Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Newcomer hopes to welcome more tourists to area
By KEVIN CHIRI
VACHERIE — St. Joseph’s Plantation in St. James Parish is one of the newcomers to the River Region plantation world, but hopes to rapidly become one of the popular stops for tourists and locals.
Originally built in 1830 by the Scioneaux family with slave labor, the 12,000 square foot home is raised on eight foot columns to avoid the usual Mississippi River flooding all plantation homes had to endure each year, long before levees were built.
Unlike many other local plantation homes that have been open for tours after being restored many years ago, it was only a year ago that St. Joseph’s opened to the public, thanks to a unique situation where family members decided to restore the home.
Joan Boudreaux, a board member and great, great, great granddaughter of a former owner of the home, has spearheaded the drive to restore the home, and now maintain it so that others can enjoy the rich history of a true plantation on the river.
“As long as there is a breathe in my body, I won’t let this plantation go again,” she said, now serving as a tour guide as well as wearing many other hats on the plantation.
The plantation was purchased after the Civil War at a sheriff’s sale by Joseph Waguespack, and has remained in the extended family ever since then, according to Boudreaux, the great, great, great granddaughter of Waguespack.
In 1840, Dr. Cazamine Mericq purchased part of the property from the Scioneaux family and sold it to Alexis Ferry and his wife Josephine, who used dowry money from Gabriel Valcour Aime, Josephine’s father.
Ferry remodeled the home, and enclosed the ground floor to create a first floor where the open space had previously sheltered the horse-drawn buggy that Mericz used to visit his patients.
When the Waguespack family bought Felicity plantation next door in 1899, and combined it with St. Joseph in 1901, they created the St. Joseph Planting and manufacturing Co. Ltd., which has kept the plantation in the family ever since.
A working sugar cane plantation, the house was occupied until the 1970s, until a family renovation began three years ago.
That work culminated with the opening of the plantation approximately a year ago, although the debut was sidelined like other plantations recently with Hurricane Katrina.
Fortunately the plantation survived intact from the storm, and has now begun its move into the thick of the River Region plantation scene.
Boudreaux is proud of the fact that her family has maintained the house for 130 years, and as she said, plans to keep things open to the public for many years to come.