Interesting Things

By Ray L. Bellande

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History of St. Martin


AN EARLY HISTORY of the ST. MARTIN COMMUNITY

Jackson County, Mississippi

 

St. Martin, an unincorporated community, appears to have indistinct limits, but can generally be defined as that area of west Jackson County, Mississippi which is bounded on the west by the city of D'Iberville in Harrison County, south by the Back Bay of Biloxi and Fort Bayou, east by Eglin Road, and north by Interstate Highway 10.  This history will deal primarily with those families who settled west of Mississippi State Highway 609 (North Washington Avenue).

The name, St. Martin, is postulated by local historian, Dale Greenwell, to have come from a French military officer, Raymond St. Martin de Jorquiboey, who may resided in the area for a brief time in the middle 1700s.(Greenwell, 1968, p. 131)

The original St. Martin community developed on the Point St. Martin peninsula in the Jean-Baptise Ladner Confirmation Claim, Section 16 and Section 22, T7S-R9W of Jackson County.  The St. Martin peninsula is bounded on the north and northeast by St. Martin Bayou, east and south by the Back Bay of Biloxi and west by the town of D'Iberville.  Two prominent topographic features of the area are Avery Point (formerly Point Joli and Lopez Point) and Langley Point (formerly Point St. Martin and Tracy Point).  Avery Point was named for W.G. Avery who settled here in October 1941.  Langley Point was named for Victor C. Langley and his family who owned the point for about thirty years commencing in 1920.

This area of Jackson County was originally settled by Jean-Baptiste Ladner (1783-1840+).  He obtained a Spanish Land grant here in 1800, when the area was a apart of Spanish West Florida.  Known as Claim No. 158, the Ladner tract was later confirmed by an Act of Congress in March 1819, when the area was part of the United States.  The survey plat of December 1828, depicts Claim No. 158 containing 609.32 acres.

Jean-Baptiste Ladner was the son of Nicolas Ladner (c.1727-1798) and Marianne Paquet (d. 1809).  He legated much of his land at Point St. Martin to Joseph Ladner (c. 1770-c. 1855), his older brother, and to his children.

Jean-Baptise Ladner married Julienne LaFontaine (1795-1846+), the daughter of Auguste LaFontaine and Catherine Bourgeois, the Widow LaFontaine.  The LaFontaines are considered the first family of Ocean Springs having settled here about 1803.  Upon the death of the Widow LaFontaine circa 1847, Jean Baptise Ladner inherited Lot No. 3, a 720-foot strip on the Bay of Biloxi, at Ocean Springs.  It was situated between Jackson and Washington Avenues.  Ladner sold the land immediately to Robert B. Kendall.

In October 1840, Jean-Baptiste Ladner legated land at St. Martin Point to his children:  Julienne L. Fountain (1815-c. 1876), the wife of Francois Fountain (c. 1798-c. 1885); Louise L. Beaugez (1820-1897), the wife of Stanislaus Beaugez (1813-1889); Eloise L. Groue (1821-1890), the wife of Louis Groue (1814-1887); Marie Arcinta L. LaForce, the wife of Victor LaForce; Marie Palmire L. Ryan, the wife of Victor Ryan; and Alfred Ladner (b.c. 1825), the husband of Caroline Ryan (1824-1915).

These tracts are in the present Point St. Martin area situated approximately between Langley Drive and Gulf Stream.  By 1880, Joseph F. Dick (1837-1875), Louis Groue, and Laurent Tiblier (1847-1897) had purchased the interest of the Widow Arsine LaForce, Stanislaus Beaugez, and Alfred Ladner respectively.  At Point St. Martin, the lands of  Joseph Ladner, situated to the west of the heirs of Jean Baptise Ladner, were legated to his children who married into the Ryan, Bosarge, Moran, Rousseau, and Bernard families.

At about the same time period, 1840-1860, the region to the east of Point St. Martin was the focus of settlement by immigrants primarily from the Iberian Peninsula and Denmark.  Here in the vicinity of and along Fort Bayou and Bayou Porteaux, men who were primarily sailors, John Rodriguez (Rodrigues)(1812-1860+), Joseph Diaz (1803-1860+), Ramon Cannette (1824-1880+), Antonio Marie (1832-1885), Antonio Franco (1834-1891), Captain Noye (1827-1860+), Joseph Basque (1804-1860), and Thomas Hanson (1810-1900) settled.  They and their children married into some of the local families already living this area such as: Ryan, Ladner, Bosarge, Seymour, and Cuevas (Quave). 

Emmanuel Raymond (1833-1925), also of Spanish origin, immigrated in 1855.  He married Mary Cruthirds (1844-1923) and probably settled in the Latimer community.

These Spanish and Portuguese settlers were recent immigrants and not descendants of Spanish colonials who have anecdotally been linked with the Spanish Camp of the Fort Point peninsula at Ocean Springs.  Antonio Franco and Antonio Marie who married Artemese (1840-1912) and Jane Rodrigues (1844-1915), the daughters of John Rodrigues and Marie-Martha Ryan, later owned property at Ocean Springs. 

In November 1881, Marie purchased the White House, a small hostel and bar, on Robinson opposite the L&N depot, from the Schmidt family.  When he died intestate at Ocean Springs in December 1885, his estate consisted primarily of four coastal schooners:  Sea Witch, Esperanza, Hortence, and Maud.

Antonio Franco settled on the south bank of Fort Bayou where he operated a ferry at the northern terminus of Washington Avenue.  The ferry connected Ocean Springs with the St. Martin community and Back Bay (now D'Iberville) to the west.

Some families of Italian origin such as Caprillo and Fugassa (Fergonis) also settled here along Bayou Porteaux.  In the early history of this area, only a few Americans, the likes of William C. Seaman (1801-1844) and Joseph R. Plummer (1804-1860+), were here.

Other families to later settle in the western area of the St. Martin community were:  Fountain, Tracy, Fayard, Cannette, Boney, Curry, Bullock, Borries, Moore, Batia, Anderson, Rodrigues, Reynoir, Lepoma, Raymond, Terretta, Giametta, Seymour, Trochessett, Arnold, Balthrope, Simpson, Peacock, Boldt, Cook, Labash, Birdsell, Attenhofer, Letort, Langley, Lauffer, Hanneman, Toups, and Diaz.

The east St. Martin area saw later settlement by these families:  Suarez, Desporte, Caldwell, Tiblier, Manuel, Borries, Reno, Raymond, Gustafson, Peterson, and Morris.

These early coast families of St. Martin made their livelihoods from the sea and from the land.  At this time, the bays and bayous were fecund with fish, oysters, and shrimp.  Vegetable gardens, chickens, livestock, and game provided additional food for the table.  Additional income was earned by selling fresh pork, potatoes, eggs, chickens, and other country produce at the Biloxi market, particularly after the Back Bay and Fort Bayou bridges were opened in 1901.  Some families burned wood to produce charcoal for the New Orleans market while others raised cattle for milk, hides, and meat.  Sheep husbandry provided wool and mutton.

 

The Back Bay Ferry and Roads

Intermittently from 1843 to 1901, a steam ferry ran from the south shore of the Bay of Biloxi near Lameuse Street to a landing on the north shore of present day D'Iberville just west of the I-110 bridge.  The rate of ferriage at this time was established by the Board of Police of Harrison County.  W.C. Seaman (1801-1844), a New Yorker, was granted the right to operate the first ferry.  He was permitted to charge the following rates:

 

 

foot passengers          25 cents

man and horse            50 cents

two horse carriage        1 dollar

           cattle                   12 1/2 cents per head

                 hogs or sheep             6 1/4 cents per head

 

 


An important consideration when examining the history of this area of west Jackson County is its isolation from the rest of the world due to a paucity of good roads and sufficient bridges.  This allowed the indigenous people of the area occupying the north shore of the Back Bay of Biloxi from Biglin Bayou in Harrison County on the west, to the mouth of Fort Bayou on the east, to maintain the French language and Roman Catholic religion of their ancestors for many generations.  It was common to hear a dialect of French spoken by the people here into the 1950s.  Their English was accented which identified their place of origin.  To the natives of Biloxi anyone from North Biloxi, as it was known to almost everyone on the south shore, was a "hoss from across".

Via water, the coastal schooner, cat boat, skiff, the Back Bay ferry to Biloxi, the Morris, Wells, and Lamey ferries across the Tchoutacabouffa River, Popp's Ferry connecting the upper reaches of Back Bay, and the Franco-Earle Ferry which traversed Fort Bayou at Ocean Springs, were the only ways to enter or exit the St. Martin region except for land routes form the northeast.  These were the Bluff Creek Road and the Big Ridge Road.  The ferry landings were generally reached by wagon trails and some "shell and dirt roads" maintained by road supervisors employed by the Board of Police (now Board of Supervisors) of the respected counties in which they lie.

