Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Search for The Seal

In the early 1970's, when Donald Sharp was beginning to take interest in researching the original land grants along the Tchefuncte River (and at the lakefront which was later to become Mandeville), he came upon a rather perplexing mystery.

The Great Wax Seal of West Florida, the one the government used to vertify official documents, was an extremely difficult item to find. The seals were made of wax and paper and tended to flake and crumble over the years, especially if they are handled a lot. 

A partial Great West Florida Seal had been found in Covington at the St. Tammany Parish Court House Archives in the Clerk of Court's Office, but finding a more complete seal in better shape was a top priority. 

Sharp was just one of the many researchers looking for a surviving West Florida Seal. One should have been readily available, considering the hundreds of land grants and other legal papers issued by the territory. But it was not. He stepped up his efforts in looking for a complete seal in the mid-1970's when he started doing his research on the history of the town of Covington.  

His efforts took him to London, England, in the summer of 1979, but he was unable to track one down even in the official archives there. "I was very lucky to be invited by the Director of the Department of Seals on Portugal Street after meeting him at the Public records Office in Kew. He was supervising a gigantic display of Seals, some dating back a thousand years.

"I explained what I was looking for and he quickly invited me to extend my search at the six story building where all the seals are kept. I was allowed, with an employee, to search in a room where the East Florida Seals, attached to their land grants were kept. 

Why There Are So Few Seals

"The reason there was not an official place designated for the West Florida Seals is that the Claims Commission, after the American Revolution, did not recognize the claims of the Loyalists living in West Florida. It was not officially a part of the Revolutionary War and Land Grants with their Seals attached were not accepted by the Commission," Sharp explained.

Dr. Robert Rea , Professor of History at Auburn University, found out that the St. Tammany Parish archives, had, up to that time, the only known surviving seal, and he made a special trip from Alabama to St. Tammany Parish to examine the seal. While there, he gave a speech at the St. Tammany Historical Society quarterly meeting. 

Click on the image to make it larger. 

"We were not the first to go look for the West Florida seal in London," Sharp said of he and Dr. Rea. "Others had tried, without success, over the past seventy five years." The Seals that Sharp did collect on that trip were made into a nice display which is now part of the Donald J. Sharp Collection  at Southeastern Louisiana University

"My first contact with Dr. Rea was in the late 1970's when I read several of his articles on the British Period of West Florida. He had been doing research on the Deputed Great Seal of British West Florida and states that after extensive research in the British Archives in London, he also could not find a single one that were attached to the land grants of West Florida during the 1763-1783 period," Sharp said.

"It was only by luck and an early court case that St. Tammany had one - although in a deteriorating condition. They were made of wax and paper, and 200 years had taken their toll," he commented.

"I wrote to Dr. Rea telling him that a Great West Florida Seal was in the St. Tammany court archives if he wanted to examine it. The St. Tammany Historical Society had been established about ten years earlier and he was asked to speak at one of our meetings." 

In the summer of 1978, Dr. Rea had written an article about the Great Seal of West Florida in the Alabama Historical Quarterly, several  excerpts of which follow:

The Deputed Great Seal of British West Florida by Robert R. Rea

"The sovereign authority of the State is customarily displayed on official documents by the Great Seal of the issuing government or ruler. 

"In medieval England the king's seal was regularly used to validate orders, letters, charters, grants and other documents. Initially a simple signet ring, the royal seal gradually became more elaborate and its size increased to the point that, of necessity, it passed from the fingers of the monarch into the care and keeping of his Chancellor who, on state occasions, carried (and still has carried before him) the elaborately embroidered seal bag symbolic of his office. 

"By the eighteenth century the British government utilized a large number of especially designed seals, and among these were the deputed great seals, those created for the use of the governors of the several American royal colonies.

"Remarkably little is known about the official colonial seals, and relatively few impressions of them have survived into the late twentieth century. Normally pressed into red wax which was attached by ribbon to a document, examples of these souls have tended to dry out, crumble and disintegrate, so that they are today but fragments. 

"Most of the surviving pre-Revolutionary provincial seals have long since been detached from the documents to which they once gave authority, but detachment could also result in the loss of the seal. 

"This seems to have been the fate of the Great Seal of the colony of British West Florida. No example of that seal appears to exist among the many documents to which it was once attached and which are now to be found in the vast collections of the British Library and the Public Record Office in London.

"Happily, certain information regarding the creation of the West Florida seal, and a precise description of it, can be gleaned from the surviving records of those departments of government concerned with its production, the Royal Mint most particularly.

