Friday, May 13, 2016

History of Talisheek

Mrs. D. R. Pitt of Talisheek worked in the store there for many years and also served as the area's postmaster. Below is an article I wrote for the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper that gives her perspective about how Talisheek grew through the years.

Click on the image to make it larger and more readable.

Mrs. D. R. Pitt Recalls Early Days in Talisheek As Postmaster
By Ron Barthet

A lot of folks in Talisheek used to go down to the train station twice a day to see the passenger trains pull in. "It was a big time to go down there and see who would get off," said Mrs. D. R. Pitt, a longtime resident of the Talisheek community.

She and her husband Dudley Pitt came from New Orleans about 28 years ago to start up a general merchandise store in downtown Talisheek, an Indian word meaning "gravel."

"There were two trains traveling in each direction daily," she recalls. "There was one in the morning from New Orleans and another from New Orleans at 3 p.m. Then at 6 p.m. there would be a train from Bogalusa passing through on its way to New Orleans."

People from the city would often come by train to visit their Talisheek friends and relatives, Mrs. Pitt said. The train station was quite busy, having an express office, a ticket window and a telegram service. Next to the train station was Mr. Armstrong's general merchandise store and a drug store, then Robert Woods' general merchandise store. Mr. Wood finally moved his store to where the washateria is today.

He is the one who brought Mr. and Mrs. Pitt from New Orleans in the first place. They were married in San Diego, Calif., in 1933 while Mr. Pitt was in the Navy.
Then they moved back to New Orleans where Mrs. Pitt had relatives.

Mr. Wood was Mr. Pitt's uncle, so he asked his nephew to take over the store because he was retiring. Mrs. Pitt began working in i the store for a while, then she I grew  tired  of that and decided to try it at home. But, then she grew tired of that and began looking for a job in Covington.This is where the Talisheek Post Office comes in. The post office had been located in the washateria building, as part of Wood's general merchandise store.

After Mr. Wood died, the store closed and Mrs. Roxie Parker operated the post office by itself. Then Mr. Pitt was asked to put the post office in his store across the street, but he did not want to do that. He did suggest that the post office department ask Mrs. Pitt if she wanted to be postmaster. She had no idea about being Postmaster, but she accepted the job.

The post office department had one stipulation: she had to improve the post office or it would be closed in 30 days. She and her husband got together, and in 30 days they got a contractor and built the present building next to their store.

The Talisheek Grocery with post office building at right

"They gave me 30 days to do something with it," she recalls, "so we built a building, sold more and more stamps and increased box rental income."  The system when Mrs. Pitt took over was simple: residents would go into the post office, ask her for their mail, she would sort it out and give it to them. Then she got a number of metal cages and separated the mail for each person, but she still had to give it to them through the window. This went on, with her husband building a number of wooden boxes to serve as post office boxes as the demand increased.

"It wasn't until July of 1974 that we had our first post office boxes with locks on them so people could look in, open them and get their own mail," she said. "That's when Talisheek was upgraded from a fourth class to a third class post office."

The threats of closing the little post office continue, however, with each new post office department cutback. She keeps in touch- with Senator Russell Long as to the status of postal legislation which could adversely affect her place of business. The Talisheek post office has been in business since 1873, she said.

She has been postmaster now for 15 years, and would not like to move back to New Orleans. "I like it out here," she proudly says. In the morning, she sorts the in­coming mail, during the day, she sells stamps and money orders and in the afternoon she bags the collected mail and sends it on its way. Then she goes home and plays scrabble word games with her husband. "He wins some and I win some," she said. While she had enjoyed ' sewing at one time, she does not sew too much anymore. "I do like to read a lot," she commented, adding "Mysteries."

Mr. and Mrs. Pitt have a grown son who teaches mathematics at Northwestern State University and two grandchildren. The son likes to fish and hunt, Mrs.  Pitt  said,   and the grandson likes to fish and collect stamps. Having a grandmother who is a postmaster is a treat to the youngster, Mrs. Pitt chuckles.

Writing for the St. Tammany Farmer for 15 years helps keep her busy. "People are doing about the same things now as they have always, but nowadays, they're doing it a little different," she explained. "They are still thrilled to see their name in print, however."

End of article

A column by Mrs. Pitt published in 1971

Talisheek is a small crossroads community at the eastern end of La. Hwy. 435 where it intersects La. Hwy. 41. To get there, you go to Abita Springs and then head for Money Hill's original entrance on Hwy. 435. Talisheek was on the railroad track between Slidell and Bogalusa before the track was abandoned. The crossroads was named after the creek that runs through it, coming in from the northwest and leaving towards the northeast as it heads for the Pearl River Canal. 

The watershed of the Talisheek Creek is large (see map) and encompasses "Talisheek Bay" (upper left), "Talisheek Swamp"" and then courses southeast to the community of Talisheek, (bottom right), crosses Hwy. 41, heads on over to the Pearl River Canal where it runs into "Talisheek Bluff." So the entire Talisheek area is definitely west of where the crossroads and post office are. One of the big obstacles to building the four lane highway from Bush to Lacombe (now under construction) was crossing the Talisheek swamp.

Talisheek Bluff measures 30 feet higher than the canal

So when someone said Talisheek 150 years ago, they may have been referring to the headwaters of Talisheek Creek and not the highway crossroads we know today.

This 1896 map shows "Talisheek" as further west than the current day crossroads. The post office for Talisheek was originally located in the Waldheim area.

Click on the above image to make it larger. 

