Interesting Things

By Ray L. Bellande

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East Beach

EAST BEACH

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

 

East Beach Road circa 1925-This image was made by Winifred Norwood Shapker (1869-1937), the daughter of Frederick W. Norwood (1840-1921) and Elizabeth Norwood (1842-pre-1916).  Frederick W. Norwood was a Chicago entrepreneur who with C.S. Butterfield acquired thousands of acres of Mississippi, yellow pine in Lincoln County and founded the mill town of Norfield, Mississippi which supplied lumber for Chicago in the late 19th Century.  Mr. Norwood acquired the East Beach home of James Charnley (1843-1905), also a lumberman and resident of Chicago, in June 1896.  In Mrs. Shapker’s vintage photograph which was taken from an early road to East Beach and viewed eastward across Week’s Bayou.  Note that there are at least two bridges through the marsh and the telephone poles along the beach.  Also note the road rising up the East Beach ridge which was the focus of early settlements in this area of Ocean Springs.

 

Louis H. Sullivan's East Beach: 1890-1912

There was a time in the late 19th Century, at Ocean Springs, when renown Chicago architect, Louis Henri Sullivan (1856-1924), led a contingent of affluent business men from the Midwest to our verdant shores.  After Sullivan purchased six acres from Colonel Newcomb Clark in 1890, his friend James Charnley, also from Chicago, bought a contiguous fifteen-acre tract east of Sullivan.  Sullivan's brother, Albert W. Sullivan, superintendent of the Illinois Central Railroad, then acquired nine acres east of James Charnely.  Before the turn of the Century, the cedar, oak and magnolia lined shores of remote East Beach would become a "Chicago neighborhood".  In addition, a wealthy circle of families from the mining districts of central Colorado, settled east of the Sullivan and Charnley cottages where some erected winter retreats or purchased those of former affluent proprietors.

 

In 1890, Louis H. Sullivan found Ocean Springs "an undulating village all in bloom in softest sunshine, the gentle sparkle waters of a bay land-locked by Deer Island; a village sleeping as it had slept for generations with untroubled surface; a people soft spoken, unconcerned, easy going, indolent; the general store, the post office, the ancient live oaks; the saloon near the depot, the one-man jail in the middle of the street back of the depot; shell roads in the village, wagon trails leading away into the hummock land, no "enterprise", no "progress", no booming for a "Greater Ocean Springs", no factories, no anxious faces, no glare of the dollar hunter, no land agents, no hustlers, no drummers, no white-staked lonely subdivisions.  Peace, peace, and the joy of comrades, the lovely nights of sea breeze, black pool of the sky oversprinkled with stars brilliant and unaccountable".

 

The village has changed.  Today, do you think Sullivan would have gotten back aboard his train?

 

Geographically, East Beach at Ocean Springs, Mississippi is defined as the shoreface on the Bay of Biloxi and Davis Bayou, from Weeks Bayou on the northwest, southeasterly to Stark Bayou, a linear distance of about 1.3 miles.  A low-lying peninsula, Marsh Point, which lies about a mile to the south across Davis Bayou, affords some protection to the shoreface from storms generated from the southeast.  Most of East Beach is located in irregular Section 32, T7S-R8W which contains 216 acres of highly variable terrain.

 

Inland, a few hundred feet north of the beach, a low-lying, northwest-southeast striking, narrow ridge, which parallels the entire shoreline of East Beach, reaches an elevation of about fifteen feet above sea level.  This ridge, which was the site of early cultural development in the area, is bounded on the north by two small bayous, Weeks Bayou on the west and Halstead Bayou, formerly Alderson Bayou, on the east.  Vegetation in the area ranges from marsh grasses in the bayous to live oaks, cedars, magnolias, pines, yaupon and other indigenous shrubs and plants on the sandy ridge.

 

PIONEER SETTLERS

The first American settlement at East Beach probably occurred shortly after the land along this sylvan strand was patented in 1837, by the Federal Government.  Section 32 was divided into four fractional, governmental lots each 1,320 feet wide.  Lot 1 on the east was acquired by Louis A. Caillavet (1790-1860), a native of Opelousas Post, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana in August 1837.  With Marguerite Fayard (1787-1863), his wife, Monsieur Caillavet was the progenitor of a large pioneer family at Biloxi; Lots 2 and 3 were patented to James Fitch Bradford, a Connecticut native; and Lot 4 went to John Black.  The lands of James F. Bradford were the most desirable as they encompassed over 2800 feet of water front and were relatively high compared to Lots 1 and 4 which were chiefly bayou and marsh.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 96, pp. 325-326 and Bk. 78, pp. 586-587 and Bk. 87, pp. 91-92) 

 

Lyman Bradford

Since many early land titles in Jackson County have been destroyed by fire, it is difficult to abstract properties before 1875.  From the available Jackson County Chancery Court land deed records and the family genealogy of the Bradford family provided by J.K. Lemon and his wife, Eleanor Bradford, it appears that the family of Lyman Bradford (1803-1858) was the earliest settlers at East Beach.  Lyman Bradford was born at Montville, New London County, Connecticut.  Before 1810, he came South as a child, with his father, Captain Stephen Bradford (1771-1825+), and mother, Peggy Comstock.  The Bradford family homesteaded on 820 acres in Section 38, T4S-R6W and Section 39, T4S-R7W.  This settlement was situated on the east side of the Pascagoula River and west of Big Cedar Creek, about 3.5 miles northwest of Wade.  The other children of Stephen and Peggy Bradford were:  James Fitch Bradford (1802-1860+), Burissa B. Holley (1808-1881), and John Bradford (1817-1898). 

 

Burrisa Bradford married Benjamin Holley (1810-1860+), a native of New York.  Holley would become a judge in Harrison County at Biloxi, where he resided.  Her brother, John Bradford (1817-1898), also resided at Biloxi.  Their grandson, Anson Holley (1882-1967), would become one of Biloxi's finest boat builders.  Many of Holley's "white-winged queens" sailed for U.S. Desporte and the C.B. Foster Packing Company.

 

In May 1850, Lyman Bradford bought a one-half interest in 210 acres on the Pascagoula River, primarily in Section 22, T7S-R6W, from his brother, James Fitch Bradford.  The Griffin Cemetery is now on this old Bradford settlement site.  Bradford family lore relates that James Fitch Bradford sold his East Beach property consisting of about 110 acres to Lyman and moved to Fannin County, Texas before 1860. 

 

In August 1836, Lyman Bradford married Cynthia Davis (1813-1887), the daughter of Samuel Davis and Sally Balshar?  Here on East Beach, the Lyman Bradfords reared their family:  Margaret B. Davis (1836-1920), Sherwood Bradford (1838-1922), Elizabeth Bradford (1840-1886), Martha A. Bradford (1842-1887), Sarah B. Turner Ramsay (1846-1926), Lyman Bradford, Jr. (1851-1894), and Mary B. Ramsay (1853-1892+)

From land deed records, it can be ascertained with a high degree of certitude that the Lyman Bradford homestead was located in Lot 2.  This is corroborated by the U.S. Survey Map of 1854.  The family cemetery which had two burials before 1887, appears to have been located in the E/2 of the N/2 of Lot 1.

 

LAND SPECULATOR

In March 1888, New York native, Colonel Newcomb Clark (18-19), a Civil War officer, who commanded the only black unit from Michigan, the 102nd U.S.C.T., and a recent retiree to Ocean Springs from the North, acquired the remaining 75 acres of the original 110 acre Lyman Bradford tract from Agnes W. Salisbury of Independence, Missouri for $2000.  Clark made his livelihood at Ocean Springs in real estate and land speculation.  His last home, which was erected in May 1904, stands today at 525 Porter.  The William Engbarth (1882-1957) family resided here for many years.  The Queen Anne-Stick style, two-story structure is now the domicile of Vernon and Stephanie Reinike.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 9, pp. 42-43)

 

In March 1890, Colonel Clark sold James and Helen Charnley of Chicago fifteen acres in Lot 3, at East Beach for $750.  The Charnleys were friends of Louis H. Sullivan (1850-1926), the renown Chicago architect and a principal in the firm of Adler & Sullivan.  Sullivan, who had not vacationed since his architectural studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris fifteen years prior, was at New Orleans with the Charnleys.  He was just completing the Auditorium Building at Chicago, and the stress of the four-year project led Sullivan to seek solace from the Windy City.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 11, p. 13)

 

Mr. Sullivan first traveled to California to relax and cogitate.  He found the Golden State rainy, and an earthquake during his sojourn there, enforced his negative impression of the region.  Sullivan then went to New Orleans where he met the Charnleys.  They convinced him to make the short journey to Ocean Springs.  The discriminating Sullivan described the Crescent City as, "that filthy town".

 

Louis H. Sullivan's first impressions of Ocean Springs were quite astute.  In his memoir, Autobiography of AnIdea (1912), the "Father of Skyscraper" found Ocean Springs:  an undulating village all in bloom in softest sunshine, the gentle sparkle waters of a bay land-locked by Deer Island; a village sleeping as it had slept for generations with untroubled surface; a people soft spoken, unconcerned, easy going, indolent; the general store, the post office, the barber shop,      the ancient live oaks; the saloon near the depot, the one-man jail in the middle of the street back of the depot; shell roads in the village, wagon trails leading away into the hummock land, no "enterprise", no "progress", no booming for a "Greater Ocean Springs", no factories, no anxious faces, no glare of  the dollar hunter, no land agents, no hustlers, no drummers, no white- stacked lonely subdivisions.  Peace, peace, and the joy of comrades, the lovely nights of sea breeze, black pool of the sky oversprinkled with stars brilliant and unaccountable.

 

Today, one quick glance to the north and Louis H. Sullivan would see quite a different scenario.  The recent massacre of one of our "ancient live oaks" and the bon marche, hideous structures located there would certainly precipitate his sojourn to another place.

 

At Ocean Springs, shortly after the Charnley land acquisition in March 1890, on East Beach, from Colonel Clark, Louis H. Sullivan bought a contiguous, six-acre, tract west of the Charnley lot, from Florian Shafter of New Orleans for $800.  His elder brother, Albert W. Sullivan,

 

General Superintendent of the Illinois Central Railroad, purchased a nine acre tract from Newcomb Clark in April 1890.  A.W. Sullivan paid $850 for his almost, 200-foot lot fronting Davis Bayou.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk.11, p. 44 and JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 11, p. 77)

 

Debate is still active among architectural historians as to who designed the Louis H. Sullivan and James Charnley cottages, both, which are extant on East Beach at 100 Holcomb Boulevard and 509 East Beach Drive respectively.  The consensus believes that Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959), one of the architectural geniuses of the 20th Century, was the creator.  At this time, young Wright was in the employ of the firm of Adler & Sullivan at Chicago, as a draftsman.  He would leave the firm in 1893.

 

When Louis H. Sullivan returned to Chicago from his restful spring of 1890, at Ocean Springs, he was recharged with the joie de vivre.  One of the first projects to emerge from his drawing board at Adler & Sullivan was the Wainwright Building at St. Louis.  It was completed in 1891, the same year that the Sullivan and the James Charnley’s cottages were completed on East Beach.  In late January 1891, the two Chicago gentlemen were domiciled at the Ocean Springs Hotel awaiting the imminent completion of their waterfront homes.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, January 30, 1891, p. 1)

S

hortly thereafter, the firm was hired to design the Illinois Central Passenger Terminal at New Orleans, which lasted until its demolition in 1954.  The depot was not one of Sullivan's memorable architectural works, but it allowed the Sullivan brothers an excellent opportunity to combine work and pleasure.  The propinquity of the job site to his blissful, Ocean Springs, winter cottage was but a few hours by rail. 

 

This simple cottage at an isolated East Beach site, on the Bay of Biloxi, was the womb into which Louis H. Sullivan retreated to recharge his creative mind.  Between 1890 and 1895, after which he dissolved his partnership with Dankmar Adler, the firm designed and completed over forty buildings.  Among these were five major "skyscrapers".

 

In 1893, while in the Crescent City, Albert W. Sullivan met and married Mary Spelman.  He never built a home at Ocean Springs.  In 1896, the Sullivan brothers became alienated over an internal family matter, and in March 1898, Albert W. Sullivan sold his East Beach property to Fred W. Norwood (1840-1921) and Elizabeth Norwood (1842-c. 1911) of Chicago for $1050.  The Norwoods had acquired the James and Helen Charnley, ten-acre, estate in June 1896, for $6075.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk.19, p. 160 and Bk. 17, pp. 389-390) 

 

PRE-SULLIVAN EAST BEACH

When Louis H. Sullivan and James Charnley arrived on the shores of Biloxi Bay in March 1890, several families were already established either as occupies or absentee landowners on the East End, as the area was called by the natives.   They were from east to west:  William and Ella Howard of Fenton, Michigan; the David W. Halstead family from Iowa; Ohio born, the Reverend William C. West (1848-1915), the local Presbyterian minister; Newcomb Clark (1836-1913) and his wife, Ellen Chambers Clark (1841-1915); Florian Shaffter of New Orleans; Dr. George W. Lawrence from Hot Springs, Arkansas; and Maine native, Captain Silas Weeks (1823-1901), a leading shipping agent from New Orleans. 

 

Captain Silas Weeks

THE WEEKS FAMILY

In July 1879, Matilda Rayne Weeks (1830-1912), the spouse of Captain Weeks, acquired a large parcel of land facing Deer Island between the Mill Dam Bayou (now Ocean Springs Inner Harbor) and a small bayou, which became known as Weeks Bayou from John I. Kendall and Mary E. Kendall of New Orleans.  The Weeks tract was east of the William Gray Kendall (1812-1872) estate, which centered about the present day Hansen-Dickey House on Shearwater Drive.  Here, the Weeks erected a large summer home, which they appropriately named, "Anchorage".  Captain Weeks retired here raising poultry and growing vegetables until his demise in January 1901.  "Anchorage" was legated to his daughter, Jessie Weeks Boyd, and later owned by her daughter, Miss Jessie M. Boyd (1881-1963).  It is believed to have been demolished in the 1940s.

 

Mrs. Matilda Weeks was born in London, England of Robert W. Rayne and Mary B. Langdon.  With Silas Weeks, she reared a family consisting of four daughters: Ada W. Depass, Jessie W. Boyd, Hattie W. Darsey, and Mamie W. Rice.  Ada Weeks (1851-1909) married David Depass (1850-1926) of New Orleans.  He made his livelihood dealing in stocks and cotton futures.  In June 1890, they purchased what we know today as the Shearwater Pottery of the George W. Anderson (1861-1937) family from Albert Baldwin (1843-1912), a dry goods merchant and entrepreneur of New Orleans.  They had one daughter, Hattie Virginia Depass (1882-1926+), who married Howard Hall.  The Halls resided at Chicago.

 

Jessie Weeks (1855-1932) married a Texan, William Boyd.  Their children were Silas W. Boyd (1876-1950) and Jessie M. Boyd (1881-1963).  Silas W. Boyd made a career in the Mississippi lumber business operating out of Jackson, while his sister, Miss Jessie M. Boyd, gave her life helping others primarily with the American Red Cross.  She was at the scene of many of the great floods of the 1920s and 1930s, including the infamous August 1936, Johnstown, Pennsylvania disaster.  

 

Hattie Darsey (1858-1939) was born at sea possibly on her father's ship.  She married Lowndes A. Darsey (1849-1929), a Methodist minister, from Georgia.  The Reverend Darsey came to the Mississippi Conference circa 1904, and served Methodist Episcopal churches at Ocean Springs and Pascagoula.  The Darsey children were:  L.A. Darsey, Jr., J.W. Darsey, G.U. Darsey, Rison C. Darsey, Mrs. Joe Zink, and Mrs. Lee Hammond.

 

Mamie Weeks (1864-1937) married George A. Rice (1860-1942) of New Orleans.  They had one child, Ethel Weeks Rice (1887-1969).

 

In February 1883, Captain Silas Weeks acquired sixty acres of land on East Beach.  This purchase precipitated a legal action in the Chancery Court of Jackson County, Cause No. 416, "Martha H. Hilzeim v. Mary E. Snipes, Silas Weeks, et al", filed February 1892.  The disputed tract of Captain Weeks at East Beach was located in E/2 of the W/2 of SW/4 of Section 29, T7S-R8W and the eastern portion of Governmental Lot 4, Section 32, T7S-R8W.  The Old Martin Place had been situated here.  Mr. Martin may have been Warrick Martin (1810-1854+), a land speculator and attorney, from Chester County, Pennsylvania.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 6, pp. 386-387)

 

In 1850, Warrick Martin resided at Ocean Springs, Mississippi with his Ohio born wife, Rachael Harbaugh (1813-1850+), whom he had married in May 1838 at Columbiana, Ohio.  Their first three children, James Martin (1839-1850+), George W. Martin (1842-1850+), and Henry C. Martin (1844-1850+), were all natives of Pennsylvania. There appears to have been a fourth son, John M. Martin.(Goff, 1988, p. 47) 

 

WILLIAM HOWARD

Little is currently known about William and Ella Howard of Fenton, Michigan.  They purchased the most easterly lands at East Beach in May 1885, from Frank H. Ayers and Hattie Ayers of New Orleans for $1500.  The Ayers Place consisted of about seventy-two acres on Davis and Stark Bayou.  The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is located on a portion of the former Ayers tract.  Prior to 1876, this scenic, quasi-peninsular, parcel of land had been in the possession of Enoch N. Ramsay (1832-1916) and his spouse, Sarah E. Bradford (1848-1926).(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 7, pp. 475-476)

The Ayers family was Methodist and were prominent in their financial support of Methodism at Ocean Springs.  David Ayers, possibly the patriarch, resided at Galveston.  He provided the funds, which led Reverend C.F. Gillespie to remark, "we were pleased to find the church (at Ocean Springs) so beautifully improved.  It is not only neat and comfortable, but is now an ornament to the town". 