It appears that before December 1912, when H.E. Latimer (1855-1941) & Sons were contracted to build a road from Bayou Puerto to the Harrison County line for $3000, only a wagon trail existed here.  The Jackson County Timesof February 24, 1917, made the following comment about the road:  If Biloxi wants to encourage automobile travel between Ocean Springs and that city the people over there should get behind their Supervisor and see that the road from the county line to the bridge is put in decent shape.  This piece of road is in fearful condition and a disgrace to Harrison County.  Ocean Springs and the country surrounding have built a series of splendid roads hereabouts, one leading over to the Harrison County line where it continues on to the city of Biloxi.  From the county line to the bridge there are more bumps to the square yard than there is on an old fashioned a corduroy road.  Autoist certainly get their bumps when they hit this stretch of road.(The Jackson County Times, February 24, 1917, p. 5)

This route became known as the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Road (now Le Moyne Boulevard) after a new concrete bridge across Back Bay, replacing the 1901 wooden bridge, and this concrete paved road were completed in January 1927.  The Moore Construction Company with F.H. McGowen of Ocean Springs as the consulting engineer were lauded for their fine efforts in building the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Road.  H.E. Latimer & Sons had finished the road from the north end of the Fort Bayou bridge to the west gate of the Rose Farm in January 1913.  These two thoroughfares connected the St. Martin Community with Ocean Springs.

At the time, J.K. Lemon (1870-1929) was the Supervisor of Jackson County Beat Four and a strong proponent and motivator for this project as well as the "Million Dollar" highway which joined Ocean Springs to the Alabama state line in 1926.  Supervisor Lemon also lobbied aggressively for The War Memorial Bridge across the Bay of Biloxi from Biloxi to Ocean Springs which was dedicated in June 1930.  This new route removed the "Old Spanish Trail" designation from the St. Martin area.  It now ran directly from Biloxi to Ocean Springs and east towards St. Augustine, Florida.

The road, which connected Back Bay and St. Martin to the Popp's Ferry Road was an extension of the road already leading east from the ferry site.  People living west of Back Bay had to cross other peoples land to get to the village.  In many cases the land was fenced and only a water route was practical.  In May 1914, Harrison County Board of Supervisors headed by F.W. Elmer planned the route to connect the two roads and give the people of Back Bay a land route to the Pass Christian Road west of Biloxi.

The Mims and later Morris ferry offered transportation across the Tchoutacabouffa River near Cedar Lake until an iron bridge was completed here in April 1909. 

The "Corso Bridge" near the old Wells ferry landing across the Tchoutacabouffa River on Highway 55 was completed in February 1949.    

 

Lamey’s Bridge

Annie Hosli Lamey (b. 1869) and Phillip Lamey (b. 1874) sold land to Harrison County in October 1911, to build a bridge across the Tchoutacabouffa River at the old Lamey ferry crossing in Section 33, T6S-9W.  A contract was let by the Harrison County Board of Supervisors in November 1913 to the Austin Brothers.  By April 1914, Lamey's Bridge was operating with the following one way toll fees:

 

automobile                   15 cents

motorcycle                    5 cents

horse and rider               5 cents

log wagon                     5 cents

                         ox team                      10 cents

cattle (per head)             2 cents

sheep (per head)              1 cent

      school children              free passage

 

 

 

 

Before all these engineering feats were accomplished, adventurous travelers visited the immediate area or saw the small enclave of Back Bay-St. Martin from the late 18th Century onwards.  In 1784, Thomas Hutchins, Surveyor-General of the United States, while reconnoitering the Mississippi coast, made this observation:  There are still a few inhabitants at Biloxi, some of whom are the offspring of the original settlers.  Their chief employment is raising cattle and stock, and making pitch and tar:  but the natives (Indians) are troublesome to them.

The report of Benjamin L.C. Wailes (1797-1862) who viewed the village of Back Bay from the south shore at Biloxi on August 27, 1852, related:  Rode in the morning, after a call from Judge Smith, to Back Bay 2 miles, which is an extension of the Bay of Baluxi (sic).  Found a steam ferry running across where it seems a mile in width.  The extensive  brickyard of Mr. Kendall, where bricks are made on a very extensive scale from dry compressed earth, by steam power, was in sight on the opposite side, about two miles distant.  A number of small craft was in the Bay, and several along the shore undergoing repairs.  Several steam mills, which are numerous on the Bay, for sawing pine timber, were also in view.

Back Bay was described in The Biloxi Herald of November 21, 1891 as follows:  Twenty minutes walk from the depot brings one to the prettiest places of the Biloxi side of Back Bay, the Reynoir place, near which the little tug Jennie lands for passengers.  A ten minutes run on this beautiful sheet of water lands you in the picturesque village of Back Bay (now D'Iberville), which is scattered along the shore for about two miles, giving shelter, to nearly two hundred and fifty inhabitants, and boasting a Roman Catholic church house, a school house, several stores, and a yard for shipbuilding.  The houses are chiefly small cottages nestled in groves of trees on a rise, scarcely to be called a hill or ridge, which in some places ascends directly from the water's edge,  resembling the terrace-like slopes of Ocean Springs' front, and in others a narrow stretch of sandy beach or a marsh intervenes between the elevation and the water.  The schoolhouse is very pleasantly located; the waters of the bay, half-veiled by a grove of trees, shimmer in the distance in the front, and the woodland back is a perfect delight with its mingling of deciduous and evergreen trees, forming charming vistas and shady nooks.  The gum, oak, sycamore and maple bear the imprint of autumn's glorious reign in vivid fiery dashes his heart's very life, while the fall pines wave their plumed tops as they breathe a low weird requiem for beautiful, passionate departed summer.  (p. 4)

The Daily Picayune of July 24, 1892, narrates the journey of Catherine Cole, who was traveling from Ocean Springs to Back Bay via St. Martin.  She vividly described a portion of this journey as:  an hour passes by and we have come, still under the feathery pines, to beautiful Back Bay, famous for its oysters, its bathing, its scenery and its drives.  This is the chief suburb of Biloxi, just as Biloxi is the chief town of the lake shore.(p. 12)

"Le joi de vivre" was indelibly ingrained into the natives of St. Martin.  Their southern Mediterranean genes created a passionate people who loved their God, families, work, and avocations which included gambling, music, and dancing.  It appears that horse racing was a favorite pastime for the residents of St. Martin.  Races were held on Sunday and drew local residents, horsemen, and gamblers form the region.  They came on foot, by the wagon load, or on horseback.  There were two race tracks in the general area, and Race Track Road was opened from Point St. Martin to Quave's Ferry on Back Bay circa 1892.  It became a public road in June 1912.  Dale Greenwell reported in The North Biloxian of December 11, 1975, a description of the race track: The track was a long stretch of dirt, part of an old wagon trail from St. Martin to D'Iberville.  It was flanked with homes behind picket fences, wooded areas, and picnic lawns. 

Two Harvey brothers, Casimir Harvey (1845-1905) and Phillip Harvey (1851-1918), the sons of Pierre Harvey (1810-1883) and Celestine Moran (1811-1883), had reputations as horse racers and traders.  The Biloxi Herald of March 1, 1890, related the following:  Casmere Harvey is proud in the possession of one of  the fleetest horses on the coast, and Clara P., for symmetry and beauty of proportion in limb and length is hard to beat.

In horse trading, Mr. Phillip Harvey has no rival.  No  equine beauty passes his critical eye without a bid; and he invariably, like the notorious Eli, gets there.

Again on March 29, 1890, The Biloxi Herald made note of the Harvey brothers:

Casmere Harvey has sold his celebrated racer "Cannon Ball".

Phil Harvey had a good trip of over thirty-five miles in the country in the early part of the week after a runaway horse.  He got his strayed animal and did some profitable horse trading at the same time.  Nothing slow about Phil.

The Harvey family lived on the "west end" of the small community of Back Bay (now D'Iberville).  St. Martin Point was referred by the locals as the "east end".   Casimir Harvey made his livelihood as a ship carpenter building some of the finest schooners on the coast.  In March 1891, Phil Harvey bought a lot (1/2 arpent by 1 arpent) at Point St. Martin from Edward Cannette (1866-1948).  Here Phil Harvey built a home which was blessed by Father Blanc in May 1892.  He also erected a store and was doing a good business here in February 1892.  In addition to the Harvey store, Pierre Cannette and later Armand Fayard (1870-1953) operated small stores south of Race Track Road on opposite corners of Reynoir (now Brittany).  Phil Harvey also served the people of Point St. Martin as a deputy constable.  He had a reputation for keeping peace in his neighborhood.

There were occasional incursions into the Point St. Martin area by "hoodlums" and a "scrap" between neighbors.  One such scuffle occurred in February 1892, when Henry Fayard and William Ladnier broke the monotony of the peninsular community.  Ladnier was bested without serious injury.  Phil Harvey sold his property to Frank Perez in January 1902 and moved to Biloxi.

It is generally believed that horse racing on the "east end" terminated in December 1902, when Joseph Randolph Quave (1888-1902), the son of Raymond J. Quave (1851-1908), was killed while exercising his father's mount, "Little Nellie".  "Little Nellie" was to race "Sleepy Tom" of Gulfport for $100 in prize money.  Tony Terretta (1907-1996+) says friendly races continued until about 1915.    

 

LAUFFERS’ S DANCE HALL

St. Martin had a popular dance hall called Lauffer's Hall.  It was located on the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Road in the north half of Lot 1 of Section 15, T7S-R9W.  Today this site would lie between present day Mescalero and Cheyenne Drives on the south side of Le Moyne Boulevard.  The forty acres surrounding the dance club were part of the pecan orchard of Mrs. Lauffer's grandfather, George Rossman (1832-1920+), a German immigrant, from whom she purchased the property in October 1920. 

