Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Events Leading Up To the Birth of Henriette Delille

When the Catholic Church decided several years ago to consider Henriette Delille for Sainthood for her establishment and operation of the  Order of the Sisters of the Holy Family (which was a religious community made up of Free Women of Color in New Orleans), there was considerable interest in where she was born, her parents, her grandparents, and who she knew. Donald J. Sharp has compiled a massive amount of information on Delille, complete with surprising family connections and her life amid the drama of Indian uprisings and the War of 1812, including the Battle of New Orleans. 

It was exciting times in New Orleans, in Mobile, on Lake Pontchartrain, and the increasingly important Tchefuncte River near Madisonville. Here is Sharp's research on Henriette Delille, her life story and impact on those around her.

Henriette Delille Was Born On the Tchefuncte River In 1813
By Donald J Sharp

Research Revealing Her Family Relatives and Events That Led To Her Birth on the Tchefuncte River

Henriette Laveau was the grandmother of Venerable Henriette Delille and a key reason why she was born on the Tchefuncte River and not in New Orleans. Henriette Delille's mother, Marie Josephe Dias, owned a house at 62 Burgundy Street in New Orleans and she could have been born there, but from the records now uncovered, it appears that she was born on the Tchefuncte River. I will take up a discussion on exactly this subject later in this essay. 

Research on the history and biography of Henriette Delille, nominated for Sainthood in the Catholic Church, has been slow in coming and tedious and difficult at times, but rewarding when a new piece of information is uncovered. As you will see there are several reasons for this lack of information. There is much more research that needs to be done, but I feel that what I have accomplished so far sheds a little more light on her family history and will help future researchers to go forward and uncover more useful information to complete the true story.

Her Grandmother Henriette Laveau

Henriette Laveau, Henriette Delille's grandmother, was baptized at the St. Louis Church in 1763, according to Baptismal records of the New Orleans Archdiocese. She was still alive in 1813 when Henriette Delille was born. She died in New Orleans in 1815, the year after the Battle of New Orleans. It was during Henriette Laveau's lifetime that events began to happen which would be instrumental in motivating Delille's mother, Marie Josephe Dias, to be on the Tchefuncte River at her birth. 

Henriette Laveau is an interesting member in Delille's family and had great influence on her own nine children. Her surname was Laveau, which comes from the Trudeau family and was brought into the Louisiana Colony from Canada in 1702. Francois Trudeau, the Canadian, and family is another interesting part of this story. The Trudeau Family  play an important part in Henriette Delille's history.

The Tchefuncte River Connection

The Tchefuncte River is directly north across Lake Pontchartrain in St.Tammany Parish. The mouth of the river empties into the lake. The river does not run straight north but has a lot of twist and turns as it meanders through the Parish some fifty miles and ends at its headwaters that originate in Tangiphoa Parish. Along the way it passes the towns of Madisonville, Mandeville, and Covington. I look upon the river as a corridor and refer to it as "The Tchefuncte River Corridor". It has a lot of history beginning with the settlement of Juan Baptiste Bahan dit Gentil in 1783 on the west bank of the river two miles up from its mouth. The Bahan's settled on abandoned British land grants. 

Juan Baptiste Bahan dit Gentil was originally from the Bordeaux region in France. It was on April 22, 1783 that he was observed settled on his Spanish land grant with his five sons. A traveler leaving Bayou St. John in the morning could cross the lake in about eight hours (if the wind is right) and be in Madisonville before dark. 

The distance from the mouth of the river up to Madisonville is about 2 and one half miles. From Madisonville, across the river, what today is Fairview State Park, was Jacques Lorreins House, and in 1813 Melanie Foucher, sister of Marie Joseph Dias was living with Lorreins. The trail that ran passed Lorrein's house up and along the river went past the United States Navy Yard where Marie Josephe Dias, Melanie's sister, was living with Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy. It was two miles up the trail to the Yard. The trip from Bayou St. John to Sarpy's house next to the Navy Yard could be done easily in one day.

Laveau's Legacy

Now back to Henriette Laveau, the grandmother of Henriette Delille. Henriette Laveau was the granddaughter of Nanette or Marie Anne, the slave of Claude Joseph Villars Dubreuil. Dubreuil had a daughter with Nanette named Cecile, that was the mother of Henriette Laveau. It appears from the records that Cecile had an affair with Jean Baptiste Laveau I, and he was the father of Henriette Laveau. 

The French Colony in Louisiana was basically a military colony and it was no different for New Orleans when it was established in 1718. There were more men than women. The ratio was almost three men for every woman and this was a serious problem. Most of the male inhabitants of New Orleans were in the militia and the most prominent of them were the officers in the local militia. The officers formed what was a quasi-like club and had the power and influence the city with no equal. 

Even those officers who were legally married to white women began to have affairs with the female slaves. In many cases they had a laison with another officer's slave. This appears to be the case with Nanette, the slave of Dubreuil. Along with this was the code for slaves under the French which was known as Code Noir. The Code under the Spanish was more liberal and allowed some slaves to purchase their freedom. When the United States assumed control and Louisiana became a state it passed a law that it was not legal for a white to be married a person of color. These Codes and laws played an important part on how events unfolded and moulded the life of Henriette Delille.

Church Records

The Catholic Church kept records as one of its functions. The area under its control was called the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese of New Orleans extended far beyond the city limits. It extended across Lake Pontchartrain to include what is today's St. Tammany and Washington Parishes. The records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans has stated only that Henriette Delille was born in the Archdiocese. It does not state that she was born in the New Orleans city limits. So, if a marriage or birth would occur across Lake Pontchartrain or in Washington Parish, the document would indicate that it occurred in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Now let us return to Henriete Laveau and continue our story. Remember that Henriette Laveau was the granddaughter of Nanette, the slave of Claude Joseph Dubreuil, the King's contractor at New Orleans and a relative of Governor Bienvilie. Nanette had a daughter by Dubreuil named Cecile Bazile who was the mother of Henriette Laveau. The father of Henriette Laveau appears to be Jean Baptiste Laveau Trudeau I. The Church records state that Henriette Laveau was baptized in 1763.

Shortage of Women

New Orleans was founded in 1718 and the colony still had a critical shortage of women. The ratio of men to women was about 2.5 to one. Slaves were now being imported by the new owner, the Company of the West. The Company of the West, (later changed to the Company of the Indies) would import thousands of slaves from Africa during the 1720s. Nanette, later baptized as Marianne was among these imported slaves. 

Henriette Laveau, the daughter of Cecile Bazile, was freed from slavery when her grandmother Nanette purchased her freedom in 1770 when she was only seven years old. This was under the Spanish authority and slave code. She grew up in New Orleans under the care of her grandmother Nanette and her mother Cecile. 

When she was fifteen years old an event occurred that would change her life style forever. In circa 1778, a military man from Mobile by the name of Pierre Gabriel Juzan II was in New Orleans. The American Revolution was in full force on the east coast and Spain had sided with the American rebels. Henriette Laveau had an affair with Juzan, and she became pregnant. The Mobile Catholic Church records indicate that she had a daughter who was named Marguerite Juzan. This appears to be the first of the many children Henriette Laveau had by five prominent white men over the years in the French and Spanish Colonies. 

There is much more to tell about Henriette Laveau's future affairs in our Henriette Delille story, but first let us now examine the Juzan family of Mobile.