 

THE HALSTEADS

West of the Howards were the Halsteads.  Of the pre-Sullivan, settlers residing on East Beach, only the E.W. Halstead family is here today.  Their son, Kirk Halstead, and grandchildren, are the fifth and sixth generations of this family to reside on these sylvan shores. 

David Wileder Halstead (1842-1918) and his wife, Hannah Farnum (1841-1916), and their triad of Iowa born sons, Harley F. Halstead, Harry P. Halstead, and Ernest W. Halstead, came here from the Midwest in the late 1880s.  Mr. Halstead's mother, Betsy M. Halstead (1813-1902), accompanied them to their new home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. 

Betsy M. Halstead and her mother were natives of Connecticut.  Her father was born at New York.  She was the mother of ten children, but only six had survived to see the 20th Century. 

In June 1888, Mrs. Betsy M. Halstead purchased land in Lot 1, at East Beach from William and Ella Howard for $1475.  The Halstead tract consisted of about forty-five acres with over a thousand feet of frontage on Davis Bayou.  Today, this parcel would be in the area west of the Gulf Coast Research Lab to Ashley Place and north to Brumbaugh Road, excluding the E/2 of the N/2 of Section 32, T7S-R8W.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 9, pp. 304-305) 

Here her son, David W. Halstead, erected a large, two-story, wood frame, front gable structure.  The three-bay gallery had a shed roof.  Mr. Halstead called his home, Wildemear.  It burned to the ground in a great conflagration late in the evening of June 14, 1911.  Because of the distance from town, the local fire companies were unable to reach the Halstead home before its total destruction.  David W. Halstead was in Cuba visiting son, E.W. Halstead, at the time.

In 1900, Mrs. Betsy Halstead was residing at Ocean Springs, with her daughter, Elizabeth J. Ball (1853-1900+), and her grandson, Harrison E. Ball (1884-1900+).  Mrs. Ball was a newspaper correspondent.  They rented the Hubbard Cottage at present day 509 Washington Avenue.  Mrs. Ball subsequently moved to San Antonio, Texas.

David W. Halstead was a veteran of the Civil War having served with the Company D of the Ohio Cavalry.  In March 1865, after the conflict, he married Hannah Farnum, an Ohio lady of Virginia parentage, at Tipton, Iowa.  D.W. Halstead relocated to LaRue, Ohio, and then Fort Dodge, Iowa where he built a successful John Deere farm implement retail business.  Failing health caused him to seek a more benign climate. 

At Ocean Springs, D.W. Halstead was engaged with E.T. Firth of Fort Recovery, Ohio in a brick making operation on Fort Bayou.  In June 1898, he took charge of the Illing bakery with his sons, Harry and Ernest.  They planned to add a soda water and ice cream parlor.  In 1900, D.W. Halstead was the custodian of the U.S. Marine Hospital. 

Near the turn of the Century, with Ocean Springs in a period of pecan and citrus prosperity, D.W. Halstead founded Halstead & Sons Nursery and Orchards.  The property was located on their East Beach property.  Here they propagated the most popular variety of pecans trees as well as satsuma and grapefruit.  Mr. Halstead continued as a nurseryman until his demise on August 28, 1918.

David W. Halstead brought his strong Presbyterian faith to Ocean Springs.  It was he who apparently influenced the Reverend William C. West (1848-1915) of Decatur, Ohio to come to Ocean Springs and minister to the spiritual needs of the small Presbyterian community.  It is highly probable that he was also responsible for former Iowans, the Alderson family, of Leadville, Colorado to purchase a vacation villa east of his place on East Beach in 1890.

It was in western Iowa that the Halstead children were born.  A son, Wileder Halstead, died before his second birthday.  A brief biography of the other Halstead children follows:

There is a high degree of certitude that David W. Halstead influenced several families that he would have known in the Midwest, to settle near the Halstead homestead on East Beach.  These were the West and Alderson clans.  The West family was permanent residents while the Alderson folks came a few years later and were primarily seasonal visitors to their East Beach abode.  Their occupancy here will be discussed in a later segment of this essay. 

 

THE WESTS

In October 1889, the Halstead family sold Harriet N. West (1851-1931), the wife of the Reverend William C. West (1848-1915), about fifteen acres off the west end of their parcel for $625.  The West tract had a front of 337 feet on Davis Bayou.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 11, p. 8) 

The Reverend William C. West was a native of Decatur, Ohio, while Mrs. West was born at New Albany, Indiana, the daughter of Silas C. Day (1813-1886) and Harriett Newell McClung (1820-1912).  They were married at New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana on February 11, 1880.  The West children were: Laura T. West (1882-1900), William D. West (1885-1915+), David M. West (1889-1915+), and Raynor E. West (1890-1915+).

The West family came to Ocean Springs, Mississippi in 1889, probably from Illinois.  At Ocean Springs, Reverend West was the Presbyterian minister serving the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs from 1890-1895.  He also preached to the people of Biloxi.  The Pascagoula Democrat-Star announced in June 1891, that, "the prospect for building a Presbyterian Church with a goodly congregation in Biloxi is very promising".  In July 1892, the great New Orleans philanthropist, John Henry Keller, donated Lot 1 (50 feet by 150 feet)-Block 6 of Keller's tract to the Biloxi Presbyterian Church.  The church was located on Howard Avenue east of the old Biloxi Public High School.  The deacons and elders of the Biloxi Presbyterian Church, among them Bemis O. Bailey (1898-1969), an Ocean Springs native, sold their property to the City of Biloxi in late December 1940, for $3659.

Sometimes in 1899, the West house was destroyed by fire.  The Pascagoula Democrat-Star announced in October 1899, "Reverend West was rebuilding his residence on East Beach.  It will be one of the most attractive on the east end".

In July 1904, the West clan sold their home site and ten acres to Gilbert O. Clayton of New Orleans for $2000.  After the sale, Reverend West went to Louisville, Kentucky.  He returned to Ocean Springs, in mid-October 1906.  His comment after returning, "glad to be back and eat mullet".(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 28, pp. 433-434)

The West family returned to Indiana, the home of Mrs. West.  This is corroborated in the May 6, 1915, weekly edition of The Ocean Springs News.  It announced at this time, "the Reverend W.C. West formerly of Ocean Springs, but now at New Albany, Indiana is in very bad health".  Indeed, William C. West was suffering from cancer of the tongue.  He died on November 26, 1915.  He and Mrs. West were interred in the Fairview Cemetery at 800 E. Sixth Street in New Albany, Indiana. 

 

POST-SULLIVAN ARRIVALS

The scene at East Beach is now complete for the March 1890, arrival of Louis Henri Sullivan.  Shortly after Sullivan's arrival, he contracted locals to build his beach cottage, which he called de Hutte, in literal French-"some or any cabin.  Sullivan in July 1874 had embarked from New York for Paris to study at the L'Ecole des Beaux Arts.  Naturally, he became very fluent in the French language during his seven-month sojourn in France.  Mr. Sullivan studied architecture in "The City of Lights" under Emil Vaudremer, the designer of the Church of the Sacred Heart, of Mont Rouge, and the Prison Mazzas.

Although in her excellent research paper, "An Historical Research on the Louis Sullivan Cottages in Ocean Springs, Mississippi (1973), Margaret Steelman, did not discover the builder of de Hutte.  I will speculate that Lyman N. Bradford Jr. (1851-1894) was the erector of the Sullivan residence and outbuildings.  This premise is based on Bradford's former residency on East Beach, and the fact that he built a home for Mrs. Morgan Williams of Leadville, Colorado, Mrs. Rushton H. Field, and Julia Brown of Chicago east of the Sullivan estate in January 1894.  They moved into their new residency, called "Wiljumarrie", in late March 1894.  Frederick S. Bradford (1878-1951), a nephew of Lyman Bradford, would become a 20th Century construction genius at Ocean Springs.

The former Louis Henri Sullivan Cottage is extant at 100 Holcomb Boulevard, although somewhat obfuscated by dense shrubbery.  As paraphrased from The Architectural Record (June 1905), it consisted of a one-story, shingled cottage with a spacious gallery or piazza.  Within the Sullivan domicile was a long and wide, roomy hall.  It contained furniture, bookshelves with interesting books, pleasing pictures, and a fireplace.  In addition, a nook in the hall was utilized for the dining table and its accessories.  The guest quarters and Sullivan's bedroom were at the front of the cottage on opposite sides of the hall.  These suites had access to the veranda.  At the rear of the great hall, was the service room, which lead to the kitchen.  The wing of this part of the cottage terminated in an octagonal cistern used to store rainwater.  An artesian well was dug in May 1898, to eliminate the water storage problem.  The sewerage from the house was conveniently discharged into Weeks Bayou to the north.  The sylvan grounds of the estate were well planned.  Sullivan became enamored with roses and developed several gardens of these flowering, prickly plants.  A circular pool with spouting, artesian wellhead graced the entrance of the villa.  At the rear of the Sullivan residence were the servants quarters, stable, and chicken house and yard-"protected from the marauding incursions of alligators by fence and screening".  A fish pond and vegetable garden at the northern terminus of the grounds completed the estate. 

We will now examine the people and society that developed at East Beach after March 1890.  These men and women were primarily from the Midwest and West who came here to enjoy the relatively mild winters compared to the harsh cold and snow that often inundated their northern landscapes.  At Ocean Springs, these affluent people found fantastic fishing and hunting, aquatics sports, and the joi de vivre manifested by descendants of earlier Creole families, 19th Century expatriates from southern Europe, and their progeny.  

 

JOHN TRACY MARTIN-AMERICA'S SPORTING PAINTER

In April 1890, the great American naturalist and sporting painter, John Martin Tracy (1842-1893) bought the old Bradford Cottage and tract which encompassed 32.5 acres in Lot 2, at East Beach from Newcomb Clark.  Tracy died here in March 1893.  His landscape paintings featuring hunting dogs are well known on the East Coast.  In 1983, Tracy's "Field Trials in North Carolina" sold for $46,000.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 11, pp. 150-151) 

Artist Tracy was the brother-in-law of Parker Earle (1831-1917), the husband of Melanie Tracy (1837-1889).  Their parents, John Martin Tracy (1808-1843) and Hannah Maria Conant (1815-1896), were theologians and lawyers active in the abolition movement prior to the Civil War.  His own health failing, the consummate artist, Tracy, came to Ocean Springs shortly after the demise of his sister.  He brought his family from Greenwich, Connecticut where he had painted many of his hunting scenes. 

Before locating on East Beach, the Tracys had lived at Bay View, the Parker Earle estate at Fort Point (Lovers Lane).  Here John M. Tracy became acquainted with the Poitevent family.  In April 1893, shortly after his demise and interment in the Evergreen Cemetery, his widow, Melanie G. Tracy, sold their estate to Mary F. Field of Chicago and Kate Mason Williams of Leadville, Colorado.  Mrs. Tracy relocated with her three children to New York City.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 14, pp. 570-571)

In 1994 and 1995, Dr. Peter E. Sturrock (1929-1998) of Doraville, Georgia, and his sister, Ruth Sturrock of Gaineville, Florida, donated several small Tracy paintings to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.  The Sturrocks are the great grandchildren of Parker Earle and Melanie Tracy Earle. 

 

GOLD MINERS ON THE SILVER STRAND

In July 1890, John Alderson (1851-1906), Edward D. Alderson (1860-1894), and Lizzie Alderson (1849-1899) of Leadville, Colorado bought the William Howard place on the extreme east end of East Beach for $3000.           They were the children of Thomas Alderson (1827-1895) and Dorothy Alderson (1827-1907).  Mr. and Mrs. Alderson were born in England and immigrated to the United States in 1849.  Their first child Elizabeth, called Lizzie, was born at New Diggings, Wisconsin in 1849.  The other children were Miles Alderson (1856-1896) and another daughter, Margaret A. Christy Shelton (1862-1948).(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 11, pp. 466-467) 

Circa 1855, the Alderson family moved to Dubuque, Iowa, which is about twenty miles west of New Diggings, Wisconsin. In 1870, the Aldersons relocated to western Iowa.  They moved to Omaha, Nebraska before finally settling at Leadville, Colorado in 1879, joining their sons, John, Thomas Miles (1856-1896), and Edward Alderson who preceded them there.  Leadville is located seventy-five miles WSW of Denver at an elevation of 10,190 feet.  It was founded in 1878 as a silver mining camp and grew to 35,000 souls by 1885.  The present population is about 5000 people.  Leadville was one of the principal American mining centers of the 19th Century.  Gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, bismuth, manganese, and molybdenum have been taken from the earth here in vast commercial quantities.

At Leadville, Mr. Thomas Alderson opened a grocery store and his sons clerked for him.  By 1885, Thomas, John, and Edward Alderson were mining while Miles Alderson made his livelihood as a bookbinder.  In 1880, the Alderson brothers sunk a shaft known as the Hunter's Last Chance.  They quit without finding pay dirt.  A few years later, others took up the claim and dug ten feet deeper and discovered a world-class ore body.

Several letters from the Alderson-Shelton file from the Colorado Mountain History Collection at the Lake County Public Library in Leadville, Colorado reveal the character of the Leadville mining camp in the 1880s.  In a letter dated November 4, 1879 to his daughter, Margaret, called Madge, who is attending school in Omaha, Nebraska, Thomas Alderson describes some of the family activity at Leadville:  Miss Sheppard was to see us today and stayed her tea.  Then she went to the Temperance meeting at the Spruce Street church tonight.  I did not go.  I do not like to be out at night.  It is cold after the sun goes down but very fine in the daytime.  This place is a very busy place and is going very fast.  Miles came in last night on some business.  He has nine men working for him.  He does not work in the mine himself.  He sharpens the tools and looks after the men.  I was with him until I took a bad cold.  John and Eddy are about three miles from home.  They have the span of mules to hoist their dirt and have three men working for them.  You would enjoy their company when they all come home on Saturday night.  

In June 1894, Edward Alderson was killed when he fell from a cage during an early morning shift change at the Maid of Erin Mine near Leadville. 

In April 1892, a few years after Louis H. Sullivan's arrival at East Beach, he bought 45.5 acres of land in Lot 2 from Colonel Newcomb Clark, east of his place, for $5500.  Almost immediately, he conveyed this large parcel of land with a 900-foot frontage on Davis Bayou to Horace C. Williston of Duluth, Minnesota.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 13, p. 425 and  JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 13, p. 425)

At the end of 1892, the inhabitants and land owners along the beach front of Davis Bayou, from east to west were:  John Alderson et al, D.W. Halstead, W.C. West, John M. Tracy, Horace C. Williston, Albert W. Sullivan, James Charnley, Louis H. Sullivan, Dr. George Lawrence, and Silas Weeks, and F.M. Weed.

 

MORE COLORADANS ARRIVE 

 

Henry M. Blakely

After John Martin Tracy's death in March 1893, his widow moved to Hempstead, New York with her children.  In April 1893, Melanie Tracy sold for $2000 her home and 16 acres comprising the western half of the 32-acre Tracy homestead to Mary Florence Field of Chicago and Kate Mason Williams (1859-1895+) of Lendale, Colorado.  Mrs. Tracy sold the eastern half of her tract to Henry M. Blakely of Leadville, Colorado in September 1893 for $2000.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 14, pp. 570-571 and JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk.15, p. 304)

Henry M. Blakely (1866-1902+) was born at New York.  He went west and at the age of twenty-one was a clerk in the establishment of R.H. Beggs & Company at Leadville, Colorado.  In August 1888, Blakely went into business for himself with $2000 in a little store with an area of 360 square feet.  He stocked his place with a small but select line of dry goods and notions.  In a short period of time Blakely had succeeded to the status that he bought for $9000 the building, which housed his former employer.  In December 1889, the local Leadville journal wrote the following about Henry M. Blakely: 

Mr. Blakely is to be heartily congratulated on his success in his Leadville business.  He is just such a citizen as the greatest mining camp on earth needs, for he has shown pluck and an enterprise worthy of emulation at every hand.  He has fully exemplified the oft-quoted, but unfortunately seldom demonstrated aphorism-"every man is the architect of his own fortune,"-and has proved conclusively that he is an admirable architect.  That his business efforts have been crowned by a richly deserved success is due entirely to his own pushing, enterprising nature and that he may continue even more prosperous in his future career is the sincere wish of every citizen of Leadville.  Mr. Blakely has the peculiar and fortunate faculty of knowing what the people want, and here in, in large measure, lies his success.  

