Julia Sprague was born in 1890, grew up in Mandeville in the early days of the 20th century, moved away in the 1910's and eventually moved to Phoenix, AZ in 1945. In 1971, she returned to Covington for a visit. While here, the 81-year-old Sprague stopped by the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper office to renew her subscription, and she entertained the staff with her memories of riding back and forth on the excursion boats that used to go to New Orleans on a regular schedule.
Click on the image below to read her accounts of adventures on the ferry boats.
Here is the text from the above article:
Julia C. Sprague, a spry 81-year-old ex-resident who speaks in non-stop sentences, visited Covington this week, here from Phoenix, Ariz. Mrs. Sprague is the former Julia Artus of Mandeville, who left that town shortly after she was married in 1911. Here, she was guest of her nephew, Frank Artus, Jr., and Mrs. Artus.
While renewing her subscription to The Farmer, Mrs. Sprague recalled the old Lake Pontchartrain steamship, the Camellia. She said she was at the ship's wheel on its last trip from New Orleans to Madisonville, either in 1908 or 1909.
"I was on the bridge with Captain Hanover , she remembered, and he said, "Julia, take the wheel", and she did. This was after the Camellia had crossed the lake and was in Tchefuncta river. It was the old boat's last trip.
The St. Lawrence was the ferry that succeeded the Camellia, and it had a tragic experience at the Mandeville dock. Mrs. Sprague said while passengers clamored to get aboard, the apron of the wharf collapsed, sending scores of people into the Lake. She doesn' t know how many were drowned, but thinks it was between 20 and 30.
"It was horrible", she recalled as she told how the dead bodies were taken from the lake later.
She never forgot the time the ferry went off and left several New Orleans girls and their dates, over here on a church picnic. "They were church people", she said, "good Baptists, and they were panic stricken because they thought they'd be ostracized for being stranded away from home overnight".
"It wasn't like it is now", she explained. "Girls were careful of their reputations and were concerned about reactions of their parents and others."
A good friend, a Mr. Riggs, acting upon Julia Artus' suggestion, called up a crew to man the Minnie B, a small passenger boat which plied the lake between Mandeville and New Orleans which had tied up for the day. The stranded picnickers boarded the Minnie B. a much faster and smaller craft, and they beat the big ferry to New Orleans. The reputations had been saved.
A native of New Orleans, she moved to Mandeville as a young girl. Among friends she visited in New Orleans this trip was Lena Kollman, formerly Lena Friscanoso, who frequently accompanied Mrs. Sprague on the old-time ferry trips between Mandeville and the big city.
Another nostalgic item that may be remembered by old-timers recalls the motor car that ran on rails between Mandeville and Covington, with stops at Abita Springs. It primarily carried passengers to and from the ferry landing.
"Julia Sprague is a real buzzer. Her eyes sparkle when she talks, and believe it, she can talk. One would never think she is in comparatively poor health. She neither looks it nor acts it."
On three separate occasions, she has been administered the last rites of the Catholic church, but she's still here to tell of it. "They call me Lazarus", she smilingly quipped.
She never moved back to St. Tammany to live after leaving in 1912. For the past 24 years---after her husband's death--- she has lived in Phoenix.
But she will eventually come back to St. Tammany parish. She's arranged for that. She has paid for her funeral and has made all the necessary plans, including services at Mandeville's Our Lady of the Lake Church, for which she worked so hard as a young woman. and burial in Mandeville cemetery.
The three bells in the church's tower, she said, were bought with funds obtained in a campaign spearheaded by her over 50 years ago, and someday they will ring for her alone. When she returns to Mandeville to stay.
St. Tammany Farmer Sept. 16, 1971
Five years later, she wrote a letter to the editor of the St. Tammany Farmer