Interesting Things

By Ray L. Bellande

Primary tabs

Hurricanes

An Overview of Notable Hurricanes and Their Impact on Ocean Springs

 

LOCAL HURRICANES

September 23-24, 1722

Bernard Roman's Hurricane-August 30-September 3, 1772

August 10-12, 1860

September 14-15, 1860

October 2, 1893

August 15, 1901

September 26-27, 1906

September 20-21, 1909

September 29, 1915

July 5, 1916

September 20-21, 1926

September 3-4, 1947

September 9-10, 1965 (BETSY)

August 17, 1969 (CAMILLE)

September 12, 1979 (FREDERIC)

September 1-2, 1985 (ELENA)

September 30, 1998 (GEORGES)

September 16, 2004 (IVAN)

August 29, 2005 (KATRINA)

 

THE 1893 HURRICANE: THE GREAT OCTOBER STORM

The 1893 Hurricane, referred to by historians as the Great October Storm or the Cheniere Caminada Storm, struck the Mississippi coast slightly west of the Alabama state line on the morning of October 2, 1893.  Winds in excess of 100 mph and rainfalls of up to eight inches were recorded at many coastal towns.  The highest official storm surge reported in Mississippi was 9.3 feet at Deer Island where forty cattle were drowned and their carcasses deposited at the Biloxi lighthouse along with timbers of boats, saloons, oyster houses and piers.

 

On October 1, 1893, the tempest first struck the coast of southeast Louisiana.  Here winds in excess of 130 mph and a storm surge of 15 feet generated from the waters of Barataria Bay and Caminada Bay drowned 1,650 people from the population of 1,800 persons living on Cheniere Caminada, a small fishing community, near Grand Isle. 

 

On October 1-3, 1993, the "Cheniere Hurricane Centennial" was observed at Cut Off in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana.  The weekend was a combined memorial to victims and survivors of the 1893 disaster and a reunion of their descendants.  In addition, demonstrations of ethnic cooking, music, dancing, and life of the bayou country were presented.  Story telling, environmental programs, genealogical workshops, art, and photography added to the cultural and educational experience of the remembrance.

 

After exiting Caminada Bay, the Great October Storm moved rapidly northeast inflicting heavy damage to the fishing fleet working the fecund waters of the east Louisiana marshes northwest of Breton Sound.  It is estimated that hundreds of sailors died here from drowning during the tempest or from exposure during the days following the aftermath of the storm.  Along the turbulent path to its Mississippi landfall, the Great October Storm destroyed the U.S. Marine Hospital, Quarantine Station, and lighthouse at Chandeleur Island.

 

                                           Old Fort Bayou                                   Washington Avenue                        Lorenzen Place  [on Washington Avenue]

[all images courtesy of Adrienne Illing Finney]

 

Local damage

Regrettably for the beachfront inhabitants at Ocean Springs who remembered the gale of mid-August 1888, the approaching hurricane would soon make them forget that blow.  The damage in 1888 generally amounted to lost piers, bathhouses, breakwaters, and some trees.  The Daily Picayune of August 24, 1888, reported destruction to the wharves and bath houses of: The Ocean Springs Hotel, Mrs. Julia Ward, Mrs. Julia Egan, John Cunningham, Mrs. Illing, Mr. Hemard, Bishop Keener, Reverend Dr. Joseph B. Walker, and Ralph Beltram.  The grand lawn of the Arthur Ambrose Maginnis Jr. estate, west of the W.B. Schmidt estate, was strewn with fallen trees.  Schmidt lost a portion of his breakwater.  Narcisse Seymour, who operated a fish house and saloon at the foot of Washington Avenue, lost both during the high tides and wind of the raging blow.(The Daily Picayune, August 22, 1888, p. 2)

 

The Gillum Hotel (originally the Van Cleave Hotel) located on the southeast corner of Washington Avenue and Robinson Avenue, opposite the L&N depot, was badly shaken by the heavy winds.  It had to be repainted.  Mrs. Adele H. Gillum gave up her lease on the hostel, which was owned at the time by Mrs. Emma Arndt Meyer (1866-1924+).  Gillum and her daughter, Effie, moved to New Orleans in January 1894.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, October 6, 1893, p. 2)

 

 

The L&N Railroad

First reports of the 1893 Hurricane destruction at Ocean Springs indicated that the most severe devastation occurred when the L&N Railroad bridge across the Bay of Biloxi was washed away.  Hurricane force winds drove a 200-foot section of the structure into the Back Bay of Biloxi.  The floundering rail span wreaked havoc on boats, wharves, and seafood plants on the shore of the bay along the Biloxi peninsula.  Mr. Jack Sheppard, the bridge tender's assistant, was drowned. 

 

Rail passengers were delayed at Ocean Springs for several days until other arrangements for their travel could be effected.  The corpse of Junius Hart, which was being shipped from New York to New Orleans, was on the train.  It took several hundred men and over two weeks of intense labor to get the railroad bridge back into service.  In addition, many boats and fences were damaged at Ocean Springs. 

 

When the first train reached Ocean Springs from Mobile on October 11th, it carried sixty bridge repairmen.  The townspeople were furious with the L&N for not carrying their mail.  The local postmaster had to row to Biloxi in a skiff to get the mail.  Although four schooners and several steamboats landed at Ocean Springs via New Orleans, their captains had been denied access to the town’s mail.(The Biloxi Herald, October 21, 1893, p. 4)

 

Martime victims

The town became very concerned when the Alphonsine, a fishing schooner, commanded by Captain Paul Cox was overdue.  The vessel had been shrimping in the Louisiana Marsh.  The people of Ocean Springs and others of the coast were relieved on October 13, when Father Aloise Van Waesberghe of St. Alphonsus reported to the editor of The Pascagoula Democrat-Star that Paul Cox (1867-1942), Ed Mon (1843-1920), Van Court, and Ladnier have returned to Ocean Springs from Breton Island where they spent the days following the hurricane.  The men survived on two croakers a day while they dug their beached schooner, Alphonsine, out of its quartz trap.

 

The Rubio brothers, Paul Fergonis (1861-1893) and Frank Fergonis (1865-1893), also known as Guiatan (Cajetan) or probably Gaetano brothers, of the Bayou Puerto settlement, were fishing in the Louisiana marshes aboard the schooner, Young Amercia, and were caught by the hurricane.  The tempest dismasted their vessel and drove it aground at Southwest Pass.  Both men were lost at sea.(The Biloxi Herald, October 7, 1893, p. 1) 

 

Accomplished Mississippi historian, Professor Charles L. Sullivan, in his excellent book, Hurricanes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast (1717 to Present), presents a descriptive account of a Biloxi schooner, which returned from the islands and marshes in search survivors:

 

It is impossible to describe the horrifying sights witnessed on the voyage.  The marshes are filled with dead and putrefying bodies, and in but a few cases are the corpses recognizable, and then only from the garments worn or some peculiar and well-known mark of distinction.  In many cases the skin from the bodies had fallen off and the stench from the putrid corpses was so fearful that carbolic acid had to be used in all cases before attempting to handle a body, and sponges saturated with camphor and whiskey were applied to the nostrils of the relief party.  All over the island were seen crosses, indicating the resting spot of some poor unfortunate who had given up his life to the cruel waves.  The number of lives lost in the marshes will never be known, and doubtless many who perished and drifted out to sea.  All over the marshes and in the water thousands of dead animals and water fowl were seen.  (The Biloxi Herald)

 

Succor

The charity and concern of the town's citizens was expressed in late October, as the Ocean Springs Cornet Band gave a benefit concert at the Firemen's Hall for the relief of those who suffered financial loss from the tempest.  The event was well patronized and considered a success.  The Cyclone string band assisted at the performance and was well received by the audience.  Laud was graciously given to the ladies who assisted with the arrangements and refreshments.  The affair raised $65 for the victims of the storm.

 

Later repairs

About the same time, Dr. Edmond A. Murphy arrived from New Orleans to have his property repaired, which was damaged by the storm.  In April 1891, he had purchased the Bay front estate south of the L&N Railroad from the Reverend Joseph B. Walker (1817-1897).  Walker was a Methodist minister born at Washington D.C.  Dr. Walker preached at the Carondelet Street Methodist Church at New Orleans until he retired to his summer home at Ocean Springs circa 1875.  Reverend Walker was described as " a preacher of real power, his services to the Ocean Springs church, freely given, were of the highest order".  Reverend Walker later relocated to his country estate north of Gulfport.

 

By late November 1893, repairs were still occurring along the shore face as The Pascagoula Democrat-Star related that Joseph S. Catchot (1856-1919) had recovered from a long illness and was rebuilding his wharf and oyster shop at the foot of Jackson Avenue.

 

Ocean Springs recovered from The Great October Storm as it had from its predecessors that had been recorded in the area by French colonists as early as 1717.  Over two thousand people lost their lives in this October 1893 tropical cyclone.  At least one hundred of these casualties were Mississippians.  This hurricane ranks second in loss of lives caused by natural disasters.  Only the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which claimed more than 6,000 lives exceeded The Great October Storm.

 

We can be thankful today that we have the communications, satellites, and meteorological technology for early warning to these powerful natural forces.  For those of us who experienced the 1947 September Storm, Betsy, Camille, et al, anxiety and empathy are emotions which surface easily when we hear or read about hurricanes.  May all tropical waves from the east African coast meet their demise in the cool waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

Ray L. Bellande, Ocean Springs Hotels and Tourists Homes, (Bellande: Ocean Springs, Mississippi), P. 54.

 

Charles L. Sullivan, Hurricanes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast 1717 to Present, (Gulf Publishing Company: Biloxi, Mississippi), pp. 30-40.

 

Robert B. Looper, The Cheniere Caminada Story, (Blue Heron Press: Thibodaux, Louisiana-1993, p. 1.

 

Journals

The Biloxi Herald, “The First Train at Ocean Springs”, October 21, 1893.

The Biloxi Herald, “Storm Victims”, October 28, 1893.

The Biloxi Herald, "J.B. Walker Obit", February 27, 1897, p. 1.

The Biloxi Herald, "Dr. Walker's Funeral", March 6, 1897, p. 4.

The Daily Picayune, "Correspondence", August 22, 1888, p. 2.

The Ocean Springs Record, "Sous Les Chenes", January 18, 1996.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, "Ocean Springs Local News", October 1893.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, "Ocean Springs Item", October 13, 1893.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, October 13, p. 3.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, "Ocean Springs Locals", October 27, 1893.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, "Ocean Springs Locals", November 3, 1893.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, "Ocean Springs Local News", November 24, 1893.

 

CAMILLE-August 17, 1969

 

Front Beach and Martin Avenue                          

REFERENCES:

The Daily Herald, 'Ocean Springs working clear', August 21, 1969, p. 10.

 

 

KATRINA

Waking Katrina

We waked Camille for thirty-six years and soon will be remembering Katrina’s tenth anniversary.  These are not Irish wakes.  No celebrations-only memories of death, destruction and despair.  Miss your electricity, ice and gasoline?  Wait for the next hurricane!  Over the next few months, we will explore Katrina’s metamorphosis of Ocean Springs in relationship to our culture and physical changes, especially to the city’s architecture and economy.

 

People of the Gulf Coast have lived with hurricanes since Colonial times.  An excellent reference for this subject is ‘Hurricanes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast: Three Centuries of Destruction’ published in 2009 and researched and written by Charles L. Sullivan, Professor Emeritus of MGCCC.  Mr. Sullivan has also penned among others: “Mississippi Gulf Coast: Portrait of A People” (1985); “Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College: A History 1911-2000” (2002); "Building The 'Old Spanish Trail': The Story of a Modern American Highway" (2003); "Down South with the Dixie Press” (2008); and  “Gulf Coast Album: A Journey in Historic Photographs 1899-2011 From NOLA across the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Mobile” (2011).

 

It is interesting to note that eighteen years after Pierre Le Moyne and Jean-Baptise Le Moyne, frères from Montreal, Canada and known familiarly to us as Iberville and Bienville, and their cohorts established Fort Maurepas at present day Ocean Springs, a tempest of great fury and strength struck Dauphin Island in August 1717 bisecting the marine landmass and creating to the west what is now known as Petit Bois Island.  Many livestock were drowned and the deep-water harbor at Dauphin Island was filled with sand and rendered useless as a port.(Sullivan, 2009, p. 2) 

 

In his earlier 18th century explorations of the Mississippi River, Bienville had discovered with the assistance of Native Americans, a site on the Great River about one hundred miles from the Gulf of Mexico and within five miles of Lake Pontchartrain.  In March 1718, he sent colonists to establish a small village here that was called New Orleans.  The Superior Council that ruled French Louisiana negated Bienville’s efforts to establish the capital at New Orleans and order him to erect Fort Louis de Biloxi, which between 1719 and 1721 saw thousands of colonists disembark at Ship Island.  These hardy souls primarily of Germanic stock were transported into French Louisiana where they established settlements along the Mississippi River as far north as Arkansas.   Ironically, a hurricane struck the infant New Orleans in September 1722, destroying the church, parsonage, hospital and thirty-four houses.(Sullivan, 2009, p. 3) 

 

Although this is not a History of Gulf Coast Hurricanes, I would like to briefly share with the reader some of my hurricane experiences.  My first hurricane of memory was in September 1947 at Biloxi while a resident on Lameuse Street.  It was a long time ago and I was a child but my salient memory of this event was the silence the morning following the storm.  We lived near Back Bay and I saw what seemed like a thousand shrimp boats anchored there.

 

My next meteorological adventure of note was Hurricane Betsy at New Orleans in September 1965.  I had just graduated from Mississippi State University in August and had joined the South Louisiana exploration geology staff of Humble Oil at Harvey, Louisiana.  I lived near the Ochsner Hospital on Jefferson Highway.  Well, like any normal twenty-two year old man, I joined my roommates and spent the night at an all night and morning, hurricane party in Metairie.  Part of the early a.m. was spent driving through the storm and it was rather hairy-remember Category III.  When Betsy had weakened, one roomy discovered that his automobile was buried under a tree.  We were pretty tired and later that hot and super humid day I began to get nauseous and dizzy.  Never had that feeling before and requested to go to the ER at Ochsners.  Saw a doctor and his diagnosis was: “Son, you have the flu.  Quit drinking, go home and get some rest.”  Well, I got plenty of rest as I spent the next four days in bed sick as a dog [ has anyone ever been sick as a cat?] and could only eat apples in a horizontal position.  As soon as I got vertical the nausea struck and I got that sinking feeling.

 

Camille-August 1969

Jim Cantore [b. 1964] of the Weather Channel should contact me about locating hurricane strike points on the shores of the northern Mexican Gulf region.  Hurricane Camille in August 1969 demonstrated to me that I have the penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time when it involves tropical cyclones.  Case in point-How could someone residing at Manhattan Beach, California in August 1969 find his way to Biloxi, Mississippi and be there on the evening of August 17th?  Well, I can only blame two people, Thomas Larry Wilson and Betty Ann Bellande, my sister, who chose to wed at Biloxi on the afternoon of August 16, 1969. 

 

Betty’s wedding day was very hot and extremely humid, as Camille was in the Gulf churning its way northward from its natal status as a hurricane while off the Cayman Islands.  My most salient memory of that day was the champagne at the wedding reception in the Buena Vista Hotel and Nash C. Roberts Jr. (1918-2010), the chief meteorologist and legendary hurricane prognosticator, at WDSU-TV in New Orleans.  As I watched Nash make his Camille forecast that evening, I distinctly remember him predicting that Camille’s surge at Biloxi could be as high as 15 feet.  Really Nash?  As I sat there doing some quick mental calculations as to our elevation at 1051 Lameuse Street, now 415 Lameuse Street, vis a viz the predicted storm surge, I came to the conclusion that we had the potential of getting our fannies wet!  No way, old Nash.  Hey the September Storm of 1947 left us high and dry.  Camille couldn’t be any worse??  Or could it????

 

We of former times had the pleasure of knowing and listening to Nash Roberts.  He was the first full-time weathercaster in the Deep South and one of the first to use radar on his television weather broadcasts.  His calm guidance during hurricanes made him legendary to people throughout southeast Louisiana and coastal Mississippi. Nash was the only local forecaster to accurately predict the paths of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which hit the New Orleans area with great force and our Camille’s as well.  Nash was with WWL-TV when he retired in February 1984.  He came out of retirement temporarily during some hurricane seasons to help calm and educate the local populous.  Mr. Roberts accurately predicted the path of Hurricane Georges in 1998, while all the full-time on-air meteorologists of the area, namely Bob Breck of WVUE and Dan Milham of WDSU, predicted an incorrect track.  On point again, Nash and his wife safely evacuated from New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

 

Back to Camille

It is about midnight, 17 August.  I am asleep and awakened by my mother with the words: “Get up!  Water is coming into the house.”  Ray’s response: Really?  You’re kidding??  As I stepped onto the wet floor into about four inches of water, reality rang home.  I hurried to the back door of the house to corroborate the flooding and duly noted with a very high degree of certitude that Back Bay had been extended at least a block south of its former position before this storm.  Yes, with winds clocking from the northeast at a Category 5 velocity, there were white caps in the backyard.  Time to panic?  Hell, no.  I rallied my family and calmly instructed them that we were going into the attic and observe what happens to the rising water level.  Again doing some mental gyrations, I calculated that if the water reached into the attic, our whole world was in trouble.  As a precaution, I found a hammer to use if indeed we had to break through the tin roof to escape drowning-at least in the attic!!

 

Miraculously, the water receded from our house within forty minutes depositing mud and silt as a reminder of its short visit.  Gratefully, Camille was a very fast moving storm.  Our house was a wood-framed, bungalow built in the late 1940s and situated on brick piers.  Camille’ turgid waters rose about 3 feet above the ground level and about 14 inches above the house flooring.  The clean up compared to Katrina was quick and simple as we had time to raise some furniture and closet items before the water had time to permanently damage anything.

 

As I soon discovered, I was a Camille captive.  At this time, there was no way to get to New Orleans to get a flight to LAX and back to work in Century City.  We were very fortunate as the old homestead had natural gas and we could cook and boil water.  Many people were getting potable water from a deep well at the Southern Shell factory [think Boom Town Casino today] on East Bay View Avenue.  There was no FEMA and the Red Cross wasn’t delivering MREs on Lameuse Street, but we fared rather well.  Some relatives from the Crescent City surprised us by bringing food and other supplies.  They were not needed, but deeply appreciated.

 

The Mississippi National Guard and Mississippi Power Company employees were deployed during the most critical phase of Camille and rescued many souls clinging to fences and poles or in their flooded homes-especially on da Point!!  Roy A. Bellande, a brother, was one of the many first responders that late night and early morning in mid-August 1969.

 

There wasn’t much do in Biloxi in the wake of Camille’s wrath.  After you’ve seen and photographed the damage, assisted your neighbors and others in greater need, it a waiting game for electricity to return and the massive clean up to begin.  Fortunately, I was able to get to Hattiesburg and NOLA via US I-59 and reach Moisant Airport and return to Los Angeles about a week following the tempest. 

 

Betty and Larry Wilson spent their ‘honeymoon’ on the north shore of Back Bay in D’Iberville and saw Camille’s waters reach the front door of the home that they were guests.  A large gasoline storage tank had also settled in front of the house to add to their angst.

 

Like any other hurricane, Camille brought many changes with many positive for the region.  My parents had never had an air conditioned home, but the government was loaning money at a reasonable rate so they bought one for 1051 Lameuse Street.  The fans always worked well for me, but so did the climate in Southern California.  If only I could have brought some ‘real’ people back with me to ‘Southernize’ that sad, soulless, City of Angels.

 

Since I was living in the Los Angeles area after Hurricane Camille, my only angst was earthquakes.  During my almost five year residency in the City of Angels, there were three significant temblors ranging in intensity from 5.2M to 6.6M.  Fortunately, I was in northern Alaska freezing my tail off at Prudhoe Bay in early February 1971, when the strong, San Fernando-Sylmar earthquake struck the region.   This earthquake caused over $500 million in damage, injured more than 2,000 people, and took 65 lives, with most of the deaths occurring when the Veterans Administration Hospital collapsed.  Several other hospitals, including the Olive View Community Hospital in Sylmar, suffered severe damage.  Newly constructed freeway overpasses also collapsed.

 

At Los Angeles, I also experienced the effects of an underground nuclear held test in Nevada.  The explosion created seismic activity that caused 1800 Avenue of the Stars, our office building in Century City, to gently roll.  We all believed it to be a mild temblor.

 

This is beginning to sound like ‘Travels with Ray’, but we shall arrive at Katrina and Ocean Springs in the coming weeks.  It isn’t everyday that someone shares their life experiences with hurricanes.

 

Tropical Storm Delia

 In 1973, I was transferred to Kingsville, Texas from Los Angeles to work as a geological engineer on the oil and gas fields of the huge King Ranch.  During a short vacation in early September 1973 at Biloxi, I acquired a Finn Class one-design, sailboat and while returning with it to Kingville, I encountered the effects of TS Delia while motoring on US Interstate 10 between Lafayette, Louisiana and Houston, Texas.  A steady rain and evacuees slowed traffic and it took me about 8 hours to reach Houston where I spent the night.  Delia made landfall near Freeport, Texas.  It was an erratic moving tempest especially along the Texas coastline.   Significant rainfall fell in areas near the storm’s center and in parts of southwestern Louisiana. This led to widespread flooding, especially of farmland resulting in  $6 million in damages. Five people were killed during the TS Delia. 