Mr. Blakely was known locally as the "Dry Good Prince" of Leadville, Colorado.  The Pascagoula Democrat-Star of February 16, 1894, related that Blakely expected to build a winter residence on the Tracy property.  He may have built the original "Elk Lodge" which soon became the winter residence of Chicago residents, Joseph B. Rose and the Fields.  Rose acquired the sixteen-acre estate from Henry M. Blakely in March 1895 for $2000.  Also at this time, J.B. Rose acquired twenty acres in the western half of Lot 3 from Harry de Ponte of New Orleans.  He paid de Ponte $2000.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 16, pp. 344-346 and Bk. 16, p. 626)   

 

THREE WESTERN LADIES

A more social and active clime developed at East Beach with the arrival of Mary Florence Field, Kate Mason Williams (1859-1895+), and Julia E. Brown (d. 1907) in early 1893.  Mrs. Field and Mrs. Brown were sisters.  They may have been the founders of the Cherokees, an East Beach social club.  The name may have been derived from the captivating Cherokee Rose, which grows ubiquitously here in the wild state.

By the spring of 1895, these affluent ladies were neighbored on the east by Joseph Benson Rose (1841-1902), a wealthy capitalist from Chicago who made his fortune in the baking powder business.  Rose was an avid yachtsman with memberships in the Atlantic Yacht Club of New York and the Southern Yacht Club of New Orleans.  He often took Madames Field and Brown on cruises to nearby islands aboard his celebrated yacht, Nepenthe.  They once sailed four hundred miles southeast to the Florida coast and returned to Ocean Springs by rail.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star of November 17, 1899, described "Elk Lodge", the East Beach residence of Mr. Rose as:

 one of the finest and most beautiful villas situated on east beach.  The grounds are tastefully and artistically ornamented with tropical fruit trees and rare shrubbery.  The dwelling is built after the style of a German suburban home.  It has a wide hall in the center with large elegant rooms on both sides, richly furnished and is very particularly an ideal seaside retreat.  Colonel Rose is fond of yachting and hunting and is the owner of the celebrated yacht, Nepenthe.  He entertains quite a select number of wealthy Northern friends each season.

Mr. Rose left his name in the area as he bought the Earle Farm from creditors in August 1897.  This large plantation was located north of Fort Bayou.  The Rose Farm Road survives today as is reminder of this man.  For more information on George B. Rose see The Ocean Springs Record,  "Joseph Benson Rose (1841-1902):  Biscuits, beans, and boats", May 29, 1997, p. 22, and June 5, 1997, p. 24)

Although the Cheniere Caminada Hurricane struck the Mississippi coast with great fury on the morning of October 2, 1893, local journals reported no severe damage from the east end at Ocean Springs.  A 200-foot section of the L&N railroad bridge across the Bay of Biloxi was washed away.  Piers, oyster houses, and damage to homes was reported from Breezy Point (the Lovers Lane area) to Washington Avenue. 

In early 1894, Lyman Bradford, Jr. (1851-1894) erected a winter home, originally called "Wiljumarrie" by Julia E. Brown, in Lot 2, on the west sixteen-acres of the John M. Tracy tract.  This land had been purchased for $2000 by Mary F. Field and Kate M. Williams in April 1893, from the Widow Tracy.  The Pascagoula Democrat-Star of March 23, 1894, announced that, "Mrs. Julia E. Brown, Mrs. Morgan Williams, and Mrs. Rush Field, wealthy ladies from the West have moved into their new residence on the east end, and which though still unfinished is sufficiently completed for occupancy”.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 14, pp. 570-571)

The lives of these affluent Western women is most interesting.  Each will be presented individually: 

 

KATE MASON WILLIAMS HOFSTRA (1859-1895+)

Born Katherine Mason at Illinois in 1859, she was the wife of Vermont native, Morgan H. Williams (1854-1892).  In 1880, they were residents of Leadville, Colorado where Mr. Williams operated sawmills and dealt in lumber.

In 1888, Morgan H. Williams and his brother, H.S. Williams, were the proprietors of Williams Brothers.  This organization manufactured and dealt in a variety of lumber products:  shingles, lath, sash, doors, and paper.  Their business reputation was based on their ability to provide the client any dimension of lumber on the shortest possible notice.  In 1879, with H.S. Darby, the Williams brothers commenced their operation at Leadville.  Later they accepted Eugene Wilder into the partnership, but by 1883, they were the sole proprietors.

In addition to their efficient Leadville lumberyard, the Williams brothers had a saw, shingle, and lath mill situated at Tennessee Pass, twelve miles from Leadville.  They also operated a large lumberard and planning mill at Aspen, in Pitkin County, Colorado.  In the Midwest, the Monsieurs Williams were the owners of a clothing, boot, and shoe business at Howard, Illinois.

When she was at Ocean Springs during the winter months, Mrs. Williams was transported about town in a fine carriage drawn by a span of elegant horses. Kate Mason Williams was widowed on September 30, 1892, when her husband, Morgan, expired at Leadville, Colorado from peritonitis.  His remains were initially interred in the evergreen Cemetery at Leadville, but they may have later been disinterred and sent to Illinois for final burial.  In August 1895, when she conveyed her one-half interest in "Wiljumarrie" to Julia E. Brown for $2000, her name on the warranty deed was Kate Mason Hofstra of Cook County, Illinois.  Her new husband was William S. Hofstra.  No further information.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 17, pp. 6-7) 

 

JULIA E. BROWN (d. 1907)

Julia E. Brown was the sister of Mary Florence Field, the wife of Rushton H. Field of Chicago, and Jessie I. Blair, the wife of James A. Blair of New York City.  She was divorced from James H. Brown.  They had a daughter, Pink Brown, who was residing at Troy, New York in 1893.

Mrs. Brown was a guest of Kate M. Williams and Mary F. Field at East Beach for several years at "Wiljumarrie".  In August 1895, she bought the one-half interest of Mrs. Morgan H. Williams (then married to William S. Hofstra) in that estate.  It was renamed Field Lodge and became the winter quarters for the Field family.

Mrs. Brown acquired a twenty-two acre tract in Lot 2, from Horace Williston of Boston, Massachusetts in December 1900, for $2850.  Before October 1901, she built a raised cottage near the water in the southwest quarter of her lot, which was named, "Belle Fleur" (Beautiful Flower).

In the last will and testament of Julia E. Brown, Jackson County Chancery Court Cause No. 1691-November 1902, the following legatees are named:  James A. Blair, Jr. of NYC-two diamond pins; John B. Dennis of NYC-a diamond ring; Jessie I. Blair-"Belle Fleur", her East Beach home at Ocean Springs; Rushton H. Field-a watch, horses, carriages, wagons, and harnesses, and all livestock at "Belle Fleur"; Mrs. Rushton H. Field and Mrs. James A. Blair-the remainder of her property.

Julia E. Brown passed on August 10, 1907, probably at New York City, New York.  "Belle Fleur" was sold to B.F. Kaufman (1871-1912+) of Polk County, Iowa (Des Moines) for $7250 in March 1910, by her sister, Jessie I. Blair.  Kaufman owned the property for two years before he conveyed this Davis Bayou estate to Ruth G. Chase of Chicago and Hopkinton, New Hampshire, in March 1912, for $5600.  Miss Chase renamed "Belle Fleur", the "Rose Garden".(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 35, pp. 550-551 and JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 38, p. 47)

The Ocean Springs News reported to its Ocean Springs and other local readers on November 7, 1914, that a small fire had occurred on October 31st at the beautiful East Beach home of Miss Chase.  Part of her roof was destroyed when a spark from the chimney ignited some shingles.  The resulting damage was deemed not great.

Other owners of the "Rose Garden" parcel have been Dr. Chaillos Cross (1919-1925), F.J.A. Forster (1925-1945) of Chicago, and James E. Elliot (1945-1968).  According to Virginia E. DeFrank (1919-2001), the present owner and spouse of Paul DeFrank Jr. (1918-2006) of the twenty-two acre, Julia E. Brown tract, "Belle Fleur" was gone and the lot over grown when her parents, James E. Elliot (1886-1980) and Lucille Lundy Elliott (1892-1980), acquired it from Mr. Forster in July 1945.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 89, pp. 559-560)    

 

James E. Elliott

In November 1914, James E. Elliott (1886-1980), formerly employed at Pascagoula, Mississippi joined the Brady Jewelry store in Biloxi as a watchmaker and jeweler.  He was born at Havana, Hale County, Alabama and married Lucille Lundy (1892-1980), an Illinois native, in April 1916 at Harrison Co., Mississippi.  She was the daughter of James H. Lunday (1857-1910+), a retired farmer, and Minnie Cullotta Richardson (1867-1910+), both residents of Gulfport, Mississippi.  James E. Elliott and Lucille Lundy Elliott were the parents of James E. Elliott II (1917-1992) and Virginia Elliott DeFrank (1919-2001).(The Daily Herald, November 11, 1915, p. 2 and Harrison Co., Mississippi MRB 29, p. 19)

James E. Elliott left the employ of Brady Jewelry in the spring of 1918.  He became a partner of J.D. Crane, a jeweler located in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  By July 1918, Mr. Elliott decided to return to Biloxi and become an independent jeweler with a store on West Howard Avenue.  Mrs. Elliott and her baby had gone to Gulfport to be with family during his absence.(The Daily Herald, June 4, 1918, p. 2 and July 11, 1918, p. 3)

After Edward Brady retired from his jewelry business in 1929, the Gabriel Jewelry Company owned by Heyman Gabriel (1874-1929+), a German Jewish immigrant domiciled in Mobile, Alabama, acquired his stock. Mr. Gabriel’s Biloxi manager, John Rezin Beggs (1890-1972), a watchmaker and Kansas native and former owner of Beggs & George, a jewelry firm also situated in Mobile, Alabama, had a large sale.  They were preparing to move by July 1929, to the Lawrence Building at 200 West Howard Avenue situated on the northwest corner of Howard Avenue and Delaunay Street.  Manuel & Wetzell were contracted to renovate the two-story, brick structure erected in August 1911 for Charles C. Redding (1857-1926) and Joseph V. Lawrence (1867-1952) by Edwin M. Wetzell (1877-1953) for $8000.  The initial tenants of the Lawrence Building were the Guaranteed Hat & Shoe Store owned by Redding and Lawrence and Uncle Fred’s Gift Shop.  They both occupied the first floor in December 1911.(The Daily Herald, August 29, 1911, p. 8, November 27, 1911, p. 8 and May 28, 1929, p. 2)

     It appears that in June 1927, Lawrence & Redding commenced erecting another structure juxtaposed to their 1911 building on West Howard near Delaunay.  Again Manuel & Wetzel were their chosen contractor.  The new Lawrence-Redding building was two-story and made from Cordova brick with a plate glass front.  It had a front of forty-five feet on West Howard and was eight-four feet deep.(The Daily Herald, June 27, 1927, p. 2)

In 1931, in addition to Elliott’s and Gabriel’s Jewelry Company, Biloxi supported the Keystone Jewelry at 117 West Howard; George Waldemeir at 116 West Howard; and Bleuer’s Gift Shop at 210 West Howard.  At this time, the Elliott’s resided at 614 East Howard Avenue.  Also in 1931, Mrs. Lucille L. Elliott vended hats from their store as the Elliott Hat Shop.(The Daily Herald, June 5, 1980, p. A2)

When Gabriel’s Jewelry closed in 1932, John R. Beggs became an independent watchmaker jeweler at 200 West Howard Avenue.  Dr. C.S. McAllister, an optometrist, also joined him in the new enterprise and they offered their clients a variety of jewelry and optical selections.  By 1936, J.R. Beggs had relocated to 103 Howard Avenue where he remained for many decades until his retirement.(The Daily Herald, February 22, 1932, p. 2)

During WWII, the James E. Elliott family moved from Biloxi to East Beach at Ocean Springs.  He expired here in June 1980.  Lucille Lunday Elliott followed him closely in death, passing in December 1980.  Their corporal remains were interred in the Southern Memorial Park cemetery at Biloxi.(The Daily Herald, June 5, 1980, p. A2 and December 30. 1980, p. A2)   

 

Paul DeFrank Jr.

Mr. Elliott retired from his jewelry business in 1961 and Paul DeFrank Jr. (1918-2006), his son-in-law, became the proprietor of Elliott’s Jewelry.  Paul DeFrank Jr. was born at Bessemer, Alabama to Paolini DiFranco (1886-1958) and Elsie Lynn DiFranco (1896-1960+).  Mr. DiFranco had immigrated to America from Sutera, Caltanisetta, Sicily in February 1909 aboard the SS Campania and by 1920, he had changed Paolini DiFranco, his birth name, to Paul DeFrank.  He made his livelihood as a shoe maker and shoe repairman in Alabama while providing for his six children.(1930 Jefferson Co., Alabama Federal Census R21, p. 26A, ED 112)

In September 1952, Paul DeFrank Jr. and the Elliotts took a five year lease from Joseph V. Lawrence at (1902-1975) at 200 Howard Avenue in the Lawrence Building.  They remained here until Skip DeFrank, successor to his grandfather and father’s jewelry enterprise, moved to Pass Road in West Biloxi in the early 1990s.  Elliott’s Jewelry is now closed.

Paul DeFrank Jr. married Virginia Elliott (1919-2001) in 1936.  They had met in Montgomery, Alabama at a Freshman party on the campus of Huntington College.  They were the parents of Paul DeFrank II, called ‘Skip’, and Virginia Paulette ‘Toni’ DeFrank (b. 1938).  She married Charles H. Schaffner (b. 1936), the son of Philippe ‘Phil’ Val Louis Schaffner (1908-1936), and Ethelyn Lucille MacKenzie (b. 1916).  Mrs. Schaffner married Donald L. ‘Pat’ Connor (1912-1982) after the demise of her husband.(History of Jackson Co., Mississippi, 1989, pp. 169-172)

Virginia Elliott DeFrank postulated that a fire destroyed the former home of Mrs. Brown.  Her mother had visited the Davis Bayou site on a church picnic during her youth and was quite enamored with the waterfront tract.  Mrs. Elliott (then Miss Lundy) had come by boat from Gulfport, her home, to the site which would eventually be her domicile for many years.  Virginia E. DeFrank acquired title to the estate in January 1968. 

 

MARY FLORENCE FIELD

Mary F. Field (1859-1930+), nee Meyers, was born at Mansfield, Ohio, on November 27, 1859.  Her family went to Wheeling, West Virginia where they started the first iron foundry in that region.  Mary F. Meyers married Rushton Holmes Field (1838-1908), the founder of Fields' Point, Rhode Island, and the proprietor of the Reviere House at Chicago.  Mr. Field was also an early pioneer of the West and a Colorado mining magnate.  At East Beach, the Fields enjoyed the good life afforded to the affluent.  They were primarily fall-winter visitors usually arriving in mid-October from Chicago.  When not at "Field Lodge", the appellation given to their East Beach estate after Mrs. Field's sister, Julia E. Brown of New York, built "Belle Fleur", west of them, Mr. Field traveled extensively by rail throughout the United States and Canada seeking business opportunities.  He was also a frequent visitor to his mining properties in the Colorado mountains.(The Ocean Springs News, April 14, 1914, p. 5)

It appears that the Fields were well received by the community and shared some of their wealth with the local citizenry.  The Pascagoula Democrat-Star reported on Christmas Day 1896, that "a display of fireworks at Elk Lodge will be given for the entertainment of all good citizens of Ocean Springs and vicinity Christmas evening, commencing at 6 o' clock.  Display can be seen from the roadway in front as well from the grounds"

In October 1901, Mary F. Field acquired the sixteen-acre estate of Joseph Benson Rose (1841-1902), which was contiguous and east of her land.  This purchase enlarged Field Lodge, to thirty-two acres with about 600 feet of water frontage on Davis Bayou.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 24, pp. 14-15)

When at Ocean Springs, Rush Field enjoyed gardening.  In February 1905, he exhibited his grapefruit, blood oranges, satsumas, and creole sweets at the Mississippi State Fair at Jackson, Mississippi.  In late October 1905, Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Field and Julia E. Brown returned to Ocean Springs from their summer holiday in North Carolina and New York City.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, November 3, 1905, p. 3)

Rushton H. Field died at Ocean Springs on December 29, 1908.  After his demise, Mary F. Field may have spent time with her sister, Jessie Isabelle Blair, at New York City.  She continued her winter sojourns to Ocean Springs.  In September 1911, Mrs. Field presented the Ocean Springs public school on Dewey and Porter, a sanitary drinking fountain.  It was placed in the schoolyard in memory of her late husband, Rushton H. Field.  It was the first sanitary drinking fountain installed in South Mississippi.  The Civic Federation planned to place one at Marshall Park.(The Biloxi Daily Herald, December 29, 1908, p. 1 and The Ocean Springs News, September 16, 1911, p. 5)

In September 1909, Field Lodge was sold to Captain Malicah G. May of Pass Christian for $19,000.  Mrs. Field financed $18,000 of the selling price.  For his investment, Captain May received thirty-two acres with a large modern residence and numerous outbuildings, an artesian well, orange, pecan, and grape fruit groves, a rose garden, pier, and boat houses.  In addition, Mrs. Field conveyed all the furniture, fixtures, and appliances, except the billiard table, and goods, which were packed and stored in the closet on the second floor of the house.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 35, pp.

