Sunday, August 30, 2020

History of Schneider Brick Yard - Slidell

 An article telling about the history of the Schneider Brick and Tile Company in St. Joe (Slidell) was published in the Slidell Times Newspaper on July 4, 1957. Here is a clipping of that article, which was accompanied by several photographs. Click on the images below to make them larger. 

History of Schneider Brick and Tile Company
By Phil Oramous

THE SLIDELL—ST. TAMMANY TIMES — Slidell, La.

Thursday, July 4, 1957

From an humble beginning, the Schneider Brick and Tile Company has developed into the largest single-plant pro­ducer of brick and tile in this section of the country.

Established on its present site in 1880, almost eight full years before the incorporation of the Town of Slidell, the company's plant at 2599 Front Street also has the distinction of being the oldest industry in St. Tammany Parish that is still thriving.

In the beginning the brick business was a sideline to the sawmill business of the founders, Fritz, Jake and Albert Salmen. The clay was crushed and mixed by an old mule on a wheel, and the bricks were hand molded and dried in the sun.

Because the plant was in operation before the coming of the railroad to Slidell, the bricks were shipped to New Orleans and other points by schooner. These boats were built and repaired in a small shipyard on the present site of the F. J. J. Sloat Dredging Company on Bayou Vincent.

About 1920 the sawmill burned, and the Salmens concentrated their efforts on brick making and other interests. In 1922 they sold the yard to a  New Orleans concern, which in turn sold the company to a Nashville chain of brickyards.

Then came the depression and the only time since its founding that the yard was compelled to cease operations. No brick was produced for a 60-day period during the height of the depression.

Claude, Ben and Matthew Schneider came into posses­sion of the industry in 1931 when the yard was sold at sheriff's auction without inventory.

"Our beginning was stormy," remarked Claude Schneider, president and general manager "but now we use all of the most modern brick-making methods ann have the largest plant of this kind in this part of the country.

"We have the capacity to turn out over 100,000 bricks or an equivalent amount of tile a day."
All of the machinery and equipment within the plant has been replaced or remodel­ed within the last 10 years. The Haig Continuous Kiln, which burns the brick at 2400 degrees F., is the largest of its kind in the United States.

One of the most recent mod­ern innovations is also a first for the Schneider company. The plant was the first in the area and is still the only one that packages all of its prod­ucts.
Five hundred bricks (or the equivalent in tile) are wire-bound in packages that elimi­nate handling and get the brick to the customer with less breakage. 

The trucks used by the plant to ship some of its products are equipped with special lifts to handle these large packages.

The new method was fea­tured, along with a story about the brickyard itself, in a re­cent issue of the Brick and Clay Record, the national magazine of the brick and tile industry.

The company gets the clay which it uses from huge pits about a mile and one-half south of town. It uses its own dummy railroad to transport the clay to the plant. This hard, yellowish dirt is then dumped into a large crusher which breaks up all the lumps and some dust to bring the clay to the proper consistency. No water is added to the mud, only natural moisture being necessary for making brick.

The resulting mixture is forced through a die (tile is made by merely changing the die on the same machine) and cut to the right size by an overgrown cheese slicer. All scratches and marks are ap­plied as the clay comes from the die.

The new bricks are then stacked in a huge drying room which takes all the moisture and air out of the brick to make it lighter and stronger.

AFTER THE DRYING period the bricks are moved to the kiln where they are baked at 2400 degrees. The color of the brick is determined by how long it is burned and the length of time it is allowed to cool off. Here again nothing artificial is used, only the natural clay, according to Robert Rugan, superintendent of production and shipping.

The bricks then go from the kiln to the mechanical lift packaging unit, and then to the consumer. The kiln itself is 600 feet long and 150 feet wide. Fires are set in one end of the kiln and the heat and the fires gradually progress around the circular affair until the bricks have been burned for the re­quired length of time.

Natural gas is used for fuel in the kilns. The brickyard was responsible for bringing natural gas to the Slidell area.

"Gas produces a tremendous­ly hot flame and is best for our purposes," commented Mr. Rugan, who has been with the company for over 22 years.

Since, hot air rises, much of the heat produced in the kilns would be wasted. This is pre­vented by a large duct built from the top of the kiln _to carry the excess heat to the air drying rooms. This saves on fuel costs in that other fires do not have to be started to dry the new bricks.
Most of the day's work is done by the yard's 95 em­ployees before noon. The day begins at 5:30 a.m. in order to catch the cool hours of the morning.    

The atmosphere around the kilns often reaches a very high temperature. As soon as a worker "makes his day" he is allowed to leave and is therefore not exposed to the excessive heat of the afternoon.

