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John H. Behrens (1848-1918) was born in Germany in 1848. He immigrated to America in 1872, and settled at Chicago. Here he became very successful and made a fortune in the engraving and printing business. For many years, Mr. Behrens was president of the Franklin Engraving and Electrotyping Company and the Chicago Colortype Company.(The Jackson County Times, July 27, 1918, p. 5)
Circa 1875, Mr. Behrens married another German immigrant who expired before 1900. She bore him five children: Frieda B. Hollweg, wife of William Hollweg; Louise Behrens (1878-1918+); George A. Behrens (1882-1935+); Clara B. Boyd (1884-1918+), wife of William T. Boyd; and Martha B. Quin (1890-1918+), wife of George Robert Quin. In 1900, Mr. Behrens was a widower and resided with four of his children on Malden Street in Ward 25 of Chicago.(1900 Federal Census-Cook Co., Ill., T623-275, Bo. 2, p. 80)
Between 1900 and 1909, J.H. Behrens married Agnes Sievers (1860-1920).
Fort Bayou Fruit Company-Behrens Pecan Orchards, Inc.
The Fort Bayou Fruit Company was founded by John H. Behrens (1848-1918), Parker A. Jenks, and John Vennema of Chicago in 1909, with the intent to raise and sell nuts, fruits, trees, grains and other crops in Mississippi.(The Ocean Springs News, December 18, 1909, p. 8)
In February 1910, The Fort Bayou Fruit Company began to acquire acreage south of Vancleve in Section 31, T6S-R7W. Here 100 acres were purchased southwest of the A.L. Orrell place on Highway 59, now Highway 57, from Mary Witt Richardson (1849-1927) for $1000.(JXCO Land Deed Book 35, pp. 369-370).
On these cut-over timberlands abounding with tree stumps, Behrens with his strong Teutonic work ethic, converted the pine barrens to a money-making, agricultural venture. Pecans, oranges, grape fruit, persimmon, and fig along with corn, Irish potatoes, cowpeas, cabbage, tomatoes, melons, and cantaloupes were planted. In regards to pecans and citrus, J.H. Behrens cultivated 750 pecans of the best varieties, 2250 satsuma oranges, 350 grapefruit, and over 350 Japanese persimmons. Frank Flowers (1872-1911+), a Kentucky native, was the working farm manager.(The Ocean Springs News, May 27, 1911, p. 1, c. 7)
The Behren’s farm won first prize at the Gulfport Fair in October 1910, for their white corn. Their fields yielded 80 bushels per acre of uniform, quality corn.(The Ocean Springs News, October 1910)
In December 1913, J.H. Behrens of the Fort Bayou Fruit Company bought additional acreage for $600, the NW/4 of the SW/4 of Section 32, T6S-R7W, from Isabella Johnson of Mobile County.(JXCO Land Deed Bk. 39, pp. 634-635)
In July 1915, a windmill and pumping outlet were added to the Behrens’s farm to provide a steady supply of water for their livestock.(The Ocean Springs News, July 1, 1915)
With the Fort Bayou Fruit Company established south of Vancleve, John H. Behrens sought a winter residence in Ocean Springs. In April 1910, with the aid of local realtor, George E. Arndt (1857-1945), himself of German parentage, Mr. Behrens made a bid for the Austin place on Martin Avenue with the owner, Miss Mattie M. Austin (1842-1916), the daughter of Dr. William G. Austin (1814-1891) and Martha E. Porter (1818-1898) of formerly of New Orleans. Dr. Austin had erected the Ocean Springs Hotel in 1853, from which Ocean Springs derived its name in 1854. The Austin deal was finalized in May 1910. At the time, Miss Austin was a temporary residen tof West Brighton, Richmond County, New York.(JXCO Land Deed Book 35, pp. 508-509)
After spending the summer at Chicago, J.H. Behren and spouse returned to Ocean Springs in September 1910. They established fall and winter quarters at the Shanahan House on Washington and Calhoun. From here, the Behrens planned to extensively refurbish the Mattie Austin place on Martin Avenue and oversee the Fort Bayou Fruit Farm where 60-acres of pecans and 30-acres of fruit trees were to be planted.(The Ocean Springs News, September 3, 1910, p. 5 and September 17, 1910, p. 5)
By December 1910, Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Behrens had completed the work to the Austin place and were now domiciled on Martin Avenue. Their efforts were lauded as follows:
"The Behrens property……to look at it now is to see a far different place. Mr. Behrens has spent considerable money in improvements and he now has one of the most comfortable homes in Ocean Springs."(The Ocean Springs News, December 24, 1910, p. 5)
Mr. Behrens named his improved residence at present day 414 Martin Avenue, Terrace Hill. It is now the domicile of Mrs. Robert L. Hoomes.
