Thursday, May 12, 2022

1986 Abita Springs Walking Tour

 In 1986 the students of Abita Springs Junior High published a booklet called "Abita Springs Walking Tour." It was researched, compiled and released in connection with the "Our Heritage Celebration," a parishwide event held every four years by the St. Tammany Parish Public School System. 

The pages offered individual descriptions of a number of homes and other structures throughout Abita Springs, numbered so that they would be easily located on a town map in the center of the booklet. 

Here are the pages of the booklet, with special thanks to the people who worked on it, the students, the adults, and the advertisers who helped fund that project. 

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

The locator map for the walking tour

To read the entire booklet as a Adobe Acrobat PDF File,

Text of Booklet

Here is some text from the beginning of the booklet:

Mr. Lee Hebert, Principal
Mr. Jeffery L. Wegmann, Resource Teacher
Mrs. Kathleen Duplantier, Heritage Fair Contact Teacher 



MR. J. BUCHANAN BUTCH, F. A. I.A. - Project adviser Mr. Blitch is a resident of Abita Springs. He has been active in the identification and preservation of the historical sites. He is the present owner of the Long Branch Hotel.

MRS. UNA HEISSER- Mrs. Heisser is a descendant of the early settlers in Abita Springs. She presently resides in Abita Springs.

MRS. LOUSTALOT -(now deceased) Mrs. Loustalot was interviewed by Mr. Blitch in 1964. She owned and operated the Long Branch Hotel.

MR. ARNOLD STRAIN - Mr. Strain grew up in Abita Springs. His family was residents of St. Tammany for several generations.

MR. LEO PERCY - Mr. Percy often came to Abita Springs from New Orleans. He was the lifeguard at the Morgan Pool. He eventually built a house on St. Joseph Street and moved to the town he enjoyed visiting so much.

MISS REINE PEDOUSAUT - Miss Reine, as a young woman, came to Abita Springs from France. Her culinary expertise enhanced the meals she prepared at her aunt's boarding house. Later, she served as chef for the Consul General of Canada. Her retirement brought her back to Abita where she owns and operates this boarding house.


Welcome to Abita Springs! Much of this town is designated as a Historic District. The foresight of the builders and later, the preservationists, have kept this a charming town.

The numbers are historic structures which are still standing. Also included are historic sites that are no longer in existence. You can walk to nearly all the sites. You might want to bicycle or drive near Morgan's Pool and the Long Branch Hotel. We hope you enjoy your walk.


Henriquez, a handsome young man and a native New Orleanian of noble Spanish birth, was visiting in the area of present St. Tammany and met a beautiful Choctaw princess named Abita. They fell deeply in love with each other and were married. Henriquez brought his new bride back to New Orleans with him. 

After a time she grew very ill, and none of the physicians could help. Henriquez summoned the medicine man from across the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. He told Henriquez his bride could only be helped if he would bring her back to where she could drink from the waters the Indians love and bathe in the bubbling springs.

Where bubble up the fountain
The spring the Indians love.
There the Great Spirit watcheth
And smileth from above.
Leave your bride, Henriquez,
Trust me and say good-bye
Til one short moon has parsed away,
Then Abita hie

Henriquez returned her to her village immediately. After a month of worry, he returned to find his bride as radiant as ever. She had been cured of her illness, and they lived happily afterwards in eternal love. At this time the village was given a name - the name of Abita Springs, for the beautiful Choctaw Indian princess.

Native Peoples

Native people have lived in the Abita Springs area for several thousands of years. Traces exist of Tchefuncte and Marksville culture some 2200-500 years ago. In historic times the Muskhogean-speaking tribes of Tangipahoa and Acolapissa Indians lived in and around this area. 

The warfare, genocide, and diseases of the European settlers caused the extinction of these tribes. The Choctaw migrated into the area from Mississippi after those troubled times. Later, repressive government policies and broken treaties forced the Choctaw into Oklahoma. 

A few Indians remained, or later returned, to St. Tammany Parish after the deportation.

This area came to know the ways of the white man as early as the 1820s, when the first pioneers settled here. According to one account, Etienne Le Fleud moved with his family to the Abita Creek opposite a Choctaw village of approximately 25 families. 

It was at the home of his son, Paul, that the Indian women would stop, in later years, on their journey from Pearl River to Mandeville. The women would catch the boat at Mandeville to cross the lake to New Orleans. Once there, they would sell their baskets and herbs,

MRS. HEISSER: My ancestors were the first ones after the Indians to have this property. The Indians would walk through the woods to sell their baskets in Mandeville. My grand­mother's house was halfway, and they would walk to her house and spend the night, to rest before the rest of the way to the boats in Mandeville.

CAREY PENTON: Can you tell us more about the land your relatives owned?

MRS. HEISSER: This is very special. It was a family of eleven children, and they staked out squatter's rights. When they passed the Homestead Act, they got a large piece of land. My grandfather had eighty acres or more. Where I am living is land that has had three owners: my grandfather, my mother, and now, me.

In 1853, a Covington resident, Joseph St. Bossiere, purchased, "all lands adjoining and situated in Abita Creek, in the Parish of St. Tammany and being the same on which the Abita Spring is located," from the United States Government. 

Colonel William Christy, in the same year, advanced money to Mrs. Francis Anne Bossier, Joseph's wife. This money was to be used; "with a distinct understanding with her that the same amount was to be laid out in the location in her name, in the neighborhood of the Spring, aforesaid with the view to add value to the Spring."

In 1887 Dr. T.M. Davieson, a Covington physician, conducted extensive tests of Abita Springs waters. The tests revealed that the springs are mineral water and that they had high medicinal qualities. The spring water would be helpful to people with such ailments as kidney troubles, liver diseases, dsypepsia, chronic diarrhea, catarrh, constipation, nervousness, general debility, and other general disabilities. 

