Thursday, December 31, 2020

100 Years Ago This January 1

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer Issue of  January 1, 1921. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the sample images below to see larger versions.


Sweet Oranges From Lewisburg

Society News

Poultry Association

Abita Mutti Hotel

Moss and Mattress Works

Masonic Dinner at Southern Hotel

Lutheran Church Plans Abita Cemetery

Connaughton-Abadie Wedding

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Pontchartrain Railroad Bridge

 The railroad bridge south of Slidell has an interesting history,  as well as a unique claim to fame, being recognized as not only the longest railroad bridge in the United States, but also the longest railroad bridge over water in the world. It was built in 1884, is a key link in north to south train travel, and is a heck of a challenge to maintain.

According to  Edward Branly also known as "the NOLA history guy," the railroad bridge was first proposed in 1883 by William Harris Hardy, vice-president of the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. It was completed in November of 1884, and he rode the first train across the trestle.

"The bridge spans 5.8 miles of open water, but its length covered an additional 15 miles of marsh," Branly stated. "The southern approach required 12 miles of bridge and an additional 3 miles on the north end. So, the bridge is the longest railroad bridge in the world. In 1896, the railroad modified the bridge. They built embankments on both sides. So, the bridge itself only spans the 5.8 miles across the lake."

CLICK HERE for more information on the NOLA history guy website.

Today, the Norfolk Southern’s Lake Pontchartrain Bridge consists of 180 million pounds of concrete and 102 miles of steel and concrete pilings. It is a major rail thoroughfare of the South, with freight and passenger trains traversing it daily between Slidell and the port of New Orleans.

According to the company's website, maintenance and repair of this stretch of train is a constant job, and putting it back together after Hurricane Katrina was an incredibly daunting task. When the hurricane tore up the track in August of 2005, the company had repair and maintenance crews working around the clock to put it all back together and back in service within just over two weeks.

Click on video "play triangle" above.

"Train tonnage is not the only weight this bridge carries," the train company's website says. "It also bears the extreme Louisiana heat, humidity, wind, salt, water, and sun. The bridge has weathered many storms, including the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when teams of our workers rallied in the aftermath to reconstruct the mangled bridge’s track and ballast in an impressive 16 days.

"These extreme climate factors make regular maintenance of the bridge imperative to keep it intact and trains on the track, and ensuring this crucial span’s operability poses a challenge unlike any other bridge on our system."

The company's maintenance team of 65 members recently converged on the bridge to replace over 8,500 railroad ties in just over a week. The overhaul was the first of this magnitude since the post-Katrina rebuild, and the project required all hands on deck.

Replacing the ties in an effort to accommodate train schedules and continue serving customers in a timely manner, daily track time windows were crafted around both Norfolk Southern and Amtrak train runs. There was very little network disruption as a result, said Ron Haines, manager train operations. “It was the perfect scenario for an engineering project to minimize impact on the regular schedule of trains,” he said.

"Because the New Orleans climate is more humid than most places across our network, ties weather more rapidly. To increase tie life on the bridge, NS uses dual-treated ties designed to increase their longevity by up to 10 years. No matter the primary treatment material – copper naphthenate or creosote – the ties also are treated with life-extending borate. “The borate penetrates the center of the tie while the creosote or copper naphthenate protects the shell,” explains John Fleps, AVP maintenance of way and structures.

“What makes Pontchartrain unique is the fact that there's no adjacent walkway and no handrails. You're out on the bridge with water on either side of you for over 5 miles with no way to get around the equipment and personnel ahead of and behind you,” Fleps said.


Thirteen miles east of the Lake Pontchartrain bridge is the Rigolets train bridge. While it is a much shorter span over water (less than a mile), it does transverse over 25 miles of marshland right in-between Lake Borgne and Lake Saint Catherine. In 1922, Percy Viosca Jr. took these pictures of the Rigolets train bridge. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Krewe of Olympia Court - 1979

 This article tells about the Krewe of Olympia Mardi Gras Ball in 1979. Click on the image to make it larger.

See also:

Monday, December 28, 2020

Highland Park Hospital

Highland Park Hospital opened its doors to serve Covington and the surrounding areas on February 7, 1977. On November 9, 1978, Medenco Inc., a national health service organization assumed the operation of the hospital.

The  six million dollar 96 bed general acute-care hospital offered a comprehensive range of medical and surgical services, and the emergency room was staffed 24 hours a day seven days a week. It was especially known for its "Primary Nursing Care" method. The intensive care unit offered eight beds.

Here are some newspaper articles telling about its plans and promise. Click on the images to make them larger and more readable. 

Lou Vargo was named Director of Public Relations


Between 1980 and 1994, Highland Park Hospital was managed by Lifemark Hospitals, Inc.; American Medical; Epic Health Trust; HealthTrust; and Columbia/HCA. In 1998 it was known as the Specialty  Center of Covington.

