Heart of Louisiana: Bousillage House

Heart of Louisiana: Bousillage House

POINT BLUE, La. (WVUE) - There may be no better example of, “they don’t make things like they used to," than an old Arcadian house in the farming community of Point Blue. The family home was built out of mud and wood and has survived for about 180 years.

On the outside, it just looks like an old house, well-worn but still livable. But, when you step inside, the aging structure is full of treasures that its owner, J.D. Soileau, chose to tell a story of how people lived a century ago -- like his grandmother’s spinning wheel and a hand-spun blanket she made with it.

Soileau also has a quilt, made by his aunt, out of tobacco sacks.

“She collected all the little sacks, cleaned them, dyed them, and stuffed them with cotton. And then she put them together,” Soileau said.

The house is also part of the collection.

“I’ve been collecting old things and this was the biggest piece I collected,” Soileau explained.

The house was given to him 20 years ago, by a friend and fellow farmer, 96-year-old Woodrow Veillon, who said it was built by his grandfather.

“I asked him what he was gonna do with it. Well, he said ‘One of these days. I’m going to go with a box of matches, set it on fire,’” Soileau remembered. “Or he said ‘give it away.’ He said, ‘You want it?’ I said, ‘Yes.’”

The house is made of bousillage, a technique used by early Arcadian settlers, who mixed mud and moss to plaster the walls.

“The moss was gathered, and they dig the hole, and they got dirt, and they put the moss in the water, and just stomping the mixture,”Soileau explained.

Soileau moved the old house to his farm at point blue and mixed mud from his rice fields with moss to patch a few holes.

The nails are a clue to the home’s age.

“Each one is different. They were made individually in a blacksmith shop,” he explained. “[Veillon] guesstimated the age in the 1840s."

The house itself is something of a time capsule, made perhaps 180 years ago from soil that became farmland. Soileau had the soil analyzed.

“When the results came in, and I went to a show over to the the county agents and he was surprised and how high some of the nutrients were,” Soileau said.

Having been the caretaker for such a strong piece of history for so long, Soileau said he worries about who will take over when he is no longer able.

“I just hope some of my family or the young ones can maybe save some pieces, save as much as they can. And if they don’t want to, I hope they can give it to some organization,” Soileau.

Soileau said he knows there is value to this old house, and the stories it can tell about life on a south Louisiana farm by some of the first settlers in this area.

The house is not open for regular tours, but the Soileau hosts visitors and school tours when people ask about seeing it.

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