Dr. Davieson recommended that the Abita area "very valuable for being a resort for boarders and invalids." Other physicians recommended Abita Springs for its climate and pure "ozone air".

The news of the extremely healthy spring water convinced Mrs. Bossier to open the area for boarding. In 1880 this advertisement appeared in the St. Tammany Farmer:





The first major hotel to open in the new resort village was the Long Branch , built in 1880 by Joseph Gazin, a builder from New Orleans, for Mr. Frank Lenel. Built on the banks of the Long Branch tributary of the Abita Creek, the hotel had 18 rooms; annexes and a pavilion were later added.

The Long Branch today, even in its present run-down state, is a historical landmark and a reminder of the glorious heritage of Abita Springs.

Abita had developed into a very fashionable resort toward the end of the 1800s. The town had built numerous hotels, restaurants, summer homes, and had plenty of entertainment opportunities. 

There were bridal paths, carriage lanes, bull fights, gambling, cockfights, balls, fireworks, brass bands, and grand holiday celebrations. Even the Choctaw Indians got into the fun of it with their tribal dances, pottery exhibits, and weaving crafts. Guests often spent their entire summers seeking the now highly-publicized therapeutic advantages of Abita's healing waters and pure air.

The first artisian wells were drilled in 1888. It was discovered that these waters contained almost the same properties as the Abita Springs themselves. 

This news only increased the visitors to the area. Abita Springs was not just a week­end resort anymore. The healthful atmosphere near the artesian wells, the natural springs, luxurious hotels with excellent services, entertainment, relaxation, and exquisite cuisine attracted more and more visitors.

It was during the first decade of the 20th Century, that Abita Springs advanced into what was its greatest period. However, two unrelated events would cause its downfall as a health resort. One was the mass production of motor vehicles that would change vacation and travel preferences; the other was the discovery of the source of the spread of yellow fever.


Yellow Fever is a disease carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It damages body tissue, especially the liver.

As a result, yellow bile pigments gather in the skin, giving it a yellowish tint - thus giving yellow fever its name. The disease is now under control in most areas, due to the elimination of the mosquito.

In the mid-1800s, two epidemics of yellow fever hit New Orleans, at that time known as the "Paris of America" because of its European charm. The fever took almost 20,000 lives. 

During this time, many people migrated over to Abita Springs to escape from the disease, especially during the long, hot summers. Some even came to stay. In a way, it was "Yellow Fever" that helped Abita Springs to prosper and become a major resort area.


In 1881 all available land was purchased by Edgar and Ellerman Developers, and the town was fully developed into a health resort. Steamboats, such as the "New Camelia" from New Orleans brought visitors to Mandeville, where they were then transported by surry or tallyho to Abita Springs.

The trip from New Orleans took 5 1/2 hours. The town was filled with revelry and joyous celebration on June 26, 1887, when the first train of the East Louisiana Railroad, built by Poitevent and Favre, rolled into the town's new depot. 

This marked the beginning of an era for Abita Springs, when the ozone air attracted considerable attention. According to an 1888 edition of The Farmer, "Abita promises, in the early future, to become one of the most prominent summer and winter resorts in the South. The health-giving qualities of the springs are well-known, and the absence of the yellow fever, "Bronze John", or other epidemic diseases makes Abita especially attractive to away-from-town guests.

The Water Aquifers

MR. BLITCH: The water comes from underground aquafers. The Gulf of Mexico used to be here during an era called the Miocene Age, a million years ago. The Gulf beaches would come up here and move back leaving a layer of sand. And then, another million years or so, more sand would corne. 

So, we have a "layer cake" of sand which goes all the way up to the mountains of Tennessee. When rain falls in the mountains up there, fifty years later, that little drop of water is right down under us. It's gone through a huge filt­ering system, filtered by nature, and that's why our water is so wonderful and pure. The water has a high degree of mineral content.

At the St. Louis World's Fair, October 15, 1904, the Bureau of Awards presented silver medals and awards of merit for both plain and carbonated Abita Springs water exhibited by the Abita Springs Water Company of New Orleans. The ex­ceptional purity and the special mineral properties of the water were noted. 

This honor was exceptional since, hundreds of waters from all over the world were contestants for honors.

Abita water can be compared to that of the celebrated springs at Vichy, France due to its exceptional purity and mineral properties.


The pavilion in the Abita Springs Tourist Park was designed by Thomas K. Sully for the Mississippi exhibit in The World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, which was held in New Orleans in 1884. When the exhibit closed, the pavilion was disassembled and brought to Abita Springs. The pavilion has been restored and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

There was once an Indian spring near the site of the Abita Junior High. The early settlers built a pavilion over it and connected it with a raised walkway to the pavilion in the park.

Walking Tour Booklet Student Participants

Sixth Grade:
Joy Louzon, Michael Peterson, Tim Gates, Christy Hilburn,Jeff Tate, Carey Penton, Jennifer Green, Lauren Wagner, Francis Abdo, Jean Duplantier, Julie Flowers, Tamara Freeman, Shilo Vilardo, Craig Camus, Rocky Ruffino, Jolene Dopp, Jonathan Whittom

Seventh Grade:
Paquerette Blancher, Bo Bennings

Eighth Grade:
David Louzon, Ben Hauck, John Carambat, Shelly Tate, Lynn Tidwell, Ron Michel, Veronica Belleto

Ninth Grade:

Victor Vilardo, Mike Carambat, Deana Jacobs, Scott Wirtz, Chris Smith, Stacy Jolly, Melinda Quiroz, Chris Lore

Newspaper Article

The students who took part in the walking tour project were photographed and an article was written about them in the Times Picayune on May 15, 1986.