 

In my first sail in the Finn, I went to Riviera Beach just southeast of Kingsville.  As nearby Corpus Christi, Texas advertises itself as the windiest city in the Lower 48 States and being only about 25 miles northeast of Baffin Bay, it was indeed a windy day to sail.  I was a rank amateur sailor and launched the small boat on a starboard reach into Baffin Bay and began cruising very fast.  In fact, I was getting to far from land to fast and my angst level was rising to the panic level.  Well, in my ensuing panic attack, instead of tacking, I jibed, i.e. turned down wind.  The force of the high wind lifted the stern of the Finn and ejected me into Baffin Bay.  Fortunately, the water here is very shallow and I able to drag the swamped craft to shore with only a few Hispanics to witness this humbling initial voyage in the Finn.  Such a beautiful craft to swamp!

 

Hurricane Carmen

In 1974, I moved to Lafayette, Louisiana from Kingsville, Texas.  By early September, Hurricane Carmen was headed for southwest Louisiana and made land fall just east of Vermilion Bay.  Wind gusts of 120 mph were recorded at Abbeville just west of Lafayette.  We were mercifully spared from major damage and only faced several inconvenient days without electricity.  The sugar growers and offshore oil facilities were the major losers from this tropical cyclone which caused damages estimated at $150 million.

 

Hurricane Georges

I remained at Lafayette until the summer of 1989 and then moved to Biloxi.  In April 1990, I discovered this fantastically, charming Creole Cottage at 822 Porter Street in Ocean Springs and acquired it from Marie Arndt Alexander.  With the exception of Hurricane Opal, which struck the Florida panhandle, in October 1995, tropical cyclone activity in my life had been absent until Hurricane Georges came ashore over Ocean Springs in late September 1998. 

 

Before Georges arrived, I had never been to a hurricane shelter.  Looking at the large Live Oak limb that hung over my roof like the Sword of Damocles, I decided that it was time to pack some almond butter, bread, a few bottles of water, bedroll and pillow and mosey on over to the temporary hurricane shelter on Government Street, a former elementary school, but at this time a part of the Ocean Springs High School complex.  There were several hundred other evacuees billeted in the classrooms.  Very few if any had brought food or water, but radios were abundant.  The tile floors were not comfortable and sleeping was an issue.  Regardless, we made it through the very rainy and windy night.

 

The next day, the rain continued and people became more restless and hungry.  The shelter had advised evacuees to bring everything to make themselves comfortable at the shelter including food.  Most did not bring food.  Then Laura Mitchell Howell (1926-1999), a Red Cross veteran volunteer of blood drives and disaster shelters, went into action.  She contacted Winn-Dixie and had them donate deli meats, bread and condiments for sandwiches and carbonated beverages as well.  Her caring and compassion for the evacuees made an indelible impression that I will always remember.  Almond butter sandwiches are very good anytime, but in a hurricane shelter they can be exceptionally delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina

In the morning of 29 August 2005, the effects of the massive surge created by Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, began to be felt in the Biloxi-Ocean Springs area as water began to slowly rise in Biloxi Bay and proceed to inundate Back Bay and all low-lying areas and to follow bayous, steams, ravines etc. until reaching 15-foot to 20-foot above mean sea level.  The entire shore face of the peninsula, Front Beach, Inner Harbor, East Beach, Lovers Lane-Seapointe, Fort Bayou and Gulf Hills were particularly hard hit by this powerful tempest and her surge.

 

My personal experiences at 525 Jackson Avenue were fairly typical of past hurricanes-loss of electricity; hurricane-gale force winds; rain in varying amounts and intensity; trees bending and an occasional uprooting; flying objects-particularly roofing materials and unsecured objects.   By 3 p.m. of 29 August 2005, the winds had diminished to about hurricane force and I ventured out of my residence to make a cursory assessment of local damage.  Other than a most old and venerable sycamore tree, which had fallen into my front yard from the east side of Jackson Avenue, all seemed relatively well.  Soon an adventurer in a small truck stopped and began to inform me of the more serious nature of Katrina’s uninvited and much to long visit.

 

After hearing about the virtual destruction of the Biloxi Bay Bridge and inundation of the Front Beach and surroundings, I was joined by the Chris Snyder family who had spent the day in the safety of the Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home on what had long ago been called O’Keefe’s Corner.  Susan O’Keefe Snyder entered a state of angst when she heard the news of the wide spread flooding.  Had their 19th Century, historic ‘O’Keefe Castle’ at 318 Jackson Avenue been damaged or demolished?

 

With the Snyder family, I walked south down Jackson Avenue to investigate the purported hurricane damage.  Until we reached St. Alphonsus Catholic Church there were no visible signs of any harm-wind or water.  It was when we crossed Calhoun that the effects of Katrina’s inundation were very noticeable!

 

Historic Homes destroyed

The first severe destruction on Ocean Springs’ oldest street from Katrina’s powerful surge began just south of Jack Gottsche’s residence at 416 Jackson Avenue.  Although the Gottsche home received about 4-6 feet of water, its concrete foundation and brick walls were able to withstand Katrina’s force.  The domicile of Frank H. Bryan Jr. at 410 Jackson Avenue, south of Gottsche, had floated off it foundation which stood just above sea level in the flood plain of the small bayou that flows south into the Fort Maurepas Nature Preserve, that marshy terrain, that is surrounded from the north rotating in a clockwise direction by the following thoroughfares: Ocean Avenue, Washington Avenue, Front Beach Drive and Jackson Avenue.

 

von Rosambeau–Benz House: 410 Jackson Avenue-Lot C

This Queen Anne style structure was built circa 1908 for Augustin “Gus” Julius von Rosambeau (1849-1912), called Gus, an immigrant from Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany, who arrived in the United States in 1875, from Australia.  The contractor was probably Joseph A. Wieder (1877-1960), himself the son of German immigrants, Gregoire Wieder (1849-1899) and Dora Armbruster (1884-1924).

 

The von Rosambeau Cottage was utilized as a rental cottage for winter visitors, and by others who were newly settling into the community.  Gus von Rosambeau married a young, Ocean Springs lassie named Marie Ann Soden (1857-1937) at the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church at Ocean Springs on September 13, 1879.  Marie Ann, called Mollie, was the daughter of Irish immigrants, Martin Soden (1815-pre 1870), and Bridget Kelly (1825-1899).  Gus and Mollie S. von Rosambeau were the parents of six children: Amelia Theresa von Rosambeau (1881-1958) m. Giovanni "John" James Clesi (1888-1928) of NOLA; Leonhard William Julian von Rosambeau (1883-1931); Henrietta Margaret von Rosambeau (1887-1972); and Blanche Magdalen von Rosambeau (1892-1982) m. Edward Carroll of NOLA.  It appears that two of the von Rosambeau children died at birth.

     

The von Rosambeau home was described in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History survey of the Old Ocean Springs Historic District in 1979, as: One story wood frame house with T-shaped plan and a cross gabled roof.  Undercut three-bay porch with turned post.  Brackets and spindle frieze removed.  Small polygonal porch on south elevation.  Bead flush boarding laid horizontally above a dado formed by vertically laid boarding within the shelter of the front porch.  Gable ornament.  Queen Anne.  Circa 1890. (Mississippi Department of Archives and History-State Wide Survey of Historic Sites (1979), "Old Ocean Springs Historic District", p. 7)

 

 

410 Jackson Avenue-[L-R: 410 Jackson Avenue in February 1993 and on August 29, 2005.  The diamond and gable ornamentation in the front, imbricated-shingled gable of the Richard W. “Dick” Benz (b. 1964) and Jennifer “Jenny” Becker Benz (b. 1969) home can be identified easily in both images.  Odette Brou Bryan (1872-1957) and Frank H. Bryan Jr. (1914-1999) owned the von Rosambeau Cottage from December 1917 until March 2001, when Earl L. Denham, executor of the Estate of F.H. Bryan Jr., conveyed 410 Jackson Avenue to the Catholic Social and Community Service and Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Biloxi, the legatee of Frank H. Bryan Jr.  Note to the south of the surviving von Rosambeau-Benz, front, gable roof is one of the gables from 406 Jackson Avenue, which also floated from its foundation during Katrina.  Both images by Ray L. Bellande]

 

Although the von Rosambeau-Benz House was washed from its foundation by Hurricane Katrina in the morning of 29 August 2005 and subsequently demolished.  Kathy Beaugez, a neighbor on the west side of Jackson Avenue, acquired some of the barge-gable ornamentation from the derelict Benz home and subsequently applied this ornate decoration to her home at 409 Jackson Aveue.  

 

Sometime following the Katrina disaster, the Benz family sold their home at New Orleans and leased their NOLA restaurant, Dick and Jenny’s, to another restaurateur and relocated to Grand Island, New York, which is almost equidistant between Niagara Falls and Buffalo.  By 2008, they were again in the restaurant business as Dick and Jenny’s Bake and Brew, albeit the Lake Eire fashion rather than near the levee of the Mississippi River on Tchoupitoulas Street.  As of August 2015, the Benz family is doing well in Western New York and anticipate returning to Ocean Springs someday to retire.   Chef Benz has brought to the Buffalo area such Louisiana culinary delights as: Dick's Daily Gumbo; Lafayette Style Jambalaya; Crispy Crab Cakes; Fried Green Tomatoes Remoulade; Smoky Char-Grilled Oysters; Creole Deviled Eggs; Louisiana Crawfish & Andouille Sausage Étouffée; Po-Boys; and Louisiana Crawfish & Andouille Cheesecake.

 

Bryan-Letoha House

The Bryan-Letoha House was located at 406 Jackson Avenue and unarguably was one of the most attractive domiciles in the city before its demise by Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005.  It is fondly remembered by most ‘old timers’ as the ‘Love House’ due to its long occupancy by Travis D. Love (1912-1974) and Julia Allen Love (1909-1994), his wife.  Like the von Rosambeau-Benz home due north, it was also floated from its foundation and moved north and slightly west by Katrina’s powerful surge.

 

Frank H. Bryan

The history of this former Queen Anne style edifice begins in the early 20th century when Frank Henry Bryan (1872-1936) and Marie Odette Brou (1879-1957), his young bride, relocated from New Orleans to Ocean Springs.  Frank H. Bryan was a native of Maryville, Missouri, a small Nodaway County farming community, located in northwest Missouri.  He made his livelihood as an insurance underwriter for the Rankin-Benedict Company which primarily insured timber related businesses in the area between Beaumont, Texas and the Florida Panhandle.(Frank H. Bryan Jr.-June 1995)

 

On October 14, 1903 in the Crescent City, Frank H. Bryan married Marie Odette Brou (1879-1957) of New Orleans.  Odette Brou (1872-1957) was born at New Orleans, the daughter of Captain Joseph Edmond Brou (1847-1886) and Marie Emilie Ducros (1842-1927) of New Orleans.  As a young woman she had established herself in the social and business community of the Crescent City.  Miss Brou was an accomplished gardener, florist, chanteuse and an opera aficionado.  In the business community, she worked as a professional stenographer and had met Frank H. Bryan through her occupation.  In addition, Adolph V. Ducros (1861-1944), her uncle, was an insurance agent and lived with the Brou family on North Rampart Street.(Frank H. Bryan Jr.-June 1995)

 

Frank H. Bryan reasoned that Biloxi or Ocean Springs would be an excellent location to conduct his insurance business, as it ranged from Texas to Florida.  These small towns were centrally located and were situated on the L&N Railroad, which made it very conducive for his travels.  In October 1909, the Bryan family leased a home on Benachi Avenue in Biloxi.  They were scheduled to move into this rental on November 1, 1909.(The Daily Herald, October 1, 1909, p. 4)

 

Jackson Avenue

Frank H. Bryan chose Ocean Springs as the place to build a home and rear his family.  In March 1910, the Bryans acquired a large tract [182 feet x 200 feet] on the northeast corner of Jackson Avenue and Ocean Avenue from Louis A. Lundy (1876-1941). This tract of land had been the site of the "Morris House", a 19th Century inn operated by Ann Morris (1819-1900).  Mr. Lundy had acquired several lots here from Elizabeth Hill (1848-1933), the daughter of Anne Morris Hill and Harry Hill (1866-1915) in 1901.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 35, pp. 495-496, Bk. 22, p. 229, and Bk.  24, p. 9)

     

The Ocean Springs News of May 14, 1910 announced that Frank H. Bryan was building a home on Jackson Avenue.  Joseph A. Weider (1877-1960) was his builder.  J.A. Wieder was the son of German immigrants, Gregoire Wieder (1849-1899) and Dora Armbruster (1884-1924).  Mr. Wieder resided at present day 424 Washington Avenue with his wife, Maria Mathilda “Tillie” Endt (1873-1964). 

 

Bryan Brothers

During and after WW II, the Bryan-Letoha House was divided into three apartments due to the housing shortage at Ocean Springs.  Frank Bryan lived in one apartment.  One of the Bryan-Letoha House tenants before the War II, was Captain Ellis Handy (1891-1963) and his family.  Ellis Handy fought in France with Canadians forces during WWI.  After the Great War, the Handy family arrived at Ocean Springs.  Captain Handy was in the lumber and sawmill business on Fort Bayou.  He supplied much of the lumber used to build Gulf Hills in the late 1920s.  Handy wrote a column for The Gulf Coast Times in the late 1940s called "Know Your Neighbor".  These series of articles, which consisted of interviews with older citizens provides a valuable source of information for local historians.(Frank H. Bryan Jr.-June 1995)

 

Caroline Brodeur Sasser

In March 1952, the Thad W. Bryan and Frank H. Bryan Jr., the Bryan Brothers, sold their lovely 406 Jackson Avenue home to James H. Sasser of Houston, Texas and Caroline Brodeur Sasser (1902-1973), his mother.  Caroline B. Sasser was a native of Clearwater, South Carolina, and the daughter of Leon A. Brodeur (1866-1942) and Rose Milette Brodeur (1869-1957), natives of Quebec, Canada. 

 

Caroline B. Sasser, married Dr. Thomas J. Sasser, who practiced dentistry in West Virginia.  After his death, she moved to Ocean Springs to live with her sister, Cecile Brodeur Saxon (1893-1980), the widow of Hugh H. Saxon (1893-1930).  Mrs. Saxon resided at 318 Jackson Avenue, the “O’Keefe Castle”, which she acquired in August 1933, for $1800, from Mary Cahill O'Keefe (1893-1980), the superintendent of the Ocean Springs Public School at 1000 Government Street, which was named in her honor in December 1998.(Jackson Co., Ms. Land Deed Bk. 66, pp. 46-48)

 

Cecile Saxon's daughter, Annette Saxon (1924-1998), was born in Augusta, Georgia and married Jeremiah J. O'Keefe III (b. 1923).  Susan O’Keefe Snyder, Annette Saxon O’Keefe’s daughter, owns the O’Keefe Castle today with Christopher Snyder, her husband.  Carolyn B. Sasser expired at Ocean Springs on February 11, 1973.  The Bryan House was utilized as a rental during the Sasser ownership.

 

The Sassers sold the Bryan House to Travis D. Love (1912-1974) and Julia Allen Love (1909-1994) in April 1957.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 166, pp. 467-468) 

 

Travis D. Love

Travis Drennan Love (1912-1974) was a native of Birmingham, Alabama and the son of Dr. Travis D. Love Sr. (1885-1952) and Roxie Ann Letcher (1890-1952).  Dr. Love was of a peripatetic nature as the family left Alabama before February 1920 for Oak Grove, Kemper County, Mississippi and by 1930 was domiciled at Cardwell City, Missouri where he practiced general medicine.  Roxie L. Love managed the local drugstore in Missouri.(1920 Kemper Co., Mississippi T625_881, p. 13A, ED 27 and 1930 Dunklin Co., Missouri R1186, p. 6B, ED 1)

   

Post-1930, Travis D. Love married Julia Elizabeth Allen (1909-1994), the daughter of George B. Allen (1874-1960) and Ida P. Allen (1877-1967).  Julia was reared in Pinola, Simpson County, Mississippi.  The Loves were both college graduates.  Travis D. Love matriculated to the University of Mississippi while Julia attended USM.  He was a bacteriologist with the US Department of Interior-Bureau of Commercial Fisheries at Pascagoula, Mississippi and became laboratory director of the facility.  During the 2nd World War, Travis D. Love rose to the rank of Major in the US Army and was awarded the Bronze Star in June 1944.  He wrote many technical articles for the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and was a contributor to its Annual Report.  Travis D. Love expired on July 18, 1974.(The Ocean Springs Record, August 1,1974, p. 3)

 

Julia A. Love was a talented pianist and played the organ at her church.  She taught music at Pinola, Mississippi and later in schools at Moss Point, Biloxi, New Orleans, Chicago, and Ocean Springs.  The Love family was residents of Chicago for about five years.(The Mississippi Press, July 8, 1994, p. 2-A)

 

The Loves did some restoration work to the Bryan House.  They removed the three interior apartments, and made the house conventional.  The beaded board walls and ceilings were covered with dry wall.  George E. Arndt (1909-1994) supervised the work for them.

 

Julia E. Love died on July 6, 1994, and her corporal remains were interred in the Pinola Cemetery at Simpson County, Mississippi next to her husband’s.  Mrs. Love’s legatees were Dr. Charles ‘Catfish’ H. Allen (1929-2008) of Pascagoula, Mississippi; Madge Love Ainsworth May of Mendenhall, Mississippi; and Vivian Love Williams of Magee, Mississippi.(Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 94-1860-August 1994)

 

Madge Love Ainsworth May and Dr. Charles H. Allen, as co-executors of the Estate of Mrs. Julie E. Love, conveyed the Bryan House to Pamela Boudoin-Aimee and Douglas Bender Letoha on April 28, 1995.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1062, p. 674)

 

 

This image of the east elevation of the Bryan-Letoha House was made in October 1999, when the structure was undergoing extensive foundation repairs during the Letoha-Boudoin-Aimee’ ownership.  The storm surge from Hurricane Katrina of August 2005 reached inland into Ocean Springs and did considerable damages to homes below an elevation of 20 feet MSL.  As one can observe in this image, the rear of 406 Jackson Avenue is only about 8-10 feet above MSL.[Image made October 1999 by Ray L. Bellande]

 

Letoha-Boudoin

Douglas Bender Letoha (b. 1953) is the son of Arthur S. Letoha (1927-1996) and Mary Jane Letoha.  The Letoha family is of Hungarian origin and rooted in the Youngstown, Ohio region mid-way between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Arthur S. Letoha was a native of Struthers, Mahoning County, Ohio.  Arthur matriculated to the College of Wooster and graduated in 1953 with a degree in education.  He subsequently taught high school and coached high school sports. Mr. Letoha later was employed by the Mystic Tape Division of Borden Chemical Company in Chicago.  The family moved south and settled in the Atlanta area where he sold machine tools and later operated Art’s Grill at Norcross, Georgia.(The Daily Press[Newport News, Va.], October 6, 1996, p. B4)

 

In May 1997, Douglas B. Letoha (b. 1953) married Pamela Ann Boudoin-Aimee’ (b. 1953) at Atlanta, Georgia.  She had been divorced from Ken C. Stuck since November 1988 and is the mother of Nathan C. Stuck (b. 1981). Pamela Ann Boudin-Aimee’ is the daughter of Edwin ‘Whitey’ Williams Phillips Jr. (1927-1978) and Mae Olive Boudin Phillips.  She was born in New Orleans in October 1953 where Whitey Phillips, her late father, owned a barbershop.  The family moved to Metairie circa 1958.  Ms. Boudin’s siblings were: Wilkerson Phillips and Gregory Paul Phillips (1955-1973).(The Times-Picayune, January 6, 1978, October 19, 1973, and Harrison Co., Mississippi 2nd JD MRB 48, p. 217 and Jackson Co., Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 51882-GB)

            

Hurricane Georges

Hurricane Georges of late September 1998, although not a serious wind event did bring copious amounts of rain resulting in serious flooding to some sections of the Mississippi Coast.  Pascagoula recorded over 16 inches of precipitation and Bluff Creek at Vancleave reached levels not seen before, as it actually rose over the Mississippi Highway No. 57 Bridge.  The foundation of the Bryan-Letoha Home at 406 Jackson Avenue apparently suffered some damage from these torrential and seemly continuous downpours.  Subsequent work on the supporting piers of this 1910 edifice by a New Orleans based contractor between January 1999 and October 1999 ended in Jackson County Court litigation.  This pier restoration project was never completed, as the judicial process never reconciled the issues before Katrina’s storm surge inundated the low-lying marsh of the Fort Maurepas Nature Preserve bringing rising Gulf waters to the surrounding neighborhoods. 

