Sunday, October 29, 2023
In August of 1922, one of Covington's "oldtimers" shared this account of his small town, its people and its merchants. He speaks of Mrs. Tate's school in the downtown area, the raising of silk worms on mulberry bushes where the Southern Hotel is now, the residences along New Hampshire Street, the New Orleans commuters, and the costumes of the day.
Here is the article in full:
St. Tammany Farmer August 5, 1922
by The Oldtimer
"Once again I find myself strolling along the streets of the old town, hoping to meet some old remembered face, but none appear to give me welcome. At last I come to the corner where once stood the large and busy wheelwright shop once owned by Nathan Page. In its place I now see an up-to-date dry goods store in whose large glass windows are displayed many beautiful things so dear to the female heart.
"On the opposite corner, once familiarly known as "Heintz's Corner," from the fact that it was the lounging place of many old cronies who loved to meet there and discuss the topics of the day while enjoying the "rest" and comfort afforded by the hard but hospitable old bench.
"The store, a general merchandise store, was owned and operated by Mr. Chas. Heintz, who' was also the postmaster. Gone is the old bench, also the postmaster, and in their place appear the large department store of Frank Patecek.
"All the old buildings on what was once known as "Up Street" when we started out to do any little errand, have disappeared, and the street is now known as Columbia street.
"Passing on, at last, I come to an old familiar friend peeping out from between the Patecek building and the F. G. C. Auto Shop, and away back from the sidewalk, as if aware of its antiquity, is a little house once used as a school, and presided over by an elderly lady named Mrs. Tate.
"She was not an up-to-date teacher, as she wore her skirts long enough to hide her feet and her bearing was dignified. She won the hearts of all her pupils for she had a fund of humor, and the scholars she turned out showed the thoroughness of her training. She rests now in the cemetery in Amite.
"Passing on by the courthouse, a much finer building than the old one, and a credit to the town, I see where once was a large brick house, the home of the Italian consul, Mr. Rocchi, whose wife was said to have realized a large fortune raising silk worms. In its place I see a large and flourishing looking bank, the Commercial Bank & Trust Company, and on the opposite corner an old friend greets me—the former home of Judge Martin Penn.
"But this large family has all disappeared. Judge Penn passed away at the beginning of the Civil War. Poor Benton, who was a favorite with all who knew him, met a tragic death while espousing the cause of his cousin, Martin Penn, son of Alexander Penn.
"Across the street, where once stood the little law office of Geo. Henry Penn, son of Judge Martin Penn, is the Wehrli home. The little office has been converted into a pretty home and is owned by Mr. Louis Wehrli, who also owns the fine garage at the corner. Mr. Wehrli is the grandson of Mr. Pechon, once a well known family in Covington, some of whom I bear are still living.
"Across the street and back of the Commercial Bank is the beautiful Southern Hotel, built on the mission style. On the grounds where the hotel now stands, once was a forest of mulberry trees, on the leaves of which Mrs. Rocchi once raised her silk worms.
"And now we come to the corner where three well known families lived. First, on the corner, was the home of the Brenans, consisting in the mother, father and three sons and one daughter. The father, who was a notary, did business in Now Orleans, returning home every Saturday, as did most of the men in those days, for there was not enougn 'business in the little town in those days to support their families.
"The intercourse with New Orleans was carried on by steamboats which made the trip three times a week. The eldest son of the Brenan family, a tall, handsome fellow, measuring six feet in his stocking feet, enlisted at he age of 16 in the Civil War. He enlisted in the Crescent Regt., Co. K., Sumpter Rifles, but being so young, and raised a "home boy," he could not endure the hardships, and soon succumbed to homesickness, that most dreadful sickness of all.
"Of the mother of this family I must make special mention. A native of Philadelphia, she came to Covington in her early married life, in search of health, which she surely found, for she lived to the age of 88. Her costume, though picturesque, would be a marvel to the present day, for her skirts were full and a long underwaist was covered by a saque around the bottom of which was a ruffle. Around her neck she wore a white kerchief fastened in front with an old-fashioned brooch. Beneath her full skirts peeped two feet shod in snow white stockings incased in neat slippers.
