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For centuries the chain of lakes in St. Landry Parish around the Opelousas area flowed in peace and were not disturbed. These lakes were respected by the native people who occupied the land before the European settlers arrived. Because of the swamp land that surrounded the lakes, many of the lakes remained undisturbed by the settlers until the turn of the 20th century. When work was started to build the Opelousas Gulf and Northeastern Railroad through the swamps, the beautiful lakes were revealed in all their glory. Some of these were Darbonne Lake, Swayze Lake, Petit Prairie Lake, Second Lake, Burton Lake, First Lake, and Half Moon Lake.

In 1906 when the railroad crews came into Opelousas to work on the O’Gee, several camps were set up on the banks of some of the lakes. Located about 20 miles from Opelousas, Half Moon Lake, located between Swayze Lake and Second Lake, was one of the lakes used for railroad camps. In 1906 two of the camps were located on Half Moon Lake, the W. H. Ford Right Away Camp, for the African American workers, and the Dr Ira Pierce’s Right Away Camp, for the white workers.

In 1907 when the O’Gee Railroad was completed, the train ran from Opelousas to Half Moon Lake, and some of the other lakes in the area. More and more fishermen camped on the banks of the lakes, and many people from the Opelousas area-built buildings to use for leisure, relaxation and vacations. This trend continued through the 20th century until the present.

Top featured photograph, on a postcard by Jacobs News Depot, shows Half Moon Lake on the Opelousas Gulf & Northeastern Railroad, called the O’Gee, looking north in about 1909.

One of the railroad crews for the O’Gee Railroad traveling down Landry Street in Opelousas in about 1906-07.
A fishing trip to one of the area lakes, aboard the O’Gee Railroad, was a form of entertainment during the early 1900s. This photograph shows a group of Opelousas men showing off their catch as they return to the O’Gee depot in about 1909.