The legend of Pecan Island begins with a white man by the name of Jake Cole who came with two friends, one named Michel Miller, and the other name lost in time. This was in the early 1840's. While on the island Jake filled his pockets with pecans to take back West when he left. When people asked where he had obtained pecans, he stated that the island he had found was full of pecan trees. Well this proved to the people that there was high ground, for pecan trees will not grow in the marsh. So people started migrating to what is now known as Pecan Island.
In the 1800's, the island was listed with the government as a Navy Reserve, because of the abundance of trees it afforded to the Navy. The early homesteaders of that time had to register with the government to obtain what was known then as a patent for land they wished to purchase. To obtain land from the government, one had to reside on the property for a length of four years, and after waiting another three years for Washington D.C. to process the papers, approval finally would come. With the approval of the patent from the government the land was then listed in a certain section of the parish. People then put up fences as boundaries for their property; there was no surveying at this time, people just stepped off the boundaries of the property.
Travel to Pecan Island was an accomplishment in itself. Most of the trip was by boat, first one would usually travel by schooner through White Lake,
the Bay, down the Vermilion River, or the Gulf of Mexico. Once you reached the perimeter of the island your goods were transferred to a smaller
boat to make the trip inland. Coming from the west, one came through Grand Chenier, then traveled into White Lake, and from there you came
inland through a ditch (this was later named the Pecan Island Canal), this canal was dug by men with what at that time was called a crooked shovel.
Those coming from the north to Pecan Island would come down the Vermilion River then travel to Pumpkin Island, and from there travel on to the Island. When boats arrived at the landing on the island, a horn was blown to let people know a boat had docked. Someone would hitch up either oxen or horses to a wagon, and go greet the people.
Some boats would also land at Fresh Water Bayou. Goods that landed at Fresh Water Bayou were transferred to smaller boats or skids then pulled by oxen or horses to complete the trip to the island. Lumber coming to Pecan Island was usually brought from Galveston, Texas and delivered to Fresh Water Bayou.
Life on the island was a challenge to the homesteaders of the 1800's. The old home place consisted of a wooden home that was insulated with mud and moss. Inside the home were just the necessities for living.
Cooking was a time consuming task for the women back then. Preparing three meals a day in a fireplace of the home was a tedious task especially in the summertime. In the later 1800's wooden stoves were introduced to the island. The women were excited about the new stoves, but some still had to chop wood. This chore would last until the old kerosene stoves were introduced. These stoves had a glass tank to hold the fuel, no more chopping wood to cook for some of the women. Of course the last to be introduced would be the best. The butane and electric stoves were the conveniences of the 1900's.
After starting the meal, and doing other chores, there was usually ironing to be done. Today we would think, that's not so bad. Well let me tell you, it was hard and dangerous work. Back in the early days, irons were heated in the hot ashes of a fireplace, (irons at first were all metal including the handle). They had to be extremely careful when handling the iron. Later, the women could heat their irons on top of the wood stove. By this time some irons had wooden handles. When kerosene irons finally came to the island, women felt things were really looking up for them. Of course the electric model was the last to be introduced. Now in the twentieth century (1995) we have the convenience of permanent press and dry cleaners.
Wash day. How I would have dreaded that day! First there was the water to get, and not with a water hose either. Oh No! Water was hauled in buckets from either an old hand pump or water well. They had to start water boiling, usually outside the home in a big pot or number three tub that was set on top of wood kindling to make a fire. To do the white clothes, bluing was added to whiten the clothes, and a ladle was used to stir and retrieve the clothes from the pot. Then the clothes where either hung on a line or fence to dry. Now some of the women remember in the winter time while hanging out the clothes, the sheets would freeze before you could finish stretching them out on the line. The dark clothes had to be done on a rub board. This played havoc with the hands and knuckles. After they were rubbed, they had to be rinsed, then twisted dry or passed through a hand-cranked wringer.
When the electric washing machine finally came, the women once again could breathe a sigh of relief. Their chores were getting easier with the passing of time.
Clothing was made by the women of the home. They had neither sewing machines or patterns at first to use. This all came years later. Catalogs were introduced in the 1900's. People can remember what a change this made in their lives, when the items from the catalogs could be purchased.
Bathing was an experience in itself back in the earlier days. Usually a number three tub was brought into the kitchen of the home, and if it was winter time it was placed before the fireplace or the old wooden stove. Water was then heated in either the fireplace or on the wooden stove. The soap used to bathe was the same used to wash the dark clothes, which was made from lye and lard. The soap was also made from scratch by the woman of the home.
If they needed the bathroom, they would have to go outside to use the outhouse. This was usually located behind the home. Let me tell you, this place had an aroma!! I can still remember using my grandfather's. This was a small building made of wood, with a door in the front with a slat to hold it shut from the outside, from the inside a hook and eye closure was used. Since toilet paper had not yet been introduced, either Spanish moss, corn cobs, or something else was used. At night time a chamber pot was used inside of the home, this was emptied out every morning.
