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‘Stories from the Blind River’ being told

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / April 1, 1998

LUTCHER – The old lumber camps near Blind River and the origins of Garyville and the lumber industry in the area are returned to life in “Stories from Blind River,” by Leonce Haydel, just been released by Ruhr Valley Publishing.

A book-signing is scheduled April 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the St. James ParishLibrary, Lutcher.

With a sale price of $15, it is a welcome window into the vanished past, richly filled with vintage photographs and vignettes about the people and lifestyles of these times.

The tales of Bayou des Acadiens, now more widely known as Blind River, are passed along by Haydel in a comfortable style, like swapping tales around a camp stove.

The book opens with a Convent-to-Lake Maurepas tour of the Bayou, pointing out landmarks and other sites of interest with a tour guide’s knowledge and perception. It takes the reader in a pirogue glide into St.James Parish history.

This is Haydel’s third book, the earlier ones including “La Paroisse de St.

Jacques” and “Stories from the River Road.”There is much of the history of the old Lutcher & Moore Sawmill and its cypress-hauling railroad into the surrounding marsh. The L&M Sawmillwas in operation from 1891 to the early 1930s, at a time when several logging operations razed the old-growth cypress trees in south Louisiana.

As an example, in 1931, a giant cypress tree later estimated to be 1,300 years old was cut in Livingston Parish. It was the second-oldest treefelled in Louisiana and was cut by the Lyon Lumber Co. of Garyville.The book is also loaded with the odd, strange and curious. This includesthe manatee once spotted in the area to the ancient metal coffin found in 1996, and from the history of the Blind River Chapel to the “invasion” of U.S. Marines in the 1960s.A biography of Henry Lutcher is included, as is a gallery of historical photos from the collection of the late William E. Butler.Accompanying several sections are sketches provided by Sharon Roussel Kliebert of Hester.

“Stories from Blind River” is available directly from the St. JamesHistorical Society, P.O. Box 426, Gramercy, La. 70052. For moreinformation, phone Laurie Bourgeois at 869-9752.

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