HUMAN INTEREST STORIES

THE MYSTERY OF THE “DEVILLE LAND GRANT” MARKER: WHERE IS IT?

by Michael D. Wynne

Historical markers are important for many reasons. One reason is to share our important past history with those who are unfamiliar with it. Another reason is to give “roots” to a community. But for whatever reason that historical markers are chosen, financed and unveiled, markers are meant to be everlasting. Due to the effort and expense to create them, they are likely to never be replaced.

The “Deville Land Grant” is one such important marker. It reads:

“A royal Spanish land grant dated July 28, 1768 was issued to Michel Deville and Marguerite Katzenberg who were married April 1768 at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, La. The land was in Section 16 being 9.5 arpents fronting the Red River x 40 arpents deep or 307.70 acres. Tobacco, corn and indigo were cultivated. Apparently, as a token of a good crop, Deville sent the governor 400 carottes (plugs) of tobacco. The maison charpente poteaux en terre (framed house with posts in the ground) was 35 ft. by 8 ft. valued at 800 piastres. There were 2 storehouses and 5 cabins for slaves. Deville’s succession, located in the Cabildo in New Orleans, records the value of the estate at 5753 piastres. It records the names of 7 surviving children. Michel and 3 of his sons, Nicholas called Jean Louis, Jean Pierre called Louis, and Valentine served in the militia at the Poste Du Rapide as fusiliers. Louis and Etienne migrated to what is now Evangeline Parish. Valentine and John T. established Deville, La. There were 2 daughters, Maria Eufrasine married Jean Baptist Bellegarde (and) Margaret who married Nicholas Huffman. Both families settled in Central Louisiana.

Sponsored by the Historical Association of Central Louisiana”

 

This writer attended the very crowded unveiling ceremonies on Sunday afternoon, November 2, 2003. The creation of the marker was under the leadership of the late Audrey Chatelain Vandersypen (1927-2005), a Michel Deville descendant and historian, the late Oberia Garrett Price (1925-2009), not a Deville descendant, but a premiere historical preservationist, and well-known and respected historian Dr. Jerry Sanson.

Part of the impetus for the creation of the marker honoring the Deville Spanish land grant was that the year of the dedication of the marker, 2003, was also the Bicentennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase year. The Alexandria Museum of Art was then hosting an exhibit of Spanish treasures in honor of the celebration.

In Audrey’s obituary, it lists the marker, along with her research of the Deville family history, as her main achievement of her life, but likely, from all available reports, the marker was already missing from its original site by the time of her death. The marker was originally located 30-40 feet on the Lake Buelow side of Highway 165 from the beginning of what was the now-removed O. K. Allen bridge, only feet from the site of Forts Buelow and Randolph. This site was chosen as it was part of the original Spanish land grant and was and is still a very visible location to all passing traffic.

According to a well-informed source, who wants to remain anonymous, soon after the ceremonies, the marker was either hit by a commercial mower or was defaced by someone and was removed. It was repaired by a governmental entity and was then replaced. Again, it was again soon damaged and removed and placed in storage, somewhere, long forgotten for over two decades now. As has been said, “out of sight, out mind.”

But where is the marker now?! Is it sitting, damaged or not, in some warehouse, shed, garage or back yard? Reportedly, the Historical Association of Central Louisiana partly or completely paid for this very expensive marker. Would they, as well as the descendants of the Deville family, like to try to locate this important marker and repair it to honor this great family and historical event once again? Time will tell.

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