Women were not confined to work inside the home, they also helped in the fields when time permitted it.
Men had an abundance of chores also. They just didn't jump on a tractor and start plowing a field. They had to catch the oxen or horse, and harness the
animal, to pull the plow. Once the field was plowed, then they walked the field to plant. There was hoeing to be done in between planting and harvesting.
Consider the cotton field. To pick cotton was an all day affair in the hot sun of the summer months. They carried a sack on their back, and when it was full of
cotton, they would carry it back to the beginning of the row. Sometimes there were snakes in the fields, and one had to be very careful when picking cotton.
Most men did the hunting for the family for food, not pleasure. Hunting was done in the winter months. In the winter months, the men also trapped raccoons,
muskrats, and alligators to sell.
Butchering cattle, pigs, lambs, or other farm animals was usually done in the spring or fall of the year. After the animal was butchered, the meat had to be tended to immediately, for there was no refrigeration to keep the meat. The meat was divided up into different portions. Some were smoked, some dried on lines or fences, some boiled with salt to preserve it, other portions were salted down in crock pots, others were canned, and some kept to eat fresh. When they wanted to eat the meat that had been salted down, they would boil the meat, and change the water often until the meat was edible. When the men hunted in the winter months, they usually killed enough geese or other wildlife to give meat for the family for a few months. This meant the men might come back with quite a few ducks or geese at one time. Most of the time, the men were late arriving home, and the women had to begin cleaning the geese or ducks to preserve the meat.
Mr Sosthene Broussard used to butcher about three times a year, and cut the meat into front and hind quarters. He would then go around the island to sell the meat.
The canning process began with the meat being seasoned and cooked, then the meat was put in scaled glass jars, and set in a canner (this is like a pressure
cooker). When this process was finished, the jars were then removed and the lids put on. With the lids sealed, the meat was then canned. Meat that was
canned would last a very long time. Also, fruits and vegetables were sometimes canned to use later in the year when vegetables or fruits were not available.
The men also had the family to worry about; no small task, considering how far away medical help was at the time. If an emergency came, up Mr. Peter Dyson would bring you to Intracoastal City in his speed boat called the "Lonesome Mama." From Intracoastal City Mr. Shelton Morgan would bring you on to Abbeville, Louisiana (where the nearest hospital was located) in his boat. In later years Mr Agee Morgan ran the speed boat to Intracoastal City.
At one time Dr. Laurent Miller would make the trip from Grand Chenier to the island to treat the sick. Mrs Bergna Koch remembers a time when a Dr. Hall lived at her father's home. There was also a dentist at one time on the island, his name was Dr. Mayres. He stayed behind Mr Desire's place. Mr Benjamin Winch is remembered to have acted as dentist when none was available on the island. His son Gilbert Winch was also known to pull teeth. Back in those times there was no anesthesia, one would grab the arm of a chair, and bear the pain.
Mrs Elizabeth Willis is remembered to be the first midwife on the island. Later years saw Mrs Julienne Vincent as midwife. Mrs Rozan and Magnolia Winch,
would later help with births on the island. Most of the time old home remedies that had been handed down through time were used to treat the sick. Some of
these remedies are still in use today on the island. Ms Julienne Vincent (Mrs Boday) would come in after a woman had given birth, and help the mother in the
home until she was back up and around.
Children were not idle. Oh No! They also had chores to perform. The boys helped in the fields, and the girls helped their mothers. Some of the chores for the
children were: milking the cows, picking cotton, fetching water from the well or hand pump, tending to the chickens, and other livestock on the home place.
Then if you were old enough, you also had to attend school. Leisure time for children was a luxury, because if your parent gave you a chore, there was no back
talk, you did what you were told to do, no questions asked.
The first school bus on the island was a wagon. Mr Jeff Morgon would pick up the children on the back ridge, and Mr Howard Broussard would pick up the children on the front ridge.
Ms Lenora Vaughan remembers in the spring of 1871 her father and uncle hired a lady teacher from New Orleans. She taught for three months then returned to New Orleans.
The school was a log house built with two rooms. The school house was floored with puncheous (made by splitting logs, hewing them smooth). The cracks where then filled in with a mixture of grey moss and clay. There was also a chimney made of the same material. The roof was made with palmettos. Some desks were made for the school, and then school was ready to begin.
Before a public school was opened on the island, there where several families that boarded their children on Chenier Au Tigre.
Ms Dolphine Robert's account:
In 1881 the first (formal) school was opened on the island. The teachers' name was Isreal Vaughan. There were ten students. The school was located on the front ridge of the island. It was a one room school with a dirt floor, and a palmetto thatched roof. The ages of the students ranged from six to sixteen.
