Historic Edgard family remembers its roots

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 3, 2010



EDGARD – In 1842, Jean-Baptiste Caire journeyed from France to Louisiana and founded a family whose contributions to the state and the St. John the Baptist Parish community continue to resonate more than 160 years later.

The descendants of J.B. Caire, his son Etienne J. Caire I and great-grandsons Sydney Caire and Etienne J. Caire II, gathered in Edgard Saturday to recall the colorful history of the family and its roots in the small west bank community.

As he made his way through the house where he and his 11 siblings were raised, Dr. Warren Caire, Sydney Caire’s son, recalled the vivid history of J.B.Caire and what led to the founding of a general store that remains in the family’s hands to this day.

“When Jean-Baptiste immigrated to Louisiana, he spent much of his life as a wandering salesman, or col-porteur,” Dr. Caire said. “He would travel up and down the river selling an assortment of goods to farms and plantations along the River Road.”

Dr. Caire explained that in the 1850’s J.B. Caire ended his wandering days and resigned himself to operating a general store with Edgard resident J.L. Aubert. J.B. Caire would eventually purchase the store and re-brand it “Caire’s Landing.”

“The building sat right on the river bank,” Dr. Caire said. “The store would catch business from passing riverboats, as well as farmers on horseback.”

Dr. Caire said when J.B. Caire passed away in 1876, the store continued to operate under the direction of Mrs. J.B. Caire and their son Etienne J. Caire I.

Dr. Caire explained that E.J. Caire I was well known throughout Southeast Louisiana. He recalled that E.J. was a student at Jefferson College in Convent when J.B. Caire passed away. He said E.J. had an affinity for politics and was known as a staunch republican.

“He once ran for governor of Louisiana on the GOP ticket against Huey P. Long in 1928,” Dr. Caire said. “He would recall the story with sincerity, but we all knew that he knew he had no chance of beating Huey.”

Dr. Caire said E.J. Caire was one of the state’s leading sugarcane planters and would often take over failing plantations in the community. He was president of Bank of St. John and Bank of Ascension, as well as a director of Hibernia Bank of New Orleans.

E.J. Caire passed away in 1955 and left control of his residence and the store to his son Sidney Caire, Dr. Caire’s father. In addition to Warren, Sidney and his wife Cybil would raise 11 other children in that original home.

“There were four boys and eight girls in the family,” Dr. Caire said. “Three of the girls became nuns in the Order of Sacred Heart, my brother Walton became a judge in St. John and the rest of us went on to become teachers.”