Out of the Piney Woods

Piney Woods Cattle
Hadley Alonzo Dyer (1875-1935) center, with young daughters Susie Dyer Lafleur (1901-2002) and Bertha Dyer Fontenot (1898-1982)

When my great-grandfather Hadley Alonzo Dyer was just 10 years old, he and his brother Machen, aged 12, would “hitch up their teams and haul loads to and from Lecompte, often camping in the woods by them-selves.” So wrote a reporter for the Alexandria Town Talk in May 1885. He made that twelve mile trip from the piney woods along Spring Creek to the plantations on Bayou Boeuf many times over the years: driving cattle from the hill country, delivering meat to the lumber companies and more.

In five decades, he moved his family from Loyd to Forest Hill, up to Boyce on the Red River, then back to Forest Hill again, finally settling on a dairy farm near Oakdale. All dutifully reported by the Alexandria Town Talk. My grandmother was always vague about where exactly she was from. Now I know why.

About Photo+Story: Inspired by a competition at the RootsTech 2018 genealogy conference, the series distills family stories to a single photo plus 150 words or less.

Mythbusters: Lafleur Family Origins

Almost every family has an oral history, the stories of ancestors to use as a starting point for genealogical research. With a little digging, you’ll find some stories turn out to be true, many have a grain of truth that’s been distorted over time, and some are complete fabrications. Proving or disproving family stories is one of my favorite parts of researching my family history. I think of it as Mythbusters, Family Edition.

Adraste and Elodie Marthe Lafleur
Adraste Lafleur (1874-1951) and Elodie Marthe Lafleur (1880-1965), circa 1910

My father’s paternal grandparents Adraste Lafleur (1874-1951) and Elodie Marthe Lafleur (1880-1965) were both born with the surname Lafleur, and grew up in the same locale in Louisiana. So close that in the 1880 census, their families were recorded only two pages apart in the 7th Ward of St. Landry Parish.

Many decades ago, when my mother asked my father’s relatives for names and birth dates for the family tree in our Bible, they were quick to point out that Adraste (Pépère) and Elodie Marthe (Mémère) were not cousins, and that Pépère’s Lafleur ancestors had come to Louisiana by way of Canada, while Mémère’s Lafleur ancestors had come directly from France. The family tree in Momma’s Bible records just one more generation back, with a father of Ulysse Lafleur for Pépère and Benjamin Lafleur for Mémère. Is this “Canadian French vs French” distinction accurate? Or were they actually related and if so, how closely? Continue reading “Mythbusters: Lafleur Family Origins”

Momma Married Well

Dyer and Joyce as Young Couple
A young couple in love: Alonzo Dyer Lafleur (1930-) and Joyce Rita Bergeron (1930-) circa 1953

My parents met on a blind date arranged by mutual friends. She was working as a medical technologist at the Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. He was finishing his master’s degree in chemistry at LSU. Daddy would come courting on Sunday afternoons, frequently sharing the couch with another suitor named Talmadge who always drove over in his truck with his cousin Ewell.

When Momma chose Daddy, she didn’t know that Talmadge’s family would strike oil on their family farm located smack dab on top of the Tuscaloosa Trend, nor that Talmadge would become a wealthy businessman, owning Hilton hotels in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. When I found out as a teenager, I teased Momma about how she could have married rich. But between my gratitude for having Daddy as a dedicated father to us and loving husband to her, and the stories I heard of Talmadge’s family drama, I’d say she  definitely married well.

About Photo+Story: Inspired by a competition at the RootsTech 2018 genealogy conference, the series distills family stories to a single photo plus 150 words or less.

Life of the Party

Amelie “Emily” Lafleur Fontenot (1900-1985) in her Baton Rouge home, Christmas 1973

Aunt Emily loved a party. With a “heavy on the bourbon, light on the Coca Cola” drink in hand and a full repertoire of bawdy jokes in mind, she kept us all entertained. That is, until her jokes got too risqué and our parents sent us children out of the living room.

In her later years, as her memory began to fade and her eyes grew weak, she would read her jokes off index cards with reading glasses, pulled out from her purse with her signature dramatic flair. Continue reading “Life of the Party”