Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sainte Genevieve MO...a little road trip to the past

The best preserved French Colonial settlement in the USA
Beauvais Linden House, home of Bulduc Museum
I grew up near Sainte Genevieve and knew of its history as the first and oldest settlement on the west banks of the Mississippi.  I knew that it was first settled in a slightly different location in 1735 and that won us the round at a local trivia bowl, but I digress.  "Ste Gen" as us locals referred to it was renowned in the area for it history, hospitality (never was a dry county as where I lived was), and of course floods.  Floods in the 1785 is what lead to the relocation to the current site.  

First stop on my tour was the Beauvais Linden house ca 1820 with and addition on the right that mirrored the original house added in the 1850s,  This is a traditional "shotgun" style house with a central hallway that seperated the family quarters from the public or social and entertaining portions of the house.  It now serves as the museum to the Bolduc house across the street.  Trivia:  The boxwood hedges on this property that you can walk in and under are over 200 years old.
Louis Bolduc House ca 1793
After touring museum we bought the tour ($8) for the Louis Bolduc house.  This home was built by Mr Bolduc when he arrived in Ste Genevieve after the fall of Canadian territory to British control.  This home was built in the traditional vertical beams style of France with a mixture of mud, animal hair and straw packed between the beams to serve as insulation and seal the cracks.  Unique to the house is the "Haitian Porch" or wide porch that wrapped around the home protecting the interior walls from the summer sun and aide in keeping the home cooler in the scorching humid Missouri summers.

The Bolduc house was also built in the shot gun style with a central hallway.  This central hall served as Mr Bolduc business office where he traded and sold goods with the other settlers.  From this central hall he could access an attic or cellar that was used for storage.  

The left side of the house was a large social room used to entertain potential business partners and travelers that he did business with.
Bolduc family living quarters
To the right of the main hall way was the Bolduc family living quarters.  It was tight with as many as 3 generations living under one roof.  There are several family heirlooms on display in both sides of the house as well as the central hall way.
LeMeilleur House family quarters
After touring the Bolduc house we went to the LeMeilleur House which was built to house relations of Mr Bolduc.  It served many purposes over the years including a black smith shop, convent, school house and an auto repair shop.  It was carefully restored with period correct pieces ca 1820 gathered in the area.

excerpts from Le Code Noir
Interesting to note in our discussion and tour of the Bolduc and LeMeilleur homes was that the families and settlers in general didn't view slaves as property and treat them as harshly as they were treated in the British colonies.  They believe slavery was wrong, though they owned a few, but treated them considerably less like chattel and more like extended members of the household.  The Code Noir outlined how blacks were to be treated and they ignored many of the provisions that were adhered to in the British Colonies.

After leaving we meandered down the block to the Jean Baptiste Valle house built in 1794 and served as the home of central government for the colony.  In fact when the Louisiana Purchase was complete, Mr Valley was appointed Commandant of the new territory.  This house has gone through a couple of renovations over the years with the last family member vacating the home in 1940.  It currently is staffed with artists from the "D'majj group" that use it as a gallery and work to help preserve it.
Rose Garden at the Jean Baptiste Valle House
Interesting trivia from the Valle house was that the Rose Gardens are documented through records as having been established over 200 years ago.  The D'Majj group and the National Society of Colonial Dames that owns the property is going to have a forensic archeologist conduct research to validate this claim as being the oldest continuous rose garden west of the Mississippi next year.

Ste Genevieve is a marvelous community.  Aside from all the history its got two big events that I remember from when I was a kid that is still a big deal.  Entering into its 150 year is Oberle Meat, maker of what I call the best smoked sausage on the planet. Slightly new is the annual, held 2nd weekend of August, Jour de Fete, a huge community art festival and carnival. 

More pics from my road trip on Flickr

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