Saturday, January 12, 2019

Old-Time Medications...weird but they worked!

Old-Time Medications...weird but they worked!
By Anne Butler

There’s a wonderful new full-service hospital and a number of physicians practicing medicine in St. Francisville now, but back in the days when money was scarce and doctors were even scarcer in rural areas, folks doctored themselves with a wide assortment of home remedies.
Of course every early plantation had its kitchen garden, where herbs and culinary additives were supplemented by treasured medicinal plants, with every housewife worth her salt knowing the value of each. But well into the 20th century, isolated country folk continued to rely on time-honored traditions of home remedies passed down through the generations. And current doctors admit there was something to be said for at least some of these folk cures.

The late Reverend H.S. Pate, pastor to a rural flock, always insisted, “Those old sayings and remedies held true in the old days, and they hold true today. Used to be, you had to ride horseback through the woods to get to a doctor, if you could get to one at all, so folks did their own doctoring.” And it wasn’t simply a matter of money; they really believed that the folk cures worked.

Now in his 90s, J.C. Metz, one of many sons of a pioneering logging family which during the Depression got their sustenance as well as their remedies from the swampy areas bordering the Mississippi River, remembers many cures his mother utilized. Pepper tea, made of hot water and black pepper, would sweat the fever out of anybody, coughs were cured with a syrup made by boiling wild plum bark with sugar and lemon, while whiskey and honey remedied the worst sore throats. Sinus problems were cleared up with a mixture of honey, whiskey and apple cider, and an application of catfish fat rendered into oil was used to treat the common cold. For cuts, turpentine and iodine reduced the danger of infection, and bleeding was stopped by applying spider webs to the affected area. Tobacco juice took the sting out of insect bites, and for thorns or boils, a poultice of okra blossoms or salt meat would draw out the offending article. Warm honey in the ear was used to soften wax and cure ear aches. And each spring, the blood was purified with a tonic of sassafras root or vine boiled into a tea.

Other elderly folks swore by other practices, especially teas made of various ingredients. The white leaves of the sassafras bush cured fevers and colds, while tea made from ordinary cornshucks was said to cure measles. Tea made from life-everlasting weed or bitterweed helped reduce fever, and another cure for colds was tea made from scrapings from hogs’ hooves, also said to be effective for pneumonia.

Sardine oil rubbed on the jaws, which should then be bound with a scarf, would reduce the pain from mumps. Aching limbs could be soothed by application of hot Epsom salts and turpentine or boiled cedar, which could also unstop the most stuffed-up nose. Palm of Christian leaves, applied directly to the affected area straight off the bush, drew out headache pain, while tea made from the leaves of the Jerusalem bush cured worms. Lighter fluid was another recommended rub for arthritis pain, as were poultices of boiled mullin leaves to reduce swelling and pain, and could cure dropsy as well. For rheumatism, a bottle of table salt mixed with red pepper could be rubbed onto the limbs, while coal oil and turpentine was applied under the throat and on the chest to cure colds.

Bit by a snake? Old folks would kill a chicken and extract the gall bladder, then apply it to the bitten area. No chickens available? They could draw out the snake poison with coal oil or kerosene and soda.

For small infants and children, there was a whole list of do’s and don’t’s to be observed. To stop hiccups, cross two broomstraws in the crown of the baby’s head. To cure whooping cough, ride a stud horse until he gets real hot, then let him breathe in the baby’s face. Cutting a baby’s fingernails with scissors meant he would steal, while putting his dirty diapers on the floor would give stomach pains. Colic could be cured by blowing smoke from a pipe into the baby’s diapers and onto the soft spot on top of the head. But if the top of the head was covered, the baby wouldn’t get colic in the first place.

For chest colds, heat tallow and camphorated oil and rub onto chest and bottom of feet, or brown a piece of flannel to put on chest. For worms, hang a sack of garlic around the baby’s neck; to cure hernia, tape a quarter or 50-cent piece over navel. To ease the pains of teething, bore a hole in a silver dime and tie around neck with string. Bitterweed, boiled and steeped, was used to bathe a child with malaria. For diarrhea, tea made from white planton leaves was said to be effective, as well as a scorched spoonful of whiskey.
Besides the curatives, there were many practices and prohibitions to be kept in mind before and just after birth. A baby born with a veil (membrane) over its face would always see ghosts, it was thought. And don’t attract the baby’s attention from behind or above; looking back and up could cause crossed eyes. Strange sights, seen by a pregnant mother, might mark a baby, as could a mother’s strong cravings during pregnancy. If a child-bearing-age woman in her menses held a baby, it might cause bowel strain, to be cured by putting a piece of that lady’s silk underdrawers on the baby.