The proprietor of the dance hall was George G. Lauffer (1878-1942), who was called Jack Lauffer.  He was born at Louisville, Kentucky and married Dorothy Haneman (1879-1956), a native of Davenport, Iowa in February 1915.  They resided on the old Smith farm north of the business.  In addition to running his club, Lauffer served the people of St. Martin as their rural mail carrier (a Tucei before him).  In the 1920s, all the mail boxes at Point St. Martin were located on the northwest corner of Race Track Road and Reynoir (now Brittany) adjacent to the Nunzio Terretta (1868-1954) property.(The Daily Herald, February 9,1915, p. 2)

Jack Lauffer appears to have been in the dance hall business as early as 1916.  The Jackson County Times of March 31, 1917, announced the following:  The Times has been requested to state that there will be a big dance at Jack Lauffer's half way house on the      Saturday night following Easter, for the benefit of the Catholic church on Back Bay (Sacred Heart).  Everybody cordially invited.

Regina Fountain Seymour (1905-2000) remembers walking to Lauffer's as a fifteen year old with her cousins.  They were chaperoned by an older aunt.  Admission to the dance hall was fifteen or twenty cents and the patron was given a ribbon to wear to show that he or she had paid.  No drinking was tolerated in the club.  Bands from Biloxi-Joe Fallo or John Bertucci played frequently.  Boys on horseback would come from Woolmarket.  Older people would also attended the dances, many were benefits for charitable purposes.

Local popular musicians played at the club including trumpet playing, John J. Bertucci (1875-1961) of Biloxi, and his Imperial Jazz Band, a five piece combo.  The Lauffer's appear to have gotten out of the entertainment business when they sold the property to David J. Venus (1877-1932) in January 1926, for $2500.  It is possible that the structure burned.

Other dance halls in the area frequented by the locals of St. Martin were those of Ramon Fournier (1876-1949) and Alphonse Seymour (1888-1962).  They were located in Harrison County at present day D'Iberville on the west end of Race Track Road.

 

Musicians

Well know musicians to have come from the immediate area are:  Peter J. Lepre (1899-1990) and indirectly world renown clarinetist, Peter D. Fountain Jr. (b. 1930).  Lepre was known as "Fiddling Pete", and entertained the people of the Mississippi coast for decades with his music and story telling.  Fiddler's Place, a small housing development, is currently being built on the northwest corner of Race Track Road and Pringle.

Peter Dewey Fountain (1902-1979), called Dewey, the father of Pete Fountain, was also a talented musician.  He was born at St. Martin, the son of Raymond Fountain (1874-1938) and Adonia Groue (1876-1962).  Dewey met and married Madeleine Letort of New Orleans.  They resided in the Crescent City after their wedding there in 1926.  Pete Foutain was born at New Orleans on July 3, 1930, and would spend summers on the "east end" with his St. Martin family, the many Fountain-LeTort uncle, aunts, and cousins who resided there.  As a young man, Pete Fountain played music at the St. Martin Community Center, the social hub of the neighborhood and another place where community dances were held.

The original St. Martin Community Center, a wooden building, may have been built during the Great Depression as a WPA project.  A deed record in the Chancery Court of Jackson County demonstrates that in July 1941, B.H. Shannon sold a lot (100' by 184') on the east side of Fountain Road (now St. Martin Road) to the St. Martin Community Club, a dues paying organization of local citizens.  Here the people of St. Martin celebrated weddings, had dances, and held meetings with their social and civic organizations.  After the old building burned in the late 1960s, a new concrete block structure was erected.  Bands like Pee Wee Maddux of Gulfport and the Rocking Rebels featuring locals, Doty and Ray Fournier, often performed here.           

 

Civil War

During the Civil War (1861-1865), several young men of the St. Martin area, particularly from the families of Francois Fountain (1798-1885) and Pierre Ryan (1790-1878), enlisted in Company A, "The Live Oak Rifles", of the 3rd Mississippi Regiment and went off to war.  The Live Oak Rifles had been sworn into State service on September 18, 1861, at the plantation of Sardin G. Ramsay (1837-1920).  The large Ramsay farm was situated about seven miles northeast of Ocean Springs, whose young men made up a substantial number of the company.  W.G. Bullock (1840-1919) from Georgia, who married Adele Seymour (1842-1913), also served in this conflict.  Bullock was the forefather of a large family which lived near the Bosarge, Letort, and Seymour clans in the area about one-half mile, north-east of Bayou St. Martin and south of the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Road (N/2 of Lot 1, Section 15, T7S-R9W).

From Reconstruction (1865-1877), until the turn of the Century, life of the descendants and spouses of the old Ladner families continued status quo as they made their livelihoods in a simple manner from the sea and land.  The Fountains, Groues, Ladners, Beaugezs, Fergones, Bosarge, Rodriguez, Cannettes, Letorts, Tibliers, Fayards, Rousseau, and Boneys were the sailors and oystermen.  Families such as, Bullock, Trochesset, Basque, Raymond, Seymour, Caldwell, and Latimer were more apt to be engaged as farmers and stockmen.  Wood cutters and coal burners were more likely to be of the Bosarge, Ryan, Desporte, Borries, and Seymour families. 

 

Black Families

The few Black families in the St. Martin community, the Bayards, Houses, Thompsons, Harveys, Franklins, and Weldys, lived in the Gulf Hills area where they made their livelihoods as charcoal burners and woodcutters.  Before 1900, Martin Ryan (1842-1913), Jacob Elmer (1812-1894), Theo Borries, Joseph Basque (1804-1860), and William Seymour (1837-1908) held large acreage positions in the eastern area of the St. Martin community.

 

BUSINESS

There were very few indigenous businessmen on the "east end".  With the exception of Martin Fountain (1857-1938), a ship carpenter, and later the Hypolite Borries (1861-1920+) family and Van Eaton Seymour (1885-1953), who were butchers and sold meat and milk, the majority of the people of St. Martin existed by the fruits of their labor.  Some of the Cannettes and Fayards had small stores along Race Track Road were they sold food staples.

 

Manuel Post Office

Louis George Manuel (1848-1903), husband of Mary Theodora Desporte (1848-1903), was the only postmaster at St. Martin.  He operated a small postal station, called "Manuel", in 1898.  It was probably located in the Bayou Porteaux area on the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Road.  Manuel also served the people of west Jackson County as their state representative in the late 1890s.  The early men of commerce at North Biloxi for the most part were the Quaves, Harveys, Santa Cruzs, Brodies, Mulhollands, Morans, and Seymours who lived and operated on the "west end" near the ferry landing and later wooden bridge at present day D'Iberville.

 

Outsiders

After the turn of the 20th Century, foreign faces from Italy and Croatia began to appear in the St. Martin community.  Before this small southern European influx between 1900 and 1920, there were a few late 19th Century arrivals from Europe, and some "outsiders" who came to St.Martin. 

Among the "outsiders" were Arthur Reynoir (1832-1897), a land speculator, who resided at New Orleans and Biloxi, and Professor Samuel M. Tracy (1847-1920) from Vermont, who settled on what would become known as Treasure Point or Tracy Point (now Langley Point).  In addition, Edgar S. Balthorpe (1873-1939) came to the area via New Orleans.  He was born at Saerton, Missouri which was near Hannibal, the boyhood home of Mark Twain (1835-1910).  Balthorpe was active in the retail grocery, saw mill-timber, and nursery businesses until his retirement in 1933. 

C.I. Simpson (1855-1910+) from New York and Parker Earle (1831-1917) from Vermont were agricultural men.  Simpson farmed the area northwest of the St. Martin School.

 

Parker Earle

Parker Earle settled at Ocean Springs in 1887.  He was a successful fruit farmer in southern Illinois where he invented the refrigerated rail car.  Earle and his sons, Franklin S. Earle (1856-1929) and Charles T. Earle (1861-1901), founded the Earle farm north of Fort Bayou.  This commercial agriculture venture in the eastern St. Martin community later became known as the Rose Farm which existed until 1910.  The H.D. Money family from Holmes County, Mississippi were the last to operate the "Rose Farm", where they grew citrus and pecans for many decades.

Between 1866 and 1873, Frenchmen like, Aristide Letort (1849-1924), Fritz E. Bonjour (1840-1911), and Jean V. Trochesset (1848-1903) came to the United States.  Joseph Suarez (1840-1912) from the Canary Islands also arrived before 1900.  Letort and Suarez were oystermen working the bays and bayous for the succulent mollusks.  Both men have many descendants along the Mississippi coast.  Mayor A.J. Holloway of Biloxi, who has strong ties to Ocean Springs, is a direct descendant of Aristide Letort.

F.E. Bonjour, born at Switzerland, became a licensed pharmacist in March 1893, and worked at Ocean Springs for Dr. O.L. Bailey (1870-1938).  An eccentric, Bonjour, lived alone on the upper reaches of Bayou Porteaux and owned land on the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Road (Le Moyne Boulevard) which became part of the estate of German immigrant farmer, Charles W. Dundolph (1844-1920+).  Bonjour later worked for the Phoenix Drug store at Biloxi.  Dr. Bailey faithfully served the medical needs of St. Martin from his Ocean Springs office.

Jean V. Trochesset and his family moved to the area from Louisiana by schooner in 1893.  Initially, he farmed, but his male children were boat builders, carpenters, and fishermen.  Trochesset built a large home on the beach south of Race Track Road on a 4.6 acre tract he purchased from Celestine Ladner in 1893.  He served as a trustee for the Back Bay public school and owned several schooners including the swift racer, American Girl, built by Martin Fountain. 

