The resources of the university archives and a new way to look at our local history combined to give Jean Kiesel the idea for a fun and informative history of Lafayette.
Her book, Lafayette ($19.99, Arcadia Publishing), puts together more than 200 old photographs, mostly from the UL archival collection, with informative captions and a brief introduction, to put our local history into a different perspective than you might get from simply reading a dry text.
You'll find photos of Ile Copal, the mansion of Gov. Alexandre Mouton, one of Lafayette's earliest and best-known leaders; of early establishments such as the Lafayette Sugar Factory, Domengeaux's General Store, Begnaud's Saloon and the original Martin Hall at SLII; of the floods of 1927 and 1940; of Dudley LeBlanc and his Hadacol operation and many others that provide a glimpse of the development of Lafayette from a little backwater bayou town to the metropolis it is today.
"It's fun to watch the growth of Lafayette from a little village to a sprawling city," she says. "I had access to the world's best collection of materials on Lafayette. Some people will find things they haven't thought about in years, and others will find things they never knew about our city."
She says she hopes the book "will entertain readers and give them a taste for Lafayette history, and lead them to find out more about our city."
Kiesel is a native of Minnesota, but has spent most of her adult life in Lafayette. She is the librarian in charge of the Louisiana Room at Dupre Library at UL and, as such, has worked with all sorts of materials reflecting our local history and culture for more than 20 years.
She's also been an active member of the Lafayette Genealogical Society, including a stint as its president, giving her further insight into the history and origins of the families who made Lafayette what it has become.
Those families played a big role in building Lafayette into the leading city of the area, she says. She points to major events that have helped the city grow - the coming of the railroad, the establishment of the university here, the growth of the Oil Center.
But, she says, "although they certainly were major contributing factors, these events alone do not explain Lafayette's success. ... A major contributing factor is in its citizens, who throughout its history supported myriad civic and commercial projects to help their town prosper."
You can see the people and the progress they brought about in the pictures in Lafayette. It's a book that you'll want to put next to your own family history, to link the images she's uncovered with your own story.