Contraband Days: Legend of Jean LaFitte - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Contraband Days: Legend of Jean LaFitte


Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach walked the plank on Friday as Jean LaFitte and his band of pirates took over the city as the 56th Annual Contraband Days Festival got underway. 

But how much of the tradition is true? 

The legend of Jean LaFitte began in the early 1800s. He was a privateer then commissioned by the British government to stop Spanish trade in the Gulf of Mexico.

"He would go out and he would capture these ships and he would take whatever they had whether it be material, cotton, gunpowder - anything they had he would take and bring back to the New Orleans area," explained Ken Savant, Jean LaFitte 2013.

LaFitte would eventually fight against the British with the U.S. in the Battle of New Orleans. After the war, many still considered him a criminal. LaFitte continued to raid merchant ships in the Gulf. A pirate with a bounty on his head, LaFitte fled to Lake Charles.

"He would come over here to hide from the government because this part of the country at this time was considered 'No Man's Land.' It was governed by nobody and no government was allowed in this area to chase him," said Savant.

LaFitte was able to escape capture and navigate his smaller boats deep into the shallow waters of the Contraband Bayou.

"He would come in and if he thought he was being followed ... Legend has it he would bury the treasure off the bank of the shallow waters. That's how Contraband Bayou got its name by the people of the Lake Charles area," said Mark Lavergne, Member of the Lake Charles Buccaneers.

According to the Lake Charles Buccaneers, LaFitte not only got to know the area but he became good friends with the early Lake Charles natives. Their stories passed down from generation to generation now paint a modern day pirate tale with unclaimed treasure.

"I would think ... I haven't heard of anybody making any landfall profits ... so I would think if there is a buried treasure out there - it's still there. There is a rumor however that there was a set of guns missing off the I-10 Bridge and that directly below that is where you would find LaFitte's treasure. But nobody has found it yet," said Savant.

Or have they? While it may not be pirate's booty, these modern day Buccaneers believe the treasure is all around us.

"I've always said the treasure of Southwest Louisiana is the people. These people come in from outside this area and say the people here are so friendly," said Lavergne.

Contraband Days - 56 years of pirates sharing their treasure with Southwest Louisiana.

The Contraband Days Festival runs through May 12.

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