Louis & Marie were the parents of Wilda Duplantis Arceneaux and the maternal grandparents of Ralph and Alfred Arceneaux, Jr.
By Maria Russo Arceneaux
When I met Louis Duplantis, he was about 70 years old. He walked erect in his wiry, 5’4” frame. His balding pate was framed by graying tufts of hair. He had a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, revealing his playful nature. Grandma Duplantis, a few years younger, was a sweet, ever smiling woman.
They lived in a trim, white cottage on Florence Street in Morgan City. The house, built near the sidewalk, had a tiny front yard, but its backyard stretched about fifty feet to the rear fence. On this, his own land, Grandpa tended his bountiful vegetable garden, while Grandma tended her small brood of chickens. They appeared to delight in their simple life.
We know Louis Duplantis and Marie Blanchard were born somewhere along the bayous of Terrebonne Parish, in 1883 and 1885, respectively. Marie’s ancestors were included in the Grand Dérangement, 1755-1785, in which the Acadians, living in Nova Scotia, were exiled from their homes by the English. These exiles were scattered about the world, with many eventually finding new homes in Louisiana. The Duplantis ancestors arrived in Louisiana from Bordeaux. They were settlers recruited by the Spanish government in Louisiana. These transplanted Acadians and French people had lived close to the land in their former homelands, farming, fishing and raising livestock. Many carried on these occupations in their new homeland. (Read more about the Blanchards and Duplantises.)
Louis’s parents were Louis Duplantis, Sr. and Olynda Ozio, listed in the 1900 U.S. Census as living in Terrebonne Parish, with their seven children. The list includes Louis, Jr., a teenager. The census taker recorded his father’s occupation as farmer. An older brother is listed as a farm laborer. The listing also recorded that Louis, Jr. could not read or write in English, but he could speak the language.
Louis and Marie’s story was pieced together from their memories and those of their family. His dream had always been to farm the land – his own land. He was tired of working as a laborer on the farms of wealthy landowners. Hearing that growing rice in Vermilion Parish could be a profitable venture, he decided to make the move to Southwest Louisiana to fulfill his dream. Sometime in the early 1900s, he gathered up Marie, their few belongings and their small savings and made the long trip to Abbeville, where he and Marie were married. After a few years working on others’ farms in the Kaplan area, he saved enough money to make a down payment on a small farm.
According to the 1910 U.S. Census, Louis and Marie had three children, all girls: Edna, age 4; Wilda, age 3; and Ella, age 2. Later, they also had two more children: sons Arthur (“Pee Wee”) and Clarence.
From oral history, we know Louis never realized his dream of becoming a prosperous rice farmer. In about 1924, when his farm failed, he moved his family to Morgan City. His uncle, Walter Ozio, who lived there, offered to help Louis find work and a house to rent. By this time, the eldest Duplantis daughter, Edna, had married Arvin Marceaux and remained in Vermilion Parish. Their first home in Morgan City was a small “shotgun house” on the first block of Fifth Street. Marie continued taking care of their home and children. Wilda and Ella, teenagers now, contributed to the family income by doing housework for neighbors.
Following this major life change, Louis had many occupations that proved he never shirked hard work. For some years, he was employed as a laborer at Norman-Breaux Lumber Company. He also went to work on a road-building crew in North Louisiana, as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program established to provide jobs for the unemployed during the Depression. He was joined on that job by Alfred Arceneaux, his daughter Wilda’s husband. In his later years, he worked for the Morgan City Public Works Department, often driving road maintenance equipment. (During some of his school holidays, his grandson Ralph worked with him.)
In the 1940s, the Warren Ditch family developed some of their property from Sixth Street to Highway 90, creating a new subdivision in Morgan City, called the Ditch Annex. Louis and Marie bought a lot on Florence Street, between Eighth and Ninth Streets, and built their own home, where they lived until their deaths. It was on this property that Louis enjoyed the years of his retirement, farming his own land, with Marie, the contented farmer’s wife, at his side.
Louis passed away in 1964; Marie, in 1967.