Monday, November 8, 2010

In Which Jim Visits New Iberia - Part the First - The Shadows

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had the great privilege and pleasure of being invited to give some lectures on Civil War medicine at an annual Civil War living history event in New Iberia, Louisiana.

The event was this past weekend, and having returned, I wanted to share some photographs and reports of what turned out to be a WONDERFUL time for me, my wife, and my youngest son!

The event was sponsored by the Shadows-on-the-Teche National Historic Site.

The Shadows is an historic house and garden owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was built in 1831-1834 for sugarcane planter David Weeks and his wife Mary C. Weeks. The Teche is a 125-mile long bayou in south central Louisiana.

David and Mary Weeks were wealthy growers of sugarcane and several plantations on almost 3,000 acres. The Shadows was constructed at the height of the Greek Revival style in American architecture. Eight columns on the exterior of the front help to support a second-floor veranda.

Weeks built the Shadows on the edge of one of his plantations in Iberia Parish (Week's Island). As a "town house" away from the planatation itself, the Shadows was designed for social life and entertainment.

David Weeks never even got to see the finished home as he died in August 1834 in New England while seeking medical attention. Mary Weeks remarried lawyer John Moore but kept her children's inherited property - the home and the family's nearly 200 slaves - separate from that of her second husband, as she was allowed to do under state law.

The household depended very much on slavery and Mary Weeks and her second husband, John Moore, strongly supported slavery and secession. Indeed, Moore was a delegate to the convention in which Louisiana seceded from the Union. During the Civil War, Federal troops occupied the property and officers used the home as headquarters. Mary Weeks died in December 1863 in the Shadows.

You can learn more about the legacy of slavery and the Civil War at the Shadows via their wonderful website, here.

Mary's son, William F. Weeks, sought to restore the mansion and the family's business during Reconstruction, but the family was soon forced to sell of a large part of the property's more than 100 acres to survive.

Mary Weeks's great-grandson, William Weeks Hall, lived in the Shadows from 1922 until his death in 1958. He was very interested in preserving the home and his family's history. He donated a very large archive of family papers that he found in the house, maintained an impressive garden, and eventually donated the house and garden to the National Trust.

Ms. Catherine Schramm, Director of Education at the Shadows, kindly shared some wonderful Shadows archival material - with an emphasis on period medical practices - with me in advance of my presentations and I will write more on that in the future.

Presently, the Shadows is open year-round with guided tours Monday through Saturday, 9 am–4:30 pm (except for major holidays).

For now, enjoy the photographs!
(I've posted even more on my Facebook page! Add me as a friend and enjoy additional postings and photographs that are not on the blog!)

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