The above article was written in response to the recent news that Clea Parker of Talisheek had just been named president of Southeastern Louisiana University. It was good news for the little community of Talisheek, sort of a historic occasion. The postmaster Mrs. Pitt was proud of Parker's accomplishments, and she celebrated with an overview of the history of the town. 

Here is the text from the above article:

     In last week's issue of The Farmer, we asked about how Talisheek got its name and Mrs. Dudley R. Pitt, Sr., pioneer resident and postmaster, came through with a long and interesting resume on the village's history. It follows below, in Mrs. Pitt's own words:

I have just read your column in this week's Farmer about Dr. Clea Parker and his wonderful success, which all of us here in Talisheek are most proud of.

Many people still living in our community recall his father and grandfather, "Oliver" and Clea,  himself as a child. He still has many cousins and relatives in Talisheek. All of us send our best wishes for his future. Talisheek has not had many native sons whose success has been as widely known as Dr. Parker, but we are proud of all of them. Some have been most successful in the ministry, businesses in Louisiana and other states.

The Name Talisheek

The name Talisheek means "gravel and small pebbles." It was given this name by the Choctaw Indians and most appropriately, since there are many gravel deposits in this area. The name and town, which included Waldheim, was recorded back in 1773 on Ludlow's Map. 

Indians on their way to sell their wares at the French Market in New Orleans would camp overnight by the creek here. It was dear, running and clean. Many arrowheads have been found along its banks. This creek was named Penn creek in later years due to a grist mill built on its bank; owned by a Mr. Penn, who was a wealthy lumberman. Today it is referred to by most as Talisheek creek.

Talisheek, according to Washington D.C. records, had a postmaster dating back to January 21 ,1883. It was located then in what is known today as. Waldheim. Mr. Frederick Matthies was appointed postmaster by Postmaster General Timothy O. Howe. This document was displayed in the museum of Covington's Sesquicentennial in 1963. I do not know how long Mr. Matthies had this office, for the next postmaster for Talisheek was listed as Walter Parker, March 1908. In 1913 the postmaster was Mrs. Mattie Johnson, who was a sister-in-law to Mr. Frederick Fatheree.

Mr. Warren Thomas, well known during his lifetime in the city of Covington and Mr. Walter Parker laid out the plans for our town with streets and names. Mr. Thomas owned west of the railroad and Mr. Parker on the east.

Train Depot

In 1913, the Ozone Lumber Co. moved in following the railroad, about 1906-07. A large depot was built beside the tracks, and it consisted of an express office,  ticket window and telegraph. Freight came in several times daily.

The Ozone Co. was owned and operated by Mr.  Frederick Fatheree and his partner, known as Mr. "Cotton Jim." The mill was built by Mr. Allen Woodson  Clements, whose daughter still lives in our town (Mrs. Rossie Parker, whose genealogy includes Mark Twain).  Talisheek boasted then as  having a 'Woodman of the World" hall, a turpentine distillery, Thomas and Parker Conversary and the mill, whose offices adjoined the post office.

In 1917, Robert H. Wood Sr. bought his fathers  John H. Wood's general merchandise store, located by the railroad. In time, there was a cafe, boarding house, drug store, barber shop, meat market and  fruit stand, all built along the railroad.

A school and two churches added to this. Bacon sold for 5c a pound and many customers bought 2 cents worth of rice and red beans.

Talisheek School

Land for the school was donated by Mr. Warren Thomas. It was a  log structure facing the creek. In 1914 a second school was built on land donated by Mr. Parker and Mr. Thomas. This school burned and  the 3rd was erected on the same land.

 In 1940 the school was consolidated with Sixth Ward Junior high and the building removed from Talisheek and reconstructed in Slidell for a school for Negroes.

About 1925, Mr. Warren Thomas died , and he had one of the largest funerals in our town, being buried in the Thomas Cemetery here, which he donated. I witnessed the cortege as it passed  with its many horseback riders, buck boards filled with mourners, wagons, buggies, carriages and a very few automobiles.

 Mr. Thomas owned a large 20 room home on Talisheek-Abita road. 

In 1931 Robert H. Wood Sr. became  postmaster of Talisheek and remained in this office till 1955, the longest one to keep this office. Mr. Wood had the only telephone in town for many years.

 Today it is a small town with a colorful past and history, having no payrolls of any kind for the folks, so they are forced to go to other -towns and cities for employment .The small businesses now existing are the service station, general store, post-office, washateria, beauty parlor and cafe.

The virgin pines that brought in the mill have about all disappeared from the woods. The gravel road has been replaced with black top and the creek is just used for swimming by the youngsters today.
The ox drawn carts have all gone into the past. In between there is more interesting happenings arid families but too many to write in a letter. I have, however, written all I have compiled about Talisheek, and it is in the Ohio Museum for Post Offices and a copy in the Houston, Texas, main library.

I hope this answers your questions referring to an old country boy from Tahsheek making good and putting Talisheek on the map--  its been on for a longer time than you or I—about 95 years at least and closing. I want to pass this on—not even in the thick zip code books in the post office can you find any other Talisheek listed in any other state! It is the one and only with that name.

St. Tammany Farmer January 26, 1968

Talisheek Today

Talisheek Grocery

The  new Talisheek Post Office


Talisheek Dollar General

I lived in Talisheek for several years, up on my dad's 11 acres at the corner of Hwy. 41 and Hickory Field Road. I remember silk screening some signs for the  Lazy J campground at the end of the road on the West Pearl River Navigational Canal. So beginning in 1972 every day for several years I would drive into Covington to work at the newspaper. Somewhere in my files, I have a picture of me washing my clothes at the Talisheek washateria.

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