Following the trail of John James Audubon after he walked ashore in Bayou Sara in 1821 — One has to first stand on the Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church Memorial overlook to gaze over the tree tops with a birds eye view and imagine what he saw as he walked from the river landing.
"Born in 1785 in Haiti to a married ship captain and his Creole mistress, John James Audubon was reared in France and was sent to America to learn English and a trade on his father’s Pennsylvania estate in 1803, the same year that the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the country. Soon married with two young sons, he chafed under the bonds of practical employment, longing instead to be at his nature studies in the woods. In his journal he wrote “Fortune, if not blind, Must have his Lunatic Moments,” and he left behind a string of failed business ventures, from flatboating and gristmilling to storekeeping and 'stuffing fishes' for a museum. To his longsuffering wife he wrote that he 'loved indepenn and piece more than humbug and money.' Colorful Louisiana historian Stanley C. Arthur described Audubon’s aura of mysterious charm: 'a gifted artist, quasi-naturalist, sometime dandy, quondam merchant, unkempt wanderer, many-sided human being…A halo of romance surrounds his entire career, and he was generally regarded as mad because of his strange self-absorption, his long hair, tattered garments, and persistence in chasing about the countryside after little birdies.'
Having conceived the awesome idea of drawing from nature all of the birds of the vast new country, with 13-year-old botanist Joseph Mason he set out for New Orleans in 1820 aboard a flatboat with only his gun, flute, violin, bird books, portfolios of his drawings, chalks, watercolors, drawing papers in a tin box, and a dog-eared journal in which he wrote 'Without any Money My Talents are to be My support and my Enthusiasm my Guide in My Difficulties.'
The meager living he earned painting portraits and giving lessons in drawing and dancing dimmed his enthusiasm. When Lucretia Pirrie of Oakley Plantation upriver in West Feliciana Parish engaged him to spend the summer tutoring her 15-year-old daughter Eliza, it marked a pivotal point in his career. 'Bereft at that time of not only funds but incentive,' the artist was about to be introduced to the rich flora and fauna of the Felicianas, teeming with birdlife, that would renew his enthusiasm and artistic inspiration. It is a tribute to the dedicated sense of place possessed by Feliciana residents that so many of the places he passed or patronized still stand today." Anne Butler