Note: Robert Helmer and his wife Martha Dossmann Helmer took over operations of Dossmann Springs (see newspaper story in the Miscellaneous Notes of Charles Dossmann) during the later years of Charles Dossmann.
---------------------- Mrs. W. K. Helmer of St. Landry Parish, LA, said she thought that he [Charles Dossmann, brother of Francois Joseph Dossmann] was born the same place her father was born, in Strasburg.)
1855: "He [Charles Dossmann, brother of Francois Joseph Dossmann] came to America on the S/S Gasport, embarked at Harve, France, and disembarked at New Orleans, LA, on January 15, 1855. He gave his age on the ship's list as 22 years, but he was only 19 years old. He also spelled his name on the ship's list a s Charles Dofsmann, but this was the common way for the double-s to be written." (National Archives, Washington, D.C., filed under ships landing at American ports during 1800-1875)
He [Charles Dossmann] came to the United States ignorant of its language and people, but at once identified himself with the people of his adopted country and, like his brother, Francois Joseph, became at once an excellent American citizen. He started in life without any family influence or other outside aid to help him along, and for the success which he attained, he was indebted to himself alone.
1855: He [Charles Dossmann] went to St. Landry Parish in 1855 and to Ville Platte, LA, where he joined his other brother, Francois Joseph Dossmann, who had arrived in Ville Platte two years previously.
1861: He [Charles Dossmann] married Elenore Fontenot (sister to Honorable T. S. Fontenot) in 1861. She was born in 1846, died 13 May 1879 at 33 years of age. She is also buried in Ville Platte, LA, next to Charles.
17 Sep 1862: He [Charles Dossmann] was conscripted into the Confederate Army at Camp Pratt, Alexandria LA, Roll 281 Co. B-16 Batt'n LA Inf. Confederate Guards Response Batt'n. Private. (National Archives, Washington, D.C., filed under Civil War Confederate soldiers)
He [Charles Dossmann] defected and returned to France.
1865 or 1866: He [Charles Dossmann] returned to this country and brought five others with him: Pierre LaCalle (hide tanner and farmer), Raoul Guillaumin (farmer), Andrew Seifert (farmer), John Castete (hide tanner and farmer), and Aloise Dossmann (half-brother to Charles Dossmann).
1880: He [Charles Dossmann] married Meremere Lyons Lemontey, widow of Eugene Lemontey. She survived him.
The three brothers (Charles, Francois, and Aloise) were farmers and mechanics. Each began life working at the carpenter's bench, and all three, by energy, economy, and thrift, acquired sizeable properties.
19 Aug 1899: He [Charles Dossmann] died at 3 a.m. at his residence on Bayou Cocodrie.
He [Charles Dossmann] wisely used a portion of the ample means which he had acquired by his own industry and economy in giving to his children the advantages of an education. His sons and only remaining daughter profited well by the opportunities afforded them. Though his children did inherit a good estate from him, yet the example which he set them of steadiness, energy and strict integrity, was a still more valuable legacy. They remembered their father with affection and could point to his life with h pride and satisfaction. His loss was keenly felt by his sorrowing children and grief-stricken widow, and was regretted by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances throughout St. Landry Parish.
Property belonging to Charles Dossmann was divided after his death in 1899 among the four living children. The children then made a gift of a sizable amount to their stepmother (Meremere Lyons Dossmann). Shortly after his death, his second wife (Meremere) returned to New Orleans, LA. She visited Dossmann, LA, frequently. she died in New Orleans and was buried in there.
Records of the property settlement after the death of Charles Dossmann are on record at the court house in Opelousas, LA. Meremere's will was probably probated in New Orleans.
The following article tells of the influence of Charles Dossmann. (The spelling of Dossmann has been altered by descendents in central Louisiana to read "Dossman." But the original spelling was "Dossmann" and is retained throughout this article. In the following article, transcribed to this geneology program, all spellings are changed to read "Dossmann.")
"DOSSMANN SPRINGS - A SUMMER RESORT" by Mabel Thompson, in the December 9, 1971, issue of "The Gazette" Ville Platte, LA (Section 4, Page 1):
Everyone has heard of Mineral Springs or Health Spas, but did you know we once had a Summer Resort with mineral springs right in our own midst?