 

Katrina

The Bryan-Letoha house was washed off its foundation and floated into the Frank H. Bryan Jr. home to the north and was demolished by the wind and water of this tragic tempest.  After the storm, debris and remnants of this former ‘Jewel of Jackson Avenue’ were removed and the large lot, which also fronts on Ocean Avenue to the south, placed on the real estate market.  It failed to sell until it was acquired by Edward Saylor in late June 2013 from Pamela Ann Boudoin-Aimee’. (Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1717, p. 200-201)

 

1st Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs

Mr. Saylor immediately conveyed 406 Jackson Avenue to the First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs whose real estate is contiguous to the east and fronts on Washington Avenue.  Unconfirmed rumor is that the local Presbyterians will erect a schoolhouse to educate K thru 6th grade pupils or build an administration building.  (Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1717, p. 202)

 

Observations

The Bryan-Letoha House built in 1910 was the last structure erected on this property.  Prior to the Bryan House, the Morris House which was one of the first boarding or tourist homes to be built in Ocean Springs was located on the east side of Jackson Avenue at Ocean Avenue and just north of the steamboat landing at the foot of Jackson Avenue.  It was a neighbor to the large Ocean Springs Hotel just across the street.  This inn was built by James Morris and Ann Morris on land purchased from E.R. Porter and George A. Cox in September 1853 and October 1854.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 72, pp. 446-448)

 

The Ocean Springs Gazette dated March 4, 1855 ran an advertisement to sell the Morris House.  The ad read as follows:  The undersigned offers for sale on accommodating terms, his new, large and spacious boarding house, situated on the corner of Jackson and Ocean Avenues.  Said house is well furnished for a private boarding house, containing 24 rooms well furnished.  The house is well supplied with furniture, a good cooking range, cooking utensils, etc.  I will sell with or without furniture.  The lot on which said house stands is 91 ft. 6 in. front, more or less, and 200 ft. in depth, or I will sell with it or separately another lot adjoining, 90 ft. front more or less, and 200 ft. in depth.  Apply to the undersigned on the premises.  James Morris.

 

If you recall, several weeks ago our journey, Waking Katrina, began with a slow promenade with Susan O’Keefe Snyder and spouse, south down Jackson Avenue to determine the effects that the 29 August tempest had on their 19th century edifice known through our treasured days ‘under the oaks’, as the O’Keefe Castle and House of the Seven Gables.  Before reaching their residence at 318 Jackson Avenue and viewing the destruction of the previously destroyed homes, the von Rosambeau-Benz House and the Bryan-Letoha House, Susan was in an extreme state of angst until she and Chris were able to visually determine that their house was standing and apparently undamaged.  They soon determined that the force and currents of Katrina’s waters had removed their plumbing and AC ducts located beneath the structure.  Water had reached the top of their porch, which Mrs. Snyder estimates stands just under 26 feet from MSL.(Susan O’Keefe Snyder, September 23, 2015)

 

The O’Keefe-Bernhardt Cottage, south of the Snyders and currently owned and occupied by Bryant and Johnnie Bernhardt at 318 Jackson Avenue was high and dry from Katrina’s wrath.  Prior owners, Beverly and Steven Blasingame, who resided here from 1993 and suffered through Katrina conveyed this interesting structure to the Bernhardts in the spring of 2006 and returned to the bleak and cold winters of their native Iowa.

 

Egan-Hudachek Cottage

Unfortunately, the very historic and architecturally significant, Egan-Hudachek Cottage at 314 Jackson Avenue and facing Biloxi Bay was severely hit by Katrina and deemed unsalvageable by its owners of some 42 years, Ray J. Hudachek (1926-2011), and wife, Maureen Carol Russell Hudachek (1926-2011), both natives of Iowa City, Iowa.(The Sun Herald, July 27, 2011 and January 1, 2012)

 

In January 1963, Ray J. Hudachek and spouse had acquired the Egan Cottage from Brigadier General [Ret.] John P. Kirkendall (1901-1980) and spouse, Doris Weisenbach Kirkendall (1908-1993).  General Kirkendall had served as interim Commandant of KAFB from August 1, 1953 to August 19, 1953 when Major General James F. Powell (1893-1983) retired.  Major General Harlan C. Parks (1906-1987) assumed command from General Kirkendall on August 20, 1953 coming to KAFB from Parks AFB in Dublin, California.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 234, p. 411 and The Daily Herald, August 1, 1953, p. 1)

 

post Katrina-Ray Hudachek (1926-2011) and Maureen Russell Hudachek (1926-2011)

 

The Hudachek family had come to the Mississippi Coast as Ray J. Hudachek had been assigned by Standard Oil Company [now Chevron], his employer, to erect an oil refinery at Pascagoula.  In 1960, Standard decided that their Pascagoula refinery would be designed and built by in house engineers and not consultants.  Ray J. Hudachek was assigned to the Pascagoula project in 1963 and after completion the refinery came on line with production 125% of design capacity. The success of the Pascagoula Refinery project led Chevron to send Mr. Hudachek on consulting assignments on the design and building of new refining facilities as well as increasing production in various facilities around the world. In March of 1965, Ray accepted a special assignment at the CalTex Raunheim Refinery in Germany. The family moved to Bad Hamburg, Germany returning to Ocean Springs July 1966.  In the late 1970s, he was named Chief Engineer of the Pascagoula Refinery. Additionally, he was Project Manager on the proposed Petromin-Chevron-Texaco Joint Venture, the Jubail Lube Oil Refinery Project commuting to New Jersey for a year. Ray and Maureen left the U.S on foreign assignments in 1978 when Ray became the President of Chevron Chemical Company in Guayama, Puerto Rico. They returned to New Jersey where Ray resumed work on the proposed Jubail Lube Oil Refinery Project. The next assignments took them to Saudi Arabia for several years where Ray was General Manager of the Yanbu LPG Plant near Jeddah, and General Manager of the Ras Tanura Refinery near Dhahran. These were interesting times in that part of the world. The fall of the Shah of Iran and the start of Khomeini's reign, the Persian Gulf War could be heard from their home on the Gulf in Ras Tanura, and beginning of the Islamic fundamentalism in the region. Ray and Maureen took Arabic lessons and purchased a Chevy Blazer to explore Saudi Arabia during their time there. Ray's last assignment prior to retirement was the position of President of Bahamas Oil Refining Company (BORCO) in Freeport, Grand Bahamas. Returning to Ocean Springs upon his retirement in 1986, Ray was very active in Rotary. He had originally joined Rotary in Puerto Rico. (The Sun Herald, July 27, 2011)

 

 

318 Jackson Avenue-The O’Keefe Castle, a 19th century architectural gem, owned by Christopher and Susan O’Keefe Snyder survived the wrath and surging waters of 29 August, 2005 delivered to their threshold by the dreaded tempest, Katrina.  In addition to the cedar tree on their front porch, the Snyders received unwelcomed timbers from the Fort Maurepas replica situated southeast of their edifice.  Although the Snyder home escaped Katrina’s floodwaters, her currents swept away the plumbing and AC ducts situated beneath their home.[image courtesy of Chris and Susan O’Keefe Snyder]

 

Ray J. Hudachek participated in many Rotary Club activities, chaired many committees, and held an after Christmas Party.  As Rotary GSE Team Leader to Australia, he organized and led a memorable adventure “down under”.  Ray and his wife, Maureen Russell Hudachek, were avid runners since the late 1960's registering in races around the U.S.A.  Ray organized the first Ocean Springs Rotary 10K race.  He was a Paul Harris Fellow five times and club president 1989-90 and Rotarian of the Year – Ocean Springs 1991-1992.  Ray particularly enjoyed serving on the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Walter Anderson during the fundraising phase for the building of the WAMA museum.  It was also an honor for him to serve on the Bishops' Finance Council – Diocese of Biloxi.(The Sun Herald, July 27, 2011)

 

Katrina

The following is a vivid and passionate description of the Hudachek’s Katrina experience written by Mary Anne Hudachek Deierlein, a resident of Palo Alto, California.  The author has edited Mrs. Deierlein’s most welcome essay and informative essay.

 

In short---despite all of our efforts and interventions, Dad would not evacuate, and Mom would not leave him as he was stricken with Parkinson's Disease which had begun its onset in 1995.  The morning of Katrina, Mom and Dad escaped from the house when the storm surge waves crashed over the porch railings.  They managed to exit out of the rear French door and made it to an alcove behind the attached garage and cottage where they rode out Katrina in chest deep water for at least five hours, watching all their possessions and the house being washed up the street...all while still holding their dog, Mandy, by the collar to keep her afloat.

 

After the hurricane subsided the Hudacheks made it into their brick cottage, crawled into bed to get warm and dry.  All they had left were the clothes and shoes that they were wearing, and luckily, did not lose their eyeglasses in the ordeal.  Their cat, Miss Poo, returned home for supper four days later.

 

Since the Hudachek house collapsed when floating objects, i.e. palisades acting as battering rams from the Fort Maurepas replica and probably piers from Katrina’s surge hit the support column beneath the structure, much of the house fell into the basement area.  Then torn and shredded into wooden flotsam, it was washed up and deposited along Jackson Avenue.  Most of 314 Jackson Avenue came to rest in the yards of Chris and Susan O’Keefe Snyder and Margaret ‘Missy’ Gambrell.

 

During Katrina’s violent attack, the Egan-Hudachek House was detached at the kitchen-dining room wall interface.  The kitchen remained intact after the water retreated and the fortunate surviving couple had enough food and drink to last several days.  Mom and Dad were dazed, and in shock but very grateful to be alive, unharmed, and that the cottage and kitchen remained intact to aid them after the storm. They often commented that they never ever wanted to hear the sound of a hurricane or gale force winds again. 

 

As a nine-year old survivor of Hurricane Camille, I recall vividly the tempest as our family remained in the house for that storm, too.  I completely understood and remembered well the haunting hours and hours of howling wind that night in August 1969. 

 

Additionally, 314 Jackson Avenue remained in my care from 2011-2015 as I finished the punch list as Mom and Dad were too ill.  While sad and difficult at times, it was a pleasure for me to do it in their honor.  I enjoyed being a part of the 2013 Gulf Coast Home and Garden Tour in which our home was included.  I also listed it as a movie location with the Mississippi Film Commission at Jackson, which resulted in the house being in two scenes during the pivotal turning plot points in the movie-"Artists Die Best In Black”.  This movie will be shown pro bono to the public at the Saenger Theatre in Biloxi on 25 October 2015.  

 

In May of 2014, our home was the wedding reception venue for dear family friends, the Bolton-Creel families.  It was a splendid afternoon affair, hosting about 320 guests. I know Mom and Dad were beaming down as they always loved a good party and were great entertainers in their own right.

 

 

The Egan-Hudachek  Cottage-situated at 314 Jackson Avenue was partially destroyed by the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina.  This 19th century edifice at the foot of Jackson Avenue was at the gateway to Ocean Springs, as steam packets from the Crescent City moored at the Egan Wharf with freight, the US mail and excited passengers here to enjoy and relax in the village’s hotels and tourist homes.  Ocean Springs was an ideal venue for saltwater bathing, fishing, and was noted especially for the efficacious, natural springs situated on the south shore of Old Fort Bayou.[L-R: images made July 1992 and September 2005 by Ray L. Bellande.  Note the garage and brick cottage in the second image east of the derelict, Hudachek home.  Ray and Maureen Russell Hudachek lived in the brick cottage until their home was rebuilt in 2006-2008.  To the north, the surviving homes of Bryant and Johnnie Bernhardt and the Snyders, Chris and Susan O’Keefe Snyder, are visible.]

 

Rebuilding

With the Katrina disaster in the recent past and like their rugged Midwestern pioneer ancestors, the Hudacheks, now in their eightieth year, rather that relocate chose to rebuild a home at 314 Jackson Avenue.  They chose Carl D. Germany, AIA, to design their new edifice, and Paul Campbell, contractor, to erect it.  Both unarguably among the best professionals in Ocean Springs and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

 

Ray J. Hudachek and Maureen Russell Hudachek, instead of choosing a modern-styled residence, elected to recreate their former Egan Cottage using current building materials.  Building codes developed by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina were more stringent as to adequately protect structures located in areas between mean sea level to about 15 feet above mean sea level from surges and waves created by stronger storms.  Since the Egan-Hudachek Cottage and its contents were a total loss, Carl D. Germany was given a series of earlier images of the structure, which had been made by the author in the early 1990s.  These photographs were sufficiently detailed to allow Mr. Germany to produce CAD drawings that essentially replicated the architectural elevations of the original 18th century cottage.

 

Egan Cottage-Cedar Hill

The Egan Cottage, an appellation for an early owner Irishman John J. Egan, is located at 314 Jackson Avenue in Section 37, T7S-RW, the Widow LaFontaine tract, in the City of Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  The structure is 300 feet north of Front Beach Drive on the east side of Jackson Avenue.  This property was once known as “Cedar Hill”, a name bestowed upon it by a former owner, Brigadier General John P. Kirkendall (1901-1980), who resided here from 1954 until 1963.

 

John J. Egan

John J. Egan (1827-1875) was an Irish immigrant and appears to have arrived in America in the late 1840s, probably entering at the port of New Orleans as a single man with his family. The Catholic Church records of the Diocese of Biloxi indicate that John J. Egan was the son of Dennis Egan (1788-1872) and Catherine Malony (1800-1870+). He appears to have had two sisters, Marguerite Egan (1833-1871), whose corporal remains were interred at the Bellande Cemetery on Dewey Avenue, and Johanne Egan (1841-1870+).(Lepre, 1991, p. 101 and 1870 Harrison County, Mississippi Federal Census, M593_729, p. 321) 

 

Egan family

John J. Egan was married to Julia Bridgit Elward (1833-1907), also Irish born and an 1849 immigrant. The Egan's had seven children, but only three survived into adulthood. They were: John J. Egan Jr. (1856-1916), Richard Egan (1858-1896), and Jefferson Davis Egan (1864-1907). Another son, Edward Egan (1859-pre-1870+), was probably named for John Egan’s countryman and resident of Ocean Springs, Edward “Ned” O’ Keefe (1815-1874), the progenitor of the large O’Keefe family of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.(Lepre, 1991, p. 101)

 

John J. Egan Jr.

John J. Egan Jr. (1856-1916) worked as a clerk in the family store on Jackson Avenue and later in the Crescent City. In September 1883, he married Mary O. Waterman (1861-1931), a Louisiana native and daughter of George L. H. Waterman (1833-1872), a Massachusetts Yankee, and Ellen Waterman (1840-1880+), who hailed from England. In 1910, the Egans lived on Galvez Street at New Orleans where he made his living as a boss of drayman.(T624R520, p. 102b, 4th Ward)

 

John J. Egan Jr. expired at New Orleans on September 5. 1916. Mrs. Egan died in the Crescent City on April 6, 1931. The Egans had no children. 

 

Richard Egan         

Richard Egan (1858-1896) moved to New Orleans and married Mary Helen Murray (1864-1928), a native of New Orleans, in October 1883. She was the daughter of James Murray (1837-1909) and Mary E. Porter. Mr. Murray was a native of New York who had relocated to New Orleans where he worked as a cotton broker. Richard and Julia had seven children. Six survived of which the first four were born in the Crescent City: Julia Agnes Egan (b. 1885) married Frank J. Gillen on July 8, 1907; Richard Francis Egan (b. 1886) married Irene Nielsen of Mobile on April 11, 1921; Louisa “LuLu” Egan (b. 1888) married Frederic Frank of Baton Rouge on July 15, 1913; William James Egan (b. 1890); Arthur Raymond Egan (1893-1944) married Elise Zimmerman on June 10, 1920; Agnes Loretta Egan (b. 1895) married Arthur Duvic on November 15, 1922.        

 

In 1893, Richard Egan and family returned to Ocean Springs were he made his livelihood in the livery business. He was a partner with Caspar Vahle (1869-1922) from March 1894 until his death on February 11, 1896. Their stable, Vahle & Egan, was located on the White House property on Robinson Avenue just east of the Frye Hotel, which today would be in the vicinity of the Bay View Gourmet.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, February 14, 1896, p. 3)          

 

After the death of her husband, Richard, on February 10, 1896, Mary Egan moved her young family to Biloxi. She lived in the “Irish Hill” section of west Biloxi near her father and brother, Samuel T. Egan (1876-1900+).(1900 Harrison County, Mississippi, T623 808, p. 2b, ED 31)          

 

Mary M. Egan expired at Biloxi on October 28, 1928. Her father passed at Biloxi in January 1909.      

 

A romantic view of 19th century Front Beach

In 1933, Schuyler Poitevent (1875-1936), a scholarly gentleman, who lived most his life at “Bay View”, his Lovers Lane home on Biloxi Bay, where he wrote short stories and historical novels none of which were ever published, interviewed octogenarian, Josephine Bowen Kettler (1845-1933).  Mrs. Kettler was the daughter of the Reverend Philip P. Bowen (1799-1871), a Baptist minister, who was an early pioneer at Ocean Springs.  From his conversation with Mrs. Kettler, Schuyler Poitevent wrote a romantic picture of early life at Ocean Springs. 

 

The following is taken from Broken Pot, an unpublished treatise by Poitevent:

 

As she (Mrs. Kettler) talked, I felt myself going back to the time she was telling me about, and I could see in imagination her ante-bellum Ocean Springs with its straight, tall pine-trees which the charcoal hand of men in time felled and with its grey-trunked live-oaks and with its white, sandy roads winding in and about gallberry thickets and through patches of graceful latanier [sic] and heading branches where sweet-bays and magnolias and chinquepins [sic] and wild honeysuckle---"azalias [sic]", the young ones now call them ---was so much a part of our fair Land then as now that we unconsciously accept their charm now as then as a part of a land as the Land should be; and I imagine I heard Captain Walker blowing the loud whistle of the good steamboat "Creole" of the old Morgan Line, on her regular passenger packet run of every other day from New Orleans to Ocean Springs and return, pretty much like the "Coast Train" of our times, only not so often; and I could see the proud people of her day, with grinning kinky-headed slaves for coachmen, driving in old-fashioned, heavy carriages down to the foot of the old steamboat wharf---driving through that white sandy road which nowadays opens to view the beautiful vista beneath the arched live-oak limbs that overhang our paved Jackson Avenue; and from the foot of the wharf, I could in imagination hear the paddle-wheels of the steamboat striking the water and out on the long wharf of one thousand and seventy-five feet I, too, went along with the others to see the boat come in; and as I stood on the pier, I saw out in the Bay mullet jumping and saw the sharks striking and saw the many pelicans feeding and some were sailing in long streams; and then the boat approached and I saw a deck-hand heave the lead-line and I saw nigger slaves on the pier-head catch it and haul the hawser in, and I saw the mate lower the stage-plank and I saw the passengers, in the queer costumes of those old summer days---the ladies in big-hooped skirts, tight waists and flat hats; the gentlemen in tight pantaloons, shirts with ruffled fronts and crossed cravats and broad-brimmed beavers---disembark; and back up the long wharf in the bright forenoon sunshine, I followed the passengers and the people ashore, and most all stopped at the Old Seashore Hotel on the west (sic) side of the road at the foot of the wharf  where now stands the Sacred Heart Convent, and there attached to the hotel, they had a store, and in the store was the post-office; and in imagination, I heard people step up and ask:  "Any mail for me Mr. Eagen (sic) ?"                           

 

A letter dated Ocean Springs March 30, 1855 by Elvira A. Cox (b. 1809), the sister of George A. Cox (1811-1887), an Ocean Springs pioneer, to her father at Jefferson County, Alabama gives an impression of the area at this time:  This is a very healthy place.  Ocean Springs, our little town, is situated immediately on the Bay of Biloxi.  We live about a half mile from the hotel [Ocean Springs Hotel] right on the bay at a beautiful place.  It is called Magnolia Grove.  If it was not for the cold weather we would not think of it as winter as we are surrounded with magnolias, live and water oaks, and cedar trees in abundance and flowers of every description, and upon the whole it is a beautiful place.  There are abundance of fish and oysters here and crabs and all such things but it is a new settled place.  Their were but a very few houses here two years ago.  Their (sic) were but very few that had gardens last summer.  Vegetables were scare indeed.....The land back of this place is so poor it is not cultivated in the summer season.  Their is a boat that makes five trips from here to New Orleans a week and it is about fifty miles by land to Mobile.  I am very pleased with the people here.  Their (sic) a great many families that came over from the City and stay through the sickly season.  Their (sic) are mineral springs all about over the place and we have a time bathing in the salt water. (from The Neaves Story).

 

The Ocean Springs Hotel Wharf

John J. Egan initially settled at Biloxi, Mississippi finding employment as a drayman. He came to Ocean Springs in 1853 and became involved with the Ocean Springs Hotel pier, which had been erected by Dr. William G. Austin and Warwick Martin founders of the Ocean Springs Hotel and William G. Kendall (1812-1872), proprietor of the Kendall brick works on Back Bay in present day D’Iberville. The Ocean Springs Hotel wharf was utilized by steam packets of the Morgan Steamboat Line as its Ocean Springs stop in it business of transporting passengers, freight, and mail between New Orleans and Mobile. (1850 Harrison County, Mississippi Federal Census, M432_372, p. 100)          

 

The Civil War

The Post Office Department of the Confederate States of America was established on February 21, 1861, by an Act of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States. On March 6, 1861, the day after Montgomery Blair's appointment by President Abraham Lincoln as Postmaster General of the United States, John Henninger Reagan, a former U. S. Congressman, was appointed Postmaster General of the Confederate States of America by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States.

