Saturday, November 30, 2019

1814 Letter About Tammany Rivers

From the Louisiana Digital Archives comes this letter written on July 9, 1814, by Thomas Robertson at Baton Rouge, La., to his sister, M.B. [Miss Mary B.] Robertson of Richmond, Va, in which he describes the Bogue Chitto, Tickfaw, Tchefuncte, and Tanghipahoa rivers in St. Tammany Parish, as well as Baton Rouge, La. 

He comments on the insects, scenery, resources, crops, and usefulness of the land for agriculture, and mentions his visit with and election of Fulwar Skipwith of Baton Rouge. Robertson also comments on the allegiance of the residents of the Florida Parishes to the United States and the emigration of some French and Spanish Louisianans to Campeache in Spanish Texas.   

Click on the images to make them larger. 


See also:

Friday, November 29, 2019

100 Years Ago This November 29

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer of November 29, 1919. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the sample images below to see larger versions.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Percy Viosca, Jr. in Talisheek, 1923

Several pictures of the Talisheek creek area were taken by Percy Viosca, Jr. on April 26, 1923. Photos from the Louisiana Digital Archives collection. Click on the images to make them larger. 

 According to Wikipedia, Percy Viosca Jr. was a freshwater and marine biologist who specialized in the fauna of Louisiana and in the aquaculture of sportfish. He identified four species of native Louisiana iris and experimented extensively with iris breeding. He was awarded bachelor's and master's degrees in science at Tulane University, where he was also appointed lecturer. He worked with the Louisiana Boy Scouts organization as well.

His early career included many scientific publications with taxonomic contributions and life histories of the animals he studied. Later, his interests shifted to methods of increasing the productivity of freshwater aquaculture. His reports on this subject often take examples from his work as a fisheries consultant and the biological supply company he operated.

Percy Viosca Jr. on the Talisheek bridge railing

While working for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in the field of herpetology, he documented the coastal Louisiana landscape. His work also included mosquito control, riparian and marshland studies, flood control, taxonomic work with native Louisiana irises, newts, and snakes, culture of crawfish and environmental impact of oil refinery practices. Throughout his life, Viosca was concerned with the conservation of wild places in his state. 

Percy called attention to coastal erosion in Louisiana in 1925, stating that man made flood protection, deforestation, deepening channels, and the cutting of navigation and drainage canals across the southern Louisiana marshes, as a cause for erosion.

According to a Louisiana State University article about Viosca,  Former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Joe L. Herring, who worked with Viosca in the 1950s and  early1960s said that “Percy was probably the greatest naturalist to work in the South.” Viosca knew Louisiana’s flora and fauna, its land and waters better than most. According to noted marine biologist Dr. Gordon Gunter, “few people have ever known one part of the earth and the life that lived upon it as well as Percy Viosca knew Louisiana.”

A large number of Viosca's materials and photographs are archived in the LSU collections of historic Louisiana documents.  

 Bayou Lacombe is shown in this photograph, taken in 1936, with Viosca (at right) and another man standing near a large cypress. Viosca is stretching out his arms to touch a root.

In his biography published online by LSU, it was noted that "Paul Percy Viosca Jr. was born in New Orleans on June 24, 1892. While he attended Tulane  University,  he was later fond of saying, he received his highest degree from the ‘university of hard knocks’ –the  wilds  and  waters  of  Orleans  and  St.  Tammany  Parishes. He  taught  at Tulane  as  a  student  assistant  and  an  instructor  before  leaving  in  1916  to  set  up  the  Southern  Biological Supply Company, which supplied specimens of crawfish and other aquatic life for research and commercial use,as  well  as  advising  industry.  While  he  remained  president  of  his  company  and  headed  its  research department,  Viosca  also  became  one  of  the  country’s  first  free-lance  biologists."

Young Viosca with his microscope

 "In the era when the terms ecology and conservation had just started to be used, Percy Viosca Jr. was traveling the state studying the effect of industrial pollution on its waterways, and how the exploitation of Louisiana’s natural resources was impacting the quality of its environment and the number and diversity of its wildlife and plants. As early as 1925 he was writing about the long-term dangers of unrestrained development on the state"

"As well as publishing many scientific articles and technical reports, Percy Viosca Jr. frequently gave talks to scientific societies, sportsmen’s groups and garden societies, usually illustrated with his own photographs. He was also active in a number of organizations. 

 The Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association named him “Outstanding Conservationist of the Year” in 1960 but, typically, he was studying shrimp in the gulf and could not be present for the ceremony. Just before his death the following year, he was named by Tulane University as “Biologist of the Year” in recognition of his nearly fifty-year contribution to biology. 

His pamphlets, articles, and books will be studied for years into the future as the founding documents of the scientific study of Louisiana fisheries and wildlife.  