58-59)

In the spring of 1914 in the Elham District of Kent County, England, Mary F. Field (1859-1930+) married Edward Brooks Scovel (1852-1930+), a native of Detroit, Michigan.  Mr. Scovel was a well-known tenor of his time.  They met at Nice, France on the Cote d'Azur and lived after their wedding at the Villa Spontini in Paris.  In November 1914, the Scovels sailed from England for New York City aboard the SS Minnewaska.(New York Passenger Lists T715_2384, p. 102)

E. Brooks Scovel had married Marcia Roosevelt, the daughter of Judge James I. Roosevelt who resided at 13th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. In 1920, Mary F. Scovel and her spouse were living in retirement at San Diego, California.  They went to Hawaii in 1921 and returned in March 1921 to San Francisco aboard the SS Maui.  By 1930, the Scovels were living quite well at San Diego.  Their home was valued at $35,000 and they had three domestics living with them: a cook, chauffeur, and housekeeper.  No further informaiton.(1920 and 1930 Coronado Co., California T625_130, p. 15B, ED 238 and R 190, p. 11B, ED 37) 

 

Captain M.G. May

Captain Malicah G. May (1834-1910) was a veteran of the Civil War having served with CO A of the 9th Alabama regiment.  He was well known at Gulfport where he had many investments and business interests.  May was a widower having lost his wife circa 1907. Captain May expired on October 4, 1910, at his East beach estate.  The land and improvements were repossessed and conveyed to Mrs. Field for $14,452.85 on February 5, 1912, by Fred Taylor, commissioner of the Jackson County Chancery Court.  In April 1913, Mary F. Field sold Field Lodge to Newton M. Jones of Columbus, Ohio for $25,000.  Jones started the Jackson County Sheep Ranch, a 1200-acre spread, west of Latimer.

If you reside at East Beach today in the LeMoyne Beach Subdivision between Watersedge (1975) and Ashly Place (1980), which was platted in August 1968, your home occupies the former Field Lodge grounds. 

 

MORE ILLINOISANS ARRIVE

            Shortly before and after the turn of the Century, three more Illinois families would acquire land at East Beach.  They were the Woodruff, Curtiss, and Vermilyea clans.  

 

EDWARD WOODRUFF

In April 1897, Horace C. Williston, formerly a resident of Duluth, Minnesota, but now living at Boston, sold Ohio native Ellen Woodruff (1851-1940), 9 acres from the eastern end of his large tract in Lot 2 of Section 32, T7S-R8W, for $900.  She married circa 1868, Edward Woodruff (1847-1910+) also an Ohioan, who fathered their two children.  The family resided at Chicago. (JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 18, pp. 546-547)

In March 1899, the Woodruffs were staying at the Alderson cottage and were expected to build soon on their East Beach property.  Unfortunately, Mr. Woodruff was recalled to Chicago on business and their anticipated domicile construction date was deferred until the fall of 1899.

In 1911, the local journal announced that the Woodruffs had taken their summer vacation to North Carolina.  They returned to Ocean Springs in September.  The Woodruffs employed Martha Person (1887-1910+) from Alabama as their domestic cook.

Ellen Woodruff sold her East Beach estate to H.O. Penick in April 1920.  It is believed that her husband died at East Beach before the conveyance and Mrs. Woodruff relocated to San Diego, California where she expired on May 10, 1940.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 48, p. 77 and The Jackson County Times, May 18, 1940, p. 4) 

 

H.O. Penick

H.O. Penick came to Ocean Springs from New Orleans where he was active in the banking community.  Penick had been with the Central Trust and Savings Bank and Whitney-Central Trust and Savings Bank as cashier.  Prior to his arrival here, he was in the manufacturing business and a director of the Citizen's Bank at New Orleans.  Mr. Penick had a brother, J.A. Penick, who resided at Charlton, Iowa.

Mrs. Penick, nee Foster, had been reared on the Dixie Plantation at Franklin, Louisiana.  Her father, Murphy J. Foster, served the people of Louisiana as its United States Senator from 1901-1913 and Governor from 1892-1900.  The present governor of Louisiana, Murphy Foster, is a relative.  The Penicks left Ocean Springs for Kent, Washington in March 1924.  Mr. Penick has acquired an interest in a bank in the Seattle area.  H.O. Penick sold "Wildwood", their East Beach estate, to G.W. May, et al in April 1925.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 55, pp. 208-209)    

 

RALPH C. CURTISS-WINTHROP CURTISS

Ralph C. Curtiss (1831-1900+) was born in Warren, Litchfield County Connecticut.  Erastus Curtiss (1790-pre-1860), his father, was a farmer.  Circa 1862, R.C. Curtiss married Calista L. Curtiss (1834-1910+), an Illinois native.  By 1870, they were domiciled at Waverly, Morgan County, Illinois where Ralph C. Curtiss was a successful farmer.  Waverly is twenty miles southwest of Springfield.  Calista L. Curtiss had no children, but she reared and educated ten.  Among these juveniles were Ralph's nephew, Winthrop Curtiss (1862-1903), and his wife, Ida M. Curtiss (1874-1902).  Winthrop made his home at his uncle's winter residence on East Beach, "Seven Pines", where he was the caretaker, and enumerator of the 1900 U.S. Census at Ocean Springs.

Ralph C. Curtiss purchased the northeast quarter of Lot 1 (20 acres), Section 32, T7S-R8W at East Beach in March 1895, from A.G. Tebo of New Orleans for $100.  He acquired water frontage on Davis Bayou with John J. Tribble in August 1897, from Hannah F. Halstead.  Mrs. Halstead had acquired the western 350-feet of the Alderson tract in a court action of March 1897.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 16, pp. 506-507, Bk. 18, p. 490, Bk. 19, p. 171)

John J. Tribble and Winthrop Curtiss planted oyster beds on their riparian rights in Davis Bayou.  They shared jointly in the gain from the harvesting and sale of these mollusks by Adolph Schrieber.  Mr. Tribble also from Waverly, Illinois, quitclaimed his one-half interest at East Beach to R.C. Curtiss in December 1897.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 18, p. 491)

The R.C. Curtiss lot acquired from Mrs. Halstead had about 350 feet on Davis Bayou.  Lizzie Alderson of Leadville, Colorado at "Bonnie Oaks" (now Gulf Coast Research Laboratory) was his eastern neighbor and David W. Halstead and family resided to the west at "Wildermear".

In October 1898, Ralph C. Curtiss conveyed a one-half interest in all of his East Beach property (about 70 acres) for $1500 to Winthrop Curtiss, his nephew.  Winthrop and Ida M. Curtiss had two children, Ralph Charles Curtiss  (1897-1910+) and Helen M. Curtiss (1899-1910+), who were born at Ocean Springs.  Winthrop Curtiss died at San Antonio, Texas on January 15, 1903.  His brother, Charles F. Curtiss (1859-1903+) of Waverly, Illinois, was the executor of his estate, Jackson County, Miss. Chancery Court Cause No. 1129-February 1903.  Maternal aunt, Grace McCasland of East St. Louis received $5.00 per month to rear the Curtiss children.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 19, p. 371)

The Curtiss lands were sold to John Duncan Minor (1863-1920) for $1600 in February 1911.  Minor was a building contractor and the forefather of the Ocean Springs Lumber Company.  He served the people of Jackson County as their Sheriff (1902-1904) and Ocean Springs as Mayor (1911-1912).(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 36, pp. 359-360)

 

 ADELBERT R. VERMILYEA

Adelbert R. Vermilyea (1845-ca 1908) was a prominent capitalist from Chicago.  He was born in New York, but was reared on a farm in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  After serving with the Pennsylvania 35th Volunteer Reserve Infantry during the Civil War, Adelbert matriculated to Mansfield State Normal School, now Mansfield Univesity at Mansfield, Pennsylvania and graduated as the valedictorian of the Class of 1866.  In December 1897, he was a guest of Colonel Joseph B. Rose at "Elk Lodge".  Obviously, Mr. Vermilyea was impressed with the climate and recreational potential of the area, as in July 1901, he and wife, Ida B. Vermilyea, bought the last lot in the Williston tract (western two-thirds of Lot 2) from Horace and Mary L. Williston of New York.  The consideration for the land was $650.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 23, pp. 289-290)

A.R. Vermilyea expired before 1914, as Ida was married to George D. McCain at this time.  Although she was active in the local Civic Federation, which built Marshall Park in 1911, and the Homemakers Club, Mrs. McCain left for Des Moines, Iowa in April 1914.  The business interests of her husband precluded their permanent residency at East Beach.

When the Vermilyea tract was sold to H.O. Penick for $1250 in July 1920, Ida McCain was residing at Hennepin County (Minneapolis), Minnesota.  She was referred to as the only heir of Adelbert R. Vermilyea.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 48, p. 297) 

EARLY 20TH CENTURY HURRICANES

The Hurricane of August 15, 1901, was the worst natural disaster at Ocean Springs since the October Storm of 1893. The shoreline from "Bonnie Oaks" on East Beach to "Breezy Point" at Lovers Lane was in ruins.  From "Bonnie Oaks" to "Elk Lodge", the home of Rushton Field, the damage was slight, only the road and fences were affected.

West of "Elk Lodge", the piers, bathhouses, and pavilions were destroyed.  Mrs. Norwood of Chicago lost her new wharf, pavilion, and bathhouse.  The large bridge over Weeks Bayou was washed 100 feet up into the bayou.  The entire New Beach Road, which had just been built and shelled was swept into the bay.  All small bridges along the beach were lost.

The only damage reported in local journals concerning the 1906 Hurricane in the East Beach area was to the cottage of Mrs. Chauncey S. Bell (1847-1922+) on the Boulevard Farm (probably situated on Holcomb Boulevard).  It was an entire wreck.  The loss in monetary value in the region was probably greater to those engaged in the timber and naval stores industry than anyone else. 

 

SULLIVANS DEPARTURE

During the twenty years that architect Louis H. Sullivan owned property at East Beach, his presence was less noted than the other effluents by the local journals, indicating that he led a private existence when here from Chicago.  This was in keeping with his purpose for acquiring the estate.  As stated previously, East Beach served as an opportunity for Louis H. Sullivan to rest, relax, and recharge his creative mind.  His accomplishments in the field of American architecture        

 

Fred W. Norwood

In June 1896, Mr. Sullivan had acquired a new neighbor on his eastern perimeter, when his friend and client, James Charnley, sold "Bon Silence" to Fred W. Norwood (1840-1921).  Mr. Norwood was born at Northhampton, Massachusetts.  He made his livelihood as a lumber broker.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 17, pp. 389-391 and Hickman, Mississippi Harvest, p. 60)

Although not documented and of anecdotal origin, Ray Thompson, the author of “Know Your Coast”, The Daily Herald, reported in his newspaper column of July 29, 1957, the following: 

“during one of the annual absences of the Norwoods, this house that Sullivan had designed and which they named "Bon Silene"  burned completely to the ground.  However, Mr. Norwood loved the house so well that he had it rebuilt from Sullivan's original blue- prints exactly as it was-with the exception that he finished the house inside entirely with priceless  curly pine he had been hoarding for years.” 

Fred W. Norwood and his wife, Lizzie Norwood (1842-pre 1916), had two daughters, Winifred N. Shapker (1862-1937) and Virginia N. Jones Culver (d. 1906).  Circa 1904, Winifred married Edward B. Shapker (1867-1925+), a bond banker, of Chicago.  The Shapkers resided at Wilmette, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago, with their children Betsy (1905-1925+) and Ned (post 1910-1925+). 

Mrs. George Culver and her husband, a veteran of the Spanish American War, perished in the Hurricane of September 1906.  Her corporal remains were initially buried on Heron Bayou and re-interred in March 1908, in the Evergreen Cemetery on Old Fort Bayou.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, March 14, 1908, p. 3) 

They left one son, Horace Culver, who was circulation manager of The Mobile Item in July 1914.  Young Culver was a sailboat racing enthusiasts.(The Ocean Springs News, July 18, 1914, p. 5)

The Norwoods called their estate "Bon Silene".  In April 1904, The Progress, our local journal, reported that,"for abundance, variety and beauty of roses, no place excels Bon Saline (sic), the home of Mrs. Norwood on East Beach.  It is one of the beautiful sights of this locality" After Mrs. Norwood passed, her husband married the widow, Mrs. Priscilla Finnel, at Cincinnati, Ohio in December 1916.

Henry Seymour (1880-1910+) and Mary Seymour (1880-1910+) worked for the Norwoods as yardman and cook respectively.  Other black families working in the area in 1910, were those of Ernest P. Mayfield, Sr. (1880-1960) who may have been employed by Matilda E. Weeks at "Anchorage", and William "Billy Boo" Seymour (1871-1937) who was an overseer for     ?.  Two of their grandchildren, Harold M. Mayfield, Jr. and Jocelyn Seymour married and are the proprietors of one of Ocean Springs finest eateries, Jocelyn's- "like this, no place", established in December 1982. 

 

Park Place

In February 1911, Mr. Norwood sold his East Beach cottage to Mrs. Fronie Stealy Park, the wife of Samuel T. Park, a retired railroad executive for the C.& E.I. R.R..  He expired on the 4th of July 1921, at Maysville, Kentucky.  His daughter, Mrs. Edward Shapker and family, returned to Ocean Springs for visits as late as April 1925, when they had leased the Darsey Cottage at East Beach.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 36, pp.  445-446)

The Parks called their new home, "Park Place".  Mrs. Park's father, Orlando Oscar Stealey (c. 1850-1924+), who resided at Millboro, Virginia in the 1920s, had been the Washington correspondent for the Louisville (Ky.) Courier Journal.  He lived seasonally with his daughter and son-in-law at East Beach and was a frequent contributor to The Jackson County Times, the local journal.  Colonel O.O. Stealy was a staunch Democrat.  There are still a few on East Beach today! 

 

Gustav Hottinger

A sad day in Louis H. Sullivan's life must have been on May 1, 1910, when his inspirational cottage was sold to Gustav Hottinger of Chicago for $8500.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 35, pp. 600-601)

  A sense of what the ambience of Ocean Springs may have meant to the creativity of Sullivan was expressed by him in his autobiography as follows:  For while the great cities are great battle grounds, they are not great breeding grounds.  The great minds may go to the great cities but are not born and bred in the great cities.  In the formation of a great mind, solitude is prerequisite; for such a mind is nurtured in contemplation, and strengthened in it. 

Gustav Hottinger (1848-1929) came to Chicago from Vienna, Austria circa 1878.  He married a Bohemian, 1866 immigrant, Katharina Rous (1850-1932).  Mr. Hottinger formed the Northwest Terra Cotta Company at Chicago.  Its assets in 1923 were $4,000,000.  Herr Hottinger legated 93% of the stock in his tile company to his thirty-six original employees.  The Hottinger's son, Adolph T. Hottinger, held the Sullivan cottage until March 1943, when it was conveyed to William G. Nichols of Birmingham, Alabama.

Katherina R. Hottinger expired at her East Beach home on March 30, 1932.  her corporal remians were sent to Chicago for internment.  Katherina was survived by four daughters: Mrs. E. Holbeck; Mrs. R. Zimmerman; Mrs. L. Peterson; and mrs. W.T. Veazue; and two sons, Arnold Hottinger and Adolph Hottinger.  All the Hottinger children were residents of the Windy City.(The Daily Herald, March 31, 1932, p. 5)

The final years of Louis H. Sullivan's life were marked by great sadness.  Divorce and bankruptcy entered his life and he died destitute on April 24, 1924.  On his final project in 1922, Sullivan served as an associate to one of his former draftsmen. 

 

EPILOGUE

On May 21, 1949, Louis H. Sullivan was honored at Ocean Springs by the emplacement of a memorial tablet in the St. Johns Episcopal Church on Rayburn Avenue.  At this time, there were approximately 500 architects attending the Southern Conference on Hospital Planning at the Buena Vista Hotel in Biloxi.  A rose garden was planned on the church grounds.

Today, East Beach, like many great neighborhoods of 19th Century America, has lost its original character.  The white, shell road, leading from the tidal marsh and deep green pine forest, and slowly drifting parallel southeastward along the grassy, shoreface of Davis Bayou past graceful, post-Victorian, raised cottages is no more.  Lone gone are the marvelously landscaped estates of the wealthy Midwestern winter visitors.  Only the Sullivan and Charnley cottages remain basically intact, and fortunately in the proprietorship of good stewards.  As the ink on this essay dries, the romantic view of Deer Island from East Beach, is threatened to be replicated as a clone to Biloxi's rapidly developing casino-resort, skyline. 

With the formation of subdivisions at East Beach, commencing with Lee-Hail in July 1924, the great estate lots of the Sullivan Era (1890-1910) slowly became dissected into smaller tracts.  Only the twenty-two acre, Virginia Elliott DeFrank parcel, which was established by Julia E. Brown in December 1900, remains intact.  Other subdivisions on East Beach and their platting dates are: Halstead No. 1 (1953), Gulfview (1958), Le Moyne Beach (1968), Watersedge (1975), Yarbrough (1980), Ashley Place (1980), and Halstead Bayou (1985). 

Local architects, Bruce Tolar and Maria Bargas, have left their mark at East Beach.  The Robohm House (1990) of Tolar and Charles Yarbrough's guest cottage (1991) of Bargas are certainly noteworthy architectural contributions to this east end neighborhood.

