Laura’s memoirs detail ‘Old Plantation Home’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / November 8, 2000

VACHERIE – The west bank of St. James Parish is quickly becoming one of thehubs of tourism in Louisiana. Last year Laura Plantation and Oak Alley hadthe combined number of 326,000 tourists visit and tour their establishments. Laura Plantation thus has grown 29 percent in the last year,and officials there plan to continue expanding as they draw more visitors to learn about southern Louisiana and St. James Parish.Many changes have taken place in the last year at Laura. All the electricityhas been buried underground, a gift shop is close to completion and a parterre garden has been created in the style referred to by Laura Locoul Gore in her diaries. The garden is a sculpted work of art, pathways andflowerbeds flowing in pattern.

Laura’s diary made the re-creation of the garden possible, replaced from one on the property some 130 years ago. The diary has been an important partof the Laura Plantation, and everyone wants to have a copy of their own.

“We have 185,000 names of people who want her memoirs,” said Norman Marmillion, manager. About 30,000 of those names are looking for copies inFrench, he added. The biggest project then on the board for the LauraPlantation has been the publishing of Laura Locoul Gore’s memoirs.

“The designing and putting together of this book is probably the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” said Marmillion.

The diary was completed by Gore in 1936. It is an account of the lives ofGore’s family stretching back through to her great-grandparents and all the inhabitants of the plantation. Four generations of life in St. James Parish isdocumented and gives a vivid example the southern Louisiana and the creole life style.

The memoirs, named Memories of the Old Plantation Home, was completed by Gore at the age of 74 after five years of writing. The book tells its story upto when Gore left Louisiana to marry a St. Louis, Mo., man in 1891. Nearly200 years of stories and passed-down family history are collected in the memoirs. The memoirs were discovered in St. Louis by Norman and SandMarmillion in 1993.

With so many people interested in the book, instead of going to a publisher, the Zoe Co. was formed to print the book itself. Starting Oct. 27, thecompany started sending out postcards to let the 185,000 people know their book was ready for ordering. The company will print the book for as long asthey have people to sell it to, rather than using a publishing company.

The book will be released Nov. 18 at a book signing and reception at Le MondeCreole in the French Quarter, New Orleans. A signing and reception will alsobe held at the Old Governors Mansion Dec. 1.Four book signings will take place at Laura Plantation in concurrence with four special Christmas candlelit house tours on Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 15-16.The Zoe Co. will also expand to print other pieces about the River Roadregions.

“There is a lot of stuff here that have never been printed,” said Marmillion.

Interest in southern history, specifically southern Louisiana history, has never been greater. “People want to know what really happened down here,”said Marmillion.

In March 2001 Laura’s memoirs will be printed in French, which the French government is paying for, and taken to France, said Marmillion.

The state has done much for tourism in the last few years, says Marmillion.

Laura Plantation and the River Parishes can take that one step further in pointing out how different this area is, added Marmillion. The country nowsees southern Louisiana as culturally different then the rest of the United States, in African, Creole and Acadian traditions. The River Parishes can nowsell themselves and don’t have to look like anyone else. The Vacherie areaand the River Road leading from Baton Rouge is quickly establishing itself as one of the largest tourist attraction in Louisiana, second only to New Orleans, said Marmillion.

By 2001 tourism will become the largest business in Louisiana, bringing in more revenue and tax money than the oil and gas industry, he added.

For 300 years literate people have been writing about their lives in the River Parishes, and everything ever printed has been from outside the region.

Marmillion hopes the Zoe Co. will change that by printing writings from thevarious plantations and other texts found in the River Parishes. Visitors seehow different the culture is in southern Louisiana and want to read something about it.

“This is something that should have been done 50 years ago,” said Marmillion.

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