My in-laws once had a spectacular argument over my mother’s name. One faction insisted it was Beverly. The other faction was firm that it was Beth. Turns out, they were both right.
My mother was named Beverly at birth, but she always hated her name. So she changed it. Now she didn’t go to the trouble of changing it legally. She just started calling herself Beth until it stuck.
The point is that people sometimes just change their names or go by nicknames, which gets confusing in genealogy. Other times, the person recording the name gets it wrong. My aunt, who didn’t like to argue with people, tended to say “that’s close enough” if someone asked her whether something was correct.
Take Ulysses S. Grant.
Ulysses’ actual name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. It was Rep. Thomas L. Hamer who accidentally renamed him. In 1839, Rep. Hamer nominated a young Grant to West Point, but he got his name wrong. He nominated him as Ulysses S. Grant. It was too much trouble to change the paperwork so Hiram Ulysses became Ulysses S. Soon, fellow cadets were calling him Sam because his new initials were U.S. – or Uncle Sam.
The Planters’ Banner was a newspaper that published in St. Mary and Iberia parishes from 1836 to 1871. It sounds like it should have printed crop reports, but it was a hodgepodge of items.
It had poetry.
Obituaries from the East Coast (the publisher hailed from Maine).
Lots and lots of attorney ads. Some things never change.
And cures for chlorea – a very helpful recipe in the 1800s. Basically, you administered deer horn, wine, cold water and sugar. Then you did a lot of praying because there’s no way in hell that recipe cured anything.
What disappoints me about the paper is the scarcity of local news. The paper would give you tales of haunted houses in England and gold certificate robberies on the streets of New York, but local goings-on were a bit sporadic.
The really good stuff was dug up by other newspapers and reprinted, like this woeful story from 1871.
Alcee Gautreaux’s father owned a plantation called Hard Times in Assumption Parish. Optimistic name for a farm, huh?
The Gautreaux family leased the plantation to a Mr. T. T. Cobry, who threatened to shoot anyone who came onto the property even after his lease expired. Alcee convinced carpenters with the last names of Bergeron and Gilbert to go with him to Hard Times for the purposes of assessing needed repairs to the sugar house.
Knowing this wasn’t going to be a picnic in the park, Alcee grabbed a double barrel shotgun for the excursion. When the trio got there, Cobry was standing in the road dressed in his shirt sleeves. Spying the men, he ran into the blacksmith shop and retrieved a revolver.
Cobry didn’t seem to be the most reasonable of guys. He asked the men if they had a deputy with them and then started swearing. An argument ensued. Cobry was shot and killed.
The carpenters were probably just sorry they agreed to accompany Alcee that day since the whole matter ended up in court with Alcee acquitted of murder for acting in self defense.
Here’s The Assumption Pioneer’s tribute of sorts to Mr. Cobry, may he rest in peace:
Now, if only I could figure out if that Bergeron was a relative. Alas, no first name was reported.
Another treasure from a 1972 edition of “The Houma Daily Courier:”
NEW ZION BAPTIST CHURCH
This church has its root in the days of slavery. The original structure no longer exists.
The church’s founder, Isaiah Lawson, was unusual in that he was a slave who knew how to read and write. He preached at the church for 12 years before becoming a missionary. In his time, he drew people who would walk through the rain and mud to attend services.
At first glance, Mount Pilgrim looks very much like New Zion Baptist Church.
Originally, the church was on Live Oak, a farm owned by the Gibson family. The Gibsons were the namesake for the town of Gibson, where Mount Pilgrim is now located. They were from North Carolina and brought 49 slaves with them when they came to Louisiana. The slaves included Bob Gates, Nellie Taylor, Charles Taylor and Cye Gates.
The farm church was St. Mark Baptist Church. At the church’s Sabbath School, children were taught reading and writing. St. Mark came down in 1904. The church was rebuilt in a different spot and renamed Mount Pilgrim.
I’ve blogged about my grandmother’s grandfather, Milo Creekmore, but I’ve not written much about his wife, Alma Louise Yarbrough.
Alma was actually born Lou Alma. Milo didn’t like the name and changed it. What Milo couldn’t change was Alma’s personality.
Milo had a very interesting life. He was a U.S. marshal who served time in prison and hopped a freighter to South Africa in order to escape angry Native Americans.
Eventually, Milo made his way to Texas, married Lou Alma, changed her name and helped her produce eight children in a sawmill town. Their first child, Thelma, died of uremic poisoning at birth. If you had no idea that was a cause of death for newborns, no worries. I’ve never understood how a newborn dies of uremic poisoning.
My great-grandfather was Pinckney Brown Creekmore, who was the son of Alma and Milo. I knew him well and remember him as a shy man who loved to spend the summers in his childhood hometown of Wells, Texas.