"The record does not show how the approved designs of the seals were selected, but it appears that more than one proposal for the West Florida seal was submitted to the Board of Trade."

The design of the seal was approved on December 21, 1763, and four drafts were engraved. The Chief Engraver of Seals, Christopher Seaton, submitted his bill for the design work on April 10, 1764, describing it as a double seal for the Province of West Florida. 

While the seal of British West Florida is of purely antiquarian interest today, Dr. Rea said in his article, "the mystery of its appearance, and disappearance, and the obvious value of a surviving example should inspire future searches and perhaps the discovery of a truly rare historical artifact."

And Such A Remarkable Discovery Came Along

Sharp explained that "around 1998,1 noticed in The Historical Collection of New Orleans' Bulletin that it had added to its collection by purchasing a Great West Florida Seal at an antique show in Charlestown, South Carolina," 

Sharp said, "I believe that this seal was part of the land grant that Alexander McCullough sold to Official Eli Bey Hall. After the Revolutionary War, Hall had settled in Charlestown,and his grant, with the seal, was passed down to his descendants.

The partial Great West Florida Seal in the St. Tammany Parish Court House Archives in Covington in the Clerk of Court's Office and the one purchased by The Historic Collection are the only ones in existence at this time that have known to survive.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Timeline Along the Tchefuncte River Corridor

This Timeline researched and edited by Donald J. Sharp in 2013 on the occasion of the City of Covington's Bicentennial. 

A series of events, beginning in the year 1718, that involved the Badon and Collins families, led to the establishment of the town of Wharton on July 4,1813. These two families were instrumental in the founding of Wharton, which had its name changed four years later to Covington, and it is important in understanding the history of Covington that their stories be correctly told. I have created a time-line which will help the reader to follow these important events, not only these families, but also the history of The Tchefuncte River Corridor.

Our story begins in the year 1718 in which two important events occurred. The establishment of New Orleans on the bank of the Mississippi River in the French Colony and the birth of Pierre Gabriel Montilemar de Monberaut back in France. Pierre Gabriel was the third son of Joseph-Hector de Montaut, Marquis de Monberaud and was born May 7,1718, at Palermny, a small village overlooking tne Garome River about a mile west of the town of Cazeres.

Following the custom of his class and the calling of younger sons, Monberaut sought his fortune in the French Army. On September 1,1738, he was appointed lieutenant reforme' and at the age of twenty he began what proved to be a quarter of a century of service as an officer in the Colony of Louisiana. He was first stationed at Mobile and later at Fort Toulouse as deputy commander. Later, he established and developed a large plantation on the Fowl River known as Lisloy.

He married Marie Lemaire (Lamay) and had several children, one was a daughter named Catherine, who married Joseph Badon in 1764 and was an important participant in how and why Wharton was established. Joseph Badon was from France and worked as an assistant surgeon at the hospital in New Orleans. Their children, Henry, Robert and Felicite played important roles in the settlement of the land on the upper Tchefuncte River and enticing John Wharton Collins to buy the Drieux tract.

From the Badon family we now turn our attention to the Collins family. The Collins family was originally from England. John Hinton, a native of England, immigrated to Baltimore and married a Sarah Sharewood of Philadelphia in April of 1747. They had a daughter Mary, who married Thomas Wharton Collins.

Thomas and Mary would have seven children, four of which will play an important role in the founding of the Town of Wharton in 1813. They were: William, Mary, Lydia and John Wharton Collins. William Collins, born in 1778 followed the life of a sailor. He became Mate and later Captain of a ship plying the waters between New Orleans and Liverpool, England. In 1802 he married in Liverpool Anne Corran and by 1810 had settled at New Orleans. In 1812 he acqured the U.S. Mail contract between Bayou St. John and Madisonville to which he made his home. He was Captain of a swift sailing packet on Lake Pontchartrain.

In 1755 Great Britain and France became embroiled in a war known as The Seven Years War or The French and Indian War which lasted until 1762. Great Britain was the victor and acquired France's vast holdings on the North American Continent. One prize for Britain was the land on the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico which King Geoge III named West Florida in 1763. Great Britain would maintain control of West Florida until the American Revolution and then lose it to Spain.

The Tchefuncte River had been completely abandoned by British settlers when the fighting began in August of 1779 and remained so until April of 1783 when Juan Baptiste Baham dit Gentil and his five sons occupied their Spanish land grant issued by Spanish Governor Estevan Miro. Spanish surveyor Carlos Trudeau stated that he saw them living on their 1,000 arpent (800 acres) land grant as early as April 24,1783.

