| Alvan Henry Lafargue, Sr., M.D.
(Founder of the West Calcasieu-Cameron Hospital and the Calcasieu-Cameron Fair in Sulphur; the mayor of Sulphur, 1926 to 1938)
|Born|| October 14, 1883 |
Marksville, Avoyelles Parish,
|Died|| February 11, 1963 (aged 79) |
Sulphur, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana
|Spouse|| Florestine Richard Lafargue|
Alvan Henry Lafargue, Sr., M.D. (October 14, 1883 – February 11, 1963), was a Louisiana physician for fifty years and a politician and civic leader. He was one of the early settlers and the mayor from 1926 to 1938 of Sulphur west of Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish in the southwestern portion of his state.
"Fifty years of being a doctor adds up to lots of buggy trips on cold nights and hot days, long hours of waiting for babies to be born, tears, laughter, and a heap of satisfaction." - Dr. Lafargue
Lafargue was born in Marksville, the seat of government of Aoyelles Parish in south central Louisiana. He was from a prominent family originally from the Pyrenees Mountains of France. His father, Adolphe Jolna Lafargue (1855-1917), received his education at the former Jefferson College in Convent in St. James Parish in south Louisiana, and then studied law at what became Tulane University in New Orleans. He returned to Marksville and published and edited what became The Marksville Weekly News, the oldest continuously operating newspaper in Louisiana.
In 1878, Adolphe Lafargue married Annie Winn Irion (1860-1889), the daughter of U. S. Representative Alfred Briggs Irion of Evergreen in Avoyelles Parish. In addition to Alvan Lafargue, the couple had three other sons, Walter Strong, Edwin Louis, and Sidney Eustis. When Annie died, Adolphe married her sister, Emma (1870-1961), who died in New Orleans long forty-four years after the passing of her husband in 1917.
Considered an excellent orator, Adolphe Lafargue was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1896. In 1899, Governor Murphy James Foster (1849-1921), named Lafargue to fill an unexpired term as judge of the state 10th Judicial District. In 1912, he was elected judge of the 14th District, a position that he held until shortly before his death.
Alvan Lafargue was educated in the Avoyelles Parish schools, Louisiana State University, the Tulane University Medical School, and the Memphis Hospital Medical School, since the University of Tennessee Medical Center, from which he graduated in 1910. He married the former Florestine Richard (pronounced REE SHARD) of Baldwin in St. Mary Parish, a daughter of Arthur Richard, a sugar planter, and the former Blanche Dumesnil. The couple had four children, Alvan, Jr. (1913–1994), Myron J. Lafargue (1914–1973), Irene L. Owens (1917–1969), and Prudence L. Burns (1924–2009).
Other family members
Lafargue's grandfather, Pierre-Adolphe Lafargue (1818-1869), was an educator who served as the school superintendent for Avoyelles Parish and founded Marksville High School. He was also a mayor of Marksville. He started the newspaper then named The Pelican and later The Marksville Villager.
Lafargue's father, Judge Lafargue, continued to publish the newspaper as the Marksville Weekly News. Lafargue's brother, Walter Strong Lafargue (1879-1951) of Thibodaux, was first the assistant principal of Thibodaux College and thereafter the long-term superintendent of schools in Lafourche Parish.
A Lafargue nephew, Malcolm Lafargue, a son of Edwin Louis Lafargue, was from 1941 to 1950 the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, based in Shreveport. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate in the Democratic primary but lost to the then two-year incumbent, Russell Long. Dr. Lafargue and his nephew died six weeks apart in 1963.
Lafargue practiced medicine in Cheneyville in south Rapides Parish, Baldwin and Franklin in St. Mary Parish, and, finally, Sulphur, to which he located in 1915. The Lafargue family was among the first to settle in Sulphur. The Lafargues spoke French but did not pass on the language to their children.
In Baldwin, as the physician for a sawmill, Lafargue treated accident victims and often performed operations and amputations with whisky as the only available anesthesia. Lafargue opened his office in the Paragon Drug Store in Sulphur. He covered an area of some twenty-five miles by horseback, buggy, and later, a Model T Ford.
In Lake Charles, Lafargue was the Calcasieu Parish health officer from 1934 to 1938. He thereafter served as the Sulphur municipal health officer. He was a director of the Lake Charles Charity Hospital, later known as the W. O. Moss Regional Medical Center, which was merged in 2013 into the Lake Charles Memorial Health System. Dr. Lafargue served on the staff of both St. Patrick and Memorial hospitals. He was instrumental in building the West Calcasieu-Cameron Hospital in Sulphur, of which he was the first president. He was the physician of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1960, he was honored by the Louisiana Medical Society in Baton Rouge for fifty years of physician service, A memorial light was placed on the Sulphur water tower to recognize his delivery of five thousand babies. At the ceremony, Lafargue said, "Fifty years of being a doctor adds up into lots of buggy trips on cold nights and hot days, long hours of waiting for babies to be born, tears, laughter, and a heap of satisfaction."
