Interesting Things

By Ray L. Bellande

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Old Fort Bayou: Ferries & Bridges (1875 - 2002)

 

Old Fort Bayou

Old Fort Bayou is a perennial stream located in western Jackson County,

Mississippi, between the watersheds of the Tchoutacabouffa River on the west and Bluff Creek to the east.  The source of Old Fort Bayou is situated in Section 15, T6S-R8W north of Seaman Road and northwest of the Fort Bayou Baptist Church.  The stream flows southeast and south before turning southwest as it passes beneath I-10. 

On its way to brackish tidewater in the Back Bay of Biloxi, Old Fort Bayou gently flows a distance of about 12-15 miles.  Its drainage area is estimated to be about 25,000 acres with Bayou Talla being its largest tributary. 

Old Fort Bayou has a maximum width of 1000 feet north of Ocean Springs, but generally ranges between 250 and 350 feet from its mouth at Back Bay for a distance upstream of about 2-3 miles.  At the ferry landing and bridge sites on the south shore, the bayou has a width of about three hundred feet and is not fordable.

 

FERRIES

           

 

Fort Bayou Ferry (pre-1901)

 

It is known with a high degree of certitude that there was a ferry across Old Fort Bayou as early as March 1875, since Ferdinand W. Illing (1838-1884) was known to have been in charge of maintaining the road at Ocean Springs “from the ferry on Old Fort Bayou to the beach down Washington Street”.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisor’s Minute Bk. 1, p. 3)

 

Antonio M. Franco

The earliest recorded ferry operation across Old Fort Bayou was run by Captain Antonio M. Franco (1834-1891).  It was a flat boat large enough for drayage animals and their burden and operated by a hand pulled rope.(The Daily Picayune, July 24, 1892, p. 12)

Antonio M. Franco was born on April 11, 1834 at Lisbon, Portugal.  He went to sea at the age of eleven and ended his maritime commercial ventures after the Civil War.  Franco then began several land based enterprises.(The Biloxi Herald, April 4, 1891, p. 1)

It was during his schooner based trading years, probably out of New Orleans that he met Genevieve Rodriguez (1844-1915), called Jane, at Bayou Puerto.  She was the daughter of Juan Antonio Rodriguez (1812-1867) and Marie-Marthe Ryan (1822-1885+).

The Francos were married circa 1858, and resided at Bayou Puerto on the Rodriguez tract, Governmental Lot 5, Section 13, T7S-R9W, until January 1871, when they began acquiring land from George Allen Cox (1811-1887) in Ocean Springs, on Old Fort Bayou west of Washington Avenue.  Here and on Bayou Puerto, the Francos reared a large family consisting of eight children: John J. Franco (1859-1935), Lillie F. Geiger (1863-1905), Charlotte F. Cochran (1864-1939), Joanna F. Ruppel (1865-1903), Thomas Franco (1869-1951+), Francis A. Franco (1871-1935), Anthony Franco (1878-1939+) and Walter E. Franco (1883-1939+).

By January 1874, Antonio and Jane Franco had spent $850 for approximately 2.52 acres on Washington Avenue and Old Fort Bayou.  Here they erected their home, which is extant as a part of the Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant complex on Washington Avenue.  The re-recorded warranty deed from Cox to Franco is important as it includes the location of the Daniel Goss store and the Moeling House, both which existed here in the 1850s.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 11, p. 28)

 

Daniel Goss

Daniel Goss (1815-1855+), a Dane, and his German born spouse, Katharina B. Goos (1829-1851+) had come to Ocean Springs with their children, Daniel Goos (b. 1847), Barbara Goos (b. 1848), and Ellen Goos (b. 1849), after a short residency at Biloxi.  On February 27, 1850, they had acquired in Biloxi, from Louise Alexandrine Leocade Hatrel Fourchy and Alexandre Fourchy of New Orleans for $2500, the property at present day 138 Magnolia Street.  The Creole Cottage now situated here is known as Mary Mahoney’s Old French House.(HARCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 5, p. 256)  

In January 1851, the Goos family sold their Biloxi residence to Samuel Friedlander of New Orleans and moved to Ocean Springs.  The selling price at this time was $5000.  It would appear the Biloxi home was built by Goos and sold to Friedlander.  Basis for this postulation is the doubling of the property value and that Kendall brick was used in its construction.  The Kendall Brickyard existed from 1849-1854 at Back Bay (now D’Iberville).(HARCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 5, pp. 480-481) 

At Ocean Springs on Washington Avenue, Daniel Goos invested his money in the mercantile business as he advertised in The Ocean Springs Gazette of March 24, 1855, as follows:

 

D. Goos, Dry Goods and Produce Merchant

Keep constantly on hand a large and well selected assortment of dry goods, groceries, tin ware, crockery, hardware, cutlery, medicines, boots, shoes, clothing, (several items illegible), carpenter's tools, school and blank books, saddles, bridles, trunks, etc.  The above assortment will be sold at New Orleans prices. (March 3, 1855,p. 4)

 

            Daniel Goos also owned land and probably resided in the present day Alto Park area of Ocean Springs, which is now bounded by General Pershing, Kensington, and Ward.  General Pershing Avenue was called Goos Avenue until its German sounding name came into disfavor during the years of World War I (1914-1918).  It was only logical to replace this Teutonic nomenclature with that of the American general from Missouri who led our American Expeditionary Force in Europe during the Great War, General John Joseph Pershing (1860-1948).

           

Frederick G. Moeling

The other landmark on the Franco tract on Old Fort Bayou was the domicile of Frederick G. Moeling who was postmaster at Ocean Springs from December 1854 until December 1856.  It is assumed that the post office, the first bearing the name “Ocean Springs”, was situated in his Washington Avenue cottage.

 

Whiskey and water

Antonio Franco’s land base commerce consisted of a barroom and ferry landing on Old Fort Bayou.  He and F.W. Illing (1838-1884), who was the proprietor of the Illing House, a large hostel on Washington and Porter, had applied to the Board of Police for a license to retail vinous and spirituous liquors in Ocean Springs, as early as April 1875.  In August 1882, it was determined by the Board of Supervisors that Mr. Franco pay an annual privilege tax of  $5.00 as his total income from ferriage did not exceed $200 each year.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 1, p. 6 and p. 334)

By March 1887, the Franco saloon had moved from its site on Old Fort Bayou, to what is now the southwest corner of Washington Avenue and Robinson.  Franco’s son-in-law, Thomas A. Cochran (1852-1883), a local house carpenter and Mobile native, had acquired a 1.25 acre lot here in July 1878, from E.W. Clark of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for $140.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 2, p. 188 and JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 5, pp. 622-623) 

It is postulated that with the construction of the White House, a grocery store cum bar, and the VanCleave Hotel, both on Robinson opposite the L&N Depot in the late 1870s and 1880 respectively, that the thirsty tourists and drummers (salesman) were being entertained near the depot.  To stay competitive, Antonio Franco had to relocate his bar business near the L&N operations.  On Old Fort Bayou, he was literally, “on the wrong side of the tracks”.

