Taxodium distichum (baldcypress) growth rings reveal origins of an 18th century Jesuit plantation, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Clay S. Tucker, Grant L. Harley, Joshua S. Oliver, David Baird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Tree-ring methods along with historical documents and oral history reveal the structure history of a Jesuit plantation built in the 1760s in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jesuit missionaries arrived in South Louisiana and other European colonies in the early 18th century with intentions to spread Catholicism to local natives and African Americans. Tree-ring dating of the attic and ceiling timbers reveal cutting dates as early as 1762 and hand-made nails demonstrate pre-1800 construction, confirming that the Jesuit plantation is the second-oldest surviving structure in New Orleans. Historic documents depict a standing structure similar to that of today's structure in 1765. However, the current structure is missing a second floor, and numerous attic timbers date to the late 1780s. We assume that repairs to the original structure follow numerous hurricane strikes and a city-wide fire in New Orleans. Taxodium distichum (baldcypress) timber samples are also indicative of logging and lumber practices of the time, especially within a large city. Dendrochronological analyses reveal that the baldcypress trees used in construction of the structure may have been sourced from numerous sites across the Gulf Coast via a lumberyard that may have served as an export station for timbers across the Caribbean and Europe. Historical documents allude to the appearance of the original structure in 1765, the 300-year ownership of the property, lumber practice of the time, and the history of New World Jesuit missions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-103
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


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