Historical Articles by W. T. Block

(click here for W. T. Block web page)

It was June 15, 1928 and the Borealis Rex had just discharged 2 automobiles and a host of men, whom the crowd at the dock mistook for "dynamiters". Julia Gauthier, the cordial Cameron hotel keeper; the postmaster, and several others were always at the dock to welcome newcomers or bid farewell to those departing for Lake Charles.

However, the newcomers were not "dynamiters"; they were a party of journalists and cameramen from Beaumont, bringing with them some big, black cameras. Despite all the noise that the "dynamiters" and seismograph crews made, blasting holes in the marsh, they had already found several salt domes in the area, and they paid welcomed fees to the land owners, including $25,000 cash, paid into the treasury of the Cameron Parish School Board.

The parish had not always welcomed newsmen. Only a year earlier, when they hung old Ned Harvey, a big city journalist (not from American-Press or the Enterprise) had portrayed Cameron Parish citizens as backwoods yokels who lived in "mud huts," and the parish certainly did not need any more negative publicity of that nature. Hence incoming newsmen were automatically suspect, except when they were led by Dean Tevis, the Enterprise feature writer, who was often accompanied by George Raborn, who managed the Orange-Cameron Land Company. The company owned the 160,000-acre "rat lands", belonging to H. J. Lutcher Stark of Orange, who dug canals everywhere through the marsh between the Sabine and Calcasieu rivers, and who employed 500 trappers during the winter trapping season.

The journalists stopped by Julia's hotel for lunch, where they met Charley Trahan, the deputy sheriff who welcomed them to the parish. Alcie Stutes, the chef, always had a tasty seafood meal, boiled crabs, fried oysters or shrimp, simmering on the back burner, and his coffee, black as Hades and stronger than Hercules, would curl your mustache or melt the hide off of a tenderfoot.

Coming down the river, Tevis had spotted the dredge boat that was throwing up the new levee; it was the new roadbed for Highway 27, that one day soon would bring vacationists to Holly Beach: drilling rigs into the parish; and perhaps a Yankee scalawag or two, seeking to make an easy buck in the parish.

Tevis was somewhat leery about what else the new highway might bring to a parish of such pristine beauty, being a parish without a telephone, a newspaper, a railroad, a highway to the outside world, and no communication except that received at the arrival of the old Rex. Would it also bring crime and strange outsider ways to a people who did not need to lock their doors at night, or where a friendly and melodious "Bon Jour" or "Good Morning" signified that "I treat my neighbor the same way I would be treated?"

Deputy Trahan drove the lead car along a shell road toward Creole. Here and there a blue heron sat patiently on a nest of eggs. And once they passed a gnarled cypress tree, which stood in snow-capped elegance beneath a colony of downy egrets. Along the route, Trahan told them about a young black man, who had just killed his wife and her lover.  “They'll hang him surely", Trahan observed. "Just like they did old Harvey a year ago.  He'll be the second man ever hung in this parish."

They also passed through Oak Grove and over the Mermentau ferry, before entering Grand Chenier. Trahan spotted Chief Deputy Alvin Miller's car parked at Tom Bonsall's grocery. They stopped there for awhile to chat with Alvin, Tom, and Dune Crain, while the photographer was busy taking pictures.

They also stopped at Grandma Rutherford's old home; the elderly lady had been about 101 when she died. After reentering Cameron, they stopped by the old Henry store for a cold drink. While on the porch, Trahan showed Tevis some white oak woven baskets, hanging from a rafter, and some homemade bull whips, "beautifully and oddly fashioned from the finest leather," both of which were native to Cameron Parish.

During the day they had also passed Dr. S. O. Carter's house with 20 rooms in it at Creole.  Dr. Carter had come to the parish in 1893, and they also passed John Sells' cowpen, where the cowboys were busy branding cattle, of which there were 40,000 heads in the parish.

After reaching the wooden parish courthouse, which had been built in 1880, and about which plans were afoot to replace it with a new brick building, Trahan took them into the main district court room, where Ned Harvey had heard his sentence of death 3 years earlier.  One wall of the courtroom was still plastered with Liberty Loan posters let over from the First World War, and in one corner stood an old-fashioned foot pedal organ, that could still spin a lively tune, and was left over from an earlier day when a church congregation met inside.

The next day, Tevis and his group shook hands and said good-bye to Charley Trahan, and Tevis said he would be back in a week or two. After all, the Beaumont paper was paying him to write a series of articles about Cameron Parish before a new highway brought about a lot of, and perhaps, unwanted changes, and in order to do that, Tevis had to make a series of visits to the lovely land of the egrets and herons.