By Corey Poole and Natalie Covher
Whether it’s spelled Cyriaque, Cyriak or Cyiark; they’re all family. These tribes, including LeCompte, came together Aug. 5-7, wearing different colored shirts to denote their family “tribes.” Descendants from Magnolia Plantation, they drove from across the country to visit Natchitoches Parish and learn about their ancestry.
“We need to know where we come from to know where we’re going,” said Pastor Marcus Cyriaque from Los Angeles. “That’s what family reunions are for. Future generations need to know who their ancestors are.”
Friday night the family members held a meet and greet at the Best Western Hotel in Natchitoches. Speakers included President Elvin Shields and Shirley Small-Rougeau of the Natchitoches Genealogical and Historical Association (NGHA) and Deacon/Dr. Herbert Baptiste Sr. from Saint Andrew Baptist Church in Derry.
“It’s critical for us as a race and a people to discover who we really are,” said Shirley. She encouraged everyone to go online or visit the Natchitoches Genealogy Library to discover his or her roots.
Elvin spoke on the hard work of their ancestors and how descendants should walk the grounds of the plantations as if they’re monuments to those ancestors.
The family toured Magnolia Plantation Saturday with Park Ranger and anthropologist Dustin Fuqua. The reunion concluded with a Banquet Program and speakers Dr. Pete Gregory and Dr. Susan Dollar with the Northwestern State University History Department and Jeanne Cyriaque with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources
“I was born across the river,” said Milton Cyiark as he looked across the grounds of Magnolia. “I used to watch the sharecroppers farming these fields. I still think about how I would watch them work the ground with mule led plows.”
Billy Cyiark grew up in Derry. “I moved away in 1968 but I come back every 2 years. When I think about this place I remember the cotton and the corn. I remember the general store here at Magnolia Plantation. I remember the blacksmith shop. My dad brought his horses here for shoes and to fix his wagon. I love being back here with the younger generation. I get to show them where I came from. It’s one thing to tell them about it and another to show them. We didn’t have computers or calculators. We worked picking cotton. We would get $3 for every 100 pounds we picked, which would take almost all day. We would get paid on Saturdays and go into Natchitoches and spend our money at Piggly Wiggly and Jitney Jungle.”
Visiting the plantation stirred passion and memories forBeverly Cyiark. “It takes me back to how I grew up,” she said. “Today it’s history.”