Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Last Few Years of Gilberto Guillemard

 Gilberto Guillemard is one of the most historic Louisiana personalities, having served as architect on three outstanding structures at Jackson Square in New Orleans: the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and the Presbytere. 

According to historian Don Sharp, he was not truly appreciated by the politicians of the day. His life story is complicated, and much controversy revolved around him not getting paid in full for his years of work designing and building those three buildings, possibly the most famous buildings in Louisiana. He left disheartened for Pensacola, FL, where he died a few years later. 

"It is an important story," Sharp said. "for New Orleans, for Louisiana and the nation. Guillemard was a Frenchman by birth, but a loyal soldier in the Spanish Army. His work as a surveyor and architect was essential to early New Orleans, especially his work on designing and building the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbytere."

A postcard of Jackson Square

He even conducted an important survey of the young community of Mandeville on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. That survey was done to settle a dispute about land grant boundaries between Morgan Edwards and Jacob Miller. 

His Crescent City Contributions

Thousands of people come to the French Quarter every year and visit those three historic buildings, Sharp said. They enjoy the history of them and their beauty. Guillemard was also active in doing projects for the city regarding street work and drainage. 

 While there is no clear history of Lt. Col. Guillemard and the last few years of his life, Sharp has pieced together a convincing narrative: that he left the city in 1805 after not being paid in full for his work on the three historic structures. He went to Pensacola where he died a few years later, as recorded in the Sacramental Records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Sharp believes that Guillemard died in Pensacola in 1808, most probably of yellow fever, and is buried in St. Michael's Cemetery there. He has contacted cemetery officials and reports that they are in the midst of a thorough examination of the gravesites using new technology so that an accurate map can be generated of the graves.

Here is a short interview with Don Sharp recorded on September 13, 2023, in which he explains his research and his conclusions about the last few years of Guillemard's life, his final resting place, and his impact on Louisiana history, especially regarding his highly accurate and detailed survey of Mandeville in its infancy. 

Don Sharp Talks About Architect Gilberto Guillemard
Click on the "Play" Triangle above to view the video

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Gilberto Guillemard and Early Mandeville Settlers

 In this 47-minute interview historian Don Sharp tells about several key characters instrumental in the early development of Mandeville, even before Bernard deMarigny got involved with his large residential subdivision project. In fact, DeMarigny bought several pieces of land from these early settlers.

Link to the Video Interview is located several paragraphs below. 

Those several individuals included the Goodbees, Thomas Spell, and Morgan Edwards. Also involved  was the famous Gilberto Guillemard, the architect of the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbyt√®re at Jackson Square. Guillemard was active in surveying land in early Mandeville, and by using his surveying skills, he helped early Mandeville landowners stake their claim, settle court cases, and begin the long process of selling off pieces of inherited land. 

A portion of the 1798 Guillemard map 

Click on the image to make it larger

For a larger more detailed look at the map, CLICK HERE.

There's no doubt that Guillemard is one of the most historic Louisiana figures, having three outstanding examples of his work at Jackson Square in New Orleans, but he was not truly appreciated by the politicians of the day. His life story is complicated, and much controversy revolved around him not getting paid in full for his years of work designing and building those three buildings, possibly the most famous buildings in Louisiana. He left disheartened for Pensacola, FL, where he died a few years later. 

St. Louis Cathedral

Don Sharp also tells of his research into the real name of Mandeville pioneer Morgan Edwards. According to Don Sharp's research, he was the adopted son of Morgan Edwards, a Baptist preacher. His story is quite interesting as well. The well-educated Morgan Edwards surveyed his own land, but his handwriting on the survey seems to match the penmanship on the famous "Oath of Allegiance" signed by northshore settlers, the first oath that anyone made to the new colonial government in the American Revolution. Edwards sailed with Captain William Pickles of the famed "Battle of Lake Pontchartrain" skirmish. 

Sharp covers a lot of territory in this presentation, but he ties it all together, spotlighting the early history of Mandeville and those who helped make it what it is today. 

To view the video, click on the Play Triangle below.

For more details on the subjects covered, here are two PDF text documents. 

Click this link for The Pontchartrain Posts

Also discussed in the video is the Thomas Spell Cemetery

Click this link for info about The Thomas Spell Cemetery
With Edgar Sharp The Old Pelican

The Thomas Spell Cemetery, also known as the Chinchuba Cemetery, is one of the oldest and most historic burial grounds in southeast Louisiana. 

Edgar Sharp, caretaker,  at the cemetery

Much of the information in the video program is covered in more detail in Don's book on the history of Mandeville. 


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The History of Lighthouses

 Historian Don Sharp talks about the history of the lighthouse system, on the East Coast, along the Gulf Coast, and on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. 

