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"The Legend of the Brooch," #148 Swapping Stories
Wendell Lindsay, Lake Charles, Louisiana


In 1816, Lafitte's ship pulled in on the lower end of the lake front across from the Sallier home, on the lake, which is on the corner of Sallier and Front. The Indians--and there were many Indians in this territory at this time--went on out to meet Lafitte's ship. Of course, Lafitte always had trinkets and favors for the Indians, and they liked him very much. . . . most people have never heard that Lafitte had a daughter.

His daughter was then sixteen years old. They went to the home, and Mrs. Sallier met them at the door. The home was a twenty-by-twenty cabin, right near the lake front, elevated about six and a half feet from the ground. They went into the home and met Mrs. Sallier, and she met Denise Lafitte. And she gave Mrs. Sallier a large, gold brooch. And [Denise] put it around her head, and they kissed each other. They asked her, "Where is Charles Sallier?"

Mrs. Sallier was pregnant, five months pregnant at the time. She . . . hadn't seen him for four months, that he'd left and hadn't come back. Thought it was an unusually long time.

In the course of all the talking, Lafitte suggested to Mrs. Sallier, "Why don't you come with us to Galveston? We will take care of you over there. And if your husband comes back"--[he] had close dealings with Lafitte all the time--"why, you can come on back. But come on with us."

About that time, Charles Sallier returned, and he walked to the cabin. His head just reached the floor level, and he heard the proposition, "Come with us to Galveston." And he didn't like it. I don't know who he blamed for the trouble, but anyway, he drew his pistol, drew it out, and instead of shooting Lafitte, he shot Mrs. Sallier. She fell to the floor. Without saying anything--he knew he'd killed his wife--he jumped on his horse and left. He was never heard of or seen again after that time.

But Mrs. Sallier wasn't dead. The brooch had absorbed the bullet and made a big dent on it. The family is still here in Lake Charles, and they have that brooch. Anyway, Lafitte left, Mrs. Sallier had the child, and the child's name was Denise, after Lafitte's daughter, Denise.


Notes to the Teacher:

This is one of innumerable Lafitte legends currently in oral circulation in Louisiana; see also stories #163 and #169. Other published tales include several in Saxon et al. (1945, 258-65, 275) and a more recent buried treasure tale in Langley et al. (1995, 13).

Jean Lafitte (also spelled Laffite; 1780?-1826) was born in France, but he made his name on the Gulf Coast, where he engaged in smuggling and, by 1810, commanded a pirate band based on Grand Terre Island off the Lousiana shore. In 1813, Louisiana Governor William Claiborne offered a $500 reward for Lafitte's capture; Lafitte responded with a $1,500 reward for Claiborne. But when the United States fought England in the War of 1812, Lafitte allied his band with the Americans, supported General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, and earned a presidential pardon for his loyalty. However, he soon returned to piracy. As his Grand Terre headquarters had been destroyed by the American government, he relocated to Galveston Island (now part of Texas), from which he was driven in 1821 to resume his wanderings. The date and place of his death are uncertain. Gonzalez (1981) has written a good biography of Lafitte.

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