HISTORY OF THE MERMENTAU RIVER PROJECT
James Henry Fawvor, Sr.
Grand Chenier has been settled about one hundred and fifty years. The only transportation outlet we had was the Mermentau River to take our cotton and oranges out of here. Before the first dam was built on the outlet of the Mermentau River, It was about eight feet of water in a low tide and about nine or ten feet of water in a high tide.
There was a few very rich rice farmers that got behind the Government force and got a dam built in the River, The names of these men was Kaplan and Fischer. We still have those kind of men. It seems that they would like to have this part of the country as a reservoir to hold water for them to raise rice. They built their dam In the Mermentau River about 1906. We never had any trouble to get out of the Mermentau Bar and the dam
stopped the flow of the current through the River. After the dam was built, the flow was stopped and the River began to fill up and also the channel into the Gulf.
During these years before the dam was built we had boats that you called schooners that had two masts on them. The average of their draft was about four feel to seven feet. The names of the boats was the George Lock, the E. O. Gladys, the Weaver, the Claira Ida, the Lark, and a big boat we called a "Scow", called the Pat Christian. These boats didn't all run at the same time. The most of the time there was about two running out from here to Galveston. They would leave here loaded with cotton and oranges and go to Galveston to sell their oranges and cotton,
These boats that went out from here averaged tonnage from ten lo thirty tons. The George Lock was a thirty-ton boat. The Weaver and the E. 0. Gladys were both twenty tons. The Lark was about a ten-ton boat. The Scow Bowed boat was about twenty-five tons.
Many years ago, Grand Chenier was very nearly an orange orchard from one end to the other. They would sail to Galveston, which was about one hundred miles from the mouth of the Mermentau River to Galveston. They would dispose of their cargo and they would take on flour, salt, dry goods, clothing and all other goods and they would cone back in our
Mermentau River. We had two or three stores that would distribute this stuff among the people,
I recall one trip that I made on the little schooner "Agnes" with Captain Henry Vaughan who was the beat sailor that I ever knew. This was over seventy years ago [About 1890-95, L Hale]. We left Galveston with a north wind early in the morning and sometimes during the next night we got to the Mermentau Bar. I could never understand how Captain Henry Vaughan knew when we got up to the mouth of the Mermentau River, but he knew and the wind was blowing from the north and the current was running in. He told me, "Jim, we can make it.
"You get on the bow or the boat," he said, " and sound the bottom. As long as you can feel that the bottom is soft don't say nothing. When the bottom is hard, call out "Hard bottom",
I did just as he said. As long as the bottom was soft, 1 said nothing. When I felt the bottom hard, I said "Hard bottom." Captain Vaughan knew how to handle a boat. That is called beating sailboat.
This is a true story written by James Henry Fawvor, Sr.
Back in 1876, Cameron Parish was a part of Calcasieu Parish. There was no Cameron Parish at that time and it was a "Bad Man's Land." At that time there were no officers and courthouses and it was a wide open country. The cattle were not fenced up and there were worlds of cattle that would roam from the Mermentau to the Calcasieu River,
There were some pretty bad young men down here. When they wanted meat to eat, they would go out and choose the fattest cow they could find. It wouldn't make any difference who the cow belonged to. They would butcher the cow, cut the meat up in strings about one inch square, salt it, hang it on a line to dry, and it was called "tasso". The old bad men of the country got up a mob with Will Griffith as Captain. Will Griffith was afraid of Ralph Stewart, his stepson. He was living with Ralph Stewart's mother at the time. He got up the mob to murder him, and at that time Will Griffith and Mrs. Stewart had ten children in their family, Other members of the mob were Vilyar Theriot, Charles Theriot, Nicholai Broussardy Sosthene Richard, and Prank Pleasant. They got men from all parts of southwest Louisiana. There was supposed to be about 500 of them. They got up for the purpose to regulate the country but it was done more to murder these two young men and they did murder them in cold blood and that is how they came to be called Regulators. They didn't wear masks. When they wanted to take a man in charge, they would send strange men to keep themselves from being known.
They went to Ralph Stewart's house and got him, but he happened to be pretty much of a man and twisted loose from them. As he ran, they shot him. Will Griffith walked up to him, after he was down and shot him in the top of the head. That happened near Oak Grove. Then they went on down out this side of Cameron at a little thickly settled place that was called Tassoville and captured Zack Yokum. At the time they went in to capture him, he tried to tear pieces of cloth out of his wife's dress to use for wads to load his gun. One of his brothers, Charley Yokum, climbed up an old mud chimney and the Regulators told him to come down they weren't going to hurt him. They took Zack Yokum across to the front ridge and hung him in a hackberry tree on Willow Island. while Zack Yokum was hanging to the tree, Frank Pleasant jumped on him and spurred him while he was choking and dying.
Zack Yokum had a cousin from Texas who was named Doc Addison who had killed two men in Texas and was down here hiding from the law. The Regulators decided to take him. The reason they wanted him was because he was living with Will Griffith's oldest daughter, Sis Griffith. They came to his place about 2:00 o'clock in the morning and hollered to him to get up and make coffee. He hollered back and told then it was too early for coffee. He was at the home of Old Aunt Martha Yokum, the wife of John Rutherford, who had a good picket fence around her house. He had the gates fastened and the Regulators could get in and they began pulling the pickets off of the fence. Doc Addison happened to be well prepared for them. He had two muzzle loaded shot guns, The widow of Ralph Stewart's was there and she would load one gun while he shot the other one. He threw two loads of buckshot into them and he had to wait a little while for the woman to load the other gun. He couldn't afford to use both guns at the same time. By the
time he got the other gun loaded, then he looked to try to find where they were. They must have found somewhere else to get coffee.
The next morning there was four of them laying dead and three others wounded and they sent a friendly man to ask them if they could come and haul them off and they told them to go back and tell them that they could come and get them because he would like to have left them laying there and let the buzzards eat them, but since they would stink, they could haul them off, and if they would come back the following morning before daylight to get coffee that he would have the coffee ready and plenty of buckshot to sweeten it.
Doc Addison left his address with the Yokums and anybody who wanted to have his address. He went back to Yokum, Texas, where he was from and he told them that if they got up another mob down here, he would come back and take care of them.
Ralph Stewart was shot and Zack Yokum was hung because they were wild young men going to dances, fighting, cutting up, and drinking whisky. There were no officers in Bad Man's land at that time. The officers would come down from Lake Charles to get them and they would get on their beautiful horses and leave out and wave to the officers to come on out to the country.
My old Daddy, Tom Fawvor, shot off a derringer pistol and they captured him and they tied him with his hands behind him and he saw who the ones were from down here in this Bad Man's Land and that is why I know exactly who were the ones in the Regulators from here.
Old Captain Manuel Sturlese joined the Regulators with the intention of begging and pleading for them not to hurt anyone. With all the begging and pleading Mr, Manuel did, they decided to turn my daddy loose.
Any time that a bunch of young men get up a mob to do bodily harm to anyone, they are nothing but a bunch of cowards. If Ralph Stewart or Zack Yokum would have had a firecracker to light and throw amongst the Regulators, that would have been the last they would have seen of them.
My mother was Julia Yokum, a sister to Zack Yokum and first cousin to Doc Addison, and she was named after her Aunt Julia Yokum, a sister to Jess Yokum and Doc Addison's mother. Doc Addison's father's name was James Henry Addison and my Uncle James Yokum was named after James Henry Addison. I was named after my Uncle James Henry
last updated 16 April, 2011
Copyright 2011 Leonard A Hale