From staff reports
Recently, about 50 Ste. Genevieve High School American History students attended a walking tour of historic downtown Ste. Genevieve and the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park. This was the first field trip to the new national park for Ste. Genevieve County R-II students.
The high school history department was proud to share our community’s unique history and spark relevant connections to students’ lives.
During the tour, Dr. Michael Ruch guided students downtown and pointed out places of historical significance and discussed architecture. Discussions centered around two general themes: Sainte Genevieve French Colonial History and Civil Rights history.
At Memorial Cemetery, they discussed the town’s origins, the Valle family triumphs and tragedies, and how the family bought the new cemetery south of town when Memorial Cemetery was closed. Ruch also regaled the students with the story of the Fenwick duel related to the home across the street.
As they progressed, the students viewed the Felix Valle site and the location of the bank robbed by Jesse James. Outside of Ste. Genevieve Middle School, the group discussed its Great Depression/New Deal roots and the history of segregated states.
They discussed the Ste. Genevieve Race Riot of 1930 and the attempted kidnapping and lynching of mailman Cap Ribeux while near the Bequette-Ribault house.
The group also learned the story of Pelagie Amoureux as they passed the Beauvais, Bolduc and Amoureux houses. Pelagie was a remarkable woman, who was born into slavery in 1805, emancipated in 1832, and who raised her family in the Amoureux home through continual trials and tribulations.
National Park Rangers then provided the group with a tour of the Amoureux house, where students learned more about Pelagie’s life and her spirit. National Park Rangers also gave students a tour of the grounds of the historic Green Street Tavern, the oldest verified vertical log building in Ste. Genevieve, for another look at French Colonial life in Ste. Genevieve.
During the tour, Dr. Ruch demonstrated authentic French Creole Upper Louisiana fiddle tunes and allowed students to learn basic fiddle tunes. Each student had a chance to play and learn as we discussed the Sainte Genevieve La Guignolee, a medieval French New Year’s Eve tradition.
During the tour, students undertook an exercise of considering questions like: What can you do to help shape your community’s identity or culture?
Students took their time to think about their answers, and then wrote them on poster papers for their peers to see. Answers included: encourage and celebrate our differences, talk to local historians, speak up, be open-minded to other cultures and support festivals.
Jason Elders is a middle school and high school social studies and special education teacher, and he is also the first Ste. Genevieve National Park’s Teacher Ranger Teacher. “Our school is excited about this collaboration with the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park is looking forward to continuing to work together with the park to provide many more educational opportunities for our students,” Elders said.