McBurney's Cattle Drives Crossed Lorrain Bridge
(Story told in a letter from James P. "Jimmy" Martin, Welsh, Louisiana)
May 9, 2002
Ms. Pauline Poole
P. O. Box 194
Hayes, LA 70646-0194
I certainly appreciate all of the work that you have done to save the Lorrain Bridge for future generations. You have asked that I send you my comments concerning the cattle drives that I participated in during the early 1940's. The Lorrain Bridge was used to cross Bayou Lacassine as part of the cattle trail used to bring cattle to the stockyards in Welsh and later to the first sale barn in Southwest Louisiana.
During this time the A.R. McBurney cattle outfit was located in Welsh. Mr. McBurney at the time owned about 5,000 head of cattle in addition to being the owner of the Welsh Commission Company that was located just north of the present football field at Welsh High School and running along a side of track of the Southern Pacific railroad. Mr. McBurney rented pasture in the Sweetlake area from Mr. Harry Chalkley of the Sweetlake Oil & Gas Company for about five cents per acre. Cowboys that worked for Mr. McBurney in the Sweetlake area were Wesley Fruge, Cliff Holland and a black man name Prien Primeaux. I recall the names of some of the pastures that were used as Pine Pasture, Blue Flat Pasture, and Hobby's Pasture. From time to time cattle were driven to Welsh to be sold at the sale barn. It would have taken two days to got from Sweetlake to Welsh and three days from Creole in Cameron Parish, to Welsh. Other lands were rented in the Mayville and Lowry areas. If calves were to be sold then the mama cows and the calves were driven from the Sweetlake and Cameron area along a trail that started usually on Fruge Road until we got to the railroad tracks of the Lake Arthur spur and would head east towards Rossignol. Then we headed back north on Lavoi Road usually getting on LA Highway 14 and going east until we reached the curve in the road north of Bell City. From there we would head north on the Lognion Road until we got to the Sidney Derouen Road and turned east towards the Bell City-Hayes Road, crossed that road and headed towards the Lorrain Bridge. During this time the Lorrain Bridge was a rather long bridge extending to the ridge on the east bank, however where the present bridge now stands this bridge, at the time, could be opened for boat traffic. We crossed the bridge and entered Jeff Davis Parish where we drove the cattle near a pasture located close to Mr. Claude Thibeaux's home. This drive took a day and we would load up our horses and head to Welsh where we had to feed the horses and some bulls Mr. McBurney kept at his headquarters for sale.
This next morning, before daylight we would saddle up with fresh horses, load them in the truck and head back to Mayville where we would start our last leg of the cattle drive for Welsh. Then after about a week or two we would drive the cows and others that Mr. McBurney had purchased at the sale and head back to the pastures in the Sweetlake area.
I do not know how long this cattle trail was used, but after World War II when trucks became more available the cattle would be hauled to Welsh or to some other sale barn that opened up after the War. I do know that before and during the War that this was a vital route to bring cattle to market and I would think that this is historically significant. Even before the cattle sale was operating in Welsh, cattle were shipped from Welsh to the market in New Orleans.
The long bridge that I mentioned was destroyed, as I recall, when a barge and dragline was so big it could not fit in the opening used by smaller boats to get north of the Lorrain Bridge. The dragline, floating on the barge, had cut through the smaller section of the bridge in order to do some major drainage work on Bayou Lacassine and Bayou Chene. The road was closed during this time and when the barge returned a channel was dug on the south side and the fill was used to make a roadway. It remained closed until the filled settled and dried. When heavy rains caused flooding this road always went underwater, since there was no intent to back up water north of the road.
Pauline, I hope that this information will be of some assistance to you. Keep up the good work that you and all of your members are doing.
(Jimmy Martin's signature.)
LORRAIN BRIDGE HISTORY
Collected and Composed by Lurlene Lorrain Hartwell and Pauline Lorrain Poole
Name of Structure/Site:
"Only wooden bridge of its kind left in the state." (Statement by the late Jeff Davis Parish police juror, Charles "Cooney" Lafargue--taken from a newspaper article by John St. Ores.)
Location of Structure/Site:
Between Hayes and Mayville, Louisiana
Division between Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis Parishes
(The only bridge over the Lacassine Bayou from Calcasieu Parish)
Lorrain Park (bought from Wanda Lorrain Dupuis in March, 1989) Wanda inherited this property from her father, Elie Lorrain.
