Thursday, March 14, 2019

Adrian Schwartz History Published In 1953

Sixty-six years ago, in 1953, Covington attorney and historian Adrian Schwartz wrote a history of St. Tammany Parish in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. 

The history was published in a small green booklet with the help of several prominent parish citizens and the St. Tammany Parish Fair Association as well as the Louisiana Purchase Sesqui-Centennial Committee.

Here is the text from that booklet. Click on the images to make them larger and more readable. 

A Brief Outline of St Tammany Parish History
By Adrian D. Schwartz

Somewhere near the mouth of the Mississippi, 1682, La Salle took possession of Louisiana for France, but it was not until February, 1699, that any attempt was made to colonize the province. It was then that Iberville and Bienville heading a company of several hundred French Canadians landed near Biloxi. 

During the same month Iberville located the passes, with the aid of Bayou Goula guides, and ascended the river beyond Baton Rouge, visiting various Indian settlements.

After that his main party returned downstream to the Gulf Coast, while he and several companions took a different route, paddling their way through the Iberville and Amite Rivers, crossing Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain, and continuing past the Rigolets until he rejoined his forces on the coast sometime late in March. These intrepid Frenchmen were the first white men to set foot on St. Tammany soil.

In June of that year, Bienville, younger brother of the explorer, sailed up Pearl River on a peace mission to the Acolopissa tribe, then located at Indian Village near Honey Island. They numbered in all about 1200, of which 250 were warriors. He found their tribal customs similar in most respects to those of other Gulf coast red men. After the establishment of the city of New Orleans, the tribe followed the French to the south shore of the lake about 1730.

Native Americans

Acolapissa means ''people who listen and see". A street in New Orleans is named after them. In their wake came a portion of the great Choctaw nation from upper Pearl River to occupy the St. Tammany wilderness. In 1762, Louisiana by secret treaty was ceded to Spain, and seven years later Alexander O'Reilly, after quelling a civilian outbreak became the first active Spanish governor, but in the treaty spoken of, this section known as West Florida fell under the British crown.

It still remained the same edenic wilderness, as the Indians knew it, until around the close of the American revolution. In 1779, Spain joined forces with the Colonies, Spanish Governor Galvez' troops marched from New Orleans. The British forts at Manchac and Baton Rouge quickly surrendered, and the territory became known as Spanish West Florida. 

Up to that time the only white inhabitants in St. Tammany were some 15 or 20 English families who had settled along the north shore of the lake between Lacombe and the Tangipahoa river.

Oath of Allegiance

Following a naval battle off the Mandeville shore between British and American sloops-of-war, the settlers all signed an oath of allegiance to the North American Colonies, October 16, 1779. After 1785, many immigrant groups from Georgia and the Carolinas were encouraged to settle along the Tchefuncta, Pearl and Bogue Chitto rivers, and land grants were profusely handed out up to 1810.

 It will be remembered that West Florida did not come into the United States under the express terms of the Louisiana Purchase. Meanwhile, in December, 1803, just two weeks before the formal transfer, Jacques Drieux, a New Orleans Creole acquired from the West Florida government a small tract lying in the fork between the Bogue Falaya and Tchefuncta Rivers, on which he planned a town to be known as St. James.

West Florida

Due to the instability of the times and the meager population, little came of it until after the settlement of the West Florida rebellion carried on by the leaders of these so-called "Florida Parishes". The Spaniards having been driven out, the territory was annexed to the United States by President Madison in 1810. Possession having been taken by Governor W. W. Claiborne, of Orleans Territory, he carved the country lying between the Mississippi and the Pearl into four parishes. St. Tammany he named after a Delaware Indian Chief, Tamenand, which signified "friendly or affable to the whites", an idea which the Governor no doubt hoped the restless redskins here would seize upon.