In May 1861, Reagan issued a proclamation stating that he would officially assume control of the postal service of the Confederate States on June 1, 1861. Postmaster General Blair responded by ordering the cessation of United States mail service throughout the South on May 31, 1861.

 

In December 1861, the Union forces of General Benjamin F. Butler began arriving at Ship Island.  They were massing for the invasion of New Orleans.  A contingent of sailors and marines associated with this force landed at Ocean Springs on March 1, 1862.  They came from a launch assigned to the USS Hartford, which was Admiral David G. Farragut's flagship. 

 

The New York Herald of March 25, 1862, reported the incident as follows:

 

We now steered for Ocean Springs, and on landing we found we were on Eagan's [sic] Wharf, which is well built and is several hundred yards in length.  On it is a railroad track used for transporting goods from the boats, which land there.  We seated ourselves on the car and the marines were our steam, or rather motive power.

 

Here we met but one sore-faced Creole.  Of course, we let him go, but he followed us.  On leaving "the cars", we passed through a dilapidated building, by another, and we were in Ocean Springs, and were the first landing party of Union men who have been here since the war.  Our footsteps were directed to the Post Office, where we found Mrs. J. Eagan (sic) in charge.  Mrs. E. is a good looking lady from the Emerald Isle, of a fiery temper, and with finger nails ling enough to do some tall scratching with.  Her better half, John, arrived soon after we entered the domains of the Confederate States of America Post Office Department.  He wore an angry look and a seedy coat; was tall in stature and in his speech; had a contemptuous air and an air of onions; was not a Northerner or Southerner but was born in Ireland; was a postmaster under Buck (President Buchanan) who ill treated him, and now he was one of Mr. Davis' postmasters.  He had returned all his stamps, but kept his letter balance to balance his accounts.  Colonel Jones could not see his balance in that light, and after weighing the thing in his mind came to the conclusion not to be found wanting in the scales of duty, and carried off Eagan's [sic] balance because it bore these significant characters---P.O.D.U.S. (Post Office Department United States).  Eagan [sic] was mad, but Mrs. Eagan [sic] was madder, and she gave us a little bit of Irish advice. 

 

Ocean Springs is a beautiful place and well adapted for a watering place.  It is smaller than Biloxi, which place was built up under the influence of the Southern land excitements.  Ocean Springs is almost entirely deserted and we did not see over ten persons there.  The object of our visit being eminently successful, and having taken about fifty New Orleans papers, we prepared to return. 

 

Bidding Eagan [sic]  & Co. goodbye, we "took the cars" from the end of the wharf were we found that the Hartford's launch crew had made a seizure of quite as number of guns, rifles, and muskets, all of them in dilapidated condition.  They were probably brought there for the purpose of complying with an order to the citizens to send their old arms to New Orleans to be repaired.  We put them in the boat and started for the New London.

 

The city of New Orleans fell to Union forces on April 25, 1862.  In desperation to survive, many Mississippi Gulf Coast people began a contraband trade with the enemy at Ship Island and New Orleans.  Tar, pitch, turpentine, lumber, charcoal, wood, and livestock were exchanged for coffee, flour, shoes, clothing, and medicine.  Early in the war, coast residents had bartered salt with inland farmers who provided corn, potatoes, vegetables, and fresh or smoked meat. 

 

It is interesting to note that Joseph Fortune Meyer (1848-1931), the French immigrant, Biloxi potter who later relocated to New Orleans and threw pots for the young ladies of the Newcomb Art School supported his family by rowing deserters and unfortunate victims of the conflict to sanctuary on Union held Ship Island twelve miles south of Biloxi.  On one trip he earned fifty dollars.  Mr. Meyer was the friend and mentor of George Edgar Ohr (1857-1918), "The Mad Potter of Biloxi", and also is believed to have influenced Peter Anderson (1903-1984), the founder of the Shearwater Pottery at Ocean Springs.(The Daily Herald, January 4, 1928, p. 10)

 

Nat Plummer-Nat Plummer (1840-1936+), a former slave, was interviewed by a WPA writer in 1936 and Mr. Plummer related a colorful description of a Jackson Avenue steamboat wharf as follows:  “Dat was in de days befo’ railroads.  Yessum, we came on hoss back and drove ox teams.  Dat’s when de steamboats us’t dock heah.  Dey’d bring all de mail and provisions.  Dey wus a wharf, and dere was some tracks on it, with a little car to run on it.  Dey’s hitch a mule to dat car to bring the cargo from the steamboats to de shore.  Den, de ox carts would be loaded to carry it to town.”[from WPA For Mississippi Historical Data-Jackson County: State Wide Historical Project of 1936-1937, p. 348]

 

 

Post-bellum mail service

The resumption of federal mail service in the former Confederate States took place gradually as the war came to an end.  By November 15, 1865, 241 mail routes had been restored in the South; by November 1, 1866, 3,234 post offices out of 8,902 were returned to federal control in Dixie.

 

Real estate

John J. Egan began acquiring real estate at Ocean Springs as early as October 1854, when for $250, he bought from George A. Cox (1811-1887), Lot 4-Blk. 31 of the Culmseig Map.  It was situated on Rayburn Avenue.  In March 1859, Postmaster Egan bought a small lot on Jackson Avenue from Samuel Davis (1804-1879) for $500.  It had 47 feet on Jackson and was only 57 feet deep.  This could have been the site of his post office.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 1, pp. 34-35)           

 

Egan House

The Egan House was a tourist home at Ocean Springs that was situated in the vicinity of present day 410 Jackson Avenue.  John J. Egan and Julia E. Egan bought this parcel from George A. Cox in June 1856.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. A, pp. 118-119)

 

The Daily Picayune at NOLA advertised this venue in May 1872 as follows:  To rent at Ocean Springs the newly built cottage house containing 16 rooms directly opposite the Ocean Springs Hotel.  Best of bathing facilities are offered with it.  For terms apply to Schmidt & Ziegler* 49 New Levee Street or to John Egan, Ocean Springs.(The Daily Picayune, May 23, 1872, p. 5)

 

When a regatta was held at Ocean Springs on July 4, 1874, the following places were available for the sailors and their entourage: Sea Shore House, Ocean Springs Hotel, Hansel House and the Egan House.(The Daily Picayune, July 3, 1874, p. 4)

 

In May 1878, when the Widow Julia Egan conveyed the Egan House to Schmidt & Ziegler, proprietors of the Ocean Springs Hotel, opposite her home, the warranty deed referred to the property as “the Egan House”.  The sale to Schmidt & Ziegler, wholesale grocers from New Orleans, included “all furniture and fixtures” and Mrs. Egan received $2730 from the buyers.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 3, pp. 375-376)

 

John J. Egan passes

John J. Egan died at Ocean Springs on September 28, 1875.  His estate papers, Cause No. 16 filed in the Chancery Court archives of Jackson County, Mississippi reveal that Mr. Egan owned the following real property: Store House; the Egan residence with four rooms, kitchen, and store; Barroom; House on the Hill-five rooms; and the small Louis (Lewis?) House.

 

In March 1876, Mr. Egan’s personal property, which included accounts receivable from the Egan store and promissory notes, was appraised by Robert A. Van Cleave (1840-1908), F.W. Illing (1838-1884), and Antonio Franco (1834-1891).  They valued the Estate of John J. Egan at $976.  His most valuable possession was his mule, which was worth $100.(JXCO, Ms. Chancery Court Cause No. 16, April 1876)  

 

Egan Cottage

After John J. Egan passed away, Julia Egan continued to live and operate the family store on lower Jackson Avenue.  The Egan Cottage was situated on the east side of Jackson Avenue between the Seashore Hotel and the property Telephram Faurment of Mobile.  As commercial activity at Ocean Springs shifted from lower Jackson Avenue to Washington Avenue due to coming of the railroad to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1870, she may have closed the store and began to accept guests at her home to make her livelihood.  The earliest advertisement of record to let rooms in the Egan Cottage to tourists was on June 16, 1890 in The Daily Picayune [NOLA].

 

On July 17, 1894, Julia Egan advertised in The Daily Item [New Orleans] as follows:

 

Egan Cottage

On the Beach is now open at reasonable rates.

 

Mrs. J. Egan, proprietress, Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

 

 

 

Lower Jackson Avenue-This plat was made by the author to show the location of structures at the foot of Jackson Avenue circa 1882.  At this time there were two wharves, the old steamboat wharf probably used by the Ocean Springs Hotel at this time and that of Antonio Catchot (1826-1885), an immigrant oysterman from Menorca.  The west side of Jackson Avenue was low and marshy as it is today.  The Ocean Springs Hotel was located north on higher terrain and south of Cleveland Avenue.  On the east side of Jackson Avenue at the shoreline was the Seashore House and the H.H. Hansell house-both catered to tourists.  Julia Egan operated the Egan Cottage north of the Seashore House.  Former Mayor and local historian, C. Ernest Schmidt (1904-1988) believed that the Antonio Catchot residence was north of Mrs. Egan where Anthony ‘Toy’ Catchot (1875-1937), his son, ran a saloon on the ground floor.  On the southeast corner of Jackson and Ocean was the Francisco Coyle (1813-1891) home and general store.  The Morris House, also a tourist home, was across Ocean on the northeast corner of Jackson.  The von Rosambeau home and store was on the southeast corner of Jackson and Calhoun.   

The widow Julia Egan (1833-1907) continued her tourist home business at Ocean Springs into the late 19th Century.  In June 1900, she and Jefferson Davis Egan (1864-1907), her youngest son, sold the Egan Cottage to John J. Egan Jr. (1856-1916), another son, for $1500.  Jeff D. Egan worked as a clerk in their hostel.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 21, p. 431 and 1900 Jackson Co., Mississippi Federal Census R 812, p. 4B-ED 45)

 

Mrs. Julia Egan passed on December 3, 1907 at New Orleans.  Her corporal remains were sent to Ocean Springs on L&N No. 6 for burial in the Evergreen Cemetery on Old Fort Bayou.  Jefferson D. Egan preceded his mother in death also expiring in the Crescent City on February 8, 1907.(The Daily Herald, December 4, 1907, p. 2 and The New Orleans Item, February 10, 1907, p. 6)

 

In 1903, it appears that John J. Egan and his mother and brother, Jeff Davis Egan, had a disagreement over the title and ownership of the Egan Cottage property.  The litigation was filed in the Chancery Court of Jackson County, Mississippi as Egan v. Egan Cause No. 1079.  Unfortunately this document has been lost from the County Archives, but Commissioner Frank H. Lewis sold the property to John J. Egan for $1600 in February 1903.  He had to mortgage the property to May V. Russell (1866-1910) also in February 1903 to borrow $480 with an interest rate of 10% per annum.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 26, p. 120)

 

John J. Egan Jr.

John J. Egan Jr. (1856-1916) worked as a clerk in the family store on Jackson Avenue and later in the Crescent City. In September 1883, he married Mary O. Waterman (1861-1931), a Louisiana native and daughter of George L. H. Waterman (1833-1872), a Massachusetts Yankee, and Ellen Waterman (1840-1880+), who hailed from England. In 1910, the Egans lived on Galvez Street at New Orleans where he made his living as a boss of drayman.(T624 R520, p. 102b, 4th Ward)

 

John J. Egan conveyed the Egan Cottage to Jeremiah J. O’Keefe (1860-1911) on September 14, 1903.  The sales price was $1600.  At this time, the Egan Cottage lot was described as having 147 feet on the east side of Jackson Avenue and 200 feet east.  J.J. O’Keefe II was to the north; James D. Edwards to the east; and Ralph Beltran to the south.(Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 37, p. 28)

 

John J. Egan Jr. expired at New Orleans on September 5. 1916. Mrs. Egan died in the Crescent City on April 6, 1931. They had no children. 

 

J.J. O’Keefe

Jeremiah Joseph O’Keefe (1860-1911), called Jerry, was born at Ocean Springs on February 5, 1860.  He met his future wife, Alice Cahill (1864-1921), a New Orleanian, whose family came to Ocean Springs for a visit and stayed at the O’Keefe lodge on Porter Street.  The couple wedded in the Crescent City at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on April 3, 1888. Their children all born in New Orleans were: Edward J. O’Keefe (1889-1890), John W. A. O’Keefe (1891-1985), Mary Cahill O’Keefe (1893-1981); Jeremiah J. “Ben” O’Keefe II (1894-1954), and Joseph H. “Jodie” O’Keefe (1897-1932).(NOLA, MRB 13, p. 105, The Daily Picayune,  April 1, 1888, p. 9 and The History of Jackson County, Miss., 1989, pp. 301-302) 

 

Jerry O’Keefe made his livelihood as a drayman and undertaker in the early 1890s commenced a burial service at Ocean Springs, which remains today on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as the Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home.  Politically, Jerry O'Keefe was elected the first Alderman from Ward 2 in 1892, in the newly incorporated Ocean Springs, and served in that office for two years.  He also was a road overseer in Beat Four being in charge of Jackson Avenue from the beach to O'Keefe Corner on Porter Avenue and from O'Keefe Corner to the Illing Place on Washington Avenue.

 

From the early 1880s to about 1910, the Jerry O’Keefe and family also operated a boarding house on the northeast corner of Jackson Avenue and Porter Street in Ocean Springs.   The structure was a two-story, wood framed edifice with 2824 square feet of living area under roof.  There was a lower and upper gallery on the south and west side of the building.  The dining room was attached to the main building while the kitchen appears to have been detached and to the north of the building but was connected by a covered breezeway. The first floor of the structure was moved to 2122 Government Street in 1910, after the edifice present today at 911 Porter Street, had been erected in 1909 by Jeremiah J. O’Keefe as his new family residency. 

 

Jerry O’Keefe expired at Ocean Springs on November 6, 1911.  Before his demise, he vended the Egan Cottage on Jackson Avenue in July 1911, to Laura Rappleye Bonnabel (1845-1933) of New Orleans for $3800.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 37, p. 87)  

 

The Egan Doors- were a wedding gift to Jeremiah J. “Jerry” O’Keefe (1860-1911) from Jefferson Davis Egan (1864-1907), his childhood friend.  From 1938 until 1971, the O’Keefe, cut-glass doors remained at Ocean Springs in Miss Mary C. O’Keefe’s cottage, which was located on West Porter Street between Dale’s Garage and the W.S. Van Cleave Store, now the locus of Five Seasons, a health food store.  After Miss O’Keefe’s domicile was demolished to erect the Villa Maria in the early 1970s, the doors were stored in Biloxi.  They were installed on the 1909 O’Keefe mansion, which was later owned by W.F. “Willie” Dale (1899-1990) from 1939 to 1986.  The Egan doors were hung at 911 Porter during its restoration by Jeremiah J. O’Keefe III (b. 1923), which was completed in December 1987 and utilized as the Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home.

 

Laura R. Bonnabel

Laura Brockenbaugh Rappleye (1845-1919) was born in Mississippi to Nicholas H. Rappleye (1802-1880), a New Yorker, and Mathilda Patterson Rappleye (1813-1886).  In 1864, she married Alfred Bonnabel (1840-1921) one of the nine children of Jules Henri Alexandre Bonnabel (1798-1854) and Julia McCarthy (1815-1875), a native of Cork, County Cork, Ireland.  J. Henri Bonnabel was born in Laplaine de Champsaur, Department Hautes-Alpes, France and immigrated to Louisiana circa 1835.  Here at New Orleans, he worked as a chemist-pharmacist.  In 1836, he bought a half interest in a large tract of land formerly owned by the LaBarre family along Bayou Metairie in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.  The tract ran from the Mississippi River to Lake Ponchartrain.  Henri Bonnabel lived at New Orleans and used his land to grow sugar cane.  Alfred Bonnabel, his son, was the first of the family to settle on the Metairie Ridge in Jefferson Parish.  He was a very productive citizen and a generous benefactor to the Parish.  His father died in France in 1854.(Bezou, 1973, pp. 80-81)

 

Laura R. Bonnabel and Alfred Bonnabel were the parents of four children: Henry Julian Bonnabel (1865-1931) married Elmyra Copina Babin (1871-1946); Laura “Bonnie” Bonnabel (1866-1933) married George W. Lawes (1857-1937); Julia McCarthy Bonnabel (1870-1946) married Charles W. Rolling (1866-1945); and Alfred E. Bonnabel Jr. (1874-1951) married Edith Mott (1873-1898), Mary Stella Blanchard (1868-1908) and Luella Mary Van Vrancken (1882-1966)

 

Alfred Bonnabel made his livelihood as a commercial farmer on his Metairie plantation.   In the twilight of his life began developing subdivisions and sell real estate with two of his son-in-laws.   

 

Civil War

During the Civil War, Alfred Bonnabel was a blockade runner defying the Union’s attempt to prevent the Confederacy from resupplying its military from ports on the Mississippi River.  He brought medicines and surgical supplies to his residence on the Metairie Road from where he had established lines of communication via Bayou Tchoupitoulas across Lake Ponchartrain with the Confederate camps.  Bonnabel was arrested many times for his succor to the Southern cause but was never executed for his actions.  The Bonnabel home was eventually looted and destroyed by Federal troops.(The Times-Picayune, May 8, 1921, Sec. V, p. 9)

 

Education

Alfred Bonnabel was called ‘the father of education in Jefferson Parish [Louisiana]’.  As the Civil War ended in April 1865, he put his full energy and resources into education by donating Bonnabel lands in Jefferson Parish for school and church sites.  Mr. Bonnabel believed that the South’s economic recovery from the war could be accelerated by educating its children as efficiently and rapidly as possible.  He served on the Jefferson Parish School Board for 45 years and served his fellow citizens on the Police Jury [Board of Supervisors] for 25 years-all pro bono.(The Times-Picayune, May 8, 1921, Sec. V, p. 9)

 

Ocean Springs

While part time residents, Alfred Bonnabel and his wife were very kind to the people of Ocean Springs.  In July 1914, they had donated palms, ferns, and potted plants to the Ocean Springs Civic Federation.  The Ocean Springs Civic Federation, like present day HOSA, Ocean Springs Historic Association, was organized in 1911 to promote civic improvements within the town of recently incorporated Ocean Springs.  The salient reminder of this long defunct group is Marshall Park which they erected in the spring and summer of 1911 with the cooperation of the L&N Railroad and Charles Marshall (1848-1928), the very honorable Superintendent of the New Orleans & Mobile Division of the L&N Railroad from September 1886, until his retirement on August 1, 1917.(The Ocean Springs News, July 25, 1914, p. 5 and May 27, 1911)

 

In August 1916, the Egan-Hudachek cottage at 314 Jackson Avenue was donated to Laura “Bonnie” Bonnabel Lawes by Laura R. Bonnabel her mother.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 42, p. 526) 

 

In May 1917, a playground swing for the St. Alphonsus playground was also donated. (The Jackson County Times, May 12, 1917, p. 5)

 

On April 30, 1921, Alfred Bonnabel expired in the midst of his family at his Ocean Springs on Jackson Avenue.  His death was deeply bereaved in the local community as Mr. Bonnabel was recognized as a good man and true philanthropist.  He donated generously to every important charity and to the poorer folks who were in dire need of financial support.  The portals of the Bonnabel home were always open to greet and superbly entertain the multitude of his friends and guests who often entered.(The Jackson County Times, May 7, 1921, p.

 

 

Bonnabel Cottage-This 1915 image of present day 314 Jackson Avenue was made for a pamphlet titled: "Ocean Springs: The Land where dreams come true' by Thomas Ewing Dabney (1885-1970).  This 33 page document is a treasure of images and information of the pecan and citrus era at Ocean Springs.  The Bonnabel Cottage also known as the Egan-Hudachek Cottage was severely damaged in Katrina and rebuilt as a replica of the original structure.  Mr. Bonnabel was a successful sugar planter and dairyman in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana and was instrumental in developing Metairie with his son-in-laws.  While a resident here, Bonnabel placed four statues in the yard.  They were the four seasons in French: Le printemps, L'ete, L'automne and L'hiver. One of the statues can be seen in the photograph as the white object near the southwest corner of the structure.  When the Hudacheks took possession of the property in the early 1960s, only L'automne was there.  At the Oldfields Estate on the campus of the Indianapolis Museum of Art are a set of the original Four Seasons.  All that is known is that they were created in Italy in the early 20th century.

 

Laura R. Bonnabel

Laura Brockenbaugh Rappleye (1845-1919) was born in Mississippi to Nicholas H. Rappleye (1802-1880), a New Yorker, and Mathilda Patterson Rappleye (1813-1886).  In 1864, she married Alfred Bonnabel (1840-1921) one of the nine children of Jules Henri Alexandre Bonnabel (1798-1854) and Julia McCarthy (1815-1875), a native of Cork, County Cork, Ireland.  J. Henri Bonnabel was born in Laplaine de Champsaur, Department Hautes-Alpes, France and immigrated to Louisiana circa 1835.  Here at New Orleans, he worked as a chemist-pharmacist.  In 1836, he bought a half interest in a large tract of land formerly owned by the LaBarre family along Bayou Metairie in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.  The tract ran from the Mississippi River to Lake Ponchartrain.  Henri Bonnabel lived at New Orleans and used his land to grow sugar cane.  Alfred Bonnabel, his son, was the first of the family to settle on the Metairie Ridge in Jefferson Parish.  He was a very productive citizen and a generous benefactor to the Parish.  His father died in France in 1854.(Bezou, 1973, pp. 80-81)

 

Laura R. Bonnabel and Alfred Bonnabel were the parents of four children: Henry Julian Bonnabel (1865-1931) married Elmyra Copina Babin (1871-1946); Laura “Bonnie” Bonnabel (1866-1933) married George W. Lawes (1857-1937); Julia McCarthy Bonnabel (1870-1946) married Charles W. Rolling (1866-1945); and Alfred E. Bonnabel Jr. (1874-1951) married Edith Mott (1873-1898), Mary Stella Blanchard (1868-1908) and Luella Mary Van Vrancken (1882-1966)

 

Alfred Bonnabel made his livelihood as a commercial farmer on his Metairie plantation.   In the twilight of his life began developing subdivisions and sell real estate with two of his son-in-laws.    