Lorrain Park consists of 6.16 acres--
When surveyed the NE corner of the bridge cuts across the bank. This is the start of the 20 acres--known as Lorrain Park to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.)
*The statement that the Lacassine and Bayou Chene converge at the bridge is incorrect in some newspaper articles. The two converge 6 or 7 bends NE of the bridge.
Usage of Property:
Site of Lorrain Park, Calcasieu Parish Park
[Bridge is currently closed due to political differences of the two parishes. Calcasieu police jurors say they are willing to fix the bridge. Jefferson Davis police jurors claim they have no money to fix the bridge. I'm not sure if anything is presently planned to save the bridge. I have presented this to many political avenues--there seems to be no movement at this time. Because of the closure and lack of upkeep, farm acreage has been lost on the Jefferson Davis side. The Paul Lorrain Homesite purchased by Calcasieu Parish Police Jury which had the original pegs (instead of nails) in construction was torn down instead of saved. --Pauline Lorrain Poole 5/18/2000]
Many people used this route to travel to and from Thornwell, Welsh, Jennings, Lacassine, Mayville, Hayes, Bell City, Holmwood, Lake Charles.
Many tourists visit this site for its beauty, fishing, and peacefulness. It is one of the very few sites existing in its natural state.
Photographed and painted by many artists, individuals, newspapers:
Elton J. Louviere did a painting of the Lorrain Bridge. Limited edition prints were done of this painting. It also appears on the cover of he and his wife, Pat's, book: Images of Louisiana.
A photograph of the bridge was displayed for promoting tourism in the 1998 Jefferson Davis Police Jury booth at the the state police jury conference. A photograph of the bridge hangs in the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury Building--(a winner of a photography contest taken by Elizabeth Ann Stevens--Steve and Leatrice Coleman's niece and Sidney Derouen's granddaughter).
A tourism promotional piece was printed on the bridge in the Cajun Country Guide by Macon Fry and Julie Palner, 1992, page 449.
Toomey's Travels about Lorrain Bridge (KPLC)--Interviewed Euna Mae Lorrain (@1992)
KPLC News--6 PM--Interviews abut the Lorrain Bridge by Mr. Brian Burns, KPLC newscaster with Elton Louviere, famous Louisiana artist who painted the Lorrain Bridge, J. E. Fontenot, Jefferson Davis Police juror, and Pauline Poole, Lorrain descendant on March 17, 1998.
Photographs are displayed in several newspaper articles written for the preservation of the Lorrain Bridge history:
American Press Photo, "Holding to a dying breed" by John St. Ores, Sunday, February 12, 1989.
"Beautiful sights at Lorraine Bridge"--1996 or l997
Lake Charles American Press
"Lorraine Bridge remnant of horse and buggy days",
Photos by Terri H. Fensel, article by John St. Ores
Acadiana Life sections of the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, September 3, 1996
"Picture Perfect", James Gates/Lake Charles American Press
Tuesday, August 26, 1997. (Also appeared in Iowa Daily News)
"Making the Scene", October 17, 1997
Lake Charles American Press
"View from the Bridge", June, 1995
Lake Charles American Press
"Country Roads", from Jerry Seal, Westlake
June, 1995; Lake Charles American Press
Jefferson Davis road crew people had used this bridge as a shortcut to get to other areas of their parish (example, Pumpkin Center). It saved the parish about a 40 mile round trip.
Maxim Water Well service used the bridge to be able to reach customers more readily.
Landowners on the Jefferson Davis side of the bridge used this bridge to get to their land (about 600 acres) for hunting, fishing, crawfishing, truck patch farming, gardening, and pleasure.
The Jefferson Davis agricultural areas from the Lorrain Bridge to the Mayville canal used to be a large rice, soybean, and cattle agricultural area (500-600 areas). Due to lack of maintenance on the bridge, large farming equipment could not be transported into the area. During flooding, the road on the Jefferson Davis side becomes impassable. Ditches have not been maintained on this side. The flooding is due to the bottle necking effect of the bridge. Dredging in the north Welsh area of Bayou Chene causes flooding northeast of the bridge. Locks at the Intracoastal Canal have to be kept closed not to allow salt water into farm land areas. [The drought conditions this year allowed salt water to seep into the bayou forcing many farmers not to be able to plant crops this year (2000).] Because of these conditions, this area is now know as wetlands.