In 1811, Coquille, or Cokie Bank, on the Tchefuncta became Madisonville, and in May, 1813, John Wharton Collins bought the entire Drieux tract, on which four dwellings had been built, for $2300.00 On July 4, following, he publicly dedicated the town as Wharton. Collins was a young New Orleans merchant who had migrated with others of his family from Philadelphia right after the Purchase. The Collins 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 1816 Wharton was awarded a charter by the Legislature, but the name, over Collins' protest, was changed to Covington. This name was given to honor Gen. Leonard A. Covington of Natchez, a hero of the war of 1812, which had just ended. Collins did not live long to see his town grow. He died in 1817 at 29, and is buried in the old Covington cemetery, which was founded by his death.

During the War of 1812, Gen. David B. Morgan, one of the early founders of Madisonville, became second in command to General Jackson at the de­fense of New Orleans. His troops stationed on the west bank prevented the British from making an attack on the city from the rear. General Morgan was the great-grandfather of the late Lewis L. Morgan, one-time Congressman from St. Tammany.

In 1819, the area of St. Tammany was about 1800 square miles and contained about 4,000 inhabitants, the largest part of which lived in the northern half. This half was erected into Washington Parish. In 1869 the western boundary was pushed back from Tangipahoa to the Tchefuncta to make room for the new Parish of Tangipahoa. After the creation of Washington Parish in 1819, the seat of justice was removed from Enon on the Bogue Chitto to Claiborne opposite Covington. 

After ten years Covington by an act of the legislature became the permanent Parish seat.   The site of the present courthouse was established in 1838.


Well along that time regular steamboat service was transplanting sailing vessels on the lake, Covington being the main trading center with Madisonville as the port. For nearly a century St. Tammany was regarded not only as a health and vacationist's resort, but also as the surest refuge against the summer plagues that came to New Orleans with alarming regularity.


Bernard Marigny de Mandeville, famous bon vivant of New Orleans in 1834, established the Town of Mandeville with the above aim in view. Long over a century ago Mandeville was famous among New Orleanians for its noted hotels and cuisine, coupled with gay steamboat parties and regattas. On occasion when duelling matches in the city were losing their privacy, excursion parties would be planned for Mandeville where Creole hotheads could settle it all in the shade of the lakeshore oaks. What was once Marigny's vast sugar cane plantation is now Fontainbleau State Park.


Railroads, though attempted for 50 years, did not become a possibility until 1887, after the building of the New Orleans North Eastern, through the southern end of the Parish.

It was at this time that Slidell came into being, and expanded around the great brick and lumber industries which are still established there.

In spite of its isolation by water for nearly a century, a great and varied commerce was carried on between St. Tammany and New Orleans. As early as 1816, Darby in his Travels writes of the large business that was carried on from Covington in cotton, beef, pork, hides, dairy cheese, lumber, pitch, lime bricks "and many other articles includ­ing all kinds of poultry." "Poultry" no doubt implies the abundance of wild game on which New Orleans feasted.

The blow from the Civil War and Reconstruction left the Parish at an economic standstill for more than twenty-five years. By the turn of the century through long industrial effort and well-­trained foresight on the part of many courageous leaders, the people emerged into the light of a new decade. Schools and roads, and more and better schools and roads, saw the days of the ox-team and the log cabin school-house fade into yester­day's twilight.

Lake ferries and commuter passenger trains have long yielded to the use of multiple bridges with their ceaseless auto traffic, knitting the parish and its neighbor-metropolis into a plan of common activity. This seems best expressed in the vision of the great inter-urban causeway now looming on the horizon.

To return with a few more backward glimpses of the past: All of the leading religious denominations,—Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episco­palian and Catholic Churches have their foundations rooted in St. Tammany for well over 100 years, and continue to flourish along the newer establishments such as the Lutherans, and other creeds.


St. Tammany's first newspaper, The Louisiana Advocate was founded in 1832, and survived until 1860. It was succeeded by the Covington Wanderer, which lasted throughout the Civil War. Later it was followed by several carpetbagger journals, published at Mandeville, The Wave, The Crescent and the Mandeville Republican. In 1874 the St. Tammany Farmer was established, and still remains one of the leading weeklies of the state.

