A 1903 article by a young Brownsville Herald reporter recounts a trip to the country to spend the day shooting, hiking and canoeing at the 640-acre Jagou Plantation four miles southeast of town.

A 1903 article by a young Brownsville Herald reporter recounts a trip to the country to spend the day shooting, hiking and canoeing at the 640-acre Jagou Plantation four miles southeast of town.

The young man reported being fed and entertained in the most luxurious style imaginable in the richly appointed plantation house. Vestiges of the old plantation still exist at 1325 La Posada Dr. in Southmost.

Eugene Fernandez of the Brownsville Historical Association will lead a tour of the property from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. His presentation will include the history of the property, which is now owned by the city, as well as efforts to clean it up, refill the adjacent dry resaca and eventually turn it into a park.

“There is one heck of a history behind that deal there,” he said. “It really is unknown by the majority of people.”

The most impressive surviving feature of the old plantation is a brick bridge built in 1893 over the nearby Resaca de la Palma by Celestin Jagou, a French immigrant who pioneered citrus, sugarcane and grape cultivation in the Rio Grande Valley.

For years Fernandez has led the charge to rescue the site, and he learned of the old plantation house during a 2007 interview with Vida Belle Morris Jagou, the widow of a Jagou descendent.

“I asked her, ‘Is the old plantation house still standing?’ To which she replied, ‘Oh yes. Just go down the carriage path and you will see it out in the middle of the field, but watch out for those people in the trailer house,’” Fernandez recalled.

The “people in the trailer house” were the owners of the old house, which was in rough shape but still upright. The interior was a disaster. Fernandez tried without success to get permission to rescue artifacts from the house, including salvageable pieces of 19th-century furniture. He did manage to snap some photographs and rescue a few small artifacts before the house burned to the ground in 2009.

Among the artifacts he saved were love letters from Celestin Jagou — written in French with pen and ink in an elegant hand — to his wife-to-be in Paris. Fernandez also took a photo of the bridge’s keystone, bearing Celestin’s name and the date 1893, although he left it in the house. The keystone went missing sometime before the house burned, he said.

The house’s brick foundation remains, as do what’s left of two large kilns that Jagou used to make bricks for the house, then later converted to water tanks for irrigating the plantation’s orchards and fields.

Though it will be hot weather Sunday, large old cypress trees shading the resaca near the bridge offer a perfect venue for a history presentation, Fernandez said.

“It’s a lovely project,” he said. “Let’s just hope and pray that it comes out of the ground within our lifetime.”