It was during the British Colonial period that the first record of a European had actually explored and traversed the land that would one day become the city of Covington. In 1768, a British surveyor and cartographer by the name of George Gauld and six sailors, working for the Royal Navy, ascended the Tchefuncte River as far as and beyond the forks of the Big Bogue Falaya River and sounded the river and explored the land. 

A few years later, the first English settler by the name Thomas Berwick and family settled on the old tar factory site, two miles up from the mouth of the Tchefuncte River on the left bank, and would be there the next eight years. Several of his children would be born there, including Thomas Jr. Later, in January, 1779 they would leave and settle at Bayou Tech with the Canary Islanders. Berwick Bay and the town of Berwick were named after them.

In 1778, back in Philadelphia, William Wharton Collins, the future sea Captain and older brother of John Wharton Collins is born. According to St. Tammany historian Adrian Schwartz, John Wharton Collins, William's younger brother, the founder of Wharton, was born in 1788.

Meanwhile, back in Mobile, Joseph Badon, husband of Catherine Montilemar and father of Henry, Robert, Felicite, and Francesca died in Mobile in 1784. Widow Catherine and the children move back to New Orleans and Catherine petitions Spanish Governor Estevan Miro for a land grant on the Tchefuncte River. There were several French families from Mobile that had already settled on the Tchefuncte River Corridor when she applied.

Her petition was granted and she and her family moved over to her grant in 1785. It was located on the West bank of the Tchefuncte River opposite the Big Bogue Falaya fork. Catherine daughter Felicite married Antoine Foucher in 1787 and they obtained the land on the west side of Catherine. The Great Migration, a term given to the movement by historians, of settlers from the East Coast and the Natchez area begin to move south.

A few of these settlers moved into the Bogue Chitto River area and some even to the Tchefuncte. It wasn't too long that roving bands of hostile Choctaws drove off these settlers along the Bogue Chitto River, five miles below the Mississippi line of demarcation. The Native Americans had been hostile ever since the British settlers were driven off the Amite River by Captain James Willing raiders of the Continental Colonies in 1778. The Indians deeply resented the white man taking their important ancestral hunting grounds.

1801 was an important year for both the Badon and Collins families. On January 4,1801, Catherine Montilemar, widow Badon died. She was 55 years old. Catherine did not get to see her son Robert marry Maria Collins, older sister of John Wharton Collins on April 17,1801. The two families, the Badon and Collins were now united in marriage.

In 1803, Jacques Drieux, grandson of Mathurin Drieux, an early settler at New Orleans, received a Spanish land grant on December 6, 1803 in the forks of the Tchefuncte and Big Bogue Falaya Rivers. Jacques Mother, was a sister of the Spanish Surveyor General Carlos Trudeau. The grant was confirmed by the Spanish Intendent Juan Ventura Morales.

In 1803 and 1804 two children are born on the Tchefuncte River to Robert and Marie Badon. They are Marie Elizabeth and Robert Badon Jr.

There were two events that occurred on the Tchefuncte River Corridor in 1804 that would a great impact to the area. David Bannister Morgan makes his first appearance on the Tchefuncte River. He and his surveying partner Thomas Fenton, who have been working up in the Natchez District, were hired by Spanish Surveying General Carlos Trudeau, to come south and do surveying work on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

Due to the Louisiana Purchase there was a backlog of surveying work and a lot of people were going "land crazy". This is the first meeting of David Morgan and the Baham family. The other important event was the death of the Commandant. Charles Parent, Commandant of the Tchefuncte River dies in September of 1804. Robert Badon, his neighbor to the north, stays with the Commandant the last weeks of his illness.

U.S. Gunboats Patrol River

In 1806, there was an amazing event on the Tchefuncte River that would change the lives of the people that lived there for years to come. Two United States Gun Vessels, Nos. 11 and 12 had just arrived from the East Coast and Captain John Shaw, at his New Orleans headquarters ordered the vessels to cruise Lake Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

They were to "show the flag" and find suitable watering and provision docking areas. Lieutenant Joseph Bainbridge and Sailing Master John Rush, commanders of the two vessels, ascended the Tchefuncte River and dropped anchors opposite Baham Village. Old Juan Baptiste Baham dit Gentil, the first settler on the river after the British abandoned their plantations in August of 1779 was alive to see the United States Gunboats.

There was another person of significance to see the Gunboats in the river. His name was Ira C. Kneeland and he was a deputy surveyor for land grants in Spanish West Florida. He told his boss, Vincente Pintado, Spanish Surveyor for West Florida that he would also like a grant on the lower Tchefuncte River. Pintado told Kneeland that all the land was already taken on the lower river.