An "invention" worked out by several of the employees is used to cool off the kiln. Water is sprayed from a series of pipes around the outside of the kiln and several huge fans pull the moisture through the opened furnaces. This method cools the atmosphere around the furnaces by about 60 or 70 degrees within 24 hours.

The Schneider family has been in the brick making busi­ness for a long time. P. W. Schneider, father of the three men who purchased the yard in 1931, began operations at St. Joe Brick Works near Pearl River over 65 years ago.

Pete, a member of the third generation of brick-making Schneiders, is now in charge of St. Joe. It did not take long for Schneider bricks to become famous. Builders, contractors
and architects often specified that they wanted St. Joe brick to be used in their buildings. Thus it was that the name "St. Joe" came to be stamped on each and every brick pro­duced at the plant.

 

Bricks were hand made and sun-dried in St. Tammany Par­ish, however, long before the advent of the Salmens. Clay pits still may be found in the northern part of Slidell and its environs.

Brick from St. Tammany was shipped across the lake to New Orleans, and many of the oldest buildings in the city (notably in the Vieux Carre) were built with St. Tammany brick.
The local industry did not progress without its more re­cent trials and tribulations. In the hurricane of 1947 half of the roof of the kiln was blown down.

Several fires harrassed the company, especially in August, 1952, when the entire rod of the kiln as destroyed. This, however, allowed the brickyard to come back even stronger, as the plant is now completely fireproof.

Its all-steel roof is the largest of its kind. It is estimated that the com­pany owns enough land for pits to produce sufficient clay to make 100,000 bricks a day for the next 75 years.


 

 


See also:

St. Joe Brick Works, Inc. Website

Area Historic Brickyards

 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Morgus The Magnificent

The many fans of Morgus the Magnificent were saddened to learn this week that the genius behind the genius had died. Morgus was known throughout the land as a master scientist, entertainer, and most of all, the living example of the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again."

The man behind him, however, was Sid Noel, a local broadcasting industry legend and resident of Covington for years.

Morgus' worn face, dirty lab coat, crooked teeth, and that authority-demanding voice were well-known to generations of New Orleans who grew up with him hosting a weekly horror-movie/science fiction film screening, interspersed with segments of his latest scientific experiment, all for the good of mankind. Saturday night belonged to Morgus, along with Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Werewolf and any number of other scary denizens of the dark.

Momus Alexander Morgus was a character created in the early 1960's by Noel, a.k.a. Sidney Noel Rideau. He died this week at the age of 90, still a cult hero to thousands upon thousands of television watchers across the nation. Noel portrayed the slightly wacky but good-hearted scientist for more than 50 years.

Once in an interview Noel said that he based the motivations of Dr. Morgus on that famous classic literature figure Don Quixote, who tilted at windmills to fight for the good in the world.

The character of Morgus was always on the leading edge of science, each week coming up with a new gadget, concept or chemical formula to advance mankind. Even though he often failed to succeed at his goal, he kept trying. It was a lesson that many New Orleans teenagers took to heart. 

In addition to his weekly horror movie hosting duties, he had a weekday weather show for a few years, and also starred in his own movie: The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus. Filmed in and around New Orleans, it brought the exploits of the Magnificent one to the big screen.

He left New Orleans for a few years to provide television viewers in the Detroit area with his special brand of madness, but came back to the Crescent City in the 1970's. Thanks to a devoted fanbase, the character kept returning with new shows, personal appearances, and celebrity endorsements, entertaining a new generation of fans with each outing. He went on to appear on different television stations in the New Orleans region, and even went into national syndication with reruns, capturing a greater audience of diehard fans. 

 
 
A Morgus episode featuring a do-it-yourself home nuclear power plant. Click on the "play triangle" to view the video.

My sister Bonnie took part in a special contest centered around Morgus at Pontchartrain Beach in the late-1950's. It was a "Find a Girlfriend For Morgus" contest, and my sister dressed up as the Mummy. She didn't win, but it was a lot of fun, and we did get to see Morgus on stage with all the beautiful (?) contestants. 

Moving beyond his Morgus character, Noel's educational efforts included several projects promoting the use of story-telling for young children, a children's book of fables, personal school visits, and helping raise funds for area non-profit organizations including the Audubon Zoo and WYES educational television. His "Uncle Noel's Fun Fables" book and other works sought to help children develop their own ethical values and improve their outlooks in life.

Fans were thrilled last year when Noel took to the stage at the Orpheum Theater for a one-man show to talk about Morgus, his inspirations and aspirations, as well as Noel's long and distinguished career in broadcasting. The event was actually a fund-raiser for the state Alzheimers support organization.

