It did not take long for me to discover that Walter Parlange owned the Parlange Plantation in New Roads and wells were being drilled on this property. For years, I researched the Parlange and the Ternant families, the original owners of the Parlange Plantation, looking for a connection to the Bayonnes. For years, I thought that Jules was a slave on the Parlange and the property had been given to him by Walter Parlange. All of that change when my mother decided to clean the room where my ailing father spent his last days.
Mom found a copy of a Bill of Sale that indicated that the property had been purchased by Jules and Francois in 1870. We did the happy dance that day. A few years later, I hired a genealogist who discovered a birth register that indicated that Jules was born a free child of color...another happy dance.
The photo was given to me by a cousin, Vera Colar Keen. When I began my research, I sent her a letter with questions about Jules and his wife, Victorine. She visited me soon afterwards and said that her sister, Anita, had a picture of Jules and she would make a copy when she visited her in New Orleans. When I got that picture, I was so excited that I could barely contain myself. I made copies for my siblings and anyone who wanted one. I put that picture on a chair for months where I could see it first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. Now, it hangs on the wall in my vanity and it is still the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night. I had Henry Watson, a wood carver to carve Jule's picture and he did a fine job. Henry said that it was the first and the last portrait that he would carve. I guess it was challenging. We do not have a picture of Victorine Randall Bayonne.
I have made great strides in my search for Jules and his family, but one aspect of his life is still missing. Besides the birth record I have for Jules, I have found no information about his early childhood. He knew how to read and write, but it is a mystery how he learned. Jules signed the Bill of Sales slip, crossing out the "x" that the notary had written on his signature line before wrting his name. The woman who sold the property and Francois could not write. A "x" was on their signature lines.
The Bayonne descendants have had two family reunions to honor Jules and Victorine Bayonne. The first one was held in New Orleans in 2003, the same year that Louisiana was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. We, too, were celebrating a land purchase, the land that Jules and Francois purchased 133 years prior. The second reunion was held in 2008 in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge was about 30 miles from Livonia, the town where the Bayonne property is located. The family picnic was in New Roads, the parish seat of Pointe Coupee Parish and a few miles from Livonia. The highlight for my siblings and I, was a tour of the Parlange Plantation where Jules was a domestic servant in 1870.
We also visited St. Mary Catholic Church Cemetery where Jules is buried in an unmarked grave. He died in 1903 of causes unknown. One day the family will have to get a gravestone for Jules. I do not know where Victorine is buried. Locating Victorine's burial place will be my next project.
The descendants filed a lawsuit four years ago to get get rid of a lawyer who managed to keep the succession open since 1980 and who is collecting 20% of the royalties generated by the gas and oil wells. Hopefully, these matters will be resolved in 2013.
6 - 8 February 2013