Jacques Télésphore Roman was born in Opelousas, Louisiana, on May 22nd in 1800. "Télésphore" Roman is well known here at Oak Alley Plantation - he was the owner of this property, and it was under his tutelage that our antebellum Big House mansion was designed and constructed between 1837 and 1839. Today, we honor Jacques' birthday.
If you've visited Oak Alley in the past, you may be aware that Jacques' extended family once owned much of the land in this area and along the river, including the land that comprises today's Oak Alley Plantation. The Romans owned this property until just after the US Civil War.
But, did you know that the aristocratic Roman family had been in the "New World" for several generations before Oak Alley's Big House was built, and "our" Jacques was not the first Jacques Roman in his family to live in Louisiana?
The name Jacques must have been very popular in the Roman family, as there were actually three Jacques Romans leading up to the founding of Oak Alley Plantation! Here is the fascinating history behind the "three Jacques":
Jacques Joseph Roman was born in 1697, and lived in Grenoble, France. From an aristocratic family, Jacques Joseph arranged to come to the new world to launch a cattle ranching operation. This Jacques first settled in the area of present day Des Allemands, Louisiana, where he met and married Marie Josephine Daigle.
In 1748, Jacques and Marie had a son they named Jacques Etienne Roman. Jacques Etienne would grow up with dreams of becoming a successful cattle rancher, like his father. When he came of age, Jacques Etienne married Marie Louise Patin and moved much of the Roman's cattle ranching operation up to Opelousas, Louisiana. Jacques and "Louise" raised a family there, and that family included our very own Jacques Télésphore Roman.
Jacques Etienne ran a very successful cattle operation in Opelousas, but when sugar cane became the successful cash crop in south Louisiana, they moved to St. James Parish, Louisiana, near the site of Oak Alley Plantation. Jacques and Louise were extremely wealthy, and they were so convinced of the viability of the sugar trade, they purchased three plantations along the river road and combined them into one large operation. They would establish a homestead on the property, but that family home was located about 2 miles down river from our alley of oaks.
Jacques Etienne passed away when Jacques Télésphore was only 11, so "Télésphore" was raised primarily by his mother, under the watchful eye of brother-in-law Valcour Aime. Valcour was purportedly the richest man in the south, and would eventually acquire much of the Roman property from Louise. Jacques would one day have to strike a deal with Valcour to acquire the Oak Alley land back, in order to build a dream house for his bride Celina. A deal was struck, "Télésphore" acquired the land and the alley of oaks and built the stunning house that sits at Oak Alley Plantation today.
Today, we honor the birthday of Jacques Télésphore Roman, keeping in mind the extended history of the Roman family in Louisiana, and the three Jacques Romans that were part of a French Creole family that made Oak Alley Plantation possible. Happy birthday, Jacques Télésphore Roman.