Ms Roberts remembers the old blue spelling book. There were four other books they studied. When completing these four books, they had finished school.
The teacher received room and board, and was paid ten dollars a month.
Mr Edd Morgon's account:
Between 1889 and 1891 the first public school was opened on the island. Margaret White from Cheniere Au Tigre was the teacher. There were about twenty students enrolled.
Edd Morgon was the second public school teacher on the island. The islands population at the time was about 140 people, and there where about thirty-five students enrolled at the school. Ages ranged from six to seventeen. Reading, writing, geography, history, arithmetic, and spelling were taught. Mr Morgan said he did not make many rules, for more rules meant more to deal with.
Later a three room school was built where the back ridge would branch off from the front ridge. When the students became too many for this school a new one was built around 1929 or 1930, and is located where the school now stands.
Ms Maggie Dyson was the first to attend college from the island. Ms Bergna Dyson, Ms Alberta Broussard, and Ms Eleanor Broussard were the first to
leave the island to become teachers. Ms Dyson at the time of completing her education was the only one to receive a teaching job on the island. In later years
Ms Alberta Broussard and Ms Eleanor Broussard also taught at the Pecan Island School.
The first graduating class of the island was: Stephen Broussard, Helena Bertand, Leah Erickson, Sylvia Erickson, Earline Veazey, Maxine Vincent, Darine Vincent, and Ruby Broussard. The graduation tool place in 1935.
Mr. Jeff Morgon was the first school bus driver of the island. He would pick up the children on the back ridge with a horse and wagon. On the front ridge Mr. Howard Broussard, and then later the Vaughan's would take the children to school. Eventually, Mr. Morgon received a motorized school bus. A story well remembered, is when after school Mr. Morgon when returning home, as he drove into his yard, he began pulling on the steering wheel of the bus and hollering WHOA Mack!! (this was his old horses name who had pulled the wagon). Needless to say, this didn't stop the bus. It continued on and hit the back wall of the shed.
In 1922, people began selling their land to the Orange Land and Timber Company. The land was selling for about twelve cents an acre then. The company
then later sold out to Louisiana Fur ( known today as Vermilion Corporation ), and the men of the island began trapping on a percentage basis for a living. In
later years the oil companies started to come to the island, to search for oil and gas reserves. At this time men were hired to doodle buggy (seismograph) for the
companies. Later when those jobs were finshed, men hired on with either Humble Oil or Union Oil companies.
Mr. Drozan Broussard was known to have built the first marsh buggy. It's a pity he didn't patent this invention, for it turned out to be very useful. In fact,
they are still used today, even though the buggy has undergone a tremendous change. The buggy was built with a forge and acetylene tank. It had wooden slats
to help pull it through the marsh. Mr. Drozan Broussard is also remembered to have put a model T engine in the first mud boat on the island.
Airplanes and excitement went together back when the first planes started coming to the island. Mr. Leon Packer was the first to land a plane on the island. Mr Greenfield in 1937, would come from Gueydan, Louisiana. In Later years, Mr Fournet would land his plane behind old man Jethro Broussard's place. This usually was on a Sunday afternoon. He would give the children three minute rides for a cost of about twenty-five cents.
From the island Mr Bernell Koch was the first to receive his pilots license. Mr. Brent Broussard, and Mr Michael Broussard also received pilot's licenses. Mr Garland Winch received his students license.
In 1906, Mr Prevat Broussard was the first to buy a cotton gin and bring it to the island. When cotton was harvested, it was processed through the gin, then
shipped to Grand Chenier by boat. Mr. Peter Dyson was the only other remembered to own a cotton gin.
Mr. Jethro Broussard is remembered as having the first wind-up record player on the
island. He also opened the first commercial hunting club on the island, sometime around the 1920's. Where there is a hunting club, there is usually a game warden, and Pecan Island had one. His name was Lawrence Vincent, and he was also a deputy sheriff for a while.
Mr Peter Dyson also operated a store on the island, and he was the first to purchase a radio. The story goes that when he received his radio, he invited friends over to listen to the broadcasts. A friend accused Mr Dyson of having someone in the back room doing the talking. Some of the programs listened to back then were: "Young Dr Malone, Stella Dallas, The Nashville channel, Amos & Andy, Lum & Abner, Hop Harrigan and his side kick Smiling Jack." There was no electricity at this time; the radio was powered by a six-volt battery.
Mr Dyson also owned the first tractor on the island, sometime in 1925.
No one owned a lawn mower on Pecan Island, much less knew what one was until Humble Oil Corporation came to the island in 1950. Before this the islanders would either hoe, or let the animals graze in their yards. Even the public cemetery was hoed from time to time.