Click on the "Play" Triangle to view the video

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Complete James Rumsey Story

 Historian Donald J. Sharp recently completed an extensive interview about the history of the Lake Pontchartrain northshore with a focus on James Rumsey and his time spent in St. Tammany Parish working on his secret experiments. 

Donald J. Sharp and his Rumsey Research Materials

Rumsey lived in New Orleans for five years, Lacombe for a few years, then moved to Pearl Island at the mouth of the Pearl River for three years. But while Don's earlier talks dealt with Rumsey's success in developing a steam-propelled watercraft, this expanded version shows his other accomplishments, among them 20 patents for his improvements to the grist mill and the waterwheel, as well as his friendships with key early American historic figures.

Rumsey's work on steamboat propulsion in Lacombe helped bring about the arrival of steamboats coming down the Mississippi River just a few decades later, thus changing the history of New Orleans. 

According to multiple sources, Rumsey seemed to be a key player in the early American history. He worked as a superintendent of engineering for George Washington, was honored by Benjamin Franklin who started a society promoting Rumsey's inventions, and was friends with Thomas Jefferson while he was in Europe. Jefferson said that Rumsey was one of the most impressive geniuses he had ever met. 

Rumsey came to the American colonies from England as a member of the British army, was sent to Illinois Territory to help deal with the Native Americans, but then left the military to become a frontier merchant. As a merchant, he brought supplies to the settlers and traded with the Native Americans in the fur trade. As Britain frowned upon American colonists heading further and further westward, Rumsey found himself on the forefront of the westward movement.

After the fur trade business collapsed, Rumsey went to Natchez, MS, and on to New Orleans, where he made friends with the heads of the city. An opportunity arose for him to buy land in Lacombe, and it was a perfect place to conduct his research. 

When the American Revolution broke out, he re-located to Baltimore, where he finished work on his steam-powered watercraft and presented a successful demonstration of the boat on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a few years later. 

There's a park and memorial dedicated to Rumsey in Shepherdstown, WV
Click on the above image to make it larger.

Here is a link to Don Sharp's latest historical presentation about James Rumsey and the history of the northshore area. 

Click on the "Play Triangle" above to see the interview

Sharp worked for decades to unveil Rumsey's true background, since many American historians had been led to believe that he was born in Maryland. Through extensive research in both history and genealogy, Sharp was able to track down Rumsey's actual birthplace as Bristol, England. His main incentive for developing the steamboat was an effort to make money to send to his bankrupt father back in England, who was a sugar broker who lost five ships and was financially strapped as a result. 

Rumsey was chief engineer on an interstate waterway project being pursued by George Washington, and when the Articles of Confederation posed some obstacles in the way of completing that project, Washington and others sought a new founding document that would allow two states to cooperate with each other on projects of mutual interest. That document wound up being the U.S. Constitution. 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

James Rumsey Exhibit Debuts at Maritime Museum

  A large exhibit detailing the life and accomplishments of inventor James Rumsey is now on display at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum in Madisonville. 

The exhibit includes several panels and scale models representing the development of the steamboat, from its earliest incarnations to its large sternwheeler watercraft that plied the waters of the Mississippi River and made New Orleans what it is today. 

Donald J. Sharp provided the historical research that went into the creation of the James Rumsey exhibit, particularly the information on how Rumsey once lived on Bayou Rouville off Bayou Lacombe, and also on Pearl River Island southeast of Slidell. There is evidence that he worked in secret on his steamboat invention at those two locations, before being forced to re-locate to Baltimore, Maryland, by the American Revolution. 

The maritime museum exhibit celebrates the local contributions to the early steamboat design, an invention that changed the course of history.

A video featuring a detailed interview with Sharp explains the sequence of events that brought Rumsey to St. Tammany Parish, and how his contributions led to boats being able to overcome the current of a river and move upstream carrying people and goods to points all along the Mississippi River. 

One part of the exhibit tells about Don Sharp and his research

Friday, May 13, 2022

The Sharp Family Comes To St. Tammany

 Over the past six decades Donald J. Sharp has researched the history of how the Sharp family came to St. Tammany. Here are the results of his work. 

Sharp Family History Part 1

Click on the Play Triangle in the Above Window to view

Sharp Family History Part 2

The Sharp Family Genealogy Pedigree Chart

PDF Files
Click on the links below to see the documents

Edgar Sharp, the Old Pelican, at the Thomas Spell Cemetery in Chinchuba

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Lighthouse History

In this interview taped on April 12, 2022, historian Don Sharp tells about the history of lighthouses on the Gulf Coast, with a focus on the Tchefuncte River lighthouse south of Madisonville, La. 

Click on the "play" triangle above to view the video. 

Lighthouse History Recap

Video With Recap of Lighthouse Information

Don Sharp