Pierre Gabriel Juzan

Who was this military officer Pierre Gabriel Juzan II? The Juzan family was in the Louisiana colony early. His father, Pierre Gabriel Juzan I was also a military man who married Marie Francoise Trudeau in Mobile. Both parents of Pierre Gabriel II were deceased in 1736 in two months of each other. Marie Francoise Trudeau was first after the birth of Pierre II and Pierre I two months later in the Battle of Ackia with the Chickasaws as an officer in Governor Bienville's forces. Pierre Gabriel was raised by other family members. On November 1, 1758, he married Catherine Parant, daughter of Francois Parant and Marianne Arlu of Mobile. 

They had only one child, a son, named Pierre Francois Juzan born in 1759. Catherine Parant, wife of Pierre II died the last day of 1759. (Source: Jacqueline Vidrine, 'Love's Legacy: The Mobile Marriages, 1724 - 1786) So after his wife Catherine Parant died in 1759, Pierre Gabriel Juzan II remained a widower and unmarried until 1794. 

In the 1786 Spanish census of the Mobile District Pierre Gabriel Juzan is listed as 50 years old and unmarried. In 1794 at 58 years old, he married a second time to Pelagie Lorreins of the Tchefuncte River. It must be remembered that the Lorreins family was originally from the Mobile area before they started to move over to Bayou St. John. A Lorreins married a daughter of Joseph Girardy of Bayou St. John in 1750 and was the first Lorreins to move over from Mobile.

Marguerite Juzan

Now, we turn to Marguerite Juzan, daughter of Henriette Laveau and Pierre Gabriel Juzan II. She was born circa 1778 after an affair between Pierre Gabriel II, her father, and Henriette Laveau in New Orleans. Marguerite would be the first of Henriette Laveau's children and Marie Josephe Roche her last. Now, in 1796 we have another Juzan and Lorreins connection that took place. Marguerite Juzan was 18 years old when she married Jacques Lorreins of the Tchefunte River. 

Jacques is the brother of Pelegia and now is the brother-in-law of Pierre Gabriel Juzan II who married his sister two years earlier. He was 29 years old when he married Marguerite Juzan in 1796. Jacques Lorreins and Marguerite Juzan's marriage lasted eight years and they had four children, to wit: Louis Hilare, Pierre Albert, Vincent Theodule, and Henriette Corallie. 

Marguerite Juzan died in 1804 leaving Jacques Lorreins a widower, who was then 37 years old.

When Marguerite Juzan married Jacques Lorreins in 1796, Henriette Laveau, her mother, was still having children by Henry Roche de Belair of New Orleans. Before Marguerite married Lorreins, Henriette Laveau had started an association with Henry Roche, a master shoemaker in Faubroug St. Marie. They had a daughter, Candide Roche in 1792 and then had three more. 

Here is the list of all her children, starting with Marguerite and the years that they were born: Marguerite Juzan, 1778; Charlotte Morand, 1780; Melanie Fourcher, 1785; Marie Josephe Dias, 1786; Zenon Dias, 1788; Candide Roche, 1792; Judith Roche, 1793; Arsena Roche, 1795; and Marie Josephe Roche, 1797. Henriette Laveau, most likely kept in touch with Marguerite while she was married to Lorreins. 

I imagine, like all families, Henriette Laveau visited her daughter and the grandchildren on the Tchefuncte River and vice versa. Marguerite and her children could have made visits to New Orleans to visit their grandmother, living on Orleans Street.

Melanie Foucher

Now enters Melanie Foucher into this story. Melanie was the third daughter of Henriette Laveau and her father was Pierre Edmond Foucher. She was born in 1785 and her father Pierre Edmond was born in 1755. The Fouchers were a prominent family in early New Orleans who had a plantation near what is now Audubon Park. 

Pierre Edmond's older brother Antoine had married Felicite Badon of the Tchefuncte River in 1786 and had a plantation located next to his mother-in-law, Cahterine Montlemart Badon on the north shore river. Melanie was soon following the ways of her mother Henriette Laveau and having affairs with prominent men. 

According to various documents she had at least seven children by four different white men. After Jacques Lorrein's wife Marguerite Juzan died in 1804, it wasn't long before he was involved with Melanie Foucher. She started having affairs at fifteen, the first being with a planter named Soubie and had a son in 1800 named Pierre Edmond Soubie. 

In 1805 she started an affair with Jacques Lorreins which lasted about ten years. She had a son with Lorreins in 1808 named Pablo, who only lived two years and died in 1810. Melanie was again pregnant in 1813 by Lorreins and had a son in November of 1813. He was given the name of Louis Alexander Lorreins by his parents. About a year after Louis Alexander was born Melanie and Jacques

Lorreins parted ways. Jacques was married again in 1816 to Margaret Smith, widow of Morgan Edwards, in 1816. They previously had a daughter named Delphine who was about ten years old when they married in 1816. Melanie was without a partner for only a short time when she took up with Renez Bahan, who was legally married to Antoinette Milon and had ten legitimate children. 

In 1819 Melanie Foucher had a son with Renez Bahan, a boy, who was given the name of Pierre Hypolite Bahan. Next, she had a daughter with Renez, a girl, who was born in 1821 and named Henriette. Henriette Baham later married John Lawson Lewis in 1842, oldest son of Judge Joshua Lewis. Lewisburg in St. Tammany Parish was Judge Lewis's plantation after his retirement from the Court and present day Lewisburg is named after him. 

John Lawson Lewis was a General in the State Militia and Confederate Army and Mayor of New Orleans from 1854 to 1856. Melanie had a third child with Renez who was named Valcour. Melanie was not through having children for in 1825 she had another son named Renoto Baham with Jacques Baham, son of Pierre Baham, who was the younger of Renez. It gets a little confusing at times!

Three Women, All Pregnant

Now, let us go back to 1813. We have three relatives now on the Tchefuncte River, all pregnant at the same time. They were as follows: Melanie Foucher, Marie Josephe Dias, and Marianne Raby, companion of John Baptiste Bahan Jr. that lived in Madisonville. All three were free-women-of-color who lived with white men. Two were the daughters of Henriette Laveau and Marianne Raby was living with their cousin John Baptist Baham. 

They were all living along the Tchefuncte River within three miles of each other. Melanie had her baby, a boy, in November, Marianne had hers (Henriette, whose daughter Ella Bell, (Henriette would marry William Bell, brother of Hugh Bell) would become the God child of Henriette Delille), in early March, 1814, we do not know the exact date Marie Josephe Dias had hers. Some say in 1812 and others 1813. 

The Sisters of the Holy Family, the religious order that Henriette Delille established say that 1813 is the year, and that is good enough for me. It appears that the three pregnant women had a pact amongst themselves. If they had girls they would name their child Henriette after the grandmother, Henriette Laveau. Remember, that the grandmother Henriette Laveau, was still alive in 1813 and very likely taking interest in all that was unfolding. 

Two of the pregnant women did have girls and gave them the name Henriette. Melanie had a boy and named him Louis Alexander, but she did have a girl in 1821 and named her Henriette. It must have given Henriette Laveau great joy in 1813 to have two granddaughters named after her. 

Henriette Laveau Dies

Henriette Laveau died on September 13, 1815. ( Sacramental Records, Vol. 11 under Labeau) She was alive when the Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8th. Did she go to the north shore with her children when the British landed at Chalmette in December of 1814 or did she stay at one of her houses on Orleans Street? Did she die on the Tchefuncte River or in New Orleans? There are still a lot of unanswered questions!

How do we know that Marie Josephe Dias was on the Tchefuncte River with Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy when she gave birth to Henriette Delille? Can we be certain? No, we can't. For all we know, she may have had Henriette Delille in a buggy on Bourbon Street, but that is not likely and I don't think so. 

