The more I research these islands, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do it sooner. I can’t help but think I could have used this locale for the big climax with Carol Scape in Restored Grace….maybe in future Bay Town Book.
I tend to go on rabbit trails, and I’ll try and stick to this tiny wilderness paradise, Petit De Bois. Although, I’ll have to introduce you to Dauphin Island off the Alabama shore. Let me establish that much of Petit De Bois Island’s history shares its legends and explorer stories with Dauphin Island.
Petite de Bois and Dauphin Island
Massacre Island makes for a wild side story. Although historians have now credited the name to Petite De Bois Island. Maps show that prior to 1732, it was connected to Dauphin Island’s barrier reef. A complete breach most likely happened after the 1740 hurricane.
But I’ll take you back to 1699 when a French explorer came upon Dauphin Island (already explored by the Spanish). The sailors of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville’s expedition, brother to the Horn Island explorer, are credited with having discovered a mound of bounds. The location was a section of Dauphin Island island that broke off to form Petite De Bois. Obviously, this was a favorable name change which means Little Woods.
A Mound of Bones
A Massacre sounds much more interesting than a burial ground, but that’s the final conclusion. It’s assumed that an indigenous tribe buried their dead there. The burial ground was uncovered through storms and hurricanes, leaving the remains visibly atop the sand when the explorers arrived. Reading the original source manuscripts, I’m surprised they came up with that conclusion. Perhaps another author did too. Here’s a fictional book available on Amazon.
Three different accounts attest to the supposed massacre.
From the journals of the explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, and Andre Penicaut, the ship carpenter come first-hand depictions. M. Le Page Dupratz, an ethnographer, historian, and naturalist who wrote The History of Louisiana in 1718, elaborates.
Le Page tells the most complete story. Although he wasn’t present at the initial discovery, he writes the account as given to the French explorers by natives on the mainland. The story tells that indigenous tribes on the coast warred with each other, and a weaker tribe retreated to Dauphin Island. Hoping to settle there peacefully, they were followed brutally attacked again. Those who survived succumbed to disease.
Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville’s log tells us that they found household items along the beach, and he concluded that the remains were not more than three to four years before their arrival.
Andre Penicaut, the ship carpenter, credits the Mobila natives with the bones. Yet historical accounts put that small tribal nation in the Alabama River Region.
Penicaut reported that after the slaughter, the Mobila’s (Mobile) gathered the remains into a pile. Other than his comment about them, I couldn’t find the mention of any other tribe.
Whether a massacre or a burial the ship carpenter’s journal entry read, “… we became terrified at finding such a prodigious number of human skeletons that they formed a mountain….” His words lead me to my hasty conclusion that perhaps it was the Chitimacha tribe.
Personally, I think it was the Chitimacha Tribe. If I had more time, I’d contact their nation, but I had to limit my research to the internet. Since before the explorers, the Chitimacha Tribe resided in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast, and they have a fascinating burial practice that includes mounding up bones. Their ritual is much more elaborate than any other Louisiana Tribe.
Brutal battles ensued between the Chitimacha tribes and the French. But in1718, they signed a truce with Bienville, the Governor of Louisiana, one of the explorer brothers. The story has it that a small band of indigenous people marched into New Orleans seeking peace at the governor’s request.
Sadly, as part of their treaty, they signed over much of their lands. Previously they occupied over one-third of present-day Louisiana. Even worse was the enslavement and treatment that followed. Today, the nation thrives to maintain their culture. Please check out the link above. Here’s a simple recipe I found on their website.
Perhaps Second Chance Vintage Thrift Shop, or Boutique as Carol prefers, might carry replicas of artifacts from this tribe. They are now known for their colorful, intricate basket weaving.
How’s that for a rabbit trail! Here’s a link to a post about Second Chance.
Gulf Island Wilderness
What will you find on Petite De Bois Island today? No memorial to the massacre or burial grounds. You’ll have to go to Alabama for that.
But, along with Horn Island, Petite de Bois is a sanctioned wilderness area. It has the highest level of federal protection where plants and animals thrive in their natural habitat. Still, we can visit by private craft. The unspoiled isle spills over with ponds, lagoons, and marshes. The shallow water ripples with seagrass beds that shelter young fish. Splash Pines provide shade for the day traveler, although many trees expired in Hurricane Katrina. There remains enough cover for those seeking a day’s solitude or for the primitive camper.
Along with many birds, alligators, raccoons, frogs, and snakes make their home on Petit De Bois Island. On second thought, at the discovery of snakes, I may not join you on this jaunt.
But here’s a fun underwater dive with a little of the island’s sea life and an exploration of an ancient shipwreck. This I might like to see.
Petite De Bois’s Future
Sadly, the island is shrinking. But there’s good news. According to the National Parks Service Website, the Corp of Engineers is dredging sand to form a new island called West Petit Bois Island. Plant and animal life will find their way to the developing island, creating another wilderness. “The impermanence and ever-changing environments of barrier islands are what make them so unique. You never visit the same barrier island twice.”
Three More Days to Enter
Tomorrow we’ll visit Round Island. I hope they don’t have snakes, but I’ll see what stories I can dig up that might match our heroine Carol Scape’s adventurous spirit.
Please comment on my Facebook pages to enter a chance to win the Book Box of Treasures. Just three more days to enter.
Since the drawing will be held by the archaic method, names in a hat, I may stream it live on Facebook… we’ll see, so stay tuned.
God bless your weekend and enjoy each moment the Lord has given you. It serves a purpose, whether we know it or not. Serving Him brings our greatest joy.