Sunday, November 29, 2020

Lake Resorts in the 1850's

 In 1962 the Louisiana Historical Association published in its journal an extensive review of the hotel resorts in New Orleans at Milneburg, and the resort hotels at Mandeville and Madisonville as well.

The article was entitled "A Southern Spa: Ante-Bellum Lake Pontchartrain" By James P. Baughman. Subjects ranged from railroad access to the resorts, bathing (swimming) facilities, yachting regattas, musicians and more personal recreational pursuits. 

 Here is an excerpt from the text concerning hotel accommodations
north of the lake


"But resorts of almost equal popularity developed concurrently along the northern shore of the lake, centered mostly in the towns of Mandeville and Madisonville."

"At Mandeville, built by Bernard de Marigny in 1834, John Davis erected another hotel and gambling casino. Several accomplished foreign chefs made his dining room famous. In 1841 Davis' Mandeville Hotel offered visitors billiards, stables, bath houses for ladies and gentlemen, and "pleasant company," for $60 per month, or $3 per day." 

"California House, Bachelor's Hall, Mrs. Wellington's House, and the Gayoso Hotel also operated at Mandeville during the 1850's, the last advertising "an eminent city Physician" in attendance on weekends."


"Madisonville, seven miles west of Mandeville and located a little inland from the lake on the Tchefuncte River, was usually considered a Pontchartrain resort. The thoroughly renovated Madisonville Hotel reopened in 1841 advertising fine walks and stables, a constant supply of ocean and lake fish, and a special family apartment, $40 per month or $2 per day. Rates were reduced the next year, under new management, to $8 per week or $1.50 per day.

"In 1843 the hotel, near "numerous streams abounding with trout and perch . . . one mile from the lake . . . [with] red and other salt water fish . . . [near] forests well stocked with game," continued in popularity and charged $30 per month, $9 per week.

"This Madisonville Hotel, adding tenpin alleys and billiards to its attractions, operated until the Civil War, becoming the City Hotel in 1855 and the Confederate House in 1861.


Lake Pontchartrain Shore near Madisonville
Photo by Percy Viosca Jr.

"The Madisonville and Mandeville hotels drew guests both overland from the surrounding area to the north and across the lake from New Orleans. Short excursions to the north shore for a picnic or a meal at one of the hotels were always quite popular with Orleanians, since a "sea voyage" was included.

"Transportation was readily available on several steamers which regularly left the Pontchartrain Railroad's wharf at Milneburg. Passage for these one-day outings was fifty cents each way, a fish breakfast being served on board. On special occasions a band could be provided for dancing."

"Other parties used private boats to picnic across the lake. The Stingaree Club descended upon Mandeville, July 4, 1849, and camped "in a grove of magnolias and oaks, open to the delicious breezes of the lake." Songs and impromptu dancing "with a frolicsome gayety, perhaps a little beyond the license of a ball room" were the order of the day.

"Immense quantities of turkeys, hams, tongues, beef, and lamb were consumed as was a "huge" freshly caught redfish. The day was completed by a moonlight cruise back to New Orleans."

Resorts Acted Together

"Although separated by twenty-five miles of water, resorts on both shores of Pontchartrain may be considered as a unit. They often cooperated on the sponsorship of events designed to attract visitors and excursionists and maintained a spirited but friendly rivalry throughout the ante-bellum period."

"The "season" for the lake ran from May to October as proprietors of the resorts strove to outdo each other in attracting and satisfying guests."

The Pontchartrain Beach Lighthouse at Milneburg

See also:

Hotel St. Tammany

The Smoky Mary Connection

 St. Tammany Hotels and Resorts

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Covington Family Linked To Old Ironsides Ship

An intriguing article about a Covington family who were related to the designer and builder of the warship U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) was written by Polly Morris in 1976.

Here is the text and photos from that article that was published in the News Banner on June 16 of that year.

USS Constitution Has Covington Cousins

By Polly Morris

The man stood alone on the deck of the warship. A sharp icy wind whipped his great cloak against his buckled knee-britches and tugged at his frilled shirt front. Now that all the workmen had departed for the last time, the ship was strangely silent.

