A Colonel Comes Up the River to Build a Home, a Family and a Mill
Dixie Landings Takes Root and a Boom Begins
In a sense, Dixie Landings was settled in three distinct phases. First, there were trappers who found the area a convenient gathering place to meet with those merchants willing to venture that far up the Sassagoula to purchase their prized pelts. Then, in a story that is often as much legend as fact, mysterious and reclusive Everette Peace became the area’s first permanent resident when he established his isolated home on Ol’ Man Island.
The place that was to become Dixie Landings was established largely through the efforts of the outgoing and ambitious Colonel J.C. who saw the locale as the ideal spot for a cotton mill serving Louisiana’s growing cotton industry. Hardly out of his teens, young J.C. married Millie, his longtime sweetheart, and the two moved away from Port Orleans to seek success and happiness.
At first, J.C. and Millie were shunned by the many trappers who haunted the abundant bayous. But the Colonel had no interest in infringing on their swamps — he had his eye on the higher, drier land ’round the riverbend near Ol’ Man Island. Captivated by the lush grasslands and spectacular stands of stately trees, he claimed a modest stretch as his own, dubbed it Magnolia Bend and set about building both a mill and a mansion.
Though it took some years, the Colonel’s dream was destined to come true. The home he constructed for his expanding family grew slowly into a stately structure known as Acadian House. (The Colonel’s ancestors — among the first settlers in Louisiana — had hailed from Nova Scotia which was also called Acadia. The odd blend of English, French and Indian words which crept gradually into their speech eventually shortened “Acadian” to “Cajun,” the name by which we know their descendants even today.) In testimony to the quality of the craftsmanship that went into it, Acadian House today serves as a welcome “home away from home” to many, many visitors every year.
Just as impressive as the Colonel’s incredible home (and in historical terms maybe even more memorable!) was the cotton mill he created just across the river. With the dedicated assistance of a couple of dozen family men who had ventured north from Port Orleans in the Colonel’s footsteps, a cotton press and waterwheel weighing just over 35,000 pounds were built from local wood. The screw gears, axles and shafts were carved from white oak, and the gear teeth were fashioned from hickory. The waterwheel itself was the Colonel’s pride and joy for a very good reason. Far and away the most advanced machine part of its time, it was designed specifically for Colonel J. C.’s mill by world-famous mechanical engineer and cotton expert, Whitney E. Lye.
Although today the Colonel’s Cotton Mill serves as a dining hall for visitors to historic Dixie Landings, the wheel and indeed much of the mill itself remain just as they were in 1850 when, in full swing, they were a prime example of human ingenuity, industry and creativity.
Asked How He Found His Older Brother, J.C. Said “A Little Bird Told Me”
Over the years, the Colonel heard every tall tale ever told about the mysterious old-timer inhabiting Ol’ Man Island. The Colonel gave the tales little credence until one sunny day his granddaughter, Susie, came running to grandpa with a beautifully carved bird in her hand. Susie could hardly contain herself as she told the old Colonel about the island, its pool, the playground and the funny old man who had given her this gift. Impressed by the delicacy and artistry of the carving, the Colonel held it admiringly. He told Susie it was a precious present indeed and, about to hand it back to her, noticed the tiny letters carved carefully into its base.
The Colonel could hardly believe his eyes! Could it be? Yes! The letters spelled out “Everette Peace, 1857!”
Scooping Susie up in his arms, he made his way to Ol’ Man Island, calling out a name he hadn’t spoken aloud in a lifetime. “Everette! Come out! It’s me... Colonel J.C.! It’s Jonathon!“ (We know this for sure because Susie heard it all!) From behind the giant oak, Everette squinted, then smiled, then hobbled out to greet his little brother. The two embraced with all the emotion of years gone by. Everette showed off his island and listened to news of the fine Port he’d left behind. The Colonel asked Everette to come across the river and live with him in Magnolia Bend.
Everette smiled but refused. He had no desire to leave the island that had so long been his home, and of course, the Colonel understood. But they both knew, too, that their closeness had returned. The Colonel returned many nights to the island where the two would sit near a campfire and talk about what was and what the future might hold in store.
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