Not long after the marriage tragedy struck. During the Civil War, Celestine became very ill. Sensing her approaching death, we were told that a rosary around Celestine's neck dedicating her to the service of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. Celestine died from her illness but due to a Civil War blockade near Grand Coteau, the funeral procession was not allowed to proceed to the cemetery and the only recourse was to bury the body in the front yard of her father's home which was located just west of the present residence of Dr. Ralph and Alice Speyrer Finley. After restrictions were relaxed, her body was exhumed and taken to the cemetery in Grand Coteau. Celestine's mother was not present for the event as she had retired to the back of the house and declined to witness the removal of the damp and decaying box which contained the body of her only daughter. Today it lies in the peace and quite of the cemetery of Grand Coteau. For many decades a depression in the ground remained at the original burial site.
Marie Josephine was the only child left by Celestine and she wasted no time in becoming the spoiled pet of the household. One may imagine, being the only girl in the family. She often bragged about the many piggy-back rides given to her by uncles.
She began her married life at the early age of thirteen, marrying first Felix Boudreau and upon his death, Joseph T. Meche, a widower. Felix Boudreau was educated at Grand Coteau and later became postmaster of Leonville. It was a prankster, who after Felix had died gave Uncle 'Def', as Joseph was known, the courage to hasten his proposal to Josephine. For one day Def heard a mysterious angelic voice telling him to hurry to his lover's side. "Oh, 'Def', Phine t'appel" was all it the spirited messenger had to say. Non Def forthwith hitched his horse and fairly flew to the fair widow's side and they were married shortly thereafter. Nonc Def will always be remembered for his erect posture, long white beard and a noticeable depression on his forehead deeply creased by a whiskey bottle which found its mark. Of course, it was always better to say that a horse had kicked him there; we found out the truth later on. Nor will anyone forget that he was which is generally called 'tight.' On a camping trip he stayed three days without smoking rather than pay five cents more than he thought a clay pipe was worth.
I will always remember Tante Phine, as Josephine was generally called. As children we would delight in going to her house for an afternoon visit. A visit to Tante Phine's was always associated with either hot cakes, butter cookies, white yams or bread and sugar. She also had a pair of binoculars which was a special attraction to every child. She would occasionally let us look at the pictures in pauvre Felix's old books. One remembers that once upon a time there were quite a few, but towards the end they were fast disappearing. She had absolutely no use for them as she never attended a day of school in her life. In spite of a happy married life, in two installments, she had no children of her own. She did, however, adopt two orphans whom she raised with due affection and motherly love. Tante Phine later in life became the housekeeper to Father Maluchait, a task which she enjoyed.
LOUIS CONRAD SPEYRER
Louis returned from the Civil War none the worse for his experience. He served in Company B, 7th Louisiana Cavalry (See http://www.youngsanders.org/ ). On November 9, 1867 he married Virginie Felecia Carrier, who was known to us as Tante Felicia. God blessed this union with twelve children, five boys and seven girls. A quite and reserved man, who spent most of his life as a farmer, Louis breathed his last on a warm midsummer morning on August 14, 1928. He had been proceeded in death by every member of his family except his youngest brother, Jules.
From his residence next door to the Arthur LaHaye's, his body was carried by hand to St Leo's Church for services and burial. Tante Felecia survived him by a number of years.
JEAN BATISTE SPEYRER
(See photo of Jean Batiste Speyrer)
He married Marie Letitia Meche on October 25, 1869. Of this union, ten children were born, four daughters and six sons. Hypolite, born in January of 1881, was the first American baby seen by Christophe Cuntz, who had been a neighbor of the Speyrer family in Germany and who later joined Conrad in America. The children of Jean Batiste followed in the footsteps of their father. They reflected the stature and the manners of their deceased father. They were all big, generous and friendly men. And if Nonc Teese had the strength to single handedly carry an anvil and huge block out of a burning blacksmith shop, there is every reason to believe that his sons and many of his grandsons could have done the same. All six boys grew up to be farmers and one or the other continued their father's interest in raising fine horses and mules. Jean Batiste died of diabetes in 1923 and was interred in the Grand Coteau cemetery.
JOSEPH CONRAD SPEYRER
He was born on June 10, 1850 and died on February 2, 1909. His first marriage was to Alida Boudreau. The marriage took place on August 16, 1873 and lasted until his wife's death on August 10, 1882. Joseph Conrad's second wife was Clothilde DeJean, the daughter of Edmond DeJean and Clothilde Lastrapes. This marriage took place on January 15, 1883. She died two years after her husband. The Speyrer family name was terminated at this branch of the family since of the five sons (out of thirteen children:), Felix died at age 7, Bernard died during the year of his birth, Joseph Edmond and Edouarad Jean had no children and Camille Joseph had two daughters but no sons.
JULES CONRAD SPEYRER
At an early age Jules began to manifest signs of musical talent. The violin of his youth was crude. You may imagine his delight when together with a few comrades, white and colored, they entertained their elders on a Sunday afternoon. His music began to be in demand as his homely tunes and folk songs pleased the listeners. Perhaps it was this demand for outside performances which prompted him one day to ask his father to buy for him his first pair of shoes now that he had become 16 years old. He must have thought that it was time for something else other than home-made raw hide moccasins.
During the Civil War, Jules Conrad was a lad in his early teens. Unfortunately, the Union soldiers confiscated his prized small sized saddle but he was able to save his father's spurs by hiding them in a small pile of hay. As a boy Jules Conrad was weaker and in poorer health than his other brothers and his parents, feeling that he did not have the strength to operate a blacksmith shop or be a farmer, suggested that he open a store instead. Following their advice Jules Conrad was able to go into business by borrowing $10.00 from a merchant named Leon Camis, the person who whom Leonville was purportedly named. The store was located near Conrad's house. He had so little merchandise that each night he was able to put his entire inventory in a sack and carry it home. Later, realizing that the center of Leonville would be nearer Bayou Teche he built his home and store near the Leonville four corners. He often recounted the story to me how Indians would come to buy whiskey from him which was dispensed from a large barrel. Noting that the hump at the bottom of the bottle prevented them from getting a true bottles worth of whiskey. the Indians would insist that after the bottle was filled that it be sealed, turned over and then the cavity filled. This obviously would be one for the road!
In his Leonville store my father was aided by his son Audrey who died from typhoid fever in 1915. The following year he closed his tore. He also had a cotton gin, moss gin and grits mill located near his father's house on property presently owned by Dr. Ralph and Alice Speyrer Finley. In his early manhood he was a horse trader and often rounded up his cattle and accompanied them to New Orleans for sale. The trip was made by steamboat from Port Barre. Once while attempting to get water for his cattle with a bucket and rope, he was almost swept overboard by the current. He also was a buyer and seller of hides and skins.
Jules Conrad was married twice. First to Eulalie Richard on September 5, 1876 who died on March 31, 1912. He then married Edna Guidry in December of 1915. His second marriage was not approved of by his children of the first marriage but in time grew to be more accepting. He died of a stroke on November 23, 1936 at his residence in Leonville. His widow, Edna, lived to the age of 96 and died on February 20, 1987. She kept her sense of humor and full mental faculties to the very end of her life.