There was only the sound of creaking ropes, the wind whistling eerily through the rigging; and the lap-lap of wavelets against the live oak sides of the ship. The man removed his tricorner hat and held it against his heart almost in reverence. The job was finished.

The USS Constitution - "Old Ironsides"

He leaned against the strong salty wind as he squinted up at the main mast that rose over 187 feet above the water line. The main yard arm was over  twice the length of the beam of the vessel. He dreamed of how she would look under full sail, flaunting the new flag of the new Republic . . . defying the enemies of his adopted country.

"Aye," he whispered to himself. "The bonnie lass is worth everything I put into her."

The Dreamer

Colonel George Cleghorn was a dreamer who spent most of his handsome fortune to make his dreams came true. But never did he dream that Cleghorn descendants would some day sit in a semi-tropical patio in Covington, Louisiana, and tell of when he was in charge of building Old Ironsides,  the most famous ship In American history.

For when he was striding the deck of the U.S.S. Frigate Constitution, supervising the workmen, there was no Covington, or no St. Tammany. There was only a sparsely settled wilderness that was the West Florida which had been tossed nonchalantly between France, England, and Spain.

There would be no way that he could imagine this vast area he civilized... that a Mrs. Bryan D. Burns of Covington would treasure a trove of old newspaper clippings, photos, books, and letters about Old Ironsides and George Cleghorn. That she could easily trace her ancestry back to the Cleghorn family, and say that if George Cleghorn was the father of Old Ironsides, she was a far-removed cousin.
The old ship builder of long ago was the great-great grand-uncle of Mrs. Burns' father, Louis Clarence Smith Sr. Smith had come South from Michigan, married a Louisiana girl, and for 10 years was a pharmacist for Oliver Hebert's Drug Store in Covington. 

The 1932 New Orleans Visit

When Old Ironsides came to New Orleans in 1932, Mrs. Burns went aboard the ship with her father, her mother, (the former Elizabeth Nash Cropper) her brother, Louis Jr.. and little daughter Dorothy Vivian Burns (Mrs. Dorothy Stroble of Covington.)

Throughout the years Mrs. Burns has kept documents and letters that tell a stirring story about a man, a ship, and a country that fought for freedom, each In their own way.

The Ancestors

A genealogy compiled in  1912 mentions "the Baronetcy of Scotland of Cleghorn, A. D.1203. Lanarkshire." The ancient Celtic was known as early  as 800 A.D.
George Cleghorn was born into this family in 1748. There was much unrest in Scotland, and many Scotsmen migrated to the Colonies In America. The Cleghorn family settled in Massachusetts. George had a fine farm in New Bedford, and his brother James located in Martha's Vineyard.

During the American Revolution, merchant ships were outfitted as privateers for there was no real Navy as yet. After the war was over, there was a desperate need for fighting ships to defend the little United States of America, which was also a very poor little country, unable to finance the building of a Navy.

However there were wealthy colonists that had amassed fortunes, and these men knew that everything they had gained could be lost if a defenseless county fell to an enemy. George Cleghorn was one of these men.

Deeds Followed Dreams

George Clegborn was sorely worried about his adopted country. He went to the Navy yard at Charleston, Massachusetts and asked about the costs of building fighting ships. A fully equipped frigate would be at least $300,000, a staggering sum in 1794. He returned to New Bedford and talked with his son James, a draftsman. They decided to sacrifice the family fortune for the United States.

Cleghorn sold his beautiful farm and moved to a more modest location in Rhode Island. When it was time to lay the keel for one of the first large ships to be built by the United States, George Cleghorn was put in charge of building the US Frigate Constitution. During this time his brother James was serving in the Colonial Army.

When the U.S.S. Constitution was launched in 1797 George Cleghorn's job was finished, but his interest in the ship continued, for her job had just begun.

42 Victories

George Cleghorn had dreamed of his gallant ship performing almost-miracles, and she did not disappoint him. As the news came back to him, he could almost envision himself on board her, watching the action.He knew every part of the Constitution, from the bolts that Paul Revere put into the copper-sheathed bottom to the vast expanse of canvas that sent her 264 feet length scurrying through the water at 12 1/2 knots per hour.