These series of articles were inspired by Dr. Paul E. Sprague, a recent retiree from the art history department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Dr. Sprague continues to research and write about the Sullivan cottages at Ocean Springs.  Paul is no stranger to Ocean Springs, especially the residents of the Sullivan East Beach cottages. 

Some sources utilized in the preparation of this essay were:  Willard Connely, Louis Sullivan, The Shaping of American Architecture (1960); Louis H. Sullivan, Autobiography of an Idea (1924); The Architectural Record, "The Home of an Artist-Architect" (June 1905); Ocean Springs Genealogical Society Journal, Thomas Park, "Recollections of Ocean Springs 1911-1919" (July 1996 and March 1997); Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, "Louis Sullivan Ornamental Iron Work" (1988); Pamela L. Jacobs, "Louis Sullivan's New Orleans Illinois Central Railroad Station and Ocean Springs Cottages" (1972); Margaret Steelman, "An Historical Research on the Louis Sullivan Cottages in Ocean Springs, Mississippi" (1973); North & South, Volume No. III, Nos. 9-10, (1905); The Daily Herald, "East Beach of Ocean Springs Takes a Bow", July 29, 1957; and the land deed records of the Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court. 

Personal thanks to the following people for their kind assistance with this project:  Betty Armand, E.W. "Wy" Halstead and Margaret Lemon Halstead, Virginia E. DeFrank, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Rasor, and Linda Scupien of Ocean Springs; Else Martin and Betty Rodgers of Pascagoula; Betty Pruitt and Benita K. Mason of New Albany, Indiana; and Nancy Manly of Leadville, Colorado. 

 

Hurricane Katrina-August 2005

On the Monday morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast near the mouth of the Pearl River, which separates it from the marshlands of southeast Louisiana.  This Category Four tempest brought high winds and a devastating storm surge estimated at twenty to thirty feet, which inundated the entire Mississippi coastline destroying or severely damaging all structures from Waveland to Pascagoula.  The shoreline of Ocean Springs was no exception.  The waters of Old Fort Bayou and Biloxi Bay removed or flooded almost every home from Seapointe to Gulf Park Estates.  Relatively low-lying East Beach was particularly destroyed.  The Sullivan-Minor cottage was destroyed and the Charnley-Ruddiman house heavily damaged while the Charnley-Butera octagonal cottage received a moderate to severe beating from the wind driven tidal surge.  

 

 

CHARNLEY-NORWOOD COTTAGE

509 East Beach

[L:R: image made June 1992 and September 2006]

The Charnley Cottage: “awash in paper work” [published in The Ocean Springs Record, November 15 and 22, 2007]

Time and Hurricane Katrina have changed Ocean Springs and the Mississippi Gulf Coast region forever.  Developers scramble for the last square-foot of commercial and residential land to metamorphose and remold the landscape and streetscape and create their own ‘architectural history.’  The stabilization and restoration of the Charnley-Sweeney Cottage at 509 East Beach in Ocean Springs is a salient step in preserving one of America’s treasured, architectural structures that was severely damaged by the late tempest of August 2005.

The history of the Charnley-Sweeney Cottage commences in the late 19th Century, when renowned Chicago architect, Louis H. Sullivan (1850-1926), led a contingent of affluent business men from the Midwest to the vacant, verdant shores of East Beach.  After Sullivan purchased six acres from Colonel Newcomb Clark (1836-1913) in 1890, his friend James Charnley, also from Chicago, bought a contiguous fifteen-acre tract east of Sullivan.  Sullivan's brother, Albert W. Sullivan, superintendent of the Illinois Central Railroad, then acquired nine acres east of James Charnely.  Before the turn of the Century, the cedar, oak and magnolia lined shores of then remote East Beach would become a "Chicago neighborhood".  In addition, a wealthy circle of families from the mining districts of central Colorado, settled east of the Sullivan and Charnley cottages where some erected winter retreats or purchased those of former affluent proprietors.

Debate is still active among architectural historians as to who designed the Louis H. Sullivan and James Charnley cottage and guest house.  Sullivan’s home, which was destroyed by Katrina and situated at 100 Holcomb Boulevard, was owned by Paul Minor, embattled, former Ocean Springs’ legal representative and resident, who is appealing his recent conviction for bribing local judges.  The consensus of historians is that Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959), one of the architectural giants of the 20th Century, was the creator of both.  At this time, young Wright was in the employ of the firm of Adler & Sullivan at Chicago, as a draftsman.  He would leave the firm in 1893 to pursue his own dreams and become one of the signature architects of the 20th Century. 

Historical Significance

     Had the Charnley-Norwood House not been associated with Monsieurs Sullivan and Wright, it might have been bull dozed in the FEMA cleanup post-Katrina.  Kathi Ruddiman Sweeney, the owner of record, inherited the property after Benjamin Edsel Ruddiman (1917-2006), her beloved father and long time WAMA super volunteer, had passed.  Her initial plan was to demolish the derelict structure and sell the large beach front lot.  After Mrs. Sweeney applied for a demolition permit, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History approached her to allow them to restore the property with federal grant money.

     Ken P'Pool, Mississippi Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, believes that the Charnley Cottage could conceivably be considered America's first modern house.  Interviewed by the Bloomberg News in November 2007, Mr. P’Pool related that: ``We also think these [Charnley Cottage and guest house] are important buildings because they show a morphing of one architectural style to another. While difficult to classify, the bungalows reflect elements of the shingle style but also presage 20th-century forms. The long, low lines are ideals we see later in prairie style.  This is an outstanding opportunity to restore some of the heritage lost on the Gulf Coast and the site could become better known than it was before Katrina.” 

Contractual obligation

In 2007, Kathi Sweeney signed a Historic Preservation Easement with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).  This legally binding instrument gives MDAH the right to “ensure the preservation, stabilization, rehabilitation or repair of the subject property, and to provide planning and technical assistance to preserve the historical and architectural integrity of the features, materials, appearance, workmanship, and environment that rendered the subject property eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.”  Mrs. Sweeney received or will receive grant funds through the Hurricane Relief Grant Program for Historic Preservation federally funded through the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior for her donation.

More demolition requests?

Recently, Kathi Sweeney and David Palmer, her son, have sought again to proceed with the demolition of the Charnley Cottage through the Board of Aldermen and Mayor of Ocean Springs.  Mrs. Sweeney apparently impatient with the lack of progress by MDAH and its contractors is seeking “demolition” to get them moving forward as the process is bogged down and basically nothing has been accomplished to permanently stabilize the Charnley Cottage.  After agreeing to a Historic Preservation Easement with MDAH, demolition would seem to be a moot point.  Mrs. Sweeney no longer legally controls the destiny of her property.  Chelius H. Carter, Director of the MDAH Gulf Coast Field Office at Biloxi, opines that only the Attorney General of Mississippi and legal representatives of the National Park Service could abrogate the Historic Preservation Easement agreed to by Kathi Sweeney.

The future

One could only surmise that the patience of Kathi Sweeney will be challenged in the future months and years, as the gears of government bureaucracy slowly churn progressively to restore her historic Charnley Cottage.  As someone once said, “there is no free lunch”.  Clearly, concurring with government easements and accepting federal grants has its caveats.

 

REFERENCES:

Regina Hines Ellison, Ocean Springs, 1892, (Second Edition), (Lewis Printing Services:  Pascagoula, Mississippi-1991), pp.      .

Don L. Griswold, History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado, Volume 1, p. 2058.

Susie Willis Vaughan, History of the First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs-1887-1903, p. 3.

The History of Jackson County, Mississippi, "William Bradford", (Jackson County Genealogical Society:  Pascagoula, Mississippi-1989), pp. 139-140. 

Journals

The Bay Press, "Sullivan-Wright compound destroyed", November 4, 2005, p. 24.

The Daily Herald, "Mrs. Hottinger dies", March 31, 1932, p. 5.

The Chicago Tribune,

The Herald Democrat (Leadville, Colorado), "Death of Reverend John Alderson", August 20, 1906.

The New Albany Weekly Ledger, December 1, 1915, p. 5.

The Ocean Springs News, "Local News", May 6, 1915.

The Ocean Springs News"Local News", May 6, 1915.

The Ocean Springs Record"Sous Les Chenes", December 14, 1995, p. 24.

The Ocean Springs Record"Historic homes may be history", October 17, 2005, p. A-9.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Executrix to push for Charnley demolition”, March 15, 2007, p. A1.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Board stalls on Charnley demolition”, March 22, 2007, p. A1.

The Ocean Springs Record, “History repeats itself”, October 18, 2007, p. A2.

 The Ocean Springs Record, “Charnley House remains in limbo”, November 8, 2007, p. A1.

The Sun Herald, “Stay granted historic home”, March 21, 2007, p. A7.

The Ocean Springs Record"The Charnley Cottage: Awash in paperwork", November 15, 2007, p. A3.

The Ocean Springs Record"The Charnley Cottage: Awash in paperwork, Part II", November 22, 2007, p.  .

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Booming Ocean Springs”, January 30, 1891.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star"Ocean Springs Locals", January 28, 1898.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star"Ocean Springs Locals", October 27, 1899.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star"Ocean Springs Locals", March 14, 1908..

The Progress, Local News”, February 19, 1904.

The Progress, “Local News”, April 2, 1904.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 McEvoy-Usner Place-This vintage image of the McEvoy-Usner, summer home on East Beach was made circa 1905 by Roy L. Bland (1878-1970), a prolific local photographer.  Hurricane Camille destroyed this structure in August 1969.  Courtesy of  H. Randy Randazzo-Arlington, Virginia.

The McEvoy-Usner Cottage

East Beach, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Geographically, East Beach at Ocean Springs, Mississippi is defined as the shore face on the Bay of Biloxi and Davis Bayou, from Weeks Bayou on the northwest, southeasterly to Stark Bayou, a linear distance of about 1.3 miles.  A low-lying peninsula, Marsh Point, which lies about a mile to the south across Davis Bayou, affords some protection to the shoreline from storms generated from the south and southeast.  Most of East Beach is located in irregular Section 32, T7S-R8W which contains 216 acres of highly, variable terrain.  Inland, a few hundred feet north of the beach, a low-lying, northwest-southeast striking, narrow ridge, which parallels the entire shoreline of East Beach, reaches an elevation of about fifteen feet above sea level.  This ridge, which was the site of early cultural development in this area, is bounded on the north by two small bayous, Weeks Bayou on the west and Halstead Bayou, formerly Alderson Bayou, on the east.  Vegetation in the area ranges from marsh grasses in the bayous to live oaks, cedars, magnolias, pines, yaupon and other indigenous shrubs and native plants on the sandy ridge.

PIONEER SETTLERS

The first American settlement at East Beach probably occurred shortly after the land along this sylvan strand was patented in 1837, by the Federal Government.  Section 32 was divided into four fractional, governmental lots each 1,320 feet wide.  Lot 1 on the east was acquired by Louis A. Caillavet (1790-1860), a native of Opelousas Post, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.  With Marguerite Fayard (1787-1863), his wife, Monsieur Caillavet was the progenitor of a large pioneer family at Biloxi; Lots 2 and 3 were patented to James Fitch Bradford (1802-1860+), a Connecticut native; and Lot 4 went to John Black.  The lands of James F. Bradford were the most desirable as they encompassed over 2800 feet of water front and were relatively high compared to Lots 1 and 4 which were chiefly bayou and marsh.

     Since many early land titles in Jackson County have been destroyed by fire, it is difficult to abstract properties before 1875.  From the available Jackson County Chancery Court land deed records and the family genealogy of the Bradford family provided by J.K. Lemon (1914-1998) and his wife, Eleanor Bradford, it appears that the family of Lyman Bradford (1803-1858) was the earliest settlers at East Beach.  Lyman Bradford was born at Montville, New London County, Connecticut.  Before 1810, he came South as a child, with his father, Captain Stephen Bradford (1771-1825+), and mother, Peggy Comstock.  The Bradford family homesteaded on 820 acres in Section 38, T4S-R6W and Section 39, T4S-R7W.  This settlement was situated on the east side of the Pascagoula River and west of Big Cedar Creek, about 3.5 miles northwest of Wade.  The other children of Stephen and Peggy Comstock Bradford were:  James Fitch Bradford; Burissa Bradford Holley (1808-1881); and John Bradford (1817-1898) m. Burissa Jane Elder (1830-1917) 

Burissa Bradford married Benjamin Holley (1810-1860+), a native of New York.  Holley would become a large land owner in East Biloxi and also a Judge in Harrison County.  Her brother, John Bradford (1817-1898), also resided at Biloxi.  Their grandson, Anson Holley (1882-1967), would become one of Biloxi's finest boat builders.  Many of Holley's "white-winged queens" sailed for Ullyse S. Desporte and the Charles B. Foster Packing Company.

In May 1850, Lyman Bradford bought a one-half interest in 210 acres on the Pascagoula River, primarily in Section 22, T7S-R6W, from his brother, James Fitch Bradford.  The Griffin Cemetery is now on this old Bradford settlement site.  Bradford family lore relates that James Fitch Bradford sold his East Beach property consisting of about 110 acres to Lyman and moved to Fannin County, Texas before 1860. 

In August 1836, Lyman Bradford married Cynthia Davis (1813-1887), the daughter of Samuel Davis (1769-1831) and Sally Balscher (1776-1860+).  Here on East Beach, the Lyman Bradfords reared their family:  Sherwood Bradford (1838-1922) m. Eleanora Davis (1851-1938); Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Bradford (1840-1886); Martha A. Bradford (1842-1887); Sarah B. Turner Ramsay (1846-1926) m. Enoch N. Ramsay (1832-1916); Margaret Bradford (1846-1920) m. George W. Davis (1842-1914); Lyman Bradford Jr. (1851-1894); and Mary ‘Mamie’ B. Ramsay (1853-1942) m. Andrew W. Ramsay (1830-1919).

From land deed records, it can be ascertained with a high degree of certitude that the Lyman Bradford homestead was located in Lot 2.  This is corroborated by the U.S. Survey Map of 1854.  The family cemetery which had two burials before 1887 appears to have been located in the E/2 of the N/2 of Lot 1.

East Beach Road circa 1925-This image was made by Winifred Norwood Shapker (1869-1937), the daughter of Frederick W. Norwood (1840-1921) and Elizabeth Norwood (1842-pre-1916).  Frederick W. Norwood was a Chicago entrepreneur who with C.S. Butterfield acquired thousands of acres of Mississippi, yellow pine in Lincoln County and founded the mill town of Norfield, Mississippi which supplied lumber for Chicago in the late 19th Century.  Mr. Norwood acquired the East Beach home of James Charnley (1843-1905), also a lumberman and resident of Chicago, in June 1896.  In Mrs. Shapker’s vintage photograph which was taken from an early road to East Beach and viewed eastward across Week’s Bayou.  Note that there are at least two bridges through the marsh and the telephone poles along the beach.  Also note the road rising up the East Beach ridge which was the focus of early settlements in this area of Ocean Springs.

PRE-McEVOY EAST BEACH

When Margaret Ann O’Neil McEvoy (1847-1918) acquired land and possibly a cottage at East Beach in November 1902, her neighbors to the east were primarily affluent Midwesterners: Joseph Benson Rose (1841-1902), proprietor of the Royal Baking Powder Company which later became a part of Nabisco; Louis H. Sullivan (1850-1926), major American and Chicago architect and mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959); Frederick W. Norwood (1840-1921), former Union Army officer and Chicago lumber baron; Julia E. Brown (died 1907); Albert R. Vermilyea (1845-1908), former Union infantry Sergeant with the 35th Pennsylvania Volunteers and a prominent Chicago capitalist; Ellen Woodruff (1850-1941); Mary F. Field Scovel (1848-1930+), the wife of Rushton H. Field (1838-1908), Chicago hotelier; Gilbert O. Clayton (1861-1945), an Illinois native and clerk at NOLA; Hallie S. Harman; David W. Halstead (1842-1918), former Union corporal in the 2nd Ohio Cavalry.  Mr. Halstead became the founder of a local nursery and his descendants still reside on East Beach; Winthrop Curtiss (1862-1903) of Waverly, Illinois, took the 1900 Federal Census at Ocean Springs; and I. Giles Lewis (1851-1918), a New York native and a pharmacist at Chicago.

Silas Weeks

In July 1879, Matilda Rayne Weeks (1830-1912), the spouse of Captain Silas Weeks (1823-1901), acquired a large parcel of land facing Deer Island between the Mill Dam Bayou, present day Ocean Springs Inner Harbor, and a small bayou, which became known as Weeks Bayou, from John I. Kendall (1841-1898) and Mary E. Smith Kendall (1852-1880) of New Orleans.  The Weeks tract was east of the William Gray Kendall (1812-1872) estate which was centered about the now vacant lot which once was the locus of the Hansen-Dickey House, called Shadowlawn, on Shearwater Drive.  Here, the Weeks family erected a large summer home, which they appropriately named, "Anchorage".  Captain Weeks retired here raising poultry and growing vegetables until his demise in January 1901.  He had been a leading shipping agent at New Orleans.  "Anchorage" was legated to his daughter, Jessie Weeks Boyd, and later owned by her daughter, Miss Jessie M. Boyd (1881-1963).  It is believed to have been demolished in the 1940s.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 3, pp. 211-213 and Bk. 4, pp. 123-125and The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, January 18, 1901)

Mrs. Matilda Weeks was born in London, England of Robert W. Rayne and Mary B. Langdon.  With Silas Weeks, she reared a family consisting of four daughters: Ada W. Depass (1851-1909), Jesse W. Boyd (1855-1932), Hattie W. Darsey (1858-1939), and Mamie W. Rice (1864-1937).  Her grandchildren, Misses Jesse Boyd (1881-1963) and Ethel W. Rice (1887-1969), are well remembered by the older generations at Ocean Springs.