Birth on the Tchefuncte

All the evidence points that she was on the Tchefuncte River where Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy had a cabin next to the United States Navy Yard as shown in Surveyor David Bannister Morgan's map of 1813. What is a common sense answer to the question "How do we know that Marie Josephe Dias and her common law husband Sarpy were not at 62 Burgundy Street when she had Henriette Delille?" 

The reply is that the legitimate family of Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy were living only a couple of blocks away from Marie Josephe Dias' house on Burgundy. It was a small community at the time and most people knew their neighbors. His legitimate wife, Amanda Cavalier, lived on Toulouse Street with their eight children only a few blocks away. Some of the older children were growing up in their middle teens and would soon be marrying. 

The Cavalier family were a very upstanding and respectable family in the Quarter. They had a business on Royal Street. Some of Amanda and Jean Baptiste Sarpy's children were going with the respectable like the Pollocks and Fortiers. Even in those days with New Orleans reputation for its loose morals, it would be a little much to take for a middle age father and his free woman of color paramour having a child and living only a few blocks away from his legitimate family. I believe that Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy and Marie Joseph Dias chose to be on the Tchefuncte River where they had relatives and friends and would be more comfortable and in somewhat seclusion to prepare for the birth of their child. It did not turn out that way!

War, Shipbuilding, and The Navy Yard

In 1813 things begin to change. The United States and Great Britain were at war! Captain John Shaw, Commandant of the Navy facility at New Orleans, began to prepare for the defense of New Orleans. He had permission from the Secretary of the Navy in Washington, D. C. to build a large flat bottomed frigate for the shallow waters around New Orleans. His first choice was along the Mississippi Gulf Coast but later decided that it could not be defended against a British naval armada and in late December, 1812, made a trip to the Tchefuncte River. 

There he met with Jacques Lorriens and both agreed to a lease of 20 acres at a strategic bend in the river. The location was two miles upriver by the trail from Lorreins's house. Captain Shaw immediately had a crew of Navy men clearing the land early in January, 1813. In a few months there were 150 civilians working on the "Blockship Tchefuncte". Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy had a cabin at this bend in the river, next to the Yard. Whether he was there before the lease agreement and the Navy Yard or did he arrive after, I do not know, but there he was in September of 1813. (See: David Bannister Morgan's Map of September, 1813). 

The Navy Yard was just the beginning of the excitement for the north shore inhabitants.
On August 29, 1813, hundreds of Creek Indians and their allies attack Fort Mims which was about fifty miles north of Mobile killing all the inhabitants in the Fort, which included soldiers, civilians men and women, and children. The count killed varied from different sources from between 300 and 500 individuals. 

Indian Attacks A Concern

The inhabitants on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain were in a state of panic and including, I imagine, the Lorreins, the Sarpys and all the other relatives of baby Henriette Delille. The inhabitants appealed to Governor W. C. C. Claiborne for help and portection. Governor Claiborne and Captain Shaw responded. They gathered rifles, powder and ball and came up with a plan. The took a gunboat to the Tchefuncte River to meet with the leaders of the inhabitants at Madisonville. 

The plan that Governor Claiborne had in mind was to build a fort for the protection of the Madisonville inhabitants. It would be an addition to three other forts on the north shore. One was Ford's fort on the Pearl River, Fort Oak at Madisonville, the Fort at Springfield, and Fort San Carlos at Baton Rouge.

Fort Oak

 Surveyor David Bannister Morgan, one of the leaders at Madisonville, drew a map for Governor Claiborne and Captain Shaw to show the best location. It had to be out in a clearing because of the heavy cannons Captain Shaw plan to put in the Fort. Guess what? The site that was selected was very close to Jacques Lorreins's house. Today the Fairview State Park and Otis House occupies the site. It would be a stockade fort and would be called Fort Oak. Workers from the Navy Yard on the Tchefuncte River plus some of the inhabitants of Madisonville would construct the Fort, which they did. It stood for ten years.

It would be interesting to know how the three pregnant women were taking in all of this, especially Melanie Foucher, who was almost eight months pregnant. Marianne Raby, companion of Jean Baptiste Baham Jr.. would have her baby, Henriette Baham, in March of 1814. In a year, the Indian scare would diminish after General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend in Alabama, but alas, another threat had arisen. "The British were Coming" The British Army was at the Gates of New Orleans, ready to attack! 

The North Shore and the Battle of New Orleans

What was transpiring on the north shore and along the Tchefuncte River when the news that the British were already at Chalmette reached them? Some of them, like the Thomas Spell family at Bayou Castein, left their homes on the lakefront and fled to Covington. Others stayed in their homes and prayed while others, I believe, fled to hide in the woods. At the Navy Yard, Lieutenant Commander Michael B. Brown, the Officer in command, moved the Bomb Ketch Aetna into the River to block any passage to the frigate "Tchefuncte" on stocks. This was to prevent any attempt that the British might make to reach the block ship. 

We can only speculate what Maria Josephe Dias, her infant Henriette Delille, and the father Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy did at this time. Most likely, they went and stayed with Melanie Foucher and Jacques Lorreins two miles up the trail, across from Madisonville. After all, there was a stockade fort right next to Lorreins's house and other family members would certainly be there.

The Battle Was Won

On January 8th in the late afternoon that Captain Sam Dale, and his swift horse arrived aboard the fast mail packet of Captain William Collins at Madisonville with the news of the great victory! General Andrew Jackson had ordered Captain Dale to spread the news to the north shore and all points north and east as quickly as possible. The news quickly spread and the inhabitants could now give a sigh of relief. 

Where did Henriette Laveau, the grandmother stay in this time of crisis? There is nothing to indicate where she was during at this trying time. It is possible that she stayed in one of her houses on Orleans Street, but we just don't know. Did she cross the lake and stayed with a family member? We do know that she died in September just nine months after the British were defeated at Chalmette.

Father Cyprian Davis, in his biography of Henriette Delille, "Servant of Slaves: Witness to the Poor", he mentions in footnotes that most of Henriette Laveau's children, except Marie Josephe Dias and younger sister Arsena Roche were in New Orleans in February of 1817 selling one of their Mother's two houses on Orleans Street. The other siblings were all still living on the Tchefuncte River two years later with relatives. 

Marie Josephe Dias had to send Louis Boisdore, husband of Charlotte Morand, her brother-in-law, across the lake to get a legal proxy from St. Tammany Parish Judge James Tate for her other siblings to be represented, before she could sell one of her Mother's houses. The second house was sold in the fall of the same year and some of the children of Henriette Laveau were still living across the lake! 

I believe that this is strong evidence that supports my belief that Henriette Delille was born on the Tchefuncte River near the U.S. Navy Yard. As for those who maintain that she was born in the city limits of New Orleans, I say, please show me your proof and sources! Also, it is The Sisters of the Holy Family's belief that Henriette Delille was born in 1813 and this is good enough for me. One thing is certain however, that Henriette Delille was born during a critical and exciting period in the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church and New Orleans history!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

St. Joseph Plantation

Here is some information about St. Joseph Plantation, which is right next to Oak Alley on the Mississippi River near Vacherie. 

Click on the images to make them larger and more readable. 

For a PDF file with information on the St. Joseph Plantation, CLICK HERE. 

Scioneaux & Allied Families Genealogy

Here is an article written by Donald J. Sharp and Anita Campeau about the Colonial history and genealogy of the Scioneaux Family. Click on the images to make them larger and more readable.

For a PDF File will all of the following pages in a downloadable format, CLICK HERE.

For a PDF file containing the Scioneaux Family Genealogy Article,CLICK HERE.