 

Civil War

During the Civil War, Alfred Bonnabel was a blockade runner defying the Union’s attempt to prevent the Confederacy from resupplying its military from ports on the Mississippi River.  He brought medicines and surgical supplies to his residence on the Metairie Road from where he had established lines of communication via Bayou Tchoupitoulas across Lake Ponchartrain with the Confederate camps.  Bonnabel was arrested many times for his succor to the Southern cause but was never executed for his actions.  The Bonnabel home was eventually looted and destroyed by Federal troops.(The Times-Picayune, May 8, 1921, Sec. V, p. 9)

 

Education

Alfred Bonnabel was called ‘the father of education in Jefferson Parish [Louisiana]’.  As the Civil War ended in April 1865, he put his full energy and resources into education by donating Bonnabel lands in Jefferson Parish for school and church sites.  Mr. Bonnabel believed that the South’s economic recovery from the war could be accelerated by educating its children as efficiently and rapidly as possible.  He served on the Jefferson Parish School Board for 45 years and served his fellow citizens on the Police Jury [Board of Supervisors] for 25 years-all pro bono.(The Times-Picayune, May 8, 1921, Sec. V, p. 9)

 

Ocean Springs

While part time residents, Alfred Bonnabel and his wife were very kind to the people of Ocean Springs.  In July 1914, they had donated palms, ferns, and potted plants to the Ocean Springs Civic Federation.  The Ocean Springs Civic Federation, like present day HOSA, Ocean Springs Historic Association, was organized in 1911 to promote civic improvements within the town of recently incorporated Ocean Springs.  The salient reminder of this long defunct group is Marshall Park which they erected in the spring and summer of 1911 with the cooperation of the L&N Railroad and Charles Marshall (1848-1928), the very honorable Superintendent of the New Orleans & Mobile Division of the L&N Railroad from September 1886, until his retirement on August 1, 1917.(The Ocean Springs News, July 25, 1914, p. 5 and May 27, 1911)

 

In August 1916, the Egan-Hudachek cottage at 314 Jackson Avenue was donated to Laura “Bonnie” Bonnabel Lawes by Laura R. Bonnabel her mother.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 42, p. 526)  

 

In May 1917, a playground swing for the St. Alphonsus playground was also donated. (The Jackson County Times, May 12, 1917, p. 5)

 

On April 30, 1921, Alfred Bonnabel expired in the midst of his family at his Ocean Springs on Jackson Avenue.  His death was deeply bereaved in the local community as Mr. Bonnabel was recognized as a good man and true philanthropist.  He donated generously to every important charity and to the poorer folks who were in dire need of financial support.  The portals of the Bonnabel home were always open to greet and superbly entertain the multitude of his friends and guests who often entered.(The Jackson County Times, May 7, 1921, p.

 

With the donation of the Egan-Hudachek Cottage in August 1916 to Laura “Bonnie” B. Lawes (1866-1933) by her mother, this commenced a twenty-three year ownership by the Lawes family.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 42, p. 526) 

 

George Williard Lawes (1857-1937) was born at New Orleans and married Laura ‘Bonnie’ Bonnabel (1866-1933) in February 1888.  He was a civil engineer and assisted in the construction of the Eads’ jetties and was stationed at the mouth of the Mississippi River for twenty years after the jetties were completed to superintend their dredging and maintenance.  Returning to New Orleans, he became secretary of the State Board of Engineers and the Louisiana Engineering Society.  He was a founder of the Metairie Ridge Improvement Association and with Charles W. Rolling managed and developed the large Bonnabel tract at Metairie creating large subdivisions like: Brockenbaugh Court, Bonnabel Place, and Metairie Heights.

 

Laura Bonnabel Lawes

Laura Bonnabel, known familiarly as “Bonnie”, married George W. Lawes (1857-1937) at New Orleans on February 9, 1888.  Their children were:  Leora Eugenie Lawes (1891-1895); Roland Carthell Lawes (1893-1960) m. Caroline King Pool (1895-1969); Willard Rappleye Lawes (1900-1981) and Robert Bonnabel Lawes (1904-1958).

 

George Williard Lawes (1857-1937) was born at New Orleans and married Laura ‘Bonnie’ Bonnabel (1866-1933) in February 1888.  He was a civil engineer and assisted in the construction of the Eads’ jetties and was stationed at the mouth of the Mississippi River for twenty years after the jetties were completed to superintend their dredging and maintenance.  Returning to New Orleans, he became secretary of the State Board of Engineers and the Louisiana Engineering Society.  He was a founder of the Metairie Ridge Improvement Association and with Charles W. Rolling managed and developed the large Bonnabel tract at Metairie creating large subdivisions like: Brockenbaugh Court, Bonnabel Place, and Metairie Heights.

 

George W. Lawes was a civil engineer and was second in command of the Eads’ Jetties project at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  This project was the dream of James Buchanan Eads (1820-1887), a civil engineering genius and native of Indiana.  Before Eads attempted to control the flow of the Mighty Mississippi, he had patented a diving bell [1841]; designed and built 14-armored gunboats for the Union Navy; and erected the first span across the Mississippi River at St. Louis [1874].

 

The passes at the mouth of the Mississippi River were continuously being shallowed by the deposition of large quantities of sediment carried by the Great River, which created sandbars.  The sandbars were an obstacle to navigation and effectively prevented shipping from reaching the port of New Orleans for weeks at a time resulting in the spoilage of food and produce on the wharves of the Crescent City.

 

The Corps of Engineers had been ineffective with its dredges to keep pace with the voluminous sedimentation of the Mississippi River.  In 1869 an exasperated New Orleans Daily Picayune reporter complained: "It is idle for us to rely upon the Government dredge machine now at Pass-a-l'Outre, for experience has proved that the most she can accomplish is to occasionally break her propeller and steam up to the city for another."

 

In 1874, Eads proposed building jetties at the point where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.  The jetties would create a narrower channel, which would speed up the water running between them. The faster water flowed, the more sediment it would carry. Eads claimed the extra force would be enough to carve out the sandbars and carry the sediment into the Gulf.  He was hired to build the jetties.  Congress agreed to pay him only if the jetties worked and he would receive federal money as he reached certain depths, so that by the time he reached the 30-foot depth he would be paid $4.25 million. be paid $4.25 million. When the jetties were finally completed in 1879, they created a 30-foot deep channel, one that ensured ships could get into and out of New Orleans. The city went from being the ninth largest to the second largest port in the nation, after New York.  The jetties sealed Eads' reputation as a master of river engineering. News of his success spread worldwide. The Brazilians, British and Canadians, among others, invited him to consult on navigation problems. In July 1884, Britain's Royal Society of the Arts awarded Eads the Albert Medal for "services he had rendered to the art of engineering." He was the first American to receive the honor.

 

George W. Lawes was stationed at the mouth of the Mississippi River for twenty years after the jetties were completed to superintend its dredging operations.  Returning to New Orleans, he became secretary of the State Board of Engineers and the Louisiana Engineering Society.  He was a founder of the Metairie Ridge Improvement Association and with Charles W. Rolling managed and developed the large Bonnabel tract at Metairie instituting large subdivisions like: Brockenbaugh Court, Bonnabel Place, and Metairie Heights.(The Times-Picayune, March 7, 1910, p. 7; September 14, 1924, Section II, p. 1; and April 29, 1937, p. 2)

 

Bonnie Bonnabel Lawes expired at New Orleans on March 12, 1933.  She was survived by her spouse, three sons, as well as her sister, Julia Bonnabel Rolling and Alfred E. Bonnabel Jr.  Interment was in Metairie Cemetery.  George W. Lawes died in Metairie, Louisiana on April 27, 1937 with his burial also in the Metairie Cemetery.(The Times-Picayune, March 13, 1933, p. 2 and April 29, 1937, p. 2)

 

The Heirs of Laura B. Lawes sold the Egan Cottage to Robert T. Burwell in April 1936.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 68, pp. 610-611)

 

Robert T. Burwell

Robert Turnbull Burwell (1867-1947) was born April 15, 1867 at Charlotte, North Carolina to John Bott Burwell and Irene Spragins Burwell.  An ancestor, Captain John Spotswood, had served with the 10th Virginia Regiment in the Revolutionary War and had been wounded at Brandywine and Germanton in 1777.

 

Robert T. Burwell earned a MA degree from the University of North Carolina [Chapel Hill] and an engineering degree from Cornell University.  He arrived at New Orleans circa 1896 and worked as a railroad engineer and boiler inspector.  At the time of his demise in January 1947, Robert was manager of the Gulf Division of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Company.(The Times-Picayune, January 22, 1947, p. 2)

 

Mr. Burwell married Beatrice Choicy DeGrange (1883-1920), the daughter of George E. DeGrange (1862-1920) and Ellen McMillan (1842-1910) in the Newcomb Chapel in New Orleans on April 16, 1913.  Mr. DeGrange was president of the New Orleans Railway and Light Company.(The New Orleans Item, March 6, 1910, p. 8 and The Daily Picayune, April 13, 1913 and The Times-Picayune, January 22, 1947, p. 2)

 

Robert and Beatrice DeGrange Burwell were the parents of two sons, Robert T. Burwell Jr. (1917-1989) and John Spotswood Burwell (1919-2008) m. Mary Marjorie Sigur (1923-2002).

 

Mrs. Beatrice D. Burwell expired at New Orleans on August 9, 1920.  Robert Turnbull Burwell lived until January 21, 1947.  His succession in Jackson County, Mississippi, Cause No. 10403, resulted in the sale of the Egan Cottage for $9000 on July 12, 1950 to George Rogers Beard, the wife of Leslie P. Beard, by N.C. Everette, special commissioner.[Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 113, p. 288 and The Gulf Coast Times, April 21, 1950, p. 8)

 

 

Leslie Patton Beard (1892-1966) was a New Orleans native and law graduate of Vanderbilt University.  The Beard family acquired the Egan Cottage at 314 Jackson Avenue in July 1950 for $9000.  Louisiana’s 51st Governor, David C. Treen (1928-2009), joined Mr. Beard’s legal firm in 1957 and later became a partner in what became Beard, Blue, Schmitt & Treen.  Leslie Beard was an outstanding sailor and was Commodore of the Southern Yacht Club.  He and Captain J.B. Ravannack (1885-1969) owned the Robin Hood IV, a 21-foot sloop, which never lost a long distance race in Gulf Yachting Association competition. 

Leslie Beard

Leslie Patton Beard (1892-1966) was born June 10, 1892 at New Orleans to Dr. Joseph C. Beard (1844-1919), Orleans Parish coroner, and Ida Mutter Beard (1865-1936).  During WW I, Leslie served his nation in the Coast Guard and Navy.  His legal education was at Vanderbilt University.  In 1945, Leslie commenced the legal firm of Beard, Blue, & Schmitt.  In February 1957, David Connor Treen (1928-2009) joined the firm, which practiced general law and specialized in federal and tax law.  In March 1980, David C. Treen would become Louisiana’s first elected Republican governor since Reconstruction.  Before his election as governor, he had served in the US House of Representatives from 1973 representing the Bayou State’s 3rd Congressional District.(The Times-Picayune, October 13, 1966, p. 2)

 

In late September 1918. Lieutenant Beard, USN, had married George Rogers (1902-1982), the daughter of a prominent banker at Little Rock, Arkansas.  After a honeymoon in the Crescent City, Leslie reported to his new duty station at Norfolk, Virginia.  Their children were: Anne Rhea Beard (1920-2010) and Elizabeth Beard (1922-1995).(The New Orleans State, October 3, 1918, p. 8) 

 

At New Orleans, Anne R. Beard married Frederick Orrin Douglas (1920-2004) of Cleveland Heights, Ohio in May 1942.  They had met at Purdue University.  Elizabeth Beard married George Riebel Blue (1917-1987), a native of Houston, Texas.  He was a Tulane Law School graduate.  Mr. Blue worked as a special agent for the FBI and was a senior law partner with Blue, Williams & Buckley.  George was active in the political arena as he took the oath of office as US Attorney of Eastern District of Louisiana on August 11, 1953 at New Orleans.  He was elected as a Louisiana state representative in 1964.(The Times-Picayune, January 3, 1987, p. B-7 and July 17, 1995 and The Columbus ledge-Enquirer, March 10, 2010)

 

Leslie P. Beard had served as Commodore of the Southern Yacht Club and was a past president of the Gulf Yachting Association.  In late April 1951, he and Mrs. Beard entertained a contingent of yachting officials at their Jackson Avenue domicile.(The Gulf Coast Times, May 3, 1951, p. 9)

 

In April 1954, Leslie P. Beard conveyed 314 Jackson Avenue to John P. Kirkendall.  The Beards then acquired a retirement home in Pass Christian and lived here until their deaths.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 138, pp. 418-420)  

 

Leslie P. Beard died at Gulfport, Mississippi on October 11, 1966 while a resident of Pass Christian, Mississippi.  Mrs. Beard lived until July 1982 and also passed on at Gulfport.   Their corporal remains were entombed in the Mausoleum at the Metairie Cemetery.

 

 

General John P. Kirkendall

[image made 1924 at West Point]

Brigadier General John Phillips Kirkendall (1901-1980)-was a native of Dallas, a small town, situated in the anthracite, coal belt of northeastern Pennsylvania.  After attending Seton Hall and Villanova, he entered West Point in July 1920 and graduated in June 1924 as a 2nd Lieutenant.  Kirkendall trained as a pilot in balloons, dirigibles, and fixed wing aircraft.  His military career took him to post in the USA, including Hawaii; Philippine Islands; England, Germany and Russia.  Colonel Kirkendall was promoted to Brigadier General in September 1952 while at Keesler Field AFB at Biloxi, Mississippi.  In August 1953, he retired from his long and active military career while at KAFB.  General Kirkendall expired in June 1980 while a resident of 1302 Bayou Drive.  His corporal remains were interred in the Biloxi National Cemetery.

 

The sale of the Leslie Patton Beard home at 314 Jackson Avenue to the J.P. Kirkendall family was through the George Arndt Realty Company by his agent, Mrs. Kay Lewis.  At this time, Brigadier General Kirkendall was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base.(The Daily Herald, March 15, 1954, p.  23)

 

John Phillips ‘Jack’ Kirkendall (1901-1980) was born February 16, 1901 at Dallas, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania the son of George Talmadge Kirkendall (1871-1945) and Helen Dennis Butler (1874-1922).  After graduating from high school at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1918, he attended Seton Hall in New Jersey for one year and Villanova College in Pennsylvania for a year. Entering the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in July 1920, Cadet Sergeant Kirkendall graduated June 12, 1924, and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Service.  While at West Point, Cadet Kirknedall was active as a Catholic Sunday school teacher and played varsity tennis.[The 1924 Howitzer

 

In the summer of 1924, 2nd Lieutenant Kirkendall traveled to Europe and North Africa.

 

 

Jackson Avenue-This vintage image was made circa 1900 looking north up Jackson Avenue towards Porter Street.  The photographer of this image is believed to have been situated west and slightly north of 314 Jackson Avenue.  The large fence on the west side of the wide thoroughfare may be that of the Ocean Springs Hotel.  Jackson Avenue from Front Beach to Porter wasn’t paved until February 1927.  Note the width of Jackson Avenue.  It is today one of the widest streets in Old Ocean Springs.[Image courtesy of Patricia Maxwell Letort]

 

Military Career

John P. Kirkendall commenced his military career in July 1920 as a cadet at the USMA at West Point, New York.  He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in June 1924 after completing his studies at West Point.  In September 1924, began Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas, that September, he graduated the following March; attended Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, for nine months; entered the Air Service Balloon and Airship School at Scott Field, Ill., and graduated in June 1926. After serving at Scott Field, Ill., he returned to Kelly Field in June 1928 to take the special observation course, which he completed that October.  Going to Hawaii in April 1929, General Kirkendall joined the Fourth Observation Squadron at Luke Field, and three months later was transferred to the 18th Pursuit Group at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Appointed finance officer at the Air Corps primary Flying School, Randolph Field, Texas, in July 1931, two months later he became adjutant of the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron there. He went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma in March 1932, joining the First Balloon Squadron; was given temporary duty with the Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Stephenville, Texas, in July 1933; rejoining the First Balloon Squadron that December. He later assumed command of the 53rd School Squadron at Randolph Field.   Moving to the Philippine Islands in February 1938, General Kirkendall was assigned to the Fourth Composite Group at Nichols Field; became adjutant of Clark Field that July; and a year later was named operations officer there. Transferred to Wright Field, Ohio, in February 1940, he was assigned to the Air Materiel Division, contract section. That August he was assigned to the Office of the Undersecretary of War, where he served successively as assistant to the chief of the Air Corps section, Purchasing and Contract Branch, and assistant to the chief of the defense aid section there.  Ordered to Europe in June 1942, General Kirkendall was chief of the Procurement Branch of the Eighth Air Force Service Command, becoming its assistant chief of staff for supply that December. In June 1943 he was appointed assistant to the commanding general of the Supply Division, Air Service Command, at Patterson Field, Ohio. That August he joined the Special Planning Division of the War Department General Staff, and in October 1943 he was designated deputy commander of the Middletown Air Service Command at Olmsted Field, Pennsylvania.   General Kirkendall was assigned to the U.S. Military Mission to Moscow, Russia, in April 1945, and three months later was named chief of the Berlin, (Germany) Air Command. He assumed command of the 10th Air Depot Group in Germany the following January, and in May 1946 he was named commanding officer of the Ansbach (Germany) Air Depot.  Joining the Air Transport Command in February 1947, General Kirkendall was designated assistant chief of the staff for supply of the European Division at Wiesbaden, Germany, and that July assumed that position with the 51st Troop Carrier Wing there. The following January he was appointed chief of the Plans and Control Section of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Wiesbaden.  In April 1948 he became deputy commander of the Mobile Air Materiel Area at Brookley Field, Mobile, Alabama.  He was named executive officer of the 3380th Technical Training Wing there in October 1949.

[http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/Display/tabid/225/Article/106536/brigadier-general-john-phillips-kirkendall.aspx]

 

Promotions

Lt. Kirkendall became a 1st Lieutenant in July 1929.  He was promoted to Captain in August 1935.  By December 1941, he had achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel.  J.P. Kirkendall made Colonel in March 1942 and Brigadier General in September 1952 while at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi.(The Army Register, 1943, p. 494 and The Gulf Coast Times, September 11, 1952, p. 1)

 

Keesler Air Force Base

In the fall of 1949, General Kirkendall came to Keesler Air Force Base, formerly Keesler Field pre-January 1948, from Brookley Field at Mobile, Alabama where he was Deputy Commander of the 3380th Technical Training Wing.  In July 1950, Colonel J.P. Kirkendall was named acting base commander in the absence of Brigadier General James A. Powell (1893-1983) who was on a 10-day Air Force business trip and Kirkendall was named Deputy Commander at Keesler in September 1952.  He served as the interim Commandant of KAFB from August 1, 1953 to August 19, 1953 when General Powell retired from the USAF.(The Daily Herald, July 11, 1950, p. 1; The Gulf Coast Times, August 6, 1953, p. 1)

 

Family

Before 1940, John Phillips Kirkendall married Doris Weisenbach (1908-1993), a native of of Wellisville, Ohio.  She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Christian Weisenbach of Dayton, Ohio.  Their daughter, Jean Talmadge Kirkendall (b. 1946), was born at Macon, Georgia.

