Friday, June 30, 2023

Former Mandeville Resident Recalls Early Days

 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.

Picnic Tribulations

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.

Motor Trolley

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

Click on the above image to make it larger.

She died seven years later in November of 1983.

Details About the Ferry Wharf Collapse:

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

See also:

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Dane Bookstore Now Open In Covington

 There's a new bookstore in downtown Covington, filled with a variety of books, artworks and gift items. It's not one of those huge franchise outfits, but a small locally-owned book emporium with an impressive collection of classics, specialty books, and books by local authors. 

The Dane Books and Gifts shop is at 322 Courthouse Alley, right behind the Mattina Bella restaurant. This is a premiere location, between the old courthouse building on Boston and Brooks Bicycle Shop. 

The bookstore entrance

Maryanna Dehler runs the place, and it is filled with not only books but artwork as well, much of that produced by local artists. There are comfy chairs to sit in, tea and snacks are available for visiting readers, and there is even a children's room. Out back there is a small patio with umbrellas for those who like to read outdoors.

Shelves of interesting books

Covington has had bookstores in the past, and this one carries on that tradition, a comfortable retreat filled with locally-oriented books and artwork. 

The business opened on May 13 and has already gathered a loyal group of local book-lovers. There is a growing number of book discoverers, also, people who are finding out about authors they were unfamiliar with, as well as local artists and gift makers. 

The location may seem out-of-the-way, but at one time courthouse alley was bustling with offices and activity. While Boston Street is the main street for most traffic today, Gibson street to the north was once packed with hotels, restaurants and barrooms, because that is where the train track was. Trains  brought hundreds of people into town every week (and more on the weekends.) 

The front door of the bookstore looked out upon the back of the Star Theater building, the TAVI restaurant, and the old courthouse structure. Within a block is the Southern Hotel, Columbia Street, and the Covington Trailhead Visitors Center and stage. Tammany Trace is a few steps away. 

The goals of the shop include helping more people get into reading and make possible more connections in the community for those who like to read. 

The children's room and hidden back patio.

A relaxation room (The staircase in the back is a picture mural)

Artwork adorns the walls. Artists include Debbie Rucker, Gretchen Templat, and Tony Tribou.

A ribbon cutting was held on October 20, 2023

See also:

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Jackson Historical Marker Unveiled

 In late 1814 Andrew Jackson passed through Covington on his way to the Battle of New Orleans. Two hundred and nine years later, a new historical marker was unveiled at the foot of Columbia Street at the river to spotlight that event. Around 20 people took part in the program, which was hosted by the Covington Heritage Foundation.

Mark Dalrymple pulls the cover from the historical marker 
as Jack Terry looks on. 

A number of visitors and dignitaries posed with the sign after its unveiling 

Video Recording of the Historical Presentation

Click on the "play triangle" above to view a video giving a detailed presentation on the research conducted tracing General Andrew Jackson's trek through Covington 209 years ago. Comments by Jack Terry, Mark Dalrymple, Ellen Agee, Mayor Mark Johnson and Mark Verret, city council member and president of the Covington Heritage Foundation. 

The text of the marker read: "BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS- On November 29, 1814, Gen. Andrew Jackson came through Wharton (Covington) on his march from Mobile to New Orleans. His Topographical Engineer, Maj. H. Tatum, described Wharton as a new town situated at the head of navigation on the bank of the Bogue Falaya, containing but a few ordinary buildings. Jackson continued to Madisonville, where the next morning he boarded William Collin’s packet boat and crossed Lake Pontchartrain to take command of his troops in New Orleans."

Andrew Jackson visited Covington in 1814

Covington Mayor Mark Johnson spoke briefly during the historical marker presentation. 

Music was provided by a drum and fife combo

Mayor Mark Johnson, Jack Terry, Ellen Agee and Mark Dalrymple

Mark Verret, president of the Covington Heritage Foundation, welcomed those present and thanked them for coming out to witness the event.

