Madstone of Vacherie
A GIFT an Indian made to the Gravois and Weber families in back Vacherie more than 150 years ago is credited by residents of that section with having saved the lives of over 2000 people.
Identified now as the famous "mad-stone" of Vacherie, the gift was made by the Indian in appreciation for the care those families took of him while he was ill. Around it has grown scores of stories of miraculous cures from bites by poisonous snakes and mad dogs and from various types of infection.
Worn by use to but a fraction of its original size, it has been handed down from generation to generation and is presently in the possession of 83-year-old Ernest Gravois, who has seen many amazing cures in the 49 years he owned the stone which looks like a black agate and is now in two pieces, both about the size of a dime but thicker.
Not a week passes, he says, but that someone calls at his home to have it applied to a bite by a poisonous snake or insect. And often as many as two or more people come for treatment the same day.
Fame of the stone has spread far and wide and people have come from all parts of the country for treatment. They come to Mr. Gravois' home at all hours of the day and night, but he is always glad to oblige and happy that he can be of assistance to them.
Medical men and scientists have been baffled by its miraculous healing powers and though they have studied it for days at a time and subjected it to numerous examinations they are still at a loss to explain what makes it work.
Applied to a bite or infected area, the stone sticks with magnetic force and holds on as long as there is poison in the wound, Mr. Gravois declares.
"It will not let go until all the poison has been removed, and it will not fall off even if the victim turns his hand or arm over," Mr. Gravois asserted, adding that he has seen the stone remain on an infected area as long as three days.
Often it is necessary to keep people in his house overnight because the stone is still clinging to the infected wound when night comes, but he has yet to see the stone fail to cure a person in the hundreds of times it has been applied, he said.
Many times people have come to him after medical treatment has failed to cure them, Mr. Gravois stated, declaring that "none I know have required medical attention after being treated by the stone.
Mr. Gravois remembers well a time not long ago when a cat developed rabies and bit seven members of a family not far from his home. They rushed to him to have the stone applied and all seven left completely cured.
On numerous occasions, he said, people have been carried into his house because infected wounds prevented them from walking, but after the stone had been applied they were able to walk out by themselves. Arms and legs paralyzed by poison have been restored to full use after application of the stone, he declared.
Arthur Guidry, a farmer in the Vacherie area, bitten last October by a poisonous snake while gathering wood near his home, is a confirmed believer in the stone. It cured him, he vouches, and has cured his wife, who was bitten by a spider, and a son, bitten twice by snakes.
Describing the reaction of the stone, Mr. Guidry said 'it seems to draw like a suction." He said relief from pain is instantaneous. Others treated by the stone confirm his statement.
S. F. Gravois, police jury member from the Eighth Ward, political subdivision which includes back Vacherie, is a nephew of the owner of the stone, and while he has not had occasion to employ it himself has taken scores of people to his uncle's house for treatment and has seen the stone work many times.
Testifying to the magnetic power of the stone, he says he has seen it passed along the arm of a person bitten by a snake without 'catching" until it reached the infected area.
"And then it clung until all the poison was removed," he declared. "Sometimes my uncle puts it back on after it has fallen off, but usually it won't 'catch' again. However, if there is still a trace of poison it will stick again."
After treatment is completed, the stone is washed in clear, cold water, which bubbles as if it is boiling when the stone is immersed, and then carefully wrapped in cotton. Mr. Gravois stores it in a small, round tin container which formerly held a medication oddly enough identified as "Indian Ointment."
Needless to say, it is the prized possession of the Gravois household and of all the people in that section, and it is held in the highest regard by hundreds of persons who have been cured by its strange healing qualities.
Many offers to buy the stone have been made to Mr. Gravois, but it is not for sale.
"The Indian who gave it to my grandparents told them never to sell it, and it's not going to sold," Mr. Gravois emphatically declares.
"It has been out of the house only once since we have had it and I went with it to New Orleans that time while doctors photographed it from every angle and examined it under high-powered microscopes, but they could find nothing.
"When the stone was given to my grandparents, it was about three inches long and about as thick as a man's thumb, It is worn a lot now and a couple of years ago it fell and broke in two, but it has lost none of its curative powers. Both pieces are effective.
"At the time the Indian made the gift, there were only three families in this section-the Gravois and Weber families.
"Indians from Lake Des Allemands frequently came here and one time when my grandmother had been bitten by a snake they brought the stone and cured her with it.
"Shortly after that one of the Indians - I don't remember his name or his tribe - became ill while in this section and for more than a year he stayed with the Gravois and Weber families while they nursed him back to health.
"When he was well enough to return to his settlement, he expressed his gratitude by giving them the stone which had cured my grandmother.
"Where the Indian got the stone is not definite. I have heard that it came from the heart of a white deer. A lot of people have dug around the former Indian settlement on Lake Des Allemands, but no stones have been found with curative powers.
"The stone will last for many years yet and many more lives will be saved," Mr. Gravois said, "because white people befriended an appreciative Indian a century and a half ago."