The Scioneaux Family Reunion

On October 28, 2000, the Scioneaux Family Reunion was held at Berthelots Hall in St. Amant, Louisiana. Here are some pictures from that event. Click on the images to make them larger. 

For a PDF file containing information about the Scioneaux Family Reunion, CLICK HERE.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Cemetery For The Family

 The Family Cemetery as told by Helen Hutchinson

During the advanced age of Alma Armstrong, she often related a story regarding our family cemetery at Chinchuba that originally was the burial place of the early Spell families, John and Thomas Spell Sr.,and their offspring, but in time it became the property of Anna Marshon Calliot.

Alma here relates when she was about eight or ten years of age, she and her mother (Serah) would drive the horse and carriage out to the cemetery at Chinchuba to put flowers on the graves of her parents(the Zach Sharps). In so doing they had to drive through the property of Mrs. Calliot who always invited them in to have coffee and honey sweeten cornbread.  Serah always accepted the invitation, feeling it would be an insult to refuse. This always pleased Alma who looked forward to the treat of honey sweet cornbread.

Anna Calliot was the owner of a herd of about a hundred head of brush goats that always caused Serah displeasure when she found them playing on the brick tombs in the cemetery that was not under fence. Serah realize the cemetery could easily be overlooked or destroyed in the tall pine timber without a fence as it were in its present condition.

One day while on a visit to Mrs.  Calliot she asked," Anna, how about selling me two acres of your land, with the cemetery as part of it? Mrs. Calliot seem to take time to dwell on the question, the land being worth only a few dollars when Serah volunteered, "I’ll give you a hundred dollars for two acres.”

A few days later the two acres was owned by the descendants of the two brothers John and Tom spell Sr., the Sharps, Spells and Strains, a family grave site. Serah asked for one stipulation, that the transaction be made for "one" dollar.  She did not want the public to know she was stupid enough to pay a hundred dollars for two acres of land!   Mrs. Calliot, too, may have suffered a feeling of guilt She insisted on adding a half acre to the sale making it the 2.6 acre cemetery we have today!

I heard this story many times through the years of my upbringing, related to me by both my aunt Alma and often by my grandma Serah Hutchinson!

Helen Hutchinson


Shortly after the cemetery's purchase Serah persuaded her brothers to erect a fence around the gravesites that fenced in a half acre. In 1980 the cemetery was incorporated through the efforts of Edgar Sharp. A a new page fence was erected completely around the 2.6 acre tract which was all paid for through the efforts of the descendants of John and Tom Spell Sr.

Hugh Spell purchased a parcel of 40 acres of land from his uncle Hugh, who married Julia Waters Later sold a part of his land to Steven Marshan. Later on Hugh's death he purchased the remainings of his property and married Hugh's widow and raised one child, a daughter, who inherited their holdings- the Hugh Spell estate that contains our cemetery.  She, Anna Marshon Calliot, was the seller of the cemetery to Serah Sharp Hutchinson as you can read above!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Battle of Lake Pontchartrain

The Battle of Lake Pontchartrain - September 10, 1779- (Between the Tender Morris and the British Sloop West Florida)

     The British Sloop of War West Florida had been cruising Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas since February of 1778 when hostilities heated up between Spain and England. The "lakes" were the International boundary line between the Isle of Orleans and British West Florida. After the raid by American Captain James Willing on the British plantations from Natchez to Manchac in February of 1778, Governor Peter Chester and the Council in Pensacola decided it would be imperative to protect the British subjects in the western part of the Province. During this period of tension between the two nations the Sloop West Florida sailed repeatedly close to the Spanish Fort at Bayou St. John. Not only that, it often stopped and searched small Spanish vessels they encountered on the lakes. Governor Bernardo Galvez complained to British authorities but to no avail.

     War had been declared between the Spain and England in the spring of 1779 but word would not reach the Gulf Coast for two months. Governor Galvez received word first and immediately made preparations to attack the Fort at Baton Rouge. American Olivier Pollock merchant and agent for the American Colonies at New Orleans and aid to the Spanish Governor Galvez ordered Captain William Pickles, then in command of the captured tender Morris to capture the West Florida.

     On receiving his orders from Pollock in early September, he set sail for Ship Island where the West Florida was last sighted. Governor Galvez and Oliver Pollock were presently laying siege to the Fort at Baton Rouge. Captain Pickles, not finding the West Florida at Ship Island, the Tender Morris turned around and headed for Lake Pontchartrain with Lt. Pierre Rousseau, his second in command. 

     They entered the Rigolets and after passing through headed southwest toward Bayou St. John. Almost immediately, after entering Lake Pontchartrain, they sighted a sail on the horizon. Getting closer they could make out it was the West Florida, commanded by Lt. John Payne. Lt Payne was very familiar with the Gulf Coast and Lake Pontchartrain. He had been an assistant to George Gauld when he surveyed the Coast and Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas ten years before. He presently had a large plantation on the west bank of the Pearl River.

     He was appointed Captain of the West Florida just seven months previously and as luck would have it part of his crew was at Manchac . He was down to thirty men and was waiting for 15 officers and crew to return to the ship. The Tender Morris was a smaller ship than the West Florida but was manned with over fifty personnel.

     As the Tender and West Florida got within shouting range Lt. Payne asked "whose ship are you and where are you from"? Captain Pickles, playing for time to get closer, yelled back "that he was a British merchant out of Pensacola on their way to Galveston. The Tender Morris was flying the British flag as a disguise. Lt. Payne then answered that he was satisfied, and to pass on. Captain Pickles, now close enough, shouted back "you won't be" and hauled down the British flag and then hauled up the Flag of the American Colonies. Each ship immediately prepared for battle.

     Captain Pickles ordered the Morris in close to the West Florida and for Lt. Rousseau to board. The West Florida had nets set up to prevent boarding, which made it difficult for Lt. Rousseau and boarding party. The battle had begun and Lt. Rousseau was first repulsed by his first attempt, receiving a wound. Captain Pickles, seeing this, ordered Rousseau to try again and he, Pickles, led his own boarding party. 

     Seeing this, Lt. Rousseau, immediately led his own men again in the second attempt of the West Florida. When he got to the bridge of the West Florida, it was all over. Lt Payne was lying on the deck, dying from his wounds, with several British sailors, wounded and crying for mercy. This was immediately granted by Pickles and Rousseau and the fighting was over. The Morris, with Captain Pickles in command and the West Florida with Lt. Rousseau in command put into and anchored at the Fort at bayou St. John. The West Florida was re-rigged and renamed Gálveztown.

     Captain Pickles immediately ordered a small, well armed boat boat to the Rigolets to prevent any aid coming from Pensacola. It also prevented any British inhabitants from fleeing the lakes by boat to Pensacola or Mobile. (This is just what happened to the McCullough Brothers, Lt. Col. William Steil, Frederick Spell, and Gerard Brandon who escaped down the Iberville River when Manchac was attacked by Governor Galvez).

     Immediately after the Battle, which took place on September 10,1779, Pickles landed at Bayou St. John and put ashore his dead and wounded then continued to patrol in his vessel the lake and the Mississippi Sound, where he captured a small British vessel which was carrying a number of slaves. Turning back into the Lake Pontchartrain he landed at Bayou Castin on October 16, and accepted their surrender of the British inhabitants.. 

