Monday, July 11, 2011

Browsing through Google Books

Writing in 1857 Alexandria, I often find myself wandering through Google Books looking for little pieces of information about this city that have been lost to time. When a city is burned to the ground, finding info prior to the fire is difficult at best, and impossible at worst.

At the time, the only semi-reliable transportation in the southern half of the state was by water, via the Mississippi, Red, and Atchafalaya Rivers. The only way to Alexandria from New Orleans was by steamboat, which is how my heroine arrived there.

While looking for more information on the steamboat routes, I've come across something helpful (I think...) and something that's a little on the ridiculous side. For your reading pleasure, from The American Traveller by T. Addison Richards, published in 1857.

"The exhalations from the marshes in the long hot summers poison the atmosphere, and make Louisiana, in much of its territory, dangerous to the acclimated, and quite unapproachable to strangers at the season when the especial features of the landscape may be seen in all their greatest glory."

Further down the page, I found this little gem.
"Besides the Mississippi and Red rivers, of which the reader will find accounts elsewhere in our volume, the streams of Louisiana do not offer very great attractions to the traveller."

Sounds ridiculous to the modern ear. But it's true! Even 154 years later, it's true. The streams of Louisiana do not offer very great attractions to the traveler. Only to the fisherman. The marshes don't poison the atmosphere, but our climate conditions do make it unapproachable to a large number of people during the summer "when the especial features of the landscape may be seen in all their greatest glory".

This same book makes mention of a railroad line from New Orleans to Alexandria and on into Texas. That line wasn't completed until the late part of the century. Even today, the bulk of our shipping is still done via the Mississippi and Red Rivers. The Port of Alexandria is one of the busiest inland non-MS River ports in the entire country, and boasts the highest military traffic in and out of any inland port.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

The invitation says it all.

And now here on my blog....

A couple weeks ago I found myself writing a Fourth of July picnic into the WIP. It's set on a central Louisiana French Creole plantation, and the Creoles tended to keep themselves apart from the Americans. Even in 1857.

There's only one surviving record that I know of that records Alexandria's Fourth of July celebrations. Unfortunately I don't have access to it right now and couldn't remember what Mr. Hynson said for 1857, so I made it up.

A picnic seemed like a safe choice, considering the culture I'm writing about. French Creoles weren't usually a terribly patriotic bunch of people when it came to the United States. They much preferred their own culture to that of the crass and boorish Americans.

Plantation residents always looked for an excuse to get together outside of church. Tossing in a picnic seemed like a good setting for that particular scene and sets the stage for the next Door of No Return.

I'm still going to do some stuff about French Creole architecture, but I still have to put it together. I spend yesterday writing on the WIP instead and clocked in a new daily word count high: 3,540!