Nearly 60 years ago, a historic black community founded as a home for newly liberated slaves was destroyed to expand the national park in memory of the Battle of New Orleans and the victims of the Civil War. Now park rangers and iris lovers believe they may have found a botanical reminder – Louisiana irises and African lilies, which may have been planted by villagers.

Dark purple irises and white and pink crinum lilies were first spotted last spring, nearly 60 years after the tiny Fazendeville community was destroyed to join two sections of the national park. One part was the land where the battle for New Orleans was fought; the second is the National Cemetery, where about 7,300 Union soldiers and sailors rest with later members of the U.S. military.

“We may never know for sure” that the flowers were planted by residents, but that seems very likely, said Gary Salat, who set up a team to rescue local irises and was the first to spot them on the battlefield.

The community, which the people who lived there called the “Village,” was founded around 1870 by Jean-Pierre Fazende, a grocer from a family known as free colored people, said Bill Highland, the official historian of St. Bernard, where the national park is located southeast of New Orleans along the Mississippi River.

Fazende wanted to give the newly freed slaves housing. Thus, he divided the hereditary strip of land, which was wide enough for only one row of houses, into 33 plots for “colonies of freedmen.” The land eventually included 30 houses, a church, bars, a grocery store and a school that was used at night as a dance hall.

“Like many people in his class, he understood that the transition of prisoners to freedom would be a long and difficult process,” Highland said.

For decades, the families lived and worked in a small community built where American troops defeated a powerful British army on January 8, 1815.

In the early 1960s, looking to unite the national park to the 150th anniversary of the Battle of 1965, the Parks Service tried to buy back the land. The hosts refused. Eventually, Congress approved the expropriation, and the community was destroyed.

Homeowners were paid about $ 6,000 at a time when new homes in the area cost $ 16,000, according to a 2014 article in the 64 Parishes magazine published by the Louisiana Foundation for the Humanities. In subsequent years, the park service raised the issue of expropriation in an article on its website.

“The choice to keep one story sacrificed another,” said the park service. “Although as a result of this choice we can better visualize the experience of soldiers during the War of 1812, it leaves us less able to appreciate the struggles and triumphs of future generations and less aware of the complex layers that make up our common history.”

In 2010, a sign in memory of Fazendeville was erected on the battlefield near the road.

Last February, Salat and other members of his Louisiana iris conservation initiative planted a small group of blue irises in another part of the park. Salad, whose group seeks to save Louisiana irises from planned development and plant them in prominent places in reserves and parks, noticed long tall leaves growing in the grass off the road. They looked like irises. A closer inspection confirmed this. He and park rangers returned a month later when irises bloomed and received two surprises.

First, they were dark purple, not the more famous blue iris, which is the state flower. Then came a more amazing discovery – lily crinum. Volunteer Paul Christiansen recognized in them a species from Africa, possibly brought by enslaved people that could not grow wild there.

“People should put them in jail,” he said.

The group then found a small depression where the Fazendeville road once ran. Salate said all the bases of the iris were on the side where the houses once stood, ending about where the backyards would end.

Salad said he asked permission to move some irises and lilies to a place where they would be easier to spot. The park is considering such an exposure, said park ranger Kim Acker.

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