Noel was a resident of the Covington area for years with many friends throughout St. Tammany Parish. His obituary asked that in lieu of flowers that donations be sent instead to the Northshore Humane Society and other humane societies throughout the region. 

 
 
Alec Gifford interviews Sid Noel About Morgus.
Special guest - Wayne Mack. 
Click on the "play triangle" to view video.

Excerpts from his obituary information:

"Sidney Noel Rideau passed away on August 27 at the age of 90. Sid was born in New Orleans on Christmas day, 1929. He graduated from Alcee Fortier High School. During the Korean War, he served 8 years, honorably, in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

"From the 1950s, Sid's professional name is fondly remembered as Sid Noel, the host of WWL radio's morning Dawnbusters program, which replaced the original Dawnbusters live studio orchestra, hosted by Henry Dupre. Earlier, while attending Loyola University in communications studies, Sid's creative faculty was already on display. As master of ceremonies of the music department's Campus Capers, he led the college's charity entertainment group that visited hospitals and nursing homes throughout the region. In 1957, Loyola University acquired the license for Channel 4 Television station (WWL-TV).

"In January, 1959, with his identity kept secret, Sid created and became the mad but hilarious scientist Dr. Momus Alexander Morgus the Magnificent, whose quixotic, scientific experiments caused a sensation as host of WWL-TV's Saturday night movies. The character's popularity was overwhelming, and continued on and off various television stations, countrywide, for over half a century.

"Throughout the years, Sid generously used the popularity of the Morgus character to raise funds for local charities, civic causes, and WYES-TV auctions. In between, he had other projects that kept him busy in New York, Detroit and New Orleans. He wrote, produced and hosted over 500 television programs, 180 in syndication.

"Beyond radio and television, Sid was a storyteller. Fables were his teaching tools. He patented and manufactured what may be the first "fable-telling" attraction called The Story Castle. From telephones attached, children listened to The Castle's audio stories that spread joy and bits of moral education in shopping malls throughout the United States, and in Canada.

"In the early 1990s, Sid turned his interest toward the growing violence and disciplinary problems in schools throughout the country and at a time, character education became an initiative with educators. As S. Noel Rideau, he authored and published a K-5 reading program titled Uncle Noel's Fun Fables, which got parents involved in reading with their children. The program was featured on the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.

"Sid also made school visits with his live presentation Storytelling for Character. In 1993, he was invited into the newly organized Character Education Partnership, Inc. in Washington, D.C. In addition, he was a lifetime member of The Storytelling Network.

"At the beginning of the 21st century, he began developing, on the Internet, a K-12, "ethics for kids" reading program as a free supplementary resource for schools. The 52 original stories titled "Fables to Grow On" were incorporated into what became the Internet Story Club of America, Inc. Co-founded and hosted by The New Orleans Public Library, it became an independent, 501c(3) non-profit charity. It serves all ages on the Web at: InternetStoryClub.org."


See also:

Sid Noel Obituary Webpage

Fan Essay

 YouTube Videos

The Rabbit Island Post Office

All along the Rigolets channel at the eastern end of Lake Ponchartrain are several islands that provide enough solid ground to build a railroad track along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, between Pearlington, MS, and New Orleans.

 
A map from 1893 showing the railroad track crossing over the Rigolets

 The L&N Railroad Track, back around the turn of the 20th century, provided access to a number of island communities that were primarily groups of fishing camps. That area is still home to a few fishing shacks, but the ravages of hurricanes and their associated storm surges have destroyed many of those camps, and only bare spots of ground show where the camps used to be. 

 
2019 Aerial Photograph (Google Earth) showing the train track crossing over.

 There is a small bit of land bordering the Rigolets, however, the 500 acre "Rabbit Island" that at one time had its own post office. Nobody could figure out why Rabbit Island had its own post office, given the fact that it was barely populated and that mostly on the weekend. Then came the great revelation, and the mystery of the Rabbit Island Post Office was solved. 

Click on the following copy of a Times Picayune editorial from many years ago to find out.

 


According to several people commenting on Facebook, t
here were full time residents on Rabbit Island up until Katrina. The train goes right across the island and would stop for passengers. Many people would visit the hunting camps on the island and before that was a big hunting/fishing club that had a place with full-time caretakers. It is a favorite fishing and hunting spot for many New Orleans residents. 

One camp in particular was inhabited by a couple who picked crab meat for a living and would supply visitors with what they needed. The husband was referred to as the Mayor of Rabbit Island, and they got their mail delivered by train up until Katrina, the Facebook comments went on to say. 


The post office is no longer there but the island has become a favorite anchorage for folks cruising up and down the Gulf Coast. It is also home to the Rigolets Seaplane Base. 
 