"The crowning glory of this quaint costume was the little lace cap, from under which looked forth two merry black eyes. Full of hospitality which they dispensed liberally, she could have dined the president or peasant with equal ease. The two other sons, familiarly known as Tim and Doan, lived until a few years ago, and now the sister lives all alone, not in the old home, for where that stood is the pleasure grounds of the Southern Hotel.
"Miss Matilda Brenan, or Miss Tillie, as she is generally called, lived on the corner opposite her old home in a nice place built by her brother, Tim. She lives alone, surrounded by works of art, and with the companionship of books. Some day I will call on her."
Saturday, October 28, 2023
The Heintz family has served St. Tammany residents in a number of ways, as doctors, attorneys, the parish coroner, a state representative, the postmaster, the police chief, a drug store proprietor, constable, mayor of Abita Springs and a school board member. In 1973 the St. Tammany Farmer ran this article:
Jack Loup, Beth Heintz, and Michael Dirmann
Friday, October 27, 2023
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Apparently, the several hotels and rest homes in the Covington area would get together every so often for a tennis match at the Southern Hotel tennis court in downtown Covington. Click on the articles to make them larger and more readable.
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
In 1909 the Governor of Louisiana, Jared Y. Sanders Sr., visited Covington to give a speech to the statewide meeting of the Louisiana Press Association. Here are a few excerpts from that speech...
St. Tammany Farmer-May 15, 1909
GOVERNOR'S ADDRESS Delivered Before Louisiana Press Association.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I see that I am down on the bill of fare to welcome the delegates of this Association to Covington. I presume that this pleasure has been extended to me for the reason that I am a quasi-resident of this Parish and of this town of Covington.
It is not necessary for me to say tnat the people of St. Tammany Parish and of the Town of Covington welcome the delegates of this Convention most heartily. I believe what we have already seen and what the good people have in store for us speaks for the hospitality of these good people better than any words of mine could express.
We are glad to have you here in Covington, because we would like to have all the people of the State of Louisiana know what this splendid parish is and has and hopes to be.
In the trip you all took to-day, you rode on the first trolley line that has ever been built through any rural community in the State of Louisiana.
You also took a trip on one of the fastest boats there ever was and over one of the most beautiful and picturesque rivers. You went up the most beautiful Tchefuncta river to one of the greatest industrial lumber mills in this section of this State. That is some of the few things that you have seen in Covington and St. Tammany Parish.
If every delegate of this meeting would devote twelve hours a day he would find when he left here that there was a great many of the beauties of this town and parish that he had not visited.
Covington is the healthiest spot in the world, so accredited and said to be by those in authority in that line. Here they have the pure water, and I am told, other things to drink, and the forests are full of ozone.
When you go back home we want you to take back with you pleasant memories of your stay in our town. While you are here everything is yours. If you want anything and you don't have it ask for it, because if Covington and Covington people are renowned for anything it is for their kindness and hospitality.
Monday, October 23, 2023
Sunday, October 22, 2023
No one today would consider taking a route through the Isabel Swamp to get to Bogalusa from Covington, but in 1961 it was considered a short cut that had just been made a little more passable.
I went that way just a few weeks ago and was surprised to find that the two and a half miles through the swamp is still gravel. I guess the Bogue Chitto River flooding continues to be a tough challenge for road builders in that area near the river. The rest of the road is paved and serves several houses and camps.
Friday, October 20, 2023
According to Vincent Caire, author of a book about early Louisiana aviation, civilian flying between 1910 and 1926 was primarily novelty flights and demonstrations, although there were primitive attempts to carry air mail. For years, it seemed aviation was of no "practical use" for the general public.
Then, according to the Louisiana Dept. of Culture, Recreation and Tourism webpage, entomologist Dr. Bert R. Coad at the United States Department of Agriculture field laboratory at Tallulah, Louisiana, sought ways to eliminate the boll weevil, a tiny insect that annually destroyed large portions of the southern cotton crop. This was in the late 1910's. He soon realized the value of aerial crop-dusting.
