Wednesday, September 25, 2019

1921 News Item Tells of Mandeville Lakefront Work

On June 12, 1921, the New Orleans Item newspaper ran an extensive article on plans to improve the Mandeville harbor and lakefront. A copy of the article was found in the history research files of Don Sharp. Here is the text from that article:

Mandeville Takes Vigorous Forward Step in Improvement Bond Issues For $57,000

City by Lake Plans Great Civic, Industrial Revival

Mandeville Citizens Vote Bonds To Repair Streets and Sea-wall and Build New Docks - Free Sites Offered to Factories 
By George Daws (Item, June 12, 1921)

A sleepy, dreamy, little, typically-Southern town on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, some 22 miles from New Orleans; a town where the "folks" thought more of the traditions of their Spanish and French forefathers who first settled there than of progress and improvements; a town where great moss covered oaks sheltered wide, dusty streets, and where wonderful natural advantages were never brought to commercial use.

That was the Mandeville of yesterday. But now --

It's a lively, bustling town where the people are digging deep into their pockets to pay for improvements; where within a few short months the great work of dredging out the Bayou Castaign and  basin for big passenger ships, repairing the streets, mending the gap in the long sea-wall, will begin; where all the talk is of the future and of the three factories that are soon to be built.

Plans furnished by Mr. Reine, who will donate property for three factories, and a street. Bond issue money will be spent to build docks and dredge the channel. Click on the map to make it larger.

A great change has come over the little town of Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish. There are new city officials, headed by Mayor Dr. W. E. Van Zant. Bond issues, one a municipal issue of $32,000 to repair the streets and the sea-wall, and the other, a ward issue of $25,000 to dredge the Bayou and the basin and building the new docks, have been voted.

People Are In Earnest

The people in Mandeville are in earnest, there's no doubt about that. There's a great deal of joking and laughter and banter about the new improvements, but beneath the surface there is strength of the new belief that money must be spent to bring to the city the prosperity and growth it deserves. An indication of the popular feeling may be obtained when it is noted that there was but one dissenting vote in the issuing of the bonds. Every other person in the city and ward who voted was in favor of it.

It means a whole lot that dredging of the Bayou Castaign. It means there will be a large and safe shelter for ships and barges, that the passenger boats from New Orleans will have the right kind of docking facilities, that new factories will spring up, new workmen will come and new homes will be built.

It means progress, nothing else. And the people of the little city, now fully awake to all they've been letting slip by them during the past, are putting "shoulders to the wheel" in their whole-hearted fight to make it all a great big success.

First Settled in 1739

Way back in 1739, the first settlers crossed Lake Pontchartrain moored their boats up Bayou Castaign and settled on the site of what is now Mandeville. The Edwards, Morgans, Spells, and Tournieres were the first to come and they made friends with the Choctaw Indians. There never was much Indian trouble about that country.

The descendants of those first pioneers are residents of Mandeville. The names that are famous in the history of the little city are heard on every side. In 1797 came two other families, and in 1834 Marquis Bernard DeMarigny and his band came. The Marquis, owner of vast tracts of land mapped out the little city and began calling it Mandeville."

The newspaper article explained that with the bond issue money, the bayou would be deepened to ten feet. "A basin for ships to turn in will be dredged. A small sea wall will be built. A new dock with sheds for the protection of both passengers and freight will be built.

The bonds according to the law, cannot be offered for sale until 60 days after the election, which was held on May 25, 1921. At that time, as many as possible will be sold to the citizens of Mandeville and an attempt will be made to have merchants in New Orleans invest in the remainder.

Guard Health Reputation

There is one thing the people of Mandeville are jealous of and that is the reputation their city has as a health resort. Stories are told, and in many instances by interested persons themselves, of almost miraculous recoveries from sickness.

But about the best argument of all is the statement of Dr. Van Zant, the mayor: "Mandeville is too doggone healthy for a doctor."

Great forests of pine stretch for miles back of the city. The visitors who flock there during both the summer and winter seasons are the ones who "hike" up through the trees.

The cooling breezes from the lake keep them comfortable through the hot summer days. Then there is the fishing. Red snappers, red fish, trout, croakers, shrimp and soft shell crab abound in the waters of the lake. In the winter there is hunting, principally for wild ducks and geese, quail and partridge.