Circa 1880, Thomas A. Cochran erected a Greek Revival cottage at present day 900 Robinson Avenue, often referred to as the Cochran-Cassanova House.  A two-story, frame structure was also erected on the Cochran tract.  It was situated on the southwest corner of Washington and Robinson and was known as Franco’s Saloon.  In a forced heirship case, heard by the JXCO, Ms. Chancery Court, in February 1896, a portion of the Cochran tract was described as “being the same lot or parcel of land, which stands the two-story frame building formerly occupied by A. Franco, now deceased, as a barroom or saloon”.(JXCO, Ms. Chancery Court Cause No. 675, “Mrs. Charlotte F. Cochran v. Thomas A. Cochran et al”

After Antonio Franco’s demise, his son, Thomas Franco operated the saloon.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisor Minute Bk. 2, p. 493)

In March 1897, Commissioner Frank H. Lewis sold the Cochran saloon lot (120 by 80 feet) to George E. Arndt (1857-1945) for $1250.  This became Mr. Arndt’s renown Paragon Saloon.  Arndt had previously operated a barroom in the White House with his brother-in-law, Emile Engbarth (1855-ca 1905), as early as March 1883.  At the time of Arndt’s proprietorship, the White House was owned by Antonio Marie (1829-1885), Antonio Franco’s brother-in-law.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 18, pp. 140-141 and JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 1, p. 358)

 

Pontoon Bridge talk

As early as the winter of 1891, a bridge across Old Fort Bayou was being seriously considered.  The Jackson County Board of Supervisors in late January 1891, let an $800 contract for the construction of a causeway and other necessary work prior to the erection of a pontoon bridge across the bayou.  By mid-February 1891, The Biloxi Herald related that, “work will be commenced on the new bridge across Fort Bayou within the next few months….it will be of a very substantial character”.(The Biloxi Herald, February 7 and February 15, 1891, p. 1)

By mid-April 1891, bridge building materials were in place for the long anticipated span across Fort Bayou.  The operation to elevate and widen the north end of Washington Avenue through the marsh beyond the ferry landing was advancing at a acceptable pace.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, April 17, 1891, p. 2)

           

Captain Franco passes

In mid-February 1891, The Biloxi Herald reported that Captain Antonio M. Franco had been very ill for three weeks, but was showing signs of making a recovery.  Unfortunately, he expired on March 14, 1891 and his corporal remains were interred in the Evergreen Cemetery on Old Fort Bayou.(The Biloxi Herald, February 15, 1891, p. 1)

           

Mrs. Franco’s ferry

After her husbands demise, Jane R. Franco continued in the business of transporting people, animals, and freight across Old Fort Bayou at Ocean Springs.  The anticipated pontoon bridge was never built.

 

Parker Earle & Sons-ferry-farming and timber

In the fall of 1891, Parker Earle (1831-1917), and his sons, Franklin S. Earle (1856-1929) and Charles T. Earle (1861-1901), commenced their own ferryboat service across Old Fort Bayou to improve their business operations north of Ocean Springs.  Washington Avenue was shelled to the Earle ferry landing at the head of this main artery on Old Fort Bayou.(The Biloxi Herald, November 14, 1891, p. 8)

Parker Earle, a native of Vermont, was a renowned horticulturist who discovered Ocean Springs while serving as the Chief of the Horticultural Division of the Cotton Centennial and World's Exposition at New Orleans in 1884-1885. 

At Dwight, Illinois in 1855, Mr. Earle met and married Melanie Tracy (1837-1889), a native of Rochester, Ohio.  Mrs. Earle was an accomplished journalist having worked at various times for the Chicago InterOcean, the Rural New Yorker, and other northern newspapers.  The Earles were residing at Cobden, Union County, Illinois raising apples, peaches, and strawberries, when they relocated here and settled on the Fort Point Peninsula, now popularly called Lovers Lane. 

The Earles’ daughter, Mary Tracey Earle Horne  (1864-1955), like her brilliant mother, became a fine writer.  Miss Earle’s literary works were published in Scribner’s, Leslie’s, and other magazines of the day.  Books by Mary Tracy Earle prior to her marriage in 1906 to William Titus Horne, whom she moved to California with in 1909, were: The Wonderful Wheel(1896); The Man Who Worked For Collister (1898); Through Old Rose Glasses (1900); and Flag on the Hilltop (1902). The Jackson County Times, December 9, 1917 and Earle, 1902, pp. viii-xiv)

 

Hellmuth-Grinstead

After Melanie Tracey Earle died at Ocean Springs of heart disease in 1889, Parker Earle married a young, Ohio born, widow, Agnes Louise Cooke Hellmuth (1862-1919) at Benton Harbor, Michigan in 1890.  She had been married to a Canadian, Gustavos Stewart Hellmuth.  The Hellmuths had two children born in Canada, Agnes Marjorie Hellmuth (1882-1933) and Gustavos Theodore Helmuth (1884-1975).  Marjorie Hellmuth would marry William Wade Grinstead (1864-1948), a Chicago attorney, of Kentucky birth.  In 1905, the Grinsteads purchased Lewis Sha, a West Indian styled plantation home built by A.E. Lewis in 1854 on the Mississippi Sound at Gautier.  They renamed it Oldfields.  At Oldfields, two of the Grinstead daughters, Patricia Grinstead (1906-1973) and Agnes Grinstead (1909-1991) met and would marry two of the Anderson boys from Ocean Springs, Peter Anderson (1901-1984) and Walter "Bob" I. Anderson (1903-1965).  These talented young artists with their brother, James McConnell “Mac” Anderson (1907-1998), would build the Shearwater Pottery (1928) into an internationally recognized art complex.(History of JXCO, Ms., 1989, pp. 234-235)

 

Earle-Rose-Money Farm

Quite the entrepreneurs, the Earle family commenced an enterprise in Jackson County, Mississippi called The Winter Park Land Improvement and Live Stock Company.  Through this vehicle, Parker Earle bought large tracts of undeveloped land in Jackson County.  At the zenith of its land holdings, this company owned over 15,000 acres primarily in the southwest area of the county.  Earle's interest in horticulture lead to the development of a commercial farm, the Earle Farm, about two and one half miles north of Ocean Springs.  Here they cultivated and packed vast quantities of Concord, Delaware, White Niagara, Herbemont, and Ives Seedling grapes, LeConte pears, peaches, and tomatoes for shipment.  Pre-1897, the Earle family had financial difficulties and had lost most of their Jackson County holdings.  In 1897, Joseph Benson Rose (1841-1902), a New York entrepreneur, acquired the Earle Farm.  The Rose Farm was sold in 1909 to H.D. Money (1869-1936), the son of Senator Hernando Desoto Money (1839-1912).  The elder Money was a lawyer, planter, soldier, Congressman, and U.S. Senator.  He was born at Holmes County, Mississippi on August 26, 1839. 

 

Reporter Catherine Cole of The New Orleans Daily Picayune reported the following romantic description of the Old Fort Bayou ferry and Earle farm on July 24, 1892:

 

From Ocean Springs to Biloxi there is a most charming woodland drive of six miles.  You must cross the Bayou Fort in that wide-prowed, prosaic ferry that will persist in looking picturesque as it floats over the steel-gray unrumpled waters, holding their everlasting portrait of pine and rushes.  And then the horse ambled up the yellow hill under an arcade of loblollies, giving out their violet-like scent as the west wind bruises the long green needles, and you come in time to the Parker Earle vineyard, where grape gatherers are stepping by, holding on their shoulders huge round baskets filled with purple bloomy clusters, where, under a long shed at long benches, half a hundred young girls, scissors in hand, are a work placing the bunches into baskets for shipment to that fabulous Chicago of those riches and World's Fair, perhaps, they dream as they work.