 

In June 1971, Jean Talmadge Kirkendahl, became the spouse of James Yerger Winkeljohn (b. 1945), the son of Walter Winkeljohn (1917-2014) and Marjorie Lopez Yerger (1921-2002).  The Winkeljohn family lived at 418 Martin Avenue in Ocean Springs.  Jean was educated at the Academy of the Sacred Heart at New Orleans and Maryville College of the Sacred Heart at St. Louis.  James Y. Winkeljohn was a Notre Dame High School graduate and completed his education at Mississippi State and the University of Tennessee.  He served in Vietnam as a lieutenant.  The Winkeljohns have longtime residents of Florida.(The Ocean Springs Record, May 6, 1971, p. 13)

 

Retirement

General Kirkendall retired from his military career on July 31, 1954.  A reception and celebration of his long and faithful service to his fellowman and country had taken place on July 14, 1954 at the Pastime Café.  The Biloxi Chamber of Commerce and City Commission of Biloxi sponsored the event.  Major General Harlan C. Parks was a guest.(The Daily Herald, June 29, 1954, p. 1)

 

Post-military career

In July 1957, Jack Kirkendall was named vice-president of the Texas Corporation and board member of its affiliate, the Washington Underwriters Inc., an investment firm specializing in mutual funds and income plans.   General Kirkendall joined many prominent military leaders on the company’s board: Major General Charles Lawrence; Lt. General Lutes; Lt. General Ira Baker; Admiral Gardner; Major General Moore; and Major General Kasten.  (The Ocean Springs News, July 18, 1957, p. 1)

 

In January 1963, John P. Kurkendall conveyed his Ocean Springs home to Raymond J. Hudachek.(Jackson County, Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 234, p. 411)  

 

Hudacheck acquisition

In March 1976, the Hudachek family acquired the property of the Marianite Sisters from the Reverend Joseph B. Brunini, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Natchez-Jackson, as Trustee of the St. Alphonsus Parish.  The large lot fronted their home at 314 Jackson Avenue and had 171 feet on Front Beach Drive and 186 feet on Jackson Avenue.  The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, also known as the “Italian” sisters were to the east.(Jackson County, Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 559, p. 678)  

 

Marianite Sisters

In 1899, the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross acquired the residence of Captain Raphael “Ralph” Beltran (1820-1898), called San Souci, from his heirs.  It was situated at Front Beach and Jackson Avenue.  This tract had formerly been that of the Seashore Hotel and in the ownership of William B. Schmidt proprietor of the Ocean Springs Hotel when he conveyed the site to Captain Beltran in November 1886 with this caveat in the warranty deed: “[you are not] at any time or times here after, establish, open or keep, or allow to be established, opened or kept on the premises hereby granted and conveyed any coffee house, saloon, bar room, or public establishment for the sale of wines or liquors without the consent of W.B. Schmidt, his heirs, or assigns.”(Jackson County, Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 8, p. 292 and Bk. 20, p. 104)  

 

It is interesting to note that Captain Beltran was a pioneer in commerce and trade at New Orleans.  He was born in the Crescent City of Creole parents and made his livelihood as a planter and wholesale grocer.  Beltran also vended sugar and molasses and was an early member of the Sugar and Rice Exchange and the Board of Trade.  He legated to his heirs money and about nine plantations.(The Daily Picayune, November 30, 1898, p. 11)

 

 

Camille

In August 1969, Hurricane Camille severely damaged St. Theresa’s, the convent of the Marianite nuns on Front Beach and Jackson Avenue.  Father Gilbert  O’Neill (1890-1969), a native of Wedonia, Kentucky and a Roman Catholic priest of the Order of Saint Benedict, drowned during the tempest while attempting to determine the safety of the nuns.  Father O’Neill was ordained a priest in May 1923 at St. Bernard College in Cullman, Alabama.  He had come to Ocean Springs as chaplain to the Italians nuns after pastorates at Corbin, Kentucky and Sheffield and Tuscumbia, Alabama.

 

Post-Camille, Schuyler Poitevent Jr. (1911-1978) rescued the altar from the convent’s chapel and stored it in an outbuilding at his Lover’s Lane residence.  The Poitevent place was acquired by Geoffrey P. Mavar in April 2000 and he began to institute major changes to the property.  Mr. Mavar decided to remove the altar to a dump, but before it could be destroyed, it was rescued by Judy Herrington, a neighbor and defender of all things sacred to Lover’s Lane.  The altar was stored on Jackson Avenue for several years before it was acquired and relocated to a permanent and final home in New Orleans.

 

The paragraphs, which follow were written in 2013 by Mary Anne Hudachek Deierlein and recall her experiences at 314 Jackson Avenue during Camille and Katrina.

 

"It's the storms that bind us on the Gulf Coast.   August 17th will be the 44rd anniversary of Hurricane Camille. I was nine years old at the time. Both of my grandparents passed away that summer, and we were just returning home from Iowa two days before the storm hit. Family friends from New Orleans came to stay with us for safety since the Camille was expected to hit there, but later swerved east of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Ray Hudachek, my dad and operations manager at the Chevron Refinery in Pascagoula had to be there during the storm overnight. As he walked down Jackson Avenue on his way home to our house, the morning after the hurricane, he wasn't sure we had survived. When we all came out of our house on Front Beach in Ocean Springs the morning after, every house and building around our home was gone. Only huge piles of debris remained. A priest died in his collapsed cottage, which was next to the retirement home for Italian Cabrini nuns on the property next to us, which is now the location of Fort Maurepas Park.

 

While climbing on debris piles, I stepped on a nail that went through my foot. My parents brought me to a nurse in a medical tent for a tetanus shot. We BBQ'd the first few days using what we found still frozen in the freezers that came to rest in our yard, and we fed the Mississippi National Guard in the evenings. We had a good time the first week or so, but without water, electricity or gas, the novelty soon wore off and the months of clean up began. School was delayed nearly a month, and my older brother took the train to school to Notre Dame in Biloxi. 

 

The Gulf Coast seemed to limp along for more than 20 years afterwards. The casinos, museums and aquarium were built in the late 1980s and early 1990s filling in many vacant areas creating a new era on the Coast. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina washed away our family home, which had been built circa 1860. The house was well above sea level but the ancient brick and mortar piers and support floor joists gave way in the 30-foot storm surge filled with floating objects-battering rams such as the large, heavy pine poles forming the perimeter of the Fort Maurepas replica.

 

My parents, age 79 years, barely got out in time.  They hid behind the cottage and spent five hours in the storm water holding their dog by the collar while watching the house and everything they owned disappear. While mom and dad lived in a FEMA trailer for three years, we worked with limited supplies and a displaced crew to build a copy of the original house, which my parents enjoyed for their last three years on this earth. Despite the devastation, hardship and losses over the decades and through the storms, there is an amazing, inspiring resiliency in most everyone you meet on the Gulf Coast."

 

"It's the storms that bind us on the Gulf Coast.   August 17th will be the 44rd anniversary of Hurricane Camille. I was nine years old at the time. Both of my grandparents passed away that summer, and we were just returning home from Iowa two days before the storm hit. Family friends from New Orleans came to stay with us for safety since the Camille was expected to hit there, but later swerved east of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Ray Hudachek, my dad and operations manager at the Chevron Refinery in Pascagoula had to be there during the storm overnight. As he walked down Jackson Avenue on his way home to our house, the morning after the hurricane, he wasn't sure we had survived. When we all came out of our house on Front Beach in Ocean Springs the morning after, every house and building around our home was gone. Only huge piles of debris remained. A priest died in his collapsed cottage, which was next to the retirement home for Italian Cabrini nuns on the property next to us, which is now the location of Fort Maurepas Park.

 

While climbing on debris piles, I stepped on a nail that went through my foot. My parents brought me to a nurse in a medical tent for a tetanus shot. We BBQ'd the first few days using what we found still frozen in the freezers that came to rest in our yard, and we fed the Mississippi National Guard in the evenings. We had a good time the first week or so, but without water, electricity or gas, the novelty soon wore off and the months of clean up began. School was delayed nearly a month, and my older brother took the train to school to Notre Dame in Biloxi. 

 

The Gulf Coast seemed to limp along for more than 20 years afterwards. The casinos, museums and aquarium were built in the late 1980s and early 1990s filling in many vacant areas creating a new era on the Coast. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina washed away our family home which had been built circa 1860. The house was well above sea level but the ancient brick and mortar piers and support floor joists gave way in the 30-foot storm surge filled with floating objects-battering rams such as the large, heavy pine poles forming the perimeter of the Fort Maurepas replica.

 

My parents, age 79 years, barely got out in time.  They hid behind the cottage and spent five hours in the storm water holding their dog by the collar while watching the house and everything they owned disappear. While mom and dad lived in a FEMA trailer for three years, we worked with limited supplies and a displaced crew to build a copy of the original house, which my parents enjoyed for their last three years. Despite the devastation, hardship and losses over the decades and through the storms, there is an amazing, inspiring resiliency in most everyone you meet on the Gulf Coast."   Mary Anne Hudachek Deierlein

 

On October 25, 1970, the newly erected convent of the Marianite Sisters of the Sacred Heart was blessed by Reverend Eamon J. Mullen (1918-1992).  The structure is situated at Jackson Avenue, just north of the St. Alphonsus elementary school.  At this time, Sisters Leo, Antoinette, Eileen, and Nell were residents of the convent.  James Neirynck may have built it.  Others involved George Sliman, Olivia Sekul Sliman.(The Ocean Springs Record, October 22, 1970, p. 1 and October 29, 1970, p. 10)

 

Egan-Crimm Cottage-In September 2015, Jo Ann Cox Crimm and Harlon Crimm became the proud and happy owners of this lovely replica of the historic Egan Cottage on Biloxi Bay.  Severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Ray J. Hudachek (1926-2011) and Maureen Carol Russell Hudachek (1926-2011), in the twilight of their lives, decided to remove the derelict structure, and replicate it on the same site.  Carl D. Germany (1951-2013), AIA, and Paul M. Campbell (1955-2014), general contractor, were chosen for the task.  Local historian, Ray L. Bellande, furnished images of the older home to the architect to use in accurately designing the ‘new Egan Cottage’.

 

On 4 September 2015, Mary Ann Hudachek Deierlein and the Deierlein Family Trust, Santa Clara, California conveyed the Egan Cottage at 314 Jackson Avenue to Drs. Jo Ann Cox Crimm and Harlon Crimm, a couple very familiar with Ocean Springs.[Instrument No. 201514017 and Jackson Co., Mississippi Land Deed Bk. 1793 p. 706]

 

As the one of the newest owner of the Egan Cottage, Jo Ann Cox Crimm has shared with loyal readers of The Ocean Springs Gazette some of her life and family history.  Thank you Jo Ann!

 

Jo Ann Cox was reared in Ocean Springs and graduated from Ocean Springs High School with the designation as a twelve-year student.  She lists among her favorite teachers Agnes (Sissy) Anderson, Opal Taconi, Polly Loper, Virginia Thompson Lee, and naturally, Mr. Harlon Crimm who taught business subjects at Ocean Springs High School.  After Jo Ann graduated and while attending Draughon’s Business School in Baton Rouge, they began a courtship and subsequently were married. 

 

Jo Ann is the daughter of Madison G. (Matt) Cox and Annette Noble Cox, thus there are many friends and relatives that tie the couple to the city.  Matt was chief of Police in Ocean Springs from 1970-1979 and afterward served as Alderman for one term.  Matt was recently recognized by the City of Ocean Springs for his distinguished service and for his efforts to bring professionalism, training, efficiency and effectiveness to the OSPD.  During his tenure he increased the officer force and added the first female to the staff.  He established a record system and introduced technology in the OSPD.  Matt received many awards during his career, including Boss of the Year.  He was active in the Mississippi Peace Officers Association and served a term as President of the State Association.

 

Annette N. Cox worked at Ingalls Shipbuilding in the Public Relations and Human Resources Offices.  She was the first female member of the Ingalls Management Association and the first woman president of the organization.  Annette was active in the local Business and Professional Women’s Club and rose to the office of State President.    Matt and Annette were active members of First Baptist Church, The Good Sams Club and the Merry Makers Carnival Club where both served as king and queen.  Matt passed away in 2006 and Annette in 2010. Jo Ann has one brother, Dean Cox, an engineer who lives in Conroe, Texas and a sister, Gay Cox, a dentist who lives in Jackson.

 

Following their marriage in 1964 Jo Ann and Harlon worked in Mississippi for five years and subsequently moved to Marietta, Georgia where they both sought advanced university degrees and enjoyed long and distinguished careers in public education; Jo Ann as a school administrator and Harlon as President of a two-year technical college.  They each served in numerous civic, social, charitable, and professional organizations from the local to the national level.  They were in a “house divided” of sorts in Marietta when Jo Ann was a member of Kiwanis and Harlon was in Rotary for 30 years.  Harlon served in the Army and Air Force Reserve for 35 years retiring as a Colonel.

 

Twelve years ago they purchased a small townhome in Ocean Springs and spent a year renovating it, only to have it destroyed by the force of Hurricane Katrina.  Rebuilding and retirement brought them to Ocean Springs more often, and it became a special place for the entire family.  Realizing that the townhouse was too small to accommodate their two children with growing families they began searching for a suitable home on the water.  Having looked at several homes over time, according to Jo Ann, when they stepped inside Egan Cottage they immediately knew that it was the one for them.

 

The beauty of the home and property enchanted them and they immediately set out to learn as much of the history as possible.  Chanced encounters with contractors and tradesmen who worked on the restoration of the home after it was virtually destroyed by Katrina and communicating with Mary Anne Hudachek Deierlein have answered many of their questions and they learned that the home was essentially restored to its original form.  This new/old home has presented challenges as any vintage home presents, but they have thoroughly enjoyed the planning and commitment that is required in making a house a home.  The Crimm’ vision for Egan Cottage is to preserve all of the hard work and love of its previous owners while adding their own touches. 

 

Jo Ann and Harlon have two children, Jeff and Ashley, a daughter-in -law Kristi, a son-in -law, Jason, and eight grandchildren.  They have come to love Ocean Springs and treasure their visits to the beaches and participating in Sea Camp.  They have enjoyed swimming, fishing, crabbing, and roasting hot dogs on the beach during their visits.  Thanksgiving 2015 was the first time the children had the opportunity for football games on the front lawn.  Practices for the big Thanksgiving Day family game began as early as 6:30 a.m. on the days preceding Thanksgiving.   

 

Harlon and Jo Ann have enjoyed the opportunity to sit on the porch and wave to Ocean Springs High School students as they passed on homecoming floats and the cruisers during Cruisin’ the Coast week.  Last fall Jo Ann provided cold water to those whose cars stalled by the house while a week-end guest of theirs assisted in repairing one of the cars, enabling the participants to get it moving after a long delay.  Opening the doors on Sunday morning and hearing the music drifting from the church service at Fort Maurepas Park is a sweet experience.  Jo Ann and Harlon are embracing the history, the character, and the specialness of Egan Cottage and the property it rests upon as they make it their home. 

 

 

 

[L-R] Depicted here is the 1981 Fort Maurepas replica before and after Hurricane Katrina of late August 2005.  Today one of the most utilized, public green spaces at Ocean Springs exist here and is called Fort Maurepas Park [Parc de Maurepas].  The park was dedicated in late October 2009 and been an exciting venue for families and young people who enjoy its playground, picnic areas, beach access, as well as its comfort stations.

 

Fort Maurepas Park

Due east of the Egan-Hudachek-Crimm Cottage at 314 Jackson Avenue is Fort Maurepas Park.  I occasionally refer to it as Parc de Maurepas to remind me of its naissance from the ruins of the Fort Maurepas replica, which many never saw and those who did were rightfully not impressed as it represented another failure of government-primarily on the state level. 

In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina essentially destroyed the Fort Maurepas replica on Front Beach Drive at Ocean Springs.  The large bastion on the southeast corner of the structure was floated some forty-feet north of its foundation by the tempest.  Most of the existing palisades were uprooted or severely damaged by the surge on the morning of August 29th.  As previously mentioned by Mary Ann Hudachek Deierlein, some of these wayward palisades acted as battering rams, which aided in the destruction of her family home northeast of the replica. 

 

As depressing and incomplete as the construction of the Fort Maurepas replica was, its destruction by Hurricane Katrina was indeed a blessing for the citizens of Ocean Springs.  In the fall of 2005, the remains and debris of the battered and inundated Fort Maurepa replica were removed.  The large, bastion timbers were saved.  Mayor Connie M. Moran called for a public meeting at the Ocean Springs Community Center on the eve of April 27, 2006 to discuss the future of the site.  Frank Burandt of Greg Cantrell Inc., landscape architects, of Kenner, Louisiana presented their design for the site.  Mayor Moran said of the Fort Maurepas replica:  "It was very user unfriendly and it was vandalized constantly, despite the installation of lighting and security cameras.  We want this [new park] to be a place everyone can enjoy."(The Sun Herald, April 24, 2006, p. A3)        

 

In mid-June 2006, about one hundred residents of Ward II, in which the Fort Maurepas replica sat for almost twenty-five years, overwhelmingly approved the preliminary plan of Frank Burandt, landscape architect, for a beach park on the beach front site situated between Washington and Jackson Avenues.  Fort Maurepas Park will feature a Great Lawn outlined by a low brick wall, which in plan view replicates a Marshall Vauban (1633-1707) fortification, similar to that erected by Iberville's men in April 1699.  Marshall Vauban served Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France as a military engineer.  There will be a stage on the north side of the Great Lawn.  The south side of the Great Lawn will be graced with statuary and historical markers commemorating the five centuries of local history.  Other amenities of the Fort Maurepas Park will be a two-story pavilion with toilets, a playground for children, picnic tables, and a boardwalk on the southwest perimeter of the Fort Maurepas Nature Preserve.(The Ocean Springs Record, June 29, 2006, p. A1)

 

Eric Clark, Mississippi Secretary of State, revealed in a letter to Mayor Connie Marie Moran on July 24th, that the preliminary plans of the City of Ocean Springs to create a Fort Maurepas Park on the site of the Katrina damaged-destroyed Fort Maurepas replica meet with his approval and satisfy the requirement that Ocean Springs maintain the State donated property as an historic site.  To quote from Mr. Clark: 

 

"The State conveyed the property to the City of Ocean Springs in 1991, and the deed requires the City to maintain the property as an official historic site.  I have concluded that the plan described above honors that requirement and I am happy to give my approval.  I wish you well with this project, and with your efforts to rebuild and improve your beautiful city."(The Ocean Springs Record, August 17, 2006, p. A 10)        

 

Ground was broken  for the Fort Maurepas Park on August 29th, 2006 at the site on Front Beach Drive with primarily local dignitaries and neighbors in  attendance.  Mayor Connie Moran opened the session with a welcoming statement to the small audience on the grounds.  She was followed by Ray L. Bellande, local historian, who gave a brief history of the old Hansell-Edwards-Bland property on which the 1981 Fort Maurepas replica had stood until Katrina's wrath erased it last August 29th.  Ken P' Pool from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, Mississippi closed the speech making with a review of the French Colonial history of the area and Ft. Maurepas' importance to the French effort in securing La Louisiane and establishing their future colony from here.  Invited dignitaries then shoveled dirt to signify the commencement of the $1.3 million dollar project.  Practically the entire cost of Fort Maurepas Park development will be derived from FEMA funds, the Katrina Benefit Fund owned by the City, and  the Department of Natural Resources Tidelands Fund, thus placing no additional burden on taxpayers.(The Ocean Springs Record, August 31, 2006, p. A1) 

 

The Hansell-Edwards House and New Beach Hotel

 

Hansell-Edwards home

The Hansell-Edwards House on Front Beach at Ocean Springs was probably built by Henry H. Hansell (1817-1878), a prominent ‘saddler’ from New Orleans.  The widow, Sarah M. Richardson Hansell (1825-1908), sold it to James Daniel Edwards (1839-1887) in May 1885.  Mr. Edwards made his livelihood as the proprietor of James D. Edwards Iron Works located at 22 to 34 South Front Street in New Orleans.  Dr. Jasper J. Bland (1850-1932), a native of Yazoo County, Mississippi and the son-in-law of J.D. Edwards, acquired the house in 1899.  He converted it into the Beach Hotel. 

 

The tract chosen for the Fort Maurepas replica on Front Beach at Ocean Springs had been the site of the Hansell-Edwards family summer home.  By1850, Henry Holcombe Hansell (1817-1878), a native of Pennsylvania, was domiciled on St. Charles Avenue at New Orleans with Sarah Margaret Richardson Hansell (1825-1908), his wife, two sons, and daughter: Henry H. Hansell II (1848-1900+), William S. Hansell (1849-1911), and Margaret M. Hansell (1858-1878).(1850 Orleans Parish, Louisiana Federal Census M432_237, p. 264, Ward 2) 

 

In the Crescent City, Mr. Hansell was a ‘saddler’.  He expired at New Orleans in August 1878, and was lauded in his obituary as follows: “known for his kindly nature and honorable character, which won for him the high regard of his fellow men.  As proprietor of one of the oldest and most extensive saddlery houses in the City, he occupied a notably responsible position, the duties of which he discharged with superior judgment.” .(The Daily Picayune, August 17, 1878)

In January 1880, the heirs of H.H. Hansell were continuing to advertise their saddle and harness business in the Crescent City:

 

H.H. HANSELL

Manufacturer of

SADDLERY and HARNESS

and Importer and dealer in

SADDLERY HARDWARE, LEATHER, BELTING HOSE, ETC.

Government Harness, Saddles, etc.

No. 22 Magazine and 74 Common Street

New Orleans, La.

(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, January 23, 1880, p. 4)

 

James D. Edwards

In May 1885, James Daniel Edwards (1839-1887), acquired the Henry H. Hansell summer home at Ocean Springs on the beach between Jackson and Washington Avenue from Sarah Margaret Richardson Hansell, the widow of Henry Holcombe Hansell.  The consideration was $2800.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 7, pp. 468-472)

 

Mr. Edwards made his livelihood as the proprietor of James D. Edwards Iron Works located at 22 to 34 South Front Street in New Orleans.  This institution produced sugar machinery as well as copper, brass, and sheet ironwork.  Edwards employed a skilled work force numbering several hundred.  Their machines were exported to Mexico, Cuba, and Central America.  In addition, the firm was an agent for steam pumps, gauges, and locomotive and marine equipment.  James D. Edwards died intestate on April 2, 1887 at New Orleans. 

