The History of Plauchéville

by Effie Agatha Cox Plauché

May 1966

Plauchéville is located at the junction of Bayou Jacques and Bayou Choupique in modern day Ward 8 of Avoyelles Parish. It was founded in the 1840s by three Plauché brothers: Etienne, François, and Visitant. Tradition has it that they were on an exploratory rowing expedition, which started at Simmesport and continued along Bayou des Glaises, Bayou Rouge, and Bayou Choupique. When they reached the junction of the latter with Bayou Jacques (Jack), they decided to settle because the land was fertile and game and fish abounded, so they thought the living would be easy. The mild climate promised an abundant year-round supply of both plant and animal foods and products, as it still does today. Transportation to access more civilized places was possible, albeit time-consuming and tedious, because of the many navigable streams. In the beginning, only the streams were available to move goods to and from the markets, but a road was soon built along Bayou Choupique leading to Cottonport, the port from which cotton was shipped to New Orleans. Overland hauling of crops to Cottonport was done in wagons and ox carts. By the end of the 19th century, the railroad began running through Cottonport, which guaranteed its continuation as Plauchéville’s main transportation and distribution center. Today, paved roads lead in all directions to Plauchéville, and water transport is a thing of the past. The streams on which the three brothers traveled to discover the area have been dredged for speedier drainage, and are now dry most of the year.

In 1880, the Plauchéville post office opened its doors, with F.M. Gremillion as Postmaster. As in most country places, it was located in the rear of his general store. His successor was Belford Plauché, who was followed by M.O., and then M.E. Chenevert. In 1890, a new post office was established called Green Store, where Eugene Hayes served as postmaster until 1891, when he was succeeded by Jean V. Plauché. In 1892, Richard Henry Cox became postmaster. He had come from Baton Rouge in about 1877.

The Catholic Church at Plauchéville dates from 1873, when it was only a small chapel located on lower Choupique about three miles from modern day Plauchéville. The church was moved to its present location in 1885. It stills bears its original name, Mater Dolorosa Church. In those early days, Father Gallop served as pastor. He trained Octave Couvillon as choir leader and organist. Mr. Couvillon served for sixty years in this capacity, until his death in 1939. Father Gallop died in 1897, and was replaced by Father Limagne. Subsequent priests included Fathers Brahic, Haver, De Kewar, Fortent, and Anderson. All the early priests were fluent in the French language, and needed to be so, as Plauchéville has long been a bilingual community. All the early priests came from Europe, as there were no seminaries in Louisiana. When seminaries were established in New Orleans and elsewhere, many native sons entered the priesthood. The first to be ordained was J. V. Plauché of Plauchéville, who later served in Shreveport until his death. Milburn Broussard, Richard Gremillion, and Hardie Lacour were also ordained into the ministry. Céleste Plauché and Anita Plauché were early nuns from the little town.

Several church organizations were eventually established, including the Holy Name Society, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women, Ladies’ Altar Society, and Children of Mary. A new brick Mater Dolorosa church was erected on the original site in 1964, at a cost of $115,000. It remains the only church in the community.

The first school was a one-room wood-frame building located near the current Plauchéville cemetery. The first teacher was Mr. John Harrington Calmes. Later, William Morrow and Wade Couvillion taught in this building. As the population increased, rooms were added. In 1899, a two-story frame structure was constructed as a convent under the supervision of Father Limagne. Unfortunately, it burned down in the following year. The present convent was erected in the western part of town. It is still in operation to this date, serving as both a convent and accredited high school with a staff of ten teachers. It is the only twelve-year convent in the parish. The Plauchéville Public School (not affiliated with the church) dates from the turn of the century, when Professor Lewis was the principal of a six-room schoolhouse located near the cemetery, close to where the first one-room building once stood. It became an accredited high school in 1920. It soon had full teaching facilities, a hot lunch program, an athletic department, and a music studies program. In the 1930’s, agriculture and home economics departments and a gymnasium were added.