Attacts Weekenders

Every weekend hundreds of New Orleanians visit Mandeville. The Pleasure Bay, one of the largest passenger boats on Lake Pontchartrain, will shortly begin to make the trips from West End to Mandeville. Railroads run excursion trains every Sunday. The coaches that left New Orleans last Sunday were filled with typical picnic throngs - there were old folks and the young couples, and the swimming set and lunch baskets and all of the other things considered necessary.

It's really a mystery where all of the people go when they leave the train in Mandeville. They just seems to disappear. Some go right down to the lake and follow its winding shoreline out for a mile or so, probably to their own favorite fishing ground. Others head into the forests to spend the day beneath the great sheltering trees. Many have their own picnic grounds, hidden away in the trees.

And then "Lover's Lane." It's a long, long trail through the woods winding along over the little creeks and diminutive ravines, past the immense trees and back from the lake into the very heart of the forest. It's popular... but not too popular, Y'understand?

Mandeville heartily welcomes the visitors. Right now plans are being made to offer the excursionists better accommodations. There is talk of clearing out more spaces beneath the trees and building little benches and tables; of improving the beach for swimming and erecting more bath houses and probably opening a large dancing pavilion.

Population Swells In Summer

In the summer the population of Mandeville is some 600 to 800 greater. There are scores of houses for rent every year and visitors from all over the country go there to spend the season.

The main industry of the little city is the Poitevent and Favre sawmill where over 250 men are employed. There the yellow pine, brought down from the forests about 9 to 10 miles back of the city, is cut into timber.

The Chinchuba Deaf Mute Institute, operated by the Sisters of Notre Dame, is on the outskirts of the town.

On the lake shore is the great house called "Rest-A-While," a summer home for Orleans people operated by the King's Daughters. All during the summer months different groups come there to stay for the two-week vacation.

This year the high school will be opened in the new school building. This building, recently inspected by state officials, was declared to be one of the best in the state, especially as regards athletic equipment. H. H. Levy, of the parish school board, was one of the strongest workers for the erection of the new building.

New Depot Erected

The New Orleans and Great Northern Railroad recently built a new depot in Mandeville, costing $10,000.

The Public School League, an organization of mothers, is the leading club of Mandeville and is active in all school matters.

Then there is also the Mandeville Progressive Association, the chief civic organization. Dr. Van Zant is president.

Two of the strongest workers for the street improvements are Jules Bagur, retired, former proprietor of a New Orleans store, and Paul Esquinance.

Many of the more important plans for the dredging of the bayou were made by George E. Reine, the owner of much of the land on the west side of the bayou. Some time ago, Mr. Reine succeeded in having sent to Mandeville government engineers, who were to report on the government opening the mouth of the bayou.

This work was not done, it is said, because the government officials refused to O.K. the expenditure unless factories were built before the bayou was opened. This could not be accomplished, so the work was stopped.

Sites Donated Facilities

Mr. Reine declared he has already entered into negotiations with the men who will erect the woodle handle and the canning factory and the saw mill. He has promised to donate sites for these factories and also to give to the city the property for a new street to border the bayou.

Reports have been current that the Southern Yacht Club will build a "stop station" at Mandeville after the bayou is opened. The ground for this house will also be donated, it is reported.

Some distance up the Bayou there is a natural basin, where the yachts could easily turn around. It is reported to have the "stop station" there.

Mandeville Yacht Club

The Mandeville Yacht Club, which has disbanded some years ago, will be re-organized, said Mr. Reine, when the bayou is re-opened. In years gone by there were great yacht races there and the people of the city are anxious to have them again.

New City Officials

Here are the names of the new city officials:

Dr. W. E. Van Zant, mayor; Councilman W. A. Griffin, Stephen Jozsn, W. R. Smith, E. H. Baudot, and James Band.

The committee named by the city to have charge of the work of arranging for the $32,000 bond issue includes the following: H. H. Levy, A. Dupre, Charles A. David, D. J. Mulligan and George Glockner.

There's but one conclusion to be drawn after a trip to Mandeville and a visit with the "live" citizens of that city and that is --

The city is progressing. There is a forward spirit, there is cooperation between all classes, with a noticeable lack of "bickering" between the various elements. That the city is bound to grow and that the "neighbors" across the lake - the Orleanians - are going to be mighty proud of Mandeville in time to come. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Early History of Lewisburg

After extensive research in the history of the Lewisburg area, combining genealogy records with historical accounts of who did what where and who owned what when, the following information has been compiled by Don Sharp.

