Sunday, January 12, 2020

Miss Ella Paine, Community Legend

An interesting article about one of Mandeville's most interesting citizens was published in the March 17, 1976, issue of the St. Tammany News Banner. Naomi Rausch told the life story of Miss Ella Paine, a Mandeville legend and community promoter. Here is the text of that article. 

 Ella Paine Enlivened People and Communities


"As long as you do your dead level best, earnestly, sincerely and prayerfully, the Good Lord will take care of the rest." This is the philosophy of Miss Ella Paine, one of St. Tammany's women who has through her social, religious and educational work given inspiration and animation that enlivened the people and the communities of Mandeville and Covington.

Miss Ella Paine on the front porch of her lakefront home

Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Rufus Paine, lived in Vernon Parish in a village near Leesville, La., when Miss Ella, as she is lovingly referred to, was born. The date was July 21, 1893.

She was one of six children. Soon after her birth the family came to Mandeville where her father practiced his profession. Miss Ella and her sister, Frances, still reside in their lake front home.

At a very early age she was taught to preserve everything - not only in the home but in the community as well. Perhaps the true values of life were not only taught to her but were inherently and unconsciously absorbed -from her "country doctor" father who after going twenty-five miles or more to see a patient was paid for his services with eggs, a chicken a gag of beans, okra, potatoes, pears and certainly, much love.

Miss Ella has been instrumental in the growth and the stability of the Mandeville Union Protestant Church from the times of coal oil lamps and plain wooden benches to modern facilities. At nine years of age she played the church's old pump-organ. Because of her size she could not reach the pedals and the keyboard at the same time, so she sat on her father's lap. He pumped and she played the notes.

Miss Ella served as organist, choir director, teacher and secretary of the church for seventy years. It was she who organized the first Youth Fellowship in the church and in 1951 she was active in the movement for the first Easter Sunrise Service.

After Graduation

Upon her graduation from Newcomb College in 1913 she began her teaching career. And then "War! That mad game the world so loves to play" interrupted her teaching career. She left the classroom for Washington, D.C. during World War I.

She worked in the Ordinances Department of the Government for fourteen months. Along with her work she contributed her services to the Red Cross where she conducted classes in knitting and bandage making.

After the Armistice was signed she was transferred to the Treasury Department. Seven months later "flue" with meningitis caused her to resign. She returned to her home where she again became associated with the Parish School System. While in the teaching profession she attended graduate school at Tulane and Louisiana State University. She received her degree in Library Science from the University. She then turned to library work and served as librarian of Covington High School until her retirement.

In 1917 she served as Worthy Matron of Southern Pines Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star. In 1943 she served as Worthy Grand Matron of Louisiana.

Ella Paine, at left, with Bertha Neff on her Mandeville porch looking over a stack of old photographs. Photo by Ron Barthet

It was Miss Ella who started the movement for restoring the original name of Fontainebleau Park as it was first called by Marigny. During Governor Leche's term it had been given the name "Tchefuncte." The restoration was accomplished by pressure of many organizations and through the efforts of Honorable L. L. Morgan.

The following is quoted from Miss Ella: "Practically two centuries ago Mandeville was recognized as a resort for the aristocracy of New Orleans; but today Mandeville is a big, bustling town with many "big city" services. It has been my good fortune to be included to happenings that have been for the progress of the town.

 "Although some things are ludicrous, they were important social, religious, and cultural aspects of community life that have been vital to me. A daily occurrence until after 1900 was my going with "Uncle Sam,"an old black man whom we all loved, to clean and light the corner street lamp lights burning coal oil. 

"I have seen the town streets from dirt, through gravel and now hard surfaced."

She organized the first Garden Club of Mandeville, and as a member of "King's Daughters" devoted much time and effort to Rest-A-While, a haven and respite for the poor of New Orleans.

Miss Ella, now 84 years of age (in 1976), is a member of the Mandeville Union Protestant Church, the Order of Eastern Star and the St. Tammany Historical Society. She has assisted in the historical research of Mandeville.

I have known Miss Ella Paine since my childhood. Always she was an inspiration. Her famous quote "Brighten the Corner where you are" has been and always will be the character of Miss Ella. The Covington Business and Professional Women's Club salutes Miss Ella Paine. 

ST TAMMANY NEWS-BANNER, Wednesday; March 17, 1976

See also:

Miss Ella Paine

Mandeville's Music Heritage

St. Tammany Historical Society


The officers and board of directors of the St. Tammany Historical Society in the mid-1970's: Seated from left are Germaine Cousin Smith and Miss Ella Paine. Standing from left, Ron Barthet, Mrs. F. W. Grant, Dr. S. Harvey Colvin, Bill Koonce, Mrs. Bertha Neff, and Carl Fredericks.