 Ada Weeks (1851-1909) married David Depass (1850-1926) of New Orleans.  He made his livelihood dealing in stocks and cotton futures.  In June 1890, they purchased what we know today as the Shearwater Pottery of the George W. Anderson (1861-1937) family from Albert Baldwin (1843-1912), a dry goods merchant and entrepreneur of New Orleans.  They had one daughter, Hattie Virginia Depass (1882-1926+), who married Howard Hall.  The Halls resided at Chicago.

Jessie Weeks (1855-1932) married a Texan, William Boyd.  Their children were Silas W. Boyd (1876-1950) and Jessie M. Boyd (1881-1963).  Silas W. Boyd made a career in the Mississippi lumber business operating out of Jackson, while his sister, Miss Jessie M. Boyd, gave her life helping others primarily with the American Red Cross.  She was at the scene of many of the great floods of the 1920s and 1930s, including the infamous August 1936, Johnstown, Pennsylvania disaster.  

Hattie Darsey (1858-1939) was born at sea possibly on her father's ship.  She married Lowndes A. Darsey (1849-1929), a Methodist minister, from Georgia.  The Reverend Darsey came to the Mississippi Conference circa 1904, and served Methodist Episcopal churches at Ocean Springs and Pascagoula.  The Darsey children were: L.A. Darsey Jr., J.W. Darsey, G.U. Darsey, Rison C. Darsey, Mrs. Joe Zink, and Mrs. Lee Hammond.

Mamie Weeks (1864-1937) married George A. Rice (1860-1942) of New Orleans.  They had one child, Ethel Weeks Rice (1887-1969).

In May 1883, Captain Silas Weeks acquired sixty acres of land on East Beach.  This purchase precipitated a legal action in the Chancery Court of Jackson County, Cause No. 416, "Martha H. Hilzeim v. Mary E. Snipes, Silas Weeks, et al", filed February 1892.  The disputed tract of Captain Weeks at East Beach was located in Governmental Lot 4, Section 32, T7S-R8W.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 6, p. 386)

The Silas Weeks lands at East Beach in Ocean Springs were sold by his heirs several years after his demise in 1901.  One tract went to Margaret A. McEvoy of New Orleans for $1200 in November 1902, while another was conveyed to Augustus H. Niles of Richland County, Illinois in February 1904, for $1000.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 28, p. 228 and Bk. 27, p. 601) 

 

“Anchorage”-This rustic, side-gabled, dormered roof, seven bay residence was erected by Silas Weeks (1823-1901), a Mainer, sea captain and NOLA shipping agent, circa 1880, east of the present day Dickey and Sherod Raum Arndt estate on East Beach.  In retirement at Ocean Springs, Captain Weeks raised poultry and vegetables.  Anchorage is believed to have been razed in the 1940s. Image by Winifred Norwood Shapker (1869-1937) courtesy of Lynn Sutter.

McEvoy family

Margaret Ann O’Neil McEvoy (1847-1918) was a native of County Kerry, Ireland and immigrated to America in 1860.  At New Orleans, she married Martin McEvoy (1833-1924), also an Irish immigrant.  Martin McEvoy left his native Dublin and arrived in America in 1848 and came to New Orleans in 1854.  They were the parents of four children born in the Crescent City: Dudley J. McEvoy (1868-1936) m. Marguerite L. Boes (1889-1965); Albert J. McEvoy (1882-1915); George A. McEvoy (1881-1964); and Margaret A. ‘Rita’ McEvoy (1885-1963).  Martin McEvoy made his livelihood as a laborer in the wholesale houses of the Crescent City until he left to join the Army of Northern Virginia.  He became janitor and building superintendent for the New Orleans’ Board of Trade in 1882 and in November 1912, he was recognized and warded a loving cup for his faithful and diligent service to that organization.  Martin McEvoy expired in the Crescent City on March 21, 1924.  He was preceded in death by his spouse who passed on November 25, 1918.(The Daily Picayune, November 11, 1912, p. 10, November 26, 1918, p. 2 and March 23, 1924, p. 4)

Ocean Springs

At Ocean Springs, Dudley J. McEvoy met and in October 1912 in New Orleans, married Marguerite Lillian Boes, the daughter of Charles Peter Boes (1859-1928) and Sarah Lahr (1859-1936), both natives of New York, probably Westchester County, and both of Germany immigrant parents.  The Boes family arrived in Ocean Springs circa 1893, from New Orleans where circa 1889, they may have relocated to from New York. At Ocean Springs, Mr. Boes made his livelihood as a railroad carpenter and by 1915, Charles P. Boes was the proprietor of a small confectionary in the former Paragon Saloon owned by George E. Arndt (1857-1945), himself a first generation German-American. At this time, the Paragon Saloon had been moved just north of its former site on the southwest corner of Washington Avenue and Robinson. This relocation was necessary when in 1913, the Farmers and Merchants Bank Building was erected here.(1900 and 1910 Federal Census-Jackson Co., Mississippi T623_812, p. 12B, ED 45 and  T624-744, p. 7A, ED 62 and Patricia Boes-Parenteau, June 17, 2003 and The Ocean Springs News, July 8, 1915, p. 4)

Boes home

In April 1905, Charles P. Boes acquired a portion of Lot 12-Block 37 of the 1854 Culmseig Map of Ocean Springs from Dr. O.L. Bailey (1870-1938). Here on the northwest corner of Calhoun and Van Cleave, the Boes family resided until their departure for New Orleans sometimes before February 1919. They were residents of New Orleans, when their home on Calhoun was acquired by Noah A. Bellman (1889-1941) and spouse, Williamina Catchot Bellman (1898-1990), in February 1919, for $500. The old Boes cottage is known today as the Bellman House and situated at 1401 Calhoun.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 29, p. 536 and Bk. 46, pp. 359-360) 

Dudley J. McEvoy was born at Mobile and made his livelihood at New Orleans.  He and Marguerite Boes were the parents of Dudley J. McEvoy Jr. (1913-1978); Albert J. McEvoy (1915-1981) m. Margaret Luke; John O’Neil McEvoy (1922-2000) m. Flossie Weber ; and Margaret Lynn McEvoy (1923-2002) m. William Zaccardi.

Greenwood Cemetery

The following members of the McEvoy-Boes family lie in eternal rest in their family burial plot at the Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans: Charles Peter Boes, Sarah Lahr Boes, John Morris Boes, Lena Boes McGee, and Marguerite Boes McEvoy and Dudley J. McEvoy, Margaret O. McEvoy, Margaret A. McEvoy, George A. McEvoy, and Martin McEvoy.

Dreuding lease

Of interest to some would be a lease executed in May 1914, by Margaret McEvoy to Henry A. Drueding (1866-1954) of New Orleans for her summer cottage on East Beach.  The rate for five months was $15 per month.  For this consideration, Mr. Drueding, the lessee, received the following:  the use of the bath house and boat; the house to be furnished; repairs to the roof, the screens and doors of the side porch, the windows and shutters to be completed by May 25, 1914; locks, keys and other fastenings to be delivered in good order; and water pipes and plumbing to be delivered in good condition.  The lessee was expected to keep the chimneys and privies clean and to comply with all City Ordinances at his own expense.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 40, p. 342)

Henry A. Dreuding was born at Oldenburg, Germany and arrived at New Orleans circa 1891.  Circa 1903, he married Elizabeth Schanzmeyer (1875-1958), a native of Westphalia, Missouri, and they reared seven children in the Crescent City.  Mr. Dreuding was a well-known organist at New Orleans being affiliated with St. Mary’s Assumption Church, the Elks, and Leiderkranz, a German singing society.  In the fall of 1905, Professor Dreuding toured the Midwest visiting Chicago and St. Louis.  He was offered a position at Chicago, but preferred life in the South and returned to New Orleans.  He expired at New Orleans in July 1954.  Elizabeth S. Dreuding died in September 1958.  Their corporal remains were interred in the Metairie Cemetery.(The Daily Picayune, October 5, 1905, p. 12, The Times Picayune, July 12, 1954, p. 2 and September 25, 1958, p. 2)

McEvoy-Usner Place

This vintage image of the McEvoy-Usner, summer home on East Beach was made circa 1905 by Roy L. Bland (1878-1970), a prolific local photographer.  Hurricane Camille destroyed this structure in August 1969.  Courtesy of  H. Randy Randazzo-Arlington, Virginia.

Sale

In March 1915, Margaret Schmaltz Usner (1848-1929), the spouse of Jacob Usner (1841-1926) of New Orleans acquired the McEvoy place on East Beach for $1600.  Her son, Anthony M. Usner (1872-1946), had bought the A.H. Niles property, next door, in September 1912 for $1500.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 41, p. 548 and Bk. 38, pp. 491)       

Usner family

Jacob Usner was born at Blieskastel, Bavaria, Germany.  He came to New Orleans in 1845 and served with the 2nd Regiment of the Louisiana Infantry Volunteers in the Civil War.  After the conflict, he married Margaret Schmaltz in October 1867.  She was a recent immigrant from Lauterbourg, Bas Rhin, France in the Alsace region.  At New Orleans, Jacob Usner made his livelihood as a contractor and builder.  He did all the interior woodwork in St. Mary’s and St. Stephen’s Catholic Churches in the Crescent City.   The Usner family was domiciled at 923 Seventh Street and reared six sons and two daughters: Jacob V. Usner (1868-1958) m. Theodora Pollman; Emma Usner (1870-1956) m. Nicholas Werther (1868-1908); Anthony M. Usner (1872-1946) m. Mary Ellen Houlihan (1871-1940); Louis Usner (1875-1949) m. Marie M. Miller (1878-1958); Frederick J. Usner (1876-1966) m. Lorena Fredericka Walsdorf (1882-1982); Joseph M. Usner (1879-1944) m. Stella Harring Sougeron (1888-1968); Clara Wilhelmina Usner (1881-1936) m. Albert F.  Bernius (1881-1947); and Nicholas E. Usner (1889-1971) m. Luella Spanier (1900-1954).

1925 land option

In June 1925, Jacob and Margaret Schmaltz Usner offered a one-year option on the ‘Jacob Usner place’ at Ocean Springs, Mississippi to Albert F. Bernius (1881-1947), his son-in-law.  At this time, the ‘Jacob Usner place’ was described as a tract of land 400 feet by 400 feet.  Apparently the option by Mr. Bernius was never exercised.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 55, p. 631)

1940 agreement and land division

In late November 1940, Louis Usner; Jacob Usner; Mrs. Emma Usner Werther; Anthony M. Usner; Joseph Usner; Nicholas Usner; Frederick Usner; and Conrad Albert Bernius, heirs at law of Jacob Usner and Margaret Schmaltz Usner, and each owner of an undivided 1/8 interest in two tracts of land in coastal Mississippi, met at New Orleans and agreed on an equitable division of these mutually owned tracts.  Only the division of the Jacob Usner, East Beach, Ocean Springs, Mississippi tract will be discussed.  As surveyed the former Jacob Usner tract ran for 422 feet in a northwesterly direction parallel to the Beach Road and was west of the line dividing Lot 3 and Lot 4 of Section 32, T7S-R8W.  Its western perimeter ran north for 400 feet and on the eastern side it had a boundary of 665 feet.  On the north, the east-west closing boundary ran 328 feet.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 76, p. 271)

The Heirs of Jacob Usner agreed to divide their land at Ocean Springs into five (5) parcels.  From east to west, the ownership and width on East Beach Road and depth were as follows: Parcel I-Louis Usner-75 feet on Beach Road with 665 feet on the east line and 620 feet on the west line; Parcel II-Jacob Usner-75 feet on Beach Road with 620 feet on the east line and 575 feet on the west line; Parcel III-Nicholas Usner-104 feet on Beach Road with 575 feet on the east line and 511 feet on the west line; Parcel IV-Anthony M. Usner-75 feet on Beach Road with 511 feet on the east line and 459 feet on the west line; Parcel V-Frederick J. Usner-93 feet on Beach Road with 459 feet on the east line and 400 feet on the west line.

Usner settlement

It appears that the large Jacob Usner family occupied the former McEvoy place as a weekend and summer retreat during their ownership.  Joan Usner Salvant (b. 1932), the daughter of Clarence L. Usner (1907-1992) and Lillian Cox (1911-1981) remembers that during the depression that Percy Noel (1908-1977) and Ruby WilliamsNoel (1915-1993) lived in the Usner family East Beach home as caretakers.   Percy Bernard Noel (1908-1977) was born at Cottage Hill, Mobile County, Alabama.  He resided at 609 Ward Avenue and made his livelihood as a painter and shrimper.  Percy married Ruby Williams (1915-1993), the daughter of William Eugene "Nub" Williams (1890-1966) and Lorena Devereaux (1896-1978).  They were the parents of Vallee N. Atkinson and Charles Noel.(Joan Usner Salvant, January 2011 and The Daily Herald, March 17, 1977)            

Clarence L. Usner

Joan U. Salvant recalls that by 1940-1941, the Usner family had outgrown the McEvoy-Usner house and that Clarence L. Usner, her father, began constructing a small cabin [12 feet by 12 feet] on his tract, which was west of the larger McEvoy-Usner house.  The Usner cabin grew through the years and was the site of fond memories for Joan as she enjoyed with her father in his small boat, fishing and exploring the bayous which penetrate and drain areas of Marsh Point to the south of East Beach.  The September 1947 Hurricane did much damage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and East Beach at Ocean Springs did not escape the fury of this tropical cyclone.  The Usner properties survived but there was much beach erosion and Live Oak tree loss in their neighborhood.  Hurricane Camille of August 1969 destroyed the McEvoy-Usner house as well as the cabin of Clarence L. Usner.(Joan Usner Salvant, January 31, 2010)

Clarence L. Usner

Joan U. Salvant recalls that by 1940-1941, the Usner family had outgrown the McEvoy-Usner house and that Clarence L. Usner, her father, began constructing a small cabin [12 feet by 12 feet] on his tract, which was west of the larger McEvoy-Usner house.  The Usner cabin grew through the years and was the site of fond memories for Joan as she enjoyed with her father in his small boat, fishing and exploring the bayous which penetrate and drain areas of Marsh Point to the south of East Beach.  The September 1947 Hurricane did much damage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and East Beach at Ocean Springs did not escape the fury of this tropical cyclone.  The Usner properties survived but there was much beach erosion and Live Oak tree loss in their neighborhood.  Hurricane Camille of August 1969 destroyed the McEvoy-Usner house as well as the cabin of Clarence L. Usner.(Joan Usner Salvant, January 31, 2010)

At this time, may I introduce you to Joan Usner Salvant.  She is going to share with us her recollections of her childhood at East Beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  Joan Usner was born at New Orleans to Clarence L. Usner (1907-1992) and Lillian M. Cox (1911-1981).  She began her career in architectural drawing and commercial art, but soon gravitated to the fine arts. Her skillful perspective renderings and beautiful landscapes have been enthusiastically received for more than forty years. Her love of history has led to a highly successful series of paintings of historic buildings, sites and homes in Texas, where she lives and works, and in her native city of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Many of Ms. Salvant's paintings of Texas are collected in three books published by the University of Texas Press: The Historic Ranches of Texas, The Historic Seacoast of Texas, and If These Wall Could Speak: The Historic Forts of Texas.

Joan Usner Salvant's paintings and drawings are found in the art collections of two US Presidents, US Congressmen, governors, a former First Lady, banks, holding companies, petroleum companies, interior designers, and various businesses. Permanent hangings of Salvant art work may be found in the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington, D. C., the University of Texas Visitors Center, and Fort Concho Historical Museum - San Angelo, Texas.   Galleries that have displayed her work are Salado Gallery in Salado, Texas, Evangeline Gallery in Lafayette, Louisiana, Merrill-Chase Gallery in Chicago, Illinois, and Sotheby’s of New York.

Ms. Salvant has also illustrated a number of other historical books and has been featured in Texas Highways Magazine seven times.  Much of her time is spent on commissions, creating art depicting the private ancestral, family and childhood homes of her clients.

Teaching people to paint and draw is a passion for Salvant, and she regularly conducts art classes and workshops in Austin and Central Texas. A gifted instructor and mentor, she generously shares her knowledge of the basics of good drawing -- perspective, light and shadow, and composition -- as well as techniques of watercolor painting and ink drawing.  To see Joan’s work and acquire it, please view her website at: www.jusalvant.com

 

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES OF EAST BEACH

OCEAN SPRINGS, MISSISSIPPI: 1933-1954

by

Joan Usner Salvant

 I was fortunate to have spent every summer of my childhood at the Usner home on East Beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi from 1933 until 1954.  The following is a recollection of those wonderful days shared with relatives and friends as a child and later as a teenager until the year I married. 