 

In addition to their commercial farm, the Earles in partnership with V.R. Holladay owned a sawmill, the Winter Park Lumber Company, which was located a mile to the north of their agricultural operation in the N/2 of the SE/4 of Section 6, T7S-R8W.  It was operating in a virgin forest, which had escaped the charcoal burners.  Just after the mill was set up and begin sawing timber, V.R. Holladay withdrew from the company dissolving the mutual partnership.(The Biloxi Herald, July 11, 1891, p. 4 and The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, July 24, 1891, p. 2)

 

The Ocean Springs Lumber Company

When their logging and sawing operations were completed north of the Earle farm, the Winter Park Lumber Company moved to a site about one mile from Ocean Springs, on Old Fort Bayou.  In late October 1891, Mr. Earle and M.L. Ansley of Bay St. Louis had purchased from F.M. Weed (1850-1926), the “Yankee Mayor” of Ocean Springs, for $1500, a mill site of about thirty-three acres on the south side of Fort Bayou, in the E/2 of the E/2 of Section 19, T7S-R8W.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 13, pp. 75-76) 

Here, in November 1891, the vicinity of the present day Millsite Subdivision off Vermont Avenue, Winter Park set up their mill, planer, and other appurtenances.  The name of the new Earle saw milling endeavor with M.L. Ansley on the northeast side of Ocean Springs, was called the Ocean Springs Lumber Company.  It was incorporated at Ocean Springs in November 1891, with a capital stock of $15,000.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, November 13, 1891, p. 2)

 

Sale

The sale of the Ocean Springs Lumber Company to a group from Chicago and Wisconsin headed by Edward Browne, Robert L. Chapin, and W.R. Sutherland is interesting in that the deed gives a description of the property, which became the Mill Site Subdivision.  At the sale on May 8, 1893 the following was sold by the Ocean Springs Lumber Company, Parker Earle, president:

 

Complete saw and planning mill and dry kiln plant together with pole and logging road, engines, cars, and all machinery and appliances used in or about or in any way appertaining to said saw and planning mill, dry kiln, and pole road together with all lands now owned by said corporation at and for the sum of $24,000. (JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. Book 14, pp. 577-578).

 

Public Ferry-June 1893

In June 1893, the JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors declared “that the ferry on Old Fort Bayou Road, No. 61, in Beat No. 4, known and called “Franco Ferry” be and same is declared a public ferry and that Mrs. A. Franco be granted a license to keep and maintain said ferry for a term of one year.”   Contemporaneously, Franklin S. Earle representing the Winter Park Land and Live Stock Improvement Company submitted an application requesting that the Board reconsider their licensing of Mrs. Franco as the public ferryman on Old Fort Bayou at Ocean Springs.  His request was “denied and refused” by the county officials.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 2, p. 548)

 

 Rates on Mrs. Franco’s ferry were established by the Board of Supervisors in September 1893, as follows:

 

One man on foot-$.05

One man and horse-$.10

One man with horse and buggy, or cart, or wagon-$.15

One man with two horses or 2 oxen with buggy, cart, or wagon-$.20

One man and additional $.10 for each yoke of oxen r span of horses.

Each horse or cow beast driven on foot-$.02

Each sheep, goat, or hog-$.01

 (JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 3, p. 4)

 

Winter Park Land Improvement and Live Stock Company

In March 1894, the Winter Park Land Improvement and Live Stock Company, an enterprise owned by Parker Earle and sons, Franklin S. Earle and Charles T. Earle, petitioned the Jackson County Board of Supervisors as follows:

           

            We the undersigned Winter Park Land Improvement and Live Stock co. hereby petition your honorable board to be appointed to keep the Public Ferry over Fort Bayou at Ocean Springs after the expiration of the present term.  We ask this for the following reasons:

1st-We were running a private ferry at this point at the time that this was established as a public ferry and we still own the boat now used as a public ferry boat.

2nd-Our business constitutes over half the patronage of the ferry and it is very inconvenient for us to have the ferry controlled by other parties.

3rd-We control the land adjoining the ferry landing on the north shore.

4th-We hereby agree to establish the following schedule of rates which is lower than the legal rates now enforced.

Rates for the round trip

Buggie or wagon drawn by not more than two animals carrying not over four people-20 cents.

Each additional animal attached to wagon-5 cents extra.

Each person more than four in a wagon-5 cents extra.

One person in a cart or on horseback 15 cents.

Footman-each 5 cents.

Stock cattle-each 2 ½ cents.

 

            We the undersigned patrons of the Ocean Springs Ferry hereby endorse the above petition of the Winter Park Land Dev. & L.S. Co.: J.R. Chrisman, J.B. Colman, Manuel Raymond, Wesley Osman, W.G. Bullock, Henry Canaan, Henry Delony, Bob Cruthirds, N.T. McDonald, John Cruthirds, S.B. Seymour, G.W. Cruthirds, Henry Cruthirds, Edna Ryan, Arthur Buckner, Elick Buckner, T.M. Chrisman, J.P. Eldridge, A.A. Havens, A. Garlot, A.R. Breeland, W.J. Parker, C. Holland, James ward, Ed Jamison, Jule Ryan, J.J. Flurry, W.P. Ramsay, Jim Cates, Edie Cates, Polien Garlotte, Esau Goff, Brase McMilland, C.H. Orrell, W.E. Woodman, D.W. Rouse, T.C. Ruble, W.M. Martin, M.C. Bang, Daniel Webb, Thos. E. Ramsay, S.M. Ware, H.L. Havens, John Nobles, James Phelps, R.A. McMillen, C.T. Williams, J.M. Breeland, E.D. Havens, Bon Davis, Jesse McInnis, Thomas Smith, William Deveraux, D.P. Russell, John W. Devrow, N.B. Martin, John Noble, Nathan N. King, Tomas Armstrong, W.H. Noble, Frank Byrd, W.W. Willis, Enoch Barlow, Elmer Post, Arthur Darnley, John Martin, John Hays, Levy? Quave, Rev. George W. Huff, Henry Galloway, M. Masters, William Landrum, C.J. Graham, E.M. Taylor, J.R. Tucker, G.W. Williams, H.B. Taylor, Gus Farley, J. Gill, William R. Havens, John McMillan, R.W. Spradley, G.W. Ruble, G.W. Taylor, J.W. Dupreast, R.C. Lyons, D.D. Holden, G.W. Tootle, Joe Davis, William Quave, Jon. Rogers, Albert Gill, Benjamin Garlott, George Ross Sr., Benjamin Williams, S.P. Devrow, G.W. Noble, J.G. Webb, James Lee, W.J. Forehand, George Forehand, Daniel Webb, Armor Garlotte, Horse? Martin, Jim Martin, Fred Webb, John Ellis, Lemard Garlotte, Frank Martin, Frank Cherry, ? Mallet, J. Roberts, J. Parker, and W.C. West.(JXCO, Ms. Chancery Court Archives loose papers, courtesy of Betty Clark Rogers)

 

1894 petition

            In July 1894, a letter was submitted to the Board of Supervisors in the form of a petition to reduce the ferriage rates across Old Fort Bayou.  It was signed by: J.B. Colman (sic), William Debro (sic), John Marten, P. Marten, A.L. Scarborugh (sic), Sancier Seymoure (sic), Robert Cruthirds, Joseph Scarborough, Sheary Seaymoure (sic), Alfred Seymoure (sic), Jule Ryan, Las Seymoure (sic), O.C. Edwards, Charles Simmons, and James Noble.  The petition read as follows:

 

            We patrons of the Ocean Springs Ferry living north of Fort Bayou property holders and citizens of Jackson Co. Miss. do hereby patitions (sic) Honorable Board of Supervisors to reduce the rate of ferriage on said ferry across Fort Bayou at Ocean Springs and in doing so We submit the following schedule attached this being our nearest P.O. place of business and market. We feel it unjust to have the preasant (sic) high rate of ferriage.

            For round trip.  No entry charge be allowed on parties going for Doctors or medicine for the sick before 6 o’clock a.m. or after 6 p.m.

            Wagon drawn by 2 horses or oxen or buggy drawn by two animals (round trip) 25 cents; one horse and buggy (round trip) 20 cents; one horse and cart 15 cents; man on horseback 10 cents; footman 5 cents; stock cattle (one way) 3 cents. Sheep and hogs (one way) 2 ½ cents.(JXCO, Ms. Chancery Court Archives loose papers, courtesy of Betty Clark Rogers)

 

            Regardless of the Earle family attempts to gain control of the Old Fort Bayou ferry from Jane R. Franco, they were unsuccessful.

