Rapides Parish, Alexandria, Louisiana (June 1999)
Rosalie Plantation is located on a portion of an original Spanish land grant made to Daniel Clark late in the 18th century. Clark, a New Orleans businessman and statesman, was appointed U.S. Consul to New Orleans in 1799; he also served briefly as acting governor of Louisiana. He is remembered, too, as the father of Myra Clark Gaines, whose lawsuits tied up New Orleans property settlements throughout the 19th century.
The property changed hands several times until purchased in 1832 by Gervais Baillio, son of Pierre Baillio of Kent Plantation House where Gervais was born. After attending Harvard for 3½ years, Gervais came home in his senior year to marry Sarah Rebecca Leonard and settle at Rosalie. It is believed that he built Rosalie in the early 1830s, although some records indicate part of the house existed under previous owners. The house, described by architectural historians as a "settler’s house", was constructed of cypress, handmade brick and bousillage (deerhair and mud) on cypress laths. The handhewn beams, visible in the attic and underneath the house, were put together with large pegs of locustwood. Other details of construction easily noted today are cypress posts on the front gallery showing crosscut saw marks, cypress siding on the front porch, wavy glass window panes, and pegged, mortised and tenoned interior doors. Under the present oak parquet floors (added in 1947) are tongue-in-groove 1" thick pine floors.
Baillio, a sugar planter, served as a magistrate in nearby Avoyelles Parish and was known as "Judge Baillio". He was a member of the Board of Supervisors of the Louisiana State Seminary at Pineville, Louisiana, forerunner of LSU which opened in 1859. Its first superintendent was William Tecumseh Sherman, who resigned in 1861 at the Civil War’s onset to return to the United States Army. It is substantiated by Baillio family history that Baillio’s association with Sherman saved Rosalie from destruction during the Red River campaign. Union troops under General Nathaniel Banks burned Alexandria on May 13, 1864. The Rapides courthouse was destroyed in the fire, eliminating the area’s early records. Most outlying plantations were razed as well, including Mooreland, the home of Baillio’s neighbor and brother-in-law, Gov. Thomas Overton Moore. A copy of the orders from a Col. Scott of the Iowa Infantry to "spare the life and property of Judge Baillio" can be seen at Rosalie today. Baillio’s name is on the first LSU building’s cornerstone displayed on the Baton Rouge campus; his portrait is one of three related to the university’s founding that hangs at LSU, the other two being Sherman and General George Mason Graham.
Baillio died in 1889. His descendants owned Rosalie until it was sold to the M.L. Laird family in 1929. In 1946 the plantation was purchased by Mr. & Mrs. Homer Harris, who remodeled and modernized the interior. Much of the surrounding land was sold by the Harrises in 1965, and in March of 1973 Mr. Harris’s widow sold the home and the four acres surrounding it to Dr. & Mrs. Tom Norman. Later the Normans purchased 150 more acres and the massive brick skeleton of Rosalie Sugarmill, today the center of the family pecan orchard which includes 2500 pecan trees of several varieties.
Hope Johns Norman