Jim Bradshaw: Plantation on Bayou Teche had a golden secret
This is the way the story about disappearing tenant farmers on a south Louisiana plantation has been handed down in the Mouton and Martin families.
I found it in the Martin family history, “Remember Us,” by Lucien and Melba Martin
When Victor Martin’s first wife, Cidalise Mouton, died, he sent his five children to live with her parents, Louis Alexandre Sidney Mouton and Marie Coralie Mouton, on their plantation on Bayou Teche near Parks.
Victor, who was the son of Valsin Martin and Marie Azelie Guidry, remained on his own plantation in north Lafayette Parish but visited his children regularly.
During these visits he fell in love with Noemie Mouton who was his late wife’s sister.
Victor and Noemie were married, and so the children’s aunt also became their stepmother. Victor and Noemie also had two girls of their own
It was a struggle with all of the mouths to feed, but the family was finally getting on its feet when Victor died at the young age of 42 — leaving Noemie with seven children and a sprawling plantation to manage.
She did just fine.
Noemie ran the plantation at a profit until 1910, when one of her stepsons, Sidney Martin, and his wife, Anaise Mouton, took over everyday operations, including working with several tenant farmers.
None of the tenants seemed to have any big complaints and each of them seemed to be doing reasonably well, so it was a real puzzle when one of the tenants suddenly quit and moved away, leaving a good crop standing in the field. It took Sidney a while to figure why someone would give up a nice crop like that.
It seems that the tenant lived in a house that had once been the home of an old man called Richman.
People jokingly called him that because he lived very simply and nobody believed his story that he’d found a cache of gold and had it hidden somewhere.
When he was on his deathbed, Richman called for Sidney.
He said he wanted to tell him something. But Sidney got there too late.
Sidney didn’t think any more about Richman’s gold until his next tenant also disappeared without any apparent reason.
Sidney asked some questions, and finally understood what Richman had wanted to tell him, before he died.
He found out that just before the second family left, the tenant’s son had crawled under the house looking for eggs the chickens sometimes laid there.
He came out with an egg in one hand and a gold coin in the other.
The disappearing tenant sent Junior back under the house, where he found a lot more than hen’s eggs.
Richman’s gold was real, or, at least, that’s how the story has been told.
A collection of Jim Bradshaw’s columns, "Cajuns and Other Characters," is now available from Pelican Publishing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.