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Document of the Month - 2017 Archive

We were pleased to begin these pages in April 2012 and have presented a variety of historical documents of interest to our members and visitors. This page is an archive of documents for the year 2017 in reverse chronological order.

Louis Prima Birth Certificate, 1910

(12/1/17) Louis Prima was an American singer, actor, songwriter, bandleader, and trumpeter from New Orleans. His music styles included traditional New Orleans jazz, big-band swing, and in the 1960s, pop and rock. In 1967, he landed a role in Walt Disney's animated feature The Jungle Book as the orangutan King Louie and performed the song "I Wan'na Be Like You." Prima was born in New Orleans in 1910 and died there in 1978. He was the son of Anthony Prima, a native of New Orleans, and Lena Prima, a native of Italy. This month's document is the birth certificate for Louis "Primer," born 7 December 1910 at his parents' residence at No. 1812 St. Peter Street. It is on file in the Orleans marriage records at the Louisiana State Archives (vol. 146, p. 460).

birth certificate
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Gilbert Funeral Home Records, 1905-1957

(11/1/17) Gilbert Funeral Home was one of the earliest black funeral homes in Baton Rouge, established just after the Civil War. Its records were later acquired by Rhodes United Fidelity Funeral Home on Scenic Highway in Baton Rouge, which generously allowed the Louisiana State Archives to borrow them for microfilming. In 2002, the funeral home allowed members of Le Comité to borrow the records and microfilm them at the Louisiana State Archives. A copy of the microfilm was deposited at the State Archives. In 2017, the society sent a copy of the film to a company to have the images digitized. Those images are now posted on the Members' Page and volunteers are preparing indexes. This month's document is a page from the book for 1928-1930 showing the charges to Mrs. Martha Johnson for the funeral of Mose Johnson. "Toots" Johnson was a well-known bandmaster from Baton Rouge.

page from book
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Baker School 1923

(10/1/17) This photograph is of students at Baker School in East Baton Rouge Parish. Written on the reverse is "Mary Louise Kleinpeter Hill - 'Happy' Last Row – 3rd from right, Julia Kleinpeter – 'Dutz' 2nd Row – 2nd from right." Also noted is that the picture came from Mary Lynn H. Womack, daughter of Happy and niece of Aunt Dutz. A sheet of paper accompanying the photograph with faint writing in pencil states that this is the first Baker School 6th and 7th grades. At bottom left are: Cecil Bryant, Conrad McVey, Marshall Hughes, Clearance Slack, unknown, "little Bit," unknown, Lucille Mattie Young, Helena Sherburne, and Lulla Bell Wieland. Second row are: unknown, Dick Young, unknown, unknown, Gertie Mae, unknown, unknown, Eula Devall, Huttie Fourness, Julia Kleinpeter, and unknown. Third row are: Willard Yoes, William, unknown, unknown, Florence Mire, Mary Louise Happy Kleinpeter, Archie Sharkie, Lucille Epperson, and Elna Devall. The photograph can be found in the LRT History of Education Collection (P1997-72) at the Louisiana State Archives. The scan is courtesy of the staff in the Louisiana State Archives Research Library.

Baker School students
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Ruffin G. Pleasant

(9/1/17) Ruffin Golson Pleasant was born in Shiloh, Union Parish, Louisiana, in 1871, the son of Benjamin Franklin Pleasant and Martha Washington Duty. He attended Ruston College, Mount Lebanon College, and Louisiana State University, and studied law at Harvard and Yale universities. He practiced law in Shreveport and served as city attorney and later State Attorney General. He was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1916 and served one term. During his term as governor, he oversaw Louisiana's efforts during World War I and endorsed prohibition. At the end of his term, he supported calls for a constitutional convention in 1921, to which he served as a delegate. After leaving office, he resumed his law practice in Shreveport. He died there 12 September 1937. According to his death certificate (this month's document), he died suddenly of an apparent coronary occlusion. He was buried in Forest Park Cemetery. The document can be found at the Louisiana State Archives (Statewide Deaths, 1937, vol. 27, #11549).

