Family honors its heritage during reunion at Oakland Plantation

Helaire Reunion 2018

The Helaire family gathered at Oakland Plantation July 21 for a reunion. Family members came from across Louisiana and the US. They also celebrated their matriarch Elvira Helaire Davis’s 103rd birthday.

Ancestry: Hilario was a young African who was captured and brought to the Americas by Longlois, a plantation owner near Cloutierville. Hilario met Jeanne, the property of John Pierre Emmanuel Prud’homme at Bermuda Plantation. By 1809 Hilario and Jeanne had a son named Hilaire, who was the first of many generations of Helaires to be born on Bermuda Plantation. The Helaire roots through Jeanne probably go back to the very founding of the plantation itself. Hilaire married Felis and they went on to have seven children. The family remained enslaved at Oakland until the end of the Civil War. Bermuda Plantation was renamed Oakland Plantation after the Civil War. The last Helaires left the plantation in the early 60s.

Terrance Helaire has come to the reunions, held every two years, since 1984. He loves seeing the growth in the family, from the children to the grandchildren. He also loves keeping in touch with everyone.

“Before Facebook and Instagram, these reunions are what’s kept us close,” he said.

Henry and Berneda Smith have traveled from Indiana ever since the Helaire family reunion was held at St. Matthews. Henry’s great grandfather was Felix Heliare. In the 50s Henry, who was born in Bermuda, said his family would come to Oakland Plantation all the time. He even got vaccinated there. Now he brings his grandchildren to visit the plantation during the reunions.

“I want to keep the tradition and family ancestry going when I’m gone so the generations after me will have a story to tell,” he said.

Yokota Strong said the younger generations are just starting to learn about their heritage. The reunion allows them to connect and come together to embrace and learn more about their family’s history.

He’s thankful that the National Park Service, which operates Oakland Plantation, has maintained what they could of the Helaire family’s heritage.

“The National Park Service understands the importance of preserving everyone’s history,” said Chief of Interpretation Barbara Justice. “It’s always an honor meeting descendants of these families and it’s an honor to share their stories with the American people. We also hope they’ll share their stories with us during these reunions so the National Park Service can learn even more about their history.”

8 thoughts on “Family honors its heritage during reunion at Oakland Plantation

  1. It was a honor to be at the reunion I would like to thank my niece My Galen Evans for giving me these opportunities to go to such and event my grandfather is the late Henry Williams and my Father is late Rayflield Henry Sr Throw My Father he had nine children I’m the fourth oldest one it’s was a pleasure my aunt Dee Dee Now I know how the family begin make god bless everyone who attended at the end of the day god allowed all of us to come together Susan Williams Bruno

  2. It was truly a blessing to walk on the ground where your forefathers walked. The energy and and spirit of the Helaire family is still there. Many thanks to the Park Service for keeping our ancestral home alive!

  3. On behalf of my entire family, (The descendants of Hilario and Jeanne) thank you for Publishing my family’s heritage in the Natchitoches Parish Journal. We truly appreciate the National Park Service for their commitment in sharing information on our ancestors and the way they lived. The personalized guided tour of Oakland Plantation was a very special event for our family reunion.

  4. What a great time we had learning about our heritage. My great great grandmother Leontine Helaire would be proud

  5. Thanks so much for this wonderful article! If you’d be so kind, please correct the name of “Toyota” Strong, 7th paragraph from the top, to Yokota Strong. Yokota, like the Indian tribe. Thanks!!

    • My Papa Henry A Williams son of Leontine Helarie daughter of John and Amie Helarie would be so proud which I know if he were still with us physically to finally have his children know his family! I am proud to be his 10 daughter and granddaughter of Leontine Helarie!. Papa I will continue this search until I find my grandmother and what happen to her and grandpapa. We have surmiseed that she died rather young but I will find out for sure!🤟🏽♥️🙏🌈🤟🏽Thank s to all those and family for making this happen! I live in Arizona.

    • My Papa Henry Williams, son of Leontine Hilarie, daughter of John Helarie and Amie Helarie. He would be so proud, if he was still here to finally have his family together.I am proud to be here representing him as the 10th child of a family of 13 children also the granddaughter of Leontine Helarie. Papa has three generations here today his daughter, that would be me, I live in Arizona, his granddaughter, and great granddaughter.Thanks to all family who are here and the Natchitoches journal for publication.

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