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As communities across the country mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the observance in the quaint little rivertown of St. Francisville, LA, will not celebrate a victory in battle or commemorate a heart-wrenching defeat. Rather, St. Francisville’s observation of events 150 years past preserves a moment of civility in the midst of a bloody war, and the bonds of brotherhood that proved stronger even than the divisiveness of a bitter civil conflict pitting brother against brother. St. Francisville’s observance June 7, 8 and 9th is called The Day The War Stopped, and that is exactly what happened, at least for a little while.
Like every clever, creative kid who has ever felt stifled and suffocated by the confines of a small town, Rod Dreher couldn’t wait to hightail it to the big city from tiny St. Francisville (population maybe 1700, give or take a few) and the even tinier neighboring Starhill community where his family lived. A couple of years away at the state high school for gifted students, followed by college and high-profile careers in print from D.C. and Dallas to Miami, from New York and a ringside seat for 9-11 to Philadelphia, provided the distance and differing perspective to more fully appreciate what he had left behind.
The forty-second annual Audubon Pilgrimage March 15, 16 and 17, 2013, celebrates a southern spring in St. Francisville, the glorious garden spot of Louisiana’s English Plantation Country. For over four decades the sponsoring West Feliciana Historical Society has thrown open the doors of significant historic structures to commemorate artist-naturalist John James Audubon’s stay as he painted a number of his famous bird folios and tutored young Eliza Pirrie of Oakley.
In 1831 the Encyclopaedia Americana called St. Francisville and the surrounding District of Nueva Feliciana “the garden of Louisiana,” and always it was so. Across the verdant hills and well-watered forests Mother Nature spared no effort in strewing a wonderful wealth of wildflowers to brighten this garden spot long before the earliest settlers arrived. The first cultivated gardens were practical affairs of vegetables and herbs, with greenhouses to extend growing seasons to feed the early families as well as their livestock. Once these planter families prospered from cash crops of indigo, cotton and sugarcane, they could turn their attention from the pragmatic to..
By Anne Butler
Christmas in St. Francisville, historically the commercial center of surrounding English Louisiana cotton plantations, has always been a magical time. In the 19th century, country folks from miles around would pile into wagons to do their weekly shopping in the little town’s dry-goods emporiums that offered everything from buggies to coffins, gents’ fine furnishings and ladies’ millinery. And at Christmas time, tiny tots would press their noses against frosted storefront windows to gaze with wistful longing at elegant china dolls and wooden rocking horses.
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