Throughout the years the hospital sponsored many community events and festivals, and provided meeting space for a number of healthcare-related clubs and organizations.

Earlier this year, office space in the hospital building was available for lease.

(Photo source: Corporate Realty)

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Krewe of Juno Ball 1979

 This article appeared in the Wednesday, February 14, 1979, issue of the St. Tammany News Banner, telling about the Carnival Ball held by the Krewe of Juno for Mardi Gras festivities. Click on the image to make it larger.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The 1922 CHS Basketball Team

 The 1922 CHS Basketball Team was featured in a photograph from the St. Tammany Farmer on April 29, 1922. Click on the image to make it larger.

The St. Paul's Basketball Team of 1923.  Team captain was Hebert Frederick.

According to Deirdre Sanchez, Lawrence Frederick on the CHS team and Hebert Frederick on the St. Paul's team were brothers, and opposing team captains. Lawrence was one year older than Hebert. Both Frederick boys were her grandfather's brothers. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Bridge Book

 All the information I have on bridges in St. Tammany Parish has been consolidated in this book, with many color photos of the more prominent bridges. It ranges from the one lane back country bridges to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and Interstate 10 "Frank Davis "Naturally N'Awlins" Memorial Bridge."

With its many waterways criss-crossing the landscape, St. Tammany's story is the story of its bridges, connecting communities and serving commerce.

To order a print copy of this book, CLICK HERE.

From the forward of the book:

          The waterways of St. Tammany Parish are everywhere: rivers, bayous, canals and even a large saltwater lake. They play host to swamp boat tours, jet skis, houseboats, party barges, gigantic missile components from Michoud to Stennis, luxury yachts and hundreds of flatboats equipped with outboard motors and fishing gear, plus all the pirogues, canoes and kayaks. 

           Over the years, as the footpaths between settlements gradually became wagon trails, then roads, then highways and then interstate highways, the importance of building good bridges over all those waterways became a priority.

           St. Tammany has the largest number of marshes, waterways, ponds, and lakes of any parish in the state of Louisiana, and while that is good for recreation, it brings to the art of bridge-building a number of challenges. In many cases, these challenges required innovative engineering and construction methods.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway utilized new assembly-line methods of concrete span construction, Slidell originally started as a manufacturing operation for creosoting railroad bridge pilings and crossties, and the parish experimented with bridging rural one-lane crossings using retired railroad flatcars with the wheels taken off.

           Every bridge, whether a one-lane span over a country backroad or a six-lane interstate over one of the world’s largest tidal passes, has at its heart the aim to provide a way for people to go from where they are to where they want to be.

           In many ways, the history of St. Tammany is the history of its bridges. Here are the stories of a few of them. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

100 Years Ago This December 25

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer Issue of  December 25, 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


Death by White Lightning

Society News

Road Work

Musical Theater

Church Notes



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Early Education Efforts

 St. Tammany was home to a number of educational institutions in the early 1800's. These were the days when general public education was just being introduced and privately-run schools were becoming popular across the nation as well.

In the history book on St. Tammany written by Frederick S. Ellis, he noted that in 1819 the state legislature began to appropriate money to help parishes start up public schools. While the schools were not "free," they were required to admit a few students who were unable to pay. Over the next few years, more money was forthcoming from the state, and the police jury was given the task of appointing five trustees to oversee the operation of the schools.

On June 3, 1820, Covington's first school was established.  

According to notes found in the papers of the late Bertha Neff, historian, it was in 1828 that specific people of Covington began taking their educational problems to the state legislature. That year a group of Covington area residents were named Trustees of the "Covington Academy" and given corporate powers to handle the affairs of the school.

The Covington Academy

They were identified as Jonathan Gilmore, David B. Morgan, James Hosmer, Joseph Laurent, Henry T. Tyson, William E. Bagley, Branch W. Miller, Moses Moore and Daniel Edwards.

They were entrusted with the duty of applying the funds of the corporation to the "establishment of a seminary of learning in the Town of Covington for the instruction of youth in the English, French and other languages, as well as mathematics and the other branches of knowledge generally taught in the grammar schools.

Bear in mind this was in 1837, just 24 years after the founding of the town.

The trustees were authorized to raise $25,000 by a lottery, and required to give bond that this feature would be properly discharged.

Covington Female Academy

Then, on  March 13, 1837, Alexander G. Penn, John McDonald, William Bagley, Jesse R. Jones, Robert McCay, Thomas G. Mortee and George T. Gilbert incorporated the "Covington Female Academy."