 

In February 1899, Dr. Bland took a lease from the Edwards' heirs and opened a hostelry, which he appropriately named the Beach Hotel.  Lawrence Gautreaux, a seasoned hotel manager, was put in charge.  Later in 1899, Mary H. Haner Edwards (1845-1925), the widow of James D. Edwards, petitioned her children in the Chancery Court of Jackson County, Cause No. 804.  The suit was filed to force a sale of the Edwards House in order for the respective heirs to receive their share of the property.  Dr. Jasper J. Bland (1850-1932), the son-in-law of Mrs. Mary Edwards, purchased the Edwards summer home property from Special Commissioner, Frank H. Lewis (1865-1930) of Pascagoula, Mississippi, for $5500 in August 1899.  Dr. Bland had married Agnes Elizabeth Edwards (1868-1936) in 1891.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 20, pp. 248-250)

 

Eventually, Dr. Jasper J. Bland (1850-193) enlarged the Beach Hotel to three stories renaming it the New Beach Hotel in 1909. By 1921, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart were occupying the site utilizing it as a summer orphanage. It later became their retirement home.  Hurricane Camille damaged the structure in 1969, and it was removed by Clarence E. Galle (1912-1986) in the summer of 1971.  The Missionary Sisters sold a portion of their tract to the Richelle Corporation of Metairie, Louisiana in February 1974 (The Ocean Springs Record, July 22, 1971, p. 9 and.JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 448, p. 546).        

 

The Richelle Corporation planned to develop the property as the Twin Bluff Condominiums, but were foreclosed on and sued by the First National Bank of Jackson County.  The local bank was awarded title to the land by the Chancery Court and they sold it to the State of Mississippi on March 1, 1976.( JXCO, Ms. Chancery Court Case No. 29,412 and .(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 554, pp. 644-645).          

 

The Missionary Sisters conveyed their other contiguous parcel of about two acres on the east side of the tract to Donald M. Bradburn (1924-2012) in September 1975.  Dr. Bradburn later conveyed this land to the Ocean Springs Yacht Club who attempted to get a permit to build their yacht club here.  After being denied this privilege by the City on several occasions, the local sailors relented and sold their land to the State of Mississippi on February 16, 1976, which completed their land acquisition for a site for erecting the Fort Maurepas replica.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 543, p. 387 and Bk. 554, pp. 646-647, Russell Thompson, former OSYC commodore, and The Ocean Springs Record February 19, 1976, p. 1)

 

Dr. Jasper J. Bland (1850-1932) enlarged the Beach Hotel to three stories renaming it the New Beach Hotel in 1909. By 1921, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart were occupying the site utilizing it as a summer orphanage. It later became their retirement home.  Hurricane Camille damaged the structure in 1969, and it was removed by Clarence E. Galle (1912-1986) in the summer of 1971.  The Missionary Sisters sold a portion of their tract to the Richelle Corporation of Metairie, Louisiana in February 1974.

Fort-pro and con

In 1975, the State Building Commission had hired William Hogg, consultant of Williamston, Michigan, to determine if the Fort Maurepas replica were erected in Ocean Springs would it be economical viable.  His report indicated that if 200,000 tourists per year visited Fort Maurepas, the project should recover its development costs in several years.  He estimated that an interpretive center of 2400 square-feet would necessary as well as $450,000 additional dollars for reconstruction and other land costs.  This placed the cost of the project at about $750,000.(The Ocean Springs Record, January 22, 1976, p. 1)

 

Typical of Ocean Springs, as the ink was drying on the warranty deeds of the Fort Maurepas replica tracts, local opposition to the project surfaced.  Marby R. Penton (1922-1995), president of the 1699 Historical Committee, recognized this nascent, negative cloud beginning to settle over the planned Fort Maurepas reconstruction.  In late February 1976, he called his salient stalwarts together: Harry Del Reeks (1920-1982), Delores ‘Bobby’ Davidson Smith (1916-1997), and Donald L. ‘Pat’ Connor (1912-1982) to affirm the positive aspects of the project.  Their talking points concerning the opposition were that the antagonists: didn’t understand the scope and State wide support; and didn’t realize the economic benefits to Ocean Springs in the form of tourism and generated tax revenues.(The Ocean Springs Record, February 26, 1976, p. 1)

 

Elbert R. Hilliard, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, went on record that his organization also opposed the reconstruction of Fort Maurepas on Front Beach in Ocean Springs as a “historic preservation project” because the exact location of Fort Maurepas was never resolved from archaeological investigation held in 1973 in the Lover’s Lane area.  In addition, the fact that credible documentary evidence as to what the ancient structure resembled had never been located.  Mr. Hillard made it clear that “this department (MDAH) is not opposed to tourism.  If the citizens and the public servants of this State want a ‘Fort Maurepas’ then they should have it.  But is should not be represented as a historic preservation project and it should not be under the administration of the State’s official historic preservation agency.”

 

Ed Wilson of Gulf Hills prepared a ballot to determine the mass appeal or lack there of for the fort replica.  It was published in the Ocean Springs Record on February 19, 1976 and gave the perspective voter three options: construct the fort at the chosen site on Front Beach; construct the fort replica at another site; do not build a fort replica anywhere.  The results of this non-binding referendum were revealed in early March and overwhelmingly supported the construction of the replica of Fort Maurepas on Front Beach Drive.  Mr. Wilson informed State representative Dempsey Levi and John Corlew and Son Rhodes, both State senators of these results.(The Ocean Springs Record, March 4, 1976, p. 1)

 

 The Fort Maurepas Replica

 

Built with State funding that provided about $300,000 dollars of the $1.2 million requested, the Fort Maurepas replica was left unfinished from late 1981 until it was damaged by Katrina in August 2005 and the derelict remains removed.  During its near twenty-five years of existence, Fort Maurepas lay for the most as a white elephant on arguably the best building site in Ocean Springs.  The Fort Maurepas Society was founded in June 1992 at the suggestion of Alderman Michael Williams.  In 1993, it began biennial re-enactments of French colonial life, which attracted animators from other former French settlements in the Midwest-primarily Alabama, Illinois and Wisconsin.  These encampments culminated with the 300th anniversary of the founding of La Louisiana [1699-1999] in February 1999 at Biloxi!  Will they celebrate their real 300th anniversary again in 2020??

 

In March 1979, the State Legislature approved $300,000 for the construction of the Fort Maurepas replica at Ocean Springs. State Representative Dempsey Levi of Ocean Springs had attempted to have a $1.2 million appropriations bill passed for its construction, but Fort Maurepas zealots had to settle for the lesser amount.(The Ocean Springs Record, January 25, 1979, p. 1 and March 29, 1979, p. 3)

 

Fred Wagner of Bay St. Louis was named project architect and the New Orleans firm of Koch & Wilson were designated as associate architects.  In September 1980, the State Building Commission awarded a contract for $273,000 to the Carter & Mullins Construction Company of Columbia, Mississippi.  House Bill No. 1296 (March 1981) allowed for $950,000 in Federal revenue sharing funds to complete the Fort Maurepas replica.(The Ocean Springs Record,  July 10, 1980, p. 1, August 7, 1980, p. 2, and September 9, 1980, p. 1)

 

The first phase of construction was completed in August or September of 1981. It consisted of an exterior stockade (154 feet x 154 feet) constructed of single, treated, pine post about eight feet tall. The square enclosure encompassed an area of about .54 acres. The southeast corner of the Fort Maurepas replica was a blockhouse or bastion (Royal Bastion). It was triangular in plan about twenty feet tall and served as the Governor's House and cannon fortification. No other bastion was commenced. The only portion of the inner palisade wall that was completed was a twenty eight-foot section, which ran west of the Royal Bastion and included the main gate (seven feet wide). This wall was approximately twelve feet tall and was built triple, log thick. No interior buildings were ever constructed, i.e. soldier's lodges, bakery, or general warehouse.(The Ocean Springs Record, January 22, 1981, p. 2 and December 17, 1981, p. 1)

 

Unfortunately in 1982 and 1983 the Mississippi Budget Commission took measures to avert State budget deficits. With a deficit of $85 million facing them in 1983, the Commission approved a $9 million cut in agency appropriations, which included $900,000 for the completion of Fort Maurepas.(The Ocean Springs Record, January 13, 1983, p. 1 and March 21, 1985, p. 2)  

 

At a town meeting held in Pascagoula in March 1986, US Representative C. Trent Lott related to the attendees that he planned to discuss the inclusion of the Fort Maurepas reconstruction at Ocean Springs with Donald P. Hodel (b. 1935), Secretary of the Interior.  Representative Lott hoped to persuade Mr. Hodel that this structure be included in the Gulf Islands National Seashore system.  Also at this time, Aubrey Rozzell, State Parks Director, had offered to lease the replica’s six-acre site to the City of Ocean Springs.  The City had no interest in this proposal and GINS also rejected the offer to place Fort Maurepas into the park system in August 1986.(The Sun Herald, March 23, 1986, p. A2 and The Ocean Springs Record,  August 28, 1986, p. 1)

 

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the incomplete Fort Maurepas replica in August 2005, it had set for almost a quarter of a century in its unfinished state.  The Fort Maurepas Society led by Harold L. Rogers (1932-2016) and with the kind assistance of Glenn Young Jr., KAFB volunteer airmen and the OS Public Works Department, minor repairs and improvements had been to the existing replica between 1992 and 1998.

 

FORT MAUREPAS

With the preceding chronology in place, the author will relate the salient points about the establishment of Fort Maurepas at present day Ocean Springs, Mississippi in April 1699.

 

What have we as the citizens of Ocean Springs done to be so fortunate as to have Fort Maurepas Park?  The answer to this interrogative is simple-nothing.  This wonderful green space has resulted indirectly from events that occurred in the late 17th Century that were driven by the global economic competition between the salient powers of Europe-England, France, and Spain. 

 

On April 8, 1699, an expeditionary force of French soldiers, sailors, and laborers with their French Canadian cohorts commenced construction of the first French fortress in the lower Mississippi River Valley. These brave men were led by Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville (1661-1706), himself a native of Canada, operating under the patronage of King Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France. Iberville's mission was to locate the mouth of the Mississippi River and establish a French presence on the Mexican Gulf Coast to discourage Spanish and English incursions into the area claimed by France. Some French strategist feared that if the English controlled the mouth of the Mississippi that their holdings and commercial enterprises including the lucrative fur trade of interior North America were doomed.

 

The basis of the French claim was the exploration by Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687). La Salle reconnoitered the Mississippi River from Canada locating its deltaic mouth in April 1682. He claimed for France the vast area between the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghenies drained by the Mississippi and all of its tributaries. We know this territory as Louisiana, i.e. belonging to Louis (Louis XIV). La Salle called the Great River, Colbert, in honor of the French Minister of Marine.

The small fort was located on a narrow peninsula on the east side of the Bay of Biloxi within the present day limits of the city of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Iberville named this French Colonial outpost, Fort Maurepas. It was named to honor the French Minister of the Marine (Navy), Jerome Phelypeaux de Maurepas, Comte (Earl) de Pontchartrain.           

 

Several locales in North America bear the name Maurepas or Pontchartrain: Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain in southeastern Louisiana and Point Maurepas on the island of Michipicoten (Ontario) in Lake Superior. The Fort Maurepas settlement was also called Biloxi for the local Siouxan Indian tribe, which lived on the Pascagoula River.

 

Fort Maurepas was designed by Remy Reno, the draftsman of Iberville, utilizing the system of military fortification developed by Marshall Vauban, nee Sebastian Le Prestre (1633-1707). Iberville's men utilized available materials for the fort's construction, which covered an area of one-half acre. Bastions, palisades, living quarters, warehouses, and other structures were fabricated from indigenous trees, i.e. oak, hickory, and pine. Maurepas was armed with at least twelve cannon (possibly eight pounders) taken from the French frigates, La Badine and Le Marin

 

Fort Maurepas-Where was it? Ask Schuyler!

 

Never a mystery to some, the location of Fort Maurepas has been speculated and debated about for many years by historians, archaeologists, and folklorists.  Schuyler Poitevent (1875-1936) who was born at Ocean Springs on October 12, 1875, probably contributed more to our knowledge about the old French fort than anyone.  As a boy growing up on the shining shores of the Bay of Biloxi he would explore the woods and beaches in the vicinity of his home which was built by Junius Poitevent (1837-1919), his entrepreneurial father in 1877.  The Poitevent Estate exists today at 309 Lover’s Lane and is now owned by Jeffrey Mavar.  It was reported that at the age of twelve, Schuyler found an arrowhead on the beach, which was the stimulus for his lifelong passion to collect French Colonial and Native American artifacts.  His collection is believed to have numbered over three thousand objects.  For his early interest in history and archaeology, young Schuyler Poitevent was elected a member of the Mississippi Historical Society in 1890. The only other coast member at this time was Varina Howell Davis (1826-1905), the widow of Jefferson Davis (1808-1889).(The Jackson County Times, October 17, 1936)

 

Schuyler’s life

Schuyler Poitevent (1875-1936) was educated at Tulane and the University of Virginia where he was awarded a gold medal for his essay "The Mysterious Music of the Pascagoulas".  His fraternity was Phi Delta Theta.  At Charlottesville, Virginia, Poitevent met Thomasia Overton Hancock (1879-1964) of nearby "Ellerslie Plantation" in Albemarle County.  They married in 1907, and moved to the Poitevent's Tampico ranch where they raised cattle and exported vegetables and fruit until the Mexican Revolution forced them to leave the country.  A son, Schuyler Poitevent Jr. (1911-1978), was born at Mexico in April 1911.(The Jackson County Times, October 17, 1936)

 

At Ocean Springs, Schuyler Poitevent lived the life of a country squire.  He was an amateur archaeologist, researcher and writer especially in the twilight years of his life.  It is believed that Mr. Poitevent wrote at least five, unpublished manuscripts titled:  Sehoy's BoyThree Tales of NatchezArmichelBroken Pot, and Pearls in Pottery.  The subject matter of his research and writing was early Mississippi Coast history from the early Spanish explorers to the land pirates of the 1850s.  These manuscripts, family images and documents, and letters and diaries are preserved at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, Mississippi.           

 

Biloxi Bay’s French ship and cargo

In 1892, more corroborative information that Fort Maurepas had been situated in the vicinity of the Lover’s Lane neighborhood of Ocean Springs was discovered in the shallow waters of Biloxi Bay.  Inhabitants of Ocean Springs were aware of a sunken vessel in Biloxi Bay as early as the 1850s. Circa 1933, Josephine Bowen Kettler (1846-1933), a resident of Lyman, Harrison County, Mississippi but indigenous to the Ocean Springs area where her father, the Reverend P.P. Bowen (1799-1881), was an early Baptist minister and pioneer citizen of the village, visited Schuyler Poitevent at his Lover’s Lane home, Bay View.

 

Mrs. Kettler during her visit related to Schuyler Poitevent her recollections of the small village of Ocean Springs where she was reared. Germane to this essay is the following commentary from Mrs. Kettler:  There was a place where we children used to go pick blackberries. It was a sort of clearing where there had once been an old fort and there were lots of old bricks scattered about, and cannon balls, and the blackberry vines grew as high as this. They had just the biggest sort of berries. They called it in those days, "Spanish Camp."

 

At this point, Schuyler Poitevent interrupts Mrs. Kettler and informs her that his estate is sometimes called the "Spanish Camp." Mrs. Kettler continues:  So this is the "Old Spanish Camp, is it? Well, it has changed, for in those days there were no homes here; we children when we could come to pick berries would sometimes wade on the beach, and there was an old cannon sticking breech up out there in the Bay and when the tide was out and the water low we could see it and we used to chuck at it and throw sticks and shells at it; and I guess it is out there yet. (Schuyler Poitevent, Broken Pot, (unpublished manuscript: Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Poitevent Collection), Chapter 7- "Biloxi Bay."

 

Although she was obviously unaware of preceding events that had occurred at Ocean Springs during her long absence, Mrs. Kettler’s guess about the shipwreck had been affirmed in August, 1892, when a "mystery ship" was come upon by a young oysterman, Henri Eugene Tiblier, Jr. (1866-1936), in the Bay of Biloxi, on an oyster reef known locally as "the rock pile."  The "rock pile" was located about a quarter mile in a southwest direction from the residence of retired railroad agent, Alonzo Sheldon (1832-1904). The old Sheldon home, once called "The Cedars," is now known as "Conamore. The Connor-Joachim family happily resides here today at 317-319 Lovers Lane. Coincidentally, "Conamore" is located just south of the Poitevent place.

 

 

Poitevent cannon-It is generally believed that this small naval artillery gun, whose tube is 4 ¼ feet long, and was located pre-Katrina in the small garden in the rear of the Poitevent-Mavar estate at 321 Lover’s Lane, was also taken off the sunken French supply ship situated on the "rock pile” in Biloxi Bay.  A collection of twelve cannon balls, ranging in diameter from 3 inches to 4 ½ inches are set in a cement block adjacent to the cannon.  Other families domiciled along the Biloxi Bay front of Lover’s Lane have found larger cannon balls and other French Colonial artifacts.[Image made February 1997 by Ray L. Bellande]

 

Shortly after the Tiblier find, The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, on September 23, 1892, reported the discovery of the sunken vessel as "A Mysterious Find."  The schooner, Maggie, owned by Jose ‘Pep’ Suarez (1840-1912), a Spanish immigrant residing in the Bayou Porto area of present day Gulf Hills, served as the salvage vessel for the Tiblier operations on the "rock pile."

 

A summary of the artifacts recovered during the 1892 salvage operation on the sunken vessel by the family of Captain Henri Eugene ‘TuTu’ Tiblier Sr. (1841-1930) follows: 

 

Ship

The sunken vessel was described as approximately 55 feet in length and probably 10 feet wide. It was constructed of oak and mahogany and in a fair state of preservation. No nails were found as the vessel was built with wooden pins.  Bolts used in the vessel’s iron work were made of copper.

 

 
French Cannon-This image depicts four of the cannon recovered by the Henri Eugene Tiblier family from the sunken wreck of a French Colonial age supply vessel situated in the Bay of Biloxi off Lover’s Lane.  These cannon barrels or tubes were situated in the yard of the Tiblier family on north Holley Street in Biloxi as late as April 1920 when Henri E. Tiblier Sr. approached Mayor John J. Kennedy about placing them on public display en plein air in Biloxi’s City Park.  Circa 1925, Anthony V. Ragusin of Biloxi’s Chamber of Commerce negotiated with the Tiblier family for a donation of the four cannon to the Biloxi Park Commission. At this time, they were set in concrete on East Beach Drive in the yard of the Biloxi Community Center just east of Main Street.  Possibly when the Villa Santa Maria was erected there following Hurricane Camille, the guns were moved across the street to WW II Veterans’ Park where they remain today with the Purple Heart and Vietnam memorials.

 

Artifacts recovered

Non-indigenous stones and boulders, which were probably ballasts for the vessel.  Some firm brick-8 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 1 3/8 inches thick.  A large number of iron braces—12 feet long, 2 ¼ inches wide, and ½ inch thick. A 9-inch diameter sheave with a one inch groove and block 12 inches, also a small one. Both made from different wood used at the time. A 12-inch block eye and others about half this size.  These indicate a vessel of large tonnage.  

 

Four cannons- One, 6-foot long bore with a 3 ½ inch muzzle in fair condition. "H.E. or F.O.S." are discernible and located about one foot from the vent.  A small amount of gunpowder was fired from the gun by the fisherman.  One 7-foot long bore with part of the hard wood, gun carriage attached to the right side.  Two, barrels each 4 feet in length with a 2 ½ inch bore and each badly eroded by rust.  Cannon balls: a 2 inch, 2 ½ inch, and 3 inch cannon ball were found.   

