The Gray Line Tour

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 27, 1998

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / July 27, 1998

Remember the past, and keep it forever

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the River Parishes, eventhough I’m not a native-born son of the German or Acadian Coasts.Perhaps, I should say I’m fascinated because I’m not a native in that so-called “outsiders” often have a greater appreciation for the historicallysignificant than those who grow up around it and take it for granted.Even when historical landmarks are lost, often heard are remarks similarto this: “That old place? They should’ve knocked it down years ago!”In my journalism career, moving from place to place, local history alwaysfound its way into my pages. I’d find the oldest or most historically-significant houses or public buildings or businesses and generate featurearticles. They may not have won a lot of awards but they were rewardingto me and my own curiosity and hopefully gratified the curiosity of myreaders.Since coming to L’Observateur, I’m becoming more and more aware of thehistory of the people and places here and finding an endless source ofstory ideas, tales to re-tell and light to shed on the dim pages of history.Books and old news articles on local history find me a ready and eagerreader and I’ve even published an article myself in a scholarly journal onLouisiana history. When I did several articles for a New Orleans movie-industry magazine, I quickly researched and wrote a feature on the firstmovie theater in North America, which opened on Canal Street a hundredyears ago.However, it is the history of the “Saints Along the River” whichcaptivates me again and again and, at every opportunity, I find myselfphotographing old buildings and houses, eager to learn all I can about myhome-town area.History in the River Parishes is far more than a scattering of plantationhouses and, heaven knows we’ve forgotten much more than we’ll ever knowagain about plantations around here. There’s the industries, from dairy toindigo to lumber, which once dominated the scene. There are Indiansettlement remnants, political history, historically-important familiesand important events, from hurricanes to the Civil War which have madetheir impact upon our lives today.I even spent a few weeks trying (without success) to trace thewhereabouts of the sword of Karl Friedrich D’Arensbourg, once theCommandant of the German Coast. Local legend has it the sword, inscribedand presented to D’Arensbourg following a war between Sweden andRussia, is still held by his descendants living in the area.This then is an invitation – share with me what you know and we’llpreserve and protect this treasure, this valuable knowledge, for futuregenerations.Sad, indeed, is the people without appreciation for their own past.Leonard Gray is a reporter with L’Observateur

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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