Kneeland then went and surveyed for himself 2,000 arpents on the Big Bogue Falaya River adjacent to Massey West Baker's grant on the northeast side. Kneeland did not keep possession of his grant very long for in 1810 he fled the West Florida Rebellion to Pensacola taking all his survey papers with him and there he shortly died.

John Baptiste Baham dit Gentil, died at his cabin on the bank of the Tchefuncte River in 1807. He was buried on his son Pierre's property below the Village. His gravesite was on the bank of the river. A pact was made by the five sons to be buried alongside their father when they would die. This was carried out and the Baham graveyard lasted at that site until 1917 when the Jancke Shipyard was built.

Frank Bernard dit "Dunkirk" died in 1808. He was one of the early settlers on the upper Tchefuncte River. He was a bachelor of 46 years old who applied for a Spanish land grant shortly after Charles Parent was appointed Commandant... In 1784 he applied for and was granted land on the west bank of the Tchefuncte opposite the Big Bogue Falaya Fork.

What Frank did, was bring a free woman of color named Mary to live with him as his common-law wife. It was illegal under Louisiana law for a European (white) to marry a person of Indian or the Colored race. Frank Bernard was the first recorded person to practice the system of "Placage" on the Tchefuncte River Corridor. Many others will follow his example in future years.

Henry Badon, the older brother of Robert, marries Lydia Collins, the sister of William, Maria, and John Wharton Collins in 1809. Now there are two Badon brothers married and living with two Collins sisters on the upper Tchefuncte River. In 1811 they have two children, Henry Badon Jr., and Catherine Montilemar. In addition William Collins is living near Baham Village and is captain of a fast sailing packet between the Tchefuncte River and Bayou St. John.

1811 was the year that a military cantonment was established with the cooperation of Governor Claiborne of Louisiana and Governor David Holmes of Mississippi Territory. Lt. Colonel Leonard Covington of the U. S Army assigns the 3rd Regt. Stationed in the Mississippi Territory for the job. Barracks for the troops and housing for Officers are built five miles from the Bogue Falaya Fork on the road to the settlements northeast on the Bogue Chitto River.

It didn't take the "locals" to refer to the road as "The Military Road". Jesse Reubel Jones, a budding young lawyer moves from Natchez to St. Jacques on the Drieux tract in 1811. It would be the beginning of a long career of Jones in St. Tammany Parish. John Wharton Collins, future founder of Wharton and brother of William, Maria and Lydia Collins marries in New Orleans Marie E. Tabateau a young refugee from the slave uprising in Santo Domingo.

In 1812 James Tate arrives in New Orleans after coming down the Mississippi River from Ohio. He was appointed Judge of St. Tammany Parish by Governor Claiborne. He first settled in Madisonville and later at Wharton. He was joined by his brother Thomas in 1814 and together they were involved in selling land along the Bogue Falaya River.

From 1812 until 1819 when replaced by Jesse R. Jones Judge James and his brother Thomas was involved in many events of St. Tammany Parish. A declaration of War with Great Britain was received in July, 1812 and the Military Cantonment on the road between the Bogue Falaya and Bogue Chitto Rivers was closed.

John Wharton Collins, merchant of New Orleans, decides to buy the Jacques Drieux tract between the Tchefuncte and Big Bogue Falaya Rivers in 1813. His sisters and their families which are living in St. Tammany Parish may have been the deciding factor for the purchase. He uses the money his wife brought into their marriage. He has plans of developing a town on his tract and hires Gilbert Joseph Pilie, an engineer, a land scape architect and surveyor from Santo Domingo. Pilie finishes laying out the town in June and on July 4,1813 the Town of Wharton is dedicated.

Captain John Shaw, commandant of the New Orleans station decides to build a large flat bottom frigate on the Tchefuncte River above Madisonville and leases 20 acres from Jacques Lorreins. He begins to clear the land and build the ship in January, 1813. He hires 150 men from New Orleans and St. Tammany Parish to construct the ship.

Continuing in 1813, Governor Claiborne writes to Governor David Holmes in Mississippi. Claiborne tells Holmes that since the closing of the Military Cantonment on the Little Bogue Falaya, renegade bands of Choctaws have been increasingly hostile in the area and he expects trouble. In late August, the "Red Sticks" Creeks attacked Fort Mims, which is 30 miles north of Mobile.

