1924 Post Card
Lafourche is the name French explorers gave to a waterway they found branching off of the Mississippi River about 60 miles upstream from New Orleans near present day Donaldsonville.

Bayou Lafourche, which wends its way 100 miles from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, was first home to the Chitimacha Indians. Its original name was Lafourche des Chetimachas. Bobby Bernard and the one that didn't get away.

In the late 1700s, it became a popular settling place for the Acadians, French nationals who had settled in the Acadia region of Canada before they were expelled by the British. Others came to the region and their cultures, including French, Indian, Spanish, African and Italian, blended to form a unique community along Bayou Lafourche, one that is today known as "The Longest Street in America."

Lafourche Parish, named for the bayou that cuts through it, is the 12th largest parish in the state. It has 89,974 residents, according to the 2000 census. Lafourche was one of the original 12 counties of Louisiana when it became a U.S. territory. Assumption Parish, which is named for the church parish founded in Plattenville in 1793, was carved out of Lafourche in 1807 and they were among the 19 original parishes when Louisiana became a state in 1812.

Thibodaux is the parish seat of Lafourche Parish. It is the largest and oldest of the three incorporated towns in the parish. It was incorporated in 1838. The others are Lockport, incorporated May 10, 1899, in the central part of the parish, and Golden Meadow, incorporated in 1950, in the south. Unincorporated communities in the parish include St. John, Choupic, Chackbay, Choctaw, Kraemer, Bayou Boeuf, St. Charles, Bayou Blue, Raceland, Mathews, Gheens, Valentine, Larose, Grand Bois, Cut Off, Galliano, Leeville and Fourchon. The Battle of Lafourche Crossing was a Civil War battle fought about seven miles east of Thibodaux.

Napoleonville is the parish seat for Assumption Parish. It was incorporated on March 11, 1878. A solider who served under Napoleon Bonaparte gave the village its name. It is the only incorporated town in the parish. Other communities along Bayou Lafourche in Assumption Parish include Plattenville, Paincourtville, Belle Rose and Labadieville. Pierre Part, Bayou L'ourse and Belle River are in the interior of the parish. Georgia Landing near Labadieville was the scene of a Civil War battle.

The headwaters for Bayou Lafourche are in Donaldsonville, which is the parish seat for Ascension Parish. William Donaldson founded Donaldsonville in 1806. It was incorporated in 1820 and served as the state capital in 1830.

The Bayou Lafourche area has produced a chief justice of the United States Supreme Court: Edward Douglass White, who served as an associate justice from 1894-1910 and chief justice from 1910-1921, was born near Thibodaux in what is now the St. John community. He wrote the majority opinion upholding the Sherman Anti-trust Act among other things. In the picture above, White, on the left, is administering the oath of office to President Woodrow Wilson during his first inauguration on March 4, 1913. Vice President Thomas Marshall is in the center. To the right is President William Howard Taft, Wilson's predeccesor, who appointed White as chief justice. Taft became chief justice after White's death in 1921. White was the ninth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and first associate justice to be named chief justice. Taft is the only former president to serve on the high court. White's birthplace is a state museum.

The area has produced three governors of Louisiana: Henry Schuyler Thibodeaux, founder of Thibodaux, 1824; Edward Douglas White of Thibodaux, 1835-1839 (father of the chief justice); and Francis T. Nicholls of Thibodaux, 1877-1880 and 1888-1892. Gov. Huey P. Long, (1928-32) was the son-in-law of Sallie Armitage Billiu McConnell, a native of Thibodaux.

Francis T. Nicholls
in La. State Capitol
The area has produced three U.S. Senators: Edward Douglass White, 1891-1894 (prior to his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court); Randall L. Gibson 1883-1892, a native of Tigerville (a community that was later renamed to Gibson after his family), who owned a plantation near Thibodaux; and Walter Guion of Napoleonville, 1918.

In addition, Sallie Armitage Billiu McConnell, a native of Thibodaux, was the mother of U.S. Sen. Rose McConnell Long (1936-1937), mother-in-law of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (1932-36) and grandmother of U.S. Sen. Russell Billiu Long (1948-1987).

There have been eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from the area: Edward Douglas White of Thibodaux, 1829-1834 and 1839-1843; Bannon G. Thibodeaux of Thibodaux, 1845-1849; Randall Gibson of Gibson and Thibodaux, 1875-1883; Andrew Price of Thibodaux, 1889-1897; Whitmell P. Martin of Thibodaux, 1915-1929; Numa Montet of Thibodaux, 1929-1937; W.J. "Billy" Tauzin of Chackbay, 1980-2004; and Charles J. Melancon of Napoleonville, 2005- present.

La. Supreme Court
Associate Justice
John L. Weimer III

Louisiana Supreme Court Associate Justice John L. Weimer III is a native and resident of Thibodaux. In addition, former Gov. Francis T. Nicholls of Thibodaux served as chief justice of the state Supreme Court from 1892-1904 and as an associate justice from 1904-1911. Edward Douglass White served on the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1879-1880 before his service as a U.S. senator and U.S. Supreme Court justice. Presley K. Ewing, chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1905, was born in Lafourche Parish in 1860.

The Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln's edict issued Jan. 1, 1863, that is credited with freeing slaves, specifically mentions Lafourche, Assumption, Ascension, Terrebonne and St. James, among other Louisiana parishes, as places where the proclamation did not apply. See page 3 of the original on file with the National Archives.

Silas Grisamore, a native of Indiana, served Lafourche Parish as mayor of Thibodaux, president of the Lafourche Parish Police Jury and School Board, all at the same time, in the late 1800s. He fought in the Civil War and wrote about his experiences in the now defunct newspaper, the Thibodaux Sentinel. His memories can be found in the book Civil War Reminiscences of Major Silas T. Grisamore, C.S.A., edited by Arthur W. Bergeron Jr. and published in 1993.

Dr. Theodore
K. Lawless

Dr. Theodore Kenneth Lawless, one of the world's leading skin specialists who pioneered treatments for venerial disease and Hansen's disease and the use of radium in cancer treatment, was born in Thibodaux on Dec. 6, 1892.

Theodore Ward, an award-winning playwright of the 1940s whose works included "Our Lan" and "Big White Fog," was born in Thibodaux in 1902. Ward was a contemporary of Langston Hughes and novelist Ralph Ellison. He worked in the Works Progress Administration's Federal Theatre Project during the Depression. He received a Rockefeller-supported National Theater Conference fellowship in 1947. A year later, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship for drama. Later in life, Ward was playwright-in-residence at the Free Southern Theater in New Orleans. He died in 1983. Columbia College in Chicago established an award in his name for outstanding young black playwrights.

Mary King Fulford, Thibodaux's first female post master, was appointed to the post in 1870 by her childhood sweetheart, President Ulysses S. Grant. Mrs. Fulford was an important person in the history of the Presbyterian Church of Thibodaux.

There are some good histories of the area online. Timothy Hebert has written a history of the Methodist Church in the bayou region and the rest of Acadiana.

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© 2001 by Eddie "Bush" Bernard