After the demise of J.V. Trochesset, the widow Trochesset, Marie Mathieu (1860-1942), married Baptiste Moran (1862-1927).  When she and her daughters, Felicie T. Thompson (1895-1980) and Reseda T. Beyer (1900-1991) subdivided the Trochesset land in July 1922, it became the first platted subdivision at St. Martin Point.  The Trochesset tract was divided into ten lots on the east side of present day M & L Road.  The nine sons of Jean Victor Trochesset:  Louis (1878-1933), Phillip (1879-1979), Jules Pierre (1880-1971), Joseph (1882-1963), Charles (1883-1970), Paul (1885-1968), Laurence (1888-1974), Octave (1890-1955), and Albert (1891-1963), received one each.  The Trochesset home was sold to Edward Brady and Fergus Bohn in April 1925.    

 

Arthur Reynoir

It appears that Arthur Reynoir (1832-1897), a native of the West Indies, probably Haiti, was the first to speculate in land on St. Martin Point.  Reynoir and his wife, Rosa Dorsey (1842-1917), lived at New Orleans and Biloxi.  Their home in Biloxi was at the head of present day Reynoir Street, which acquired its name from them.  After Reconstruction, the Reynoirs spent the summers at Biloxi, until they acquired permanent residency here about 1892.  At New Orleans, Mr. Reynoir was well known in commercial circles while his wife had a millinery shop on Chartres Street.  Mrs. Reynoir, once described as one of the most progressive milliners in New Orleans, would travel to market at New York City and purchase the latest style hats, bonnets, and trimmings.  She was a larger dealer in Berlia zephyr, a fine, soft, lightweight cloth.

Arthur Reynoir began acquiring land at St. Martin in June 1887, when he purchased a forty arpent strip fronting on the Bay Bay from the heirs of Francis Moran and Catherine Fournier.  This became known as the Reynoir strip and was bounded on the west by Renoir Road (now Brittany) and on the east by the Rousseau strip.  Hans Hirsch and Edward W. Kuss of New Orleans acquired some of the Reynoir property in the early 1900s.  Others from the "outside" to buy Reynoir property in this area where Charles E. Moore (1866-1933), William Curry (b.1891), George Norton (b. 1893), and Joseph Schmid.

A major change in the local ownership at Point St. Martin had taken place in December 1882, when Martin Fountain (1857-1938), the youngest son of Francois Fountain and Julienne Ladner (1815-1876), bought 50 acres from Joseph Rousseau (1838-1900+) and Daniel Rousseau (b. 1842).  This tract ran eastward from the Harrison County line for about 300 feet along the Bay of Biloxi.  Here Martin Fountain resided with his family and built boats until he sold his land to S.M. Tracy (1847-1920) in August 1905, and relocated to Biloxi.  Tracy's involvement at Point St. Martin will be discussed later. 

Tracy sold some of the Martin Fountain lands to Charles M. Birdsell (1865-1924+), a stockman and native of Iowa, in August 1919.  Octogenarians of the area remember the former site of the Martin Fountain home on the northeast corner of present day Race Track Road and Beach Bayou Road as "Birdsell's Hill". 

The former Martin Fountain tract became North Shore Terrace, St. Martin's second subdivision, in November 1925, when it was platted by members of the Corso, Tedesco, Krebs (Shankland), and Hunt families.  The name was changed to Beach Bayou Subdivision in July 1957.                  

 

THE ITALIANS

Another family of southern European origin to settle at St. Martin before 1920, was the Savin brothers, Antonio Savin, (1881-1920+), John Savin (1885-1920+), and Marion Savin (1889-1920+).  They were from the island of Molat off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.  The Savin brothers immigrated to America between the years 1911 and 1913.  At St. Martin, Tony Savin had a truck farm, John toiled as a garage mechanic, probably for James Ferguson (1897-1920+), and Marion fished.  The Savin place was north of St. Martin Bayou between the lands of Van Eaton Seymour and Charles Dundolph and also south of the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Road (now Le Moyne).  In April 1922, John Savin married Elizabeth Latimer.  She was the daughter of Judge J.A. Latimer (1859-1922) and Jane Seymour.  Judge Latimer may have been the first person to own an automobile in the eastern St. Martin community.

Other non-indigenous families to locate along the beach front before 1920, acquiring acreage from the Ladner heirs and their descendants were:  Edward Boldt, Charles M. Birdsell, Aristide G. Toups, and later John S. Attenhoffer.

Edward Boldt (1856-1923) was a German immigrant who arrived in America in 1875.  He settled at Iowa where he married and reared a family.  After his wife died, Boldt moved his young family to De Beque, Colorado where he started a successful horse and cattle ranch.  After the turn of the Century, Boldt and his daughter, Eva Boldt (1880-1924+), lived at Salt Lake City, several southern California cities, and at Panama City in the Canal Zone, before arriving at Point St. Martin in the Fall of 1914.  Here they settled at Point Joli (now Avery Point).  Eva Boldt purchased a Ford automobile in 1923, and is believed to have been among the first to own a car in the community with some members of the Beaugez and Fountain families.

Charles M. Birdsell (1865-1923+) was a native of Iowa.  He raised livestock in the St. Martin area and owned the old Martin Fountain home located on a rise east of Beach Bayou Road and north of Race Track Road.  Birdsell bought the home from Professor S.M. Tracy in August 1919.  Mr. Birdsell was married to Leila F. ? (1861-1923), who was born at Rockford, Illinois.  Mrs. Birdsell, although a Presbyterian, was active in the establishment of the Methodist Mission church on Race Track Road.  The Birdsells later moved to Biloxi where he was active in the Biloxi Tourist Club.

Aristide G. Toups (1871-1924) was a native of Louisiana.  He bought property from Sam Boney in April 1915, near the Fayards and Tibliers just west of Professor Tracy on St. Martin Point.  James Gibboney and Mrs. Maude Fabacher later lived in this area.  Mrs. Naomi Toups 1880-1924+) made clothes for the local people while her daughter Blanche Toups (1901-1924+) taught at the Bayou Poito school. The Toups relocated to New Orleans after Mr. Toups health began to fail in the early 1920s..

The Attenhoffers lived on the beach in the Rousseau strip just west of the Trochesset family.  No further information.

Although the people of St. Martin were for the most part self-employed as oystermen and fishermen in the seafood industry, tilled the soil as farmers, or burned charcoal, there were other businesses.  Tourism, boat building, seafood processing, retail stores, and turpentine were some of these industries which provided additional employment in the area.

 

The St. Charles Hotel

One of the first commercial ventures to be located at Point St. Martin was the St. Charles Hotel.  It was erected in March 1890, by Professor Samuel M. Tracy (1847-1920) on the eastern terminus of the peninsula.  Colonel B. Fisher was the architect.  Some carpenters on the Tracy public house project were: W.G. Bullock (1840-1919) and L. McDonald.  The Biloxi Herald of March 8, 1890, announced:  The St. Charles Hotel is flourishing.  The new summer residence, which will be opened as  a boarding house or hotel will be opened as soon as completed, is being pushed as fast as skill and help can be secured at Point St. Martin.

 

Tracy-Langley Point

Samuel M. Tracy was born at Sherman, Vermont.  Educated at Michigan State and Harvard, Professor Tracy taught botany and agriculture at the University of Missouri from 1877 to 1887.  In 1887, he became the director of the Mississippi agricultural experimental station at Starkville.  Tracy remained in this position until 1897, when he became associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Professor Tracy was married to Martha A. Terry (1846-1904), a native of New York.  She was a graduate of Elmira College (N.Y.).  Mrs. Tracy was a writer of note, and a frequent contributor to The Commercial Appeal(Memphis) composing articles concerning home life and domestic affairs.  The Tracys were the parents of three children: Edward Tracy (1875-1920+), Alice T. Welch (1879-1920+), and Elinore T. Clarke (1882-1920+).

Professor Tracy began acquiring land at Point St. Martin for his residence and commercial venture in April and September 1889.  He purchased about ten acres from Louis Fountain and the heirs of Joseph F. Dick. Cotton growing.(see The Biloxi Herald, September 12, 1903, p. 8)

Samuel M. Tracy moved to Laurel, Mississippi several years before his demise.  In December 1920, Elinor Tracy Clarke sold Tracy Point, as it had become known during their tenancy, to Isabelle Shaw Langley (1886-1950).  She was the wife of Victor C. Langley (1868-1935), a native of Manchester, Wisconsin.  The Tracy family was acquainted with the Langleys at Laurel where their daughter, Alice E. Welch, resided with her husband, attorney Walter S. Welch. 

Victor Langley was the proprietor of the Wausau and Marathon Lumber Companies in Jones County.  In his youth, he logged at Greenlake, Wisconsin before relocating south where he was reputed to be one of the best timber estimators in the entire region.  Langley would visit Tracy at Tracy Point (also called Treasure Point) for fishing trips to Horn Island.

 

Bay Harbor

When the old Tracy place burned in 1933, it left Mr. Langley very depressed.  He died two years after the fire.  After the demise of Mrs. Langley at Laurel in May 1950, her heirs sold the property to Ione Brush.  It was platted in April 1961, by H.V. Watkins, president of the Hanging Moss Corporation as the Langley Point Subdivision.  The low-lying area was severely devastated during Hurricane Camille in August 1969.   