In 1777, Paul Labyteaux and Samuel Ferguson first settled in the Lewisburg area. The two men were living in New York in 1776 when job opportunities opened up for skilled workers needed to work on military fortifications in Pensacola, FL. They went there under contract, and by the time the work was finished, the American Revolution had started, and they were unable to return to New York.

They and about two dozen other workers were told that if they decided to stay they would be given land grants along the Gulf Coast, until conditions were less dangerous to return to the Eastern seaboard.

"Grants were rapidly filling in the area with fleeing Loyalists," according to Donald Sharp, historian, "and Labyteaux and Ferguson decided to take their land grants on the Pontchartrain lakefront near Bayou Chinchuba." The land grant Paul Labyteaux acquired was the Ferris property (a British Land Grant) .

Over 40 grants were given from the Tchefuncte River over to Bayou Castin by 1777, with an estimated population of about 350 people in the area at the time.

The settlers thought they were far enough from the war and would be safe. This proved to be wrong, as British and American forces soon fought on Lake Pontchartrain, and in October of 1779 British colonists at Mandeville were forced to sign an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Paul Labyteaux, Samuel Ferguson and  Rebecca Ambrose were at Bayou Chinchuba when the Peace Treaty of Paris was signed in September of 1783. They were among the half dozen or so other residents who chose to stay on the lakefront in the area of Bayou Castin.

In 1798, Peter Labyteaux, the son of Paul, petitioned for a Spanish land grant next to that belonging to his father. A grant of 114 arpents was given him by Spanish Governor Baron Carondelet.

Paul Labyteaux died before 1819 and his four surviving children (Peter, Elizabeth, Jemmia and Mary) sold his approximately 254 acres to Jacob R. Hardenberg and Joseph W. Scott (Esquires) from New Bruswick, New Jersey.

Samuel Ferguson died about the same time as Labyteaux, and his land passed into the possession of his son Thomas Ferguson. He sold his father's property to William Dewees, a Justice of the Peace for the City of New Orleans.

Painting of Lewisburg lakefront, 1899
Dewees received 428 acres in that transaction, and since he was not planning to live across the lake, he hired William McDermott, an American settler living in the area for some years, to be the "caretaker" for the newly-acquired property.

In 1813, shortly after joining the United States, Louisiana residents were told they had to petition Congress-appointed Land Commissioners if they had any "land claims" left over from the British or Spanish eras.

McDermott, although he had never filed for a land grant himself for some reason, did claim the land belonging to Deweesas as his own. Dewees, as Justice of the Peace, had seen this sort of thing before, so he filed a law suit and won, having McDermott removed from his land.

In 1815, Dewees moved to Washington, D.C.

McDermott was not deterred, so he moved eastward and tried to claim the land on the adjacent Labyteaux/Ferguson tract as well as the Ambrose tract which had been abandoned.

In 1814 McDermott made a will before Judge James Tate, the St. Tammany parish judge, saying he wanted to leave his 400 acre plantation to his wife Mary and his children Wiliam Jr. and Clara Eliza. "His land, which he claimed, was bordered on the east by Jacob Bartle and on the west by land of William Dewees, known as the land of Paul Labyteaux and on the north by Samuel Loyd and Thomas Spell," Donald Sharp wrote in his research notes.

After the legal issues were resolved, in 1818 William Dewees sold to Sailing Master Jonathan Harris the Labyteaux/Ferguson tract for $3000.

A year later, in 1819, Haden Edwards bought the old Paul Labyteaux land grant at Bayou Chinchuba for $9,000 from Ferris, the price of which was "highly overinflated" but Haden was anxious to get his family of of disease-ridden New Orleans.

Unfortunately, Haden stopped making payments on the property a few years later after he left for Mexico City. His family had to move to Madisonville as a result. 

The Bayou Chinchuba property was returned to Jonathan Ferris. It was then acquired by William Weeks, and after changing hands a few more times, it wound up owned by James Amour and Christian A. Dorbett, who sold it to Hugh Gordon on February 20, 1827. At that time the 980 acre tract was known as "Paradise," according to documents found by Don Sharp. 

