Lafayette and Avery Island
February 8-11, 1998

 We pulled out of Mobile, Al., and continued our quest westward The Gulf of 
Mexico, MS on I-10. Arriving in Lafayette La., we selected a campsite several miles south of the city on US-90. Our first adventure was to the Acadian Cultural Center. The Acadians came primarily from rural areas of the Vendee region of western France, and began settling in Acadie, now Nova Scotia in 1604. There they prospered as farmers and fishermen. In 1713, Great Britain acquired control of Acadie, but the Acadians did not become cooperative British subjects, preferring to maintain their independence and freedoms. Finally in 1755, the British began the removal of the Acadians from their new homeland. The British spread these people out along the British colonies and the Caribbean. Their lives were mostly bleak and opportunities limited until theThe Acadian Village Spanish government invited them to South Louisiana. By the turn of the century there were 3 to 4 thousand Acadians living in southern Louisiana.  The Acadian village offers a glimpse of the earlier times with many of its structures being transplanted from their original settings of abandonment and decay to this park. These original structures and their associated replicas, along with the artifacts  held within them are a genuine representation of a time gone by. In contrast, Vermilionville, Lafayette's original name, is a 23 acre Avery Island park located off Surrey St. is a showplace. Carefully crafted period homes filled with artifacts and antiques reflecting the historic Acadian/Creole lifestyle is accented by craftspeople and living historians demonstrating skills passed down through generations.  Some twenty odd miles south of Lafayette is Avery Island, home of the Tabasco pepper sauce. History records that a well to do New Orleans banker by the name of Edmond McIlhenny married a young Avery who's parents owned the Island. Its main value at the time was a brine salt spring which produced smallAvery Island amounts of rock salt. During the Civil War the hole was widened and at a depth of 16 feet, solid rock salt was discovered. This was used to supply the Confederacy until a Union attack in 1863 ended its Southern control. During the shelling, it is reported that Edmond, seeing a live shrapnel cannon ball with its fuse still burning, picked it up and threw it out a window thus saving the lives of his family.  After the war, with economic prospects dim, Edmond left New Orleans and moved onto the Island where he continued his hobby of gardening. During this time he  isolated a variety of Avery Islandcapsicum pepper and began experimenting with different sauces, finally producing his final product which he called Tobasco. He first produced around 300 bottles which he gave away as Christmas presents. Soon after that orders started coming in, and he went commercial.  Today the product is manufactured in a single plant located in the middle of the island. The original 300 bottles has been increased to over four hundred thousand bottles a day. The process has changed very little with only a minimum amount of machinery involved. The peppers are still picked by hand, mixed with island salt and a high grade vinegar. Those are the only ingredients involved. The sauce is then put in white oak barrels for around 3 years where a transformation into Tobasco pepper sauce occurs. The product is presently sold in over 100 countries.


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