 

Martin Fountain

Probably one of the most acclaimed boat builders of the Mississippi coast, Martin Fountain (1856-1938), got his start at Point St. Martin.  He was born in the area, the last child of Francois Fountain (c.1798-c.1885) and Julienne Ladner (1815-c. 1876).  In 1882, The Biloxi Herald of May 7, 1892, announced that, "Martin Fountain and S. Ladnier, of Jackson County, are building a fine shipyard for their own use, though outsiders can also be accommodated".  Fountain built many Biloxi schooners.  His home was located on what later became known as Birdsell's Hill, after Charles M. Birdsell.

Martin Fountain moved to Biloxi about 1903 and continued his shipbuilding skills there.  Other boat builders of note in the area were Willie Fountain (1882-1963), J. Henry Cannette (1887-1969), who was known for his catboat construction, and Herman Kelly (1881-1948), who built shrimp trawlers on the Fountain beach after WW II.    

 

Seafood Industry

With its fine water front and deep water access, the Point St. Martin area was also conducive for commercial seafood activity.  Two shrimp factories were located here, the Lopez Factory and the Lundy Factory, which was a subsidiary of the Ocean Springs Packing Company. The Lopez Factory was commenced after Arnaud G. Lopez (1880-1948), the son of Lazaro Lopez and Julia Dulion, purchased land here at what became known as Lopez Point (now Avery Point) from John Fountain in January 1920.  Lopez had three hundred twenty-five feet on the Back Bay of Biloxi.  John Labash (1885-1920+) was a machinist at the factory, which may have run by Robert Cook (1878-1920+).  Armand Cannette (1863-1948) was the night watchman. Lopez sold the establishment to Mrs. R.C. Herron in November 1925, for $8,000.  Anecdotal history relates that the Lopez factory burned in the late 1920s.

The "Lundy factory" was a branch of the Ocean Springs Packing Company, which was owned by Louis A. Lundy (1876-1941), L. Morris McClure (1884-1940), and Joseph Zaeringer.  Regina Fountain Seymour (b. 1905) remembers the Lundy operation as a small shed where women and girls of the area could pick shrimp.  There was an old black lady from Bayou Poito who worked on her own table as segregation was a way of life.  The cleaned shrimp were sent via truck to the Lundy main plant, which had commenced operations in 1914, at Ocean Springs, south of the L&N railroad bridge.  The St. Martin "Lundy factory", commenced operations after June 1923, when the Ocean Springs Packing Company took a lease from Paul Fountain (1881-1966) and Adele Beaugez Fountain (1884-1948) on the west half of the Francis Fountain homestead.  The factory had 96 feet fronting on the Bay of Biloxi.  It is believed that Paul Fountain supervised the workers.  The plant was in operation only for a few years.

Small, family operated, grocery stores were common in the St. Martin Point community.  Pierre Cannette, Armand Fayard, and Anthony Lepoma (1900-1926) were among those who owned neighborhood outlets for can goods and other food staples.  The Fournier, Lepre, Wetzell, and Rousseau families also operated similar small shops along Race Track Road west of the Jackson County line.  On the "west end", the Harvey, Santa Cruz, Seymour, Young, Moran, and Quave families ran most of the businesses in the primary commercial district, which was located on Ramsay Road (now Central Avenue), north of the Back Bay bridge.  

Naval Stores

In Jackson County, the naval stores industry was operated by families who had migrated to this region to tap the resinous gum of the pine tree.  They were usually from North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.  By 1910, turpentine orchards were common in the area between St. Martin Point and the Rose Farm.  The Fort Bayou Turpentine Company, owned by J.F. Payne, had acquired approximately 1000 acres here.  The Ocean Springs Turpentine Company owned by J.M. Memory and W.L. McWhite operated east of the Rose Farm and along Fort Bayou north of Ocean Springs where there still was located. 

Lloyd Bordeaux (1855-1910+), a North Carolinian who lived in the St. Martin community, may have been operating a turpentine still in the area.  He may have been an employee of the Fort Bayou Turpentine Company.

   

 

EDUCATION

In the late 19th Century, public education in southwestern Jackson County was provided by several small isolated country schools.  These were the Point St. Martin, Big Ridge, Bayou Poito (Porteaux), Bayou Talla, and Bayou Costa Pla schools.  Before the mid-1890s, the children of the Point St. Martin area appear to have received their academic training at the Big Ridge School.

 

Big Ridge School

The Big Ridge School was located in Section 11, T7S-R9W.  On November 17, 1890, Parker Earle (1831-1917), a native of Vermont, who resided on the Fort Point peninsula at Ocean Springs, and who founded a large farm north of Fort Bayou which would become known as the Rose or Money Farm, donated one acre for the school.  Today, the former site of the Big Ridge School is located on Big Ridge Road .78 miles west of its intersection with North Washington Avenue.

The children of families who lived in Sections 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 22, and 34 of T7S-R9W were eligible to attend the Big Ridge School.  Of the approximately 4000 educable children in Jackson County in the 1890s, about fifty-four attended the Big Ridge School.  Students were from the following families: Eugene Bosarge, Borries, W.G. Bullock, M. Caldwell, Antoine Cannette, Peter Cannette, John Chrisman, George Desporte, Theodore Desporte, Julian Fayard, Fergones, Christopher Fountain, Frank Fountain, John B. Fountain, Louis Fountain, Ben Garlotte, Groue, Jacob Husley, Mrs. Ladnier, Aristide Letort, Charles Miller, Mrs. Moore, L.G. Manuel, W. Orsman, W.C. Parrigin, Noel Richard, Lazarus Seymour, Peter Seymour, St. Cyr Seymour, Emile Tiblier, Eugene Tiblier, Joseph Scarbrough, and T. Smith.

 Some of those who taught at the Big Ridge School were: Mary Agnes Skehan (1863-1922), Daniel C. Price, Mary Foretich, Lena Carson, Alice J. Van Fleet, and possibly Ella Krohn and M. Shaw.

The Big Ridge School closed circa 1914, after the Jackson County School Board decided to consolidate some of its small schools in southwest Jackson County with those of eastern Harrison, north of Back Bay, to form the Harrison-Jackson County Line School which was located at Seymour (now D'Iberville).

 

Point St. Martin School

As early as May 1892, talk began circulating in the area that a schoolhouse would be built in the Point St. Martin community.  In May 1895, Martin Fountain (1856-1938) gave a lot (110 feet by 100 feet) to the people of west Jackson County for the Fountain Public School.  It was located about 800 feet south of present day Quave Road and and west of Reynoir (Brittany) in Section 16, T7S-R9W of Jackson County, Mississippi.  The Fountain school lot was near the north end of a fifty arpent tract that Martin Fountain had acquired from Joseph and Daniel Rousseau in December 1882.  The trustees of the Fountain School were J.B. Fountain (1836-1924), Celestine Ladnier (1858-1905), and Louis Groue (1840-1917).  The schoolhouse site was formerly owned by Eugene Bosarge.

The school on the Martin Fountain lot became officially known as the Point St. Martin School, but informally it was referred to by the students who attended it as, "the little green school".  Mrs. Viola "Snooks" Moore Batia (b. 1914) attended the Point St. Martin School in 1920.  She describes the building as:  A small, wood framed, raised cabin with a hip roof. It had two classrooms divided by a partition wall with a door to interconnect the spaces.  Each room had two windows and an exterior door.  Classroom furnishings consisted of a pot-bellied stove, teacher and student desks, black board, and a place for bottles of water. There was a small raised porch sans roof or railing.  The schoolhouse faced south towards the Terretta-Lepoma homes on Race Track Road.  There was a water well in the school yard.  As a treat, Jeanette Lepoma Landry (1910-1978) would bring hot sweet potatoes from the Lepoma home and passed them over the fence to the children.  Potted meat sandwiches were the usual lunch.  On occasions, some children ate bread with a spread of butter laced with sugar.

Several years (1897-1912) of Point St. Martin School records are preserved at the Jackson County Archives in Pascagoula.  During the period between 1897 and 1912, some of the instructors at the small school house were: D.C. Price, Allie and Ida Peebles, Margaret Starks, and Maude Pope.  The student body was composed of children from the following families:  Anderson, Basque, Beaugez, Boney, Borries, Bosarge, Cannette, Fayard, Fountain, Fossier, Groue, Ladnier, Latimer, Moore, Loper, Raymond, Rodriguez, Seymour, Tiblier, Trochesset, and Terretta.  Attendance during this period ranged from ten to fifteen pupils in the early years to fifty to sixty students by 1912.

A note found in Maude Pope's roll book for one of her classes of 1911-1912, related the following: This is one of the best classes in school.  They were promoted to the 2nd grade about middle session.  Have read Baldwin's Second Reader through once.  Can spell all the words off the book.  They can very easily make the 3rd grade next summer.

The children that educator Pope were referring to were:  Bertha Raymond, Johnnie Bosarge, Bertha Groue, Jeanette Fayard, Ida Fountain, Gerson Fountain, and Ethel Fountain.  She also noted that three children of Mr. Henry Fayard (1872-1915), Esperance, Leo, and Olivia, had typhoid fever and missed all of the last part of the school year.

