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.
Joe Shumock, author of the novel, A Letter to Die For (Click this link to purchase novel: http://silver-sage-media.com/sage/Order_Media.html ) and the Letter Series, will be writing a number of blogs about the characters in his books. These blogs are beginning now and will run in this and other locations connected with the author.
Early fans have expressed interest in particular characters and what their lives are like outside Joe Shumock’s books. These blogs will give vignettes taken from details not included in the books. The writer expects information in this form to add clarification and substance to characters you have grown fond of in his books.
A word of warning, though – you may also learn disturbing facts about characters you have grown to dislike in the books. That’s only fair, right?
As with Joe Shumock’s books, please remember, the blog is also fiction. As such, the information as well as the characters resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Now – On with the show . . .
This first blog finds Cary Anne Warren’s friend, Landie Kato, pulling out old information from her late husband’s past. It seems Roberto Kato had records on his father’s family going back several centuries. . . .
On a Sunday afternoon, Landie (Mrs. Roberto Lawrence Kato, of New Orleans, Louisiana) decided to do some reading. She smiled at her choice. Going to a closet, she pulled out a few of her late husband’s old journals detailing his family’s history. From these she picked three of the oldest. Written in french, they were fragile and had been kept in the dark and dry closet with the hope that the information on the delicate pages could be preserved for the grandchildren.
When Roberto brought the journals home after his father’s death, he had stacked several of them on the dining room table. Landie remembered that her young husband had then brewed up a pot of coffee and called her to his side. He then proceeded to tell her some of his family’s history.
The older journals had been written in french, Roberto told her, because a line of his family’s ancestors had come from the north of France near Normandy. Details in the journals actually named villages and gave details of everyday life in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s, both in Europe and Nova Scotia. As he explained this, Landie had immediately turned to Roberto and announced she was going to learn french so she could translate the journals. She had been true to her word and now carefully opened one of thin books and started to read.
Much of the detail came back as Landie perused the brittle yellowed pages. Obviously, the information had been transcribed at some later date from that of the original. She wondered what the original writings had been. With the tip of a finger, Landie touched a sentence, speculating in her mind about those who had written it there.
Where had they gotten the writing instruments and the paper, if you could call it that. Also, how had they acquired the knowledge allowing them to prepare these journals. And the loving care through the years that brought this history to Roberto’s father and ultimately to Roberto. She breathed a sigh of wonderment.
Settling into her chair, Landie started to read, the french words sounding like music as it rolled off her tongue. This was a wonderful sort of entertainment to her.
Roberto’s great grandmother, several times removed, had landed in Nova Scotia in 1643. In the village surrounding Port Royal, she joined other french immigrates and settled into life on the frontier. Landie had done her research and found the settlement was located some 15 kilometers northeast of present day Digby, Nova Scotia. She enjoyed knowing those sorts of details.
Roberto’s great grandmother’s name was Madeleine Jehenne de Cressé. Roberto’s ancestors had leaned toward long, formal names. No wonder her husband had been tagged with Roberto Lawrence Kato.
And Kato, Landie had discovered, was a Japanese surname. With additional research, she had found that a Japanese sea captain had been ship wreaked off the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia in the early seventeenth century. While waiting for rescue by a ship from his country, Captain Kato had married another of Roberto’s great grandmothers, thereby starting a new line of the family that would ultimately give the Kato name to Landie’s own husband and to her.
Madeleine Jehenne de Cressé, Roberto’s first known ancestor in the new world, had married another immigrant from France, Dameon Colter Deu. Madeline Jehenne had then died giving birth to her second child, a girl named Elisabet Chloe Deu. The first, a boy, had succumbed two years earlier, in 1651, to scurvy, a not unusual occurrence in those times and conditions. Dameon, the father, had been attacked and killed by a bull moose while hunting during the rutting season. Elisabet Chloe was only a year old when her father died.
The child, though pretty and very intelligent, had been moved from family to family within the frontier community until she was a young teenager. At fourteen, a young Mi’kmaq chieftain had noticed Elisabet and on a return trip had asked for her hand. For a bundle of furs, he traded for the girl and carried her back to his village.
Elisabet Chloe, records indicated, had flourished in her new environment and became a guiding force for the natives trading their furs and other goods with the immigrants from Europe. She visited Port Royal often and was always dressed to be the envy of those who had happily sent her to the native way of life. Her knowledge and cunning concerning the frontier way of life and its methods of doing business made a rich man of her husband. Elisabet bore him five children, all sons and all of them handsome and intelligent like their mother. In the journals, her name was listed as Elisabet Chloe Benoit.
Landie thought of Cary Anne Warren as she removed her glasses and rubbed her tired eyes. She had become very fond of the young woman and had welcomed her into the family, as had all the others without exception. Though they had known Mike Webster for only a few days, his death had been a shock. Like them, Cary still mourned him, but she was getting better. Landie and Cary still talked about him, but the conversations came less often now
On one of her weekend trips to New Orleans, Cary had expressed an interest in the journals when Landie mentioned them. The old woman was now refreshing her memory so she could explain their history to Cary and answer her questions. Each time Landie revisited the history in the journals and in her own family’s bibles, she learned new things, too.
She likened it to actually going back to those earlier times.
Click this link to purchase Joe Shumock’s novel, A Letter to Die For: http://silver-sage-media.com/sage/Order_Media.html