 

See also:

Anyone for Old-Fashioned Mail? By Polly Morris

 

Friday, August 28, 2020

100 Years Ago This August 28

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer Issue of  August 28, 1920. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the sample images below to see larger versions.

 
Abita Springs Dance

 
Covington High Teachers Listed

 
M.C. B. Library Becomes Community Center


 
Davis Obituary

 
Society and Personal News

 
SSA Celebrates

 
Weddings

 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Twin Bridges Slidell

 The original twin bridges carrying Interstate 10 over Lake Pontchartrain's east end were opened on December 21, 1965. Here is a picture of those bridges being built.

 
Click on the images to make them larger. 

Those spans were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and a new twin bridges structure was built to replace them. The new ones are now known affectionately as the 'Frank Davis "Naturally N'Awlins" Memorial Bridge.'

 
 
Click on above video for information on the new Twin Bridges
 


 
(Photo source: Boh Bros. Construction Company website)
 
 

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

St. Peter Church Gets New Brick Building - 1940

On December 22, 1940, the congregation of St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington moved into its newly-constructed $100,000 brick church on Jefferson Avenue. 

The article that appeared in the Farmer not only gave an account of the long-awaited community event, but also detailed the history of the Catholic Church in St. Tammany Parish, St. Peter's in particular. Here are the article and photographs published on December 27. 

Click on the images below to make them larger and more readable. 

 
VAST AUDIENCE IS PRESENT TO TAKE PART IN FIRST MASS
St. Tammany Farmer- December 27, 1940 

Archbishop Joseph Rummell Conducts Most Solemn Dedication Services 

Sunday morning, December 22nd, 1940, was an eventful day in the history the Catholic church in Covington when the handsome new structure, built and furnished at a cost of nearly one hundred thousand dollars, was dedicated with solemn ceremonies by the Most Reverend Archbishop Rummell of New Orleans. Assisting in the solemn ceremonies were many other dignitaries of the clergy, in­cluding Reverend Abbot Columban of St. Joseph's Abbey, Reverend Father Aurelian, Reverend Father Canisius, Reverend Father Juan Mar­tinez and many others.

After the solemn dedicatory cere­monies members of the clergy and several of the members of the finance committee and a few invited guests were entertained at a most delightful luncheon prepared and served by a number of the ladies of the church at the parochial school. During this luncheon there were several speak­ers, featured among whom were the Archbishop and Abbot, the master of ceremonies being Father Canisius, who with his, very clever wit and entertaining humor, introduced the speakers. 
 
Also featured at the lunch­eon was Father Juan Martinez, to whom all paid tribute for his untir­ing energy and effort in raising more than fifty thousand dollars of the fund used in building the new edi­fice. He is now located at Mande­ville where he is serving as pastor and is just as popular there as he was when located here.
 
A Complete History

A complete history of the church is reproduced in this edition, which  was taken from Catholic Action, of­ficial church organ of the diocese, as follows:

Solemn dedication of the third St. Peter's church of Covington this Sunday recalls the interesting and colorful history of the Catholic com­munity of that section of St. Tam­many parish, the zealous and self-sacrificing labors of devoted mis­sionaries and parish priests, and the untiring services rendered in St. Pe­ter's parish by the sons of St. Bene­dict for nearly a quarter of a cen­tury.

The early French-Canadian explor­ers, Iberville and Bienville, knew of the piney lands bordering the north­ern shore of the great inland body of water they named Lake Pontchar­train after the French minister of Louis XVI. Father Paul du Rue, the intrepid Jesuit missionary who came to Louisiana on the second voyage of Iberville to the new colony at the lower end of the Mississippi valley, planned the establishment of a mis­sion among the Indians in the Flori­da parishes. 
 
He made an explora­tion trip from Bay St. Louis west­ward to reach the section above the lake, and suffered many hardships when he and his companions became lost in the Honey Island swamp. Just how far into the Florida parishes Father du Rue penetrated, we do not know except that he apparently crossed Pearl River.

Later in the French colonial per­iod, after New Orleans had become the capital of the vast colonial em­pire of Louisiana, we begin to hear of the section across the lake, peo­pled by Indians who periodically came to the city with their wares. Land grants were made to venture­some French settlers and permits given to traders who sought pine­wood, tar, sand and shells and other products that are still famous in the long list of items produced by St, Tammany parish and its sister par­ishes. 
 
Choctaw Indians coming from Mississippi had long settled in that region, but apart from 'the heroic ef­forts of Father du Rue, the early church annals and documents re­veal nothing else done in their be­half. Spanish colonial records like­wise show nothing done for these In­dians, due no doubt to the shortage of missionaries and the difficulty of obtaining more for the vast territory that Spain ruled here.

