Louisiana is home to more than 60 abandoned ghost towns that have been left behind over time for one reason or another, most often either a natural disaster or a sudden drop in economic activity. As we’ll be covering below, many of these once-booming communities that have been abandoned have incredibly fascinating and unique histories. Read on to learn all about five of the Bayou State’s most interesting ghost towns and why they aren’t what they used to be.
1. Cheniere Caminada
Along the southern tip of Louisiana, not far from New Orleans, lies the abandoned town of Cheniere Caminada. Unfortunately, this abandoned fishing town was struck by one of the deadliest hurricanes in United States history in 1893. Once upon a time, the town housed around 1,500 residents and was a major supplier of shrimp, oysters, and crabs to various New Orleans restaurants. The fairly isolated community was almost entirely French-speaking and included a wide range of Italian, French, German, and Spanish immigrants.
Also known as the Great October Storm to locals at the time, the Cheniere Caminada hurricane decimated around half of the bustling town’s population, killing nearly 800 people. Tragically, it even destroyed the town’s main graveyard.
In a testament to human resilience, some of the remaining residents chose to stay behind after the disaster and attempt to rebuild the town. However, their efforts weren’t quite enough to revive Cheniere Caminada to its former glory, and it has remained a ghost town ever since.
The town of Taft’s population dwindled down to zero as of the 2000 census, and it’s pretty much stayed that way ever since. Following an explosion at a local Union-Carbide chemical plant, around 17,000 residents in the area had no choice but to evacuate permanently. The plant was responsible for producing a wide range of organic chemicals, namely acrylic acid and acrolein.
Today, most of Taft’s land is still unlivable and reserved for industrial use, but it was the original site of the St. Charles Parish Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. The church served residents of Taft as well as the neighboring towns of Killona and Hahnville. Though the church has since moved, its cemetery still remains in Taft.
At one time, Taft’s population was around 700 people when its first post office opened in 1905. Over the years, though, its numbers dwindled rapidly until only 36 people lived there in 1977. Then, after the Union-Carbide disaster, this mostly abandoned Louisiana town’s leftover residents fled.
The ghost town of Morrisonville is another unfortunate victim of chemical pollution, with the Dow Chemical Company being to blame in this particular instance. The company’s local vinyl chloride factory, which Dow built in 1958, contaminated the town’s water supply in the 1980s.
Rather than deal with the inevitable fallout from the disaster, Dow Chemical simply bought up all the town’s land and homes, coldly informing residents that their property would be worthless if they refused. Though around 20 families banded together and refused to leave initially, they completely abandoned the town by 1993. Most of its residents had relocated to the nearby communities of Iberville Parish and West Baton Rouge Parish by 1990.
When Dow Chemical first built the vinyl chloride plant, a green belt separated it from the town. Over time, though, the company bought up more and more of the surrounding land, expanding so far into the town’s limits that residents could actually hear the plant’s loudspeaker announcements booming from their homes.
Today, only the abandoned Louisiana town’s former church graveyard remains, along with a prayer site provided by Dow Chemical for residents to visit their family members’ graves.
4. Elliot City
The next ghost town we’ll be looking at is Elliot City, located in southern Louisiana’s Pointe Coupee Parish. In 1912, breaks in the Atchafalaya River levee in the neighboring town of Latania caused the area to be flooded. Many residents fled in the flood’s aftermath, though some stayed behind to attempt to rebuild the community.
Around 25 years after the Atchafalaya levee flood, Elliot City’s remaining inhabitants evacuated the town, never to return. This was due to the construction of the Morganza Spillway, a flood control structure designed to relieve some of the Mississippi River’s high water levels. When the floodway gates opened in 1973, the entire area that was once Elliot City was once again flooded and essentially left underwater.
Interestingly, Elliot City is located near an inactive US Army Air Corps bombing range. The US Army used the range primarily for aircraft training back in World War II. If it ever becomes necessary for the Morganza Spillway gates to open again, the area surrounding the abandoned Louisiana town is likely to flood even further.
5. Bayou Chene
Also located in the Atchafalaya Basin, Bayou Chene has a rich history and was first settled in the 1830s. It once boasted around 200 residents, as well as a post office built in 1858, a church, a school, and a general store. However, when the Great Mississippi Flood devastated the area in 1927, most of its inhabitants left the town behind. Many of these residents had lived in the area for generations. In fact, some were even descendants of its original 1830s settlers.
While some people stayed behind and attempted to rebuild after the flood, their efforts were mostly in vain. When officials constructed the Atchafalaya Spillway to relieve some of the surrounding area’s frequent flooding issues, Bayou Chene’s residents had fully abandoned the town.
Though the town’s school was relocated in 1945, it closed for good in 1953. The town post office closed around the same time in 1952. Today, Bayou Chene is just a memory, with the entire abandoned Louisiana town resting under around 12 feet of silt.
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