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St. Gabriel and surrounding area, circa 1858St. Gabriel and surrounding area, circa 1858

Life along the Great River Road on the banks of the River in Louisiana during the early days was interesting. The area was truly a unique part of the world.

The Early Years

The River, of course, was the Mississippi River, the Father of Waters, and the River Road was for many years the only road in the area. It bordered the levee, which protected the lush lands that had been deposited by the River over a long stretch of time before the levees were built.

The settlement in which I was raised, St. Gabriel, was reportedly founded by Bienville concurrently with establishing New Orleans. We use to always say that “one had grown faster than the other”.

When I was growing up, I lived on St. Gabriel Lane, next door to a cousin, the only doctor in the community. On the corner, fronting the levee was the St. Gabriel Store, owned by the family. Where I lived was the focus of the area, since it contained the historic St. Gabriel Church, the school house, the sole doctor’s home and office, the railroad station and the post office (located in the Store). The Plantation was a mile down the River Road.

Progeny consisted on the maternal side of General DeSaix, of whom Napoleon said, “He could command an army,” and who saved Napoleon’s life and career, when DeSaix brought his troops into the Battle of Marengo, in which he lost his own life. I have the medal that Napoleon gave to DeSaix’s family.

On my paternal side we are referring to generations of large scale planters of rice and sugar cane.

As a youngster, I roamed the banks of the River with my collie. With an active imagination, one dreamed of world’s to visit as the ocean-going ships, flying strange flags, plied by. One learned to swim, first in the batture ponds, and later in the River itself. The alligators were oblivious to any human beings in their domain.

Great Mississippi River flood of 1927Great Mississippi River flood of 1927

As a young boy of 10, I witnessed the Big High Water, the great Mississippi River flood of 1927. All men available, white or black, convicts and solid citizens, worked side by side, all night long, filling sandbags to increase the height of the levee. It was a close contest.

The levee was constantly patrolled by armed men, to prevent a sneak incursion by potential dynamiters from the West side of the River who might seek to blow a hole in our levee, and thus relieve their side of the River from eminent danger. read more about progeny and the early years

Education and Military Service

After college and studying playwriting for a year at the Columbia Graduate School, I attended Louisiana State University and Tulane Law Schools. During World War II, I served both in the continental U.S. and overseas. read more about education and service in the U.S. Navy

Experience, Expertise and Business Ventures

Upon return to civilian life, I opened a law office, and successfully tried a dozen interesting cases, establishing some new law. Also, I assumed operation of the family's lumber company, including a sawmill and extensive timber operations.

I also became engaged in the oil business, and took control of my family's interest in the St. Gabriel Oil Field, a major oil and gas field. As a consequence of my interest in the oil business, I have read more geology than many geologists. I worked closely with some of the most brilliant geologists of the time.

St. Gabriel, 1761-1763 ... church of the Iberville Coast built by Acadian exiles in 1769St. Gabriel, 1761-1763 ... church of the Iberville Coast built by Acadian exiles in 1769

Based on my own work, discovered a good oil field, and was responsible for a number of producers. The investors in the first well for this field were Jimmy Stewart, Marlan Brando and Alfred Hitchcock. From concentrated study, I still know where there are undiscovered oil fields in that area of Louisiana, which was the location of the ancient predecessors of the Mississippi.

Oil and gas discovery, and investment, involves a combination of hard data and creative interpretation. The success of an oil venture depends upon a harmonious melding of these two ingredients. I founded and built the OilGasTech venture on this premise.

When my good friend, DeLesseps “Chep” Morrison, then Mayor of New Orleans, told me how he had traveled to Brazil to meet with Henry Kaiser, and persuaded him to locate two aluminum reduction factories in Louisiana, and use natural gas, rather than going to Washington or Oregon and using water power, I realized this was the beginning of a big migration of industrial giants to Louisiana. read more about experience, expertise, and business ventures

People I Have Known

In addition to travel and books, a great source of knowledge of how the world ticks is found in the people that one encounters and the establishment of a rapport, if propitious, with the more interesting ones. This phase of learning has not been neglected.

A great part of my life's experience has been having the privilege to meet and know many interesting people, such as George Bush, Tommy Dorsey, Doc Pennington, Countess Von Trapp, Bennet Cerf, Cher, U.S. Senator Russel Long and Governor John McKeithen. read more about personalities and people I've known

Travels and Foreign Affairs

I have had the pleasure of traveling around the world, to Greece, Italy, Russia, Czechoslaovakia, South Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Morooco, Nicaragua, Portugal, Austria and other destinations. read more about travels, and about foreign affairs

J. Burton LeBlancJ. Burton LeBlanc

Read More About Louisiana ... from the Louisiana Guru

Life in Louisiana is interesting ... I encourage you to view our website, and learn more about this fascinating state.

Browse our book reviews, explore our essays, learn about the history of Louisiana, and take an in-depth, personal tour through South Louisiana.

Enjoy your journey!

J. Burton LeBlanc
"The Louisiana Guru"

 

 

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LouisianaGuru Home Page Contact the Louisiana Guru Louisiana, St. Gabriel, and the Great River Road ... as Told by J. Burton LeBlanc