When the American migration be­gan to the west across the Alleghen­ies, many settlers from the United States began to filter into the Florida Parishes, even when that section was still under the domination of Spain. After the Florida Rebellion and when the territory was taken over by the  United States under Governor Clai­borne, a settlement had developed just about the junction of the Bogue Falaya and the Tchefuncta rivers. 
 
On March 19, 1813, the year after Lou­isiana was admitted into the Union as a state, John Collins, who stayed himself "a fellow-citizen of Thomas Jefferson," had the settlement incorporated under the name of Wharton. However, the name was not destined to remain, for on March 11, 1816, by an act of the Louisiana Legislature, Wharton became known as the. Town of Covington. In 1829 it became the parish seat of St. Tammany parish.

The healthfuness of the whole area across the lake had come to be recognized in New Orleans, when a century and more ago the city was periodically ravaged by devastating and tragic epidemics. The more well-to-do of the city began to es­tablish summer homes in the piney woods of the Covington area  while others came to spend some there there. 
 
Traffic grew to such an ex­tent that in the 1840's we find regular steamboat service to the resorts of the Florida Parishes along the lake, from Milneburg, then the lake port of New Orleans.

Covington grew in importance and in population and this fact, coupled with the many visiting Catholics from the city, made it apparent to Bishop Antoine Glance of the Dio­cese of New Orleans, that spiritual ministrations had to be provided for these people. Covington seems to have been the first town of that sec­tion to be given the services of a priest. At infrequent intervals prior to this, priests came from New Or­leans to visit the various settlements of the territory, usually priests sta­tioned at the Bishop's church, "EIveche," now  St. Mary's Italian church.

The first mention of a church at Covington is found in "Le Prmagateur Catholique" of New Orleans, first Catholic paper of Louisiana, in its issue of January 21, 1843: "We learn with pleasure that a new church is under construction at Cov­ington. The Catholics of that section have had only at distant intervals the visits of priests to help them in their religion. Abbe Jounanneau, who is building the Covington church, will be able to serve the chapel already built at Madisonville and exercise his ministry at Mandeville. The new church is to open next March."

In the "Propagateur" of February 11, 1843, we read: "We learn with pleasure that the Academy established at Covington, parish of St. Tammany, is now in the hands of Abbe Jounanneau, who has already  begun to build a church in that lo­cality. The country is healthful, the locale is vast and excellent. Chris­tian parents who inhabit that region and who wish to give a Catholic edu­cation to their children will find now a favorable opportunity."

We hear nothing further of the good Abbe's academy, but we know that the little St. Peter's church survived, in fact, continued in service for five decades. It was a small frame structure, located on the west bank of the Bogue Falaya river. Abbee Jounanneau was a French priest who had come to Louisiana at ;he invitation of Bishop Blanc to un­dertake missionary labors in his vast diocese which then comprised the whole state of Louisiana.

Records of 1842 and 1843 indicate that Abbe Jounneau might have been preceded by a Father V. Plunkett, who is listed as visiting Madisonville and Covington, but confirmation of this fact has not been established. It is possible that he was a New Or­leans priest appointed by the Bishop to make occasional visits to these points. Nevertheless, Father Jouan-neau seems to be the first priest sent to reside across the lake. He re­mained at Covington until 1844, then was transferred for a time to St. Jo­seph's church at Thibodaux, where we find him in 1845.

From 1846 to 1848, Covington had no resident priest and once more the Catholics had to depend upon visit­ing priest. Father Brunet is listed as serving Covington in 1849, also Madisonville, Father Alyard in 1852, Father Fahy in 1853, and Father Pat­rick Canavan in 1854. Father Cana­van had come from the New Orleans diocese in the early 1850's and had been assigned to the parish of Mon­roe, La., but he became disgusted and left. He was then assigned to the Florida Parishes. He and his three predecessors served both Covington and Madisonville ,while Father Can­avan also served Mandeville. In 1857 we find Father George Lemy ministering to the Catholic commun­ities across the lake. He signed him­self, "Missionary in the Parish of St. Tammany."

In a letter written from Covington in 1857 he asks for a supply of wine for Mass to be sent to him in care of Mr. Roche at Covington. Among other things he says: "Cov­ington is starting out of its sleep and talks about repairing the roof of its church and presbytery which is se­riously damaged." Father Lamy vis­ited all three parishes, Covington, Madisonville and Mandeville, like-,wise Bayou Bonfouca.  He traveled on horseback. Later he was transferred and became pastor of Holy Name of Mary church in Algiers, just before the Marist Fathers were placed in charge.

