Earlier in the week, Cary had called and asked if she could visit on the weekend. Landie’s young friend had sounded like she needed a confidant. Expecting there might be time during the visit, Landie went to the closet where she kept Roberto’s family journals and selected one that contained a couple of incidents she thought would be interesting to Cary. She also pulled a notebook of her own that consisted of family details Landie had compiled on a trip to the Louisiana bayous some sixty years earlier.
Through her research involving very old church bibles and other church records, Landie had traced down a number of her own ancestors. With that information at her fingertips, she had then set out to find and ask questions of the oldest of her own relatives in the area.
Fortunately, the then twenty-one year old Landie had been able to locate two distant ninety plus year old female cousins on her mother’s side of the family and and a male cousin-by-marriage on her father’s side who had reached 101 years of age. All three individuals were sharp of mind, with memories, both of their own experiences and of things they had heard or been told by their own elders when the cousins were young. And one should remember, these three individuals had been young in the years going back to approximately 1850. That could easily make their elders birth dates go back to the late 1700s.
A number of the relatives and others had lived in the area around New Iberia, Louisiana, in those earlier years. The settlement, dating back to 1779, was aka Nueva Iberia, Nouvelle Ibérie and New Town by American settlers after the Louisiana Purchase. It received its first post office from the federal government in 1814. Originally settled by a group of 500 Malagueños colonists led by Lt.Col. Francisco Bouligny, those brave individuals came up Bayou Teche and settled around Spanish Lake.
One subject came up in most conversations Landie had with her distant cousins. Yellow fever came to the bayous and to New Iberia in 1839, and had made its presence felt in most of the families there. Spreading up and down the Teche, the epidemic touched almost every family, with most losing at least one member to the illness before it passed from the water and mosquito laden countryside. A name often mentioned along with the death was that of a black woman named Félicité. It seems the individual, a native of Santo Domingo, Haiti, was apparently immune to the virus. As such, she worked day and night nursing the sick and comforting the dying. Burial of the dead was even arranged by the tireless woman. Without her many more victims would have been lost to the fever.
The names of seventeen family members who succumbed to the fever in late1839, and early 1840, were recorded in Landie’s notes of her visit to the bayous. The male cousin’s father had come down with the fever but had managed to survive as one of Félicité’s patients.
Placing her notebook on a table, Landie sat for several minutes visualizing what life must have been like in the low-lying areas in those early days. Mosquitos were just a part of everyday living as were the ‘gaters and the hurricanes.
Thinking of Cary’s upcoming visit, Landie wondered if the two of them might someday consider a trip to New Iberia. As one got older, it was interesting to return to places where their family’s history originated.
Approaching Cary about the trip would be one of the to-do items on Landie’s list.