Over 300 men, women, and children are massacred. Settlers on the north shore of the lakes are in a state of panic. They appeal to Governor Claiborne in New Orleans for protection. In early September, Governor Claiborne and Captain John Shaw travel to Madisonville with a plan. The plan is to build a Stockade Fort, (Fort Oak) in a clearing opposite Madisonville, for the protection of the settlers in the Tchefuncte River area, including Wharton.

This Fort, along with Ford's Fort on the Pearl River, the Fort at Springfield, and the Fort at Baton Rouge will offer settlers on the north shore. A string of Forts will be available in case the Indians attack. Claiborne also brought rifles, powder and lead to be available in the Fort. Captain Shaw said that he will assign a detachment of U.S. Marines with heavy cannon in the Fort and had no doubt that if the Indians attacked they will be defeated.

In March, 1814, General Andrew Jackson and his Tennessee volunteer Army defeat the "Red Sticks" Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in central Alabama. This puts an end to the Indian menace in North St. Tammany Parish. In July of that year, Thomas Tate, joins his brother the Judge James Tate in Wharton. Together, they sell land along the Bogue Falaya River.

They are known as "James Tate and Brother". On November 30,1814, General Andrew Jackson with his five aides, including Major Howell Tatum, traveling overland from Mobile to New Orleans, come down the Military Road from the Bogue Chitto River and pass through Wharton. Major Howell Tatum in his Journal describes the town. They pass through Wharton and continue on to Madisonville where they spend the night.

In the morning they take Captain William Collins packet to Bayou St. John. The voyage took ten hours. They arrived at the bridge of Bayou St. John at 10:00 that night. Later, after the Battle of New Orleans, Captain Sam Dale took Captain William Collins packet, across the lake, carrying the message of General Jackson's great victory to stations to the East.

In December of 1816, luck ran out for Captain William Collins. Moses Moore, stated as a witness in a trial in St. Tammany Parish in 1830, that he knew Collins and that he drowned in an accident off shore from where the lighthouse was (1830). There was a wooden lighthouse at the mouth of the river, western side, as early as 1827 as stated in a Coast Guard report.

In 1817, the name of the town of Wharton was changed to Covington by the Louisiana legislature in honor of General Leonard Covington for his heroism in the War of 1812.

In 1818, Haden Edwards' son-in-law Joshua Aydolette and his wife E.T.D. Edwards, buys lots, builds home on river at Madisonville and opens store. A year later the small infant daughter of Joshua and Elizabeth Aydolette dies and is buried in the cemetery.

In 1819, Joseph H. Hawkins, noted Kentucky lawyer, moves down to New Orleans to practice. He builds a home on the river in Madisonville.

In 1819, Jesse R. Jones is appointed Judge of St. Tammany Parish by Jacques Villere, replacing James Tate.

In 1820, Stephen F. Austin becomes an apprentice of Joseph H. Hawkins.

In 1821, the Louisiana Legislature grants permission to Richard Chappel on the Bogue Chitto River at Strawberry Bluff permission to operate a ferry boat where the Military Road crosses the river. Anne Corran, widow of William Collins and wife of James Tate, dies in Augustine, Texas.

Also in 1821, First steamboat crosses Lake Pontchartrain. In Texas related event, Hawkins and Austin sign a contract to start a colony. 

In 1822, Haden Edwards joins Nashville Committee going to Mexico City to request Texas land concessions to introduce Anglo-American settlers into the area. He will be gone on this trip for three years.

In 1822, John Baptiste Baham, son of the old Juan Baham, states that he wants to be buried with his father in the Madisonville Cemetery.

In 1823 the U.S. Navy Yard closes on the Tchefuncte River. The last official act of the Navy Yard is to find two masts for the Schooner Erumpas, which was fighting pirates in the Caribbean. S.M. Jonathan Farris appeals to local residents to find two suitable trees.

In 1825, Court Cases in the 8th Judicial District at new courthouse at Claiborne Hill gives evidence of settlers in the area. Cases involve trespassing and the cutting of timber. Haden Edwards returns from Mexico with land grant.

In 1827, John Baptiste Baham, son of Juan B. Baham, dies. 

In 1828, David Rice Morgan, nephew of the General, settles in Madisonville. Steamboat St. John arrives at Madisonville. 

In 1829 Bernard de Marigny begins buying up property on lakefront which will become Mandevile in 1834. 

In 1831 Charles Parent purchases Rosalie "Rogo" Krebs from Widow Felicite Krebs for $1000, along with her three children. 

In 1833, Samuel H. Harper, federal judge, and his wife Sarah Ann Lea purchase land in Madisonville .