 

The Franco property on Old Fort Bayou was sold to Emma Rudd Powell (1860-1932), the wife of Canadian physician, Dr. Henry Bradford Powell (1867-1949), in two transactions.  In January 1896, the heirs of Antonio Franco sold their 2.52 acres for $1000 and in February 1906, Jane Franco vended her .96 acres with over 400 feet on Washington Avenue and the Spring lot for $1800.(JXCO, Ms Land Deed Bk. 31, pp. 298-299) 

Here Dr. Powell established a sanitarium, which by 1915, had become the Bayou Inn, a lodge, which catered to Midwestern winter tourists.  We know this place today as Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant, which was established by Carl Lizana in October 1981. (Bellande, 1994, pp.114-115)

Mrs. Genevieve Franco passed at Mobile, Alabama on February 9, 1915.  She had relocated to Mobile in 1908, as her three sons, Thomas, Anthony, and Walter Franco, were residents there.  Her granddaughter, Mildred Franco Petrie Theriot Powell (1896-1969), later married Dr. Henry B. Powell (1867-1949), after Mrs. Emma R. Powell’s death in 1932.(The Ocean Springs News, February 18, 1915, p. 6)

 

1901 Bridge

           

1901 Fort Bayou Bridge

 

At the turn of the 20th Century, a span across Old Fort Bayou and a passable road through present day St. Martin to present day D’Iberville, would have dramatically improve commerce and communications between Biloxi and Ocean Springs.  Since a wooden bridge had been completed across the Back Bay of Biloxi from Lazarus/Seymour (now D’Iberville) to the Biloxi peninsula in early August 1901, by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company to replace the Back Bay public ferry system which had been operative intermittently since 1843, only the spanning of Old Fort Bayou and the replacement of the wagon trail from Ocean Springs to Lazarus/Seymour was necessary to improve economic conditions in the region.(The Biloxi Herald, August 3, 1901, p. 1)

It was anticipated that a shell road would be constructed to Lazarus/Seymour from the north shore of Old Fort Bayou, after a span crossing it was finished.  It appears that this feat wasn’t accomplished until after December 1912, when H.E. Latimer (1855-1941) & Sons were contracted to build a road from Bayou Puerto to the Harrison County line for $3000.(The Biloxi Daily Herald, October 23, 1901 and JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 6, p. 279)

The local journal made the following pejorative comments about this road in 1917:

 

If Biloxi wants to encourage automobile travel between Ocean Springs and that city the people over there should get behind their Supervisor and see that the road from the county line to the bridge is put in decent shape.  This piece of road is in fearful condition and a disgrace to Harrison County.  Ocean Springs and the country surrounding have built a series of splendid roads hereabouts, one leading over to the Harrison County line where it continues on to the city of Biloxi.  From the county line to the bridge there are more bumps to the square yard than there is on an old fashioned a corduroy road.  Autoist certainly get their bumps when they hit this stretch of road.(The Jackson County Times, February 24, 1917, p. 5))

 

Contract

On March 4, 1901 the Jackson County Board of Supervisors let a contract for a steel bridge, the first span to cross Old Fort Bayou at Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs.  The George E. King Bridge Company of Des Moines, Iowa was the successful bidder submitting a bid of $8990.  For the contract to have been valid, the War Department had to grant a permit for the structure.  In January 1902, after the project was completed, the Board of Supervisors paid their contractor an additional $479 for extra labor and materials, which brought the total cost of the bridge to $9460.  John Duncan Minor (1863-1920), a local builder, was paid $94.68 for inspecting the building of the span. (JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Min. Bk. 4, p. 45 and p. 108)

           

The initial Old Fort Bayou Bridge opened for traffic on December 11, 1901.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, December 13, 1901)

 

1901 bridge toll

            

Crossing Old Fort Bayou on the new steel span was not free.  In January 1902, the Board of Supervisors set the following fees for use of the bridge:

 

            Footman (round trip)-2 cents

            Footman (one way)-1 cent

            Horse and rider (round trip)-10 cents

            Horse and rider (one way)-5 cent

            Double team (round trip)-15 cents

            Double team (one way)-10 cents

            Single team (round trip)-10 cents

            Single team (one way)-5 cents

            Cattle (per head)-2 cents

            Sheep and swine-1 cent

(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 4, p. 104)

 

Old Fort Bayou Bridge tenders

Leonard Fayard-(1902-1909)

            Leonard Fayard (1847-1923) of Ocean Springs was appointed keeper of the Old Fort Bayou Bridge on January 1, 1902.  He was the son of Peter Fayard and Elenore Westbrook.  In December 1867, Leonard Fayard married Miss Martha Jane Westbrook, (1851-1918), the daughter of John Westbrook (d. ca 1870) and Caroline Mathieu (1830-1895), in the St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church at Ocean Springs.(Lepre, 1991, p. 109) 

            Leonard and Martha W. Fayard were the parents of: Emile E. Fayard (1872-1931), Louise E. Fayard (1876-1876), Virginia F. Champlin (1877-1910+), Leonard Fayard Jr., (1881-1958), Ida Antonio F. Smith Wilson, (1884-1978), John A. Fayard (1887-1958), and Oliver Fayard (1890-1950).

            Prior to his employment as the Old Fort Bayou Bridge tender, Leonard Fayard made his livelihood as a guard at the Ship Island quarantine station.  His remuneration as bridge tender was $30 per month.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisor’s Minute Bk. 4, p. 104 and 1900 Federal Census-JXCO, Ms.)

            Leonard Fayard was a charter member of the Ocean Springs Fire Company No. 1.  He died in late May 1923 and his corporal remains were passed through the St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church prior to burial in the Evergreen Cemetery on Old Fort Bayou.(The Jackson County Times, June 2, 1923, p. 4)

 

Sherwood Bradford (1909-1922)

            Sherwood Bradford  (1838-1922) was the son of Lyman Bradford (1803-1858) and Cynthia Davis (1813-1887).  In 1870, he married Eleanora Davis (1851-1938), the daughter of Samuel Davis II (1804-1879) and Elvira Ward (1821-1901), uniting two of the older "American families" of western Jackson County.  Their children were: Sherwood Russell Bradford, Frederick S. Bradford (1878-1950), and Lyman Bradford.

            Sherwood Bradford was appointed tender of the Old Fort Bayou bridge by the Board of Supervisors in January 1909.  His salary was $25 each month.( JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 5, p. 198)

In early February 1922, bridge keeper, Sherwood Bradford, fell from the Old Fort Bayou span while attempting to open it for a passing barge.  Karl C. Maxwell (1893-1958) who was near the bayou immediately shed his coat and dove into the frigid waters and rescued Mr. Bradford.  Orion S. Baker (1898-1951) and a passing tourist assisted the two men from the cold water.  Recommendations to nominate Karl Maxwell for the Carnegie Medal for his unselfish act of heroism circulated through the town.(The Jackson County Times, February 22, 1922, p. 1)

It is interesting to note that Mildred Frances Franco (1897-1969), the granddaughter of Antonio Franco, the old ferryman, had a son, Numa F. “Norman” Theriot (1914-2002), with Francis Numa Theriot (1894-1958), who was a medal and $500 by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for his heroic act in heavy seas off Miami Beach, Florida on April 16, 1950.  Norman Theriot was on a solo fishing venture into the Atlantic Ocean, when he observed at some distance a larger vessel capsize and sink, depositing its four seamen, Robert R. Burke, Louis M. Jackson, Marshall B. Davey, and Joseph Demauro, into the wind roughened waters.  Although his boat was inadequate for the task at hand, Theriot raced to their rescue and plucked the struggling victims from an almost certain drowning.  During the daring rescue, Norman’s shoulder, wrist, and knee were severely injured.  After a daring landing through a heavy, surf onto a small, mangrove key, he attempted to revive by artificial respiration, the most serious of the salvaged fishermen, Mr. Demauro.  Unfortunately the man died.  Eventually, the US Coast Guard was summoned to the scene and completed the rescue mission.  Norman was nominated for the award by Ocean Springs attorney, Schuyler Poitevent II (1911-1978).(The Daily Herald, October 30, 1951, p. 1)

     

Peter Geiger (1922-1923)

Peter Geiger (1858-1923) was a German immigrant.  He married Lillie Franco (1863-1905) in November 1887.  She was the daughter of Antonio Franco (1834-1891), a Portuguese immigrant, and Jane Rodriguez (1844-1915).  Lillie Franco was reared on the banks of Fort Bayou at Washington Avenue where her father operated a ferry service.