He thrilled when the U.S.S. Constitution was victorious over the French privateers and when she bombarded the pirate forts at Tripoli. His heart leaped at her narrow escape from the British fleet. The Constitution was within firing range when the wind died down, leaving her becalmed. But men in small boats risked their lives and towed her to safety. He rejoiced when she returned with all flags flying after defeating the British Frigate "Guerriere" in a brilliant and brave battle.

He could picture the British shot repelled by her sides of hard live-oak, and agreed that Old Ironsides was a fitting name for the ship he had built.

By the time Claghorn died, in 1834, Old Ironsides was dear to the hearts of all Americans. She had been in forty-two battles, but never had known defeat.
George Cleghorn had great dreams, but there was much that was beyond even his Imagination.

His brother James had fathered seventeen children, so when one of the daughters married a Joseph Beal, he probably thought little of it although the Beal family had come to the Colonies a hundred years before be was born. And when little Martha Beal was born in "the West," he may have been barely aware of the blessed event for she was only one of ten children.

Moreover she was sixteen years old when he died, and not married yet.   

The Descendants

Martha Beal would have been the least likely to have carried on the Cleghorn and Beal families, in the logic of those times. She was a spinster of 23 years before the married Americus Smith, but she lost no time in giving him an heir. Sylvester Beal Smith arrived only a month and 5 days before Martha's first wedding anniversary.

Sylvester had only three children, but his last was born when he was forty years old, and it was this son Louis Clarence Smith that was to come South to the Crescent City and to Covington. He would be the one to stand on the deck of Old Ironsides, where once his great great granduncle had stood.

Old Ironsides Family

It was almost like history repeating itself, for even Nature conspired to re-create the long ago. The mild 1932 New Orleans winter had turned uncommonly cold, even for February. When Louis C. Smith took his family to see the famous old ship that was on tour, he put on a top coat. He did not wear buckled knee-britches or a frilled shirt, but it was as though George Cleghorn himself had returned through his far-removed nephew.

There was the sound of the creaking ropes, the wind whistling through the rigging, and the lap-lap of wavelets against the live oak sides of the ship. He leaned against the strong salty wind as he squinted up at the main mast. He too dreamed, but of the past. When Old Ironsides was under full sail, flaunting the flag of a new nation    defying the enemy.

Standing beside Louis C Smith Sr. on a deck that once ran red with patriot's blood, was his wife, his son Louis Jr., and his daughter Lois ( Mrs. Bryan Burns ) and his granddaughter Dorothy Vivian Burns.

They all shared feelings with the long-dead ship. Pride. achievement. And a touch of reverence. This was the valiant ship that had served under every President of the United States ... that had been saved from destruction by a poem... that had been restored by the thousands of pennies of school children.

Old ironsides is still afloat in Boston Harbor, but she has not changed much in appearance. The symbol of bravery and freedom is still an inspiration, and if old George Cleghorn were alive today, he would still say, "Aye, the bonnie lass is worth everything I put into her."



A resident of Bush was second in command of the USS Constitution in 1976 

See also:

Video Documentary on Old Ironsides

Aerial Video of Old Ironsides On the Water

Father Rouquette and the Cabin in the Oak

 Located not far from the banks of Bayou Chinchuba, just off the present day U.S. 190, Father Adrien Rouquette (also known as Chahta-Ima) built a cabin in 1870 from which to minister to the local Native Americans. 

According to the City of Mandeville website, the cabin was called "Kildara," which meant "Cabin in the Oak."  

Kildara, the cabin in the oak built by Father Rouquette

 "This was the last of the five cabin-chapels built by Father Adrien Rouquette to minister to a severely diminished population of Choctaws after the burning of their village and chapel 'the Nook' by 'jayhawkers' in Lacombe during the final days of the Civil War," the Mandeville history states. "The site was chosen for its proximity to a Choctaw settlement, cemetery and massive live oak tree which became known as the Pere Rouquette Oak."

 To read more and to hear an audio presentation, CLICK HERE.

To read more about the life of Father Adrien Rouquette, CLICK HERE.

See also:

Choctaw Artifact Mounds 

The Chinchuba Oaks and Mardi Gras Day 

The Life and Death of Father Rouquette

Friday, November 27, 2020

100 Years Ago This November 27

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer Issue of  November 27, 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. 


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Farmer's Market: A Poem

 It's Thanksgiving, so the Farmer's Markets may be winding down. Just keep them in mind when you can, however. Here's a poem to help.