"Through his work Coad came into contact with C. E. Woolman, a district supervisor for the Louisiana State University agricultural extension service. Woolman, an aviation enthusiast, had attended the world's first aviation meet in Rheims, France, in 1909. Coad and Woolman became acquainted with George B. Post, vice president of the Huff Daland Company, which created a crop-dusting division in 1924. The following year the company hired Woolman and shifted its operations from Macon, Georgia, to Monroe, Louisiana."
The "Arrows Across America" webpage noted that the very next year the Air Mail Act of 1925 (Kelly Act) authorized the postmaster general to "contract for domestic airmail service with commercial air carriers. By transferring airmail operations to private companies, the government effectively would help create the commercial aviation industry. Various routes were designated and contracts for carrying the mail over these routes were then awarded to many different private air service companies."
Among those companies would be one named "St. Tammany."
St. Tammany Airways Inc. was incorporated on June 23, 1927. While it was incorporated with a New Orleans address and flew out of Alvin Callendar Field in Belle Chasse, the organizers and owners of the airline had close contacts in St. Tammany Parish, even starting a pilot training school in Covington. It is unknown why they named the airline St. Tammany, but the name resonated across the nation as St. Tammany Airways received more and more government contracts for airmail for cities further and further outward.
The first two years of St. Tammany Airways were an astounding success as more and more towns and cities across the country clamored for airmail service, and St. Tammany Airways was there to give advice, encourage airmail service, and run the routes. It eventually changed its name to St. Tammany Gulf Coast Airways, Inc. E. T. Watson was the founder of St. Tammany Gulf Coast Airways, according to a Times Picayune article that first year.
Historian Caire found that when airmail service expanded in 1928, the federal government selected St. Tammany Airways to provide delivery from New Orleans to Mobile, Birmingham, and Atlanta. It flew airmail across the southeastern United States and even up to Chicago, Illinois.
Not long after, St. Tammany and Gulf Coast Airways was made a part of Southern Air Transport under its president C.R. Smith.
The Patterson Connection
Meanwhile, over in Patterson, Louisiana, (near Lafayette) according to the Wedell-Williams Aviation Museum there, aviation pioneers Jimmie Wedell and Harry P. Williams, both of Louisiana, formed an early air service together in 1928 in Patterson. Both men became nationally prominent during the Golden Age of Aviation, and their legacy lives on in the memorabilia and planes on display at the museum.
The Tourist Commission On Airmail Firsts
The Louisiana state tourism agency picks up the narrative at this point, explaining on its webpage that early "promoters of air travel hoped to establish the industry through a demonstration of its practical uses. They found a likely target in the mail system.
"In 1912, more than a dozen years before airmail became a regular service, French aviator George Mestach delivered mail from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1 hour and 32 minutes, marking the second airmail delivery in the United States. Although he ran into a fence and broke the plane’s propeller upon landing on the Louisiana State University campus, the jostled Mestach managed to deliver a letter to Governor J. Y. Sanders."
The tourism website goes on to say that businessmen also began to view aviation as a tool for securing trade and commerce with countries abroad, especially in Central and South America. In the 1920s such boosters as the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and the Young Men’s Business Club (YMBC) campaigned for federal airmail service and promoted aviation activities. In 1925 the YMBC constructed Alvin Callender Field, named after the only New Orleans pilot to be killed in World War I.
In 1923 New Orleans became one of two cities in the United States to test the effectiveness of incorporating air delivery for foreign mail. The government awarded the contract to World War I veteran Arthur Cambas, who hired former naval aviators and formed New Orleans Air Line.
Departing from a hangar at the end of Poland Avenue, seaplanes brought mail from New Orleans to Pilot Town at the mouth of the Mississippi River, allowing mail bound for South America to reach steamers twelve hours after they left New Orleans. The service also brought mail from incoming ships into the city.
