And we all learned how to swim in Aunt Lou’s pocket,” Leblanc says.

Dupré taught each child in Grand Bayou how to swim, and when they could by themselves, she gave them a coloring book and colors.

“I don’t know how she did it because she was so poor. That same lady gave everybody in Grand Bayou a big peppermint stick for Christmas,” Baye says. “She was such a free spirit and she loved to sing. We were all at Aunt Lou’s all the time.”

Naquin says Dupré always managed something fun for all the neighborhood kids to do. Despite the grown-ups raising an eyebrow here or there, the kids absolutely loved her.

“When things got boring, we could go to Aunt Lou’s and find something to do. She would have something for us to play with,” Naquin says. “There was always excitement there.”

in her own words

ICY ROUSSEAU LEBLANC

By Shaun Breaux

Like most communities across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic, the former community of Grand Bayou has come together to help fight the novel virus.

From descendants fighting on the front lines as healthcare workers to those praying nightly together for them and the world, the tight-knit community that started in Grand Bayou has come together for this common cause.

One of the ways they keep in touch is through social media, specifically a Rousseau Family Facebook group. Angela Diez, a Rousseau family member, posted on Facebook a list of the family healthcare professionals on the frontlines on the fight against the coronavirus. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of this Grand Bayou family make up a long list of warriors the family prays for.

“O Holy Spirit, we thank you for the advancements that have led to improving the health of so many,” a prayer posted with the names reads. “We beg you to inspire new breakthroughs in overcoming the coronavirus and all serious flu viruses. Protect, we pray, health care professionals from the illnesses they are treating, and make them instruments of your healing. Amen.”

Jessica Rousseau Baye, a Grand Bayou native, says one thing everyone carried with them when they left Grand Bayou was faith.

“Everyone had strong faith,” Baye says. “I guess they just taught us how to be compassionate.”

Another thing that remains consistent with the people of Grand Bayou is their nostalgia for the past. Some of their fondest memories are the simplest ones where they were just together. Betty Crochet Breland, Grand Bayou native, says her favorite tradition is the Rousseau family reunions where all the cousins would get together and tell stories.

Now, however, in these unprecedented times, Breland says they are doing the best they can to stay connected.

“Even though I may need a little help with all the technology side, I know my family is just a phone call away,” she says.

Breland moved away from Grand Bayou at a young age but still says she always stayed connected with the people who taught her not just how to live, but how to enjoy life.

Breland says, “Nothing changed then and it won’t change now.”

on the frontlines

HEALTHCARE

Frances “Belle” Rousseau Crochet Family
  • Adam Ducoing, great-grandson
  • Aimee Barrois, great-granddaughter
  • Amber Sevin, wife of great-grandson
  • Amelia Breland, wife of great-grandson
  • Ashley Breland, great-granddaughter
  • Brandon Treadaway, great-grandson
  • Brooke Vincent, great-granddaughter
  • Clelie Hebert, great-granddaughter
  • David Katz, husband of great-granddaughter
  • Dawn Hamblett, granddaughter
  • Jennifer Ducoing, granddaughter
  • John Dugas, grandson
  • Kara Sims, great-granddaughter
  • Kelly Arnold, great-granddaughter
  • Kristin Russo, great-granddaughter
  • Kurt Dugas, grandson
  • Lauri Crochet, great-granddaughter
  • Madeline Ducoing, great-granddaughter
  • Mary Voisin, wife of grandson
  • Tralles Rhodes, husband of granddaughter
Hazel Rousseau Aucoin Family
  • Alicia Grisaffe, granddaughter
  • Candi Aucoin-Vendur, granddaughter
  • Cynthia P. Grisaffe, wife of grandson
  • Maci Alane Breaux, great-granddaughter
  • Nell Naquin, daughter
Harold “Picou” Rousseau Family
  • Allison Barbin, granddaughter
  • Bert Blanchard, grandson
Alma Rousseau Landry Family
  • Brandi Landry, granddaughter
  • Cachet Mitchel, granddaughter
  • Chad Landry, grandson
  • Desiree Fairley, granddaughter
  • Rebel Reavis, granddaughter
Addie “Dodd” Rousseau Family
  • Kristi R Politz, great-granddaughter
Icy “Nice” Rousseau Leblanc Family
  • Chelsie Dinino, great-granddaughter
  • Holly Gaudet, granddaughter
Elda “Sis” Rousseau Guillot Family
  • Tammy Henderson, granddaughter
Earl Rousseau Family
  • Jennifer Rousseau, wife of grandson
  • Jessica Rousseau, wife of grandson
Other Family
  • Terri Migliori, wife of great-nephew of Adele Dupre Rousseau and 2nd great-nephew of Marcellin Rousseau

FIRST RESPONDERS

Addie “Dodd” Rousseau Family
  • Tony Boudreaux, husband of granddaughter
Alma Rousseau Landry Family
  • Dwayne LeBlanc, husband of granddaughter
  • Jason Giroir, husband of granddaughter
Elda “Sis” Rousseau Guillot Family
  • Tim Henderson, grandson
  • Tyler Henderson, great-grandson
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.”

a grand (bayou)

REUNION

feature: from the past

Rodney “The Rock” Guillot

One of the Rousseau family’s star athletes was Rodney “The Rock” John Guillot, who was an offensive lineman for LSU’s Fighting Tigers from 1960-1962.

