The crusty old pirate was tall, dark, and sinister-looking with large, gaudy earrings, the type worn by buccaneers of the Spanish Main. Trief would often ramble on about stories of long ago when he plied his trade with a notorious bunch of pirates.
No one knew when the scary, old dweller in the cabin near the coulee came, but tales by the Acadian fireside on a cold winter’s evening when the back-log burned low and the kildee’s spirit cry echoed over the prairie, weird tales were told of many pirate misdeeds as young cheeks paled at the realization of the many awful crusades, in which the strange pirate was always the villain.
When Jean Baptiste Trief died, probably about 1842, his name was given to the little stream nearby, and in 1902, it was known as Coulee Trief, along with the post office. That is until the Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad section foreman, who lived at Coulee Trief, determined that the post office should no longer bear the name of a notorious pirate.
The section foreman sought to have the name changed to a more suitable or acceptable name. A name like, well like his own name for instance. Only problem was, no one seemed to remember his name, and a Dr. Wood also wanted the town named after him; after all, his was a more prominent and important name.
Quite a bit of rivalry entered into the mix, and a compromise soon ensued; using the first name of the section foreman’s wife, which was Esther; and the last name of the doctor, thus Estherwood was given to the world. Sort of like when the Southern Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads merged years ago, except there was no compromise. The first name of the UP was used and the last name of the SP was used.
The Estherwood name change took place in about 1882. In 1891, Jacob Kollitz, would later become known as the father of Estherwood, and A. D. LeBlanc, settled near the old buccaneer’s cabin.
In 1902, it was recorded that land value had increased from $2.50 to $30 an acre. A distinctive feature of the social life of Estherwood was the Acadia Social Club, “organized primarily to give the young men of Estherwood a place of amusement without compelling them to resort to the bar-room and gave the farmers and businessmen a clubroom where they could exchange ideas and for social recreation.”
The club maintained a reading room, which may have been the first library in Acadia Parish.
Some say that on moonless nights the hollow clanging sound of a buoy’s bell is heard; a flickering light can be seen in the distant woods, and sometimes, when its really quiet, a faint image of the reclusive pirate appears.
William J. Thibodeaux is a former resident of Rayne, now living in Lafayette with Elaine, his wife of thirty-two years. Mr. Thibodeaux can be reached at email@example.com