The fall season was underway. The massive oaks swayed in swinging approval
of a baby boy drawing the first breath of life. It was on September 30, 1866
that Gabriel Nope graced the home of John Traviel and Anorine Gashia Nope.
Bayou Bouttie was alive with the creatures of nature to keep a lively boy busy. To feed and clothe the family, every member pitched in as did Gabriel at the age of five. He accompanied his father into the dark marshy swamp to fish and catch game for the family table. The small boy could barely be seen in the tall reed grass as he stalked game.
The Atchafalaya River flowed lazily through the bayous. It was brought to life by the many alligators that lived and bred there. It was a dangerous and adventurous job for a boy to help his father catch and skin the vicious creatures . . . but, the skins were needed for their bread and butter.
When they returned from their hunts, it was a familiar sight to see the broad and batten house with one big bedroom and kitchen. This shell of a dwelling housed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. It was impressively tucked into a niche among the massive giant oaks, pepper weeds and abundance of green that is natural yield for the swampland. Mother Anorine appeared small in this setting as she worked industriously stretching the skins and pelts from the previous hunts.
Gabriel recalled how hard he had worked to clean the boats with Spanish moss after each hunt. There would be slimy mud to be removed. This moss is an American herb with spike flowers. The gray strands hung in heavy masses from the branches or tall giant oak trees.
One day at age 15, Gabriel along with his father John, climbed into their skiff to hunt alligators as they had many times before. This particular day, John Nope, weary from his work, gathered some of this moss for a bed. As he lay there relaxed, he actually heard the voices' angels singing. He was impressed that he would soon be called back to his heavenly home. They finished their hunt. John returned home to relate this special experience to his wife. Soon afterwards, January 18, 1881, he joined the angels who had called him back.
As Gabriel grew, he wanted to rise above the ignorance of the swamp people. He had a quick mind and could readily analyze any situation. He learned to cope with the slick buyers who came to take advantage of the poor swamp people. They offered pennies for their pelts and hides which the unlearned would readily accept. But the Nope family was quick to see their deception.
As Gabriel's desire to gain an education grew his brother-in-law, Ralph Perry, made alphabet cards for him and loaned him books. He learned to spell, read and became adept to mathematics. He studied diligently as he cut timber to enhance his livelihood.
Gabriel's self-attained education filled him with the desire to better his life so he could offer more to his family. He courted and married Alice fish on October 29, 1889.
The urge to get ahead continued to burn within him, so he left the swamp with his family and became a captain of a steamboat named "The Shamrock." The big stern-wheel steamer groaned as it towed the massive logs to the saw mills.
He became a respected person and was not long in receiving a better offer which came from Mr. F.B. Williams. He accepted this offer and began piloting a huge boat, which towed the logs into Patterson, Louisiana.
The constant traveling and being away from home became tiresome so he found work in a machine shop. One evening he stopped for a few beers on his way home from work. As he continued home, he noticed a meeting going on in an unimpressive building. His natural curiosity took him into it to see what was taking place. The missionaries from the "Latter-day Saints Church" were holding a cottage meeting. He was so impressed with their words that he called out to them as they prepared to leave. "I want you to tell me more about your gospel."
By this time Florence, Lillian, Richard, Bertha and Alice had been added to the family. So the missionaries yielded a mighty harvest when all of them wanted to be baptized.
Mother Alice and Gabriel were baptized on March 28, 1906. A little less than a month later on April 22, 1906 these good parents brought their children to the waters of baptism. It was an impressive sight as Mother Alice swung a heavy stick, while Gabriel herded their brood, to protect then from an aggressive bull which chased them across the field. They were on their way to be baptized by the missionies when this incident occurred. Mother Alice was just as determined as that bull. With the help of a heavy stick and our Heavenly Father, mother Alice won the battle and they continued to the river's edge where the baptismal service was to be held.
Though happy over their membership in the church they had many unhappy experiences of persecution. The children were sometimes whipped and rolled into ditches. They were called all types of names by their school mates. This did not discourage them in wanting to learn more of the gospel.
Satan worked hard to discourage cottage meetings. Mobs would gather outside the windows and beat on cans and drums or yell and scream to drown out the speakers. The missionaries would raise their voices to be heard above the terrible noises and the meetings would continue. B.B. guns were shot at the Elders to discourage their work, but they remained undaunted in their efforts.
Gabriel's desire to share the gospel with the people of Patterson burned within him. In his zealousness to share the gospel he could soometimes be found on the street corners of the town preaching the gospel. Many of the townspeople thought he was crazy.
Once more Gabriel felt moved to return to the swamps to teach the gospel and better the lives of his friends and families who remained there. He wrote to Brother Bennion for instructions to start and build the gospel in this forsaken place and so, with meager facilities, he started a Sunday School.
Every Sunday morning Gabriel took a piece of iron and banged it on a huge circle saw to announce the meetings to the bayous. The sounds traveled for miles up and down the river. The families would then climb into their skiffs and boats and go to the meetings to hear the words of the Lord.
With the furniture moved out of the two room house it was barely possible for everyone to fit. Many of the very same people who had persecuted the Nope family had now come to realize the full meaning of the gospel and were now enjoying the meetings instead of trying to discourage them.
Gabriel preached a double sermon every Sunday and gave the Sunday School lesson in both English and French. He wanted to be sure everyone understood everything he said.
He encouraged these people to educate themselves. Gabriel taught a young boy, Charles Scadlock, to read and write with home made alphabet cards. Gabriel worked hard to teach and direct the life of this boy. Charles' education was continued and for many years he was Bishop of the ward in Franklin, Arizona, He was known as Bishop Charles Scadlock until he departed unto his heavenly home. His son Charles, Jr. served a mission in England.
Many of Gabriel's descendants have served missions throughout the United States and in the Orient. Other of his descendants have served as teachers, youth leaders, priesthood leaders, women's leaders, members of bishoprics and bishops, high councilors and members of stake presidencies. Gabriel taught the people of the swamp obedience to the word of wisdom and to remember the Sabath day to keep it holy. Gabriel's desire was to share this gospel with the people he loved so dearly. Now his descendants and the descendants of those he taught are sharing the gospel throughout the world and are leaders of the church.
Gabriel's love for the gospel is further exemplified in the fact that he named his sons born after his baptism with Mormon names, i.e., Joseph Fielding Nope and Gabriel Nephi Nope.