I’ve always wondered where in the world they got the name Pinckney. It’s a terrible name! No one knows how to spell it, and it’s not very pretty. My only guess is that Alma read it in a book and liked it.
Alma loved to read. In fact, she preferred reading to housework, which aggravated Milo to no end. Seven children – remember Thelma died – create a mess so I can only imagine what their house looked like.
After becoming a widow at 49, Alma remained a widow. She never remarried. She did pick up a pair of Coke bottle-thick glasses to better read her beloved books.
Alma died not long after I was born so I don’t remember her. I probably would have liked her, though, since I love to read myself. It certainly beats housework!
Early maps capture a moment in time. It’s amazing how quickly things disappear. Not one of my mother’s childhood homes still exists. One of my own childhood homes was reduced to rubble not long ago. Outdated maps will show that they once existed.
Maps can tell you a lot of things. Historical, rural maps sometimes denoted landowners.
The maps below are of Fort Balize/Balise, an old Spanish fort that once existed at the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. I like the color of the first map and the detail of the second map. You get a sense of just how exposed to the elements this fort was – and why it’s no longer in existence.
From death and mayhem, I thought I’d visit some of Shreveport’s lovely old homes. Most of them are gone now, but I enjoy looking at pictures of the grand old ladies that once were found in and near downtown. The landscape changes so quickly.
Houses burn down. They’re torn down. They simply disappear until ghosts get lost trying to revisit home.
On a bluff overlooking the Red River, the S. J. Zeigler house once stood. How beautiful is it? I can imagine standing on the widow’s walk and taking in the river views.
The Zeiglers apparently bought the house in 1881 from W. P. Ford. Ford had purchased the property from the Leonards. It seems likely that the Leonards built the house.
In 1901, Louie Ogden and her cousin Helen Kendall were driving in a trap with a couple of gentleman when the rear seat collapsed just outside the Zeigler home. Poor Helen was knocked unconscious. Fortunately, she recovered. She and Louie were guests of Mrs. W. C. Vance on Fannin street.
Interestingly, the 1900 census lists the Zeiglers as boarders. They also liked going by initials. They’re listed as S.J. and H.M. with sons Sam and Howell and someone named Vinnie.
In reality, S.J. was Samuel Jacob. He and his wife, Sarah, had five children. Only two lived to maturity.
Their daughter Sadie died age 9 at the Zeigler house in 1891. Another daughter, Susie, died aged two years, one month and 23 days in 1917. The family later made its way back to South Carolina.
If you visit the house site today, you’ll find the Chateau Hotel.
If you go to 1608 Fairfield Ave. today, you’ll find a rundown office building. A century ago, you would have found this fabulous mansion. I would have wanted a room in the tower.
John and Toinette Scott lived here. John was listed as a planter in the 1917 Shreveport telephone directory. Census records show them living in that giant house without any live-in servants or children. John’s sister married into the Youree family and lived nearby so they wouldn’t have been too lonely.
The home was demolished in 1947 after becoming a funeral home. An advertisement was placed in the newspaper for anyone interested in beautiful woodwork, mantels, bevel plate, glass doors, stained glass windows, oak, wainscoating or inlaid flooring.
One of the saddest houses to stand in Shreveport was a shell of a building that was never completed. Walter Page started to build an enormous house on Jefferson-Paige Road. He stopped work on it when his son John died. A storm hit the property in 1917 and the shell later was razed.
The house was known as Page’s Castle. The Shreveport Journal described it as “two stories with a four story octagonal rotunda, surmounted by a dome and observation deck. From the hilltop house spread a sweeping lawn with thousands of rose bushes.”
Page came from a wealthy family that moved from Tennessee to Louisiana and bought tremendous acreage for cotton. Supposedly, in an attempt to lure his son from the drinking and fast cars of Nashville, Page began work on Page’s Castle. He envisioned a resort similar to Delmonico’s with ducks, roses, a fish pond and race horses. A storm heavily damaged the dream project in 1917. Then news of John Page’s death quickly followed, and the dream died entirely.
More likely, the storm created problems with the construction, and the rest of the story is just romantic nonsense. It appears that John Page died long before construction on Page’s Castle even began.
The Howell house stood at 819 Spring St. It was built by John Howell and evolved from mansion to apartment building before a fire destroyed it in the 1930s.
My personal obsession is the Hicks home that stood at 416 Travis St. This antebellum mansion endured for years as modern structures rose around it.
It was built at the conclusion of the Civil War with logs shipped from St. Louis. The original owner was Daniel Smith, but the deed soon passed to Col. F. M. Hicks. Hicks lived there until moving to Texas for his health. His son Samuel B. Hicks then moved into the home with his bride Mamie.
The home came down in the 1950s to pave the way for a skyscraper.