Political and civic matters
An active Democrat, Lafargue was the mayor of Sulphur from 1926 to 1938, only the second mayor to be elected to a four-year term, first in 1926, then 1930 and 1934. during which time he initiated many municipal improvements. The town was in debt, and he made so many visits to a bank in Lake Charles that some said with humor that the people there thought he worked at the bank. In time, Sulphur was put in the financial black. He also served on the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee.
A Roman Catholic, Lafargue was a member of the men's organization, the Knights of Columbus. He was also active in Rotary International and the Woodmen of the World. In 1925, Dr. Lafargue founded the bi-parish Calcasieu-Cameron Fair and served many years afterwards as president of the organization. From 1932 to 1934 and again in 1949, Dr. Lafargue was president of the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals. He was the founding president of the organization in 1932. His daughter, Prudence Burns, was the state fair president in 1984.
In 2008, a Lafargue grandson, Gerold J. LaFargue (with capital "F"), a former assistant attorney general of Louisiana, was named grand marshal of the parade. In 2014, the fair begun by Dr. Lafargue was moved from its 12-acre site at 923 Lewis Street in Sulpuur to the West Calcasieu Events Center near Interstate 10.
Lafargue developed the Businessmen's Club of Sulphur, which later became the West Calcasieu Association of Commerce. He won the Silver Beaver Award award from the Boy Scouts. He was a director of the Red Cross. He was president of the Gulf Beach Highway Association, which promoted the construction of U.S. Highway 27. He was vice-president of the Louisiana Division of the Old Spanish Trail Association, which lobbied for the extension of U.S. Highway 90 from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts.
Death and legacy
Lafargue died in Sulphur at the age of seventy-nine. He is interred at Orange Grove Cemetery in Lake Charles. He once said that his great accomplishment was having never turned away a patient in need.
The Lafargue Family papers are deposited at the archives of Tulane University.
The Dr. Alvan LaFargue House at 210 West Lincoln in Sulphur (built 1918) is among the sties of the Sulphur Historic Area Tour. The Lafargue House was also included in the Historic Calcasieu Parish Guide, 2013.
- Lafargue, Alvan Henry. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, publication of the Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved on December 10, 2019.
- Dr. Alvan H. Lafargue (with gravestone photograph). Findagrave.com. Retrieved on December 10, 2015.
- Lafargue Family papers. Tulane University. Retrieved on February 13, 2015; information no longer on-line.
- Judge Adolphe Lafargue. findagrave.com. Retrieved on December 10, 2019.
- A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography uses Erbon W. Wise (a Sulphur author), Brimstone! The History of Sulphur, Louisiana (1981) and the Lafargue family papers as the basis of its sketch of Dr. Lafargue.
- Early Calcasieu Doctors. McNeese State University. Retrieved on December 10, 2019.
- Walter Strong Lafargue. findagrave.com. Retrieved on February 13, 2015.
- Henry E. Chambers, History of Louisiana, Vol. 1 (1925), pp 388-389.
- M. E. Lafargue, Former [U.S. Attorney, Dies – Succumbs in Sleep Here at Age 54; Services Saturday] 1-A, 4-A. Shreveport Journal (March 28, 1963). Retrieved on February 10, 2015.
- Susan LaFarge Kyle (October 12, 2008). Meet Your Neighbors: Prudence LaFarge Burns. The Sulphur Daily News. Retrieved on February 13, 2015; no longer on-line.
- Confirmed by the mayor's office in Sulphur, Louisiana; A Dictionary of Louisiana History has his dates of mayoral service as 1926 to 1932, instead of ending in 1938.
- Past Presidents of the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals. laffnet.org. Retrieved on February 15, 2015.
- Susan LaFargue Kyle (October 12, 2008). LaFargue named Grand Marshal of Cal-Cam fair. Sulphur Daily News. Retrieved on February 13, 2015; no longer on-line.
- Heather Regan-White (October 14, 2014). Cal-Cam Fair's move to new site a 'challenge'. The Sulphur Daily News. Retrieved on February 15, 2015; no longer on-line.
- Sulphur Historic Area Tour. U.S. Gulf Coast States Geotourism. Retrieved on February 13, 2015.
- Historic Calcasieu Parish Guide. Lake Charles Conventions and Visitors Bureau (2013). Retrieved on February 15, 2015.