Re: Ask Julia column, December 2006 issue.
Imagine my surprise when I purchased my first copy of New Orleans Magazine, opened to [Julia St.] and read a letter about Poydras in Sicily Island. As a native, I can say that he likely found neither meatballs nor matzoh balls.
Several of my ancestral families were there by 1805. The area was and still is prime farmland, which is probably why the Russian Jews purchased approximately 5,000 acres for $8 per acre.
After the flood of 1882, which ended this experiment, only one of the Jewish settlers (that I know of) remained in Sicily Island: Gottlieb Krause. His wife was Caroline Rotham, the daughter of New Orleanians Caroline Herzer and Peter Rotham.
If Poydras flew over Sicily Island, he could look down and see the site of an early French fort on Lake Lovelace, now Ferry Place Plantation, and the last battle site of the French and Natchez Indians in about 1730, now Battleground Plantation. Poydras could see property owned by Jim Bowie of Bowie knives, who was nearly killed in the famous Sandbar Duel. He might see land settled by the children of explorer-adventurer Stephen Holstein, after whom the Holston River and Holston Mountain were named. Then perhaps he would see land settled by the family of Alonzo Steele, Texas veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto. He would see the site of a Confederate encampment and hospital, and even land belonging to Confederate Brigadier-General Zeb York.
Poydras would fly over the homes of Henry J. Peck, 1850 Louisiana legislator, his grandson and great-grandson, who also served in the legislature, former Louisiana State University Chancellor Martin D. Woodin, Coy Wynn, international journalist assigned to the Vatican in Rome and J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert who served as a legislator under three Louisiana governors and represented six parishes.
He would also fly over Sicily Island’s 101 Ranch – a wintering ground for cattle belonging to the renowned Miller Brothers of Oklahoma, owners/developers of the 101,000-acre ranch and the 101 Wild West Show. Poydras would fly over Sicily Island High School, home of Coach J.R. Peace’s Tiger football team, winning year after year with the Notre Dame box play. He would see the family home of Major Thomas Enright, attorney and Army Reservist – one of only 27 U.S. Army officers to be awarded the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award at the Pentagon in 2005. He would also see the home of Clara Tolliver Taylor, 94, recognized recently by Gov. Blanco as Louisiana’s oldest employee.
Although Poydras would feel slighted if he were expecting either meatballs or matzoh balls, an old-timey homemade cheeseburger with fries and a thick, creamy chocolate malt from the Snack Shack, a Sicily Island tradition, would certainly appease him. On second thought, tell him to order two malts and to fly one by for me here in Natchez. It’s right on his flight path home to New Orleans.
Barbara Peck Gilbert Haigh
Genealogist and Local History Buff
Reply: Poydras thanks you for the insight and travel tips, though he doesn’t fly well after a malt.
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