Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eyes of an Eagle: A New Book about Early Houma/Terrebonne History


Christopher Cenac, Sr., M.D., with Claire Domangue Joller, has just released a well-researched and heavily-documented history of the Cenac family, the Louisiana oyster industry, and Terrebonne Parish. Well over 1,200 photographs illustrate the chapters, which alternate between historical fiction and straightforward narrative, and cover approximately 100 years of Terrebonne Parish history. Carl A. Brasseaux, Ph.D., writes in a forward to the book that it fills a void in the history of this area for the periods of Civil War and its aftermath.

Jean-Pierre Cenac, one of 8 children, was born in a small town in the south of France. As a young man, he sailed from Bordeaux, France, to New Orleans. It took his ship bearing 88 passengers two months to cross the Atlantic. After coming through South Pass, the ship traveled for 3 days up the Mississippi to New Orleans, finally offloading in Algiers.

Jean-Pierre’s arrival in 1860 took place just a few months before Louisiana joined the Confederacy. Perhaps because of war talk in New Orleans, perhaps because of his friendship with Jean Marie Dupont, who came from a neighboring village in France and at the time lived in Houma, Jean-Pierre joined him there.

Jean-Pierre began to prosper in Houma as a baker, marrying Victorine Fanguy after the war and with her, raising his fourteen children in Dulac. Jean-Pierre was successful in various businesses, firmly establishing himself and his sons as oyster harvesters and, ultimately, as packers and shippers. The Cenac family was instrumental in establishing the oyster industry as we know it today.

The book contains many well-reproduced pictures which would be of great interest to the general reader, including one of Houma’s first telephone book, which was only one page long; paper money printed in Houma and surrounding areas at the time of the Civil War; and vividly-colored labels of some of the first cans of oysters. As you read through this book, odds are you will learn many facts about early Terrebonne that you didn’t know before. And as you turn the pages, you will see this area as Jean-Pierre Cenac and your local ancestors once saw it. The book is available for checkout through the Terrebonne Parish Library System.

The Main Library will be hosting a book launch and first signing for Dr. Cenac's book, on Sunday, September 25th, from 2-4 PM.  Come and meet the author of this fabulous new book about our local history!

Judith Soniat

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