Sunday, April 28, 2013

Houmas House

Houmas House - Former Residence of Oliver Beirne

A Google search on steamboat Captain James Beirne, founder of the hamlet Beirne, AK,  brings back "Steamboat Oliver Beirne".  So who was Oliver Beirne?

Oliver Beirne was the son of Andrew Beirne (1771-1845) an Irish immigrant to the United States from Dangan Co. Roscommon.  Andrew sold lumber and farmed in Union, Monroe County, Va., during the early nineteenth century. He served in state and national politics, and during the War of 1812, he served as captain of a rifle company and as colonel of the Monroe County militia.   His son, Oliver, developed sugar plantations in Ascension Parish, Louisiana and his residence was Houmas House on the Houmas Plantation.

Oliver Beirne's daughter, Betty, married William Porcher Miles (1822-1899), a mayor of Charleston, S.C., and a Democratic member of the U. S. House of Representatives from 1857 until South Carolina seceded.  After the Civil war, Oliver Beirne made Miles manager of the Houmas Plantation Louisiana.  Oliver Beirne had inherited Houmas from his friend John Burnside (d. 1881). Miles managed these plantations until his death in 1899.

At its peak in 1857, the Houmas plantation has over 10,000 acres and 800 slaves.  The principal crop was sugar.  Following the death of Miles in 1899, the property began to be divided up and the house began to fall into disrepair.   It was restored to its present glory in 1940 and was the setting for "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte" in 1963.

The magnificent house stands on the banks of the Mississippi about 60 miles west of New Orleans and is open for tours.  Add another site to the bucket list of "must visit".

When you own a place like this,
you get a steamboat named after you...

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