Worker’s House

Indigo kettle
An indigo kettle at Volumnia Farm


The creation of using indigo as a dye has existed for over 6000 years in all parts of the world from Peru to Japan. This pot made of wrought iron was invented before the civil war and used around the same time as the sugar kettle. Wild indigo grew on the farm and this kettle was used to help dye clothes for people that lived and worked on the farm.

Most sugar kettles are fairly common in the yards of Louisiana today as decorations. However, this indigo kettle may be one of the only ones left of its kind. Indigo was made even more popular with the invention of denim jeans on 1871 by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss.

Farm bell
The Farm bell at Volumnia Farm


Farm bells were used as a form of communication: to call workers to and from work, or for alarms in case of emergencies, notification of deaths, births and marriages.

The bell rang five times a day for ten minutes: one hour before sunrise to wake the workers up and then again at sunrise to begin the work day; at 12 noon and 1pm for an hour lunch break, and then an hour before dark to end the work day. On the farm there was a six day work week, with Sunday being the only day off.

A constant rapid ringing was an alarm of a fire or some other serious danger. A slow consistent ringing was for a death of someone on the farm. Finally, a steady medium ringing was usually a sign of a marriage, births or some other joyous occasion.

A clam shells road at Volumnia Farm
A clam shells road at Volumnia Farm


No rocks of any kind are found naturally within a hundreds miles of Volumnia Farm, but sea shells (La Coquille) were found in abundance in the coastal waters and marshes nearby. Therefore shells were used in construction in place of rocks.

Seashells were normally used in cement by burning shells to create quicklime then mixing it water and either ash, sand, Spanish moss or in this case other clam shells. Historically the Moors brought it to Spain and from there the Spaniards brought the idea to the Americas in the 16 th century which can be seen in Florida as well. Clam shells were used to make it stronger because there are no stones or rocks that are natural to the area.

There is a line of clam shell mounds from east to west in the marshes across Terrebonne Parish (called Indian middens) that were built by native Americans hundreds of years ago before Columbus. Clams were a very important part of the diet of early Native American inhabitants of the Parish and so much clams was consumed that over centuries large islands made of clam shells were common.

Some of the shell islands in the marshes across the Parish were four or five acres in area raising seven feet above the marsh and thirty feet deep, indicating that the native Americans occupied the mounds for centuries to accumulate such a large quantity of shells. Canals were dug through the marsh to mine and transport the clam shells in the area to be used for construction material on roads and wherever rocks would normally be used.

I don’t think that people considered the archaeological importance of these mounds, because they were also the burial site of the people and contained many ancient artifacts. A fair number of the mounds are still intact and fortunately now protected and preserved by law.

Oysters grow in abundance in the waters of Terrebonne Parish and are consumed in great quantities by the local people. And clam shells mined at the indian middens oyster shells (La coquille des huidre) were also used for construction.

The grist mill
The grist mill


The ecology in Terrebonne Parish was not conducive to most grain crops such as wheat and rice and the only grain crop that was easily grown and very productive in the 1800’s was corn.

Volumnia Farm has a grist mill on the farm that is now almost 200 years old and was used during the 1800’s to make corn flower, corn meal, and grist. Corn bread or grist were eaten at every meal and were as a principal part of the diet as rice and bread are today.

The Dutch used the wind powered wind mills to turn the stones and in New England water-powered wheels were used but in South Louisiana in the 1800’s horses and mules were used to turn the stones.

Mill stones always come in pairs, called the bed stone or bottom stone that does not turn, and the runner stone that turns on the top. The stones have groves cut into them and the grain is feed into the center. The runner stone turns and the grain is cut between the two stones and the groves slowly move the grain outward.

About 1840 Bartholomew Barrow of Aston Villa built a bigger and newer grist mill and gave the old millstones (the ones that are at Volumnia Farm) to his son R.R.Barrow. The grist mill at the Farm is said to have operated until the late 1800’s when new more modern cast iron farm mills became available, were simpler and easier to operate, and were turned by a steam engine. In 1911 a large one-cylinder gas engine ran several different mills used to make grist and cattle feed.

The inverted gas light
The inverted gas light


1912 Humphrey inverted arc gas light at Residence. The company is still in operation.