Owner of Property:
Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis Parishes
Land Purchased: 1860--Francois (father), Jean Louis Desiré, and
Eugene Nicholas (sons) Lorrain bought land, sawmill, and the house from three brothers who were free men of color: Martin, Firmin, and Elio Lemelle, Haiti descendants who previously lived in Opelousas, Louisiana. These men were loggers according to the 1860 census of Calcasieu Parish. Original papers of the Lamelle purchase were signed by President Pierce. (Information obtained from St. Landry Courthouse in Opelousas and original papers kept by family)
[Dowry money of one of the Lamelle wives had been used for the original purchase. For this reason, she was brought into a separate room and questioned if she gave permission for this sale.]
Building Date: 1920
In 1894, Calcasieu Parish got the right of way for the road from the Lorrain sawmill west 1/4/ mile, north 1/4 mile, west 1/4 mile, north 1/4 mile, west 1/2/ mile, north 1/4 mile, west 1/4 mile, north (presently 101) to the south Pacific Railroad at Lacassine. Jefferson Davis was part of Imperial Calcasieu until 1913.
Reflections written by Edna "Tee Tonté" Lorrain Hebert placed the building of the Lorrain Bridge in the early 1900's. Before the one lane bridge was built, a one car ferry was built by Paul Lorrain (father of Edna). The ferry was drawn by ropes and horses or mules to get cars, farm equipment and crops across the bayou. She stated," I think it was in the early part of the century that a bridge was built over the main stream and over the swamp especially to the east of the stream. It must have been about a quarter of a mile long. Not one board was solidly nailed down. As one traveled over it in buggies and Model T's, he sometimes had the feeling that he would never 'make it'. It was just wide enough for one vehicle. If another car was met somewhere on the bridge, one car had to go back to the starting point in reverse. From the beginning point on ether end, one could not see if another car was coming because there was curve in the bridge and the foliage was too thick over and around the narrow passageway to allow for much visibility. It was a rather frightening time not being able to see very far and hearing each board do 'bump-bump'. If one was lucky he might make it over the bridge and through the wood's unhampered." This reflection account was recorded by her niece, Virginia Rose Lorrain.
Images of Louisiana, written by Pat Louviere, a historian, and illustrated by her husband, Elton J. Louviere, a famous Louisiana artist, features the famous painting of the Lorrain Bridge (1988). The book cover and historic account features this fabulous painting that captures the serene and peaceful feeling of this area. It was stated in this book that this bridge was built in the 1920's. some of this information was gotten from Euna Mae Lorrain in an interview and a paper she did for McNeese State College.
In 1950 Truckline Gas laid a gas pipeline and damaged the bridge. This caused Elie Lorrain undue hardship to travel 35 or more miles out of his way with his farm equipment to plant and save his crops that year. The bridge was not repaired until 1951. Texas Transmission on Hwy 397 now owns this gas line.
Builder and Architect:
Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis Police Juries
Exterior Modifications and Dates:
In 1965, the drawbridge was disabled, a facelift done, drawbridge parts were removed, and some decking boards were replaced.
The only maintenance known to be done since this time was the load level decreased each time inspected until March 2, 1998. At this time, it was inspected and closed until repairs could be done. (DOTD report 5000025 by E. Smith).
***No action has been taken since this time***
Significant Architectural Features:
The only wood structured bridge of its kind left in existence.
Narratives and Interesting Facts:
The sawmill was located north of Paul Lorrain's home and next to the Lorrain Bridge. It was located on the west side of the Lacassine Bayou. Paul Lorrain's home was torn down by the Calcasieu Police Jury.)
The original two room house was built by the Lorrain family (see Lorrain Homesite story) for their mother, Aurelien Lorrain after her husband's death. Paul Lorrain had inherited Aurelien and Louis Lorrain's first home.
The home was constructed from cypress from the Lorrain's timber and cut by their own sawmill. The Lorrain brothers had a saw mill, general store, post office (named Attakapas), small rice mill and a brick factory on the bayou front. Lumber was shipped down the Lacassine bayou to the Mermantau River then to the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston, Texas.
Powell Lumber Company bought the steam engine and saw mill equipment in 1917, then built a saw mill at Hayes. Logs were rafted and floated to the saw mill or floated to carts. The carts ran on iron pipes. The pipes of the boiler were made of lead.
In 1903, locks were located at Catfish Point, Mermentau, and Black Bayou. Barges were used to carry rice to be sold. The parish seat was then located at Opelousas.
Lorrain property was used to plant rice and raise cattle. Paul Lorrain property was divided among his children: Gabriel, Desire, Edna, Elias and Elie (twins), and Elia ("Keen"). Descendants now own the property.