     Most of the settlers on the Tchefuncte and at Bayou Castin had fled and only a handful remained. (A. G. I. Cuba, Lego 701) With the threat of an Indian attack and British forces, Captain Pickles put on shore a detachment of men for the remaining settlers protection. They stayed at Bayou Castin from September 21 until Pickles returned on October 16, with his "Oath of Allegiance" to the American Colonies. (Claiborne, J.F. H., Mississippi as a Province, Territory and State; Jackson, Powers and Barksdale, 1880, Reprint Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1964)

     There were only nineteen settlers who signed this oath. The Smiths, Spells, Geofigons, and Ambrose families had signed. Paul Labyteaux, Lewis and Landon Davis and William Webb on the eastern side of Bayou Castin names were absent although they kept their land grants after the Peace Treaty of 1783 was signed.

     The McCullough Brothers, Lt. Col Steil, Frederick Spell and Gerard Brandon, who had taken refuge there, also signed the 'Oath". Half of the signers-SU were not residents from the north shore. They and others were from various parts of the province. What is surprising is just how few signed the "Oath" considering that a year previously it had a population count of 250 to 300 on the Tchefuncte River and Bayou Castin area alone. (An estimate of 41 land grants and an average of five members of each family plus their slaves.)

     Captain William Pickles was very deficient in literacy. He had difficulty in composing a letter to the Commandant of New Orleans after the Battle on the lake. Who drew up the "Oath of Allegiance" and had the north shore inhabitants sign? It may have been drawn up when Captain Pickles returned to Bayou St. John or possibly by Morgan Edwards Huett.

     Morgan Edwards was well educated and a part of Pickles crew. Morgan Edwards did not return up north with Captain James Willing and his other Lieutenants after the raid. He stayed in New Orleans with a handful of American Marines and they volunteered for Captain Pickles's crew. This could be the reason that Governor Estevan Miro was so quick to grant Edwards a large land grant of abandoned British land at Bayou Castin. Morgan Edwards Huett met the Smith family at Bayou Castin when he was part of Pickles's detachment from September 21 to October 16, 1779. 

       We know that Mary Smith and son Samuel did sign the "Oath in October". Less than two years later Morgan Edwards was living at Bayou Castin and married to Margaret, the daughter of Morris and Mary Smith. 

Captain William Pickle's Oath of Allegiance to the American Colonies

     Captain Pickles prevented, by his patrolling the lake, the McCullough Brothers, Lt. Colonel William Steil, Frederick Spell and Jared Brandon from passing through the Rigolets and escaping to Pensacola. On October 16 , 1779 Pickles landed his ship at Bayou Castin and summoned the remaining settlers.He had a document drawned up for the inhabitants to sign. They signed the following surrender document:

    We, whose Names or Marks are hereunto set and Subscribed being settlers and Inhabitants on Lake Pontchartrain between the Bayou LaCombe and the River Tanchipaho, do hereby acknowledge ourselves to be Natives as well as true and faithful Subjects to the United Independent States of North America. And whereas on the Tenth Day of last month William Pickles, Esquire, Captain in the Navy of the Said States did arrive in this Lake and make prize of the English armed Sloop West Florida who had kept possession of the Lake for near two years before, and the said William Pickles, Esquire, did on the Twenty first of the same month land some of his people and take Possession of this settlement and gave us all the Protection against Indians and others that his Force would admit of, and suffered us to remain on our possessions till further orders; We therefore consider ourselves belonging to the said States. And are willing to remain here and enjoy our Property and Privileges under the said States.

    Signed/ Paul Pigg, James Farro, Daniel Tuttle, Abel Geoffigon, Matthew McCullogh, Edward Foreman, Francis Fisher, William Dickinson, John Spell, William Stiel, Jacob Ambrose, Alex McCullogh, Fredk Spell, James Mosely, Benj Curtis, Mary Smith, William Fisher, Samuel Smith, and  Jared Brandon.

    Shortly after the Battle Pickles came to the defense of the remaining inhabitants living on the north shore. He not only landed some of his men for their protection but wrote a letter to Pedro Piernes who was commanding at New Orleans.

Captain William Pickles Letter

    In his letter he told of having knowledge of private vessels that were invading the northshore and plundering the people and property there. "I am certain we have a number of friends there," he said in his letter, "and they have been obliged to stay there on account of their families and what little property they had."

    He said that it was his opinion that in order to make all the friends they can, he wanted to secure the lake as soon as possible. Captain Pickles put a stop to the raiding of the settlers on the North Shore of the "lakes" and thus saved the English settlers at Bayou Castin and Bayou Chinchuba. If he had not done this action, Mandeville would be different today as the families of the first Anglo/American settlers would probably be different.

    "I may come across this vessel in the night and may do him some mischief. Don't blame me for it, for I trust no one," he went on to say. His main concern was to protect the residents of the north shore from plundering. 

    Under the Treaty of paris of September, 1783 which concluded the revolutionary War, and the concurrent wars between England and the French and Spanish, West Florida was ceded to Spain by the English. Any British settler who did not want to swear allegiance to or live under the Spanish Crown were given 18 months to leave the Province. In 1784 the British Ship Porcupine left New Orleans with the last of the British settlers desiring to leave.

    The "Oath of Allegiance" Document was signed on October 16,1779 after Baton Rouge had surrender and the fighting stopped around the "Lakes". It is likely that Morgan Edwards was a part of Pickles men who were at Bayou Castin from September 21, 1779 until signing of the "Oath on October 16, 1779. Pickles had given the settlers protection from any threat from raiders or Indians allied with the British. Morgan Edwards met the Smith family living at Bayou Castin and fell in love with Margaret, the young daughter of Morris and Mary Smith. In two years he would be living on the north shore and married to Margaret.

    Signers of Captain Pickle's "Oath of Allegiance"

    Gerard Brandon - went to Opelousas area, then Manchac and finally to Mississippi Territory near Natchez. His son Gerard Brandon later became the Governor of Mississippi.
Alexander McCullaugh, who had eight children, came to West Florida from South Carolina in 1770. (See the Book the South Carolina Regulators) He was appointed Provost Marshall under Governor Peter Chester and later Deputy Secretary. He had land grants and holdings at Manchac, Pensacola, Amite River and Bayou Castin. He died interstate at Pensacola in 1805. His nephews Alexander and Matthew McCullough tried for many years to claim his land under United States law but were unsucceful.

    Abel Geoffigon - died soon after signing the "Oath" at Bayou Castin. His widow Maria Christina Weeks stayed on the grant and died there in 1806. In 1794 she remarried to a Jacob Miller. The daughters married and moved away and Jacob Miller left in 1808.
Edward Foreman - married -------Perry, possible relation to John Perry, the first settler
at the mouth of bayou Castin. An Edward Foreman was listed as living in St. Martin Parish. He moved to Attakapas circa 1785 to Bayou Chicot.

Jacob Ambrose - was likely the husband of Rebecca Ambrose as they both received land grants in 1774. Jacob died a few years after signing the "Oath", circa 1783. He wife and children were up in the Natchez District by 1787. Son Elijah was living in the Baton Rouge area in 1790 and son Thomas in Plaquemine Parish in 1788.
William Fisher - was listed as having a land grant on the Tomibigee River under the Spanish in 1790s.

John Spell - stayed on his land with family and signed the "Oath". He was deceased by 1786.

Morris Smith - He was deceased when the "Oath" was signed but his Widow Mary and son Samuel signed and lived at Bayou Castin for many Years. Mary seems to be deceased by 1799 and Samuel by 1830. He died in 1839 on the Bogue Chitto River.

Paul Labyteaux, a carpenter from New York, who came to West Florida in 1773 was in Pensacola in 1779 when hostilities broke out. He returned with his family. He remained at Bayou Chinchuba until 1810 when he died.

Several of the signers moved up to the Natchez District after the Peace Treaty was signed in 1783 and obtained Spanish land grants.