 

Harrison-Jackson County Line School

In April 1914, the authorities of the Harrison and Jackson County decided to consolidate the Seymour School, the Point St. Martin School and the Big Ridge School into one school which became known as the Harrison-Jackson County Line School.  In June 1914, the Board of Supervisors of Harrison County determined that pupils who resided in Sections 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 17, 18 of T7S-R9W, the Spanish land grants of Joseph, Dominique, and Jean Baptiste Ladner, and L.A. Caillavet, as well as those living in Sections 13, 14, and 23 and 24 north of Back Bay in T7S-R10W were eligible to attend the "County Line" school at Seymour.

The "little green school" continued to function until the St. Martin Consolidated School was erected in 1925, on the Ocean Spring-Biloxi Road (Le Moyne Boulevard) at Reynoir Road (Brittany).  In November 1926, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors sold the Point St. Martin School lot back to Martin Fountain for one dollar.

The Harrison-Jackson County Line School which was erected in 1917, at a cost of $8000 (Jackson County paid $3840) was located at D'Iberville near the intersection of present day Gorenflo Road and Church Avenue.  It was replaced by the "old D'Iberville School" which may have been built in the 1920s, and burned in 1965.  The "new" D'Iberville high school on Warrior Drive was built in 1966.

Students from the following families are known to have attended the "County Line" school:  Balius, Basque, Beaugez, Bellais, Boney, Borries, Bosarge, Brasher, Bullock, Byrd, Cannette, Diaz, Entrekin, Fergonis, Fountain, Gustafson, Groue, Holloway, Hosli, Krohn, Labash, Ladnier, Latimer, Letort, Manduffie, Marchman, Moran, Moore, Norton, Pfleuckhohn, Quave, Ramsay, Raymond, Reno, Rodriguez, Roberts, Rousseau, Santa Cruz, Saujon, Seymour, Smith, Terretta, Trochesset, Wells, and Williams. 

Citizens from both counties served on the Board of Trustees for the "County Line" school.  Some of them were: John P. Krohn, J.A. Latimer (1859-1922), Hypolite Borries, Clarence Borries, James E. Entrekin, H.H. Grantham, and W.A. Reno.  Teachers known to have taught here were:  Irma Harvey (1898-1965), Mary Hutto, May Krohn, W.H. Lewis, Margaret Speir, Ethel Quave, Barbara Seymour (1896-1964), and W.A. Wellinghoff.

 

Small public county schools

The public schools at Bayou Poito, Bayou Talla, and Bayou Costapia appear to have operated until 1925, when a decision was made by Jackson County educational authorities to close them and consolidate all southwest Jackson County students at a new school, the St. Martin Consolidated School.  It was to be built on the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Road (Le Moyne Boulevard) in 1925. 

Minute Book 11 of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors indicates that during their 1925 August Term, William A. Seymour (1869-1949) bought the Bayou Talla School house for $15.00, Camille Seymour (1883-1945) purchased the Bayou Costapia building for $22.50, and Adolph Seymour acquired the Bayou Poito structure for $20.00.  It is believed that these simple building were demolished for their lumber or in some cases used as housing for turpentine workers.

 

Bayou Poito School

The Bayou Poito School which was located on .90 acres in Lot 3 of Section 13, T7S-R9W.  Today, this location would be on Le Moyne Boulevard at Bayou Pine Drive.  William Seymour Jr. donated the land to the Jackson County School Board in March 1907.  From Jackson County school archival records, under the supervision of Betty Rodgers and Lois Castigliola at Pascagoula, it appears the Bayou Poito School came into existence circa 1897.  Families who sent their

children to this house of knowledge were: Bellais, Bullock, Caldwell, Desporte, Fountain, Ladnier, Mallette, Money, Morris, Ramsay, Ryan, Sanchez, Seymour, Suarez, and Webb. 

Some of the Trustees at the Bayou Poito school through the years were: Emerson Bullock, Delmas V. Ryan (1868- 1946), St. Cyr Ryan, Peter Seymour, Paul Seymour Jr. (1891-1970), and Solomon Seymour (1890-1926).  Teachers at this education center were:  Mrs. Lulu Holmes, Mrs. Mary Price, Theresa Starks, Blanche Toups, Ella Vance, and Caddie Ramsay.

In August 1925, Adolph Seymour acquired the Bayou Poito structure for $20.00.  It is believed that these simple building were demolished for their lumber or in some cases used as housing for turpentine workers.(JXCO, Ms. Board of Supervisors Minute Book 11, p. ?)

 

Bayou Talla School

The Bayou Talla School appears to have been in operation from 1897 until 1925.  It was located in the NW/4, SE/4 of Section 8, T7S-R8W.  Students from the following families attended the Bayou Talla School: Basque, Byrd, Davis, Firth, Fountain, Garec, Garlotte, Holmes, Jenkins, Mallette, Noble, Richard, Santa Cruz, Seymour, and Webb.  Teachers here were: Amelia C. Edwards, Marie Foretich, Lulu Holmes, Ellen Scharr, Annie Sigerson, Walline Skoglund, and Mary Watson.  Some of the Trustees were:  Louis Garlotte (1866-1960), Raymond Guilotte, Ernest Seymour (1878-1963), Leon Seymour (1876-1959), and Peter Seymour.   

 

Bayou Costapia School

The Bayou Costapia School was operative from 1906 until 1925.  It was located in the NW/4, SW/4 of Section 24, T6S-R9W.  The old schoolhouse site is on the northwest side of Jim Ramsay Road about one mile northeast of the Old Biloxi Road (Daisy Vestry Road).  Students from the following families attended:  Cruthirds, Deloney, Fairley, Forehand, Holland, King, Malpass, Ramsay, Scarborough, Seymour, Taylor, Tanner, and Webb. 

Some Bayou Costapia educators were:  Bernadine Arguelles, Nora Seymour, Verna Berryhill, Ruby Hartzog, Ola Hembree, and Lulu Holmes.  A few who served on the Board of Trustees were:  R.R. Cruthirds, J.E. McNamee, Oliver Schneider, Camille Seymour (1883-1945), and E.P. Seymour (1878-1963).

 

St. Martin Consolidated School

In May 1925, an election was held to determine if the citizens of Beat Four would pass a $15,000 bond issue to erect the new St. Martin Consolidated School.  The answer was affirmative.  The tally was forty-one votes-for, and twenty-seven ballots-against.  The school construction bonds were sold to the Pascagoula National Bank.

Land in the Francois Fountain Estate subdivision of 1889 (Section 16, T7S-R9W) was purchased from Joseph Smith and Esperance Borries to build the $15,000 structure on the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Road (Le Moyne Boulevard) at Reynoir Road (Brittany).  At this time, the school term was eight months (September to the end of April) so that the students could assist their families with general farm and related agrarian chores. 

The St. Martin Consolidated School building was a one-story wood frame structure.  It was equipped with a library of three hundred and twenty books.  There were clubs and supervised play ground activities.  Students from outlying areas were bus transported to the facility.  After completing the eight grades, students who wanted to further their education went to the high school at Ocean Springs.  After 1945, a high school curriculum is believed to have been implemented at the St. Martin Consolidated School.

 

 

(from The Daily Herald, November 27, 1951, p. 3)

 

In November 1951, A new arkansas-tile, U-shaped building [173 feet by 92 feet] designed by John T. Collins and Associates of Biloxi, was contracted to Currie and Corley of Raleigh, Mississippi for the  St. Martin School. The $64,000 stucture was erected to supplement the exisiting wooden building.(The Daily Herald, November 27, 1951, p. 3)

The old wooden school St. Martin Consolidated school on Le Moyne Boulevard was replaced with a modern brick structure commencing in November 1958, and dedicated in June 1959.  Kuyrkendall & Proffer Architects and Engineers with Brice Building Co., the general contractor.  After a fire, an addition was built in 1973, designed by Ocean Springs architect, W.R. Allen Jr. (1911-1985).  An eight class room addition was completed in 1987, with Slaughter & Allred of Pascagoula as architects and King Construction Company, general contractor.

The St. Martin Middle School, which operates just north of the present day junior high school was once the junior high when the high school was on Le Moyne Boulevard.  If anyone knows all the chronology of the St. Martin schools, please call me immediately!  There was a five classroom addition here in 1991.  It was severely damaged by the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina and demolished several years after the August 2005 tempest.

The St. Martin North School, now the St. Martin North Elementary was erected in 1976 and 1977 with an addition in 1980.  The St. Martin East Elementary school on Rose Farm Road was erected in 1970.

In January 1982, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors deeded 232 acres in Section 16, T7S-R8W to the Jackson County School Board.  A new high school designed by Slaughter & Allred was erected by the Tilley Construction Company of Gulfport east of Old Fort Bayou Road in the eastern area of the St. Martin community in 1983.  Arthur H. Quave was president of the School Board.  It replaced the St. Martin High School on Le Moyne Boulevard, which had operated since 1939.

After Hurricane Katrina of August 2005, a new high school was built for the St. Martin Community.   

 

Parochial Schools

In addition to public education, the people of the St. Martin community had the option to send their children to several parochial schools.  In August 1927, a Roman Catholic school, St. Theresa's, opened on the north shore of Back Bay at North Biloxi (D'Iberville) in Harrison County just east of the new bridge spanning the bay.  It was designed by architect, Carl Matthes, and erected on land purchased from Olive Chafee for $3600, in April 1912, by the Catholic Diocese of Natchez.  Ellen McCabe McShane, the widow of Thomas McShane (1874-1924), sold the lot where the school was built to the Catholic Diocese of Natchez in February 1925.  McShane, a native of Belfast, Ireland, came to Biloxi about 1892.  His firm, McShane & Morris, made steam oyter dredges, winches, boilers, and did blacksmithing.  It was a lot 600 x 228 on the bay and ran to St. Charles.