death certificate
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30th Anniversary of Archives Building

(8/1/17) Thirty years ago this month, the Louisiana State Archives building on Essen Lane in Baton Rouge was opened to much fanfare. The many years of work by state officials and the general public came to fruition when the building was dedicated on Monday, August 24, 1987. This month's document is an article about the new archives building, published in a special issue of Legacy, the now defunct newsletter of the Louisiana State Archives. A related article from Legacy appeared as the August 2012 Document of the Month to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the building. A complete set of the Archives' newsletter, which dates from 1976 to 1995, was bound by Le Comité and can be found in the periodicals section of the Research Library.

Archives Newsletter
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Gauthier Gin

(7/1/17) This month's document features a photograph from a collection entitled "Historic Preservation Photographic Collection," about 2,000 black and white photos of structures 50 years or older in the parishes of Avoyelles, Catahoula, Concordia, LaSalle, Grant, and Rapides. Most photographs are of residences, but also included are commercial buildings, schools, churches, and other structures.

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The photograph pictured here is from Avoyelles Parish and is labeled "Gauthier Gin." Further research revealed a photograph of the same building, probably taken a few years earlier, in the book, Bayou des Glaises & Ward 11 of Avoyelles Parish, by Carlos A. Mayeux, Jr., and Randy P. DeCuir. The caption in the book identifies it as the old cotton gin of Long Bridge by the old railroad tracks. It was in operation as recently as the 1950s. According to Corinne Saucier's book, History of Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, Long Bridge was established in the latter part of the 19th century at a long bridge that spanned Bayou des Glaises. It was sparsely settled until a railroad was built through the area.

This collection was acquired in 1988 by the Louisiana State Archives from the Division of Historic Preservation and assigned accession number P1988-156. No finding aid currently exists, but Le Comité has started a volunteer effort to type the labels from the envelopes and publish the list in Le Raconteur.

Joseph Bentley

(6/1/17) For decades, the Bentley Hotel in Alexandria served as the flagship hotel of Central Louisiana. It was built in the early 1900s by Joseph A. Bentley, a lumber baron and entrepreneur, and opened in 1908. The six-story luxury hotel filled an entire block. It was expanded in the 1930s. The hotel closed in 2004 and was purchased in 2012. After undergoing extensive renovations, portions of the hotel reopened to the public and overnight guests. Other portions are being converted into condominiums.

This month's document is the death certificate of the hotel's owner, Joseph A. Bentley who died 9 June 1938 at the age of 77. He was a native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and single. His body was sent to Williamsport and buried in Wildwood Cemetery. The informant, Jack Beasley of Alexandria, could not supply the names of Bentley's parents. According to the 1930 census, Bentley's parents were both born in Germany. He is likely the 19-year-old son listed in the household of Timothy Bentle (born Wurtemburg) and Eva (born Baden) living in Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, in 1880. The death certificate can be found at the Louisiana State Archives, Statewide Deaths, 1938, vol. 18, #7747.

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The Flood of 1927

(5/1/17) Ninety years ago, the Flood of 1927 devastated many parts of Louisiana. Heavy rains in the Ohio Valley, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and North Louisiana in December of 1926 and January of 1927 caused the rivers to fill to capacity. Because of the narrow levees along the Mississippi River in lower Louisiana, the excess water could not drain rapidly enough. Starting in April of 1927, levees began collapsing in Mississippi, Arkansas, and North Louisiana. This was followed by levee breaks along other waterways in central and southern Louisiana. More rains in the south exacerbated the problem. On May 17, 1927, the west side levee along the Atchafalaya River broke at Melville.

