BROUSSARD HISTORY 1830 - Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana
BY: NOLA MAE ROSS American Press Writer
When Eduard and Seraphine Broussard left St. Martin Parish and entered Imperial Calcasieu in the 1830s, they found their dreamland near Lake Arthur an abundance of water and firewood and trees to build a home.
Thousands of ducks and geese flew above the nearby marshland just perfect to make gumbo. In the surrounding waterways, fish were plentiful. And schooners brought coffee, tea, sugar, tools and piece goods from the outside world.
By 1850, a few Catholic priests were visiting the outpost where the Broussards settled, and some of the neighborhood settlers were building small schools and hiring teachers, even some from France.
About this time, the first parish sheriff, Johnson Moss, was appointed, but due to the size of Imperial Calcasieu Parish, it is doubtful that he ever made it to the area where the Broussards lived.
The Calcasieu Parish courthouse/jail was at Marion, on a river bluff seven miles northeast of Lake Charles. At that time, Lake Charles boasted about two dozen families, and the main business in the village was making shingles by hand, with a draw knife.
The Broussards had eight sons: Rene, Raphael, Leo, Frederic, Orelien, Derosin, Joseph and Dennis; and five daughters, Josephine, Carmelite, Marcelitte, Amelie and Emma. It is mostly their descendants that make up the hundreds of Broussard families in Jeff Davis and Calcasieu parishes today.
Mrs. Eduard Seraphine Broussard was a popular mid-wife. In those days, midwifery was one of the few ways a woman could make a living. Her pay was about $2 per baby, and she played an important role in recording births.
Several sons of Eduard stayed in the Lake Arthur area, among them Frederic and Rene. Frederic joined Captain Todd's Prairie Rangers of the Louisiana Calvary in 1862.
Another son of Eduard was Raphael, who married the daughter of a famous cowboy from Big Lake. Eloi Hebert had come from the east to the Hayes area, where he herded cattle for prominent cattle owners around Abbeville. Eloi and his sons had a reputation of being "good with wild cattle" and were much in demand. Eloi Hebert moved his family to Big Pasture, and his daughter, Aspasie, married Raphael Broussard.
The children of Aspasie and Raphael Broussard were Jean Baptist, Rene, Soraphia, Carmelite, Amelia, Celestine, Ozeia and Raphael.
This second Raphael married Zelda Babino (Babineaux) and they headed west in 1880. They found their ideal homestead near "Little Lake" which later was named Prien Lake for Cyprien Duhon, who had settled near it in 1820.
By the time Broussard was granted his homestead of 163 acres in 1884, there were at least two sawmills in the area. The Duhon-Burleson Mill stood where the Lake Charles Country Club is located today, and the Stout Mill was nearby. Broussard could cut trees from his own land, have them sawed and then use them to build his home.
Ducks, geese and fish were still plentiful, and the virgin soil was just begging for vegetables to grow. There was a prairie to the southeast where Broussard's herd of cattle could roam. And nearby lived families named Duhon, Ogea, Reon, Benoit, Fargue, Granger, Burleson, Guidry and Hebert.
By 1884, Lake Charles had a mayor, Adolph Meyer, and David John Reid had just defeated D.H. Lyons in the sheriff's race. The courthouse and jail had been floated down the Calcasieu River from Marion to Lake Charles by Jacob Ryan. Next to the relocated courthouse, on South Court Street, was J. LeFranc's Dance Hall, where fais-do-dos were held every Saturday night.
Calcasieu had organized its first school board, and John McNeese had arrived in Lake Charles in 1873. He was named superintendent of parish schools in 1889. The Broussard children had a long walk, but they attended Burleson School, which was located on Country Club Road and funded by the school board.
Norman Sanner of Sulphur, great-grandson of pioneer Raphael Broussard, recalls the family farm. "They raised all their food, made their own soap and even had a syrup mill," he said.
The syrup mill is also vividly remembered by a granddaughter, Mrs. O.B. (Salene Duhon) Byler. "Grandpa Broussard made the best cane syrup I've ever tasted," she said. "People came from miles around, some as far away as Chloe, their wagons loaded with sugar cane, for grandpa to make into syrup."
The cane was shoved into the grinder, and then a horse walked around and around, grinding it. When the juice was cooked, it was poured into brand-new gallon cans and lids put on.
The farmers usually paid grandpa in syrup, letting him keep a share for making it. After he'd given all the family what they needed for the next year, he'd sell the rest for about 50 cents a gallon.
"I remember my grandfather driving his two-seat hack to town each Saturday to take my Aunt May to St. Patrick Hospital. There, she picked up uniforms from the live-in nursing students. She'd bring them home, wash, starch and iron them, then take them back the next Saturday. I believed she charged about ten cents per uniform."
Another granddaughter, Mrs. Ambrose (Mary) Duhon, said, "Grandma Zelda Broussard was quite a shoe-repairer. I remember helping her as she fixed our shoes. She'd put them on her shoe form, then cut out a piece of leather with a sharp knife and nail it to the shoes. She even made new soles."
"She'd also make all of grandpa's shirts, which were called jumpers then, from ten-cent-per-yard denim. She couldn't speak English, but all the family spoke French, so she had no trouble with communication."
"When grandpa would take me into town in his hack, he'd park it and the horses at Mrs. Seger's house on Peake Street. Then we'd walk the rest of the way to town."
"Treaters" were also a vital part of the early Broussard family since they lived in a rural area where doctors were often impossible to get. Although "treaters" and most of the pioneers were aware of the healing powers of sassafras tea, mamou root and medicinal herbs, they had other methods of treating the sick.
Today a Broussard granddaughter, Mrs. Audrey (Taimer) Pizanie, carries on the "treater" tradition she learned from her mother.
"We have certain prayers that we say for the sick, and for people who are hurting," she says. "We say different prayers for different illnesses. Some people call me and ask me to say a special prayer for them over the phone."
The Raphael Broussards have five daughters: Eliza Duhon, Mary Duhon, May Broussard, Ozeia Lyons and Eva Sanner. There are four grandchildren still living in this area: Harold Duhon, Mrs. Taimer Pizanie, Mrs. Salene Byler and Mrs. Mary Duhon.
A great-granddaughter, Mrs. Robert (Margaret) Hebert of Big Lake, recalls: "I especially remember going to Raphael and Zelda Broussard's for Thanksgiving and Christmas when all of the very large family would get together."
Today there are many family descendants in this area who still hold dear the traditions and values that were brought to Calcasieu by the Broussards over 150 years ago.