In 1834, Bernard deMarigny sells lots in Town of Mandeville.

In 1837, Tchefuncte Lighthouse built. The first owner of the land the lighthouse is located on was Basil Krebs. 

In 1842, Renee Baham dies and Felicite Marchand, widow Krebs, makes out her will. Madame Elizabeth Spell and Martha Richardson die.

In 1844, Madisonville Presbyterian Church built.

In 1847, Twenty-nine subscriptions purchased in new section of Madisonville cemetery.

In 1848, Felicite Marchand dies, leave cemetery to Charles Parent. General David Bannister Morgan dies. 

In 1868, Charles Parent Jr. dies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Tchefuncte River Light Station

The "Tchefuncte River Light Station" was the subject of an October, 2008, article by Jay C. Martin, Ph.D., in Lighthouse Digest Magazine.

The article told about Madisonville celebrating its 171-year connection with history, particularly its maritime history. The Tchefuncte River has long flowed in and out of Madisonville history, beginning with Native American trade, French and Spanish explorers, and a heritage of shipbuilding that spans 200 years.

In the article, Dr. Martin tells of Bienville founding New Orleans in 1718, and how even then the city relied on the port of Madisonville for shipping valuable cargoes of foodstuffs, building materials and people. "Lake Pontchartrain was sheltered from the weather, was shorted, and did not include all of the many snags and changeability inherent in the delta of the Mississippi," he noted.

The river Tchefuncte, therefore, offered a convenient path into the interior, all the way up into Covington, which then offered overland routes northward. "Given the remarkable changes of hands of New Orleans among the French, Spanish and eventually the Americans (not to mention the British), the north shore was during much of European history a separate international sphere," Martin noted. 

General Andrew Jackson was just one of the more notable personages who saw the importance of the Tchefuncte River and Madisonville. "It provided an alternate inland means of transportation in he south which was less vulnerable from attack" than New Orleans, Martin added. It was Jackson who petitioned Congress to build a military road from Nashville, TN, down to Covington and Madisonville, a distance of 436 miles.

"Madisonville was located on the first convenient high ground one and a half miles up the river," Martin notes. "Important trades in brick making, lumbering, commercial fishing, and shipbuilding developed as a commercial activity, grew, and by 1834 Congress acknowledged the importance of the community and the tricky s-shaped entrance to the Tchefuncte by authorizing construction of a lighthouse there."

Martin commented that the lighthouse, as it stands today, is located on one of the last few marshland wildernesses that exist on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. 

Congress authorized the construction of a conical brick tower, 300 feet tall. Construction was completed in 1838 with ten "Argand lamps and a parabolic reflector. According to Martin, the first lighthouse keeper was Benjamin Thurston, who lived with his family in a small cottage on site. He was close enough to town for daily visits, the article noted, and the light station itself had frequent visitors, who were often amused by Thurston's "pet alligator."

"When the Civil War erupted, Madisonville was still one of the most importance ports on the north shore of the lake," Martin wrote. "The first Tchefuncte River lighthouse was heavily damaged during the Civil War and demolished at the end of hostilities. However, some of the bricks from this first tower were used to build the tower that still stands today," Martin wrote.

After the Civil War, regular steamer schedules between Madisonville and Covington, which was 15 miles upriver, helped maintain the ties between the two communities as well as New Orleans across the lake.

To read the entire magazine article,complete with color photographs, CLICK HERE.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Springfield's Role In the West Florida Revolution

A historical marker telling how Springfield, LA, played a part in the West Florida Revolution was unveiled in May of 2010, with a number of area history enthusiasts on hand to take part in the commemorative event. 

The ceremony took note of the Bicentennial of the West Florida Rebellion, which took place two hundred years earlier in 1810. The Republic of West Florida was comprised of several Louisiana parishes, those east of the Mississippi River above New Orleans which had been part of Spanish West Florida (and British West Florida) for years.

Click on the images to make them larger. 

Those parishes were East and West Feliciana, East Baton Rouge, St. Helena, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Washington and St. Tammany. The town of Springfield was central to the rebellion, which created the Republic of West Florida, with its "capital" in St. Francisville. 

The republic also extended across the future Mississippi and Alabama state lines to the western boundary of the Florida panhandle. 

Springfield is located on La. Hwy. 22, which traces in part, the old "El Camino Real," (or The King's Highway), a key Spanish route back in 1783 to 1810. A stockade or small fort was located in the community.

