Namesake for Bayou Caddy
Penicaut: “After three days we left that place [Bay of St, Louis] and three leagues away we found a creek up which the tide ascends. The savages who were guiding us led us to believe that this creek went into a big lake; but, as we were not sure of their words, we made signs to them that we wanted to go on.”
Thus Andre Penicaut, an expert ship builder who traveled with Iberville, described Bayou Caddy in 1699. His text goes on to confirm the location, as two leagues later he tells of what we now call Heron Bay. It was to be many years later, in the early part of the nineteenth century, that this little – but important – bayou was explored and settled by someone other than a full-blooded Indian, this time in the person of Jean Cadet LaFontaine.
Now, another century and a half later, we can record more information about this settler through the research done by his great, great granddaughter, one of our own society members. She is Bertha “Bert” Ladner Nicaise, an accomplished genealogist.
Her ancestry is indeed rich in the names of many of those who came early on, to what would eventually become Mississippi. They include such illustrious names as Simon Favre and Christian L’Adnier. The Nicaise family itself is one of the earliest in the Bay St. Louis area, having acquired their land from the Sauciers, recorded as the earliest residents of what is now Bay St. Louis. Madame Charlot, according to Bert’s research, was the mother-in-law of Cadet LaFontaine, and left to him and his wife Celeste a large section of the downtown area. Madame Charlot’s land grant dates from 1781.
So who was the man who went up this bayou to settle as a pioneer, the waterway becoming known by a corruption of his name as Bayou Caddy? Jean, whose father was Jean Pierre LaFontaine, was named Jean “Cadet” LaFontaine, which translates as the “youngest son.” He was born in New Orleans on April 5, 1795.
His ancestors have been traced to his great grandparents, Jean Frederique dit LaFontaine and Marie Isabelle La Vallee, natives of France. Jean Frederique had sailed from his homeland on the ship Phillippe, out of La Rochelle. (This was the same seaport that was the birthplace of the historian Penicaut, quoted above.) They were married in New Orleans in 1728, only ten years after the founding of the city by Bienville.
Exactly when Cadet first sailed his schooner up Bayou Caddy cannot be known, but it is recorded that he was given land as payment for his service in the War of 1812, possibly at New Orleans. This is referred to in our county deed books as “Military Bounty Land Act of 28 September 1850.” Undoubtedly, he had settled up the bayou long before the grant. [Note: Marco’s notes show that Charlot and Favre sold 3 arpents to Jean Pierre LaFontaine on 10-17-1784. Perhaps land settled at Bayou Caddy could have been Caddy’s father’s]
Bert states that Cadet was part Choctaw, and his wife Celeste was Indian, presumably Choctaw. They married in 1821. Quoting Bert, they “raised eight children, three girls and five boys. They all lived in this same area except the youngest son. He lived in Dillville, now called Bayou Lacroix. They all had large families.”
Many of their descendants still live in the area, and many of those who have passed on are buried in the Bayou Caddy cemetery. It is a quaint, well manicured cemetery, not far from the site of Cadet’s home, now demolished. Bert’s grandmother’s home still stands, however; originally a log cabin, it is now covered with siding and not recognizable as such. Just outside the cemetery grounds, it is believed to be the oldest house in the area.
The cemetery is the result of a gift of 4.3 acres by Celeste, after Cadet’s death. His tomb is prominently marked, showing the commemoration of his service in the War of 1812. He died in 1852.
Their son donated an acre of land, on which the picturesque little white church was built. It is known as “St. Ann’s Mission,” and still stands on Lower Bay Road, very near the cemetery and other land still owned by descendants, ten acres being in Bert’s name.
There is so much information in Bert’s records that it would take a book to do justice to it. For now, some of the history of Cadet LaFontaine and other relatives will be added to the society’s files. Bert’s efforts are sincerely appreciated by this writer, and he is confident that her efforts will be helpful to others interested in recording the history of our area.
– Russell B. Guerin