Settlement Patterns.Local folk terminology usually divided the valley into a series of "fronts" and "backs." The front land is the natural levee near the active or abandoned streams. It is primarily well drained silt-loam, grading into the "back," a series of poorly drained organic clays. Even today, land use is structured to make maximum use of these eco-niches.
These early settlements did contain small "cottages" built, like the Badin-Roque House, of poteaux en terre, posts in the ground, half-timbered construction in-filled with bousillage, a mixture of mud and Spanish moss, but these comprised part of a line of very substantial plantations where Creoles were commercially growing tobacco and indigo. The indigoteries, or processing plants, also were strung along the river - in plain view.
Over the years, the Creoles on Isle Brevelle and along the river adjusted to plantation life styles. Farming was, from at least the 1780s, important. Cash crops evolved: First, there was tobacco, joined by indigo and, eventually, both these crops yielded to cotton. All these crops were labor intensive, and most labor was human. Over the years, even by the early nineteenth century, some 18,000 acres of land had been acquired and much of the natural levee area cleared and cultivated.
Roads followed the natural levees, and lanes connected settlements and landings on the river. By the 1780s, the Creole settlers had clearly established plantations, landings for boats, and the beginnings of roads.
Cane River was hardly a frontier. By the 1830s, when cotton was in widespread production in the area, the Creole plantations were well established. Like the Indians before them, the Creoles made major landings at the cut bank side of the river where, although bluffs developed, boats found it easier to leave the stream and to be propelled by the current towards the bank. Homes were built some distance back from active, caving banks of the river overlooking the landing, more prosperous ones with allés of Live Oaks.
Only second- or third-growth Cypress, and even older hardwoods, exist only as "grow back" timber. Commercial logging took its toll - Montrose, Cypress, Flora and Derry all had sawmills that tapped the climax forests. Only a few stands of Bald Cypress exist along the back swamps today. The saw-mills "cut out and got out"; the Montrose mill town flooded out, and today no active logging goes on along Cane River. Land clearing severely modified the back swamp forests in the 1970s. Soybeans were a primary crop, and wetlands, unsuitable for the cultivation of cotton and corn, were extensively cleared for soybean production.
Only second-and third-growth timber, much of low economic value, covers that area today. Some families have re-converted their bean land into pasture; however, cattle production has declined recently because of dropping market prices. It seems possible that these forests will revive.
We Know Who We Are (unpublished manuscript) . . . by H. F. Gregory and J. Moran pp. 71-74