In a Morning Advocate article written by Christine Morgan, she said, "In 1810, during a revolt against Spain, residents led by William Cooper remained loyal to Spanish authority, but rebels, led by Gen. Philemon Thomas, prevailed at Baton Rouge with the help of 44 grenadiers from Springfield under command of Col. John B. Ballinger. There they helped capture the Spanish fort on Sept. 23, 1810."

Denise Martin, a Springfield organizer for the event, said Springfield had to play a part in the bicentennial celebration because of its close ties to those events from 200 years earlier. 

Donald Sharp, area historian, and Eric Edwards, the executive director of the Livingston Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, were given the honor of unveiling the historical marker detailing Springfield's participation in the historic event. 

Location of the Madisonville Cemetery

On this Tobin map that shows property tracts from 1813, the Madisonville cemetery is seen marked in orange highlighter. Its position related to the bend in the river is important, according to the description Charles Parent J. gave in his will.

Click on above image to make it larger.

The key to the location of the original Parent Cemetery (today's Madisonville Municipal Cemetery) is the large live oak tree called in the 1850's by the local residents "The Bathing Oak."

It did not move from 1850. It clearly shows the southern limits of the Parent property line since the 1790's when surveyor Trudeau adjusted the lines. 

For more information on the Madisonville Cemetery, see Vols. 7A and 7B of the Donald J. Sharp Collection called "The Tchefuncte River Corridor."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Tchefuncte River Corridor

Donald J. Sharp named the focus of his historical research as the "Tchefuncte River Corridor," an area of intense interest due to its development and contributions through the past 200 years. 

The Tchefuncte River corridor is approximately 12 miles in length, starting at the mouth of the Tchefuncte River at Lake Pontchartrain and running east, then northwest, with bending curves and a major branch with the Bogue Falaya River. 

The towns along the Tchefuncte (and Bogue Falaya) include Madisonville, Lewisburg, Mandeville, and Covington. Another branch, the Abita River, goes towards the northeast all the way to Abita Springs.

Click on the map images to make them larger. 

An early Tobin land grant map

The Krebs Plantation land grants (No. 38, 40 and 41) started at the mouth of the river and extended northward on both sides of the river. The corridor ends up the Bogue Falaya River with the land grant of Jesse R. Jones (the site of a brickyard), which is land grant No. 45 on the Tobin Map shown. 

The complete corridor came into existence in 1811 when Jacques Drieux acquired his property on the Bogue Falaya River. He sold it shortly thereafter to John Wharton Collins, who founded the town of Wharton. A few years later, the name of the town was changed by the state legislature to Covington. 

Upper Tchefuncte River Corridor Showing Covington

Middle Tchefuncte River Corridor showing branch rivers

Lower Tchefuncte River Corridor Map Showing Madisonville/Lewisburg

The families represented on this land grant map include Baham, Parent, Badon, Foucher, Krebs, Lorreine, Raby, Edwards, Morgan, Lewis, Jones, Collins, Tate, Monberaut, West, Bernard, June, Drieux, Trudeau, Klein Smith, and Juzon. 

According to the website, the river is 48 miles long, starting in Tangipahoa Parish and coming southward on an angle through a corner of Washington Parish and then into St. Tammany Parish. It ends when it flows into Lake Pontchartrain just west of Mandeville and a few miles south of Madisonville. 

The river has been designated by the State of Louisiana as a "Natural and Scenic Waterway," and today it is popular for boating, fishing and water recreational sports. 

"The Tchefuncte River was important waterway back in the 19th century," the website stated. "The lumber and other building materials from the rural and heavily wooded northshore of Lake Pontchartrain was shipped down the river, across Lake Pontchartrain, and on down to New Orleans where it was used for construction purposes on the south shore."

In 1795 Basil Krebs petitioned the Spanish authorities for a land grant on the west bank of the Tchefuncte River where it flowed into the lake. He was finally granted the property in 1804 after proper surveys had been done. Since his stepmother's family were well-known lighthouse builders at Mobile Bay, Alabama, it may have been his goal to build a lighthouse at the mouth of the Tchefuncte as well.

The Mobile Bay lighthouse was shown on a 1716 map of the area, and, if it was built just two or three years prior to the making of the map, that would have made it one of the first lighthouses built in America. 

Back in Louisiana, in 1835, the river traffic on the Tchefuncte River had increased significantly (including the start of steamboat traffic), and as a result, a lighthouse was built at the mouth of the river in 1835.

David Bannister Morgan

According to materials in the Donald J. Sharp Collection at Southeastern Louisiana University, David Bannister Morgan was a leader in the Madisonville community for many years.