It was sold in 1829 by Hugh Gordon to Judge Joshua Lewis. Gordon was a notary in New Orleans and may have been a clerk in the Superior Court system who may have known Judge Lewis through that connection.

Judge Lewis Came From Kentucky

Judge Joshua Lewis (1772 - 1833) was a descendant of John Lewis who came from Ireland to America in 1720. Judge Lewis was the nephew of Meriwether Lewis, the famous American explorer who led the Lewis and Clark expedition across the continent between 1804 and 1805. 

Judge Joshua Lewis

Judge Lewis served under Andrew Jackson in the War 1812, as did several others in the area.

Judge Lewis married America Lawson, who was the daughter of General Robert and Sarah Merriwether Lewis.  They first settled with their children near Lexington, KY, in 1798.

Joshua Lewis was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1799, 1803, and 1804.  A year later, in 1805, Lewis was sent to New Orleans by President Thomas Jefferson to help clear land title issues following the Louisiana purchase, according to Wikipedia.

He and his family traveled from Kentucky to New Orleans via a keelboat on the Mississippi River.

After his first year in New Orleans, in 1806,  he was appointed a judge of the Superior Court of the Territory of Orleans and, following Louisiana's becoming a state in 1812, he served with the 1st Judicial District Court. 

In 1815 he ran for Governor, but lost the election to Jacques Villere.

What first attracted Judge Joshua Lewis to buy land on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain for his retirement home in 1829? Sharp feels the main reason was to get away from the pestilence and disease of New Orleans. When he retired around 1829, he sought out the healthier conditions on the north shore for he and his wife.

He had first made his home in New Orleans in 1806, but over the years other acquaintances of his from Kentucky also came to the Crescent City for opportunities for financial gain. Among them were Haden Edwards who came in 1815 and who was the first to make the move to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in 1818.

Among the ways in which Judge Joshua Lewis may have gained knowledge of the desireability of living on the north shore was the fact that he had tried several cases in his court that involved land on the north shore.

 "Also, there were several lawyers who either lived there or who had connections to the Tchefuncte River or Bayou Castine," said Donald Sharp.

One of those lawyers, a gentleman who had also come from Kentucky, was Joseph H. Hawkins. A resident of Madisonville, Hawkins would enter into a business partnership in 1821 with Stephen F. Austin, who would later become known as "the father of Texas."

Hawkins and Austin worked together to drum up interest, and actually make arrangements for the first colony of American settlers to set up homes in Texas. Hawkins died in 1823 from contracting yellow fever.

Judge Joshua Lewis' wife, America Lewis, died on October 1, 1830, and is probably buried in the Madisonville cemetery, Don Sharp believes. was buried in the Madisonville cemetery.

Lewisburg Named

 Three years later, Judge Joshua Lewis died on June 20, 1833. Following his death, the tract that he owned was named "Lewisburg" by his heirs in his honor. They then had the land surveyed, divided into lots, and sold. (See map.) 

One of Judge Lewis' daughters married celebrated journalist Peter Knight Wagner, and one of his sons was a New Orleans sheriff, State Senator, and Mayor of the Crescent City.

The sons of Judge Lewis also invested in St. Tammany real estate.

Dr. John Hapden Lewis and his brother John Lawson Lewis purchased 350 acres making up a two part rice plantation in St. Tammany Parish in 1841. Hampden had completed medical school in France in 1839.

Born in Lexington, KY, on March 26, 1800, John Lawson Lewis, a son of Judge Joshua Lewis, was elected sheriff of the Parish of Orleans in 1845 and later served as a member of the State Senate before he won election as mayor of the City of New Orleans April 10, 1854. 

John Lawson Lewis

He married Henriette Baham, daughter of Melanie Foucheer and Renez Baham on March 22, 1842, in New Orleans. Henriette was the first cousin of Henriette DeLillie, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family.

John was instrumental in having the statue of Andrew Jackson placed in the Place d'Armes (Jackson Square), and he also figured prominently in the placement of the statue of Henry Clay on Canal Street in April of 1856. John died on May 15, 1886.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

London Research

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

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

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

Early Lewisburgh Map

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

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Fort Oak 1813-1822

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

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

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

Click on the images to make them larger. 