This month's photograph shows flood waters in Livonia, Louisiana. Pictured here is Dreyfus General Merchandise. The photograph was one of several reproduced on pages 42 and 43 of A History of Pointe Coupee Parish and Its Families (Baton Rouge: Le Comité des Archives de la Louisiane, 1983). The print is now part of the collection entitled Pointe Coupee & Iberville Parish History Photographs (N2006-9) at the Louisiana State Archives. The negative is in the possession of Judy Riffel.

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1762 Land Sale on the German Coast

(4/1/17) Researchers of Louisiana's colonial period are accustomed to dealing with documents written in French and Spanish, however, a few a written in German can also be found. Germans were among the earliest settlers in South Louisiana, settling in the 1720s in an area along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The German Coast, as it would be called, comprised the present-day parishes of St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James. This month's document is an April 1762 land sale from Johannes Adam Wicgner (today Vicknair) to Johannes Michael Bauch, written entirely in German. Wicgner states that he sold four morgans (a German unit of measurement) of cleared land for 250 frankens. The declaration was done at Carlesburg (sometimes Karlstein, located near present-day Killona in St. Charles Parish). The document can be found at the Louisiana State Archives in a collection entitled St. John the Baptist Parish Original Acts: 1753-1798 (S2003-27). For a detailed guide, see Abstracts of St. John the Baptist Parish Civil Records, 1757-1798, which is available for purchase from the society (www.lecomite.org/publications.html)

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Dr. John Harvey Lowery Death Certificate

(3/1/17) One of the first black physicians in Louisiana, Dr. John Harvey Lowery received his medical degree from New Orleans University in 1894 and practiced medicine in Donaldsonville for more than 40 years. He also helped fund the Lowery Training School in Donaldsonville for black youth. In 1895, he acquired a large home in Donaldsonville, which he later sold to his daughter. The home, now known as the Lowery-Brazier House, is owned by the city and was the recipient of a grant from the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation that was used to stabilize the house. It is currently up for sale. This month's document is the death certificate of Dr. Lowery. He died 25 September 1941 at Flint Goodridge Hospital in New Orleans and his remains were shipped to Donaldsonville. It can be found at the Louisiana State Archives (Orleans Deaths, 1941, vol. 217, p. 10).

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Baton Rouge and St. Martinville Bicentennials

(2/1/17) Baton Rouge and St. Martinville were Louisiana's second and third incorporated cities, after New Orleans. On January 17, 1817, Governor Jacques Viller� signed an act of the Louisiana Legislature setting up the government of the town of Baton Rouge. Nearly two weeks later, on January 30th, he signed an act according certain privileges to the town of St. Martinville. Both cities have planned numerous bicentennial activities throughout the year. This month's document features the first pages of the Acts of the Legislature incorporating the two towns in January of 1817.

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Krotz Springs Centennial

(1/1/17) The establishment of Krotz Springs serves as an example of how to make lemonade out of lemons. Seeking oil, Charles W. Krotz came to the area on the west bank of the Atchafalaya River and drilled the first oil well in St. Landry Parish in 1900. Instead of striking oil, he struck an artesian well of terrific pressure. Krotz bottled the water and marketed it for its medicinal properties. He also formed the Krotz Springs Hotel Co., Ltd., and began selling lots. A community soon sprung up, attracted by free water if the settlers supplied their own pipes. In 1915, Krotz attempted to incorporate under the name Latanier, but a community in Rapides Parish already had that name. On January 6, 1917, Krotz Springs was incorporated as a village by proclamation of Governor Ruffin G. Pleasant. Krotz Springs is also the birth place of Le Comit� Board Member Ann DeVillier Riffel. Her father, Charles DeVillier, was Town Marshal from 1934 to 1950. The town is planning to hold its centennial celebration over the Fourth of July weekend. This month's document is the death certificate of Charles W. Krotz, a native of Defiance, Ohio, who died in Krotz Springs December 17, 1925. He is buried in St. Anthony Catholic Cemetery. The document can be found in the Louisiana State Archives, Statewide Deaths, 1925, vol. 38, #16469.

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