Leon Godchaux purchases Reserve Plantation after Civil War
The Civil War years were disastrous for plantation owners. By 1862 Sophie was forced to make the first of several loans, which she could not repay. In addition to smaller loans, there were 12 large promissary notes. By 1869, Leon Godchaux had purchased all of these notes, totaling over $58,000. He then purchased the plantation for $64,500, giving her $20,000 in cash. The purchase price was meant to cover the amount she owed to him for the loans. However, Godchaux only asked for about $37,000 to cover the debts, losing about $21,000 in the process.
Why was Leon Godchaux so generous to this widow? Surely not for being kicked off her property as a young salesman. There is a story told by his granddaughter that as a travelling peddler, Leon passed out from heat. Sophie took him into the house and nursed him to recovery. He promised to always remember that act of kindness.
After the sale of the plantation, it has been told that Leon allowed Sophie to continue living at the main house. However, she moved into her son Charles’s impressive house on Kerlerec Street in New Orleans. The household consisted of her two sons, their wives and children, four servants and a children’s nurse. Remember during the golden years of the 1850s, the sons received fine college educations. Incidentally, the Boudousquie home was only a couple blocks from Godchaux’s mansion on Esplanade Ave. One can wonder if Leon continued to assist the family financially. Sophie died of cancer in 1894 at the age of 86.