1. 1,771, KT
WELHAM PLANTATION AS IT LOOKED about 1890. Photograph from the Richard
Koch Collection. Courtesy ef Special Collections Division, Tulane University Library.
Orange Grove Plantatione
A Plea For Preservation
U. S. POSTAGE
New Orleans, La.
Permit No. 1001
An Epitaph For Welham
The recent demolition of Welham plan-
tation has caused a lot of soap box orations.
Few people, however, really know much about
Welharn. Printed information is difficult to
find and often erroneous.
In 1973, I became involved with the
history of Welham plantation while
preparing architectural measured drawings
of the L.S.U. Rural Life Museum. Most of the
buildings there had originally come from the
On the mantel in the overseer's house were
carved someone's initials. In trying to find
out whose they were, I uncovered a sketchy
history of the plantation and its residents.
This information documenting Welham's
historical importance when coupled with the
building's obvious architectural importance,
compounds the tragedy of its demolition and
refutes Marathon Vice President Charles
Barre's statement ". . . there was no in-
dication that anyone thought the house was
in any way, form or fashion of historic impor-
The history of Welham is quite com-
plicated. The main character in this history is
William Peter Welham for whom the plan-
tation is named. He was born in New York,
the son of Robert Welham and Catherine
Mariner, in 1798. While William was quite
young, his father, Robert, died willing him
some stock in the Manhattan Bank of New
Not long after his father's death.,
William's mother remarried, this time to
James Godberry on December 10, 1801.
James had been previously married to Sarah
Westin. From his first marriage, James God-
berry had a daughter, Sarah Ann Godberry.
For three years, this newly formed family
lived in New York until 1804 when James
Godberry took his family to the Louisiana
Territory, arriving in St. James Parish on
September 28, 1804.
Once in Louisiana, James and Catherine
had a son, James P. Godberry, Jr. The family
continued to grow with the marriage of Sarah
Ann Godberry to David Snead (Sneed) of St.
On February 25, 1824, a marriage contract
was filed between William Welham and Reine
Seraphine Theriot. At the time of this
marriage Welham did not own any property
in St. James but did own a house and land in
St. John Parish.
Reine was from a distinguished St. James
Acadian family. Her grandparents, Joseph
and Magdeline Theriot, had arrived in
Louisiana in 1796, having been driven from
Canada by the British. Reine's father, Pierre
Theriot, alias Ferret, had distinguished him-
self by serving as 6th regent of the Parish
and on the first grand jury impaneled in St.
In 1828, James Godberry Sr. died, leaving
an estate valued at $10,645, which included 5
arpents de face by .the usual 40 with one
residence, a magazine, a cotton and grain mill
and various out-buildings valued at $7,500.
An old photograph exists which is repor-
tedly the house cited in the succession. It
was a ohe story French house with a hip roof
by Robert Cangelosi
The year following Godberry's death on
April 27, 1829, a company was formed by his
widow, Catherine Godberry, James God-
berry Jr. and William Welham known as
"Mrs. Welham, Son and Godberry." This
company incorporated the land from the
estate of the late James Godberry Sr. and
was managed equally by all three.
Welhaxn, not an heir of Godberry, bought
into the company by using interest from the
stock his father had willed him. At the time
of the formation of this company it is ap-
parent that the chief cash crop was cotton.
Eventually, however, sugar replaced cotton
and Welham became one of the larger sugar
plantations in the state.
Gradually the partnership expanded its
land holdings. In both 1833 and 1836 ad-
ditional acreage was purchased. By 1836 a
new partnership was arranged in which
Welham received one half controlling interest
and James Godberry Jr. and Catherine God-
berry each one quarter. The new company
was called the William Welhe.r.:, ax.d G od-
In the succeeding three years the company
went into heavy debt, borrowing a total of
$71,500 by means of several mortgages.
Perhaps it was sometime during this three-
year period that Welham Plantation house
and its sugar mill were built.
From its architectural details, the house
appears to have been built during the 1830's,
but no exact date can be affixed to the house.
Secondary sources cite various dates, 1835
and 1837 in particular.