Between 1800 and 1804, he was a surveyor at Natchez, MS, and also did some work in northern Louisiana. He served as a surveyor in West Florida in 1804, appointed to several positions by Governor W. C.C. Claiborne. He was hired to do a survey on the Tchefuncte River in 1804 and returned to settle permanently in St. Tammany Parish in 1812.

In 1804 he surveyed two 400 acre plots for Joseph Baham, becoming acquainted with the family, and two months later surveyed 800 acres for Juan Baptiste Baham. This was to contain the Madisonville cemetery.

When he returned to live on the Tchefuncte River, he renewed acquaintances with the Bahams.

After he surveyed Basil Krebs and his mother's lands in 1804, Morgan was captured by Spanish troops near Baton Rouge and held a captive on a Spanish schooner (warship) in September for two months. He made a "daring" escape from the warship in November offshore from Bayou St. John.

In 1814, he was placed in command of the West Bank of the Mississippi River at Chalmette during the Battle of New Orleans. 

During his life, Morgan served a the parish surveyor, a planter, a brick maker, as well as a Justice of the Peace in later years. He is one of the most renowned "celebrities" buried in the Madisonville cemetery, and he had a lot to do with the history of the ownership of the land upon which the cemetery is located. 

His knowledge of federal and state laws was crucial in the advice he offered the Baham family. The Congressional land laws of 1819 (640 acres) and 1822 (old boundary lines) gave back the land which the cemetery was on to the Baham family that had been taken away in 1784 and given to Commodore Charles Parent, according to Sharp's research on the matter. 

In 1824 he purchased the Montrose land grant tract, in 1826 he purchased the Keating Tract, and in 1827 he purchased the J. B. Baham Tract (the old David Ross tract of 1796).

The collection materials also noted that the United States Navy was on the Tchefuncte River between 1806 and 1823. Jefferson gunboats patrolled the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, and the frigate "Tchefuncte" was to 80% complete in 1814. The building of "Fort Oak" on the east side of the Tchefuncte River across from Madisonville was also around this time. 

The Collection at Southeastern Louisiana University

A large amount of historical research on the "West Florida Parishes" of Louisiana was placed at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond under the name of "The Donald J. Sharp Collection."

CLICK HERE to go to the University's listing of the collection materials. It consists of displays, maps, documents, letter books, oral history as recorded on more than 100 audio cassettes, posters, and approximately 150 books detailing the history of the Louisiana Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. 

The materials include histories on the origin of Mandeville, the origin of Lewisburg, the origin of Madisonville (one of the oldest communities in the entire state), and the beginnings of Covington. 

The Mandeville material includes the origins and family genealogy of the first English settlers and the location of their land grants: those of the Smiths, Spells, Geoffigon, O'Brien and Labataut on the west side of Bayou Castin, and those of the Webb and Lewis families on the east side of Bayou Castin. 

Also included in the collection is information on the "latter arrivals" to Mandeville, those including the Edwards, Goodby, Sharp, Faircloth and Richardson families. 

The "Tom Spell Memorial Cemetery" at Mandeville is located on the James Goodby Spanish Grant, according to the research, and the first burial therein was possibly in 1794. 

The manuscript detailing all that subject mater is dedicated to Edgar Sharp, who was known in the community as "The Old Pelican."

Among the "mysteries solved" by the material is the identity of Morgan Edward (Huet), an early settler at Bayou Castin. Extensive research is provided in the collection regarding the previously unknown identity. Morgan Edwards had 1900 acres along the west bank of Bayou Castine, with some land under dispute for years with Jacob Miller.

Sharp's book, written in collaboration with Anita Campeau, is also featured. That book, entitled "The History of Mandeville: From the American Revolution to Bernard Marigny," was published in 2012 and is available on at this link.

Information is shared about the Marigny family and how it came from France in the 1600's, first to Canada, and then down to the Gulf Coast. 

The book recounts the Battle of Lake Pontchartrain which took place on September 10, 1779, as well as information from court cases involving trespass claims along Bayou Castin. 

Considerable information is available in the collection about the old historic cemetery in Madisonville. According to Sharp's research, that cemetery started as the Parent family cemetery around 1790. Its boundaries were adjusted between the Baham and Parent families, and cemetery ownership was apparently regained y Charles Parent Jr. in 1848 and a new section was opened up. 

The Baham family cemetery at Madisonville  started in 1807 when old "Juan Baptiste Baham dit Gentil" died. It appears to have been reserved for John Baptiste Baham and his five sons. Its located was described as being located in lower Madisonville, on son Pierre Baham's land, on the banks of the Tchefuncte River.