The baby was said to turn out to be just like the first person to take it outside and walk all the way around the house. And the nicest tradition of all was the belief that when a baby smiled in his sleep, you knew the angels were playing with him.

Even with more modern medical facilities available today, there are some elderly people in the rural reaches of West Feliciana who turn to the time-honored maxims and cures practiced through the generations. They know they can count on them to work, and they are as close as the nearest wooded field or forest or barnyard. They don’t have office hours, and they’re free. But in this wintry month, in the midst of colds and flu season, if you don’t have any hogs or hard-breathing stud horses and can’t identify bitterweed or Palm of Christian leaves, feel free to avail yourself of more modern medical facilities.

Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination. A number of splendidly restored plantation homes are open for tours: The Cottage Plantation (weekends), Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation; Afton Villa Gardens is open in season and is spectacular. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation (a National Historic Landmark) and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer periodic living-history demonstrations to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs.

The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking and especially bicycle racing due to the challenging terrain, birding, photography, hunting. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some nice restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from ethnic cuisine to seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.

For visitor information, call West Feliciana Tourist Commission and West Feliciana Historical Society at 225-6330 or 225-635-4224, or St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873; online www.stfrancisvillefestivals.com, www.stfrancisville.net or www.stfrancisville.us (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities).

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Celebrate a Country Christmas in St. Francisville

Celebrate a Country Christmas in St. Francisville
By Anne Butler
santa paradeUsed to be, country folks piled into wagons for a trip to the nearest town in anticipation of Christmas, the youngsters pressing noses against frost-covered storefront windows to dream of china dolls or wooden rocking horses. Today that trend has been reversed, as harried urbanites escape from mall madness and compulsive consumption to ease back into the slower pace and peace of a country Christmas. And there’s nowhere to better experience that than St. Francisville’s Christmas in the Country weekend December 7, 8 and 9th.
Spectacular holiday decorations, with millions of white lights gracing gallery posts and tracing soaring Victorian trimwork, turn the downtown Historic District into a winter wonderland, and carefully planned activities provide fun for the entire family. The theme of the Sunday afternoon Christmas parade, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, sets the tone for the whole weekend, and it’s is highly appropriate. The weekend is a safe, small-town celebration of its bedrock beliefs---in the goodness of people, the beauty of nature, and the strength of community and faith. Plus it’s just plain fun! Remember when Christmas shopping was actually a pleasure? It still is in St. Francisville, where each unique little store welcomes shoppers with Open House lagniappe: refreshments, music, and spectacular discounted sales.

townhall fire worksFriday evening, December 7th, Christmas in the Country is kicked off around St. Francisville’s Town Hall as the children’s choir Voices in Motion from Bains Lower Elementary School sings at 5:45, followed by jovial longtime mayor Billy D’Aquilla lighting the town tree and hosting a reception complete with fireworks. Participating homes in St. Francisville’s National Register Historic District along Ferdinand and Royal Streets, designated by signs, permit visitors to Peep Into Our Holiday Homes from 6 to 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, and a Holly Jolly Jazzy Christmas Concert featuring Willis Delony and friends, sponsored by the St. Francisville Symphony Association with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, starts at 7 p.m. on Friday at Grace Episcopal Church, with tickets available at the door.

billyandsanta2 copySaturday, December 8th, begins with 7:30 a.m. Community Prayer Breakfast at the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, sponsored by the local church, United Methodist Men, and the Louisiana Egg Commission; guest speaker Abby Cochran is the principal of the local high school, serves on the town’s Board of Aldermen, and is co-chair of the Methodist church’s Missions Committee, evidence of her belief in the power of linking church, school and community. Christmas on the Run for the Relay for Life supporting the American Cancer Society has a one-mile fun run beginning at 8 a.m. and a 5-K run at 8:30 a.m., both starting at Parker Park.

Little ones can enjoy Breakfast with St. Nick at the First Baptist Church; sponsored by the Women’s Service League, two seatings are available at 8 and 9, with reservations encouraged and tickets available online (wslwestfel@gmail.com). The Women’s Service League also offers fresh wreaths on Ferdinand St. from 9 to 5.

amanadaIn Parker Park from 10 to 4, over 65 vendors offer everything from food and music to arts and crafts; from noon to 2 there will be live music in the park featuring Blu Rouge. The Polar Express train transports visitors through the downtown area from 10 to 2, with a Polar Express movie and fun in the Town Hall meeting room.

