…some of the earliest deed records in Hancock County
The Hancock County Historical Society has been entrusted by the county officials to have temporary possession of two of the oldest records of real estate deeds. These are Books B and C. This article will deal primarily with Book B. Dr. Marco Giardino is pursuing a special interest in the lands around Gainesville and Pearl River, using both volumes.
It is hoped that a study of Book B may give a glimpse of what developments had been made by mid 19th century in the town of Shieldsborough, later to be known as Bay St. Louis. In short, we may find our imaginations capable of envisioning what the city looked like in the 1850 era.
“Shieldsborough” included more area than today’s Bay St. Louis, and its changes also reflect the beginnings of Waveland.
There are certain considerations to be understood from the outset. Firstly, Book B is an extremely valuable tool in a study of the history of Bay St. Louis. It is, however, only a fragment of the deed transactions of the early property owners. It has a special character in that it is the volume which includes many re-recordings of deeds that had been destroyed by the Gainesville courthouse fire on March 31, 1853. As such, it tracks many of the early transactions, but also as such, it is incomplete.
At least some records in our notes refer to deeds in Book A as being re-records, and Book A at least for the present is not available. We have access for the moment to Book C, and are making limited use of it as deeds therein elucidate those in Book B.
Besides the questions that remain in the identification of land holdings, other wonderings are introduced. For example, who was Madame Charlot and by what virtue did she achieve her large grant. An allied question, still unsolved, is how big was her grant? And who were Mary Parish and the Widow Morin? These persons are indeed curious and indicate a fair amount of ownership and independence by women of the time.
While it is evident that often they were paid $1 to acquiesce in the transactions of their husbands, it is equally demonstrated that often the husbands were the recipients of the $1 fee when wives were selling land that belonged to them separately. On the other hand, it seems that often husbands took control of wives’ holdings. This is painfully obvious from the inclusion of words in a deed intended to confirm a deed made previously by her husband. In this case, Nicaise had sold a parcel inherited by his wife. Euphrosine Nicaise lamented that “through omission I was not made a party….”
Other mysteries raise their heads. Who, for example, was J.B. Lardasse, who not only owned a large section of Hancock County, but also served as Chief Justice of the Quorum Court in 1818? (The Quorum court appears to have been an appointed body whose job it was to prepare a given county for statehood; Noel Jourdan served in the same capacity in 1818, as did J.B. Saucier in 1820.)
And who was Boulanger, another unknown who owned much land. Or Francois Bouquie of Pensacola? He owned the linear strip at which many of the 40-arpents parcels terminated.
There were others.
A look back…
Madame de Mezieres
We know that the earliest grant of the area around the Bay of St. Louis was made during John Law’s experiment, about 1718. The award was made to Madame de Mezieres, about whom little is know. It is doubtful that she settled the land, and perhaps that is why ownership went to others.
Note from HCHS: We know from Jay Higgenbotham's “Old Mobile” that Marguerite Messier was Iberville and Bienville's first cousin and married Le Sueur in 1690 at age 14. Le Sueur died in 1704, when Marguerite was on her way down to the Gulf Coast from Canada. She decided to stay despite her husband's death and for several years ran the colony's warehouse.
Boisdore and Sauciers
From a United States Supreme Court decision of 1850, it is possible to reconstruct
a complicated history of the claim of Luis Boisdore. This dates back to 1783, when Miro, governor of Louisiana during the Spanish period, issued an order to Carlos Trudeau to survey from the plantation of Philip Saucier all the way to the Mosquito Village Bayou, near Pearl River. It read as follows:
“Don Carlos Lavean Trudeau will establish Louis Boisdore upon the extent of ground which he solicits in the preceding memorial, situated in the section of country commonly called Achoucoupoulous, commencing in front from the plantation belonging to Philip Saucier, a resident of said country, down to the bayou called Mosquito Village Bayou, with the depth down to Pearl River, the same being vacant and no prejudice being caused to the neighbors living as well in front as upon the depth, which measures he will reduce to writing, signing with the aforesaid parties, and will remit the same to me in order that I may furnish the party interested with a corresponding title in due form.”