There's a place that can't be beat,
and every week you'll find
A wide array of things to eat
Every color, every kind.

Of vegetables and produce
Of fruits and nuts and more
The best in homegrown goodies
As good as any store.

Towards downtown you will head,
Take your car and park it,
As close as you can get it to,
The local Farmers Market

Sing a song for celery,
Give brussels sprouts their due,
Love apples to their very core,
Throw in a pear or two

We all care for carrots,
They bunch, they crunch, and stew,
And a basket full of broccoli,
May just cure what ails you

Let us all like lettuce,
Both iceberg and romaine,
Then there's cheese, if you please
And maybe sugar cane.

Tomatoes and potatoes,
Plus time to talk with friends
Drink a cup of coffee
And the music never ends.

If it's honey that you seek,
You'll find it there as well
And jars of jams and jellies
Are certainly to sell.

The farmers and the growers,
Each season bring their own
Things they planted in their fields,
Produce that they have grown.

To share them with your family
The healthy and the best
Fruits and vegetables
With which they have been blessed.

Cheers for all those who plant,
Who water, weed and wait
To harvest, haul and sell it all
Within the Market gate. 

Happy Thanksgiving 

Slidell's Camellia City Farmer's Market 

See also:

Mandeville Market

Covington Farmers Market

Farmers Market Harvest 

Abita Springs Sunday Pavilion Market 

 Covington Farmers Market Photos

François Cousin House

According to documents in the National Register of Historic Places, the earliest settlement in St. Tammany was in the area between today's Interstate 12 and Lake Pontchartrain. For many years the French dominated this area. They arrived in the 1720s and their influence continued well into the nineteenth century. For example, Creole planter Bernard de Marigny subdivided his North Shore plantation in 1835 to create the town of Mandeville.

"Given this early settlement pattern, one would expect lower St. Tammany to contain a fair number of French Creole dwellings and buildings reflecting other pre-Civil War architectural influences. However, the parish experienced substantial growth during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries due to the area's popularity as a health resort and the lumber and shipbuilding industries," the document states.


 "For this reason, the vast majority of the parish's buildings date from this later period. A recently completed survey of lower St. Tammany found that of approximately 1,400 buildings which are 50 years old or older, only 24 are of pre-Civil War vintage. 

"Among the perhaps 30 pre-Civil War buildings in the entire parish, less than six are in the French Creole style. With its abundance of character-defining features, the François Cousin House in Lacombe is a rare survivor to convey the look of early St. Tammany. Cousin settled in the area in the late 1700s and became one of its largest landowners."

François Cousin was born in 1745 in New Orleans. After reaching adulthood, he entered his father's lumber and brick making business. The source of the lumber and the clay to make the brick was across Lake Pontchartrain in what is now St. Tammany Parish.

Schooners transported the finished materials back across the waterway to New Orleans, where the company's office was located on Carondelet Walk and St. Claude. The company owned six schooners, one of which was seized by the British in 1779 as retaliation for Spain's refusal to let the British ship enter Bayou St. John.

Cousin also engaged in shipbuilding and the trading of naval stores such as tar. The exact date upon which Cousin settled in St. Tammany Parish is uncertain; documents suggest it occurred some time between 1778 and 1789. He owned property on Bayou Lacombe as well as on Bayou Liberty. In the 1811-1812 tax roll he was listed as the largest taxpayer, and he was apparently the largest land owner as well. Cousin died in October 1819.

In 2002 The François Cousin House in Lacombe was nominated for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the application, the François Cousin house is a French Creole residence reflecting two major periods of construction. An early house of unknown date was enlarged around 1820. Originally the house was in a completely rural setting on Bayou Lacombe. Subsequently the small community of the same name grew up around it. 

"Today the house occupies roughly a three acre parcel with the bayou at the far rear," the application goes on to say. "Numerous quite old live oaks and other trees provide a lush, verdant setting. Despite numerous changes over the years, some notable, the Cousin house has a strong French Creole character."


The Cousin house has a complex history of construction. While upon first glance the house may appear to have been built all at one time, certain constructional clues indicate otherwise. Because virtually all of the house's stylistic details date from the period of the addition (c.1820) and because constructional clues are not as precise, it is impossible to date the original two rooms.