The Sisters of Mercy were in charge of instructing the original ninety pupils.  Sister Zita Reynolds supervised the school.  Her teachers were Sister Mary Joseph Cosgrove, Eulalia Fussner, and Henrietta Berger.  The school closed circa 1970, when a new school was built on Le Moyne Boulevard east of the Sacred Heart Church.

Those parents in the eastern area of the St. Martin community could send their children to the St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic school now located on Jackson Avenue in Ocean Springs.  It has been in operation, although not uninterruptedly, since 1887.

 

RELIGION and CHURCHES

The people of the western St. Martin community were predominantly of the Roman Catholic faith.  The eastern St. Martin area had some Protestants.  They were chiefly of the Methodists and Baptists persuasions.     

 

Roman Catholicism

In the spring of 1859, Catholic Bishop Elder asked Father Henri Georget, the priest of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish at Biloxi "to attend to the people on Back Bay and also to go into the country and see how many Catholics are there".  Father Georget found that most were Catholic and they numbered nearly three hundred. Most of these people were descended from the early French and French-Canadian colonists.  In March 1860, Father Georget inspired the Catholics north of the Bay of Biloxi to erect a mission church at present day D'Iberville.  A small Catholic chapel, which may have been dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, is believed to have been erected by Emmanuel Sanchez (1806-1877), a Spanish immigrant.  Senor Sanchez was one of the first immigrant settlers in the area, as he bought land from Dominique Ladner before 1834.  Here ante-1850, on the north shore of Biloxi Bay, Sanchez built boats at or very near where master wooden boat builder, William Holland, toils in this venerable craft today.

In April 1884, Charles Sanchez (1845-1893+), a Blackman and possible former slave and probable legatee of Phillipina Sanchez (1791-1879), sold a lot to Bishop Francis Janssen of the Diocese of Natchez.  Here on the northwest corner of present day St. Charles and Church Avenue in D'Iberville, the Sacred Heart Catholic Church was dedicated on October 22, 1884.  It was enlarged in 1921, when Father Patrick Carey was appointed full time pastor. 

In November 1970, Bishop Brunini dedicated the new Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Le Moyne Boulevard.  The old church on St. Charles Street was demolished in 1989.

The people of the Bayou Poito area had a small Catholic Church called St. Joseph's.  In October 1922, a lot (50'x 125') was donated by Delmas V. Ryan (1868-1946) and Olivia Tiblier Ryan (1878-1957) to the Catholic Diocese of Natchez.  Here a small chapel was built south of the Delmas Ryan homestead which was in the S/2 of the N/2 of Lot 2, Section 13, T7S-R9W.  Mr. Ryan had a satsuma and pecan orchard.  He also grew scupponine grapes and made wine. 

Circa 1941-1942, Elvin O. Ramsay (b. 1906) bought the St. Joseph's church building from Father Charles Hunter or Father Joseph Holland of the St. Alphonsus Parish at Ocean Springs.  He paid $150 for the structure.  Ramsay who demolished the building for its heart pine timber remembers it to be a simple structure 35-40 feet in length and 25 feet wide.  The small chapel had a 26 gauge tin roof. Ramsays believes that it was built by G.N. Tillman (1872-1925) and a man name Levins from Ocean Springs. 

Elvin O. Ramsay salvaged the church benches, floor and ceiling joists, and rafters to build his home at 16204 Quave Road in St. Martin.  Little Church Road in Gulf Hills takes its name from this Catholic chapel.

 

Methodist Church

The seed for the Methodist Church at St. Martin-North Biloxi was planted in the early decades of this Century.  Church services were first held at the home of Thomas and Harriet Seale with the Reverend Louis Fayard of Woolmarket attending.  In December 1920, B.Z. Welch, et al representing the Main Street Methodist Episcopal Church of Biloxi, purchased a 2.12 acre lot was purchased from F.E. Pringle (1872-1925).  It fronted on Race Track Road between present day Pringle and Fournier Roads.  The Harvest Fellowship Church occupies this site in October 1996.

The First United Methodist Church of North Biloxi was built in 1921.  For an informative description of the early history of this church, the reader is referred to The Biloxi-North Biloxi Press, "The Way It Was", November 11, 1987, by O.M. Smith, Jr.

By September 1922, the trustees of the Back Bay Methodist Episcopal Church conveyed their lot on Race Track Road to the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South at Louisville, Kentucky.  The trustees of the Back Bay church were:  B.Z. Welch, J.W. Latimer, William Curry, W.T. Bolton. H.B. Rush, and L.N. Dantzler.

The Reverend Ray Wesson, the father of Dr. Ray Wesson (1937-1980) of Ocean Springs, was the 33rd pastor of this church.

In 1986, the North Biloxi Methodist congregation voted unanimously to relocate and build a new church.  It was called the Heritage United Methodist Church and was erected on Popps Ferry Road.  Initial services were held here on November 22, 1987, with the Reverend Bruce Little presiding.  Eastside St. Martin Methodists generally were members of the St. Paul United Methodist Church at Ocean Springs.

Those of the St. Martin community who professed the doctrine of the Baptist Church are believed to have attended church services at the Antioch Baptist Church to the north or at The First Baptist Church of Ocean Springs.  The same holds true for Presbyterians and Episcopalians as to my knowledge, none of these denominations had early or present day houses of worship in the St. Martin Community.

In February 1981, the First Baptist Church of Ocean Springs sold a lot to the Lemoyne Boulevard Baptist Church.  The trustees for the church at this time were:  Grady Roberts, L.P. Bishop, and Marion Floyd.  This may have been the first Baptist Church in the St. Martin community.    

 

Brother Isaiah

Circa 1922, the St. Martin community experienced a remarkable event, which is still remembered.  A mystic, who wore a long white beard and calling himself, Brother Isaiah, settled with his followers just off the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Road in the Bayou Puerto area.  His real name was John Cudney (1847-1934), and he may have been Canadian.  It is believed that Brother Isaiah lived in an abandoned house near the Pine Pine Road and Le Moyne Boulevard intersection.

Brother Isaiah first gained national prominence at New Orleans.  Here, he resided on a dilapidated houseboat moored on the Mississippi River.  Brother Isaiah's faithful believed that he had been blessed with Divine power allowing the healing of the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and returning hearing to the deaf. 

At the Crescent City, a special police detail and fixed meeting hours were necessary to accommodate the sick that were brought to the riverbank on cots.  Thousands lined the levee to touch Isaiah's robes as he walked among the infirmed.

Those octogenarians of today that saw Brother Isaiah as children or teenagers remember him and his followers well.  Brother Isaiah preached a form of Christianity and used the Bible.  He had a dynamic personality, disliked mechanical devices, and attracted people from all points of the compass.  Those to be cured came on crutches and in wheelchairs.  When he told them that they were healed, the infirmed abandoned their supports and walked.  Isaiah had several disciples in his entourage.  They wore long hair and beards.  Some of these followers are believed to have married into the local populace.

It is believed that Brother Isaiah left the St. Martin area for Florida.  Isaiah settled at Oroville, California circa 1930, where he passed on in late July 1934, breaking the pledge to his faithful cult that he would never die!

 

Cemeteries

The St. Martin Community has several family cemeteries.  They are some of our oldest burial grounds.  Among them are the Spanish Cemetery in Gulf Hills, Seymour and Basque on Bayou Talla, Martin Ryan on Bayou Puerto, the Fountain and Groue on Back Bay, and the Bosarge on St. Martin Bayou.  The small Delancey family and Antioch Baptist Church cemeteries north of St. Martin also provide grave sites, as well as, the newer D'Iberville Memorial Park and the Swetman Cemetery in Harrison County. 

Some of the "lost cemeteries" of the area are believed to be the original Bosarge Cemetery on the Reno place and the Borries family cemetery.  These were located west of Bayou Puerto.

 

Gulf Hills

An event, which changed the history of St. Martin occurred as a result of the land boom of the mid-1920s.  A group of investors from Chicago and New York enamored with the natural beauty, temperate climate, and propinquity via rail to "snow birds" of the Midwest, chose an area in eastern St. Martin along and at the mouth of Old Fort Bayou, to build a winter resort.  It was called Gulf Hills because small tributaries and intermittent streams flowing into Old Fort Bayou and Bayou Porteaux have dissected the topography in the area creating a rugose terrain.  Harvey W. Braniger (1875-1953), a native of Morning Sun, Iowa and developer of Ivanhoe at Chicago, is generally considered the founder of Gulf Hills.

A detailed history of Gulf Hills waits to be written, but for those interested, a very adequate chronology of the resort was published in The Mississippi Press, "Gulf Hills evokes visions of leisure, beauty", December 19, 1988.

 

The Tibliers and Pirate treasures

Every area has its legends, which promote its mystique.  The St. Martin community is no exception.  The tales of pirates and buried treasure in this locality has been dormant for many years.  Perhaps, it is unknown to present generations that early in the 20th Century, treasure hunters had probed the grounds of the old Tiblier property west of the mouth of Bayou Puerto.