These springs were found on the land of Mr. Charles Dossmann, who had come to America from Alsace-Lorraine. Mr. Dossmann was the grandfather of A. J. Dossmann, principal of Bayou Chicot High School.
Mr. Joel Guillory of Ville Platte supplied the location of these springs and also an entry in land sales where Mr. Charles Dossmann and Mr. Jacques Siffert on November 20, 1875, bought from Marcellus McDavitt, County of Logan, State of Kentucky a piece of land which contained 104 acres. This sale also gave these two men the right to maintain a perpetual dam across the mouth of Mountain Bayou where it empties into Bayou Cocodrie.
Mr. Dossmann bought more land until he had something over 500 acres where he built a home, store, cotton gin, sawmill and grist mill on the west bank of Bayou Cocodrie. This land was in Section 18, Township 2 S, R 2 E, La. Meridian. Part of it it was in Mountain Bayou Lake, and located in St. landry Parish at this time.
After Mr. Dossmann found the springs he decided to develop them back in the early 1870's. There were about six (6) springs that ran continuously and all were located rather close together at the foot of a steep hill. No one knows their output per day but it must have run into thousands of gallons. It is claimed that each spring had a different mineral in it -- some had iron while others had sulphur. No one knows for sure if they had any health value but it has been told that any skin irritation cleared up immediately after the person took baths here. Probably the springs' biggest asset was that it was a good place to go when it was very hot, get into the cold water and cool off. You know this was in the day before electricity so there were no fans or air conditioning.
Here Mr. Dossmann built cabins to rent to families or groups who had come to stay a week or longer. A hotel was built here also with rooms on either side of a long hall, the rooms on one side for the women and on the other side for the men. People from Opelousas, Washington, and all the surrounding communities came and stayed in the hotel or in the cabins. They boarded in the boarding house with rates set at $1.50 per day for board, room, and baths, quite different from our prices today.
Many say the meals at the boarding house were very good and plenty was served. They served freshvegetables supplied by the owner's gardens and some bought from the neighbors. Chickens raised in the area by the farmers were bought and served or or perhaps beef meat from Mr. Dossmann's herd. One of the things most liked was the fried chicken served with breakfast. A Negro woman by the name of "Sissy," who came from Washington, was the cook and from all accounts an excellent one.
Wine was served with the meals. During Mr. Dossmann's ownership whiskey and wine were the only drinks served. Wine was shipped in barrels from New Orleans by train to Gold Dust, the nearest station, to the store and the springs. As soon as the wine was brought in by mule teams every one had to get busy and bottle it to keep it from souring.
Since the land owned by Mr. Dossmann had much fine timber growing on it, he knew he should have a sawmill, and since cotton was king, and the only money crop, the farmers needed a nearby cotton gin. He had a two-sotry building built with the he cotton gin located upstairs, with the sawmill on the ground floor. The sawmill was operated by steam engines. The sawmill was supplied by logs hauled by ox teams. On the hilly part of his lands he cut pine timber, and in the swampy part or out in the lake now called Dossmann Lake huge cypress and Tupelo gum logs were cut.
Since Mr. Dossmann had plenty of timber he was able to build all the cabins and buildings at the Springs with cypress lumber cut at his own mill. There was a "coffee" house where the men gathered to drink whiskey and play cards.
Bath houses were build near the Springs after the springs had cypress curbing put in them to raise the water up so that it would run into the troughs that carried it into the cypress tubs where the people took their baths. It is said that the water was so cold a person had to jump in and then it almost took your breath away. There was a paddle-type closing at one end of the tube that was raised up when the bath was finished to let the water drain out down the hill. There was one bath house for women and one or two for the men.
None of the buildings had glass windows in them but only wooden shutters, and of course there were no screens on the windows. The people had to use mosquito bars if they got any sleep at all. All the beds in the hotel were rough, homemade ones, with very thin mattresses on them. It was cool here at night as the houses were built up on the hill where they got a good breeze.