     For more information on this theory read "A Mystery Solved: The True Identity of Morgan Edwards Revealed". A copy is on deposit at The Center of Southeastern Louisiana Study, the Simms Library, Rayburn Room, Southeastern Louisiana University, and Hammond, Louisiana.

     Oliver Pollock, who ordered Captain Pickles to go out and capture the West Florida drew a map of where the battle was fought for the members of Congress. He was trying to recoup some of the money he loaned for the Revolutionary War while agent at New Orleans. He never was successful.

In his book, "St. Tammany Parish," Steve Ellis wrote some background information about the events leading up to the battle. He wrote that "As early as the spring of 1776, before the Declaration of Independence was signed, there had been trouble between American and British ships on the Mississippi River at New Orleans. The British had made prizes of several American vessels there, without objection by the Spanish authorities. After that time, however, the Spanish attitude took on a strong pro-American cast.

     "In 1776, Oliver Pollock, a wealthy American merchant who lived in New Orleans, wrote to the Continental Congress offering his services to the new nation, and in 1778 he was appointed Commercial V Agent of the Congress in New Orleans. Pollock, an unsung hero of the Revolutionary War, gave financial support which made possible the successful campaign of George Rogers Clark in the Northwest Territory. He was to impoverish himself by using his own credit to obtain supplies for the United States. Pollock immediately busied himself trying to ship needed goods from New Orleans by sea to the east coast of North America and up the Mississippi River. His efforts were seconded by his close friend, Bernardo de Galvez, the young and able Spanish Governor of Louisiana, who was very sympathetic toward the American cause.

     "Since January 1776, the British had maintained an armed sloop, * the West Florida, on patrol in the lakes and in Mississippi Sound. The West Florida, which was the only armed naval vessel in the area, gave the British control of the lakes and Mississippi Sound, and protected the lines of communication between Pensacola and the settlements on the Mississippi River. In April 1777, the West Florida captured three boats in Lake Pontchartrain which the British contended were, American boats engaged in smuggling tar to New Orleans from the north shore. Galvez, contending that the captured boats were Spanish and not American, immediately retaliated.

     "For some ,time, trade had been carried on openly between the British and Spanish at Fort Bute, a British post situated at the point where Bayou Manchac meets the Mississippi River. Galvez seized all British shipping in the river south of Bayou Manchac, claiming that they, too, were engaged in smuggling. This charge was technically all too true, although the activity had been known of by the Spanish and winked at by them for some years. Among the vessels taken was the Norton, of British registry, which was owned and commanded by William Pickles, a Philadelphian.

     "Lengthy diplomatic negotiations relative to the incidents were carried on between Galvez and Peter Chester, the British Governor of West Florida. Just as the trouble seemed to be dying down, an American military expedition again strained British-Spanish relations to the breaking point."

The actual battle is described in great detail in Ellis' book on pages 51 through 57.

According to an article in Wikipeda, following that successful expedition in south Louisiana, Pickles sailed on to Philadelphia, where the ship was sold.

"Pickles was then given command of Mercury, and charged with transporting Henry Laurens to the Dutch Republic on a diplomatic mission. The ship was captured off the coast of Newfoundland, and while Laurens were imprisoned in London, Pickles was imprisoned in Mill Prison in Plymouth. Pickles escaped from Mill on May 16, 1781, and eventually returned to Philadelphia."

According to Volume 13 of the Pennsylvania Colonial Records, he died in Philadelphia on September 9, 1783, after being assaulted by a gang of Italian sailors. The prosecution of his murderers was complicated by a legal question: whether statutes previously enacted by the British Parliament were still in force in the now independent state of Pennsylvania.Two of the sailors were sentenced on October 8, 1783, to hang ten days later.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Lacombe History Highlights

by Anita R. Campeau1 & Donald J. Sharp2

            Lacombe, Louisiana, located in the Parish of St. Tammany, lies halfway between Mandeville and Slidell. From Highway 190, it is about four miles directly south on Highway 434 to Lake Pontchartrain. From the end of the road you can see the tall buildings of New Orleans (including the Superdome). The view is gorgeous as you look back on Lacombe. One finds an open space for about two miles to the trees to the north, and the turns in the bayou that come right to the road. The bayou leads into the Lake and ten miles to the east is the Rigolets and the Gulf. The population of Lacombe was estimated at 8,000 in 2005 and growing since the area is being developed from both directions, Mandeville and Slidell.

            In 1976, the people of Lacombe celebrated their bicentennial with a festival in which the local schools, churches, clubs, organizations and dignitaries participated. A commemorative booklet giving information about Lacombe, past and present, was published. The cover illustrates the "Bayou Lacombe, Louisiana" crest that reflected the community's crabbing, logging and recreational industries and showed flags of the various nations that have flown over the area.3 The John Henry Davis, a two-room schoolhouse, built in 1912, was dedicated as a museum during the celebration of 1976, and opened to the public in 1981.4

            This is an attempt to put together, with as much accuracy as possible, information about the families who lived at Bayou Lacombe in the area of what is now St. Tammany Parish. Along with the lumber, fur pelts, meat, the pitch and tar industry, bricks, the area furnished New Orleans with valuable exports while the Choctaws brought herbs and colorful baskets to sell at the French Market.

            Vital to the history is that no story of Lacombe would be complete without details of Pere Adrien Rouquette. Reared as a youth in his Creole parents' home on Bayou St. John (near Bayou Sauvage), this missionary priest, naturalist, poet and romanticist, crossed the lake from New Orleans in the late 1850s to work among his Choctaws whom he considered as his blood brothers. He became their Chahta-Ima, "like a Choctaw," by living with them and ministering to them from his hermitage on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

            Numerous tribes originally inhabited St. Tammany parish, but our interest lies with the Choctaw and the Acolapissa. The first direct contact recorded between the Choctaw and the French was with Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1699. They came early into friendly relations with the French and were their allies in their wars against other tribes. In the French war on the Natchez, a large group of Choctaw warriors served under a French officer. Bayou Castin, whose word "caste" meant fleas, was once the home of Choctaw Indians, (thus Bayou Castin was originally the Bayou of Fleas.) The Choctaws were the most numerous and kept their identity the longest. They lived in palmetto-hut villages and hunted wild game for their daily food. They were nomadic, following hunting and fishing seasons parish-wide. By 1903, the Choctaws were displaced to Oklahoma.

            The Acolapissa, whose name in the Choctaw language means guardian or sentinels, were a border tribe and probably served as watchers for hostile parties about Lake Pontchartrain and the coasted lagoons.5 They lived along the Pearl River to the mouth, but after 1700 they moved to Lake Pontchartrain on Bayou Castin and Chinchuba Creek (Alligator Creek) to escape British backed Chickasaw. After 1718, disease forced them to relocate just above New Orleans on the Mississippi River. Father Charlevoix visited them in 1722. By 1725, they returned to the north shore and the Bayou Castin area. This ties in with the handful of settlers like Pierre Brou dit Belledot whose petition to the Superior Council dated August 2, 1725, states that he is "at present residing at the Colapissa, and he asks for justice in the case of La Liberte who rented his pirogue to carry lumber for the Company."   Constant warfare by the Chickasaw against the French and their Indian allies took its toll on the once powerful tribe. Later the Acolapissa faded away, mixing into the Houma tribe.

            As we take a trip back in time to the early eighteenth century, the area that is now known as Lacombe was sparsely settled, if at all. The French entrepreneurs shortly after the settling of New Orleans were eager to promote trade with the Indians who lived on the north shore wilderness, referred to as "as the other side of the lake" ( 'autre cote du lac).