In 1962, the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society published this account of his life.

"Few people have ever known one part of the earth and the life that lived upon it as well as Percy Viosca knew Louisiana. He was the foremost naturalist of the South in his day. Fields in which he made discoveries and contributions concerned wild irises, alligators and other reptiles, frogs, salamanders, fishes, penaeid shrimp, warm-water pond culture of fishes and crawfish, monarch butterflies, estu­arine mollusks, mosquitoes and the teaching of nature study, biology, and conservation.

"Due to the multiplicity of his interests the finished products of his pen did not keep up with his discoveries. I remember well one Easter morning when he told the Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists that if he were dropped out of an airplane blindfolded with a parachute anywhere in the State of Louisiana, as soon as he could find a garter snake or a wild iris, he could tell what parish he was in. This astounded some of the august gentlemen, but Viosca had no braggadocio about him.

"He was a Creole with unfailing courtesy. His most charming characteristic was a fresh and childlike enthusiasm for any phenomenon of life, which he maintained undiminished right up until the moment of his demise. He received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Tulane University, and is the most out­standing biologist that institution has pro­duced. He taught there for a few years, but  the regularity of the academic life was not for him. 

"For one thing, he could not take trips of several days' duration into the marshes and swamps. Therefore, he became biologist for the Louisiana Wild Life and Fisheries Com­mission and its predecessors, and due to the vagaries of state politics, was in and out of office four times between 1916 and the time of his death on 27 August 1961. 

"He founded the Southern Biological Supply House, but paid a great deal more attention to the collec­tion of rare live specimens than to the paying details of his business. He helped the Japa­nese get started in bullfrog culture and soon they were underselling him. With Mrs. Viosca he started the garfish scale jewelry business in the United States.

"In many fields of knowledge Percy Viosca passed by, took a look, wrote a few papers, and then went on to something else. His older papers in the Transactions originally set forth many of the ideas which have later become part and parcel of the thought of warm-water fish culturists. In fact, it was with some in­terest that I noted a recent French book on fish culture which cited Viosca in several places, although neglecting the more recent American literature.

"Viosca worked with young people and he gave hundreds of prepared and impromptu talks to children in schools and other organizations. He would tell anybody and every­body what he was doing and what he thought. without holding hack, and it never crossed his mind that he should shy away from ques­tions. This attitude was highly appreciated by the newsmen. 

"He gave simple answers about fisheries and wildlife, with a flair of his own, and he was so successful that the South's largest newspaper wrote an editorial at his death on the newspapermen's appreciation of his interviews and help. So, in essence, Viosca was a teacher, although he was not nom­inally employed as such, and several younger men received their initial impetus from him. Some of them have attained world-wide recognition in Zoology.

"Percy Viosca was born in New Orleans on 24 June 1892, and died there on 27 August 1961. He was a member of the American Fisheries Society for forty-two years. He hewed out a unique career along paths that nobody else traveled, and he followed Audu­bon in the great tradition of the Creole natu­ralists. He served his State and Nation well., and Louisiana is a better place for his having passed through."

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society,

Viosca in 1949

See also:

Trapping Insects for Science

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Families and Oxen Teams

Here is a posed photographic portrait of several St. Tammany families, dressed in their Sunday best, with their teams of oxen. Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Digital Archives. Click on the image to make it larger. 

Ox teams were used in logging. This photo shows loggers and their families in Saint Tammany Parish Louisiana, early 1900's. You get the feeling that the ox teams they owned, even the individual oxen, were appreciated by their owners and cared for as the investments they were, maybe even known for their individual temperaments and personalities. Because they were so strong and had long horns, you wanted to stay on their good side, that's for sure.

See also:
Ox Teams Pulling Wagons

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

McGlothlin Searched For Artifacts

Forty one years ago, in 1978, this article on Frank McGlothlin of Covington was published in a local newspaper. Written by Alice Hicks, it tells the story of McGlothin's efforts to find, document, and preserve relics from the Civil War.The information in the article detailed war activities in the area, particularly the story of the efforts to save the Gray Cloud, a steamboat transport ship.

Metal detector used in collecting

BY ALICE HICKS May 5, 1978 

Covington on July 27, 1862, was not the prosperous town it is today. A war was going on and the enemy occupied New Orleans. Unable to conduct its normal trade with the port city, the economy of Covington was dying.

A black market traded raw materials such as cotton and resin to the Yankees in exchange for such necessities as shoes and medicine.

Covington residents suffered at the hands of both Confederate and Union troops. Many Confederate deserters hid in the area; there was ample cover and no large garrison stationed nearby. The deserters stole supplies from civilians who were having difficulties getting the necessities themselves.

Occasionally help would be requested from the Union troops in New Orleans, but they too were more apt to steal than to enforce order.

