Backstory and Context
The Jeanerette Lumber and Shingle Company mill once stretched for three blocks and provided an abundance of jobs. From 1894 to 1925, the Jeanerette Lumber and Shingle Co. harvested cypress lumber along the Atchafalaya Basin and milled it on what is now the Jeanerette city park. To this day, Jeanerette Lumber and Shingle Co, is one of the largest landowners of property in the Basin. Although the mill is no longer located in Jeanerette, it still exists and operates in New Orleans.
On October 2 1896, a devastating fire broke out at this mill. Great winds spread this fire roughly four blocks, and soon the whole lumber yard was burning. The wind spread the fire from the lumber mill, all the way to the Schexnader stables, which was located near the famous Lejeune’s Bakery. This stable burned to the ground, and the fire spread to the east of town and burned buildings all the way back to the Bayou Teche, burning some major businesses such as the Larroques Pharmacy and where the South Pacific Hotel was located. In the end, fifty-two buildings were burned and only a few houses were left on the outskirts of the town. This fire was devastating because the Lumber Mill provided many citizens jobs and brought in money to the newly growing Jeanerette. To this day, the origin of the fire is unknown but was suspected to be arson.
The Daily Iberian, a local paper, explains how lumber played a very crucial role in shaping Jeanerette, where the bayou runs straight. Jeanerette’s location near the Atchafalaya Basin and the Bayou Teche meant a great supply of cypress was available for these mills. Jeanerette Lumber and Shingle Co. was one of three major cypress mills in Jeanerette, the other two being Provost Lumber Company and Planters’ Lumber company.
Because this company was so important to Jeanerette, Harry B. Hewes is also seen as an important figure to Jeanerette because he brought so much to this town. His home remains as a reminder of the work he put in for this town. The Hewes home is filled with furniture from the turn of the century and many Jeanerette citizens give their time and hard work in order to preserve this home and the antiques within it.
The Hewes Home is not the only building that holds a reminder of the once booming cypress business in Jeanerette. What is now the Jeanerette Chamber of Commerce building was once the office for the Jeanerette Lumber and Shingle Co., and The Jeanerette Museum is filled with history on the lumber companies in Jeanerette. There they have photos and different items made out of the lumber from the major mills in Jeanerette.
“Venue Rental.” Jeanerette Landmark Society. Jeanerette Landmark Society, 2016. https://www.jeanerettelandmarks.org/venue-rental.
“National Register of Historic Places.” National Register of Historic Places - LOUISIANA (LA), Iberia County. Accessed February 20, 2020. http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/LA/Iberia/state.html.
Blair Bonin. Where the Bayou Runs Straight: the History of Jeanerette. (Jeanerette, LA: P. Rampey, 1982), 224.
Roadside Historical Marker found on Waymarking.com
Found on Waymarking.com
Found on Louisianatravel.com