            Claude Vignon dit Lacombe frequented the rivers and the bayous, especially the central one that now bears his name. He visited the several Indian villages there, such as the Tangiphoa, twenty-five miles up the river of that name. He traded with the Indians across the Lake and Gulf Coast bringing in seventeen hundred or more deerskins from the Choctraw trade to New Orleans. In 1725, Bienville attested to the supply of fresh meat that the Acolapissa Indians were supplying.6 Other hunters listed in the 1726 Census were: Reboul, Thomas Anulin, Gilles, Grace, and Etienne Beaucour.

A Statue of Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville (1680-1768) located in downtown Bay St. Louis, MS. He explored the Bay of Saint Louis on August 25, 1699, and named it for Louis IX of France

            François Rillieux was born 1698 in Lyon, France and died in 1760 in a hunting accident. Rillieux purchased from the Biloxi Indians a large area around present day Bayou Bonfouca. It possibly took in the headwaters (west to east) of Bonfouca and then down to their mouths at Lake Pontchartrain. He extended his domain through the swamps and forests, as far as the Pearl River. In later years it was estimated in Court Cases as over 100,000 acres.

Beginning of Tar Factories

            The present day area of Lacombe was once covered with huge long-leaf pine trees. From the pines and firs emerged a flourishing industry, the production of tar and pitch. Tar, a dark brown or black odorous viscous liquid is obtained by the destructive distillation of organic material such as wood, coal or peat. Pitch is obtained as a residue of organic materials, especially tars from various conifers. As described by Le Page du Pratz, "the best tar is obtained from trees that are old and are beginning to decay, because the older they are the greater quantities they contain of that fat bituminous substance which yields tar. It is even proper that the trees should be felled a long time before they use them for that purpose. It is usually towards the mouth of the river and along the sea-coasts that they made tar, because it is in those places that the pines usually grow."

            It was the decision of Pontchartrain, the Minister of the Marine, who gave preference to Gulf Coast pitch and tar, turpentine and resin from the forests, which helped to develop the north shore for an ample supply of tar was an important factor in maritime growth. Tar was used in large quantities on the wooden sailing ships of the time to make them watertight and it also protected their ropes from deterioration. Claude Vignon dit Lacombe, an entrepreneur circa 1734, started an enterprise in the pitch industry with the help of slaves and indentured servants supplied by the Company.

Claude Vignon dit Lacombe and his Factory at Bayou Lacombe

            Claude Vignon dit Lacombe originated from St. Alban des Roches, diocese of Vienne in Dauphinė, France. He arrived in Louisiana on the ship Marie, on May 23, 1718. His first status was that of a concessionaire with the company. New Orleans was his base of operations, but he was busy on the North Shore trading with the Indians from the first mention in 1724 until his death at the Surgeon's house in 1747.

            Lacombe, interested in the production of tar and pitch, began to operate on a site located along the waterway west of Bonfouca on high land near the head of the bayou.7 He encountered the presence of small bands of Choctaws, and used their labor in his operation.8

.           The business enterprise was successful indicated by another trade agreement in October, 1739, when Lacombe ceded to his partner Chavannes the "sum total of his interest in the output of a certain tar pit (or oven) in process of construction." In return Chavannes ceded to Lacombe the like output of tar and pitch from the second oven in course of construction." 9

Lacombe, at 611 livres, purchased the boat whose dimensions were 100 by 7 and a half by 3 and a half feet, capable of holding ten tons.10 His business thrived and his schooner was seen plying up and down bayou Buchuwaw, the Indian name for "squeezing bayou with its turns." The Indians thought it had the shape of a snake near its mouth. One understands, if you take a drive down Lake Road near its mouth. Lacombe used it so many times that people began to refer to it "le bayou de Monsieur Lacombe" (the bayou used by Monsieur Lacombe). In 1742, Lacombe varied his business interests, and put cattle on Pearl Island, much to the displeasure of one Chauvin and Carriere (tar workers at Bayou Bonfouca) who had received a grant for the island for the shells.

            Lacombe made a Nuncupative Testament, on August 16, 1747, at the Surgeon's house on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans. He died there a few weeks later and was buried in the original St. Louis Cemetery near the present French Quarter. The Will mentions no immediate family either in New Orleans or on the north shore.

            By 1748, the name of Lacombe's Bayou remained as reported by slaves, Indians, and travelers. Surveyors and mapmakers called the area Bayou Lacombe, and it was later named the Village of Lacombe. It became known as a refuge for runaway slaves. The Gilberto Guillemard map of 1797/98 shows Bayou Lacombe included and named.

The Hertel de Rouville-Soumande Land Grant at Bayou Lacombe

     Jacques-Michel Hertel de Rouville probably received the earliest land grant on the North Shore that we know of, and it appears to be the largest given in what is now the Lacombe area. The exact date and the description of the grant recorded by the French government are not known. It was described, in a sales document after his death, as "A tract of land lying and being on the Bayou Lacombe, alias Bayou Rouville, on the right hand, or easternmost side going up from Lake Pontchartrain, commencing by estimation about half a league from the said lake, containing fourteen square leagues fronting on the said bayou by a straight line of the distances of seven leagues with two leagues in depth, making in all the above named quantity fourteen square leagues. The land was in the shape of a rectangle as pictured in the Tobin map. Francis Cousin later laid claim to this land in 1806 and 1813.

The Rouquette-Cousin family

            Dominique Rouquette (1772-1819), son of Bernard and Marie St. Antonina, (the French name reads "St. Antoine" and "St. Antonina" in Spanish records), was born at Fleurance on the Gers, a river that flows into the Garonne a little north of Toulouse. Rouquette arrived in New Orleans circa 1800, set up a wine-importing business and acquired considerable wealth.11 He married Louise Cousin, a native of Bayou Bonfouca, the daughter of François Cousin, Sr., and Catherine Peche (Peuche) Carriere.12 The maternal relatives owned large tracts of land from Bayou Lacombe to Bonfouca. The first Carriere came to Mobile with the Baudreau dit Graveline expedition in 1708.13

Francois-Dominique Rouquette was born on January 2, 1810, at Bayou Lacombe. Because of their literary activities, he and his brother, Adrien, and their uncle Anatole Cousin were called "The Bards of Bonfouca." He died on May 10, 1890, at the age of 80 years. He is best known as a master of lyric poetry and for his narrative history of the Choctaws, followed with a history of the Chickasaws. 14

Felix Rouquette was born on November 29, 1814, in New Orleans, and baptized on August 24, 1815. In 1836, he married his Indian cousin, Delphine Cousin, and they had five children. On February 1, 1847, Felix Rouquette decided to sell his one-half interest in the land he had acquired from his wife, Delphine. The borders of this land were Bayou Melon on the north running east to Bayou Lacombe. To the south was Barry Branch or Squirrel Branch running from the Bayou Lacombe to Hwy 434. On the north border running along Bayou Melon was the favorite area of Pere Rouquette. Across Bayou Melon, Pere Rouquette established his "Nook", where he lived and said Mass, and also a gathering place for the Choctaws. Felix died in 1873.

Adrien-Emmanuel Rouquette was born on February 13, 1813 in the family residence on Royal Street, in New Orleans. After his father's death, the family moved to the banks of Bayou St. John. He was sent north in 1824 "to divert his mind from his savage associates" and in 1829 he was sent to France where he completed his collegiate studies in Paris, Nantes, and Rennes, and obtained his baccalaureate in 1833. He returned to New Orleans and spent much time alone or among his Indian friends. Later he returned to Paris to study law, but preferred literature and returned to Louisiana where he led a "desultory life," marked by no definite plans for his future until 1842. On a third voyage to Paris, he published his first poetic essay "Les Savannes," a literary work well received. He returned to Louisiana to become editor of "Le Propagateur Catholique."

