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The History of St. Tammany Parish
St. Tammany is rich in history. This beautiful, thickly wooded area of pine, oak, magnolia and many other trees supported a large Indian population. Records of prehistory activities can be read from mounds and mindens still untouched by archeologists. It has attracted settlers almost from the beginning of its discovery by the white man. It, with the other Florida Parishes, to distinguish them from the rest of Louisiana which was part of the Louisiana Purchase, has history dating back to the time of Bienville and Iberville. They passed through here on the way to found the city of New Orleans. One could say that St. Tammany was discovered 282 years ago, in March of 1699, and has been involved in making history ever since.
The parish fronting on Lake Pontchartrain attracted settlers from the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf Coast area. It has flown the flags of France, Spain, a short-lived independent statehood and that of the United States. It flew the flag of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The territory was annexed to the United States by Madison in 1810 after the West Florida Rebellion. Governor W. C. Claiborne carved the area into four parishes, naming St. Tammany for a Delaware Chief. His name, Tamenand, meant friendly or affable to the white people, hoping the restless Indians would take the hint.
Governor Wm. C. C. Claiborne gave the name "St. Tammany" to the parish after the revolt of the settlers in the District of St. Ferdinand in Spanish West Florida. This resulted in a short-lived republic which accepted the flag of the United States when Governor Claiborne sent Colonel Covington to convince them. This same Covington, later a general, died in the War of 1812.
It was not until the middle of the 18th century that any whites settled west of the Pearl River. After the Revolution some families emigrated from Georgia, the Carolines and Virginia, and settled in this unbroken wilderness.
The first courthouse was erected at a place called Claiborne, on the west side of the Bogue Falaya. about opposite to the present town of Covington, but the parish seat was removed to Covington in 1829. St. Tammany is situated in the extreme southeastern corner of the state and from its original territory have been carved Washington Parish and a part of Tangipahoa. It is now bounded on the north by Washington Parish; on the east by the Pearl River, which separates it from Mississippi; on the south bounded by Lake Borgne, Orleans Parish and Lake Pontchartrain; and on the west by Tangipahoa Parish.
At the time of its founding, the population of the parish was predominately Anglo-Saxon, and English was the language and culture. In 1819 the population of St. Tammany Parish was 4,000. By 1860 it had grown to 5.406 (1,841 of which were slaves.) St. Tammany Parish today consists of 1411 square miles, with a population of approximately 92,585. Today, family names like Baham, Badon, Jones, Collins, Gibson, Ellis and Morgan are found throughout the parish and are the descendents of the original settlers.
In December of 1803 Jacques Drieux, a New Orleans Creole, acquired from the Spanish government 1600 acres of land lying in the fork between the Bogue Falaya and Tchefuncta Rivers on which he planned the town of St. James Due to the instability of the times and the meager population, nothing came of it until some time after the Annexation of Florida Parishes to Orleans Territory when John Wharton Collins bought the town from Drieux in May, 1815, for the sum of $2,300 with a claim of four inhabitants.
On July 4, 1815, Collins dedicated a portion of the area which he called the Division of St. John of Wharton. The Collins Family were "off-shoots" of the Wharton family of England made famous by the Whig leader. Thomas, Marquis of Wharton in King William's time (1690). In March of 1816 Wharton was incorporated by the Legislature, but in so doing, lawmakers changed the name to Covington in honor of General Leonard A. Covington.
The city is unique, even today, because of the way it was designed. In the center of each block a portion of land was left free for the use of teamsters for their oxen and wagons when they came to town, heavily laden with produce. The produce was then sent down river and across the lake to New Orleans.
The Covington area was originally inhabited by Indians. Before 1875 there were a few white families in the area. The area is part of what was known as Spanish West Florida, hence it is known as one of the "Florida Parishes"
Covington is located 8 miles from the north Toll Gate of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge . . . World's Longest Bridge. The Causeway affords residents a direct route into the heart of New Orleans.
Covington is found in the center of the Ozone Belt. Ozone is the term applied to the healthful air in this area which is spiced by the rich fragrance of pine trees. There are only two other recognized Ozone Belts in the world . .. one in the Hartz Mountains of Germany and the other in Arizona. The land around Covington is divided between green flat meadows and rolling hills. It is rich with many acres of standing timber. Large lung farms and nurseries are located in the area and ship to cities all over the world. There are also 68 thoroughbred horse farms in the surrounding towns of Folsom, Abita Springs. Lacombe, and in Covington, too.
The land is high and dry and is covered with beautiful pines, oaks, magnolia, holly, and gum trees. In the springtime the area is a riot of color when the azaleas, camellias, purple and white wisteria, dogwood, and redbud are in bloom It is also blessed with large supplies of fresh ground water for irrigation, industrial and domestic use The chemical content of the water is such that a local plant bottles and ships it to the Greater New Orleans area and other sections of the state.
Covington is located along U. S. Highway 190. This highway, along with four state highways, now connects Covington with other sections of the state and nation. In addition, Interstate 12 now connects directly with Interstates 51, 59, and 10. and passes approximately 3 miles south of Covington.
Due to its excellent water supply and close proximity to New Orleans, Covington is ideally situated for any industry wishing to locate in this area. The St. Tammany Parish locale remains one of the select Louisiana areas where moderate to large supplies of softwater are readily available to industry at attractive costs.
Another material found in abundance in these parts are the clays, which is the raw material for making fire bricks, etc. There are also many producing gravel sand pits in
the general area.
With its mild climate and healthy air, Covington and the surrounding area have become a favored location for retirees It is especially adaptable to research type activities and convalescent institutions.
Chamber of Commerce Magazine 1981