 For the purposes of the nomination, the date of the enlarged house (c.1820) was used.

"Because of the Cousin house's early date, it is strongly French Creole in character. French Creole features include the hall-less floorplan, the Norman truss roof, briquette entre poteaux construction with French angle braces, two mantelpieces that wrap around the great central chimney, openings for French doors, and some surviving exposed beaded ceiling beams," the application stated.

The facade fenestration pattern of French door openings and windows is also typically French Creole in that it makes no attempt at regularity or symmetry.


Roof trusses

The Cousin house has received various alterations through its long life. In 1820 a gallery existed across the front, and the new work included the addition of a side gallery which created a gablet roof. Steps were added to create a corner entrance to the new enlarged gallery. 

The present gallery posts are twentieth century.  In the early twentieth century a large addition was made to the rear under an extended shed roof.  Ax marks on the framing members indicate that originally the walls were plastered over both inside and out.

One wraparound mantel survives unscathed, while its identical companion has been partially dismantled, but all the pieces are in the room. 

In spite of the alterations and enlargements, much remains of its early French Creole character - features that define the French Creole look such as briquette entre poteaux construction with French angle braces, the irregular facade fenestration pattern, most of the floorplan (without halls), the overly built Norman truss roof (something that survives in only the earliest of houses in Louisiana), exposed beaded beam ceilings, and its central chimney with mantels that wrap around the flue. 

 This makes the François Cousin House of considerable local architectural significance and is a rare survivor to represent St. Tammany's earliest architecture (French Creole). In fact, it is one of only a very small number of buildings in the parish dating from before the Civil War.

"The Federal style wraparound mantels are particularly outstanding," the application concludes. 

The François Cousin House in Lacombe was granted placement on the National Register of Historic Places on September 14, 2002. 

The Slidell Area Residence

It wasn't the only François Cousin House in St. Tammany Parish to be on the National Register, however. There is also one of the same name over on Gwin Road in Slidell that was granted National Register status in January of 2001.

The Slidell area house was built in 1790.

 The François Cousin House in Slidell is a one-and-one-half story, frame, French Creole cottage which received a large rear addition during the late nineteenth century. It stands in a rural setting on the west bank of Liberty Bayou in what is now a suburb of the St. Tammany Parish town of Slidell. This area is part of a region known locally as the North Shore. Despite various alterations, the home remains eligible for the National Register.

The core's early date is based upon architectural and documentary evidence originally gathered in 1976 by Vaughn L. Glasgow, then Chief Curator of the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. The historic documents indicated a settlement date of between 1778 and 1789 for the property.

And, according to Mr. Glasgow, the type of nails used in the construction date from before about 1790. Based upon the foregoing, as well as his stylistic analysis, he indicated a date of 1787-88. For the record, the Division of Historic Preservation has not seen the nails in question; however, there is nothing the staff observed that would contradict such a date. Since an exact date is not known, circa 1790 was used for the purposes of the Historic Register nomination.

The Slidell home is comprised of two masses. The original Creole block (which stands closer to the bayou) is characterized by a gable end roof whose ridge parallels the nearby waterway. The late nineteenth century mass is connected to the rear of the older building.

It stands beneath its own gable end roof whose ridge runs perpendicular to the older core. Because it is wider than the Creole portion, the addition connects to side galleries (also added as part of the expansion) which flank the original building and connect to the front gallery at its corners.

Other features of interest found within the three room cottage include a very plain cornice in the large rear room, original wood floors, four pane transoms above all exterior doors, plank shutters (of which all but three are original), and historic wrought iron ram's horn hinges.

Although the home has eight sets of French doors and two sets of casement windows, the architectural evidence indicates they are not original.

Modifications to the three room cottage were also made when the home was rehabilitated by the current owners in the mid-1970s. Despite its many alterations, the home retains its architectural significance because many of the features which identify it as an early structure survive.

These include the briquette entre poteaux walls, the chamfered front gallery columns, the central chimney for wraparound mantels, the exposed beaded ceiling beams, the hall-less floorplan with two front rooms and a central chimney, and the wrought iron ram's horn hinges. 

Photos of the François Cousin House in the Slidell area