Incidental to Louisiana journalism, it is worthy of note that John Gibson, nephew of John Wharton Collins, and who succeeded him in the founding of Covington, in 1826 returned to New Orleans, where in time he became owner and editor of several newspapers published there, the last being The True American, from which he exercised a powerful influence George W. Kendall worked on this journal until he helped establish The Picayune in 1837.

Those who have reached grandparent status may read with mingled amusement an account of Covington published in 1892.

"Covington is on the rivers Bogue Falaya and Tchefuncta, just above their junction, about 35 miles north of New Orleans and nine miles from Lake Pontchartrain. For many years it was the only shipping point for all the cotton raised in a large part of the Florida Parishes, and the southern portion of the State of Mississippi.

The land around Covington was considered entirely valueless for agriculture and nothing but bricks, lumber, tar, wood, and sand were shipped from the Tchefuncta River. With the end of slavery came a new era. 

The brick and lumber industry almost ceased and people were forced to turn their attention to the soil. In a faint-hearted way a few experiments were made, and the results were surprising to everyone. The cotton crop has increased year by year, and last season Covington shipped over 4,000 bales.

About 1856 it was discovered that some of the wells and springs were medicinal in their nature; since then the town has been a resort for invalids.   It now has a population of about 750 inhabitants, 12 stores, 2 butcher shops, 2 bakeries, 2 blacksmith and wheelright shops, 1 newspaper and printery, 4 churches, 2 schools, a tannery, a tailor and shoemaker shop.

Covington is about 30 feet above the rivers that flow on either side furnishing navigation for steamboats and sailing vessels at all times of the year. The land is high and dry covered with beautiful forests of pine, oak, magnolia beech, holly and gum, interseted by romantic roads and lanes, and under all an unlimited supply of clear cold and perfectly pure artesian water."

The above may be a slight understatement, but even at that, the way of life for this village in the 90's, doesn't seem so bad after all.


About this time also Slidell had become an incorporated town of some 200, but it was already humming with activity. Founders' Day for Slidell may well date back to the early spring of 1882, according to an account of Fr. Adrian Rouquette, noted apostle to the Choctaw tribe, whose mission on Bayou Bon Fouca was just above the new town.

He writes in the St. Tammany Farmer that a large mill owned by Alabama interest had been set up at the place formerly known as "Robert Brick House", but which was now called Slidell after the renowned New Orleans politician and Confederate diplomat, whose daughter had married Mr. Erlingher, head of the great lumber syndicate which was fostering the town. 

This occurred on a day when the village was visited by the directors of the new railroad and a large group of the line's employees. The address of the day was apparently made by the Rt. Rev. F. X. Le Ray, Bishop of New Orleans.

First Telephone

In connection with the founding of Slidell, there came in 1884, the first telephone and telegraph communications from the outside world to the parish, through the St. Tammany Telegraph and Telephone Company. On July 4, Frank Mooreman, president of the company transmitted the first long distance message to John E. Gusman at Slidell.

Shipbuilding Centers

Slidell and Madisonville both in World Wars I and II proved to be prominent shipbuilding centers. Marine building and repairs are still carried on at a peacetime level.

Abita, whose famous springs have been included in the State's Park System, Pearl River and Folsom have all been incorporated within the last 50 years, but each originated from community settlements as old as the parish itself.

To return to this year of grace, 1953, which represents the 150th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase as well as the 140th of the Founding of Covington, may we allow for a few statistics just to keep the picture of the past closely gripped in the hand of the present:

Area of St. Tammany Parish 915 Square Miles
Population (1900) 13,325
Population (1950) 26,884
Total Assessment (1950)  $13,185,953
Sales Tax Collections (1950)  $304,000,000

Concrete  74.00 Miles
Asphalt     116.74 Miles
Graveled  172.74 Miles
Grade     300.00 Miles (approximately)
Combined Road Mileage 596 Miles

See also:

History Booklet from Sesquicentennial