Memorabilia from the West Feliciana Railroad, arrowheads in various shapes and sizes, costumes encased in glass, paintings, photographs, letters and a extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits were showcased Aug. 15 at Night at the Museum, a fundraiser and membership drive for the West Feliciana Historical Society and Museum.
Colorful historical figures, whose lives weave the fabric of West Feliciana Parish history, came to life at the event thanks to volunteer actors and residents: Darlene Reaves as Elena Percy; Kathryn Ward as Rachel Swayze Bell O’Connor; Kent Howard as Samuel McCutcheon Lawrason; Jennifer Felton as Sara Knox Taylor Davis; Ed Lanius as Mike Fink; Paul Martin as William Walter Leake; and Pam Freshney as Eloise Parker.
“My son’s widow left our family estate to the town of St. Francisville after I made a fortune in California, where I showed the boys from my hometown a real good time on their way to World War II. I delighted in buzzing back to the ’Ville in a pink Cadillac chauffeured by muscle-bound beach boys and scandalizing all the old biddies,” Freshney said as Parker.
The historical narratives were written by author and St. Francisville native Anne Butler.
“The Glory Days and Bayou Sara,” “Rebellion! The Republic of West Florida,” “The Plantation Legacy,” “The New Plantation Economy,” “We Worship Together,” which is about the parish’s many historical churches, as well as other exhibits on the parish’s land, the first people and the early settlers have been recently professionally redesigned.
Miniature likenesses of John James Audubon, Eliza Pirrie and Lucy Audubon, of Oakley Plantation, are encased in glass, as are artifacts from the Hardware Store, which was built in 1888 and is now the restored Historical Society Museum and Tourist Information Center on Ferdinand Street.
“It’s about protecting and preserving what we have,” said board member Rob Field Jr., who represents a third generation West Feliciana Parish family. “What’s special about St. Francisville is its history, the level of community involvement and maintaining what we all had as kids.”
Field asked for donations from guests at the event, saying any contributions received during the fundraiser would be matched dollar for dollar by the board.
Besides Field, board members include Dorcas Brown, Robert O. Butler Jr., Lucie Leake Cassity, Beryl Gene Daniel, President Leigh Anne Jones, Rucker and Sylvia Leake, Clara Ruth Saint, Thomas and Dorothy Temple, Susie Tully and charter member Nancy Vinci, who founded the nonprofit Historical Society in the late 1960s with emeritus member Libby Dart.
The board orchestrates the annual Audubon Pilgrimage, oversees museum property and membership, acts as community liaison, promotes and publicizes the museum, and organizes events and programs.
Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit ongoing preservation projects and maintenance on restored historic structures.
To become a member of the Historical Society or to make a donation, visit westfeliciana historicalsociety.org/.