It was summer in New Orleans, sweaty, hot and steamy. The only way to stay cool was to turn on the water hose and run gratefully through its spray. Or, wait until Dad’s vacation finally came and we were on our way to glorious Ocean Springs and the Big House on East beach, where gentle breezes constantly blew off the waters of the Mississippi Sound, and we could swim all day long in the gentle surf.

It was a distance of ninety miles between New Orleans and Ocean Springs and back then it would take the better part of a half day to make the trip by car.  After crossing into Mississippi, the ride along the coast between Pass Christian and Biloxi, with the beautiful palatial homes was a pleasant one, but as a child, I was anxious to get to our destination.  Finally, we were crossing the Biloxi Bay Bridge looking out over the water that bordered Front Beach of Ocean Springs.  Anxiously we looked to see that the old oyster house in the marsh in the distance was still standing on it high piers as it had for so many years guarding the bay.

As our 1936 Nash sedan left the streets of Ocean Springs and passed the little harbor of fishing boats, making our way up the hill, through the woods past Shearwater Pottery, my anticipation soared.  Then down out of the woods and off of the hill we came to almost water level.  We passed over the little “Usner Bayou” bridge (as the Usners called it), riding along the new seawall, and there on the hill ahead, covered with countless ancient oaks, was the Big House.  Some folks said it looked haunted, and maybe in the bleak winter it did, but if it was, they were the most friendly of ghosts.

Usner Cottage-This original watercolor of the Usner Cottage was painted by Joan Usner Salvant who as a child spent her summers on East Beach at Ocean Springs.  In later life, Joan studied architecture and commercial art and has developed into a nationally known artist.  Her painting and drawings are found in the art collections of two US Presidents, US Congressmen, governors, a former First Lady, banks, holding companies, petroleum companies, interior designers, and various businesses. Permanent hangings of Salvant art work may be found in the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington, D. C., the University of Texas Visitors Center, and Fort Concho Historical Museum - San Angelo, Texas.  To see Mrs. Salvant’s work, please visit www.jusalvant.com. Courtesy of Joan Usner Savant-Austin, Texas.

     The memory of my summers at East Beach is, without a doubt, the happiest of my childhood.   For there it was that I would run carefree through the sandy loam that surrounded the house, playing with my second and third cousins whose family also came for vacation to the Big House.  What a treat that was for me as an only child.  There was always so much to do to have fun as children.  There were six huge live oak trees that guarded the drive at the top of the hill, three on each side, and someone years ago had placed thick wooden seating planks between them.  As the trees grew larger the seats became too high to sit on but were ideal for imagining the place as a playtime grocery store, or bakery for making mud pies, or for a fortress for battles.  There was always someone playing horseshoes on the west side of the house where those big trees gave constant shade.  With our parents we went crabbing off the bridge at “Usner “ Bayou [Week’s Bayou], or grabbed some bamboo fishing poles that always leaned against a tree in front of the house and go fishing for our supper in one of the little skiffs.

Early in my memory there was only a very small amount of sandy beach and that was in front of the seawall which at that time ended at the beginning of our property.  In front of the house the water came up to the road which was at the bottom of the big hill.  To get from the house on the hill to the road below and then the water, there was a rickety wooden stair that always seemed to be under repair to no avail.  The skiffs rested there in the water moored by ropes to heavy stakes, and someone would wade out, untie the skiff and bring it to the water’s edge so we could all pile in.  For supper that night we would dine on white and speckled trout, maybe some boiled crabs, shrimp and even oysters found in the bed on the sandbar in the water out front.  What a feast!

Several days a week we would all drive to Community Pier on Front Beach and go swimming.  On the way back we would go into town on Government Street to be treated to snowballs at the little stand that stood in the front yard of a house next to the movie theater [Illing’s Theatre on Washington Aveue].  Speaking of the theater that was the only place I ever saw a silent movie with an organ playing for sound.  It was probably around 1935 and I guess the theater hadn’t been rigged for sound yet.  I couldn‘t have been more than three at the time. 

I remember a few things about the little town that we would frequent every few days to buy groceries and sometimes have a meal.  Early on, my parents bought their groceries from Gottsche’s grocery that stood at the corner of Washington Avenue, then US Highway 90 and Desoto Street, near where the highway made a turn through town.  In later years we traded at Steelman’s Grocery on the highway as it turned east toward Pascagoula.  Mr. Steelman had his sons all working for him - one in the butcher shop, one on the cash register and the youngest one (my age) helping customers carry their groceries.  There was Lovelace Drugs, a small diner, an ice cream shop that sold black walnut flavor ice cream, and a variety store that sold hardware, trinkets of all kinds and some items that cost no more than a penny.  And of course, there was the railroad station where the steam locomotives brought our friends to visit us on occasion.  Sometimes we would drive past the old hotel [now Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant] near the springs, cross the marsh and bayou, and go up into the Gulf Hills and enjoy seeing the beautiful homes and broad landscape of the golf courses.  Then it would be back again to our home on East Beach.

COMMUNITY PIER

Located on Front Beach at Ocean Springs, the Community Pier was a summertime gathering place for the town’s young people in the 1930s,1940s and 1950s.  Here swimming lessons were taught by Bertridge ‘Bert’ Bellman Brou (1900-1992), the daughter of Philip M. Bellman and Alice V. Seymour (1880-1957).  While all of Bert’s  children were excellent, competitive amateur swimmers, Edward J. Brou (1921-2004) and Margaret M. Brou (b. 1922), went on to win regional swimming championships.  In September 1936, Edward J. Brou set a record at the Southern AAU swim meet in New Orleans, when he swam the mile in 25 minutes and 59 seconds.  He placed second in the two-mile event.  At Baton Rouge in August 1939, Margaret M. Brou was the Southern AAU junior relay champion.  Charlotte 'Lottie' Moore Schoemell (1895-1966), former world champion endurance swimmer, also taught swimming at the Community Pier and the Buena Vista pier at Biloxi in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  She once held 21 world swimming records.  Another local swimmer of note was Herbert P. Beaugez (1895-1954) who swam the Biloxi to Isle of Caprice Marathon Race in August 1927 as an amateur and was awarded a medal or his effort.  Courtesy of Carlana Lindstrom Lane-Pascagoula, Mississippi.

     My background is in architecture and painting so most of what I remember about the house, both inside and out is probably pretty accurate.  The house was a Victorian style cottage, wooden weather boards with fishtail accents at the crow’s nest and around the second-story windows, all painted a mustard yellow with brown trim.  The porch ran across the front and down the whole east side of the house to the rear past the kitchen.  The depth of the porch was about eight feet.  It was deep enough for an eight foot long table and benches on each side that stood outside the foyer room on the east side.  This was where the family ate most of their meals.  Down the rear steps off the porch and down the hill toward the marsh was the outhouse - a “four-seater” - two for boys on the west and two for girls on the east.  It was not too sanitary and it sure did smell.  And there was a Sears Catalog there as well.

 Everywhere, surrounding the house, there were beautiful live oaks with Spanish moss softly draped on their branches and lazily swaying in the cool breeze.  A giant Magnolia tree stood off to the northwest of the house in the woods and a persimmon tree was in the front yard along with two chinaberry trees that supported a bench between them. The bench held the bushel basket for crabbing and the trees supported numerous cane fishing poles for everyone’s use.

As you walked through the front door of the house you entered the foyer with the stairs on the right leading to the second story.  To the left, through two, huge, sliding doors was at one time the parlor, but in my time it was the overseer’s quarters.  It had the only fireplace in the house and was the largest room downstairs.  To the rear of this room was once the dining room, which was sometimes used as an overflow bedroom when too many families showed up, a second set of stairs with a pantry room underneath and the kitchen.  The kitchen was equipped with a large, iron, wood-burning stove and a spigot came out of the wall from the fifteen-foot tall cistern just outside at the rear of the house.

The stairs in the front foyer soared and curved to the second story bedrooms.  Many gleeful hours were spent by me and my cousins sliding down that swirling staircase.  There were four bedrooms and each held from one to three cast iron beds, one or two fancy Victorian dressers, and each had an armoire.  My parents and I most often occupied the small room over the foyer with the crow’s-nest extension over the front porch. It was very cool day and night with windows on three sides.  My parents used to push the cast iron bed right up into the crow’s nest to catch the breezes at night.  The walls throughout the house were wooden planks. I don’t remember any wallpaper anywhere.  The floors were of pine plank.  The stairs and rails were cypress.  After Hurricane Camille destroyed the house my Uncle Merlin Usner, pastor of Ocean Springs First Presbyterian Church, found the main newel post from the stairs and, I believe his daughter, Priscilla Usner Lasseigne, still owns it.

East Beach Road

Circa 1900-This image was made by Winniefred Norwood Shapker (1870-1937), the daughter of Frederick W. Norwood (1842-1921) and Elizabeth Winnie (1838-1912), second owners of the Charnley House at present day     East Beach Drive.  Mrs. Shapker’s vintage photograph was taken on East Beach, east of the Usner property and west of present day Holcolmb.  Note the road rising up the East Beach ridge which was the focus of early settlements in this area of Ocean Springs. Courtesy of Lynne Shapker Sutter-Eden Valley, California.

     In 1939 there were so many Usner families who enjoyed their vacations at the Big House that sometimes there wasn’t enough room for everyone.  So my grandfather, Frederick Joseph Usner, and his brothers and sisters decided to divide the property. Some would still have the house and the others would get property.  My grandfather received the western most parcel of property.  Since my father, Clarence Leonard Usner, was the only one of his siblings to frequent Ocean Springs often, my grandfather gave my father permission to build a small cabin on the property.  The cabin was begun in the summer of 1940 and finished the summer of 1941.  It stood just north of the driveway that led to the Big House.  Between the driveway and the edge of the hill was a huge Spanish oak tree.  Dad later built two Adirondack chairs that lounged under that tree.  On the east side of the cabin were two pine trees between which we hung a hammock.  The dimensions of the cabin were twelve feet by twelve feet, with a tiny porch, bunk beds, a collapsible table hinged to the back wall to create more space and a small closet.  To open the two windows you would slide them sideways along a channel.  The walls were weather board, the only door was Cape Cod style - separate upper and lower hinged openings, and under the house a secure space for storing the skiff.  Watching my dad build the cabin was probably what first interested me in architecture, as he was always eager to share his building expertise and answer all my questions.  To save money, Dad did not run electricity to the cabin so we had a Coleman lantern for light.  City water was not available as we lived too far from town so we installed a cistern.  After the war we did get electricity and Dad also added a room to the back and a portico across the front but still no water.  Of course we had a “one holer” outhouse down the back.  The year of Hurricane Camille, Dad finally hooked up to city water and built another room on the back with a bathroom.  However he and Mom never were able to enjoy the new luxury because the hurricane blew in the week before their vacation and totally destroyed the cabin as well as the Big House.

The property next to ours was granted to the Anthony Usner family and Anthony’s daughter, Betty Usner Armand, bought a surplus U. S. Army barracks after the war in 1946, and had it delivered in pieces on a flat bed truck.  All the able men in the whole family came out and put it together for her that summer (including my dad).  What a site! 

There was an abundance of wildlife aside from what the Gulf gave up.  There were lots of different species of birdlife - several types of gulls, sandpipers, shearwaters that would skim across the waters, brown and white pelicans, and on land, dove, terns, jays, beautiful Baltimore orioles, and so many more.  One summer a white pelican befriended us and accompanied us uninvited on our fishing trips.  He would sit on the bow of the skiff and wait for us to catch a fish and then would try to snatch it for his meal.  We were afraid he might grab the hook as well as the fish and tried to shoo him off to no avail.  We got used to him after a while and even named him Pete the Pelican.

My dad was a master fisherman, at least that’s what a lot of people said. He always knew the places to float his cork and always came back with a nice catch.  I started accompanying him at a very young age as Mom wasn’t too keen on fishing and I hated to see Dad go alone. He would first go into the marshes, take out his cast net and cast for shrimp. He thought live bait was the best if you wanted to catch redfish or speckled trout.  I learned to bait my own hook, row the boat and fillet fish.  It was quite an education for a little kid.

Speaking of education, as I grew up my days were spent roaming the woods, building sandcastles on the beach, wading in the shallow water watching all kinds of marine life.  The crabs would come close to shore to shed their outgrown shells, burying themselves in the sand and laboriously backing out of their too small home.  I watched a female stingray give live birth to her brood.  And at night, the fireflies and the phosphorus that played in the water seemed magical to me.   When the moon was new and it was pitch dark, the stars in the Milky Way were so bright they glistened on the water.  And when the moon was bright, the glow of it dancing on the water is indescribable.  Many a night when sleep doesn’t come, this is the memory that clears my thoughts and lulls me to sleep.  This is the kind of education every child should be privileged to have, and I was the lucky one to experience it.

 I am not a writer, nor a historian.  What I have written is simply the recollections of the happy memories of my childhood.  Joan Usner Salvant February, 2011

Usner Settlement

This excellent sketch plat was drawn by Joan Usner Salvant who spent her childhood summers at East Beach.  It depicts the general topography, three structures erected by the Usner-Armand families during their occupation here from 1912 until recent times, the 1928 seawall and the later 1950s seawall, as well as the status of the artificial beach which was created after the second seawall.  Hurricane Camille destroyed the original buildings, but the Betty Armand place was rebuilt and later refurbished by Martin and Lisa C. Waggoner, present occupants and owners of most of the original Usner tracts.  Courtesy of Joan Usner Salvant-Austin, Texas.

Many thousand thanks to Joan Usner Salvant, formerly of NOLA and a long time resident of Austin, Texas, for sharing her excellent memories of East Beach!

Hurricanes

As previously mentioned the original McEvoy-Usner summer cottage was destroyed in August 1969 by Hurricane Camille, as well as the cabinof Clarence L. Usner (1907-1992), Joan Usner Salvant’s father.  As we so vividly recall, Hurricane Katrina of August 2005 was a very catastrophic, millennium event on the shore face of Ocean Springs and a large section of the Mexican Gulf.  East Beach was particularly hard hit due to its low elevation.  Of the three Usner structures on their East Beach parcels, only that of Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Usner Armand (1909-1999), the daughter of Anthony M. Usner (1872-1946) and Mary Ellen Houlihan (1871-1940), was rebuilt after Camille. 

Post-Usner East Beach

With their summer domiciles destroyed and older family members dying, the Usner family of NOLA and Mobile, Alabama began vending their Biloxi Bay tracts on East Beach.  A brief history of their small parcels from west to east follows:

409 East Beach

Frederick J. Usner property and Merlin F. Usner

In November 1970, Lorena F. Usner (1882-1982), the widow of Frederick J. Usner (1876-1966), conveyed her East Beach tract to her children: Merlin F. Usner; Corinne Usner Oplatek; David A. Usner; Clarence L. Usner; Frederick W. Usner; and Charles L. Usner.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 388, p. 556)

Merlin Frederick Usner (1902-1995) was one of two Usner descendants that later lived in Ocean Springs.  Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Usner Armand (1909-1999) was the other.  Merlin was born at NOLA on September 2, 1902.  He attended Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee and the Princeton Theological Seminary.  Merlin came to the First Presbyterian Church at Ocean Springs, Mississippi in September 1962 and was installed by a commission chaired by the Reverend Robert T. Colt of the First Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, Mississippi, the Reverend Victor Augsburger of Biloxi and the Reverend Arthur M. Schneider of Pascagoula, Mississippi. 

After 1930, Merlin F. Usner had married Ruby Elizabeth Getaz (1909-1986) of Maryville, Tennessee.  They had Priscilla E. Usner (b. 1948), a daughter, who married Russell Lasseigne (b. 1945).  Reverend Usner retired from his ministry at Ocean Springs, Mississippi in 1972.  Ruby G. Usner expired at Ocean Springs, Mississippi on November 28, 1986.  Merlin F. Usner relocated to Katy, Houston County, Texas and died there on August 20, 1995.

In June 1973, Merlin F. Usner; Corrine A. Usner Oplatek (1903-1991) m. Joseph C. Oplatek (1906-1977); David A. Usner (1904-1999); Clarence L. Usner (1907-1992); Frederick W. Usner (1910-2003); and Charles A. Usner (1916-2009) m. Marion Pujol (1921-2004), the Heirs of Frederick J. Usner and Lorena Walsdorf (1882-1982) sold the Frederick J. Usner property to Robert W. Warren and Anne Margaret Brunson Warren in June 1973.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 468, p. 223)

Robert W. Warren

Robert W. Warren (1912-2005) was an attorney domiciled in Jackson, Mississippi.  During Mississippi’s savings and loans financial crisis in the late 1970s, he consulted for the State as a representative of Governor Charles C. ‘Cliff’ Finch (1927-1986).  At Ocean Springs, Robert W. Warren had a 2200-square foot, side-gabled, wooden structure, designed by his nephew, erected on East Beach.  The Warrens added sixty front feet to the west side of their tract in September 1982, when Paul B. O’Neal and Allison Pringle O’Neal conveyed a parcel from the east side of their East Beach lot.(Martin R. Wagoner, April 2011 and Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 746, p. 160)

The Warrens enjoyed their beach retreat until Mrs. Warren became ill and couldn’t make the trip from Jackson.  In May 1993, Robert W. Warren conveyed their East Beach residence to Anne Brunson Warren (1909-1994), his spouse.  The next month, Anne B. Warren sold her home and land to Martin R. ‘Marty’ Wagoner and Lisa Courtney, his spouse.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1017, p. 947 and Bk. 1019, p. 502)

Martin R. Wagoner

The Marty and Lisa C. Wagoner are active in the business and civic activities of the community.  They are partners in the Cornerstone Group, an investment counseling firm, located in the 1910 Ocean Springs State Bank Building in the heart of Ocean Springs.  Courtney Farms on Bienville Boulevard is another family enterprise that specializes in landscape architecture and outdoor and indoor plants, pottery, and fountains.  The Wagoner yard on East Beach is always a dynamic, array of blooming plants and shrubs, which elicits laud from neighbors, as well as transients and beach goers.

he Warren-Wagoner domicile was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  The Wagoner family rebuilt a Katrina-style cottage here in the summer of 2006.