This was an enormous amount of land, possibly including the area which is now Bay St. Louis; however, the extent of the land of Saucier is not known, and therefore the northern limits of the Boisdore claim remain confused. A few items we are told about the Sauciers may be further explored as tested by other information:
1781: Phillipe Saucier receives 800 arpents on Bay St. Louis. However, section, township and range (sec. 1 and 2, T8S R13W) put these parcels north of the bay.
1794: Phillipe receives 20 arpents in Delisle
1813: Madame Charlo deeds 800 arpents of her Spanish grant to JB Saucier, who then sells to Boisdore
1826 or before: Francois Saucier is sold 676.58 acres near Mulatto Bayou.
1822: Seven landowners
The maps in our collection which have to do with early grants and land claims are dated 1822. They consist of a surveyor’s listing of claims by section, township and range, covering areas which eventually became Bay St. Louis and Waveland. (I would have expected that “arpents” would have been the unit of measurement, but the surveyor’s hand clearly seemed to have written “acres.”)
It is to be considered that these maps represent the claims as they already existed at the date of the document, 1822. Dates on which the grants were made are not known, but as stated below, Lardasse’s claim preceded 1803 by at least ten years. Also, there is a record of the Charlo claim dating to 1781.
It has been possible to identify most of the land fronting on the shore beginning from Cameron Island in the northwest to the Waveland line. Going in clockwise direction, we find that the following owners had almost all the land in what is now the major part of Bay St. Louis:
- 1. Quave [Cuevas] with 640 acres
- 2. Elihu Carver, with 500 acres plus an adjacent parcel of 140 acres
- 3. Melitte Lesassier, with two parcels, one of 279 and the other of 369 acres. [This brings one roughly to the present yacht harbor.]
- 4. Peter Turngate [?], 239 acres
- 5. B. Lardasse: consisting first of a narrow strip, approximately two arpents front, including 110 arpents, then running 40 arpents back about 1 ½ miles and connecting to a parcel below Quave and Carver for an additional 500 acres. [The narrow frontage appears to have been just south of the present-day Chapel Hill area.]
- 6. Madame Charlo’s land, also in two parts, 436 acres and 200 acres, coming south to what is now Washington St.
- 7. M. Nicaise’s land, measuring 237 acres. [The southern extreme appears to have been just north of present-day Ramoneda St.]
The above comprises most of the present-day downtown area of Bay St. Louis.
In all, only seven people owned most of what has become the city. Almost all the
depths of land on the eastern shore appear to have been 40 arpents with the exception of the M. Nicaise property, which bore such a measurement only on its southern extreme. An interesting observation is that property lines ultimately became streets in a number of cases.
Of much interest with regard to the Waveland area were the large holdings of the Widow Morin and her neighbor, Mary Parish. Their grants were given shortly after those shown above in the 1822 maps. They have been identified, and will be treated later. In addition, to the north of this study area was the claim of Noel Jourdan.
The placement of the Lardasse land, a grant that dates back to Spanish rule, has caused me to rethink the location of some properties which have been very interesting to the historical society for a long time. This has to do with the lands owned by a man known variously as John Lafito, Jean Lafitte, Jean Lafiteaux, and his wife, Clarisse. A separate section about Lafitte is included below.
Shieldsborough in decades before and after 1850
We must begin with a correction or two in advance. One is that “corporate limits of Shieldsborough” referred to land of any reasonable distance going south from the western shore of the Bay of St. Louis. Also, references to “Lake Borgne” and “the Gulf” mean the same thing.
It is our hope to extract from what resources we have to make a picture of what Bay St. Louis looked like in the period just prior and just following 1850. It is possible to see some trends, not only in population but also in monetary values. With regard to both, the city was having a virtual explosion.
At this point, some generalities may be observed. Census study shows little increase in population from 1820 to 1830, remaining fairly steady at about 200 families. Considering the size of Hancock County, this equates to very sparse settlement, especially since the county at that time took in areas which are now part of Harrison and Pearl River Counties.
From 1830 to 1840, there was considerable increase, almost doubling the number of families. In the next period, the increase was much more substantial, almost doubling again to about 720 families n 1850, even after the splitting off to Harrison County.
