Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Details About The Wakefield

A couple of weeks after I returned from Audubon Pilgrimage Tour in St. Francisville, Louisiana, I sent Jolie Berry, the new owner of the Wakefield Plantation, an article about my Morgan and Weather families who were slaves on the Wakefield. All of the information that I related is on my blog and I will not rehash that information here.

I also included one question that the tour guides could not answer: "Is there a slave burial site on the Wakefield property?"  Jolie's response to that question gave me a lot of new information about the plantation. This is what I learned from her email:
  • She and her husband, Dr. Eugene Berry, acquired the Wakefield Antebellum Home in 1988 and are the first owners who are not Stirling family descendants.
  • They acquired 50 acres, the remainder of the original 63,000 acres after many divisions and losses through the years!
  • No slave quarters or production buildings (as sugar mill, cotton gin, grist mill, granary) exists.
  • At the peak of Lewis and Sarah Stirling's acquisition of land, the Wakefield Plantation comprised 62,000 acres!
  • Jolie did not know of a slave burial grounds on the Wakefield. Because of the vast acreage, slaves could be buried anywhere.
  • Jolie said that the land for St. Mary's Church and Burial Ground was a gift of a Stirling family descendant in 1880. (author's note: A plaque on the church indicates that the church was established in 1880.)
  • More land was given by another family descendant in 1990 with a request that a fence be constructed to encompass, protect and delineate the church burial ground - the areas of the graves having exceeded the boundaries of the original gift of land.
  • There are at least two Union soldiers who were buried in unmarked graves according to family speculation.
  • Lilie Stirling Sinclair placed the family documents in the LSU Library in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  • Jolie asked if I and others would keep them informed about the history of the Wakefield and those whose lives were an integral part of the history of the Wakefield and the Felicianas.

Monday, July 8, 2013


In celebration of John Audubon's stay in West Feliciana, Louisiana, an annual pilgrimage has been held since 1972.  Audubon arrived in St. Francisville area in 1821 and was very excited about the lushness of the landscape and the abundant birdlife.  Audubon resided at the Oakley Plantation and tutored plantation children in that area. 

The Audubon Pilgrimage offers tours of Historic Homes and Gardens, namely Oakley, Wakefield, Beechwood, Catalpa, Evergreenzine, and Rosedown Plantations and Afton Villa Gardens.


On March 15, 2013, I toured the Wakefield Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana. No photographing was allowed inside of the plantation but we were able to photograph the exterior and the grounds. That's me on right in the green blouse.

Nell "Nini" Figge was the guide on the verandah.  She talked about the history of the plantation  and said that her great grandmother, Mary Rucker Stirling was born in 1869 at the Wakefield. I almost stated that my great grandparents were born here, too.  I made a mental note to talk to her after touring the plantation. 

When I entered the parlor on the right, I saw a picture of Lewis Stirling on the wall. I asked the guide if it was a picture of Stirling, Senior or Junior. She checked and indicated that it was Stirling, Sr. Since I was not hearing anything about the slaves on the Wakefield, I decided to tell the guide that my ancestors were slaves on that plantation. She was very interested because it was a history that they knew nothing about. We talked long after the tour group moved on and she told me to tell that man, her husband, who was in the dining room, what I had just told her. He, too, was very interested. They gave me their cell phone numbers and invited me to stay with them the next time I was in Louisiana to do  research.

Lewis Stirling's bedroom was next on the tour.  After listening to the guide, I was on a roll;  I told her that my ancestors were slaves on the Wakefield. She said the owners of the Wakefield would want to talk to me, so we left the bedroom and went looking for the owners. Dr. Eugene Berry was not on the property but we found Mrs. Joli Berry in a cottage getting ready to change into her period  costume. She expressed interest in my story and asked me to send her the details via email. 

My tour of the plantation was over.  I sought Nell, the guide on the verandah, and waited until she completed talk. We talked and exchanged email addresses. She also wanted details of my family on the Wakefield. 

The guides and the owner seemed genuinely interested in the slaves who resided at the Wakefield Plantation.  I was received warmly and the guides were gracious. They knew nothing of that history, just the story of the Stirling family.  My cousin Kirk had the same experience at the Beechwood, home of Alexander Stirling, father of Lewis Stirling.