How It Came To Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admiral Farragut Helps The Choctaws

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

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

(Photo courtesy National Archives)

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

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

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Madisonville Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Burials Necessary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tom Spell Memorial Cemetery

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

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

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

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Andrew Jackson's Second in Command

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

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

By Iris Vacante

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

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

Here's the story Sharp tells:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 24, 2019

James Rumsey Invents Steam Propulsion For Boats

The American Revolution was about more than just a political event; it was also about people seeking to improve their lives, and the fortunes of their families, through innovation.

James Rumsey was a great example, since he was an inventor who could not be stopped. His work on using a steam engine to propel a boat upstream was recognized extensively, but little is known about the time he spent in St. Tammany Parish to develop and finetune the watercraft.

"He made history everywhere he went," said Don Sharp, historian. "He played a part in opening up the American West, he invented the first steamboat, and he served as engineering superintendent to George Washington, this association leading to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution."

Early in his life, Rumsey used his engineering talents to improve grist mills, and other machines. For a time he was a trading company agent in Illinois, setting up fur trade with the Indians there. Then he went to Natchez, Mississippi, and finally to Lacombe.

James Watt perfected the steam engine with a condenser in the 1770's, but James Rumsey put it to work to solve one of the greatest challenges of the time, moving boats against the current. Through the historical research of Don Sharp, it was shown that not only did Rumsey work on his invention off Bayou Lacombe but he also had a secret workshop on Pearl River Island at the mouth of the Pearl River down near the Rigolets. His workshop was near Sand Bayou on Pearl River Island.

Both locations played an important part in history. We know from his writings that naturalist William Bartram was nursed back to health from a devastating illness he came down with while traveling along the Gulf Coast on the lookout for natural specimens. The man who helped him recover was James Rumsey, an engineer and inventor, who was working on a secret project on Pearl River Island

Rumsey's life took plenty of twists and turns. He was born in Bristol, England, and late in life was named George Washington's superintendent of engineering. He was also a friend of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. In fact, Franklin started the Rumserian Society to celebrate Rumsey's accomplishments and further his work.

James Rumsey
Famous American Inventor

Many details of Rumsey's life were kept secret, however. He was born in England, his family from Crickhowell, about 50 miles from Bristol., England, but his father moved to Bristol in 1740 and started a grocery. Don Sharp found considerable information about the Rumseys from church records. Rumsey's father was a bell ringer at the church, and his name is one of the bells.

The family also took part in local government, and Rumsey's father went on to become involved in the shipping industry.  Don Sharp communicated with several people in Bristol about the Rumsey heritage. 

It is no doubt that Rumsey played an important part in the development of steam power for watercraft, and if he had not died in 1792, his name would have been right up there with the other steamboat legends of Roosevelt and Fulton. It is ironic that, in 1813, as steamboats started coming down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, they became a key ingredient in the success and development of the Crescent City, especially since Rumsey had done important work on early steamboat designs while he lived in Lacombe, just 25 miles away. 

Rumsey's early family history, as researched by Don Sharp, unveiled the untruths about his birthplace in Maryland. They clouded his actual birthplace, but it was all for a good cause. After his death, associates petitioned Congress for a monetary award to help Rumsey's son, crafting a false story about Rumsey being born in Maryland's Bohemia Manor. They hoped that giving Rumsey an American birthplace would improve the chances of getting a Congressional award. Sharp has communicated with church record keepers in Bristol and other nearby English towns proving Rumsey's actual birthplace, the name of his father and his father's business successes and failures.

In fact, much of Rumsey's work was done in the hope of making money that could be sent back to his father in England to help pay his debts after a business reversal devastated his shipping firm, Sharp discovered.

Rumsey worked in secret on Pearl River Island after moving from property he owned in the Lacombe area. Why all the secrecy? At that time, numerous people were working on the concept of using steam power to  turn paddlewheels or propellers to move a boat against the current, but Rumsey was using steam to jet the boat forward, sort of a "for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction" effort. 

This was at the time of the beginning of the United States, and the patent office wasn't up and running yet, so inventors were extremely wary of letting anyone know of what they were working on and their ideas. 

For more than 40 years, Donald Jr. Sharp has been pulling together information about James Rumsey and his times. There are many elements to explore, key documents to pin down, and, most of all, a story of political intrigue among the acquaintances of this innovative genius who was obsessed with making better use of steam. It includes tales of opening the American West to settlement as well as protecting secrets of the Industrial Revolution. Sharp notes that Rumsey's successes on the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, were possible only by the groundwork that was done in St. Tammany Parish.