Most Union expeditions across the lake, like the one on July 27, were aimed at breaking up official Confederate camps. That day the steam transport "Grey Cloud" carried 500 Union soldiers to the north shore where they unloaded some artillery pieces and marched into Covington.

The people were afraid that the troops might start looting and burning, but the Yankees only forced those displaying the Confederate flag to take it down, marched along Columbia Street and out of town.

Then the soldiers received information that Confederate troops were planning to capture the Grey Cloud. Union officers decided to undertake a forced march and get back to the boat as soon as possible.

It was a hot day and the troops were dressed in wool uniforms. Two of the men pulling a fieldpiece from the Vermont light artillery got heatstroke and died before returning to New Orleans.

Did the Yankees reach the Grey Cloud before the Confederates, and what happened during the fighting? These are questions that intrigue Frank McGlothlin, owner of the Foxhole Army Surplus store on N. Columbia Street in Covington, and avid Civil War relic hunter.

His collection includes every imaginable artifact left at campsites and battlefields during the Civil War. "Some collectors specialize in buttons or buckles or artillery shells," McGlothlin said, "But I collect them all."

Over 500 types of bullets were used during the war, and books have been written to help the collector identify which type he has found. Relic hunting grew in popularity during the 1950's when metal detectors became available to the general public.

McGlothlin began with a used army mine detector in 1963. "The metal detectors today are much more sophisticated," McGlothlin said. "They locate a mini-ball, or bullet, at a depth of one foot. An artillery shell can be detected a three or three and a half feet, depending on the mineralization of the soil."

McGlothlin has found eight mini-balls from The war, called the Gardiner explosive, worth about $40 each. Gardiner explosives were Union bullets, and rare because not many were manufactured. But usually the rare and valuable artifacts are Confederate.

The Southerners had less equipment, and were more careful with it, than the Union soldiers.

It was the fashion in those days to have the state seal on the uniforms brass buttons and perhaps on the belt buckles as well. If something broke, a Yankee was more apt to discard it than a Confederate, so it is the southern artifacts that are particularly good finds. Only three of the North Carolina belt buckles have ever been found and they are valued at $1200 each.

Hundreds of unexploded Civil War artillery shells are found every month around the country. They are usually harmless, but they can explode during the process of being disarmed; three people have died in such explosions.

Besides the mini-balls, buttons and buckles, other artifacts commonly found at sites are coins, bayonet scabbard tips, and knapsack hooks. But much more important to McGlothlin than the horseshoes or pieces of cookware or other relics is the challenge of finding the site itself.

Searching for a site begins with painstaking research. McGlothlin is an old hand at writing off to state and national archives for records giving clues to the sites of battles and encampments. He gets old maps and tries to read them accurately.

Pinpointing a location shown on al old map can be very difficult. An officer may have reported that a skirmish occurred three miles southeast of a river, but often it is hard to decide just which river he meant and the three miles was at best just a good guess.

After research indicates a promising area, there may be some practical problems to overcome in searching for the site. The area may have been built over, or covered with a garbage dump. Other areas are just as wild as they were in Civil War times, such as the thickly wooded area of Virginia where the Battle of the Wilderness was fought. In such dense underbrush the skeletal remains of a soldier with his accouterments can still be found.

Civil War relics have caused another sort of confrontation, this time between the relic hunters and the rangers who are supposed to enforce the prohibition against relic hunting in national parks.

A guerrilla type warfare is continually waged between rangers on horseback and relic hunters with metal detectors.

After McGlothlin finds a promising area, he searches for relic to show that there is actually a site. Common sense and good judgement indicate what sort of place would have ma a good campsite or furnished cover during a skirmish.

Interpreting finds from a site can be difficult unless you are an expert. As the war progressed, Confederate soldiers grew poorer and found themselves using more and more captured equipment.

Therefore a campsite containing both Union and Confederate artifacts might actually have been a Confederate site toward the end of the war.

McGlothlin has visited Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont to buy relics. There are even shops, usually located near famous battle sites, which sell nothing but Civil War relics. There are also Civil War Relic Exhibitions where relics are displayed and sold.

But what interests McGlothlin are the Civil War sites around Covington. He has even begun scuba diving on sunken gun boats in the area. Plans are being made to start a local re-enactment group. This type of group stages mock battles from the Civil War as accurately as possible, using as much authentic equipment as possible.

What ever did happen to that Union detachment from the Grey Cloud on July 27, 1862? They reached their boat before the Confederates could get into position, but were fired upon as they made their way back to Lake Pontchartrain. Three of them were wounded. The Confederates are rumored to have lost seven men because of the superior artillery aboard.
The war is over now, but the men who had to fight it will not be forgotten as long as collectors like Frank McGlothlin are around.

