To those who live along coastal Louisiana, the story is a familiar one: a story of piracy and treasure. The pirate is popularized by the idea that he is the source of buried treasure along the Louisiana coast and within the Louisiana bayous. When the government cut off trade with foreign nations in 1807, this pirate was the “Robin Hood” who illegally supported the trade market by moving contraband goods from the Caribbean and other nearby nations into the United States. Yet, he was also the man who robbed ships of all their valuables and captured the vessel to use for his illegal actions. This man is considered just as much of “a good man” as he is considered “a bad man.” This famous pirate went by the name of Jean Lafitte*.
Jean Lafitte was an outlaw who lived and worked in southern Louisiana. He shipped in goods from foreign nations mostly using a port near New Orleans on the island Barataria in Barataria Bay. However, he also explored much of the bayou and traded using many other ports, including a port in Lake Charles. It is here where a legend of Jean Lafitte and his buried treasure arises. The port is now called “Porte du Lafitte” or “Port of Jean Lafitte” and the bayou waterway in Lake Charles is called “Bayou Contraband.” These names were given as a result of the legends that were formed about Jean Lafitte. While sailing the bayou, it is believed that Jean stopped and buried his treasure here while on the run from the government.
In addition to having a port and a bayou named after him, there is also a yearly festival held in Lake Charles to commemorate the life and legends of Jean Lafitte. The festival is so rightly named “Contraband Days” in honor of Jean’s days of transporting contraband goods. The 12-day festival is held at the Lake Chares Civic Center at the beginning of May each year and it always begins with a skit put on to mimic the actions of Jean Lafitte taking over the Lake Charles lake and forcing the major to walk the plank.
Today, people still explore the bayous and dig for treasure in many places along the coast. While there has yet to be a large find of treasure, some individuals have reported finding coins and other treasure items. If the treasure does exist, maybe no one has found it yet. Will you go in search of Jean Lafitte’s buried treasure?
*It is reported that Jean spelt his last name as “Laffite,” but in documents of the time the spelling was confused to be “Lafitte.” The latter is the spelling now used to recognize Jean and locations that are named after him.