Mr. Dossmann sent some of his lumber to be sold by flatboat to Washington, then a thriving port, and supplies and groceries were brought back for his store at the resort. The flatboat had a walkway all the way around the boat in order that the men could walk around and use long poles to keep the boat in the middle of the stream and "pole" the boat along. Of course, this was a slow way to travel but back then all things moved slowly, and who was ever in a hurry anyway? Some of his cotton bales were sent to market this way, too.
During Mr. Dossmann's time his store on Bayou Cocodrie or Crocodile as some called it, and the Sam Haas store in Bayou Chicot were the only stores in all of this vast territory. Naturally they did a thriving business as they sold everything anyone could ever possibly need.
At the death of Mr, Charles Dossmann on August 19, 1899, his daughter Martha and her husband, Robert Helmer, took over his business, and ran the sawmill and the Summer Resort, for several years. Mr. Helmer acquired several buggies, and good horses and would meet people who were coming for a stay at the resort at Gold Dust as the train came from Washington and Opelousas through this stopping place.
There was a dance hall where dances were held at least once a week. The dances drew crowds from all the surrounding countryside as entertainment of any kind was scarce back then. A piano was in the dance hall, and one lady, Mrs. Hudy Hazleton of St. Landry remembers as quite a pianist Miss Nana Lalonde of Washington. People came from far and wide to attend the dances while others came to stay a few days. Some came to this spot for picnics.
Beer was served after Mr. and Mrs. Helmer took over. Ice to cool the beer was brought from Bunkie in sacks of saw dust and the 100-pound blocks were kept in a large box and covered over with the saw dust to keep it from melting so fast. Mr. and Mrs. Helmer closed the resort after Mrs. Helmer's health failed. The saw mill was sold to John M. Castette about 1913.
Central Lousiana Electric Co. built a dam and spillway across Mountain Bayou some years back and use the water for cooling in their plant at St. Landry. The warm water is pumped back into a canal that goes into Dossmann Lake.
I doubt if anyone today could find the once famous springs. It is too bad our old landmarks could not be preserved.
All that is left of Mr. Dossmann's holding here is the old house to remind people of the once proud empire.
I am indebted to Mrs. Hudy Hazleton for the pictures and most of this information in the story. Also to Mr. Elmo Guillaumin of St. Landry and Mr. Joel Guillory of Ville Platte.
--[Editor's note: See the letter from Mrs. W. K. Helmer enclosed with Miscellaneous notes shown for Raoul Nilan Dossmann. She writes of Charles Dossmann, whose children were all older than herself (Mrs. W. K. Helmer) except for Raoul Stanislaus Dossmann, who was younger. She writes, also, at length, about Dr. Raoul Stanislaus Dossmann.]
One week later, on Tuesday, December 14, 1971, the following article appeared in "The Gazette."
RECALLS DOSSMAN SPRINGS CLEARLY: One of Ville Platte's older residents, Ben Dossman, who will be 84 in March, stated to The Gazette this week that he still has a vivid recollection of Dossmann Springs, subject of a feature article last week by Miss Mable Thompson.
Dossmann, who was born and reared in the St. Landry area, has been a resident of Ville Platte since 1943. He says his early childhood days were spent around the old Dossmann Store, sawmill and cotton gin.
"How well do I remember when they floated those big logs down Bayou Cocodrie to the sawmill, then dragged the logs by oxen and mule team up to the mill itself," he recalls.
There was a big general store and saloon built right on the bayou bank with a portion that extended over the bayou itself, he claims. "And there was always a demi-john with a cup for the folks to help themselves to some of that real good whiskey," reminisces the old man.
The Dossmann Springs and Hotel were quite a ways back into the woods, away from the mill and store, according to Dossman, not far from where the spillway is now located.
He said his daughter, Mrs. Mable Bradley, is now living in what was then the old grocery store and post office on the banks of Cocodrie "about a mile or so" from the CLECO plant [Louisiana].
Dossman said he was a teamster (driver) all of his working days and handled everything from mules and oxen teams to trucks and automobiles. Says he still does his own driving.
Miss Thompson's very interesting account of the old Dossmann Springs appeared on the front page of section four in last Thursday's issue of The Gazette. Anyone else having information on the subject is invited to contact Miss Mable at Bayou Chicot.
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