Opelousas Old Town Market 1890s
History St Landry History

Opelousas Old Town Market 1890s

In 1891, William Gil’s Coffee Stand was a first-class establishment at the Opelousas Market, shown on the corner of Bellevue Street in this photograph. A lunch special on most days was the fat goose gumbo. In his memoirs, written in the 1940s (published in 1963), T. H. Harris, the pioneer Louisiana and Opelousas educator who served as principal of St. Landry High School from 1896-1900, describes his daily visits to Gil’s during that time as follows: 

It is easy to get acquainted with all of the male population (of Opelousas) because they all assembled on the courthouse square early in the morning and late in the afternoon to drink coffee at the meat market and talk politics. Mr. Thomas H. Lewis was usually on hand — tall, large, dominating, black beard, the leading lawyer of Southwest Louisiana, wanting no office, but always molding public sentiment for use in electing his friends to office.  Judge Gilbert L. Dupree (Dupre) was always there, hearing everything (he was not deaf then) and talking to everybody; and Marion Swards (Swords), the perpetual sheriff, was present, promising that if given one more term he would retire. And Lee Garland, the district attorney for forty or fifty years, talking French to a man on one side of him and English to a man on the other side of him; Henry Estorge, clerk of court, suave, soft of voice, was always one of the crowd, and he saw and talked to all.  They were all there, the makers of public opinion, the rulers of government. They were all bilingual, good-natured, convivial, but few drunkards among them, though there were some. They knew everybody, were up on current questions and had opinions on all of them. I met these men and liked them.

(Quote from The Memories of T. H. Harris, published in 1963 by the Bureau of Educational Materials and Research, College of Education, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge , LA)