 

Muskets: Several muskets capable of firing a one-ounce lead ball were found. Their locks were described as very old fashioned, the nipple and vent perfect.   Gunpowder: A quantity of gunpowder in chunks located which retained its original odor.   Miscellaneous objects: a water cask, bung stopper made of several thicknesses of woolen cloth and a scabbard of an officer’s sword which retained much of its original shape.(The Pascagoula Democrat Star, September 23, 1892, p.2 and The Biloxi Herald, September 24, 1892, p. 1)

 

Unfortunately, very little of the salvaged objects from the sunken ship in Biloxi bay remain today. The most visible are the four, oxidizing cannons formerly embedded in concrete at the Villa Santa Maria on East Beach Boulevard at Biloxi. They were placed here before 1931, when the Biloxi Community House stood on this site.  These cannon were removed from their Villa Santa Maria venue and placed across US 90 in the Purple Heart Memorial at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

 

Another interesting facet of this story was the cannon in the yard of the Poitevent home on the Fort Point peninsula. It is generally believed that this small naval artillery gun, whose tube is 4 feet and 3 inches long, and was located pre-Katrina in the small garden in the rear of the Poitevent-Mavar estate at 321 Lovers Lane, was also taken off the "rock pile." A collection of twelve cannon balls, ranging in diameter from 3 inches to 4 ½ inches are set in a cement block adjacent to the cannon.  Anecdotal family history states that the weapon was set up in the Poitevent garden in 1892, and fired in celebration of the results of the 1896 presidential election. The resulting explosion caused windows in the Poitevent home to shatter. They were replaced by new panes brought from New Orleans (Personal Observation-measurements and sketches made by Ray L. Bellande-February, 1997 and The Daily Herald, May 5, 1970, p. 15)

 

The Sun Herald and The Mississippi Press in late January 1997 announced that the Senate of Mississippi voted to appropriate $50,000 to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. This money is to fund research to determine if a sunken 18th Century vessel, located in Jackson County waters just off the shoreline of Ocean Springs, belonged to the 1698-1699 fleet of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. In addition, some of the money will be spent to estimate the cost to salvage the derelict, if warranted.(The Sun Herald, January 27, 1997, p. 1-C and The Mississippi Press,  January 27, 1997, p. 8-A)

 

This author has researched some of the locally available French Colonial period literature to determine what could be found concerning the sunken ship or ships in Biloxi Bay. The results of this survey are presented as follows:

 

By now we should all be familiar with the founding of Fort Maurepas at present day Ocean Springs by a French expeditionary force led by Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville (1661-1706). D’Iberville, A French Canadian naval officer, reconnoitered the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico during the fall and winter of 1698-1699, and established Fort Maurepas (1699-1702) in early April 1699.

 

This French beachhead at present day Ocean Springs did not fulfill the aspiration of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683), the Minister of Finance and Marine, under King Louis XIV (1643-1715). Colbert wanted a French port on the Mexican Gulf to harass Spanish territories providing mineral wealth to that nation.(Dunbar Rowland, The History of Mississippi, The Heart of the South, Volume 1, (S.J. Clarke Publishing Company: Chicago-Jackson: 1925) , p. 126)

 

Fort Maurepas, called Biloxey, did assert some Gallic authority to protect the 1682 French claim, "La Louisiane," of explorer René Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687). This was especially evident when Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville (1680-1768) rejected the Carolina Galley, an English corvette from Carolina, carrying Huguenot colonists up the Mississippi River. The locale of the French denial of these colonists is known as English Turn.(Charles J. Dufour, Ten Flags in the Wind, (Harper & Row: New York-1967), pp. 48-49)

 

In addition to providing a base and staging area for the regional exploration of "La Louisiane", Fort de La Boulaye (1700) and Fort Louis de La Louisiane (Old Mobile-1701) were founded from Biloxey.

 

By the end of the 17th Century, the European wars of Louis XIV were subsiding somewhat in Europe, and Louis Phelypeaux, Comte de Pontchartrain, now Minister of Marine, selected Canadian warrior and hero, Le Moyne d’Iberville, to locate the mouth of the Great River, missed by the ill-fated 1684 expedition of La Salle. Iberville was charged to fortify the Mississippi against Spanish and English incursions into the heart of North America.(Charles J. Dufour, Ten Flags in the Wind, (Harper & Row: New York-1967), p. 35)

 

The 1698-1699 Gulf expeditionary force of d’Iberville to "La Louisiane" consisted of five ships, not three, as generally reported in our local journals. These vessels were: La Badine, a thirty-two gun royal frigate which served as the flagship of d’Iberville; Le Marin, a thirty-eight gun frigate commanded by La Rochefoucault de Surgeres; Le Francois, a fifty-eight gun frigate that convoyed the smaller vessels from Saint-Dominique (Haiti) under the command of Marquis Joubert de Chateaumorant et de la Bastide; Le Precieuse, a royal traversier or freighter, and Le Voyager, a smaller traversier.(Carl A Brasseaux, Lafayette, Louisiana-1981, pp. 5-7.

 

It is known with a high degree of certitude that the three frigates of d’Iberville’s fleet were not able to sail without jeopardy into the Mississippi Sound because of their deep draft. They remained for the most part in or near the deep water Ship Island anchorage located on the northwest quadrant of the barrier island. Practically all of the coastal, estuarine, and river exploration by d’Iberville’s expeditionary force was conducted in the shallower draft craft, i.e., the traversiers, chaloupes, biscayennes, feloques, and birchbark canoes. Except for the traversiers, the other boats were carried aboard the larger frigates until needed.(Mississippi Coast History & Genealogical Society, Volume 32, No. 1, p. 5-6)

 

 

 
Poitevent Place-This vintage and amazing image was made September 21, 1909, the day after a Category 4 hurricane hit the Mississippi Coast after its earlier landfall at Grand Isle, Louisiana.  The Poitevent Place is located at present day 309 Lovers Lane and owned by Jeffrey Mavar.  Fort Maurepas, the 1699 French beachhead, in the lower Mississippi Valley, is believed to have been erected on or near the Poitevent-Mavar home by inference from French Colonial maps and artifacts found on the property.  The sunken French freighter in Biloxi's Back Bay is situated about 1/4 miles south of the residence.  Some historians believe that Fort Maurepas was destroyed by the erosion by prior hurricanes of the high bluff that it was erected.  This postulation is reenforced by this image which depicts large trees being destroyed from the undercutting of the bluff by erosive forces created by high wave action from the September 1909 tempest.[This image is in the Poitevent Family Collection at MDAH in Jackson, Mississippi]

 

With this background, let us examine an event that transpired at Fort Maurepas in January 1700. Historians, for the most part, generally agree that this French outpost was located at present day Ocean Springs on the Fort Point peninsula. In particular, the fort site is proposed north of the L&N railroad bridge on the Junius Poitevent (1837-1919) estate, now the estate of Jeffrey Mavar at present day 309 Lovers Lane. (Peter J. Hamilton, Colonial Mobile, (reprint Heritage Books Inc.: Bowie, Maryland-1991), pp. 45-46)

 

Commandant Monsieur de Sauvole (c. 1671-1701), the French ensign who was appointed by Iberville to command the eighty odd men who remained at Fort Maurepas after his departure in May, 1699, reported in his journal on January 12, 1700, the following:  Returning from the ships of M. d’Iberville, where I have been to receive the orders, we have noticed, before having put to land, our little traversier on fire, which was impossible to extinguish, being already too advanced, besides this, there were several barrels of powder, which, in a little time have had their usual effect.  This accident has been caused by two bunglers who having been to work on board, have left there a lighted fuse which has occasioned this loss; I am inconsolable, because of the need we had of it. (Jay Higginbotham, The Journal of Sauvole, (Colonial Books:  Mobile, Alabama), p. 41.

 

Inhabitants of Ocean Springs were aware of a sunken vessel in Biloxi Bay as early as the 1850s.  Circa 1933, Josephine Bowen Kettler (1845-1933), a resident of Lyman, but indigenous to the Ocean Springs area where her father, the Reverend P.P. Bowen (1799-1881), was an early Baptist minister and pioneer citizen of the village, visited the son of Junius Poitevent, Schuyler Poitevent (1875-1936), at his home, Bay View. Fort Maurepas, as previously mentioned, is believed to have been formerly located on the Poitevent Estate. Mr. Schuyler Poitevent lived quietly on the Bay of Biloxi with his small family. Here he wrote fiction, historical books, collected artifacts, and was a serious student of French Colonial history of the area. 

 

Mrs. Kettler during her visit related to Schuyler Poitevent her recollections of the small village of Ocean Springs where she was reared. Germane to this report is the following commentary from Mrs. Kettler:  There was a place where we children used to go pick blackberries. It was a sort of clearing where there had once been an old fort and there were lots of old bricks scattered about, and cannon balls, and the blackberry vines grew as high as this. They had just the biggest sort of berries. They called it in those days, "Spanish Camp."

         

At this point, Schuyler Poitevent interrupts Mrs. Kettler and informs her that his estate is sometimes called the "Spanish Camp." Mrs. Kettler continues:  “So this is the "Old Spanish Camp, is it? Well, it has changed, for in those days there were no homes here; we children when we could come to pick berries would sometimes wade on the beach, and there was an old cannon sticking breech up out there in the Bay and when the tide was out and the water low we could see it and we used to chuck at it and throw sticks and shells at it; and I guess it is out there yet.”(Schuyler Poitevent, Broken Pot, (unpublished manuscript:  Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Poitevent Collection), Chapter 7- “Biloxi Bay.”)

        

Although she was obviously unaware of preceding events that had occurred at Ocean Springs during her long absence, Mrs. Kettler’s guess about the shipwreck had been affirmed in August, 1892, when a "mystery ship" was come upon by a young oysterman, Henri Eugene Tiblier, Jr. (1866-1936), in the Bay of Biloxi, on an oyster reef known locally as "the rock pile."  The "rock pile" was located about a quarter mile in a southwest direction from the residence of retired railroad agent, Alonzo Sheldon (1832-1904). The old Sheldon home, once called "The Cedars," is now known as "Conamore. The Connor-Joachim family happily resides here today at 317-319 Lovers Lane. Coincidentally, "Conamore" is located just south of the Poitevent place.(Ray L. Bellande, Ocean Springs, The Way We Were:  1900-1950, (Ocean Springs Rotary Club:  Ocean Springs, Mississippi-1996, p. 93)

 

Donald L. "Pat" Connor (1912-1982), and his wife, Ethelyn MacKenzie Schaffner Connor (1918-2013), have long been an integral part of the efforts to preserve the history, culture, and environment of Ocean Springs. In this manner, their names are associated with the following: Fort Maurepas Society, Jackson County Tercentennial Commission, Ocean Springs Centennial Commission, Ocean Springs Genealogical Society, 1699 Historical Committee, and Societe Des Arbres.

 

In July 1973, the Connors, unlike several residents on Lovers Lane, allowed archaeologists from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to conduct excavations at Conamore. Trenching was done in an attempt to locate the remains of Fort Maurepas. Although not successful in finding the fort, the archaeological survey did reveal a large feature. Radio carbon dating of charred posts from the structure indicated it to be 1755 AD, (plus or minus 55 years) in age. Several faience shards, gun flints, and a colonial brick were discovered on the Connor property.  In addition, Mrs. Ethelyn Connor has three seven pound cannon balls that were found by her sons on the beach in front of her home.(Elbert R. Hilliard,  “The Establishment of the Fort Maurepas Historical Site:  A Report From The Board of Trustees of the Department of Archives and History,” January 1974, pp. 6-7 and Ethelyn Connor to Ray L. Bellande-July, 1992.

 

With this background, let us examine an event that transpired at Fort Maurepas in January 1700. Historians, for the most part, generally agree that this French outpost was located at present day Ocean Springs on the Fort Point peninsula. In particular, the fort site is proposed north of the L&N railroad bridge on the Junius Poitevent (1837-1919) estate, now the estate of Jeffrey Mavar at present day 309 Lovers Lane. (Peter J. Hamilton, Colonial Mobile, (reprint Heritage Books Inc.: Bowie, Maryland-1991), pp. 45-46)

 

Commandant Monsieur de Sauvole (c. 1671-1701), the French ensign who was appointed by Iberville to command the eighty odd men who remained at Fort Maurepas after his departure in May, 1699, reported in his journal on January 12, 1700, the following:  Returning from the ships of M. d’Iberville, where I have been to receive the orders, we have noticed, before having put to land, our little traversier on fire, which was impossible to extinguish, being already too advanced, besides this, there were several barrels of powder, which, in a little time have had their usual effect.  This accident has been caused by two bunglers who having been to work on board, have left there a lighted fuse which has occasioned this loss; I am inconsolable, because of the need we had of it. (Jay Higginbotham, The Journal of Sauvole, (Colonial Books:  Mobile, Alabama), p. 41.

 

Inhabitants of Ocean Springs were aware of a sunken vessel in Biloxi Bay as early as the 1850s.  Circa 1933, Josephine Bowen Kettler (1845-1933), a resident of Lyman, but indigenous to the Ocean Springs area where her father, the Reverend P.P. Bowen (1799-1881), was an early Baptist minister and pioneer citizen of the village, visited the son of Junius Poitevent, Schuyler Poitevent (1875-1936), at his home, Bay View. Fort Maurepas, as previously mentioned, is believed to have been formerly located on the Poitevent Estate. Mr. Schuyler Poitevent lived quietly on the Bay of Biloxi with his small family. Here he wrote fiction, historical books, collected artifacts, and was a serious student of French Colonial history of the area. 

 

Mrs. Kettler during her visit related to Poitevent her recollections of the small village of Ocean Springs where she was reared. Germane to this report is the following commentary from Mrs. Kettler:  There was a place where we children used to go pick blackberries. It was a sort of clearing where there had once been an old fort and there were lots of old 2bricks scattered about, and cannon balls, and the blackberry vines grew as high as this. They had just the biggest sort of berries. They called it in those days, "Spanish Camp."

         

At this point, Schuyler Poitevent interrupts Mrs. Kettler and informs her that his estate is sometimes called the "Spanish Camp." Mrs. Kettler continues:  “So this is the "Old Spanish Camp, is it? Well, it has changed, for in those days there were no homes here; we children when we could come to pick berries would sometimes wade on the beach, and there was an old cannon sticking breech up out there in the Bay and when the tide was out and the water low we could see it and we used to chuck at it and throw sticks and shells at it; and I guess it is out there yet.”(Schuyler Poitevent, Broken Pot, (unpublished manuscript:  Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Poitevent Collection), Chapter 7- “Biloxi Bay.”)

        

Biloxi’s Back Bay-This early 20th century image was made as a commercial postcard depicting Back Bay, the L&N RR bridge and Deer Island.  The gentleman seated with his servant in atendance is believed to be Alonzo D. Shelton (1832-1903), a retired railroad agent and native of Herkimer County, New York.  Colonel Shelton had an orange grove at the mouth of Old Fort Bayou and lived at The Cedars, now called Conamore, present day 317-319 Lover’s Lane, from 1889 until his demise in 1903.  From his vista on Back Bay, Colonel Sheldon was in the general area where many local historic events have occurred: Fort Maurepas [1699-1702] also called Biloxy; Vieux Biloxy [1719-1721]; and the sunken French freighter [circa 1722].  When will someone discover the graves of the early French and Canadian settlers here or has this and other colonial relicts been destroyed by the erosive forces of storms and hurricanes? 

 

Although she was obviously unaware of preceding events that had occurred at Ocean Springs during her long absence, Mrs. Kettler’s guess about the shipwreck had been affirmed in August, 1892, when a "mystery ship" was come upon by a young oysterman, Henri Eugene Tiblier, Jr. (1866-1936), in the Bay of Biloxi, on an oyster reef known locally as "the rock pile."  The "rock pile" was located about a quarter mile in a southwest direction from the residence of retired railroad agent, Alonzo Sheldon (1832-1904). The old Sheldon home, once called "The Cedars," is now known as "Conamore. The Connor-Joachim family happily resides here today at 317-319 Lovers Lane. Coincidentally, "Conamore" is located just south of the Poitevent place.(Ray L. Bellande, Ocean Springs, The Way We Were:  1900-1950, (Ocean Springs Rotary Club:  Ocean Springs, Mississippi-1996, p. 93)

 

Donald L. "Pat" Connor (1912-1982), and his wife, Ethelyn MacKenzie Schaffner Connor (1918-2013), have long been an integral part of the efforts to preserve the history, culture, and environment of Ocean Springs. In this manner, their names are associated with the following: Fort Maurepas Society, Jackson County Tercentennial Commission, Ocean Springs Centennial Commission, Ocean Springs Genealogical Society, 1699 Historical Committee, and Societe Des Arbres.

 

In July 1973, the Connors, unlike several residents on Lovers Lane, allowed archaeologists from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to conduct excavations at Conamore. Trenching was done in an attempt to locate the remains of Fort Maurepas. Although not successful in finding the fort, the archaeological survey did reveal a large feature. Radio carbon dating of charred posts from the structure indicated it to be 1755 AD, (plus or minus 55 years) in age. Several faience shards, gun flints, and a colonial brick were discovered on the Connor property.  In addition, Mrs. Ethelyn Connor has three seven pound cannon balls that were found by her sons on the beach in front of her home.(Elbert R. Hillliard,  “The Establishment of the Fort Maurepas Historical Site:  A Report From The Board of Trustees of the Department of Archives and History,” January 1974, pp. 6-7 and Ethelyn Connor to Ray L. Bellande-July, 1992)

 

Unfortunately, very little of the salvaged objects from the sunken ship remain today. The most visible are the four, oxidizing cannons embedded in concrete at the Villa Santa Maria on East Beach Boulevard at Biloxi. They were placed here before 1931, when the Biloxi Community House stood on this site.

 

Martha Tiblier Eleuterius (1919-2001) of Biloxi related anecdotes told to her by Numa I. Tiblier (1886-1965), her father, and Henri Eugene "TuTu" Tiblier Sr., her grandfather, concerning the sunken vessel. She relates that Captain Martin Van Buren Green (1842-1929) of Biloxi would sail his large catboat with tourists aboard to the Tiblier cottage on the Bay of Biloxi west of Bayou Porto. Captain Tiblier gave away most of the smaller artifacts, primarily French bricks, swords, and cannon balls, which had been brought from beneath the murky bay waters by his sons, Albert Tiblier (1869-1953) and Vital Tiblier (1875-1932), to these strangers who were naturally enamored with them. She does not remember the disposition of the yard arm brought from the sunken craft.

 

Mrs. Eleuterius also tells that TuTu Tiblier would fire the cannons in his yard using the salvaged 18th Century gunpowder. She remembers a tale about another derelict vessel submerged in Biloxi Bay off Grand Bayou, north of Deer Island. Several bronze cannons are believed to have been found by a Captain Fountain and sold at New Orleans for scrap metal.    In regard to the "rock pile" derelict, Martha T. Eleuterius says that the only other person to her knowledge to dive on the wreck was Joe Agregaard, who brought up only wood in his 1950s attempt. (Personal Communication:  Martha T. Eleuterius to Ray L. Bellande-February, 1997)

 

Another interesting facet of this story is the cannon in the yard of the Poitevent home on the Fort Point peninsula. It is generally believed that this small naval artillery gun, whose tube is 4 feet and 3 inches long, and is located in the small garden in the rear of the Junius Poitevent estate at 321 Lovers Lane, was also taken off the "rock pile." A collection of twelve cannon balls, ranging in diameter from 3 inches to 4 ½ inches are set in a cement block adjacent to the cannon.(Personal Observation: Measurements and sketches made by Ray L. Bellande-February, 1997)

 

Anecdotal family history states that the weapon was set up in the Poitevent garden in 1892, and fired in celebration of the results of the 1896 presidential election. The resulting explosion caused windows in the Poitevent home to shatter.  They were replaced by new panes brought from New Orleans.(The Daily Herald, “A Developed Beautiful Garden,” May 5, 1970, p. 15)

 

 The theory most often proposed by historians as to the origin of the sunken vessel on the "rock pile" in Biloxi Bay is that it was a victim of the Hurricane of September 1722. Jean-Baptiste Bernard de la Harpe, a French soldier who served in the Louisiana Colony from1718 until 1723, kept a journal during his tenure here. He wrote on September 11, 1722: A hurricane began in the morning, which lasted until the 16th. The winds came from the southeast passing to the south and then to the southwest. The hurricane caused the destruction of beans, corn and more than 8,000 quarts of rice ready to be harvested. It destroyed most of the houses in New Orleans with the exception of a warehouse built by M. Pauger. The warehouse of Fort Louis (present day Biloxi) containing a large quantity of supplies, was overturned to the great satisfaction of its keepers. The accident freed them from rendering their accounts.

 

The Espiduel, three freighters, and almost all of the boats, launches, and piroques perished. The Neptuneand the Santo-Cristo, which had been repaired according to the orders of the commissioners, were entirely put out of service. A large supply of artillery, lead, and meats which had been for a long time in a pincre, were lost near old Biloxi (Ocean Springs). The French had neglected to unload the ship for more than a year. They were also worried about the three ships anchored at Ship Island and the Dromadaire, which had been sent to New Orleans loaded with a supply of pine wood, which would have cost the company more than 100,000 livres. (Jean-Baptiste Bernard de la Harpe, 1971, pp. 214-215)

 

Laville Bremer suggests that the "terrible equinoctial storm" of 1723 (sic) as the cause of the sinking of the "rock pile" boat. He obviously acquired anecdotal history at Biloxi when describing the disposition of several vessels believed to have been victims of the 1722 storm. Bremer wrote: The largest of the vessels that went down lay in the sound between Deer Island and what is now Ocean Springs. The smallest lay near the mouth of Bayou Bosard* on the east shore of the Bay, and the one from which these cannons were removed lay farther in, northeast from the Louisville and Nashville railroad bridge about sixteen hundred feet from shore in a fathom of water.  Salvage work had been attempted on the larger of the three which yielded some eight foot iron cannons, a small bronze cannon, pig lead and little else.  The smallest had long since disappeared and become only a memory among the older people. It had been made of mahogany and its valuable boards were gradually made use of.(Bremer, 1931, p. 34)

 

 *The location of Bayou Bosard is uncertain to the author as this nomenclature is not in current use.  The small bayou that was dredged and made into the Ocean Springs small craft harbor has been referred to in the past as:  Bayou Bauzage and Mill Dam Bayou.

       

[to be continued]