Ascension Parish and River Road toward Baton Rouge – Ascension Parish
This entry continues my historic oak exploration through the Ascension Parish area. While searching for 30-foot plus size trees, I located a few very large oaks with long and interesting histories. And though not quite in the 30-foot circumference category, they are still quite old and beautiful and are worth sharing as part of my longer documentation of the 100 oldest live oaks in Louisiana.
The Dr. Duffel Oak (#2487 on the Live Oak Society registry) is located on the grounds of Mulberry Grove Plantation, just a few miles above Donaldsonville on State Highway 405 (which is the west bank river road in this section of the Mississippi River).
The Dr. Duffel Oak and a younger tree, the Miss Hattie Oak (LOS #2485), are both located at Mulberry Grove and are sponsored by the Noel family, who own and live on the historic plantation grounds. Dr. Duffel is listed as 29’-5” in girth on the LOS registry; my measurement placed it at 26’-3”; Miss Hattie is listed at 26’-3”; my measurement was 24’-10”.
Mulberry Grove was built for Dr. Edward Duffel, a native of Virginia, but a direct descendant on his mother’s side of Acadians from Nova Scotia. Edward was educated at St. Mary’s College in Missouri and graduated from the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1833. In addition to being a doctor and a planter, Dr. Duffel was a member of the Louisiana state legislature, a delegate to the LA. state constitutional convention of 1852 and a delegate to the secessionist convention in 1861.
The Dr. Duffel Oak was planted either near the time that the plantation was constructed, around 1836, or possibly it was already growing when the plantation was built—making it approximately 180 to 200 years of age.
A bit further up Hwy. 405 toward White Castle, located on the property of Mr. J. M. Evans, is the Claiborne Plantation Oak, #2422 on the LOS registry and originally registered by Mrs. Oscar Evans. When registered, this oak was listed with a girth of 28’-8”; my measurement placed it at 26’-8”. It’s a beautiful sprawling live oak growing in the back of the Evans’ home with views of acres of cow pastures.
According to the wonderful reference book, Along River Road, Past and Present on Louisiana’s Historic Byway, written by Mary Ann Sternberg and published by LSU Press, Claiborne Plantation was named for William C. C. Claiborne, Governor of the Orleans Territory in 1803 (land contained in the Louisiana Purchase). In 1811 Claiborne wrote to Julien Poydras that he had bought a plantation and would become a “plain, simple planter.” Though soon after he was elected as the first governor of the new state of Louisiana (1812), and in 1817 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, but died before taking office.
At 26 feet 8 inches in circumference, the Claiborne Plantation Oak is easily 205 years of age (as old as Claiborne’s purchase of the land) and quite possibly older.
(Next entry: The Governor’s Oak in Baton Rouge )