Rodney was born in 1940 to Douville “D.L.” Guillot and Elda “Sis” Rousseau Guillot, one of Adele and Marcellin Rousseau’s daughters. He was born in Plattenville, about 7 miles from Grand Bayou, and had three sisters: Toby, Ginger and Stephanie. Eventually moving to Baton Rouge, he was a standout athlete at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge and then at LSU. At LSU, the 6’1, 214-lb #72 was named an LSU Football All-time Letterwinner. He later went on to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering from LSU. He married his 8th-grade sweetheart, Mary Comeaux, and had one daughter.

Rodney is one of the Rousseau descendants who passed during Garde Voir Ci’s coverage of the community in January 24, 2020 at 79.

LSU DAYS 1959-1963

in the

NEWS

feature: from the past

Louise Dupré Hernandez

By Devin Griffin

Louise Dupré Hernandez was so entrenched in Grand Bayou’s culture that locals rarely called her by her full name; she was known as Aunt Lou. Born in 1919, she had four children of her own and was widowed at a young age. She was pregnant for her fourth child when her husband died under the weight of an iron cistern he was lifting. Still, former residents say she was the woman who took care of the community, always spreading joy.

Aunt Lou from the start as a young girl was a force. She recounted in her biography My Life of Grand Bayou that she couldn’t keep still. She would always be doing something.

She remembered as a child one winter night she took her daddy’s overcoat, his gun, a fishing pole and the moss pole she and her daddy used to push the boat and took off rowing down the bayou. She felt like she was in heaven until she realized she was, about three miles from home. She stayed calm, turned around, and went home. Or tried to get home, the north wind was working against her. It took a lot of power but eventually, just after dark Louise was able to make it home, into the big living room to sit and watch the fireplace.

She didn’t like feeling like she was closed in, whenever she would get a feeling fenced in she would jump in her dad’s old Ford and just drive. The roads were terrible then, and Lou said in her book, but she still left. She ended up lost and not sure what to do, and just as she was about to give up Louise found the right road and made it back home. Never did she run away again. Everything on the bayou seemed okay after that.

Aunt Lou milked cows and played the violin and just lived her life.

She was an adventurous woman always wrapping others into her mischief. As children growing up on Grand Bayou, Louise and her siblings weren’t allowed to play in the bayou. Getting caught playing by the bayou or by it resulted in spankings. “Of course I didn’t listen” quote Aunt Lou from her book. Louise played by the bayou and fell in. She was so scared that she was going to get into trouble, so to avoid that she snuck into the house and changed before anyone knew.

Aunt Lou adored children and giving back to her community. She would give them gifts, activities, and more. She was a free spirit who owned and milked cows, played the violin and sang her own songs.

At the end of Aunt Lou’s book, she wrote:

“I have no regrets for the life I had — they were good old days.”

in her own words

A MEMOIR

June Bouchereau, Louise Hernandez's niece
June Bouchereau, Louise Hernandez's niece
By Chakyra Butler

The people of Grand Bayou say they will always have special memories of the place they once called home, some of these memories being unique to bayou life.

Grand Bayou native Nell Aucoin Naquin says one of her greatest memories was when resident Ramona Talbot was bitten by a snake. Naquin was a sophomore in high school, and they would play croquet together on Talbot’s lawn.

“She would normally always beat me,” Naquin says, “But for once I was ahead of her, I was beating her, and all of a sudden I heard her scream.”

Naquin says she remembers watching on TV people that got bitten by snakes had to get their skin cut with a knife, with someone having to suck out the blood in order to get rid of the poison.

“I was so afraid I was gonna have to do that,” Naquin says.

She says Talbot’s mother was not home at the time, so they both walked to Naquin’s house and brought her to the doctor, who gave Talbot a tetanus shot and said the snake that bit her was not poisonous.

“That scared the bejeebies out of me,” Naquin says.

Although Naquin says that experience may not be her best memory—that would be having fun in the bayou with the kids—it is a memory that is everlasting.

David Schexnaydre visited Grand Bayou often, and says he remembers a story his mother told him.
Schexnaydre says his uncle Picou went with a man to Morgan City on a type of raft to pick up supplies for the stores in Grand Bayou and Bayou Corne.

When they got back to the landing in Grand Bayou, revenuers, government officials who enforce laws prohibiting the illegal distillation or bootlegging of alcohol, were waiting for them.

“It wasn’t groceries they went get, it was moonshine liquor,” Schexnaydre says.

Schexnaydre says he remembers his mother telling him the revenuers started shooting, and everyone, including his uncle Picou, tried jumping into the bayou.

“Uncle Picou jumped in the bayou, and he had high top boots on, and I think mama said they had steel toes in the boots,” Schexnaydre says.

He says his uncle swam to the other side of the bayou and hid in the lilies all day until the next night.

“I believe that’s the way the story went,” Schexnaydre says.

Another story Schexnaydre says he remembers being told was when he and his two eldest brothers, Ronald and Barry—the latter nicknamed Tede—were playing on his uncle Dodd’s front yard.

“Tede tried to climb up on Uncle Dodd’s big live oak tree not knowing that there was a mink trap in the fork of the tree,” Schexnaydre says.

Schexnaydre says when Tede climbed up, the trap caught his hand and he could not move.

“My older brother Ronald ran into the house and said, ‘Mama. Mama. Come quick, Mama. Tede’s in a coon trap, in a rat trap, in a possum trap, in some kind of trap come quick, Mama,’” Schexnaydre says.

Since then, Schexnaydre says when they visited their uncle’s house, the first thing his uncle would do was hoot and say, “Tede’s in a coon trap.”

grand bayou

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