409 East Beach

This holiday home was built by Jackson attorney, Robert W. Warren (1912-2005), after he acquired the former Frederick W. Usner tract in June 1973.  When Mrs. Anne B. Warren’s  health began to decline, this structure was conveyed in June 1993 to Martin R. ‘Marty Wagoner and Lisa Courtney Wagoner, his wife.  The Wagoner home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Images made August 1997 and September 2005 by Ray L. Bellande.

411 East Beach-Anthony M. Usner Tract (75 feet on seawall)

In July 1948, Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Usner Armand acquired this lot with a 75-foot front on the seawall at East Beach from Jacob M. Usner et al.  Betty Usner Armand (1909-1999) was the daughter of Anthony M. Usner (1872-1946) and Mary Ellen Houlihan (1871-1940).  She was born at NOLA on August 16, 1909.  During the Depression, Betty married Ury Joseph ‘Ray’ Armand (1908-1959), a native of Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana.  He had left the farm of Camille Armand, his father, situated in Ward 3 of Avoyelles Parish and relocated to New Orleans.  Here Ray J. Armand made his livelihood as a collector for the New Orleans Linen Supply Company and driving for the United Cab Company.  Betty and Ray Armand were the parents of two sons: Ury J. Armand Jr. and Patrick James Armand Sr. (1934 -2003) m. Jacqueline Ducarpe.(1920 Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana Federal Census T625-605, p. 21A, ED 4)

          

411 East Beach Drive-Armand Cottage

The Armand Cottage was erected shortly after the termination of WW II from a former military barracks.  It did not survive Hurrciane Camille and another structure was built here by Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Usner Armand (1909-1999).  Martin R. Wagoner and Lisa Courtney Wagoner, his wife, acquired the Armand Cottage in July 2001.  It was extensively refurbished as a guest cottage to compliment their domicile at 409 East Beach.  Both structure were victims of Katrina in late August 2005. Image made by Ray L. Bellande in August 1997.

Joan Usner Savant, a niece of Betty Usner Armand relates that:  the Armands acquired a surplus U. S. Army barracks after the war in 1946, and had it delivered in pieces on a flat bed truck.  All the able men in the whole [Usner] family came out and put it together for her[Betty]  that summer, including my dad.  What a site!(Joan U. Salvant-March 2011) 

The Armand cottage was damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Camille in August 1969.  by volunteers and friends after 1970.  In later life, Betty U. Armand resided here on East Beach.

In August 1982, Elizabeth U. Armand sold to her sons, Ury J. Armand Jr. and Patrick J. Armand Sr., her home on East Beach.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 468, p. 223)

Betty Armand died intestate at Gulfport, Mississippi in late December 1999.  The Armand brothers conveyed their mother’s home to Charles Spence Boyd in January 2001.  Mr. Boyd, a partner in the Cornerstone Group, an investment counseling service, and business associate of Martin R. Wagoner, sold 411 East Beach to him and Lisa Courtney, his wife in July 2001.  The Wagoners restored the Armand Cottage y restored it (Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1228, p. 296 and Bk. 1245, p. 152)

Nicholas Usner property- East Beach (104 feet on seawall)

In February 1941, Nicholas Usner sold the largest parcel of the Usner family’s five tracts on East Beach to Emma Usner Werther (1870-1956), Joseph M. Usner (1872-1946), and Conrad A. Bernius.(1905-1975). Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 76, p. 477)

In June 1963, Conrad A. Bernius et al conveyed their rights, title. and interest in this property to Geraldine F. Usner LaGreca.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 243, p. 157)

Geraldine U. LaGreca

Geraldine Florence Usner LaGreca (1912-1997) was born at NOLA the daughter of Joseph M. Usner (1879-1944) and Stella Harring Sougeron (1888-1968).  She was reared on Josephine Street in the Crescent City where her father made his livelihood as a building contractor.  Post-1930, Geraldine married Joseph Thomas LaGreca (1912-1999), a native of Ustica, a small island north of Sicily.  The LaGreca family was one of many that had immigrated to NOLA in 1912.  Joseph was the son of Charles S. LaGreca (1882-1932) and Anna Falanga (1887-1985).  In his youth Joseph worked as a waiter in a restaurant, probably on Magazine Street where the family resided.  His father was a restaurant cook.  Geraldine and Joseph T. LaGreca were the parents of two daughters born after 1930: Dolores Lolita LaGreca Vega and Geraldine LaGreca Klein.  Mrs. LaGreca was active in girl scouting.(1930 Orleans Parish, Louisiana Federal Census R 812, p. 6B, ED 251 and The Times Picayune, December 28, 1999, p. B4)

     In August 1963, Geraldine F. Usner LaGreca conveyed an interest in her East Beach lot to her husband, Joseph T. LaGreca.  Joseph T. LaGreca expired at NOLA in April 1997 and Geraldine followed him in death in December 1999.  They legated their East Beach lot to their daughters.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 244, p. 525, The Times Picayune, May 3, 1997, p. B5, and Jackson Co., Mississippi Chancery Court Cause 2002-0035-GB)

     In August 2002, Geraldine L. Klein and Dolores L. Vega sold their parents Ocean Springs real estate to John H. Kohler of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Mr. Kohler is the father of Stacy K. Moran, the husband of A.R. ‘Fred’ Moran of Ocean Springs.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1277, p. 684 and p. 688)

     In April 2003, John H. Kohler conveyed the former Nicholas Usner tract to Martin R. Wagoner and Lisa C. Wagoner.  The Wagoners now own three of the original Usner tracts with about 330 feet fronting on the seawall at East Beach.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1299, p. 683)

 

                   

415 East Beach

This two-story, shingled, front-gabled cottage was erected before 1996 and after 1988 by Rita Jung Walker.  It was taken down by Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005.  Mrs. Walker has resided in NOLA since Katrina and her lot remains vacant.  Image made August 1997 by Ray L. Bellande.

 

415 East Beach -Jacob V. Usner Jr. property (75 feet front on seawall)

Jacob V. Usner Jr. (1868-1958) was born at NOLA.  He married Theodora Octavia Polhman (1869-1949) at NOLA in February 1892.  She was the daughter of Bernard J. Pohlman (1843-1916), an 1845 Dutch immigrant to America, and Caroline Schneider (1847-1922), a native of NOLA. Before moving to Mobile, Alabama, Jacob and Theodora had lived in Tampa, Florida.  For forty-five years at Mobile, he worked in the bakery of Gordon Smith (1872-1964), his brother-in-law, who had married Mary M. ‘Mamie’ Pohlman (1873-1930+) at NOLA.  Gordon Smith was the proprietor of the Smith Bakery on Dauphin Street in Mobile, which he established in 1901.  In recent times, the old Smith Bakery Building has been the venue for The Bakery Café Market and The Bakery Restaurant at 1102 and 1104 Dauphine, respectively.

Jacob and Theodora P. Usner were the parents of two daughters, Bernetta Usner (1893-1959), who was also an employee of the Smith Bakery, and Irma Usner Strong (1900-1958+), the spouse of Gregory Strong (1899-1930+).

After his demise in August 1958, the Jacob V. Usner Jr. East Beach lot was legated to Bernetta M. Usner and Irma Usner Strong.(Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 14897-August 1959)

In August 1963, Irma Usner Strong conveyed her East Beach lot to Dr. A.H. Smith of Sumner, Mississippi.  The consideration was $6000.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed 247, p. 67)

Dr. A. H. Smith

Dr. Arthur H. Smith (1885-1971), Mississippi native, was a resident of Sumner, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.  He married Grace Smith (1894-1981), born Tennessee, and they were the parents of three children: Marguerite Smith Webb (1918-1986+); Louise Smith Oakes (1923-1986+); and Dr. Gerald Arthur Smith (b. post 1930).  In 1930, the Smith family was domiciled on Walnut Street in Sumner, Mississippi where he was an emergency room physician.   In February 1968, Dr. Smith sold this parcel to Marguerite Webb Smith, Louise Smith Oakes and Dr. Gerald Arthur Smith, his children.(1930 Tallahatchie Co., Mississippi Federal Census R 1167, p. 5B, ED 17 and Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 247, p. 67 and Bk. 327, p. 552)

In December 1984, after the demise of Dr. Gerald A. Smith, Carol B. Smith, his widow, sold her interest in this tract to J.J. Webb II.  In June 1986, Marguerite Webb Smith, Louise Smith Oakes and J.J. Webb II, sold their lot to Louis Cambre and Mary Spencer Cambre, his spouse.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 813, p. 11 and Bk. 861, p. 75)

Louis Cambre

Louis Cambre appears to be the son of Allen B. Cambre (1893-1972) and Catherine Ruth Usner Cambre (1898-1984).  In August 1987, Louis Cambre and wife conveyed this parcel to Lowell H. Roberts and Janice E. Roberts.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 861, p. 75) 

  In September 1987, Marshall P. Walker Jr. and Rita Jung, his spouse, acquired this lot from Lowell H. Roberts and Janice E. Roberts.  After divorcing her husband, Rita Jung Walker built a home here between 1988 and 1996.  It was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 894, p. 541)

 

417 East Beach-Louis Usner Property (75 feet front on seawall)

In February 2008, H. Candler Yarbrough began construction of a raised cottage on the former Louis Usner lot.  It was built by Terry Lewis, the son-law of Buddy Graham.

Louis Usner (1875-1949) was born at NOLA.  In June 1897, he married Marie M. Miller (1878-1958).  They were the parents of two daughters: Catherine Ruth Usner (1898-1984) m. Allen B. Cambre (1893-1972) and Emily Usner (1905-1991).   Circa 1903, Louis Usner moved his family to Tampa, Florida where he made his livelihood as a cigar packer.  They returned to New Orleans between 1920 and 1930 and settled on Magazine Street where he worked as a Cigar classer.

 Catherine Ruth Usner Cambre and Allen B. Cambre married circa 1928 and had five children: Mary Jeanne Cambre (b. 1930), Lucien Louis Cambre, Alfred Cambre, Richard Cambre, and Beverly C. Commander.  In February 1999, Mary Jeanne Cambre sold her interest in their East Beach lot to her siblings, Lucien Louis Cambre, Alfred B. Cambre, Richard Cambre, and Beverly R. Cambre Commander.(1930 Orleans Parish, Louisiana Federal Census R802, p. 26A, ED 52 and Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1166, p. 786)

In October 2000, Lucien Louis Cambre, Administrator of the Estate of Louis Usner, conveyed their lot on East Beach to Harry Candler Yarborough and wife.  This warranty deed was corrected in December 2008.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1219, p. 520 and Bk. 1564, p. 498)

Harry C. Yarborough

Harry Candler Yarborough (b. 1939), called Candler, formerly lived at 419 East Beach.  He acquired Lot 1 of the Yarbrough Subdivision from Charles Yarbrough in November 1985.  Here Candler and Linda Rabby Yarbrough, his wife, built a two-story brick edifice.  Buddy Graham of Escatawpa, Mississippi was the building contractor.  Candler and Linda sold this home in November 2004 to Gary R. Brunson and relocated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The Brunson home was destroyed by Katrina in August 2005.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed 843, p. 113 and Bk. 1362, p. 778)

In February 2008, H. Candler Yarbrough began construction of a raised cottage on the former Louis Usner lot.  It was built by Terry Lewis, the son-law of Buddy Graham.

Candler and Linda R. Yarbrough have had an interesting life.  Candler was born in West Palm Beach, Florida and after a stint in the USAF joined Delta Airlines, as a pilot and flight engineer.  His career with Delta spanned over thirty years and included international flying to Southeast Asia.  Linda is a native of Escatawpa and is the mother of three daughters, all who are licensed pilots.  The Yarbroughs are enjoying their very comfortable home with its excellent view of Marsh Point, Deer Island and Biloxi Bay.  Their front porch rests 23 feet above mean sea level.(Candler and Linda R. Yarbrough-April 2011)

This concludes the McEvoy-Usner House story.  Thank you for your patience and interest and special thanks again to Joan Usner Salvant for her memorable contribution.

 

REFERENCES: 

Chancery Court

Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 14897, “Estate of Jacob V. Usner”-August 1959.

Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 16876, “Conrad Albert Bernius et al v. Unknown parties”-April 1963.

Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No.  51009, “Louis Cambre, et al v. George Smith Strong Jr., et al”- August 1987.

Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 53711, “R.W. Warren v. E. Usner Armand et al”-May 1989.

Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 99-1985, “Estate of Louis Usner”-October 2000.

Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No.  2000-0917, “The Estate of Elizabeth Usner Armand”-2000.

Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 2002-0035-GB, “Estate of Joseph LaGreca and Geraldine F. LaGreca”-2002.

Journals

The Daily Herald, “Install Pastor Ocean Springs [Merlin F. Usner], September 10, 1962.

The Daily Herald, "Percy Bernard Noel", March 17, 1977.
The Daily Picayune, “Prof. Dreuding’s tour”, October 5, 1905.

The Daily Picayune, “McEvoy’s Loving Cup”, November 11, 1912.

The Gulf Coast Times, Deaths-Jacob V. Usner”, October 2, 1958.

The Jackson County Times, “Jacob Usner”, February 5, 1927, p. 5.

The Ocean Springs News, “advertisement”, July 8, 1915.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Ruby Elizabeth Usner”, December 4, 1986.

The Times Picayune, “A.J. McEvoy’s Death”, May 10, 1915.

The Times Picayune, “Died [Margaret A. O’Neill McEvoy], November 26, 1918.

The Times Picayune, “Died [Martin J. McEvoy], March 23, 1924.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Margaret Schmaltz Usner], March 27, 1929.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Charles LaGreca], January 6, 1932.

The Times Picayune, “Collector slugged and robbed of $14”, February 2, 1934..

The Times Picayune, “Five vacationists die as auto upsets, burns on highway near Chef”, August 7, 1936.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Clara Usner Bernius], August 7, 1936.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Dudley J. McEvoy], October 28, 1936.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Mary Houlihan Usner], October 11, 1940.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Joseph Usner], July 19, 1944.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Louis Usner], March 9, 1949.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Henry A. Dreuding], July 12, 1954.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Emmas Usner Werther, February 6, 1956.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Marie Miller Usner], May 8, 1958.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Elizabeth Schanzmeyer Dreuding], September 25, 1958.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Ury J. Armand Sr.], July 1, 1959 .

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Margaret A. McEvoy], November 27, 1963.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [George A. McEvoy], January 19, 1964.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths”, [Allen B. Cambre], July 4, 1972.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Catherine Usner Cambre], May 29, 1984 .

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Anna Falanga LaGreca], October 28, 1985.

The Times Picayune, “Rev. Merlin Frederick Usner”, August 22, 1995.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Joseph Thomas LaGreca], May 3, 1997.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Geraldine Usner LaGreca], December 28, 1999.

The Times Picayune, “John O’Neil McEvoy”, June 25, 2000.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Joseph Thomas LaGreca], May 3, 1997.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Geraldine Usner LaGreca], December 28, 1999.

The Times Picayune, “Deaths [Patrick J. Armand Sr.], November 9, 2003..

 

Personal Communication:

Maybelle Bowers, January 27, 2011

Susan Robinson Moran, January 27, 2011

Priscilla Usner Lasseigne, January 29, 2011

Joan Usner Salvant, January 31, 2011

Martin R. Wagnor-April 2011

Harry Candler Yarborough-April 2011

 

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Some home appellations used at East Beach:

Belle Fleur-Julia E. Brown.  Formerly the Williston home.(1902).  Williston of Duluth, Minnesota.  Later at New York and Boston.

Bonnie Oaks-John S. Alderson of Leadvile and Pueblo, Colorado.

Bon Silene-James Charnley house.

Bon Silene-Fred Norwood home..

De Hutte-Louis H. Sullivan home.

Elk Lodge-Joseph B. Rose place.

Field Lodge-Rushton H. Field and Mary F. Field.

Rose Garden-Ruth Chase of Chicago and Hopkinton, New Hampshire, and F.J. A. Forster (1927).

Seven Pines-home of Ralph C. Curtiss of Waverly, Illinois..

Wildermear-David Wileder Halstead (1842-1918) of Iowa home on east beach.  Destroyed by fire in June 1911.

Wildwood-H.O. Penick of New Orleans home on East Beach.

Wiljamurrie-Julia E. Brown home built by L.N. Bradford (1896).