The first permanent branch of the Avoyelles Bank and Trust Company was established in 1917. It was absorbed by the Citizens’ Bank of Bunkie in 1928. In 1934, the Plauchéville branch of the bank was discontinued. The main occupation of the residents of Plauchéville is agriculture. At one time there were three cotton gins, a syrup mill, a blacksmith shop, two garages, and a seed re-cleaning plant. Now one gin serves the cotton farmers, a tire vulcanizing plant has replaced the blacksmith, and four modern grocery stores have replaced the grist and syrup mills as suppliers of staple foodstuffs. A modern freezer plant at the high school processes and stores the farmers' meats, and the family water wells have been largely replaced by the Plauchéville Waterworks, which is well-known for the purity and abundance of its water.

The village was incorporated in 1906 and governed by a mayor and five aldermen. The first mayor was J. V. Plauché, descendent of one of the founders of the town. M.E. Chenevert, Emile Lacour, and Merrill Plauché were among the first aldermen. Dr. Phillip Jeansonne served longest as mayor. He was first elected in 1925, and served several consecutive terms. Today, the mayor is Camile Mayeaux. He presides over the mile-square town and its 250 inhabitants, assisted by Jimmie Lemoine, town marshal. Plauchéville can now boast of four grocery/general merchandise stores, two bars, three auto service stations, and a branch of the parish library. A new mausoleum is a recent addition to the cemetery. (The author of this piece currently rests there, one hopes peacefully.) Plauchéville currently has no doctor. Two physicians formerly served the town; J.J. Haydell (d. July, 1940), and Phillip Jeansonne (d. Dec., 1965).

Plauchéville is a small country town still, so it has no newspaper of its own.

It escapes isolation, however, by being linked to the world through daily delivery of the leading newspapers, a modern telephone system, and access to the nationally affiliated radio and television stations in Alexandria and Baton Rouge. The people of the town enjoy a rich informal social life, but few facilities exist for more structured activities. The Knights of Columbus Hall is used for wakes, elections, and dances. A boys’ little league (baseball) team has been organized, and a swimming pool is available five miles away. There is room for improvement in this area, as is the case in many small rural towns.

Plauchéville has known disaster as well as times of progress. From earliest history until fairly recent times, the parish suffered periodic flooding, most notably the infamous flood of 1927. After the ’27 flood, Plauchéville became a morass of wrecked homes, piles of debris, and, perhaps most damaging, barren fields. Ninety percent of Plauchéville residents were left absolutely destitute. All they had left were wrecked homes, the clothes on their backs, and the limited supplies available for a brief time through the Red Cross. The banks were unable to help because they were drained to the limit. It was a devastating blow, but the people rallied, as they have always done through droughts, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The land has reportedly never regained its former fertility. In the 1940s, the US Army Corps of Engineers addressed the problem, and now an extensive system of dams and spillways holds the Atchafalaya and Mississippi rivers largely in check.

Plauchéville is proud of its service during the national crises of the two world wars. World War Two was particularly a time of patriotism for towns all across the country, and Plauchéville was no exception. Lewis John Plauché served as a first lieutenant in the infantry, Hewitt Plauché served with distinction in the Navy, and Thomas Cox served as a U. S. Marine in the Pacific. John Franklin Cox was a Sgt. in the Army and Bernard John Plauche was in the Coast Guard. O’Hearn Dufour was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Bravery for saving the lives of an officer and several sailors during the sinking of his ship. Julius L. Plauché, Currey J. Saucier, and Lester Saucier all lost their lives in the European theater of war, in the Ardennes campaign.

Those who remained at home did their part as well. On March 5, 1942, Governor Sam Jones gave a civil defense speech at the courthouse in Marksville. The air warden home guard was organized in August of the same year. Plauchéville had an air warden. Avoyelles Parish was the site of many army bases, and many military practice maneuvers were conducted there. Plauchéville, being only 35 miles away from several major military bases, took an active part in the USO drives to entertain the troops. During 1941-43, Mayor Joe Chenevert of Plauchéville joined Mayor Edgar Coco of Marksville and several other local mayors to organize the USO effort in Avoyelles. They also initiated and ran several eight-week instructional courses designed to prepare local citizens for work in the defense industry. Metal work was taught in Plauchéville.

Plauchéville remains a pleasant rural town, with all the people having approximately the same interests and financial status. They mostly own their own homes, share a common French heritage, and are all enthusiastic American citizens, working energetically toward the betterment of their community and country.

This text was contributed to the web site by Louis Plauché, son of the late author.
Some details were contributed by Effie’s cousin Eugene Cox. (December 2000)