The Covington Female Academy was officially created by Legislative Act 103 in 1837, listed as a non-sectarian school, and given a state appropriation of $4000 with the proviso that the trustees were bound to "maintain and instruct four indigent females," two from St. Tammany and two from Washington Parish.

In an Act approved on March 16, 1938, it was stipulated that the affairs of the Covington Female Academy shall thereafter be managed by seven trustees chosen from among the stockholders and each to be elected and hold the office for one year. The election date was set for November 1. Shares were $100 each and entitled the shareholder to one vote.

On March 10, 1839, the state legislature amended the charter of the Covington Female Academy by substituting the sum of $3,000, per year, provided the institution board and educate 25 indigent children each year.

According to Ellis, "the school apparently remained in continuous operation for many years after its founding, although not exclusively as a girl's school. In 1850 it was being run by Reverend S. B. Hall under the name of Westminster Seminary." At that time it had a staff of twelve, Ellis goes on to say, and after Rev. Hall left in 1853 (due to the yellow fever epidemic) the school was then administered by a Mr. Hutchinson. 

Site Now A Part of SSA

"It is now part of the site of St. Scholastica's Academy, and it is possible that a school has been in continuous operation at that site for over 140 years," Ellis concluded in his book published in 1981. Recalculated to the present year, 2020, that means the site may have been a school for over 179 years straight.

In the same legislative session of March 11, 1837, the trustees were appointed for the Fellenburg Institute of the Parish of St. Tammany. This act was apparently passed in conjunction with the incorporation of the "Pine Grove Church" which embraced all of the Presbyterians of the parish at that time. For more information about the Fellenburg Institute, CLICK HERE

Mandeville College

The Mandeville College began in 1844, with Lewis Elkins as president. He was formerly a teacher at Jefferson College. The facility ran an advertisement in the Picayune newspaper on June 4, 1844, describing itself as a "commodious establishment."

Assistants to Elkins were Duncan Macauley, J.C. Poirer, Felix Perin, J. Hazeldon, and Senon Goria. A Professor Hall taught some classes there.

The courses called for English, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Math, Logic, Rhetoric, History, Geometry, Philosophy, drawing and music.

For more information on The Mandeville College, CLICK HERE.

Newspaper Items from the Time
Click on the images to make them larger.

Two years later, in 1846, Mandeville College apologetically changed its name to St. Tammany College. From a December 31, 1846, advertisement in the Times Picayune:

"St. Tammany College, Mandeville, LA

The institution hitherto known as the Mandeville College, will henceforth assume the title of St. Tammany College. It is unnecessary to advert to the difficulties and embarrassments under which the Mandeville College has labored since its foundation.

St. Tammany College now being organized with a change throughout every department, will henceforth be conducted under my immediate superintendence and control. I tender to the heads of families who have patronized the institution, a solemn assurance that there shall be no cause of dissatisfaction towards this institution in any department.

The table, dormitories, and apparel room, and indeed all that appertains to the health, comfort and happiness of the scholars, will always be kept under my special supervision. The corps of Professors I have selected are teachers of capacity and experience, and is now so composed as will insure the most perfect harmony and union, in one common effort and rivalship to advance the scholars rapidly in the progress of their studies, and to maintain that parental discipline so conducive to the future prosperity and popularity of this College.

I offer to parents a guarantee, that at the quarterly examinations, whenever the scholar exhibits no progress, the tuition shall be returned.

Parents are invited to visit the College at all times without reserve, to witness the recitation of the classes and to inspect every department, that they may assure themselves of the propriety and good order which will pervade the St. Tammany College.

For placing this College among the literary institutions of the South, and particularly of Louisiana, I am content that it shall "flourish or fall" under the motto we assume of "feral palmam que meruit."

Sept 17  Edward Barnwell

 The Academy Movement

Later in the 1800's came the "academy movement" but these schools were said to be of a "transient nature, with terms so short they were almost useless," according to notes found in the papers of former archivist Bertha Neff.

"They were small and under private enterprise that moved from pillar to post. Mr. Barella began teaching in Covington soon after the Civil War and followed this work until early in the 1880's. Another gentleman conducted a small school for a few years, as did Mr. George Vickers. Two ladies, Miss Mary Kellar and Miss Katie McDougall conducted small schools around 1886.

The Parish Public School System

The St. Tammany Parish School System started in 1900. According to the 1904 newspaper article below: "Previous to 1900, when the present Board went into office, there was practically no system of public schools in the parish. In the town of Covington, the enrollment was about twenty pupils with an average daily attendance of five to ten, and the school term rarely exceeded three months. The school was then taught in a miserable little cabin in a side street."

Progress was then made rapidly in a number of areas. 

Click on the images to make them larger. 

See also:

CCC Events in 1963

 Here are some photographs from the Rivercall Magazine as published by Covington Country Club in April of 1963. Click on the images to make them larger.