In July and August 1888, Captain Henri Eugene Tiblier (1841-1930), called TuTu, bought Government Lot 8 of Section 14, T7S-R9W from the heirs of W.C. Seaman (1801-1844).  Here on this 56.2 acre tract on the Bay of Biloxi across Bayou Porteaux from what would become Gulf Hills in the mid-1920s, Captain Tiblier resided.  He made his livelihood from the sea and reared a large family at this locale.  Captain Tiblier had married Palmyra Beaugez (1846-1913) circa 1865, following the Civil War, in which he served with the 3rd Mississippi Infantry, Company E, "Biloxi Rifles".  He was captured in May 1863, at the Big Black River after serving at Vicksburg, Champion Hill, and Jackson.  The nine Tiblier children were:  Henri Eugene Tiblier Jr. (1866-1936), Victorine T. Ryan (1868-1910), Albert Tiblier (1869-1953), Marie Ulalie "Eugenia" (1872-c. 1875), Louis A. Tiblier (1874-1938), Vital E. Tiblier (1876-1932), Olivia T. Ryan (1878-1957), Octavia T. Fountain (1881-1947), and Numa I. Tiblier (1886-1965).

Captain Tiblier and his family were not strangers to buried treasure, at least archaeological treasure.  In 1892, Tutu's eldest son, H. Eugene Jr., had found the sunken French vessel in the Back Bay of Biloxi beneath the shallow water over the family oyster lease, near the L&N Railroad bridge.  Captain Tiblier hired Joseph "Pep" Suarez (1840-1912), who owned the schooner, Maggie, to assist in the salvage of artifacts from the hold of the sunken ship.  His sons, Albert and Vital, dove on the oyster bank during the salvage operations.  According to a report of The Pascagoula Democrat-Star of September 23, 1892, the Tiblier family recovered four cannons, swords and scabbards, some muskets, cannon balls, wooden sheaves, firebrick, iron braces, and rock ballast.

Very little of the salvaged treasure remains as Captain Tiblier's granddaughter, Martha Tiblier Eleuterius, remembers that Captain Martin Van Buren Green (1842-1929) would bring tourists from Biloxi to the Tiblier homestead in his catboat.  Tiblier would give the strangers some of the artifacts and in time, they were all gone.  The four cannon slowing oxidizing in their cement sepulture, at the Villa Santa Maria in Biloxi, are all that publicly remains of these French Colonial archaeological treasures.  In April 1926, Captain Eugene Tiblier was interviewed by a reporter for The Biloxi News.  He related the following about the existence of buried treasure on his Bayou Poito land:

I have heard these tales all my life.  When I was a small boy my mother (Elizabeth Bosarge) said that a Frenchman was said to have lived at the head of Bayou Porto with his wife and daughter.  The wife and daughter were said to have been slightly demented and were given to wandering in the woods all day.  One day they returned from a trip into the woods bringing a bar of metal encrusted with dirt which later turned  out to be a bar of metal incrusted with dirt which later turned out to be gold.  Asked where it was found, they would only point in the direction of the place where the old brickyard was later constructed.  Probably from this incident the report of the presence of gold on this property was started.

The legend is to the effect that a pirate by the name of Patrick Scott would put ashore here every three or four months after cruising in the Gulf, and would bury his booty somewhere along the shores of the Bay.  He was supposed to have treasure buried in a number of places here.  Some young people are supposed to have followed him one time and to have seen his men carrying three kegs suspended from poles on their shoulders, but the presence of the intruders was discovered and in making their escape they had no opportunity to find out what disposition was made of the kegs or what they contained.

The land known as the Tiblier tract was entered by William C. Simmons (sic) in 1835.  Simmons (sic) built a cabin at that time, the foundations of which still exist, though the cabin is not standing.  An old brickyard was operated for a number of years at a point west of the mouth of Bayou Porto.  It began operations about 1850.  Evidences of it still exist.  Sometime about 42 years ago I bought the tract from the Simmons (sic) heirs and later from the State, and erected a home there, which still stands.  Long before we built our home, people were digging all over the property for gold.   About 35 years ago (circa 1890), a man by the name of Barlow came to my house.  I remember I met him at the gate.  He said, "I have come here to give you a fortune", and then he told me he knew for a fact that pirates had buried treasure on my land, though he would never say how or where he obtained the information.  I was told to search for an oak stump and dig under it.  He came all the way from Lake Ponchartrain to Biloxi in a pirogue.  Later he came  again in the same way and repeated his story.  I was told that there were millions of dollars buried there by a murderous band of pirates from Mexico a number of years before.

I never placed much faith in the existence of treasure on the property, though I did dig about a bit for it from time to time without any success.  Many people came there to get permission to dog, and sometimes they dug around without my knowledge or permission.  They even wanted to dig under the house, and that is probably the only spot on the property that wasn't properly prospected.

Preceding the interview, a visit was made to the site of the old Tiblier homestead.  Though abandoned a number of years ago, the home is in a remarkable state of preservation.  The property is pitted with the holes of treasure hunters and even the floor of one room of the house had been torn up in the search for pirate gold.  It is said that an old man came from Louisiana, walking most of the way, for the sole purpose of digging in this one spot.  The caretaker said he dug all night by himself with the light of a lantern.

 

Epilogue

In September 1912, E.N. Ramsay (1832-1916) surveyed the Tiblier land on Bayou Poito and divided it into eight parcels which Captain Eugene Tiblier gave to his children.  Four Tiblier heirs, Albert, Louis, Eugene Jr., and their sister, Olivia T. Ryan, resided on their lots.  Eugene Tiblier Sr. sold twenty acres to Jennie C. Fullem (d. 1926) in November 1914, described as the W/2 of the E/2 of Lot 6, fractional Section 14, T7S-R8W..

The Tiblier bayside cabin was demolished probably during the Depression years.  The salvaged lumber was utilized by others to build rental cottages in the Back Bay section of Biloxi.  Martha T. Eleuterius, a granddaughter of Captain Tiblier, corroborates that as a girl she saw dirt piled higher than her head in the room between the kitchen and the living room of her grandfather's house where treasure hunters had once searched for pirates' gold.

This concludes "The Early History of St. Martin".  As in any history of an area, germane facts and people are often omitted.  In this case, I concentrated more on the eastern area, as it is historically, St. Martin.  Present day eastern "St. Martin" is culturally linked to what was called in former times, the Fort Bayou Community.

Deep appreciation to all those who put up with me in the St. Martin Community these past months.  I made a real friend in Viola "Snooks" Moore Batia.  She opened many doors and shared her living knowledge of the area.  Among those who I owe a "grand merci beaucoup" are:  Tony and Lynn Terretta (Pascagoula), Velma Beaugez Garlotte, Carolyn Quave Robinson, Regina Fountain Seymour (1905-2000), Tony Terretta (St. Martin), J.D. Fountain, Curtis Fountain, Robert Mohler, Herman "KO" Kelly and George Kelly, Randy Randazzo, Elaine Gagnon, Reverend James Seymour, Janice Landry Fountain, Margarete Seymour Norman (1908-2001), Martha Tiblier Eleuterius (1919-2001), Iris Letort Holloway, J.K. Lemon (1914-1989), Pauline Demetry, Elvin O. Ramsay (1907-2000), and Tony Lepoma. 

     Naturally, all who study and research our ancestors of the Mississippi coast are always deeply indebted to Brother Jerome Lepre.  Many of his Mississippi Coast Family books were often used, as well as his Catholic Church Records Diocese of Biloxi (1994) in the preparation of this essay.

 

REFERENCES:

Dale Greenwell, Twelve Flags Triumphs and Tragedies, Volume 1, (Greenwell: Ocean Springs, Mississippi-1968), p. 131.

American State Papers, Volume 3 (1815-1924), (Reprint: Southern Historical Press, Inc.:  Greenville, South Carolina-1994), p. 38.

LeMoyne Baptist Ch-Book 699, p. 260 and Book 700, p. 507.

 

Journals

The Bay Press, "Shell Roads and Picket Fences"-'Talking St. Martin', [by Dale Greenwell in    Parts from August 11, 2006 to       2006]

The Biloxi Herald, “Back Bay”, November 14, 1891, p. 8.

The Biloxi Herald"Point St. Martin", February 20, 1892, p. 1.

The Biloxi Herald"Point St. Martin", May 7, 1892, p. 4.

The Biloxi Herald, “Biloxi Cotton”, September 12, 1903.

The Biloxi Herald, "Bay Harbor Club and residential development north shore announced", May 16, 1926, p. 1.

The Biloxi News, "Henry Boudreaux see Golden Era for Gulf Coast", May 2, 1926, p. 17.

The Biloxi-North Biloxi Press"Peter Dewey Fountain", April 10, 1985, p. 12.

The Daily Herald, “Lauffer-Haneman”, February 9, 1915.

The Daily Herald"Mrs. Reynoir Goes To Her Reward", July 2, 1917, p. 3.

The Daily Herald, "Currie & Coley low bidders for new building [St. Martin School]", November 27, 1951, p. 3)

The Daily Herald"Know Your Coast", December 29, 1958.

The Daily Herald"John Joseph Bertucci", December 26, 1961, p. 2.

The Jackson County Times, "Brother Isaiah Cudney en route to Biloxi", August 30, 1924, p. 4.

The Jackson County Times, "Brother Isaiah dies in California", July 28, 1934, p. 2.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star"Local News", March 3, 1882.

 

PERSONAL COMMUNICATION:

Viola Moore Batia-August 1996.

Elaine Scarbrough Gagnon-August 1996