            Eventually, Rouquette found his true vocation, entered the Seminary at Plattenville, Louisiana, in 1842 to prepare for the priesthood. He was ordained on July 2, 1845, by Monseigneur Antoine Blanc. Of particular interest, he was the first Creole to have embraced the ecclesiastical state since the cession of Louisiana to the federal union. When Rouquette refers to himself as "Creole," he meant "American"15 and he distinguishes Creole from French, meaning "native, of the soil, not foreign." 16

            Père Rouquette was assigned to duty at the Cathedral of St. Louis, at New Orleans, where his eloquence crowded the pews and "his holy life commanded the love and respect of all denominations." After serving the community for fourteen years, he severed his connections with the diocese and made his home among the Choctaw Indians on the banks of Bayou Lacombe.

 Missal and Altar Cards of Father Rouquette

            Between the years 1845-1887, Père Rouquette's life was woven around the five hermitage chapels that he built in St. Tammany Parish. The great passion beginning with his youth had been the devotion to his Choctaw whom he served in a small chapel built of pine logs near the Tom Spell memorial family cemetery on the east banks of the Chinchuba Creek, a thousand feet south of Highway 190. Spell was the owner of 500 acres in 1790 that included present day Chinchuba Gardens as well as the church property. Père Rouquette's log cabin was located on the present "Little Terry" or "Little Tory" property off Highway 190.

            As a result of his patient labors, Père Rouquette converted many Choctaws to the Faith. He was known as their "Chahta-Ima" and when dressed in his usual Indian garb a stranger could mistakenly have taken him as one. As their "Ima" Père Rouquette gave them twenty-nine years of faithful services. In regard to the dead Christian Indians under his care, oral tradition is that he buried his dead on high knolls on both sides of the creek. According to Edgar Sharp, in an article written under the pseudonym of "The Old Pelican" no markers have ever been found to show their last resting place.17

Cabin Chapels built by Père Rouquette

            These included (1) Our Lady of Solitude on Ravinne aux Cannes (Cane Bayou) overlooking Lake Pontchartrain; (2) The Nook on Bayou Lacombe; (3) Buchawa Village chapel at the headwaters of Bayou Lacombe; (4) Chuka-chaba or The Night Cabin on Bayou Castine near the lake. (5) He built his fifth and last Chapel on the north side of Bayou Chinchuba and called it Kildara or The Cabin in the Oak on Chinchuba Creek.84

            Donald Sharp, co-author of this article, in his quest for knowledge, met Edgar Sharp in the 1960s. They continued their friendship and association for many years. On one visit, Edgar took him to his garage where the old altar of Kildara Chapel was stored.

            Edgar's daughter, Marilyn Sharp, said recently that she was a young girl when her father obtained the altar, years ago; at a time the people were breaking up the little wooden building. When her father visited the area in the late 1940s, the Chapel had fallen into disrepair and there were sheep inside the small building. The door was hanging by its hinges, and the land was used as a grazing area. Edgar Sharp called the Archbishop in New Orleans and told him of the situation. The reply was that Father Rouquette was dead, done his thing and, no, they were not interested in the old Chapel. So he and his son, Daryl, brought the altar to their garage.

            Marilyn remembers the altar being in their home for a long, long time, and that her father used it as a wood saw table and work bench for many years. "Ah! So that is why the altar has saw marks and drill holes in it," exclaimed Father Dominic Braud when Donald Sharp recently told him the story. [Father Braud, a monk of St. Joseph Abbey, wrote the introduction to Blaise C. D'Antoni's Chahta-Ima]. About 1985, Edgar Sharp donated the altar to the monks at St. Joseph's Abbey, in Covington, where it remains today in display in the Rouquette Library. 17

            Due to progress, today the large oaks are gone and the small wooden chapel has disappeared (along with the Chinchuba Deaf Institute). Marilyn remembers from her childhood Rouquette's old oak tree where he preached. She said that "as a child, she would hide from schoolmates behind that tree and it was where she took the school bus. A fruit and vegetable stand stood there for many years." About thirty years ago, Marilyn related that it was decided to run a modern highway through the area due to the rapid development of Mandeville.

The Mardi Gras Day Massacre

            There was a public outcry but when everyone was off guard, the State Department of Transportation came to the area with chain saws and bulldozers, cut down Rouquette's oak and cleared the land one Mardi Gras Day when everyone was gone across the lake. No word was given and there was a public outcry but, the damage being complete, nothing could be done. It was called the Mardi Gras Day Massacre, in a published article by her father. Modem Highway 190, with all the traffic and business runs today through the land where Père Rouquette had his Chapel and close by is the Sharp, Spell, Strain Cemetery enclosed by a fence because of encroaching new homes.

            Père Adrien-Emmanuel Rouquette died on July 15, 1887 at Hotel-Dieu Hospital in New Orleans. Newspaper headlines announced the priest's demise: "Chahta-Ima No More." 19 He "died of general debility.. . due to a violent fever which prostrated him about two years ago...caused by his having drunk impure water while within the forest." He was buried on July 16, 1887 in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. His beloved Choctaws mourned his death. His wish had been to die in his chapel in the woods, and to be buried there. His wish was not granted!


1 Anita R. Campeau, M.A., historian, author, lecturer. Graduated from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
2 Donald J. Sharp graduated from Loyola U. of the South (New Orleans) with an M.A., also known as a colonial historian and lecturer on Maritime history.
3 In 1975, Mr.Tom Aicklen served as Heritage Chairman for the Bayou Lacombe Bicentennial Community project with Gloria LeFrere as secretary. Since that time to the present day, Mr. Aicklen has collaborated on several historical and cultural projects concerning the Choctaws and the Creoles. His aim is to preserve the unique Lacombe historical and cultural heritage through the Lacombe Heritage Center.
4 At first the St. Tammany School Board had no connection with this school, but later took over. I.W. Harper was the first principal and Lucille Dubourg, his assistant, was later named principal. Thanks to Tom Aicklen who obtained the information for us.
5 Crouse, Nellis, Lemoine d'Iberville: Soldier of New France, The Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1954,178.
6 Ellis, Steven F., St. Tammany Parish: L 'Autre Cote du Lac, Gretna Pelican Press, 1981, 31.
7 D'Antoni, Blaise C, Chahta-Ima and St. Tammany's Choctaws, The St. Tammany Historical Society, 1986,2, 10, 12.
8 LHQ, Volume 3, No. 4, October 1920, 567-568.
9 LHQ, Volume 11,494.
10 Records of the Superior Council of Louisiana: Petition to Sell Longboat, October 17, 1739, and Sale of Longboat, October 20,1739.
11 Lebreton, Dagmar-Renshaw, Chahta-Ima, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1947, 1.
12 There is no marriage record listed in the SLC Sacramental Records.
13 ANQM, 19 February 1708.
14 D'Antoni, Blaise, Chahta-Ima and St. Tammany's Choctaws, Covington, Louisiana, 1986, 20
15 Sharp, Edgar, "On Chinchuba history," published in News-Banner, Mandeville.
16 Lebreton, Dagmar-Renshaw, Chahta-Ima, 71.
17 Sharp, Edgar, News-Banner, Sunday, July 28, 1991.
18 Oral interview by Donald Sharp with Marilyn, daughter of Edgar Sharp, Mandeville, Louisiana, 17 May 2007.

19 "Chahta-Ima No More," The Daily States, edition of July 15, 1887, 1. Cited by D'Antoni, Chahta-Ima, 27.