The year of construction is not of critical
importance. The fact that Weill= was the
only Louisiana Plantation house of its style
to have survived along the Mississippi River
is what made it so valuable.
The house, like Reine and William, was a
marriage between the French and the
American, illustrating remarkably well the
American, or what might loosely be referred
to as Federal, influence on the traditional
French building techniques. This house was
the rural counterpart to such buildings as the
Hermann-Grima House of 1832 in New
The floor plan of Welham was quite simple.
A gallery traversed the river facade of the
building, and a central hall bisected the
house. To each side of the central hall were
two rooms, each having at least two windows
and a single chimney.
The central hall, as well as the ground floor
living rooms were planning concepts in-
troduced by the Americans. Like most
American houses, the stair was in the central
However, at Welham there was an ad-
ditional stair in the rear loggia, between two
"cabinets", as was typical of most French
plans. The second floor plan was similiar to
that of the first floor.
The architect for this fine house has gone
undocumented, but it would be safe to
speculate that David Snead, Welham's
brother-in-law, was the architect, since he was
The layout of the plantation was typical.
Continued on Page 2
BY William R. Cullison, Curator of Prints
and Drawings, Tulane University Library
Editor's Note: On Monday, May 7, word was
received that the Southern Railroad Com-
pany planned to demolish Orange Grove
Plantation in Braithwaite, La., on the River
Road in Plaquemines Parish. The railroad felt
that demolition was warranted because of the
deteriorated condition of the building and
possible injury to trespassers. J. Ben Meyer,
noted Plaquemines Parish historian,
suggested that the building could be
renovated by the Plaquemines Parish Com-
mission Council as a library. There is a real
need for a library in this area, and the setting
and historic structure would lend themselves
agreeably to this adaptation.
Other preservationists feel that the
building should at least be roofed and boar- '
ded up to protect it from vandalism and the
elements until a suitable use can be found
Persons interested in the fate of Orange
Grove should address their suggestions to J.
Ben Meyer, Box 114 Braithwaite, La. 70040.
Though relatively little known, the plan-
tation house known as Orange Grove, located
in Plaquemines Parish and now threatened
with demolition, may be counted as one of
Louisiana's more important early buildings.
Indeed, in so far as both its history and ar-
chitecture are concerned, the house is
significant not only at the local level but also
at the national level as well.
Built by sugar planter Thomas Asheton
Morgan from 1847-1853, Orange Grove
represents architecturally a good example of
the domestic ante-bellum neo-Gothic idiom,
specifically that sub-species of the style
generally referred to in its day as the "Tudor
Cottage" or "English Cottage" mode. Con-
structed of brick and timber, it has the
characteristic formal arrangement of gabled
and chimneyed main section and rear service
wing, with, in the former, a standard center
hall floor plan. Originally, there were the
typical barge boards at the eaves, finials on
the gables, and windows with diamond
shaped panes of glass, but these have all now
disappeared; also now gone is a wide veran-
dah which stretched completely around the
front part of the house to its jointure with
the service wing.
In contrast to the foregoing, Orange Grove
exhibits several characteristics not generally
found in other houses of the type, for exam-
ple, a truly tremendous scale. With fifteen
foot first floor ceiling heights, a fully finished
attic and (rather amazingly for Louisiana)
full basement, and main section dimensions
of 45' x 58', the house has the size associated
more with baronial Gothic modes, such as the
castellated, rather than with the cottage. Also
unusual is the amount and quality of detail
given the house. Along with the barge boards
and other details already mentioned, there
were (also now mostly gone) beautiful doors
with Gothic motifs, heavy door frames also
with Gothic motifs, stained glass transoms
and sidelights at the main entrances, cast
iron mantles, a main stairway rising three
floors into the attic, and elegant tri-part in-
terior shutters which folded back into
recesses built into the window frames.
Though it saw use through various phases
from around 1800 through the early decades
of the present century, the domestic Gothic
was never what one could call popular in
America as was, for example, f Greek
Revival. In the South particularly the style
was scarce, with the result that, even in its
own time, Orange Grove was of a rarity
which must have made it appear, at least to
untravelled eyes, so strange as to seem not
quite real. Relatedly, Orange Grove has
another distinction, albeit one based solely
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