            Peter Geiger came to Ocean Springs in 1876, probably from New Orleans.  During the period from 1881 until 1898, he was employed by a firm of construction contractors.  He served as Alderman of Ward 2 from 1903 to1904.  Geiger became employed with the L&N RR in 1906, as foreman of the bridge gang.  After the demise of his wife, Peter Geiger married Zetta Williams Hamett, on June 9, 1906, in Harrison County, Mississippi.  She may have been a native of Mobile.  Geiger discovered that she was a bigamist and the wife of Edward E. Hamett Jr. of Rochester, New York.  They separated in March 1908, and their marriage was declared null and void in the Chancery Court of Jackson County, Mississippi on September 23, 1909.(Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court Cause No. 1739)

            Peter Geiger then married Philum ? (1884-1920+), a native of Alabama.  Her father was Spanish and mother, French.(Federal Census 1920-Jackson County, Mississippi)     Mr. Geiger was employed by the railroad until his health began to fail in 1921, the result of being struck on the head by a heavy timber in prior years.  He was appointed Old Fort Bayou bridge tender in March 1922 with the salary of $25 each month.  He watched the Old Fort Bayou bridge until his demise on February 9, 1923.( JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 10, p. 204 and The Daily Herald, February 13, 1923)

 

John J. Riehm (1923-1926)

            John J. Riehm (1846-1936) was born in Bremen, Germany, the son of Louis Riehm.  He immigrated to America in 1873.  At New Orleans, he married Augusta Ople (1850-1938), a native of the Crescent City and the daughter of Frank Ople, an Austrian immigrant and Catherine Rush, a Louisianan. 

John Riehm advertised in the 1893 Ocean Springs Business Directory:

 

 

JNO. RIEHM

Fruit and Vegetable Grower

And

Proprietor of Riehm’s

         Vine Yard

    Manufactures of Fine grape and Scuppernong Wines

Correspondence Solicited

 

 

 

 

John Riehm became Old Fort Bayou bridge tender in February 1923 following the demise of Peter Geiger.  The Board of Supervisors set his remuneration at $25 per month.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 10, p. 457)

In July 1926, the Riehms departed Ocean Springs for New Orleans.  Mr. Riehm resigned his bridge tender post effective July 1, 1926.(The Jackson County Times, July 24, 1926, p. 5 and JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 12, p. 57)

            John Riehm passed at Biloxi in July 1936.  His corporal remains were sent to the Evergreen Cemetery on Old Fort Bayou for internment.  Mrs. Riehm expired on December 2, 1938 at Ocean Springs.  She was passed through the Ocean Springs Baptist Church and also buried at the Evergreen Cemetery.(The Daily Herald, July 31, 1936, p. 2 and December 3, 1938, p. 6)

 

Robert B. Alley (1926-1929)

            Robert B. Alley (1861-1933) was the son of Cadmus H. Alley (1836-1928) of Petersburg, Virginia and Isabell Bilbo (1842-1917), a native of Jackson County.  He was born at Pascagoula where his father was Chancery Clerk during Reconstruction.  Cadmus H. Alley lived in Ocean Springs from 1854 until 1864 where made his livelihood as a bookkeeper.  He was the first person to acquire a cemetery plot in the Machpelah Cemetery in Pascagoula.(The Jackson County Times, June 16, 1928 and Requiem, Vol. 2, p. 31))

In July 1892, Robert B. Alley married Laura Seymour (1869-1914), the daughter of William Seymour (1837-1908) and Pauline Bosarge (1842-1899).  They were the parents of: baby Alley (1893-1893), Harry E. Alley (1895-1959), William E. Alley (1896-1971), Winnie A. Dick (1900-1977), and Laura A. Nix (1903-1994). (Lepre, 2001, pp. 153-157)

            Mr. Alley built a long wharf featuring a stylish bathhouse for Charles W. Ziegler (1865-1900+) in July 1894.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, July 20, 1894)

Robert B. Alley was appointed bridge tender at Ocean Springs in June 1926, at a salary of $25 per month. (JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 12, p. 53)

      Mr. Alley expired in October 1939.  His remains were sent to the William Seymour Memorial Cemetery on Bayou Talla Road for internment.

 

1926 Emergency repairs

            In January 1926, the Austin Brothers of Atlanta, Georgia were employed to effect emergency repairs to the Old Fort Bayou bridge, as the foundation of the draw-span were collapsing.  The bridge was ordered closed by the Board of Supervisors until repairs could be made.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 11, p. 548)

 

1929 Bridge

Work began to replace the 1901 Old Fort Bayou bridge in February 1928, when the JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors let a contract to Allen Dredging Company of Pascagoula to construct a road through the marsh from the old span to Mechain Hill on the north side of the bayou.  Mechain Hill was the residence of Adrian P. Mechain (1869-1948) and family.  In November 1928, Supervisors J.K. Lemon (1870-1929) of Ocean Springs and Hermes F. Gautier (1895-1969) were appointed by the Board to contact the U.S. District Engineer at Mobile to seek approval for relocating the Old Fort Bayou bridge at Ocean Springs and to get a permit to build a new span across the bayou.(The Daily Herald, February 10, 1928, p. 8 and JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 13, p. 54)

 

1929 Fort Bayou Bridge

 

J.K. Lemon

Prior to arriving in Ocean Springs in 1911, Mr. Lemon had made his livelihood with the Gulf & Ship Island railroad at Gulfport.  He moved his family to Ocean Springs in 1911, to be near the salubrious waters of Ocean Springs.  Mrs. Lemon, nee Sarah George McIntosh (1884-1939), suffered from eczema and it was hoped the water here would ameliorate her skin condition.  Mr. Lemon died in 1929, leaving a young family: 

George L. Lemon, Sara Lemon Anderson, Margaret Lemon Halstead (1913-1999), James Kirkpatrick Lemon (1914-1998), Bliss Lemon Pinkerton (d. 2001), Elizabeth Lemon Roberts (1921-2002), William A. Lemon (1922-1998), Kirk Shelly Lemon (1924-1944), and Fred L. Lemon.(J.K. Lemon, December 1996)

In addition to his efforts to erect the 1929 Old Fort Bayou bridge, Jackson County Beat Four Supervisor J.K. Lemon was a strong proponent and motivator for  "Million Dollar" highway which joined Ocean Springs to the Alabama state line in 1926.  Supervisor Lemon also lobbied aggressively for The War Memorial Bridge across the Bay of Biloxi from Biloxi to Ocean Springs.  His daughter, Sara Lemon, cut the ribbon on June 3, 1930, officially opening the span. This new route removed the "Old Spanish Trail" designation from the St. Martin area.  It now ran directly from Biloxi to Ocean Springs and east towards St. Augustine, Florida.  Lemon’s eldest son, George Lemon, graduated in engineering from Mississippi State University and went on to become Bridge Engineer for the Mississippi State Highway Department.  He was an integral part of the design team, which planned the 1962 Ocean Springs-Biloxi Bay bridge.  George Lemon retired from the highway department in 1972.(The Ocean Springs News, May 3, 1962, p. 1 and The Ocean Springs Record, august 17,1972, p. 2)

 

Franklyn H. McGowen

In February 1929, the JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors approved the plans of their engineer, Franklyn H. McGowen (1894-1985), for a new bridge across Old Fort Bayou.  McGowen had provided them with specifications and cost estimates for a 140-foot swing span with a 40-foot concrete girder span.  His design also included for the approaches to the bridge to be placed on re-enforced concrete piers and creosoted timbers.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 13, p. 113)

           

