Sunday, May 1, 2022

All Roads Led To Madisonville

 This 1863 map shows St. Tammany Parish and neighboring areas with key connecting roads. Click on the image to make it larger. 


In the top left is Holmesville, Mississippi, a key community at the time and a hub of political influence. The railroad passed it by however, and it barely exists today. The road east to Columbia, Ms, is shown, but Tylertown hadn't made it on the scene yet. 

The road between Holmesville down to Covington was a major trade route, supplying Covington with key produce and foodstuffs.  On some early maps of Covington, Columbia Street is actually labelled as "Holmesville Road" in the area of the parish fairgrounds. A 1927 map of the area showed La. Hwy. 25 in front of St. Gertrude's Convent as The Holmesville Road. The goods from Mississippi were shipped by schooner and steamer from Covington and Madisonville down the Bogue Falaya and Tchefuncte Rivers across Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans. 

Turnpike Road heading northwest out of Madisonville was a well-travelled route at the time, and a road west towards Baton Rouge (now La. 22) was part of the early Spanish "King's Highway." The road heading east out of Madisonville only went to Lewisburg and Mandeville. From Covington the main road going eastward through Hickory across the Pearl River to Gainesville, Mississippi, seemed to be a major corridor. Abita Springs at the time wasn't big enough to be on the map. 

From Gainesville the road continued on to Shieldsboro, which is today called Bay St. Louis. From Shieldsboro two roads headed southwestward, one going to Pearlington and the other hugging the coast and going across Pearl River Island just east of the Rigolets. That southern route would later become the route of the railroad tracks. The highway between Pearlington and the Rigolets would not be built until the late 1920's.

Of some interest is the road coming from Columbia, MS. (top, center), down to Fordeville, where Ford's Fort (The Ford Home) is located. It is now Sandy Hook, Ms.  In 1814, this location played a part in Andrew Jackson's travels from Tennessee to New Orleans to take part in (and win) the Battle of New Orleans. 

Although this map was made 50 years after he passed through, it may show the general track of the route he took southward, passing just west of Bogalusa, across the Bogue Chitto River at Isabel and into St. Tammany Parish, down Old Military Road (La. Hwy. 1082), then along Military Road (La. Hwy. 21) into Covington. Research is now being done to pinpoint Jackson's route because of its historic significance.

From Covington he went to Madisonville and took a boat across Lake Pontchartrain where he joined a large group of volunteers and engaged the British in the The Battle of New Orleans at Chalmette Battlefield, now a national historical park. 

The Darby Map

An earlier map, the Darby Map of 1816, is more concurrent with Jackson's trip. Here it is. 

Click on the map to make it larger

The pink fringed areas are Mississippi, and at this time St. Tammany extended all the way from Lake Pontchartrain northward to Mississippi. Washington Parish had not yet been created. The initials "C.H." in the middle of the map stand for courthouse and indicates where the parish courthouse was when it was located near Enon. This map was made only three years after Covington was founded, and the new town wasn't yet big enough to put on the map. Jack Terry sent me this map following up on our discussions on the 1814 Jackson trip. 

Vivian Davis Borneman of Lacombe wrote extensively on the early roads in Louisiana, and her information on roads which were in use in 1816 is  an important resource for historians. 

She quotes William Darby, who made a survey of roads in Louisiana in 1816, about the possible route of the well-used "Post Road," which was extended in 1803 (the year of the Louisiana Purchase) from the Natchez Trace to Madisonville, Louisiana.

Here is an excerpt of her report:

"The Road from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans- A Post Road from Washington, D.C. to Nashville, TN, had existed prior to 1801. It was extended to Natchez (MS) in 1801 and was called The Natchez Trace.

"When we bought Louisiana from France in 1803, and Governor Claiborne took over in Louisiana, he somehow induced the Spaniards to let him extend this post road from Natchez, through their Spanish West Florida territory to New Orleans..."

She explained that General Wilkinson's road (as it was known in 1823) went from Pearl River westward across St. Tammany and St. Helena Parishes (Tangipahoa Parish didn't exist as of yet), and then onward to Baton Rouge. 

Another major road (the possible Post Road) ran from Natchez down to St. Francisville, then headed southeastward on a diagonal path past the top of Lake Maurepas and headed across the Tangipahoa River straight into Madisonville. "Here, a person took a packet across Lake Pontchartrain and into New Orleans," she stated.

"At Madisonville, a road leads almost directly north, past Horton's Mill, on straight northward to the St. Tammany Courthouse (at that time owned by Robert Lobdell), and then headed northeast to Pearl River. (The Pearl River was used a great deal for traffic.) This road (in Madisonville) was on the east side of the Tchifonta River." 

Her conclusion was as follows:

"The Road from Washington, D.C., to Madisonville, as shown herein, was complete and in use in 1816... Mr. Darby's survey in 1816 does not show General Jackson's Road into Madisonville (known to be in use in 1823). In 1806 Judge Toulmin, at Fort Stoddert, AL, put a Post Road through to Madisonville. 

Fort Stoddert was about 30 miles due north of Mobile, AL

"From Pearl River, the route established by him in 1806 is identical with General Jackson's Road into Madisonville (as shown on an 1823 Bulletin). This was the post road into Madisonville, from Ft. Stoddert in 1806, and it was in use in 1827." 

She also mentioned that Darby's 1816 map, while it does show a few short roads around Baton Rouge, it also shows the one going (all the way) into Madisonville, where a ferry would be taken over the lake into New Orleans.

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