Father Adrien Rouquette, famous apostle of the Choctaw Indians of the Florida Parishes, took up his heroic work in their midst in1859. This de­voted priest visited Mandeville often, and he must have ministered to the Catholics of Covington, especially during the time that there was no resident priest.

The Chiappapiela records refer to a Father Dupuy who came from Cov­ington at this time, but little else is known of his work.

In 1803, Father J. M. Giraud was assigned as resident pastor of St. Peter's church, but his stay was short, and he was followed by Father J. M. Lelozie. The following year (1864), Father Joachim A. Manoritta began his pastorate of eight years at Cov­ington and during that time served devotedly the Catholic's of both Cov­ington and Mandeville. He was re­called to New Orleans in 1872 to serve at the diocesan seminary of Rrchbishop Porche, and Father C. Denoyel was named pastor of St. Pe­ter's. 
 
 
Columbia Landing with steeple of the first St. Peter Church in background
 
All of thee pastors used the same little frame church that Abbe Jounanneau had erected near the boat landing. Most of the early mis­sionaries, these mentioned and some of the subsequent priests, also visited" neighboring communities, including, in addition to Mandeville and Madi­sonville, Abita Springs and Bedico.

When Father Denoyel was trans­ferred to Arnaudville as pastor, two Benedictines undertook work in the Florida Parishes, the forerunners of the monks from St. Meinrad who destined, to take full charge of the whole section and establish an abbey near Covington.
 
 These two pioneer Benedictines of St. Tammany parish were Father Bernardinus Dohmeck and Father Severinus Laufeuberg. From 1878 until 1885, they minis­tered to the Catholics of Madison­ville and Covington. Their successor was Father M. Kelly, who served the parish until 1890.

In 1890, Father Joseph Koegerl, a devout and zealous priest, had asked Archbishop Janssens to be relieved of his pastorate of St. Boniface church, a German parish he had or­ganized and served for several dec­ades. The Archbishop granted the request and Father Koegerl, in shat­tered health, retired to Covington, but he was not to get the well-mer­ited rest that he expected and an op­portunity to regain his health. He assumed charge of St. Peter's church at Covington and resumed his active labors which eventually view with his fine work accomplished at St. Bonifce.

He found the little pioneer church still standing and still in use, but badly dilapidated from the effects of half a century of time. At once he undertook the task of giving Coving­ton a worthy house of worship, and in 1892, the second St. Peter's church was completed and dedicated. 
 
The new church was built on the present site, which was more centrally lo­cated. He noted also the need for a Catholic school in the parish and zealously took up this task after the debt on the church had been re­duced. In 1902, he brought his dream to a reality, erecting a paroch­ial school building, 85 by 28 feet. he placed in charge of the Benedic­tine Sisters from St. Scholastica's academy. 
 
Father Koegerl was wide­ly known and universally beloved, and everyone knew the kindly old priest who devoted his retirement to active duty and serving among the Catholics of Covington. In 1916 he asked to be relieved of his pastoral duties, and this time he retired to St. Joseph's Abbey near Covington, where he spent several years of well-earned rest before his death.

After his retirement, Archbishop Blenk placed Covington in charge of the Benedictine Fathers, who already had charge of all other parishes and missions in St. Tammany parish and Washington parish. Father John N. Burger, O.S.B., became pastor in September, 1916, and after pastor­ate of six years, he was succeeded as administrator for five weeks by Rev. Aemiion Egler, O.S.B. 
 
Then Rev. Father M. Mauer, O.S.B., was placed in charge of St. Peter's. The new $17,000 modern parochial school stands as a monument to the zeal and service of Father Maur in the par­ish, besides his faithful ministrations to the community for many years.. Father Juan Martinez, O.S.B., was the next to assume the pastorate of St. Peter's church. Devotedly he served the parish until August 15, 1937, when the present incumbent, Father Aemilian, took charge.

Three years hence ( in 1943) Covington will mark the centennial of the erection of its pioneer little church on the banks of the Bogue Falaya. Parishioners who have stood so loyally by their pastor and so generously helped to make possible the present beautiful church, a worthy house of God and an asset to the community, can point with pride on that occasion to the strides that the Faith has made in Covington since the pioneer days of Abbee Jouanneau.

 
 

 
 
The wood building for St. Peter Catholic Church that was replaced by the brick structure. It was relocated to the corner of Columbia and West 32nd Avenue and became the home to the Our Lady of Holy Family Catholic Church.
 

  

The new (in 1940) brick church on Jefferson Ave.