St. Francisville’s shops and art galleries are the enthusiastic sponsors of this special weekend, offering a wide variety of inventory, from antiques (there are three sprawling antiques co-ops) and art (both original and prints), decorative items, one-of-a-kind handmade crafts, custom jewelry, housewares, artisanal foodstuffs, clothing for every member of the family. Be sure to pick up your Candy Cane Shopping Card from one of the listed shops, featuring discounts and “I Shopped St. Francisville” t-shirts for purchases over $100.

tourFrom 10 to 4 on Saturday, the non-profit organization Friends of the Library sponsors the popular annual Tour of Homes benefitting library programs, showcasing three stately homes featuring varied architecture and eclectic décor, plus a special treat this year. Right in the center of St. Francisville’s historic district beside the iconic Magnolia Café are the 3-V Tourist Cabins, throwbacks to the 1930s automobile age when a tiny garage was provided with each overnight accommodation. Used in the documentary Bonnie & Clyde, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and still renting as B&Bs, these little cabins are on tour this year as decorator showcases, each done up in style by local interior designers Ellen Kennon, Marc Charbonnet and Caroline Alberstat. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.com, the library, or at each home.

Downtown Merchants Open Houses, with music and refreshments, keep the fun and fine shopping going into the evening Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. From 6 to 8 p.m., Oakley Plantation’s Dickens of a Christmas at Audubon State Historic Site features candlelight tours, period music and wassail. From 6 to 7 United Methodist Church hosts a Community Sing-Along. First Baptist Church (LA 10 at US 61) has a Living Nativity inside the church from 6 to 8, a real Christmas journey—travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem and rediscover the miracle of the birth of Jesus; children love the petting stable, crafts, and hot chocolate and cookies. There will also be a concert at historic Temple Sinai (Prosperity St. just off Royal) featuring Nancy Roppolo, Clay Parker and Jodie James beginning at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, December 9th, Candy Cane Shopping Card opportunities continue from 10 to closing, with T-shirt prizes available at the Visitor Center on Ferdinand St. (open 9 to 5). Vendors are in Parker Park from 10 to 4, with live music noon to 3 by the Fugitive Poets. Sunday’s highlight is the Women’s Service League Christmas Parade beginning at 2 p.m., travelling along Ferdinand and Commerce Streets, with floats, bands, marching groups, dignitaries and lots of throws, all under the theme of Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

CCThe following week, Countdown to Christmas draws crowds to the West Feliciana Sports Park on Thursday, December 13, from 5 to 8 p.m. for more free family fun. There will be arts and crafts, bonfires, games, face painting, music and train rides. Santa will make an appearance, a Christmas tree costume contest really does mean dressing as your favorite decorated tree, and concessions and dinner will be available.

Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination. A number of splendidly restored plantation homes are open for tours: The Cottage Plantation (weekends), Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation; Afton Villa Gardens is open in season and is spectacular. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation (a National Historic Landmark) and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer periodic living-history demonstrations to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs.

The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking and especially bicycle racing due to the challenging terrain, birding, photography, hunting. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some nice restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from ethnic cuisine to seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.

For visitor information, call West Feliciana Tourist Commission and West Feliciana Historical Society at 225-6330 or 225-635-4224, or St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873; online www.stfrancisvillefestivals.com, www.stfrancisville.net or www.stfrancisville.us (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities).

Monday, November 12, 2018

November Press Release 2018

Winds of Change Blowing Through Beautiful Little St. Francisville
By Anne Butler
St. Francisville, that little Louisiana river town with the well-established sense of place, has done it again. A staple on lists of favorite small towns across Louisiana and even throughout the state, most recently it has been recognized nationally by Architectural Digest as one of the most beautiful small towns across America! This prestigious magazine chose what it called “magnificent microcultures” in the mountains, at the seaside, and all over the country, and its choices reflected history, natural beauty, the arts, architectural treasures, and especially culture. As one old New Orleans state legislator was fond of saying, “If ya ain’t got culcha, ya ain’t got s@#$.” And St. Francisville, with its wonderfully preserved residences and commercial structures, its historic churches, its moss-draped live oaks and colorful azaleas, plus its burgeoning population of artists and writers and musicians and other creative souls, has got “culcha” in spades.
sfi front exteriorBut don’t think this little town is static. The winds of change are blowing all over the place, starting at the only traffic light in the downtown the historic district, where new owners are bringing fresh ideas and new enthusiasm to the vintage St. Francisville Inn. This charming Victorian gem, veteran of nearly four decades of hospitality, was purchased in October by Jim Johnston and Brandon Branch, best known to Bravo fans of the docu-drama Southern Charm Savannah.

