Written for Louisiana Road Trips Magazine, November, 2010.
Down Island Drive, where Bayou DeSiard meets the Ouachita River, is a small Indian mound. It is four hundred feet north of Upper Pargoud Plantation on land originally owned by Hypolite Pargoud. In the 1800’s it was a picnic spot for Monroe residents. They would climb aboard a steamboat and dock at Pargoud landing. Festivities would last into the night. In the mid seventies the mound was excavated by Dr. Glen Greene, a professor at ULM, and his archaeology students. They found beads, pottery and arrowheads, but no human remains. This was a deep disappointment for some local residents, who had been told the story of a beautiful Indian maiden named Wichita who had fallen in love with Juan Ortigo, a Spanish explorer.
In 1887, Judge A.A. Gunby wrote one of his many poems and published it in the newspaper. It was called “The Legend of Pargoud’s Mound”. In it, he recites the tale of Wichita and Ortigo. The poem begins by talking about the parties that were held around the mound. “Under the Walnut trees that grow, Around the mound, we often share, With sturdy men and ladies fair, At dinners, fries and picnics rare.” He then begins to tell the story.
more than three hundred years
Have passed since daring Narvaez
And his bold band of volunteers
In Indian warfare met their death,
Saved Juan Ortigo who was taken
A prisoner when the rest were slain.
Gunby describes Juan as a man of “fine physique and comely face, His brow was broad, his frame was grand, And full of rich Hidalgan grace, His long dark locks were just too nice, His soft moustache was “certainlee” – And all the joys of paradise, Were centered in his fine goatee!” Ortigo was about to be burned at the stake when the fair Wichita exclaimed, “Oh spare the prisoner, Father wise! ‘Twill to your name more honor give, To let the conquered humble live.” Wichita was in love with the young man. It seems her love was returned.
Juan was neither saint nor fool,
but fell in love at once himself,
And married her by Indian rule.
His Spanish wife laid on the shelf.
The two lived happily together until Hernando DeSoto came through the area.
hunt for priceless pearls and gold,
And Juan skipped out to search for fame
And wealth with those marauders bold.
Poor Wichita began to pine away. Her father, Ucita tried to lift her spirits, but the inevitable happened.
wandered far and wide
And clothed her well in bison’s hide,
And tried to rouse her family pride.
But still she wasted in her youth
And showed to all the fatal truth.
When spring was fairest her spirit rose
Above her frame and all its woes.
They built for her this Pargoud’s Mound
And made it ever sacred ground.
To see the complete poem, come by the Ouachita Parish Public Library’s Genealogy Room and look at the microfilm of the Monroe Morning Post, July 28, 1929, Page 3.