 
The church today 
 



 

 

See also:

History of St. Tammany Churches

 Indian Village Adventure

 


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Tugboats Clog The Tchefuncte River

 In 1946, World War II was over and so was the need for the many barges, ships and tugboats that had proven so vital to the war effort. St. Tammany Parish shipyards had built many of those. 

These were the tugs and barges that had played a key part in helping provide critical petroleum supplies to be shipped across the Atlantic to the war in Europe. 

After the war the government needed a place to park all those unneeded vessels, coming in from a wide area across the South. Many of them were anchored in the Tchefuncte River awaiting sales to private concerns.

The sight of so many barges and tugboats lining the river bank was startling to many, so much so that the Times Picayune ran a front page article on the situation, with pictures.

Click on the images to make them larger. 




Monday, August 24, 2020

A Monumental Oak Tree

 From a 1956 newspaper account, a huge oak tree in the Slidell area. Click on the image below to make it larger.

 

 

See also:

Seven Sisters Oak in Lewisburg

St. Tammany Loves Oak Trees

 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Slidell Graduates in 1910

 A newspaper article from 1955 gives us a look back at the Slidell High graduation class of 1910...

 

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

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Pontalba Captures Madisonville Scenes

 A wonderful new exhibit of artistic sketches of the Town of Madisonville as it appeared in the early 1850's (a hundred and seventy years ago!) has opened at the Madisonville Museum.

The 18 drawings created by Gaston de Pontalba ten years or so before the Civil War are framed and hanging on the walls of the historic two story museum building, which was formerly the town hall and the town jail. Iris Lulu-Simoneaux Vacante, the museum administrator, said that the incredibly detailed sketches of Madisonville were discovered in a box in the Pontalba's family’s Paris Chateau!  

 
"These drawings were made before Union soldiers ransacked the town and destroyed the lighthouse and all the buildings on the lighthouse property," she said. "There are sketches of the first light house including Benjamin Thurston's home and another large building on the lighthouse property; sketches of a large hotel and other businesses on Water St. and a home which later became Friends Restaurant!" she said. "I am SO excited about this rare look at Madisonville circa 1850!"

The drawings on display show a wide range of buildings and scenes along the riverfront. 

How The Drawings Came To Be

According to the museum, in October 1848 Micaela Almonester Baroness de Pontalba, arrived in New Orleans from France to oversee the construction of two impressive rows of townhouses on her properties that bordered the east and west side of Place d'Armes, known today as Jackson Square.

Gaston de Pontalba (1821-1875), the youngest of the Baroness' three sons, accompanied her along with his brother Alfred and childhood friend Eugene-Joseph Napoleon Klein. During his two-and-a-half-year stay, Gaston produced 120 drawings that captured the family's voyage from Europe, New Orleans architecture, the houses they lived in and the plantations they visited.

In the summer of 1850, during a yellow fever outbreak, the Baroness and her sons retreated to Madisonville where she rented a house on Water Street. Gaston enjoyed rowing his boat in the Tchefuncte River and floating for hours while he sketched the town. He sketched the original lighthouse, light keepers house and out buildings before it was bombed during the Civil War. 

He sketched Charles Parents' Plantation who served as Commandant of Madisonville. Upon his death, the plantation was left to his son Charles Jr. He sketched the home of Mr. Hepp, a sea merchant and friend of the family. Mr. Hepp's home changed owners over 150 years and later became Friends Restaurant. 

He also sketched Alligator Bayou, now known as Bayou Desaire. The 18 Madisonville sketches were dated between July 1850 and September 1850.

In April 1851, the Pontalba buildings were complete and the family departed for France, never returning to New Orleans. Gaston continued to create sketches, lithographs and sculptures. Most of his works remained in the Pontalba family chateau, Mont-l'Eveque near Paris.

In 2019, Pierre de Pontalba, the son of the current Baron de Pontalba, discovered Gastons' sketch book in a wooden box and generously lent the sketch book to The Historic New Orleans Collection for a temporary exhibit. In March 2020, with the help of Howard Margot of the HNOC, the Pontalba family gave the Madisonville Historic Museum permission to have the sketches scanned for a permanent exhibit.

While close up detailed photographs of the drawings are not allowed, here are a couple of low resolution interior shots of the museum exhibit. Visit the museum for a close up view of these incredible historical views of St. Tammany's most historic community.



 
Prints of the Pontalba drawing of the 1850 Tchefuncte River lighthouse are available for purchase at the museum.

 
The story of the Pontalba family is rich in historical detail and personal tragedy. A book has been written about some of the more difficult events that have taken place.

The Madisonville Museum is open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. 

There are several other exhibits of interest as well, including a display chronicling the saga of the Madisonville Rooster, a jail cell exhibit, the medical instruments of Dr. Pennington, and some tools used at the Jahncke Shipyards. 