F.H. McGowen was born at Chicago on June 8, 1894.  He matriculated to the University of Wisconsin where he graduated circa 1915 with an engineering degree.   The peripatetic nature of his work brought young McGowan to Vicksburg, Mississippi where he met and married Regina Peatross (1890-1969).  A daughter, Jo Mary McGowen Bickham, was born at Pascagoula in 1924.(Jo M. Bickham, February 3, 2003)

           

Franklyn H. McGowan came to Pascagoula in 1924, to superintend the construction of the Million Dollar Highway, that portion of the concrete Old Spanish Trail, which transected Jackson County.  In March 1927, Mr. McGowan was hired by the Jackson County, Mississippi Road and Protection Commission Board to design and engineer the seawalls and beach boulevards of the County.  He also supervised the construction of the East and West Pascagoula River bridges in the late 1920s.  The ferry across the West Pascagoula River was the last in Mississippi on the Old Spanish Trail.(The Jackson County Times, April 2, 1927, p. 1 and July 28, 1928, p. 1)

           

In 1936, the McGowans divorced in Alabama and Mrs. McGowan and daughter returned to Ocean Springs.  Shortly thereafter, they visited relatives of Mrs. McGowan at Delta, Louisiana.  Regina and Jo Mary McGowan resided on Washington Avenue.  Jo Mary attended the Ocean Springs Public School graduating with the Class of 1942.(Jo M. Bickham, February 3, 2003 and The Daily Herald, July 31, 1936, p. 7)

 

Franklyn H. McGowan expired at Opelika, Alabama in October 1985, at the age of ninety-one.  The seawalls at Ocean Springs and Pascagoula and the fifty-five odd years that 1929 Old Fort Bayou existed are certainly testaments to his engineering skills.(SSDI)

 

Public hearing

On March 16, 1928, a public hearing was held at the Ocean Spring City Hall.  The District Engineer oversaw the mid-morning meeting and was interested in public input concerning navigation, location and plans for the new bridge proposed to span Old Fort Bayou at Ocean Springs.  The preliminary plans for the bridge were for a drawless, solid steel span.(The Jackson County Times, March 3, 1928, p. 2)

 

Bids

Miller & Hutchinson, seawall contractor, was awarded the contract to build a timber bulkhead through the Fort Bayou marsh connecting Gulf Hills and Ocean Springs.  Upon completion, the bulkhead was to be filled with dirt in preparation to complete a road.(The Daily Herald, February 9, 1929, p. 2)

 

In March 1929, the Nashville Bridge Company of Nashville, Tennessee was awarded the contract to provide a 140-foot steel swing span and machinery to operate the swing span for the new bridge spanning Old Fort Bayou.  The cost was $17,982 for both items.  R.C. Hutchinson, H.W. Miller, P.H. Miller, and H.L. Hutchinson operating as Miller-Hutchinson were designated by the Board of Supervisors to “construct re-enforced concrete pivot and rest piers and creosoted timber trestle approaches to the bridge over Old Fort Bayou”.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 13, p. 118-119)

 

Construction

By mid-June 1929, the Miller-Hutchinson pile driver was rapidly setting piling for the bridge foundation.  It was anticipated that the piers would be set and ready to receive the bridge span by mid-July.(The Jackson County Times, June 22, 1929, p. 3)

 

The Miller-Hutchinson Company had completed all work by late August and was awaiting delivery of the swinging steel span, which had been pre-fabricated by the Memphis Steel Company.  The first carload of steel span arrived at Ocean Springs by rail in mid-September 1929.(The Jackson County Times, September 7, 1929, p. 5  and September 14, 1929, p. 2  )

 

The 1929 Old Fort Bayou Bridge opened for vehicular traffic on October 24, 1929.  The old bridge was disassembled shortly after.(The Jackson County Times, October 26, 1929, p.2)

            

After the completion of the Old Fort Bayou Bridge, the Miller-Hutchinson Company with the Stevens Brothers of St. Paul, Minnesota won the contract for building the three million dollar Bonnet Carre Spillway to protect New Orleans from flooding.  P.H. Miller, senior partner of the organization, remained in Ocean Springs to finalize their business here.(The Jackson County Times, September 7, 1929, p. 5)

 

1958-1959 repairs

            Plans to electrify the Old Fort Bayou Bridge and eliminate the mechanical draw were first proposed in December 1956.(The Ocean Springs News, December 6, 1956, p. 1)

A contract was let by Board of Supervisors for electrification of the Fort Bayou Bridge in early January 1958.  The modern electrical system was completed in late 1958, by the Gulf Electric Company of Biloxi. (The Ocean Springs News, January 3, 1958, p. 1 and December 8, 1958, p. 1)

            In early January 1959, the Fort Bayou Bridge was closed for approximately three weeks for major repairs to the steel decking on the span.  Irby Brothers Machine Works of Gulfport were the contractors.(The Ocean Springs News, December 8, 1958, p. 1)

            During the span’s repair, transportation for those pedestrians crossing the Old Fort Bayou bridge from the County side was provided by Cities Busses Service, while Dick Waters, managing director of Gulf Hills, placed a shuttle service from his resort to the span for those going to and returning from Ocean Springs.  Gulf Hills anticipated revenue losses amount from $350 to $500 each day.  The Merchants Committee of the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce was highly concerned about the impact of the closing of the Old Fort Bayou bridge upon the local economy.(The Gulf Coast Times, January 1, 1959, p. 1 and The Ocean Springs News, December 25, 1958, p. 1)

 

1962 bridge repairs

            In January 1962, Al S. Johnson, port director of the Greater Port of Pascagoula, recommended to A.P. “Fred” Moran (1897-1967), president of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors that that the Fort Bayou road and bridge “should immediately be put in condition to handle heavy industrial traffic.”  Accordingly, Mr. Moran began to work on this project, which was financed from the Port Operation and Development Fund.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Bk. 36, p. 457)

            Contractor H.E. Wilson was in charge of this January-February 1962 project.  It included replacing wood decking and asphalt on the Old Fort Bayou bridge with concrete decking and slabs.   The wooden guardrail was replaced with a steel guard railing.  Joe E. Krebs, foreman for this project, related that the used wooden decking would be conserved by the County for potential recycling.(The Ocean Springs News, February 15, 1962, p. 1)

 

1985 Fort Bayou Bridge

           

(images made January 1993)

 

 

(image made July 1999)

                     

            By the early 1980s, it was obvious that a new span across Old Fort Bayou was essential.  The old swing span was slow to open and its vertical clearance was so low that it had to be opened for almost any vessel.  In addition, the two-lane road, which crossed the bridge, was inadequate for the traffic volume.    Also a structural inspection of the old bridge had revealed defects, which obliged County officials to impose a 10-ton weight limit on the structure, thus thwarting necessary commercial trucks from utilizing the span.(Spencer & Assoc. OFB, Proj. No. 85-9385-00-002-20 P.E.)

