Imagine Louisiana back in 1803, how it must have been

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Years ago, I came across an old map that was made in 1803 and also a translation of the map. The State of Louisiana Board of State Engineers of New Orleans translated the map in 1939. You see, the map was made by French and Spanish explorers that were exploring the lakes and rivers of South Louisiana.

It appears that the completion of the map must have been just prior to or about the time that the Spanish government transferred the Province of Louisiana to the French government. Then, the French government shortly thereafter sold the province to the United States of America.

This is what the explorers found. They said the lakes and rivers were abundant with different species of fish. The most highly esteemed of the fish were the bass, sheep head, red fish, perch, white perch, sardines, flounder and the ray. The crab and the lobster are found in some months of the year. The crab is only fat during the full moon. During the new and the decline of the moon, they are empty or thin.

Besides the fish, the lakes and rivers produce a species called a clam. This shellfish is so abundant that the different Indian tribes

that surrounded the lakes made it their principal food. The tribes

have piled them up around their

villages. The shells have formed

pyramids from all the shellfish

consumed by the Indians. It is

from these mountains of shells that lime is produced in southern Louisiana.

They talked of exploring Lake Ouacha, now called Lake Salvador. They talked of an Indian tribe, the Chaonacks, that have a temple where they celebrate with iodations ceremonies and preserve the bones of their nobles. At another location, the Ouacha tribe had accumulated the bones of their noblemen, and the skulls were piled mountain high.

Exploring the Manchac Pass, they talked of the large cypress trees and alligators lying on the banks. They even took shots at the alligators with their cannons. As a lover of history, I just try to imagine what they saw and experienced during this time in history. Every time I make a find at one of these locations, I try to think back to 1803 and the explorers that were at this very location.

The Louisiana Treasures Museum has cannon balls from the Manchac Pass. Maybe one of the cannon balls was shot at a large alligator lying on the bank. Come by the museum and view the collection and use your imagination to see if you could put yourself in the place of the explorers.

Louisiana Treasures Museum is located on Highway 22 west of Ponchatoula. Call me at 225-294-8352 for hours of operation or to schedule personal or group tours.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.