A hardware store was opened by Mr Reese from Creole, Louisiana and operated by Mr Sosthene Broussard, this was around the year 1952; also, at this time; Mr Broussard lent land for a drive-in movie on the island.
Before movies came to the island, there were dances held at old Mr Ulysse's fur barn. Also some dances were held at Mr Mozar Heberts', (this is where the Mardi Gras was held for a time). The players for these dances were: Eugene & Desire Broussard, Elevoda Choate, Mr Aymar Nunez's brother and father, and then later Mr Elie Lege, Dwire Bourque, Mr Alvin Bourque, and Mr Roy Harrington.
Mr Jethro Broussard is remembered as having the first store on the island, and his wife Ms Eliza took care of the mail. Mr Prevat Broussard is known to have
run the mail to and from the island. The mail at first came through Grand Chenier, then Gueydan, Lake Arthur, Abbeville, and now we receive our mail
through a highway contract from Kaplan, Louisiana. The Postmasters were: Mr William Morgan, Mr Aymar Nunez, Mr Marshall Veazey, and last a lady by the
name of Ms Stella Broussard.
Wood was used for a heating source for a very long time on the island. Then in 1952, butane was introduced to the islanders. The butane was barged in at first,
later it would be trucked in.
In 1953, electricity service came to the island. This was a golden age for the people of the island. This meant better living conditions for the people. Inside plumbing, television, electric stoves, and other conveniences were now at the disposal of the island.
In 1960, the telephone company ran a line to Pecan Island. The first line was a party line. A party line was a service that connected two homes on one line. They would pick up the phone at one house to see if the line was free. Or better yet they could listen in on the other's conversation.
Sometime in 1952, Mr Kenneth Winch brought a television from Denver, Colorado. The television was a black and white picture with a small round screen. The first road on the island, required that trees be chopped down, this was not a straight road. The road was only wide enough for one wagon. To describe the road as bumpy would be an understatement. The road to Forked Island opened sometime in 1953, and was hard surfaced around 1959 or 1960. The road to Grand Chenier opened in 1958, and was hard surfaced in August of 1967. The mail boat was used to cross the Intracoastal Canal at one time.
People remember the mail boat began making runs from Abbeville, Louisiana to Pecan Island sometime in 1914. The boats brought goods, and was a source of
transportation for the people of the island. The mail boat was remembered as being very prompt, unless you count the times it was caught in White Lake during
a freeze or foggy weather. The first car brought in by boat was owned by Mr BC Broussard. People say it was a model T ford, and had kerosene lamps on the
side for lights. The year was sometime around 1922.
Mr. Robert Ditch is remembered to be the first on Pecan Island to build coffins. After Mr. Ditch completed the coffin, the women would get together and fix
the inside with cloth lining, and also take care of the body for the wake.
When someone passed away a wake was held in the home of the deceased or close kin. The coffin was usually set up in a parlor or living room of a home. The Methodist Church was the first built on the island around 1915.
People told us that church box suppers were held to raise funds for the churches back then. Another memory was the picnics held at the coup on Sundays, when everyone would get together and bring a dish of food. This was a time well remembered.
Then in 1917, the Catholic Church was built. The Baptist Church was built sometime in 1928, and the old Methodist Church was later purchased and added on to the Baptist Church.
The last church on the island to be built was the Glad Tidings Church, sometime in 1948.
A cafe was opened by Mr & Mrs Alga Conner in 1957. Later, Mrs Conner became the librarian, and she kept this job for twenty-six years until she retired.
While Mrs Conner was librarian, she dedicated the library to two veterans who died in World War I.
Mr Leonard Bourque was the first resident of the island to be elected to public office, he was elected as a school board member. Mr & Mrs Leonard Bourque operated a store on Pecan Island for many years.
In later years, Mr & Mrs Jody Lege opened Jody's Drive Inn, this was a hangout for the young crowd on the island. Mrs Sanders Winch owned and operated a
store and service station. Mr Ivan Vaughan Jr. also operated a service station on Pecan Island.
Mrs Hester Broussard, better known as Timmy to a number of people of the island, operated Broussard's boat landing. There are also two other landings
operated on Pecan Island. Mr & Mrs Sosthene Broussard ran a landing on the west end of the island, known as Rollover landing. It is still being used today.
Acadiana Marina is located on the east of the island.
Mr. Gene Winch was a board commissioner at Abrom Kaplan Memorial Hospital for twenty-five years. Mr Eugene Broussard owned a store on Pecan Island
at one time.
A public health clinic was opened sometime in 1950, but was later closed.
The Pecan Island Volunteer Fire Department opened on March 22, 1979. This fire station is still in operation today.
Pecan Island received Public Water Service in 1993.
Mr Benjamin Winch was the Justice of the Peace on Pecan Island for many years. He was also a fur buyer for a few years.
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