Planning for this structure began in 1983, when the Board of Supervisors hired consulting engineers, Spencer & Associates, Inc., of Jackson, Mississippi.  The $84,000 contract with the firm provided the Jackson County Board of Supervisors with the following: a schematic engineering design; an environmental assessment and impact statement; preparation of applications and supporting documents for government agencies; assistance with authorities having jurisdiction over the anticipated environmental impact and assistance with hearings on other public meeting that may be required.(The Ocean Springs Record, February 17, 1983, p. 1)

            The Spencer & Associates plan called for the construction of a bascule or see-saw bridge and approaches to replace the 1929 swing span bridge.  The new span was to be twenty-five feet high and situated slightly west of the old bridge.  In addition, every effort to save the ancient oaks on the Aunt Jenny’s Restaurant site were to be explored.  The proposed roadway for the new span would consist of four 12-foot wide traffic lanes between US 90 and Shore Drive in Gulf Hills.  Also, an $8.3 million dollar Federal grant was secured from the Secretary Transportation had been approved.(Spencer & Assoc. OFB, Project No. 85-9385-00-002-20 P.E. and The Ocean Springs Record, March 10, 1983, p. 1)

 

Financing

            Appropriately, Tommy Brodnax, Supervisor of Beat Four, was named project director of the Old Fort Bayou bridge plan.  As such, he masterminded the financing of the $11.2 million dollar venture.  A combination of Federal, State, and County pecuniary resources were integrated to fund the bridge and ancillary appurtenances.  The Federal Highway Administration authorized $6.849 million dollars while a County bond issue raised the remainder of the funds for the bridge.(The Ocean Springs Record, September 29, 1983, p. 1 and October 31, 1985, p. 1)

  

Contract

            Eight bids were received to erect the 1985 Old Fort Bayou bridge.  A&L Construction Company of Hattiesburg was low bidder submitting a proposal of $7.73 million dollars.  The company was allowed 270 working days to complete the project.  An adverse weather clause in the agreement allowed them additional time.(The Ocean Springs Record, December 8, 1983, p. 1 and December 15, 1983, p. 1)

 

Eminent domain

            Approximately $1 million dollars were budgeted to acquire land and right-of-way for the new bridge.  Several businesses located on the north side of the bayou’s main channel were acquired by eminent domain.  Among them was the Fort Bayou Fish Camp, a venerable, local landmark.  Once owned by John J. “CoCo”  Ryan (1881-1950) and Raphael Benezue (1902-1985), the camp was in the possession of Donald J. Benezue when the State acquired it for $72,500 in October 1983.  Ironically, CoCo Ryan expired while fishing in Old Fort Bayou in November 1950.  Mr. Benezue intended to close his fish camp in late November 1983.(The Ocean Springs Record, October 20, 1983, p. 1 and The Gulf Coast Times, November 24, 1950, p. 1)

            Other prominent businesses to be closed on the bridge route were the Sportsman’s Lounge and Outdoor Adventures.  Kenneth C. Davidson, a dentist, acquired a former veterinarian’s clinic and refurbished it as his dental office and sporting business, which he appropriately named “Outdoor Adventures”.  In addition to his dental practice, Davidson and his spouse taught sailing, kayaking, basic skiing, and operated tours to all parts of the planet.(The Ocean Springs Record, February 2, 1984, p. 2 and Kenneth C. Davidson, February 18, 2003)

 

Breaking marsh

            In mid-January 1984, local dignitaries and interested patrons were on hand to witness Trent Lott, then 5th Congressional District Representative; Tom Stennis, former Mayor of Ocean Springs and at the time associated with the Jackson County Port Authority; Chester McPhearson, Mayor of Ocean Springs; A.E. “Pete” Pierce, president of the Jackson County, Mississippi Board of Supervisors; and Bob Joiner, Southern District Highway Commissioner break ground for the new Old Fort Bayou bridge.(The Ocean Springs Record, January 19, 1984, p. 1)

           

Completion-Dedication

            The 1985 Old Fort Bayou bridge was officially opened for vehicular traffic on July 8, 1985.  Mark Hare, current Ocean Springs fire chief, and Terry Lindsey, were hired as part time bridge tenders.  In August, the Mississippi Highway Department would take control of the bridge and utilize five tenders.  The span was officially dedicated on November 9, 1985.  Trent Lott cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremonies.(The Ocean Springs Record, July 11, 1985, p. 1 and November 14, 1985, p. 1)

 

Old Fort Bayou Channels

            Shortly after Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville (1661-1706) and his French Canadian cohorts established their beachhead at present day Ocean Springs in April 1699, Iberville himself reconnoitered the Old Fort Bayou region.  In his journal, the gallant French Canadian soldier of fortune reported the following:

           

            I went and examined the back side of the little bay and, with one man, I penetrated 4 leagues inland to examine the country.  I found it very beautiful with pine woods, mixed with trees of other kinds in spots, many prairies, light sandy soil everywhere; I saw a good many deer.  Deer are killed everywhere in the vicinity of the fort.

(McWilliams, 1981, p. 96)

           

The earliest study of the channel at the mouth of Old Fort Bayou to remedy its ineffectiveness for deep draft vessel and barge navigation was conducted in March 1935, by the military engineers based in Mobile.  It was believed by local entrepreneurs that pulp wood and other forest products could be shipped out of the Old Fort Bayou basin by water, if the bayou channel were deepened.  At this time, Colonel R.S. Thomas, joined by Lieutenants G.E. Galloway and F.Z. Pirkey and H.I. Collins of the government office were given a guided tour of Old Fort Bayou and environs by A.P. “Fred” Moran (1897-1967), Harry R. Lee (1903-1951), and Mr. Murphy of Ocean Springs.  The men traveled aboard the Margie M and after the voyage dined on seafood at the F&H Bar of Frederick Joseph Ryan (1886-1969) and Henry J. Endt (1910-1989) on Bowen Avenue.  The military engineers were complementary, but required more information before a positive recommendation to their superiors in Washington D.C.( The Jackson County Times, May 5, 1934 and March 30, 1935, p. 1)

            In March 1939, a channel was recommended for Old Fort Bayou by Colonel R.G. Powell, division engineer, based in New Orleans.  It was to be 6 feet deep and 50 feet wide and run from Benjamin Point, now know as Fort Point, as far as the deep channel in the bayou.(The Jackson County Times, March 4, 1939, p. 1)

            In June 1969, a 100-foot wide and 12-foot deep channel was recommended from the mouth of Old Fort Bayou upstream for 4.5 miles.  The Toche Shipyard would benefit from the action.(The Ocean Springs Record, June 12, 1969, p. 1)

            After the 1985 Old Fort Bayou Bridge was completed, The Friends of Old Fort Bayou, a local organization concerned with the environmental effects and pollution created by heavy industry, opposed any industrialization along Old Fort Bayou.  Barge traffic in particular was considered deleterious to the well-being of the estuarine environment.(The Ocean Springs Record, August 22, 1985, p. 1)

 

Some Old Fort Bayou drowning incidents

            Through the years, several people have lost their lives in the waters of Old Fort Bayou.  Among them were:

 

Ernest and Adrian Garec

One of the earliest and saddest accidents occurred in October 1899, when Ernest L. Garec (1862-1899) and his son Adrian D. Garec (1887-1899) drowned near the ferry landing on Washington Avenue.  They were returning from Biloxi on a flatboat when young Garec, a non-swimmer, lost his balance and plunged into the bayou.  His father in a valiant effort to save his son perished with him.  Their remains were interred in the Martin Ryan Cemetery on Bayou Porteaux.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, October 6, 1899, p. 3)

 

Alex King

            Alex King (1901-1927), the son of G. Washington King (1865-1938) and Margaret Jane Belton King (1871-1955), resided in the Gulf Hills area.  He was a clerk in the employ of the Bailey Drug Store, now Lovelace Drugs, on Washington Avenue.  On the day before Independence Day 1927, Harold Nile of New Orleans and his amigo, Alex King, went for a splash in Old Fort Bayou near the bridge.  While attempting to swim across the stream, King became fatigued and cried for assistance.  An aged captain aboard a pulpwood barge in use by the Southern Paper Company, which had been moored near the old 1901 span, threw young King a large board for flotation.  The struggling swimmer failed to reach the plank and drowned.  King’s body was found after a two-hour dragline search.  Revival attempts by several physicians and employees of the Mississippi Power Company were in vain.  Alex King’s corporal remains were laid to rest in the Evergreen Cemetery within eyesight of the scene of his tragic death.  In addition to his parents, siblings, Van King and Ella King, survived him.(The Jackson County Times, July 9, 1927, p. 1 and The Daily Herald, July 4, 1927, p. 1)

 

Frank E. Galle III

In July 1928, Frank Edward “Frankie” Galle III (1922-1928), the son of Frank E. “Kiddo” Galle Jr. (1900-1986) and Theone Picou Galle (1901-1922), became a victim of the tanbark hued waters of Old Fort Bayou.  The Galle child was on a day outing with his mother and friends.  He disappeared while swimming in the bayou with his companions.  Frankie Galle’s remains were interred in the Evergreen Cemetery.(The Jackson County Times, July 7, 1928, p. 3)

            Kiddo Galle was a well-respected carpenter and building contractor, who built many homes in the Ocean Springs area during his lifetime.  Galle’s skills ran the gamut of construction as he was qualified to do plumbing, bricklaying, as well as general carpentry.  The Galle’s gave birth to another son, Waide Joseph Galle, in 1929.

