CAROLA LILLIE HARTLEY
Contributing Writer and Publisher
Photographs: Carola Lillie Hartley Collection
Feature Photograph: The Saizan Building is pictured to the right on Saizan Corner at Main and Landry streets in downtown Opelousas at the turn of the 20th century.
The northeast corner of Landry and Main streets in downtown Opelousas was named for Dr. Joseph P. Saizan. Originally from Port Barre, Dr. Saizan opened his practice in Opelousas and served the community from the late 1800s until the early part of the 20th century.
Who was Joseph Philocles Saizan?
Born on November 18, 1866, in Leonville, LA, Joseph was the son of David Philogene Saizan, a well-known merchant and planter, and Felicite Robin. He completed his early education in the St. Landry Parish schools, attended St. Charles College in Grand Coteau and Manhattan College in New York City, where he graduated in 1886. He completed his studies at the Tulane University School of Medicine at New Orleans and received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1890.
On September 29, 1890, Joseph Saizan married Bessie Lewis, the daughter of Col. Thomas H. Lewis, a prominent figure in Opelousas business and politics, and Josephine Williams. The couple had one child, Josephine L. Saizan (1892-1966), who married Alexander Farrar Watkins (1894-1978).
Dr. Saizan began his medical practice in Port Barre where he had an office for a few years. In 1893, he opened his office on the corner of Main and Landry streets. He practiced there until the building was destroyed by fire on December 27, 1897. In 1898 he had a new, modern brick building constructed on the property. During its construction the Opelousas Courier of June 4, 1898, reported “the building will be the first modern structure erected in our town and will be commodious and complete in all respects. It will besides present a very handsome appearance suitable entirely to that prominent point of our town.”
Dr. Saizan used the new building for his office and rented part of it to the Firnberg Brothers Store and to the C. M. Taylor Drug Store. Later the Saizan building housed the Mason’s Drugstore until 1910 when the Opelousas Drug Store opened in the building and remained there for many years.
Besides his medical practice, Dr. Saizan was involved in other St. Landry Parish businesses. He was known as a prominent businessman, a successful planter, landowner and banker, serving as Vice-president of the Planter’s Bank and Trust Company.
Mrs. Bessie Saizan was popular and very active in Opelousas social and civic circles. She was described by those who knew her as an intelligent, refined lady. She was among the first members of the Opelousas Woman’s Club and was on the committee to have a public library in Opelousas. When the club started the town’s library in 1920-1921, the top floor of the Saizan building became its first reading room.
Mrs. Saizan died suddenly on the evening of March 4, 1926, at her home in Opelousas. She was buried in Myrtle Grove Cemetery. Following the death of his wife, Dr. Saizan suffered with grief and was constantly ill, He passed away just two years later on June 14, 1928, and was buried next to his wife in Myrtle Grove cemetery at the east entrance to Opelousas.
The legacy of Dr. Joseph P. Saizan lives on in Opelousas and St. Landry Parish with the street named Saizan in Port Barre, and the old Saizan building that remains on Saizan Corner today in downtown Opelousas.