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POPPING THE QUESTION?
ST. FRANCISVILLE, LOUISIANA, IS THE PERFECT LOCALE by Anne Butler
(St. Francisville, Louisiana)
In the spring, a young man's fancy turns to
thoughts of love. But for Wisconsin dairy farmer Louie Smith, it
was hard to feel the warmth of passion surrounded by drifts of
snow, with icicles dripping from his barn eaves.
turned from Love to Louisiana, a place close to the heart of
this history-loving longtime bachelor, and he knew that in St. Francisville, one of his favorite all-time destinations, the
temperature was in the seventies and the azaleas were in full
Was it any wonder, then, that
Louie Smith, Wisconsin dairyman, would rev up his pickup truck
and head south, girlfriend Brenda in tow. She knew where they
were going; what she didn't know was that he planned more than a
vacation. He planned a proposal, and warm and welcoming St.
Francisville would provide the perfect setting for what he had
Funeral procession under
the oaks of Grace Church.
Sailor from the USS Albatross
Coming from another direction
was young Edward Scheidt of McLean, Virginia, who works for CNN
in Washington, D.C. but had left his heart in Louisiana.
that he didn't trust airline baggage handling, but on the trip
south he kept right in his coat pocket the perfect engagement
ring, which was even inscribed with 1996, the year he met his
In Baton Rouge, teacher Kendal
Balkom had been told she was needed to housesit for friends, so
she packed a few supplies and headed over to their house. Lo and
behold, who should be hiding in the backyard but longtime
boyfriend Edward, who spirited her off to an undisclosed
location which turned out to be-naturally--St. Francisville,
which they had previously enjoyed visiting.
Scheidt has carefully planned
every step leading up to the perfect proposal--the surprise
appearance, the surprise destination, dropping to his knee in
the romantic 1850's garden gazebo at the Bed & Breakfast where
they were spending a few days.
Said the beaming bridegroom-to-be,
'St. Francisville is the perfect place to make memories; it's tranquil
and beautiful. You can be a total unromantic schlub, but the place does
all the work for you; you just have to show up.' Said his also-beaming
bride-to-be, flashing her engagement ring after jokingly accusing him of
being devious, 'We look forward to bringing our own family back here in
The St. Francisville area has been
redolent with romance since its earliest beginnings in the late 1700's.
The towering live oaks dripping with moss, the glorious gardens full of
flowering camellias and azaleas, the intoxicating scent of sweet olive
trees and gardenias, the sandy creeks and unspoiled wilderness, the
rushing Mississippi River, the columned plantation homes and historic
townhouses, the shaded gazebo in the peaceful downtown public park, the
dozen luxurious B&Bs-- surely among these beauties can be found just the
right setting for a proposal.
In 1861 young Sarah Turnbull
accepted a proposal from James Bowman at her family home,
Rosedown Plantation, and it was said to have been the 100th one
she had received, this lovely lass who was called the National
Belle of 1849.
Many of her smitten suitors must have wooed her
in the 28 acres of formal gardens being developed to set off her
fine house, and even today her wedding is re-enacted
periodically by state historic site staff complete with
antebellum costumes and customs.
The other plantations in the
area have proven no less romantic over the years, with proposals
and elopements and great love affairs inspired by the
settings.consider the gallant bridegroom who eloped with
teenaged Eliza Pirrie of Oakley Plantation and carried her
across the flooded Homochitto River en route to a
Natchez honeymoon only to succumb to pneumonia within weeks, or
handsome William J. Fort who wed not one but two of the Bowman
sisters from Rosedown, Eliza's granddaughters, and carried them
home to the pleasure park at Catalpa Plantation complete with
strolling swans and pond island for fishfries and its own dance
Celtic band in parade down Main Street
Even today, these plantation settings
inspire great romantic encounters and provide the backdrop for some very
unique proposals. The owner of one local plantation, now operated as a
Bed & Breakfast, recounted the story of the nervous suitor who reserved
an overnight accommodation and had the local florist completely fill the
room with flowers and chocolates and champagne before the couple
arrived, much to the amusement of other guests who watched enthralled
and were delighted to hear that the proposal had been accepted. Another
proposal there was helped along by the small bouquets the florist
arranged in advance in the room, each with a tiny message reading 'Say
Other popular proposal sites are the
wonderful St. Francisville area restaurants. When Stewart Hamilton
recently surpised longtime love Laura Metz with a diamond engagement
ring, he made elaborate plans to get her to the dazzling new Oxbow
Restaurant for what she thought would be dinner with her father. She
thought Stewart was out of town at work, and she was overcome when he
suddenly appeared and dropped to one knee to propose. Her whole family
was there to share the special moment.
Re-enactors for Day the War Stopped
His whole family was there to
share the special moment, too. And, this being a small town,
everybody else in the restaurant knew in advance what was going
to happen and they all burst into applause at the appropriate
moment, sending over bottles of champagne and congratulations to
the family table.
For those wanting a more
private proposal setting, the nearby Tunica Hills wilderness
area beckons, and impassioned proposals have been made by hikers
and horseback riders, bicyclists and birdwatchers and
picnickers, totally alone in the unspoiled woods with only the
birds to witness. Could there be a more serene locale? Doubtful.
Or cross the river on the ferry right at sunset as the fiery sun
drops beneath the Mississippi River waters for a spectacular
backdrop for popping the question; just don't drop that ring!
The St. Francisville area offers a
veritable paradise of proposal settings, settings special for each
couple, private, romantic and utterly unique. Located on US Highway 61
on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the
area is a year-round tourist destination, with six historic plantations
- Rosedown and Audubon State Historic Sites, Butler Greenwood, the
Myrtles, the Cottage and Greenwood--open for daily tours, Catalpa
Plantation open by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens open seasonally.
Eclectic shops fill restored 19th-century structures throughout historic
downtown and surrounding area, and there is a nice variety of small
restaurants, several remarkably upscale. Some of the state's best Bed
and Breakfasts offer overnight accommodations ranging from golf clubs
and lakeside resorts to historic townhouses and country plantations; a
modern motel has facilities to accommodate busloads. The scenic
unspoiled Tunica Hills region surrounding St. Francisville offers
excellent biking, hiking, fishing, birding, horseback riding and other