 

Maurice Davis

            Ironically, amidst the celebration on the day that the Empire of Japan unconditionally surrendered to America in mid-August 1945, an American serviceman, First Lt. Maurice Davis (1918-1945) of Watsonville, California, lost his life in Old Fort Bayou.  Davis was stationed at Keesler AFB and was a veteran of the ETO where he had been awarded the Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and other military citations for his admirable service.  Lt. Davis drowned while attempting to save Dewayne Webb, a youngster, who had fallen from a barge into the bayou waters.  John J. “CoCo” Ryan, proprietor of Ryan’s Fishing Camp, arrived by skiff in time to rescue the Webb lad before he perished.  Lt. Davis resided at Ocean Springs with his spouse, Alma Lee Davis and their baby, Robert Davis (b. 1944).(The Jackson County Times, August 1945 and H. Carl Byrd, February 18, 2003))

 

Leroy C. Trotter                    

Leroy C. Trotter (1959-1970), the son of the Reverend Doctor and Mrs. Jesse L. Trotter, drowned while wading in Old Fort Bayou.  Young Trotter, a native of Greenwood, Mississippi, was on an outing with the Cub Scouts in Windsor Park.  His corporal remains were interred in the Evergreen Cemetery at Ocean Springs.(The Ocean Springs Record, May 21, 1970, p. 2)

 

REFERENCES:

 

Jerome Lepre, Catholic Church Records Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, Vol. I, (Diocese of Biloxi: Biloxi, Mississippi-1991).

 

Richebourg Gaillard McWilliams, Iberville's Gulf Journals, (University of Alabama Press: University, Alabama-1981).

 

Chancery Court Causes

Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Court cause No. 1739, “Mrs. Zetta Williams Geiger v. Peter Geiger”, September 1908.

 

Journals

The Biloxi Herald, “Ocean Springs”, February 7, 1891.

The Biloxi Herald, “Ocean Springs”, February 15, 1891.

The Biloxi Herald, “Ocean Springs”, November 14, 1891.

The Biloxi Herald, “Ocean Springs”, January 2, 1892.

The Biloxi Herald, “Local Happenings”, May 21, 1892.

The Biloxi Herald, “Coast Items”, May 29, 1897.

The Biloxi Daily Herald“Local News”, September 2, 1898, p. 8.

The Biloxi Herald, “At Daylight”, August 3, 1901.

The Biloxi Daily Herald, “City News”, October 23, 1901.

The Biloxi Daily Herald, “City News”, December 3, 1901.

The Biloxi Daily Herald, “City News”, December 6, 1901.

The Daily Herald, “Ocean Springs”, March 1, 1922.

The Daily Herald“Ocean Springs”, February 13, 1923, p. 3.

The Daily Herald, “Alec King Loses Life In Bayou”, July 4, 1927.

The Daily Herald, "Let contract for new Ocean Springs road", February 10, 1928.

The Daily Herald, “Ocean Springs”, July 31, 1936.

The Daily Herald, “Mrs. Riehm Buried”, December 3, 1938.

The Daily Herald, “Former Resident of Ocean Springs Is Carnegie Winner”, October 30, 1951.

The Gulf Coast Times, “Hoof It”, January 1, 1959.

The Jackson County Times, “Local News Items”, December 9, 1917.

The Jackson County Times, “Karl Maxwell Rescues Drowning Bridgeman”, February 18, 1922.

The Jackson County Times, “Sherwood Bradford Succumbs To Injuries”, March 4, 1922.

The Jackson County Times, “Leonard Fayard Sr.”, June 2, 1923.

The Jackson County Times, “Local and Personal”, July 24, 1926.

The Jackson County Times, “F.H. McGowan Named Seawall Engineer”, April 2, 1927.

The Jackson County Times, “Popular Local Boy Drowned In Fort Bayou”, July 9, 1927.

The Jackson County Times, “Fort Bayou Bridge hearing at City Hall, March 16”, march 3, 1928.

The Jackson County Times, “Cadmus H. Alley, 92 Dies At Pascagoula”, June 16, 1928.

The Jackson County Times, “Son of Frank Galle Jr. Drowned In Ft. Bayou”, July 7, 1928.

The Jackson County Times, “Bridge At Gautier Now Open To Traffic”, July 28, 1928.

The Jackson County Times, “Local and Personal”, June 22, 1929.

The Jackson County Times, “Local and Personal”, September 7, 1929.

The Jackson County Times, “Local and Personal”, September 14, 1929.

The Jackson County Times, October 26, 1929.

The Jackson County Times, “The F. & H. Bar (advertisement), May 5, 1934.

The Jackson County Times, “Inspection Is Made of Fort Bayou Channel”, March 30, 1935.

The Jackson County Times, “Channel in Old Fort Bayou Recommended”, March 4, 1939.

The Jackson County Times, “Young Lieutenant Drown While Saving Boy’s Life”, August 15?, 1945.

The New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 24, 1892.

The Pascagoula Chronicle-Star, “Funeral of Mrs. C.H. Alley”, May 1917.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs News”, April 17, 1891.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs News”, October 28, 1891.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Locals”December 13, 1901.

The Ocean Springs News, “Bridge To Be Electrified”, December 6, 1956.

The Ocean Springs News, “Hail 1957 as Year of Greater Progress by Co., City Leaders”, January 3, 1958.

The Ocean Springs News, “Ft. Bayou Bridge Closes Next Month”, December 8, 1958.

The Ocean Springs News, “City Busses and Gulf Hills Shuttle Trips Solve Bridge Crisis”, December 25, 1958.

The Ocean Springs News, “Fort Bayou Bridge Nearly Completed”, February 15, 1962.

The Ocean Springs News, “Lemons Prominent Bridge History”, May 3, 1962.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Further Progress on Fort Bayou Project”, June 12, 1969.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Leroy Trotter Funeral Held Today”, May 21, 1970.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Bridge Builder Is Retiring”, August 17, 1972.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Bridge plans move right along”, February 17, 1983.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Brodnax (sic) says bridge plans will meet deadline”, March 3, 1983.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Ft. Bayou Bridge ‘in the bag’”, September 29, 1983.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Fort Bayou Fishing Camp: Beaugez (sic) to close down, no relocation plans”, October 20, 1983.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Brodnax gives Chamber bridge update”, December 8, 1983.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Fort Bayou contract awarded”, December 15, 1983.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Ground breakers praise cooperation”, January 19, 1984.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Road to bridge get explanation”, January 19, 1984.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Bridge work”, February 2, 1984.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Work canal hits rough waters”, February 16, 1984.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Ft. Bayou Bridge Work Will Slow Traffic”, January 31, 1985.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Fort Bayou bridges opens”, July 11, 1985.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Friends of Fort Bayou oppose heavy industry”, August 22, 1985.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Fort Bayou Bridge dedication set”, October 31, 1985.

The Ocean Springs Record, “Dedication Ceremonies”, November 14, 1985.

The Ocean Wave, “Personal Mention”, November 28, 1896.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs News”, April 22, 1892.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs News”, June 10, 1892.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Local News”, July 20, 1894.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Locals”, October 30, 1896.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Locals”, November 20, 1896.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star“Ocean Springs Locals”, August 27, 1897.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star“Ocean Springs Locals”, June 17, 1898.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star“Ocean Springs Locals”, August 19, 1898.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, “Ocean Springs Locals”, October 6, 1899.