McGlothlin's army surplus store was on Columbia Street.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sugarcane Grinding

Anyone attending the Washington Parish fair will probably see an old-fashioned demonstration of sugar cane grinding where sugar cane stalks are fed into a grinding structure powered by a horse or a mule pulling a long arm around and around.

Here's a couple of photos from the 1930's showing St. Tammany farmers doing the same thing. Photos courtesy of the Louisiana Digital Archives. Click on the images to make them larger.

A news item about sugarcane production in 1919

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Photo from 1890's

This image was found in the Louisiana digital archives. Click on the picture to make it larger. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

100 Years Ago This November 22

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer of November 22, 1919. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the sample images below to see larger versions.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Frederick Family Visits Columbia St.

The Frederick family of Covington poses for photo on Columbia Street in front of the Mayor's office. The horse and surrey belonged to Victor Frederick, and sitting on the horse from front to back are Cyril Frederick (son of Victor Frederick), Harvey Frederick (son of Charles Frederick), Carlisle Frederick (son of Victor), Lee Frederick and Jesse Frederick (both sons of Charles). 

Seated on the front seat of the surrey is Victor and seated on the back seat is Willie Kennedy. Click on the image to make it larger.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Tchefuncte Middle School History

A history of Tchefuncte Middle School, located in Mandeville, LA,  was created more than 10 years ago by school personnel. Here is the text and some of the photos from that presentation. It was called "A Brief History of the School That Was Chinchuba."

The school opened in 1994, some twenty five years ago.


Like most schools Tchefuncte Middle School was conceived out of need. St Tammany Parish was and had been experiencing a population growth unprecedented by any other parish in the state. This population growth began when the first span of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from New Orleans to St. Tammany was opened in 1956.

With the opening of a second causeway span in 1969 St. Tammany growth percentages began to double and in some cases triple. Although growth seemed to to slow by 1990, St. Tammany Parish continued to be the fastest growing parish in Louisiana and one of the top areas for growth in the nation.

St. Tammany Pop. Growth
1950 - 26,988 14.2%
1960 - 38,643 43.2%
1970 - 68,585 77.5%
1980 - 110,869 61.7%
1990 - 144,508 30.3%
2000 - 191,268 32.4%
2006 est.- 270,000 41.2%

Echoing the percentage growth of St. Tammany parish, St. Tammany Public Schools were experiencing extraordinary student population growth. Student increases translated into increased faculty, staff, and facilities. Steps had to be taken to meet the demands of increased growth.

In the early 1990’s the St. Tammany Parish School Board proposed a bond initiative to the voters of St. Tammany parish, monies dedicated foremost to address the concerns of growth. After passage of this bond initiative St. Tammany Public Schools began construction of many new school facilities to answer the student growth question.

The opening student population for the new middle school was to be drawn from an overcrowded  Mandeville Middle School (1496 students). Along with students a number of the faculty and staff for this new school was to come from Mandeville Middle as well.

Choosing the Name Hits Snag

A name was needed for this future school. Names were chosen by committee of students, parents, and faculty for placement on a student ballot. The future student body selected the Choctaw name for alligator: “Chinchuba”.

Due to a recognition conflict with the Chinchuba Institute for the Deaf the name was changed. In deference to the Tchefuncte River, not far from the campus, the name was changed and has remained... Tchefuncte Middle School. Tchefuncte Middle is located on West Causeway Approach roughly one mile from the entrance to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.

Tchefuncte Middle, built alongside Pontchartrain Elementary, was and still is a unique school plant concept. The two schools are a mirror image of each other sharing a gymnasium and a cafeteria preparation/serving area. There are several connecting hallways between the two schools.

Through the years Tchefuncte has had many programs, activities, and organizations offered to students. Some occur in-school and are curriculum based while others take place after school and are for student or community enrichment.

Some examples are 4-H/Ecology Club, Accelerated Reader, After School Care, After School Drama Club, After School French, After School German, After School Spanish, Band, Book Fair, Builders Club, Chess Club, Chorus, Circle of Friends, Drug Abuse Resistance Education  (D.A.R.E.), Family Night, French Exchange Program, Gator Bank, Gator Parish Post Office, Jumpin' Gators, Literary Magazine: Gator Tales, National Geography Bee, Science Fair, Social Studies Fair, Spelling Bee, Student Government Association, Triple A, Williamsburg Trip, Walk-A-Thon, and the Yearbook: The Gator.

The Tchefuncte Middle School Motto is "Laying Foundations for the Future,” and the mascot is the alligator. Tchefuncte's first Principal was Bill Brugmann, 1994-2001, then Ms. Roxanne Lagarde, l: 2001-2007, and then Ms. Laura Norsworthy, starting in 2007. 

Here are some photographs from the school's early days. Click on the images to make them larger.