Branch, who has roots in Louisiana and Mississippi, was the former creative director for Paula Deen Enterprises and hence will focus on the interior decorating as well as food and cocktails, while Johnston, whose background is in accounting, handles the computer systems and technical aspects of construction. The creative couple is bravely undertaking what they call a “million-dollar multi-year renovation to restore the inn and increase services to become the area’s first four-star inn.” Initial phase of the project, which should be complete by mid-April, involves new landscaping, restoring wood flooring, repainting and redecorating the main house, followed by gutting the overnight rooms, building new owners’ quarters, installing a commercial kitchen and bar, perhaps even increasing the number of guest rooms and adding a conference center. Big plans for these world travelers, and a perfect place to showcase their complementary talents.

Next door, the Lebanese restaurant has expanded with new ownership, redecorated using paint maven Ellen Kennon’s cool colors and enlarged the dining areas both inside and out, with an expanded emphasis on Greek as well as Lebanese cuisine. It is now called Café Petra; an early morning fire on Halloween will unfortunately involve some downtime.

district mecA few blocks down Ferdinand St., the main thoroughfare leading straight downhill to the Mississippi River, in the 1890s German immigrant Morris Burgas established a fine general merchandise store in a rambling wood-frame building. For a century or so, several generations of the same family provided the necessities...everything from planting supplies to household goods, buggies, even coffins stored next door...for the surrounding plantation country. New owners Charlie and Onnie Perdue refreshed and revitalized this same building just in time for August’s late-night shopping extravaganza, Polos and Pearls. They’re calling their operation District Mercantile and following the established tradition of something for everyone...gifts, décor, antiques, artworks, books, collectibles, clothing, old-time candy and games. They even serve coffee and breakfast goodies, hoping to provide a comfortable and relaxing community gathering place.

Across the street are popular ladies’ clothing shops and a fine little indie bookstore that hosts book signings by real live authors, children’s story hours, a new children’s book festival (as well as being involved in several adult literary festivals that draw hundreds of readers and writers to the area).

Another business with a new owner is The Shanty Too, longtime downtown anchor and the first to offer gourmet candies and old-time favorites in its cute little old-fashioned candy shoppe called Mandie’s Candies. The late Fay Daniel, founder and longtime owner, dubbed the shop’s inventory “gifts and fancy goods,” which covered a lot of territory, including large selections of Flax linen clothing, iconic christening gowns, seasonal and decorative items, and much more.

francisChange is not limited to the historic downtown area; out along US Highway 61, The Hotel Francis ‘ interim manager Bob Wilson promises the “very committed” owner is giving his property “a lot of TLC,” from sprucing up the landscape and lovely lake to new flooring in common spaces, exterior painting, and renovating and replacing carpeting room by room in a facility that saw some hard usage by long-term Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

A recent visitor to the area from Canada, who produces a food program on television and was a close friend of Anthony Bourdain, commented that The Francis Southern Table and Bar served some of the best seafood he’d ever eaten, and he was equally impressed with the selection of gourmet cheeses at the Audubon Market across US 61. The market also serves delightful plate lunches, and there are other nice eateries along the way as well: The Francis Smokehouse for specialty meats and barbecue, Mexican specialties at Que Pasa, country cooking at Audubon Café, Chinese at East Dragon.

myrtles restaurantThe Myrtles Plantation has seen some wonderful improvements since young Morgan Moss took over the direction of the property from his parents, with an eye toward community involvement and enhanced entertainment rather than straight history and paranormal activities. Attractive new landscaping, new shotgun B&B cabins, and an enormous new eatery called Restaurant 1796 set to open this winter showcase the new emphasis on hospitality. Executive chef Ben Lewis, Woodville native, was happily cooking in the Virgin Islands at Longboard Coastal Cantina until Hurricane Irma devastated the place. Now he will “bring his expertise to deliver a wood-fired farm-to-table concept with a seasonal menu, revolving around locally sourced produce,” much of it growing right on site. Besides the love of food, he believes cooking is all about the joy it brings to guests, a sentiment that fits right in with The Myrtle’s new focus.

Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination. A number of splendidly restored plantation homes are open for tours: The Cottage Plantation (weekends), Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation; Afton Villa Gardens is open in season and is spectacular. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation (a National Historic Landmark) and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer periodic living-history demonstrations to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs.

The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking and especially bicycle racing due to the challenging terrain, birding, photography, hunting. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some nice restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from ethnic cuisine to seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.

For visitor information, call West Feliciana Tourist Commission and West Feliciana Historical Society at 225-6330 or 225-635-4224, or St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873; online www.stfrancisvillefestivals.com, www.stfrancisville.net or www.stfrancisville.us (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities).