Thursday, May 16, 2019

London Research

In July of 1979, Don Sharp traveled to London, England, to spend two weeks doing research on St. Tammany's English settlers. Most of the land records were housed at "Kew Gardens."

Here is a newspaper article about the trip as published in the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper on Thursday, August 2, 1979.


From the forty plus British land grants he found in London that were located in the area from the Tchefuncte River to Bayou Castin, he drew the following "crude" land map.



Early Lewisburgh Map

From the files of Donald J. Sharp, an 1834 map of Lewisburg, an early settlement between Mandeville and Madisonville on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. To see an enlarged version, CLICK HERE.





Thursday, May 2, 2019

Fort Oak 1813-1822

St. Tammany Parish had a fort of its own, located just northeast of Madisonville. It was built in the fall of 1813 by order of Governor W.C. Claiborne and Navy Capt. John Shaw.

After hearing about the Native American uprising leading to the massacre of Fort Mims in Alabama, the residents of Madisonville convinced the Governor and local Navy officials that a fort was needed. The local inhabitants and the workmen on the "blockship" at the nearby Naval yard would build the structure. We do not know its size or configuration, but there were 150 workers and at least 50 area inhabitants. 

It was a "stockade" fort, meaning it was built with posts in the ground, with parapets on each corner to fire the cannons. Lt. Michael Carroll was in charge of the construction. It was under the command of Captain John Shaw, who placed a Marine guard with heavy cannon in the fort. It was located near where the Otis House in Fairview Riverside State Park is today, and stood from 1813 to about 1822 when the Marine guard was taken out.

Click on the images to make them larger. 



How It Came To Be

The residents of Madisonville petitioned Governor Claiborne for protection from the Indians, and he and Captain John Shaw of the U.S. Navy made a special trip to Madisonville to meet with the community leader David Bannister Morgan and Rene Baham, who was part of the meeting.

Gov. Claiborne's plan for protection was to build a fort on the east side of the Tchefuncte River opposite the village and have a supply of rifles and gunpowder on hand in the fort for the inhabitants.

In addition, Capt. Shaw would place several cannons with a detachment of Marines. Shaw stated he had no doubts that he could defeat any band of Indians that would attack the area.

Where to place the fort? This is where David Morgan came in. With his knowledge of the area by his surveying in 1804 and 1812, he drew a map as to the selection of what he thought would be the best location. (See map).


A representative sample of what Fort Oak might have looked like.

Where was "Fort Oak" located? It had to be in a clearing due to the cannons placed by Capt. John Shaw. The clearing would give the cannons a clear field of fire. The only clearing between the Naval facility and Madisonville was near Jacques Lorreins house, (near where today's Otis House is) on the east bank of the river, opposite Madisonville.



Christopher McKee wrote the book "A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps., 1794-1815." The 600 page book was published by the US Naval Institute Press in 1991. He joined Don Sharp and his son on their visit to Fairview State Park to get a better idea of the location of Fort Oak. 


Don Sharp at Fairview State Park, searching for the site of Fort Oak

Admiral Farragut Helps The Choctaws

Admiral David Glascow Farragut of the United States Navy aided the Choctaws of St.   Tammany Parish during the period of military occupation of New Orleans. Adrien Rouquette had met Farragut on a trip up north years before* the War.   His nephew, James Rouquette (Dominique's eldest son)  had sailed with Farragut on a mission which took him around the world by sea.   

Pere Rouquette,  after the burning of Buchuwa Village,  sent an urgent appeal to Admiral Farragut for permission to cross Lake Pontchartrain to bring much needed medicine, food and clothing to The Nook for his  suffering Indians. Farragut responded by sending a Federal gunboat up Bayou Lacombe to escort the Choctaw mis­sionary to New Orleans and back to Lacombe.



(Photo courtesy National Archives)


According to Wikipedia, Farragut was the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral in the United States Navy. "He is remembered for his order at the Battle of Mobile Bay usually paraphrased as "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" in U.S. Navy tradition."


"Born near Knoxville, Tennessee, Farragut was fostered by naval officer David Porter after the death of his mother. Despite his young age, Farragut served in the War of 1812 under the command of his adoptive father. He received his first command in 1824 and participated in anti-piracy operations in the Caribbean Sea. He served in the Mexican–American War under the command of Matthew C. Perry, participating in the blockade of Tuxpan. After the war, he oversaw the construction of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, the first U.S. Navy base established on the Pacific Ocean."

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Madisonville Cemetery

In 2012 Donald J. Sharp wrote an extensive history of the Madisonville Cemeteries. Here is a portion of that account. 

Madisonville originally had two cemeteries in the early part of the nineteen century. One, which today is called the Madisonville Municipal Cemetery, is still in existence and the 
other, the Baham family  cemetery was removed in 1917 when the Jahncke Shipyard was built. The first, which started as the Parent family cemetery in the late 1700s was located in the northern part of Madisonville near Bayou Desire. It is still in operation to this day. The 

Baham family cemetery, which originated with the death of Juan Baptiste Baham in 1807, was located in the southern boundary of Madisonville about a half mile away downriver. It was located on the bank of the Tchefuncte River on Pierre Baham's, a son of old Juan Baptiste, Spanish land grant. It was these two families, the Bahams and the Parent families that were the first to settle on the Tchefuncte River after the British settlers left in 1779.

The two families were previously living in the Mobile area when hostilities broke out between the Spanish and British during the American Revolution in August of 1779. Charles Parent had his plantation on the west bank of Mobile Bay, high on a hill, burned down when the British attacked the Village. The Village was a Spanish Outpost located next to the Parent and Rochon Plantations. After the attack, Charles Parent took his family and moved across the bay to Spanish controlled Mobile. 

Later, he moved with his family to New Orleans. The Biaham's were living north of Mobile on their plantation on the Tensaw River, a few miles above Mobile. In 1782, the Baham's were in Mobile when Francoise Guillory, wife of Juan Baptiste dit Gentil died. Shortly after Francoise demise, Juan Baptiste and his five sons moved to New Orleans.

The Bahams and Parents did not stay in New Orleans very long. Charles Parent did try to buy a house in Bayou St. John in 1782 but at the auction, his bid was low. The Bahams had a shorter stay in New Orleans than Parents. It appears that it wasn't long after the Bahams arrived in New Orleans that the father, dit Gentil, petitioned the Spanish Governor, Estevan Miro, for a grant across the lake on the Tchefuncte River. 

The land had been vacant since September of 1779 with the start of hostilities between the Spanish and British. Word had arrived on the north shore that Galvez and his army were attacking the fort at Baton Rouge and the few remaining settlers on the river scattered in all directions. They took what they could and left. It was a hasty departure.

When old Juan Baptiste Baham requested a land grant for his family on the north shore, the War between the British and Spanish was still on. Even so, some New Orleans residents were already getting Spanish approval to settle on the contested land. It appears that Juan Baptiste Baham and his sons had the Governor's approval for a grant. 

Morgan Edwards had settled on a British grant at Bayou Castein as early as 1782 and Louis Reggio even earlier, in 1781 at Bayou Lacombe. 

It wasn't until the Treaty of Paris on September 4, 1783 and word was reached in New Orleans, some month and a half later, that the Spanish officially took control. The Spanish Governor approved a grant of 1000 arpents, (800 acres), to Juan Baptiste Baham two miles up on the West bank of the Tchefuncte River. This land had previously belonged to British settlers Thomas Berwick and James Oliphant. 



Some of the land had been cleared and was well developed by the British settlers. We know from records that the Bahams were living on their grant as early as April 24, 1783, some six months before the treaty of Peace was signed in Paris. The Baham grant was some of the best high land on the west bank of the lower Tchefuncte River.

After word was received in New Orleans that the War was over and peace had been declared between the Spanish and British, the Spanish Governor realized that there was a 
need for some authority of control on the north shore of the lake. He then appointed Charles Parent as Commandant of the Tchefuncte River area. The date of the appointment is not known but it was likely in late December, 1783 or early 1784. 

The Commandant's duties would be in the role of Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, and Judge in small matters, all rolled into one. When the newly appointed Commandant moved across the lake and started looking for suitable land to build his house and conduct the official duties of his office, he found that the best high ground on both sides of the lower river were already taken. The Bahams had the choice spot on the west side and the Lorrein's family had what high ground was on the east bank. 

Charles Parent did the next best thing to secure a spot on the lower Tchefuncte River. He purchased the Sarpy grant that was adjacent to the northeast boundary line of the Baham grant and on the river. Sarpy had purchased the land from Louis Allard, son-in-law of Jacques Lorreins II. Louis Allard had obtained the land as a Spanish grant in early 1784. It wasn't the best spot, but at least it was on the river and as close to the mouth that could be obtained.

At first, Commandant Parent's location on the river did not create a problem as traffic across Lake Pontchartrain from Bayou St. John to the Tchefuncte River was minimal. It was after 1787 when General James Wilkinson came down from Kentucky and reached an agreement with the Spanish authorities to allow flatboat traffic from Kentucky to deposit its farm produce at New Orleans. After that, the Tchefuncte River landing became increasingly important. 

As more and more flat boatmen arrived in New Orleans from upriver and deposited their cargos at New Orleans, the traffic from Bayou St. John to the Tchefuncte River increased dramatically! It was part of Parent's job to check the passports of travelers passing through and not to allow anyone to settle without official permission. Also, another aspect of his job was to welcome various Indian Chiefs and their delegations and to assist them in getting across the lake. 

It became increasingly difficult to carry out these duties from his location on the river. Just to the south of his southern boundary line was a strategic bend in the river, but it was on Baham's land. He asked the Spanish Intendant Juan Morales in New Orleans to adjust his southern boundary lines southward, along the river and adjacent to the Baham grant, to include a portion of this strategic bend. This was granted and Morales ordered Surveyor General Carlos Trudeau to make the adjustment. 

Needless to say, Trudeau got the two parties together and it was done, but it was not agreeable to old Juan Baptiste Baham and his sons. It would create a controversy between the two families that would last a long time.

When was each cemetery started? It is not known for sure when the first death occurred in the Parent family but when it did happen, a burial site was needed. It also could even have been a traveler from New Orleans that died on the north shore and needed to be buried quickly in Louisiana's climate. We do know from the records that Commandant Charles Parent and wife Jeanne Rochon had a young son named Joseph that died in 1790. Where to bury him? 

Much of their land was partially surrounded by low marshy ground. No, that would not be a suitable place. Should they pick out a spot far out in the woods? No, that seems to be rejected also. A few hundred steps from their home on the bend in the river was this beautiful ancient live oak on high ground. It was right below the drainage canal later  
called Bayou Desire, and also a short distance to the river. The large live oak is still standing today. In the mid-19th century it was given the name of "bathing oak" by the local inhabitants.

We do not know for sure if young Joseph Parent was the first to be buried and his burial was the start of the cemetery. We do know its location as Charles Parent Jr. stated in his will, written in 1858, that both his parents are buried in the cemetery and he describes the boundary lines of his property quite clearly. This description is very precise and it can be traced on a Tobin Map. When did his father, Charles Parent Sr. die? He died in 1804 and we can state with certainty that he is indeed buried in the cemetery. So we do know that the cemetery was in existence soon after the Louisiana Purchase occurred. 

How do we know that the original cemetery was the same one that was on the Parent property? There are several documents and maps that are undeniable evidence to this conclusion. The first and most convincing is the Will of Charles Parent Jr. of 1858. He states in his Will that it is indeed the Parent Family cemetery, that his father and mother are buried there, and that he plans to be buried there also. He then gives a description of the boundary lines of his property of 1854 which includes 406 acres and the cemetery. 

Charles also stated that he had Paris Childress, a surveyor from Covington survey his west bank land and it should be attached to his will. A copy of this survey, after an extensive search both in Covington and New Orleans, could not be located at this time. The key marker to Charles's boundary description in his will is the large live oak that he states that is call the "bathing oak" by local residents. It is still standing today in close proximity to the cemetery. 

It should be noted that Charles Jr., his sisters Josephine and Francoise Amiee were born on the Tchefuncte River. In September of 1804 Commandant Charles Parent Sr. died. 

While on his sick bed, his neighbor to the north, Robert Badon, came down and stayed with the Commandant. The Spanish Governor, with his armed armada, passing through the lakes on their way to Baton Rouge, stopped at the Tchefuncte River home and visited the sick Commandant. 

The Priest with the expedition gave the Commandant the last rites of the Catholic Church. The Commandant was buried the next day in this cemetery after he died. The next important resident to die on the lower Tchefuncte River was old Juan Baptiste Baham dit Gentil himself. He died three years later in 1807. He was not buried in the cemetery  
with Parent. His sons buried him on the bank of the Tchefuncte River about a half mile further south down river. It was on the land of son Pierre Baham.

Getting back to the Parent family, after Charles Parent Sr., the Commandant, died in 1804, his widow Jeanne Rochon continued to live on the Tchefuncte plantation. She died sometime before 1816 and was also buried in the cemetery. This was clearly stated in Charles Jr.'s Will of 1858. In 1816 there was a double wedding in the Parent family. 

Charles Jr. would marry Helwig Roman of St. James Parish and his sister Francoise Amiee would marry Helwig's brother, A.B. Roman, who would be elected twice as Governor of Louisiana.

Quick Burials Necessary

It was the custom in the late eighteen and early nineteenth century to bury a family member on one's property, usually several hundred feet from the house. In Louisiana, with the hot and humid climate most of the year, it was imperative to bury the deceased as soon as possible, usually the next day. The only places that had a municipal cemetery were the large towns or cities. New Orleans had a large cemetery but it was a long journey across the lake by boat. 

When Juan Baptiste Baham died in 1807 his sons decided to bury their father on their own property and certainly not close to the cemetery started by the Parents. They decided to bury their father about one half mile downstream, the same west bank, on Pierre Baham's Spanish grant. They selected a site of high ground on the river bank for the cemetery's site. 

As the years unfolded and Juan Baptiste Baham's sons died, it appears a pact was made to be buried together. The cemetery appears to be only for the five sons and their father. This is appears to be in the glass negatives taken of the cemetery when the Jahncke Shipyard was constructed in 1917. The bodies of the Bahams were disinterred and moved to a cemetery in Tangipahoa Parish.

When Commandant Charles Parent died in 1804, West Florida was still under the control of the Spanish and the adjusted boundaries between the Bahams and Parents was still in force. The West Florida Rebellion in the fall of 1810 started a chain of events that would return the boundary lines of qualified settlers to their original boundary lines. 

After West Florida became under the control of the United States Congress was concerned about the confirmation of land titles and began passing a series of laws. They appointed Land commissioners to carry out these laws. 

From the Pearl River to the Mississippi River it was first James 0. Crosby in 1813, as the United States Land Commissioner in West Florida, and then Charles C. Crosby in 1819. Charles C. Crosby is the one who adjusted the boundary lines of the Baham's claim to its original 1783 Spanish land grant. This was done under the Congressional laws of 1819 and 1822. He was given the authority by Congress to adjust the boundary lines in certain claims, when proof of original ownership was presented. 

The petition of the Bahams, taken by the Land Commissioner in 1819, appeared to be sufficient proof to have their boundary lines adjusted for the full 640 acres allowed by the law. If one is wondering what motivated the Bahams, especially Renez and John Baptiste, to petition the Land Comissioners in Greensburg to adjust the boundary lines between the Parents and their fathers original grant of 1783? 

The answer appears to be obvious! It was David Bannister Morgan who certainly was advising them of their rights under the new land laws as he was now part of their family. 

He had married Mary Constance Baham, daughter of Renez, in 1819 and now was living next to his-father-in law. He was a surveyor with knowledge and experience in surveying both Spanish and American land grants and he most likely kept up with the newly passed Congressional land laws. 

In my opinion it was Davis Bannister Morgan, giving advice to the Bahams that encouraged them to have their boundary lines adjusted in 1819. It could be a coincidence, but starting in 1819, there were burials in the cemetery that were relatives of the new purchasers of lots in the Town of Madisonville and not directly related to the Parent family. 

The Bahams were selling lots in Madisonville and the availability of a cemetery could have influenced their sales. The oldest recorded burial site in the cemetery today is Elizabeth Aydelotte, infant daughter of Joshua Aydelotte and Elizabeth Tabitha Beale Edwards. Joshua was a business man and had purchased quite a few lots in the new town. He opened a store, was a money lender, and built a hotel near the main crossing at the river. 




After 1819, there were burials of Lt. George Merrill and Joshua Aydelotte himself. Many more burials were to take place in the cemetery for the next twenty-five years of various residents of Madisonville, until Charles Parent Jr. would re-gain ownership in 1848. It appears that after John Baptiste Baham Jr. obtained ownership of the land that the cemetery was located on, by the adjustment of the boundary lines through the Congressional act of 1819, that burials  not related to the Parent family soon began. 

The land was now owned by the Bahams, John Baptiste Jr., the son of old Juan Baham dit Gentil himself, to be exact. He or other members of the Baham family  would have given permission for burials. How do we know this? John Baptiste Jr., after gaining  ownership of the land that the cemetery was on, in a roundabout way, to circumvent Louisiana laws, sold the land to a friend, a Captain Prieto in New Orleans. 

Captain Prieto was living next to the Raby family in Fabroug Marigny at the time. He then, two days, later leased it to Baham's lady friend  companion, (common law wife) Marianne Raby. Marianne in a short time, not satisfied with just a lease agreement, purchased the land outright from Captain Prieto. (Was this planned? This was likely done) So  thereafter, she then sold thirteen acres, which included the cemetery, to Eugene Marchand, a friend of  Marianne's brother Antoine. Eugene was also the younger brother of Felicite Marchand, the widow of  Basil Krebs.

Basil Krebs, son of Marianna Chauvin dit Joyeuse, who was widow of Hugo Ernest Krebs and the owner of the Spanish land grant at the mouth of the Tchefuncte River, had married Felicite Marchand of New Orleans in 1799. Felicite's father was a wig maker and she belonged to a very interesting New Orleans family, the Marchands. Her younger brother Eugene, (John Eugene Marchand, born 1768) married Maria Beluche. Marie's brother was none other than Renato Beluche , the pirate and freedom fighter of some  
renown. 

Renato was a Lieutenant of Jean Laffite, the New Orleans pirate and was with Laffite on many of raids in the Gulf of Mexico. Later, Renato joined the fight for freedom in South America and was one of Simon Bolivar's favorite Admirals. Marianna Chauvin, Widow Krebs, and Felicite's mother-in-law, died December 12, 1811. At the time of their marriage Basil was 35 and Felicite was 38. They never had any children. 

When was the cemetery consecrated? The exact date has not been found, but we know in about a five year period span of time when this occurred. Before 1840 only an occasional Catholic priest would stop in Madisonville to say Mass and baptize. In 1841 Renez Baham and wife Isabelle Milon built a small chapel on the corner of Pine and St. Mary's Street, square 11 lot 6. The visiting priest would use this chapel. 

In September, 1841 the Bahams gave the land and building to Bishop Antoine Blanc of New Orleans. It was shortly thereafter that Renez Baham died on January 23, 1842 in Madisonville. It was sometime between Renez death and when his son John Baptiste bought the land from John Spencer  that the Cemetery was consecrated. In the act of sale the cemetery was referred to as consecrated. 

There is no doubt that the Madisonville Municipal Cemetery is significantly historically important, not  only to Louisiana but nationally. It is not the purpose of this essay to list all the important persons known to be buried in the cemetery, but in fact, there were many, some of local renown and some of  national importance. It should be preserved and placed on The National Register of Historic Places in Louisiana as soon as possible. 



Iris Lulu-Simoneaux Vacante at one of the cemetery's many historic gravesites.

See also:


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tom Spell Memorial Cemetery

In April of 2010, Don Sharp and Anita R. Campeau published a history of the Tom Spell Memorial Cemetery in Mandeville. 

To read the text of their article, CLICK HERE for a PDF File. 



The article was published in the New Orleans Genesis, the monthly magazine of the Genealogical Research Society of New Orleans. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Andrew Jackson's Second in Command

In January of 2015,Iris Vacante of Madisonville wrote an article about how the Tchefuncte River played a major role in Battle of New Orleans back in 1815. Here is the text of that article:

Madisonville's historic figure Brigadier General David Bannister Morgan served as second in command under Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans

By Iris Vacante

While New Orleans unleashed the pounding of cannons and rifles during the reenactment of the Battle of New Orleans recently in celebration of the Bicentennial, the town of Madisonville, situated on the tranquil Tchefuncte River, was peaceful and quiet. But 200 years ago during the Battle of New Orleans, it wasn't peaceful at all.

Donald Sharp of Metairie, a historian and co-author of The History of Mandeville: From the American Revolution to Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville said tension on the north shore was very high and many citizens fled the area in anticipation of the British coming down the Tchefuncte River to get to the navy yard. 

Here's the story Sharp tells:

Between 1807 and 1823, the Tchefuncte River was the home of a United States naval yard, where gunboats could go for repairs and provisions. The location was in a turn of the Tchefuncte River now known as Beau Chene. The area was a prime location because the land sloped into the river making it easier to launch vessels. It was also an area that had a clear view of the river in both directions and was less vulnerable to British attacks than along the Gulf of Mexico.

Prior to the Battle of New Orleans, Captain John Shaw hired master carpenter Francois Pichon of New Orleans to build a flat-bottom frigate measuring 152.9 on deck that could defend New Orleans and the Louisiana coast lines. It was designed specifically to operate in shallow waters.

The block ship Tchifoncta would be equipped to carry 32 heavy cannons, 26 which would be 32 pounders. Construction of the vessel began in March of 1813 with up to 150 people working to build it during peak building times.

When William Jones replaced Paul Hamilton as Secretary of the Navy, he put no value in gunboats or flat bottom frigates. He thought it was simply a waste of money. New Orleans' new commander Captain Daniel Patterson tried to defend the Tchifoncta and wrote that it was 80 percent complete and would be useful to defend New Orleans because of its ability to carry heavy cannons over shallow water. His pleas to complete the Tchifoncta were not accepted, and in the spring of 1814, Jones ordered the layoff of the workers and had the navy halt construction on the vessel.

Later that year with the impending British attack on New Orleans, Major General Andrew Jackson wrote a letter to the Secretary of War dated December 16, 1814, urging the completion of the Tchifoncta, but it was too late. The Battle of New Orleans broke out Jan. 8, 1815, and the vessel sat nearly complete on its stock.

Many historians felt that if the navy would have completed the Tchifoncta as Shaw had planned, the Battle of Lake Borgne would have ended differently, and the Battle of New Orleans may have never taken place. The boat was the only flat bottom frigate built in the south. It could have stopped the British in Lake Borne from getting their equipment in place for the Battle of New Orleans.

Tension remained high in the town of Madisonville during the Battle of New Orleans. Just before the battle began, Lt. Commander Michael Brown Carroll of Maryland sailed a bomb ketch named Aetna up the Tchefuncte River and blocked all traffic going up or down the river to protect the naval yard and the Tchifoncta from being burned by the British.

David Bannister Morgan of Madisonville was called upon and served as second in command under Andrew Jackson as Brigadier General. He was in charge of commanding the forces on the west bank of the Mississippi. He was poorly equipped with 250 weak and hungry men from Kentucky who had been marching throughout the night.

The group was also poorly armed to fight against the British. Once on the front line, the Kentuckians began to retreat, ignoring Morgan's orders. The British won the west bank. Years later, the incident was investigated, and the defeat was taken off the shoulders of Morgan, and the blame for the defeat was due to Major Paul Arnaud and the Kentuckians. Morgan is buried in the Madisonville cemetery.

Renez Baham of Madisonville also served as a major in the 1st Battalion, 13th regiment of the Louisiana Militia. He was the son of Madisonville first permanent settler, Juan Baptiste Baham.

In the Spring of 1823, the secretary of the Navy closed the Naval Yard. The Tchifoncta was taken apart and the wood sent to other naval yards on the east coast. All the naval equipment was shipped to the new Pensacola Navy facility.