Since Jackson was to become the 7th president of the United States in 1829, his visit to Covington (at that time named Wharton) was pretty important. He also played a hand in getting Military Road built. Major Tatum described Wharton as "the seat of justice for the county in which it stands, and is situated at the head of navigation, on the bank of the creek."

The historical marker

See also:

Major Tatum's Whirlwind Tour Through St. Tammany

The video showing the historical marker unveiling has been posted to the information kiosk at the Covington Trailhead Visitors Center. It runs 18 minutes and thoroughly explains the research that went into the project.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Local Rodeo Rider Wins Honors

 In 1984, Kim Core of Folsom earned quite a reputation for her rodeo riding expertise. Her barrel racing skills put Southeastern Louisiana University in the spotlight, and she was praised for her consistent winning streak. Here's an article from 39 years ago.

Click on the images to make them larger. 

Festival deMarigny

In 1984, residents of Mandeville celebrated one of their founding fathers with a "Festival deMarigny." Click on the images to make them larger and more readable.


Fairview Riverside State Park

 Fairview Riverside State Park in Madisonville was rehabilitated in 1984. It took eight months to complete the overhaul, and local residents and visitors alike rejoiced when the park re-opened for camping, picnicking and river watchinig.

The park has always been popular, and many people from up north stay there as long as possible during the winter months. Click on the images to make them larger. 

See also:

Fairview Riverside State Park Website

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Sherrie Jones, Pageant Winner & Community Volunteer

 During my first year as a newspaper reporter in the Covington/Mandeville area, I wrote several articles about Sherrie Jones, a high school student at Mandeville High School. She entered and won several local and regional pageants. Her mother Carrie was her publicist, and she did a great job of keeping the local press informed on Sherrie's accomplishments.

She was a remarkable young person, a community volunteer and admired by her classmates. Here are a number of articles about her that I had in my files, clipped from several newspapers in the years 1972 and 1973. Click on the images to make them larger. 

My feature article on Sherrie in 1972, above

She was married in Baton Rouge in 1977. I was invited to the wedding since I had a sound movie camera and filmed the special occasion for her mother. 

Sherrie then moved to Lake Providence, LA, where she sold original paintings and photographs from her gallery "Straight From The Heart Art."

Sherrie died in August of 1999 at 44 years of age. Here is her obituary.

Click on the article to make it larger and more readable

Below is a picture of her mother, Carrie Jones, who was an area real estate agent

Carrie Jones Obituary

Carrie Anita Woods Jones, 88, passed away peacefully at her home on May 25, 2021. She was a native of Houston, Texas, and a resident of Covington, Louisiana, for the last 54 years. Carrie attended San Jacinto High School in Houston, Texas, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where she met her husband, Charles R. Jones. 

She was an educator in the Houston public schools, Mandeville High School, Mandeville Middle School, and Our Lady of the Lake elementary school. Carrie was also a realtor for many years working for Latter & Blum and Prudential Louisiana Properties. 

She was a past secretary and vice-president of the St. Tammany Parish Fair Association and the director of talent shows and pageants in Covington and Mandeville. She was a member of St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce, St Tammany Art Association, Habitat for Humanity, Board of Friends of the Madisonville Otis House Museum, Leadership of St. Tammany Foundation, Daughters of the American Revolution, and St. Tammany Genealogy Society. 

Carrie was an active member of First Baptist Church of Covington. Carrie was the daughter of the late John and Carrie Cain Woods and was preceded in death by her daughter Sherrie Howard, grandson Nathanael Howard, and brother John Scott Woods. Survivors include daughter Cindie Jones, son Charlie R. Jones, Jr., daughter-in-law Theresa Jones, sister Barbara Donovan, sister-in-law Joyce Woods, grandchildren Carrie and Mark Uberecken, Charlie and Molly Jones, Grace and Cody Hitchcock, Sammy and Natalie Jones, Eli Jones, nine great-grandchildren, and a host of nieces and nephews. She was buried in Cain Cemetery, Franklin County, Mississippi.