The sugar cane industry is a vital part of the Iberia Parish economy, as well as its history. Many roads around the parish are subsequently named for sugar plantations and their owners, and the subject is not without controversy.
Belle Place Olivier Rd / Orange Grove Ave: Orange Grove Plantation ran from the Teche south toward Lydia. The plantation store still stands near Lydia. Another name for this plantation was “the Olivier Plantation.”
Lydia Plantation Rd: near Orange Grove/Olivier.
Belmont Rd: Belmont Plantation home still stands today, but it is a replica of the original home that burned in the 20th century. The same family, however, owns the home today. Also known as the Wyche plantation.
Plantation Drive: unable to find a direct connection with a particular plantation.
Marshfield Rd: This was the plantation of Jonas Marsh, whose brother owned a sugar plantation on Avery Island. They were originally from Rahway, New Jersey.
S Hopkins St: Named for El Dorado plantation owner Harvey Hopkins.
S Weeks St: Named for Shadows on the Teche owner David Weeks.
Vida Shaw Rd: Named for the owners of Hopeland Plantation, located on Highway 344, between New Iberia and Loreauville.
Darby Lane: ran through the Darby plantation. Federal troops encamped near the plantation during the Civil War, according to New Iberia by Glenn R. Conrad. Wikipedia states that the plantation house was originally on the National Register of Historic Places, but was abandoned and destroyed by fire in the 1970s. Around 2002, architect Perry Segura started building a replica of the mansion at its original place, while modifying its original appearance. The house was finally removed from the National Register in January 2019.
It is important to note that these names also represent unbalanced times in our history, when the contributions of African-Americans, forced into labor as slaves on these plantations, were ignored. Many of the plantation owners became wealthy because of the labor borne by these slaves.
Phebe Hayes, PhD, local historian and founder of the Iberia African American Historical Society, points out that “We must never forget the role enslaved people played in the success of the sugar industry. West Africans, in particular, were prized by Louisiana plantation owners because of the extensive agricultural knowledge they possessed about crops like sugar cane and rice. Louisiana saw the rise of the ‘planter class’ (plantation system) directly because of the African men, women, and children forced to work on its plantations.”
She further notes that we must recognize that lingering references to slave owners and segregationists exist, and now is the time to “communicate an inclusive history of Iberia Parish by adding the names of African American historical figures to our narrative. This would lead us to consider important 19th and 20th century African Americans who contributed to the history of education, medicine, public service, politics, business, military service in Iberia Parish, as well as others who I think many Iberians may have never heard of before.”
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