Louisiana entrepreneurs and pilots were among the first to advance the idea of air travel, improve aircraft design, and usher in the Golden Age of Aviation, according to Caire, the author of the book on Louisiana aviation history. "They developed aerial crop dusting, initiated airmail routes, pushed the limits of stunt flying, and entertained spectators with air races," he was quoted as saying. Barn-storming was an aviation staple in the early days of flying.
First Airship and First Helicopter
According to an article last year in the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, two figures from Central Louisiana were among the first to help mankind get their feet off the ground in the early 1900s. Those men were Charles Page of Pineville, who built the first airship, and Leo Ortego of Alexandria, who built the first working manned helicopter.
According to Mike Wynne, a local historian, "Leo Ortego, in 1922, created the first working helicopter. He took off at the corner of Bolton Avenue and Rapides Avenue which is across from the old Acme Glass Plant." Ortego flew about 15 feet in the air.
Delta Airlines Begins
Returning to the efforts by Delta Airlines founder C. E. Woolman, that company evolved from a crop-dusting operation called Huff Daland Dusters.
The Delta Airlines website states that "Huff Daland Dusters, the world’s first aerial crop-dusting company, incorporated on March 2, 1925. Stated purposes for the new company included using aircraft for "the carrying of passengers, goods, wares and merchandise, for all kinds of commercial purposes..." With a few months of its incorporation, the crop-dusting firm moved to Monroe, Louisiana, because of a larger market there for crop-dusting. It became a huge crop-dusting service across several states, with the largest fleet of private planes in the nation.
In June of 1928 Woolman negotiated a successful bid in Huff Daland Dusters’ name for an airline concession and airmail contract in the country of Peru. On Dec. 3, 1928, Delta Air Service incorporated after local investors, led by C.E. Woolman and Monroe banker Travis Oliver, purchased the assets of Huff Daland Dusters.
On June 17, 1929 Delta began passenger flights over a route stretching from Dallas, Texas to Jackson, Mississippi, via Shreveport and Monroe, Louisiana. The planes carried five passengers and a pilot. On Dec. 31, 1930 Delta Air Corporation incorporated in Louisiana. Its headquarters remained at Selman Field in Monroe.
During the Great Depression it was forced to suspend passenger airline operations but survived by crop dusting, aerial survey services, managing Selman Field, operating a flight school, and providing "top-quality, extensive services for the repair and overhaul of aircraft." Delta eventually grew into one of the world's largest airlines.
So Louisiana as a whole has many solid connections to the development of early aviation, and St. Tammany was the namesake for a pioneering airmail delivery airline.
Abita Springs Airport
With an impressive pedigree in aviation history for the entire state, that brings us to St. Tammany Airport east of Abita Springs, which is in the center of the parish. The airport was built fifty something years ago to serve a need, a home base for St. Tammany's many aircraft owners.
The Greater St. Tammany Regional Airport, at one time called the Richard Privette Sr. Airport, is located on La. 36 about three miles outside of Abita Springs. Richard Privette Sr. was one of St. Tammany Parish's early pioneers in flying. According to a newspaper article at the time, Privette was the first man in the parish to build and fly his own airplane.
According to the parish airport webpage, the airport is temporarily closed for construction. Its runway is 75 feet wide and just under 3000 feet long. An article on Wikipedia stated that St. Tammany Regional Airport covers an area of 42 acres at an elevation of 39 feet above sea level.
"For the 12-month period ending April 15, 2009, the airport had 25,600 aircraft operations, an average of 70 per day: 98 per cent of which were for general aviation and two percent for air taxi. At that time there were 18 aircraft based at the airport: 13 single-engine, 3 multi-engine, 1 helicopter and 1 ultralight," the Wikipedia article said, quoting FAA reports.
Apparently the St. Tammany Airport has been "inactive" for over a year, something to do with a long-delayed runway re-paving project. There has been little plane activity, although some folks have been flying their drones out there.
I remember the days when the Soaring Center flew sailplanes out of the airport, I remember arrival of corporate jets (if they could land on the short runway.) The parish should consider turning it into a business airport, or an executive airport. The nearby acreage has been designated an industrial park so there's an additional incentive.