At this time of year, when families gather together and offer thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon them, it is an appropriate time to recognize a few Creole matriarchs. These dutiful wives, mothers, and grandmothers were incredibly strong and served as the backbones of their families. Briefly profiled below are matriarchs from four communities – New Orleans, Mobile, Lafayette, and Opelousas.
Odile Gibson was born on 26 October 1860 at Mon Louis Island, Alabama. Mon Louis Island is a beautiful Creole community situated on an island along the Alabama Gulf Coast in Mobile Bay. Her mother, Mary Chastang, was belonged from one of the oldest families in the Mobile area. The Chastangs descend from Dr. Jean-Baptiste Chastang and his longtime partner, Louison, négresse libre. As a young woman, Odile worked as a seamstress while residing with her relatives, the Petites. Odile was married to Francis Xavier Collins on 17 February 1885 at Saint Vincent de Paul Church. Her husband, “Frank,” as he was called, was the son of Jean Colin (anglicized to Collins) and Leonine Durette. Frank spent his entire life working as a ship carpenter in the boat yard owned by his family. Odile and Frank were among the first members of Saint Rose de Lima Parish on Mon Louis Island, which was dedicated in 1892. Together they had children Dennis A. Collins; Ernest Collins; Laurida “Rita” Collins (Mrs. Walter Chastang); Agnes Olivia Collins (Mrs. Walter Barial); Nettie Veronice Collins; Percy A. Collins; Perry Collins; Mary Margaret Collins (Mrs. Rudolph English); Rupert Collins; and Elisabeth Odile Collins (Mrs. Eugene Barnum). Her husband died in 1916, leaving her to complete the rearing of the three youngest children, Margaret, Rupert, and Odile. At the time of her death on 5 September 1947, Mrs. Collins was the oldest surviving inhabitant of Mon Louis Island. She had attained the venerable age of eighty-seven years. She was survived by six children, thirty-six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. She was laid to rest in the cemetery of Saint Rose de Lima Parish on Mon Louis Island.
Marie-Louise Mouton was born on 10 December 1882 at Lafayette, Louisiana. She was the second oldest of seven surviving children born to Antoine Mouton and Azélie Jolivette. Louise was married to Arthur Bourges on 1901. Initially, they resided in Scott, a small town about five miles outside of Lafayette. Arthur worked on his own account as a very successful painter and paper hanger in the Lafayette area. Together, they maintained a comfortable home for their children at 416 South Washington Street in Lafayette. They opened their home often to visiting friends, who dubbed it the “White House” of Lafayette. They were early members of Saint Paul’s Parish in Lafayette. Their son, the Reverend Anthony Bourges, S.V.D., was one of the first four African-American Divine Word Missionaries. They had the joy of seeing him return to Lafayette in 1934 as the first pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish. Their other children were: Laura Bourges (Mrs. Louis Benjamin); Arthur, Bourges Jr.; Felix Bourges, and Benedict. Mrs. Bourges died on 8 August 1951 at the age of sixty-eight years old. Her husband of fifty years, Arthur Bourges, Sr., died on 14 November 1966.
Marie-Arthemise Donatto was born in Opelousas, Louisiana on 16 March 1882 to George Donatto and Marie Giron. Through her mother and father’s families, she was tied to nearly all of the major Creole families in the Opelousas section. Her father died early in life, which forced her to add the task of assisting her mother with her younger seven siblings to her duties as a wife and mother. She attended Saint Joseph’s Academy maintained in Opelousas by the Sisters of the Holy Family. In 1898, she married Ernest Chachere, the son of Louis Ernest Chachere and Leontine Collins. Their union was blessed with twelve children, nine boys and three girls – Loither, Lancelot, Carl, Carmen George, Earl Lawrence, Raymond Louis, Marion, Alton Alphonse, Aloysius, Dorothy (Mrs. Howard Mack), Claudian (Mrs. Henry Finks), and Gertrude Chachere. Mrs. Chachere had the great joy of seeing two of her sons raised to the priesthood, the Reverend Carmen George Chachere, S.V.D. and the Reverend Earl Lawrence Chachere, M.S.S.T. Mrs. Chachere remained the center of her large and loving family until her death on 28 June 1970 at the venerable old age of eighty-eight years.
Marie Alexandrie Lyons was born in New Orleans on Roman Street near Columbus Street on 16 February 1885. Her father was William Lyons. Her mother was the former St.-Elia Marguerite Baquet, an early member of the famed family of restaurateurs. Mary Alexandrie attended the school conducted by the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and Saint Mary’s Academy in the Vieux Carré. Like so many of the children of the old Creole families, she made her First Communion within the venerable old Saint Louis Cathedral. On 24 April 1906, “Dedine,” as she was called, was married to Mr. Henry Bernard Broyard within the Church of Saint Katherine on Tulane Avenue. To their union were born ten children, eight of whom lived to adulthood. These children were: Private Randolph Broyard, Staff Sergeant Paul Broyard, Corporal St. Clair Broyard, Corporal Samuel Broyard, Private William Broyard, Miss Cornelia Broyard, and Sister Mary Clarisse Broyard, S.S.F. As featured in a previous article, five of Mrs. Broyard’s sons served in the armed forces during World War II. Mrs. Broyard died on 1 August 1966 at eighty-one years old.
Jari C. Honora
Sources: The Claverite (May 1943), page 3; (October 1947), page 11; (May 1947), page 9.