Ocean Springs Civic Federation-Marshall Park
At Ocean Springs, John H. Behrens became a progressive citizen. He was the driving force in the building of Marshall Park in 1911. Without his energy, the Ocean Springs Civic Federation, the organization, which was founded for local civic improvements, would have floundered.(The Jackson County Times, July 27, 1918, p. 5)
At a meeting of the Civic Federation on May 18, 1911, J.H. Behrens proposed that the new park be called "Fountain Park". His suggestion was tabled and Mrs. Behrens, president of the civic group, announced that she would be pleased to accept additional ideas at their next meeting.(The Ocean Springs News, May 20, 1911)
When the Ocean Springs Civic Federation met on May 25, 1911, they chose the name "Marshall Park", which had been suggested by Albert E. Lee (1874-1936), the editor of The Ocean Springs News. Charles Marshall (1848-1928) was 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, May 27, 1911)
Fort Bayou Telephone Company
John H. Behrens also founded the Fort Bayou Telephone Company. His application for this utility was presented to the JXCO Board of Supervisors in November 1911. The company initially had ten rural subscribers. Its telephone line ran along the Vancleave road to the Alfred E. Lewis place. Another line was planned for Fontainebleau. The Fort Bayou Telephone Company was still in business as late as May 1928, when it was modernizing its service.(The Pascagoula Chronicle, November 11, 1911, p. 1, The Ocean Springs News, December 12, 1911 and The Jackson County Times, May 5, 1928, p. 3)
Mr. Behrens passed on at Chicago on July 18, 1918. His spouse, Mrs. Agnes Sievers Behren (1860-1920) expired on January 27, 1920. Their remains lie at rest in the Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. Their only son, George A. Behrens, took over the Jackson County agricultural operations.
Behren Pecan Orchards, Inc.
Several years after the demise of John H. Behrens, the name of the Fort Bayou Fruit Company was changed to the Behrens Pecan Orchards, Inc. with his son, George A. Behrens, president and John Vennema, secretary. In May 1924 and April 1926, George A. Behrens personally acquired 80 acres, the SW/4 of the NW/4 of Section 32, T6S-R7W and the NW/4 of the SW/4 of Section 32, T6S-R7W, from Tony Mallette (1894-1957) and the Behrens Pecan Orchards, Inc., respectively.(JXCO Land Deed Bk. 54, p. 49 and JXCO Land Deed Bk. 60, p. 626)
George A. Behrens called his south Vancleave farm, Twin Pines Ranch. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Behrens, Katheryn Jane Behrens, married Ulmer Wilson of Vancleave on August 14, 1935. They resided initially on the Behrens’s farm.(The Jackson County Times, August 17, 1935)
Chancery Court CasesJXCO, Ms. Chancery Court Cause No. 3811, "The Last Will of John H. Behrens", August 1918.
JournalsThe Ocean Springs News, "Local News", April 23, 1910.The Ocean Springs News, Local News", September 3, 1910.The Ocean Springs News, Local News", April 17, 1910.The Ocean Springs News, "Local News", April 1, 1911.The Ocean Springs News, "Local News", December 24, 1910.The Ocean Springs News,"Remarkable Land Development", May 27, 1911.The Ocean Springs News, "Local News", December 12, 1911.The Ocean Springs News, "Local and Personal", February 18, 1915.The Jackson County Times, "Ocean Springs Mourns Death of J.H. Behrens", July 27, 1918. The Jackson County Times, "Local and Personal", May 5, 1928.The Jackson County Times, "Local and Personal", August 17, 1935.The Ocean Springs Record, December 24, 1998. The Pascagoula Chronicle-Star, "Rural Telephone Service", November 11, 1911.
1900-Cook County, Illinois, T623-275.