 
 
There is even the gate to the vault at the old Madisonville bank.


 
 

 

Here is the text of a recent article on the NOLA.com website by Iris Lulu-Simoneaux Vacante: 

The Madisonville Historic Museum, housed in the old courthouse and jail near Madisonville Junior High School, has an exciting new exhibit that was recently discovered in a French Chateau and sealed in a wooden box for 170 years.

The Madisonville Sketches of Gaston de Pontalba, son of Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, were created in summer 1850 when the family rented a home on the Tchefuncte River to escape a yellow fever outbreak in New Orleans.

No one knew Gaston's sketch book existed until Charles Edouard Baron de Pontalba found them while searching Chateau de Mont-l’Eveque in France, the home of the Pontalbas since 1804. He was hoping to find interesting family memorabilia to share with a returning New Orleans friend, Peter Patout, who was instrumental in connecting the Pontalbas with their New Orleans roots.

The book was filled with sketches that Gaston made while traveling in the United States with his mother. There were detailed sketches of New Orleans, a few of Pascagoula, Mississippi, and 18 sketches of Madisonville.

The Madisonville sketches include the original lighthouse and lightkeeper's house built by Benjamin Thurston and destroyed by Union soldiers in 1863. It also includes Charles Parent's Plantation; Mr Hepp's establishment, which later became Friends Restaurant; the Tchefuncte Hotel; Mr Lessasier’s home; Alligator Bayou and the home that Micaela rented for herself and sons Albert, 27 and Gaston, 22.

The sketches were on display at The Historic New Orleans Collection in the French Quarter in February when a group of local history buffs, Gail Perry, Iris Vacante, Cindy Pecoraro and Susan Kier, met with museum curator Howard Margot. When he saw their enthusiasm over discovery of the Madisonville sketches, he offered to be a liaison between the Madisonville Historic Museum and the Pontalba family.

After several correspondences, the Pontalba family gave the Madisonville Historic Museum permission to display the sketches, which were scanned and delivered.

The sketches show a very busy riverfront with large buildings along the river, many of which have not survived through the years. It shows homes and businesses of some of the early settlers of Madisonville, which was permanently settled by Jean Baptiste Baham and his five sons in the late 1700’s. When Jean Baptiste died, his sons divided the land into lots forming the town of Madisonville in 1811.

It was passed down from generations that the Baroness once stayed in Madisonville but, up until now, there was no physical proof or written documents putting the Pontalbas in Madisonville. Gaston was brilliant in labeling each building and area he drew even though it is written in French. It has shined a new light on the town's history.

The story of his mother, Micaela, is a tragic one that begins with the death of her wealthy father when she was 2, making her the richest girl in New Orleans.


Micaela Pontalba

At the age of 15, she is whisked away to France in an arranged marriage to a cousin she had never met and spends years as a prisoner under the rule of her unstable father-in-law who wants access to her money. When her mother dies, Micaela is left with yet another large inheritance.

Her ruthless father-in-law goes to Micaela’s room to get her to sign over the rights to the fortune, but she refuses. He returns with dueling pistols and shoots Micaela twice in the chest. As she reached out for the gun, the bullets severed her fingers before hitting her breast. Thinking he killed Micaela, who was bleeding on the floor, her father-in law goes to his study where he takes his own life. Micaela miraculously survived the attack.

After a lengthy recovery, Micaela and two of her three sons travel to her birthplace of New Orleans in 1848 where she sees that the buildings her father left her were becoming slums. She decides to tear down the apartments and build new apartments. The new apartments are named the Upper and Lower Pontalba Buildings.

Micaela was very active in the construction of the apartments. She would wear pants and climb ladders to oversee the project. Andrew Jackson, a family friend, refused to tip his hat to her because he disapproved of a woman wearing pants. So when Micaela redesigned Place d’Armes, later named Jackson Square, she had the statue of Andrew Jackson posed tipping his hat directly to her balcony.

During their five months or so in Madisonville, Gaston spent most of his time floating in his wooden boat taking in all the natural beauty of the Tchefuncte River and riverside town. He sketched from his boat for hours each day. His passion in art has given Madisonville a rare gift to see what the town looked like 170 years ago.

After the Pontalba buildings were complete in 1851, Micaela, Albert and Gaston returned to France and never came back to the United States, taking with them a little piece of Madisonville history that would not be discovered for almost two centuries.

The sketches can be seen at the Madisonville Historic Museum, 201 Cedar St., every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Cash and checks only for gift shop purchases.

The museum will limit the number of guests inside the two story structure to follow social distancing rules during the CovID 19 pandemic.