This map shows where James Rumsey was working on his steamboat in Lacombe between 1774 to 1777. It was originally called Bayou Rouville, a branch of Bayou Lacombe. Its name was changed to Big Branch, even though there was already a bayou named "Big Branch" close to Mandeville.

Click on the map to make it larger. To see it full size,

Given the new nature of steam engines at that point in history, it may be that this is the place where James Rumsey started his experiments with steam "jet propulsion" to move  boats. He was in Lacombe between 1774 and 1775, living on Bayou Rouville, a branch of Bayou Lacombe.

It turned out, however, that the Lacombe location wasn't secluded enough, Sharp said. Rumsey moved to Pearl River Island for more isolation. His plan was to heat water in large kettles, and then, using a crude valve system, release the steam out the back to move the boat forward. He was sending iron kettles to the De Verges Iron Works in New Orleans to make the valves. 

 In 1776, he moved to Pearl River Island with the permission of the daughter of Joseph Des Russeaux. Des Russeaux had bought it from the Biloxi Indians in 1750. This is where Scientist William Bartram spent three weeks recuperating from an illness living with Rumsey on the island. Bartram figured out that Rumsey was working on some secret project, but didn't know what it was. 

When the threat of war (the American Revolution) loomed in the area, he made arrangements to move to Baltimore in the hopes of securing better valves. 

He was friends with important people in five different countries, all of whom recognized his inventive genius and engineering skills. His story is an American tale of ingenious innovation, politics, family connections, and even scandal, all in an effort to regain the family fortune and help his father back in England. 

An online search of Rumey's achievements yielded the following:

An organization was formed in 1788 by Benjamin Franklin to honor Rumsey and his work. According to The Rumseian Society website "The Rumseian Society was first created in Philadelphia, in 1788, to further the inventive career of James Rumsey, and was disbanded with his death, in 1792. It was re-created in 1903 in Shepherdstown, to build the Rumsey Monument that still stands overlooking the Potomac, and was re-created again in 1984 to build the Rumseian Experiment, a replica of James Rumsey’s 1787 steamboat."

In 1915, a monument was dedicated to Rumsey on the banks of the Potomac River in Shepherdstown to celebrate his contributions to steam-powered watercraft. According to the C&O Canal Trust website, "The James Rumsey Monument and Park overlooks the Potomac, the very river on which Rumsey demonstrated the first steamboat

"Shepherdstonians began discussing a monument in the 1830s – undoubtedly to overshadow Robert Fulton, who often received recognition for being the ‘inventor’ of the steamboat. Completed in 1915, the 75-foot monument sits in the borders of its own park. A plaque mounted on one side of the monument reports how Rumsey “made the first successful application of steam to the practical purposes of navigation.”

The Rumsey Monument in West Virginia

The demonstration shocked many local citizens. What is a “canoe powered by a teakettle?” they asked. The C&O Canal Trust website says it was the first steamboat.

"The eccentric inventor James Rumsey shocked Shepherdstown during a December 3, 1787, demonstration when his boat – without traditional sail or oars – actually left the dock here on this stretch of the Potomac River.

“She moves, by God, she moves!” exclaimed one particularly doubtful veteran. The steamboat traveled about half a mile upriver and returned to the landing. During a second test eight days later, the innovative craft reached speeds of 4 miles per hour.

 "Though Ramsey’s steamboat was first, many credit the invention to Robert Fulton, the man who mastered the production of the steamboat. But no matter whom the original inventor, the steamboat opened new worlds of navigation for the people of Shepherdstown, making opportunity and commerce easily accessible," concludes the C&O Canal Trust website. 

And Donald Sharp was able to pinpoint where Rumsey carried out the early major design work for his steam-powered watercraft, near Bayou Lacombe and at the mouth of the Pearl River in St. Tammany Parish. 

As soon as steam-propelled watercraft became available, riverboats became a principal transportation mode for river trading. And although Rumsey was working on backward thrust steam propulsion, the groundwork was laid for stern-wheeler and side wheeler steamboats as well as propeller driven watercraft. When the steamboat was perfected and came into regular use, the city of New Orleans  began

It's good to know that St. Tammany played an early part in the invention of the steam-driven watercraft. Today's version of the backward thrust boat propulsion system? Jet-Skis and Wave Runners.