For more specific information, the following is borrowed from a study made by this writer for a joint project with Dr. Marco Giardino; that manuscript is not yet published:
A study of the 1850 census of Hancock County also reveals some interesting statistics. It was the first census to each individual’s place of birth, by state, territory, or country. It is apparent at a glance that the population was comprised of a very diverse group. They represented fifteen countries and eighteen states. Because each child’s place of birth is listed, it seems possible to determine that the trek from distant states, such as the Carolinas, took a year or more.
In total, there were 2,478 “free” citizens, plus an undetermined number of slaves.
Particularly interesting is the number born originally in the Carolinas. South Carolina natives number 51, and North Carolina has a count of 26. While the numbers themselves may not appear large, there are two reasons why they stand out. First, it must be considered that there are 31 other places of birth listed, and that many were in fact native to Mississippi. The second reason for taking notice of the Carolinians is that they do seem to comprise an inordinate percentage of the more prominent citizens. This is reflective of those who owned larger amounts of real estate and the higher number of slaves.
A question arises as to whether some of the early settlers of the Hancock County area may have been Loyalists, or Tories, who had fled their previous home areas because of loyalty to England during and after the Revolution. There is no hard evidence supporting this, but the fact that many came from the Carolinas and Georgia raises the possibility. After all, according to Britannica, “about one fifth of the total white population remained loyal to Britain, and some 80,000 Loyalists were exiled permanently.” In the colonies, Loyalists “…were proportionately stronger in Georgia, New York, and South Carolina.”
A report made in 1804 by Ephraim Kirby for President Jefferson said the original French were the first settlers. The next oldest group were Tories and some who had fled Georgia and the Carolinas because of the American Revolution. Our project area might be assumed to have included a few former Loyalists. This could shed light on why some of the highly pedigreed settlers, e.g. the Daniells and the Prays, chose to migrate. Moreover, it may be wondered that a carryover to a later time of the tradition against revolt may have accounted for the non-secessionist leanings of many of the Hancock residents of the Civil War era.
It may be assumed that the Carolinians brought with them something besides money and slaves: they probably also introduced Sea Islands cotton. This was long staple cotton of strong fibers, highly prized in the marketplace.
Why people other than the Tories came is a more complicated question. Obviously, some came in the 1830’s and ‘40’s because of Indian removal. Treaties by which the Choctaws ceded land were signed at Mount Dexter in 1805, Doak’s Stand in 1820, and Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. Land was being sold in our area by the federal government for $1.25 per acre, minimum 80 acres. That means that anyone with $100 could buy one-eighth of a square mile.
There had been problems with farming on the east coast, resulting in the Panic of 1857 which had a large effect on the price of cotton. Hancock County offered the right climate for the growth of Sea Island cotton, the seeds for which the Carolinians brought with them. This was long staple cotton of strong fibers, highly prized in the marketplace. It could not be grown only a little distance north where the climate was a few degrees cooler, and was therefore a crop of choice by people like Jesse Cowand and JFH Claiborne.
Other settlers were attracted by the huge stands of virgin pine and cypress, along with the waterways to bring their product to market.
Whatever their motivations for moving to Hancock, many prospered by 1850. In fact, a number became wealthy. Shieldsborough claimed the largest number with real estate valued at $5,000 or more, outpacing Gainesville by 11 to 6. Pearlington had four such persons. Jesse Cowand was far and away the leader, with $160,000 of value. Next was James Forbis, with $50,000 of value; this is another curiosity, as little has been found about him. Alfred Boulgue is shown with $20,000. [Ed. Note: A close look at the original handwriting indicates that this is probably a misspelling for Adolphe Boulanger.]
The man we know most about was Jean Batiste Toulme, who at that time enjoyed a relatively small amount, at $25,000. There was more to come for the Toulme family.
It is evident that some of our residents of 1850’s were more active than others in the market. These included Julius Monet, Francois Ladner, PRP Pray, Toulme, Necaise, and Boulanger. There were others, some known only by name, who were absentee landowners.
It was initially a surprise to see that so many descriptions of land showed depths of 40 arpents, or 7,680 feet. This was a common practice for plantations up and down the Mississippi River, as well as other places. In the case of Shieldsborough, all such parcels had frontage on the shore of the bay. The depths extended in most cases roughly to present-day highway 90. From that so-called “western” extreme there was little claim to land. Most of it might be assumed to be undeveloped land, in its natural state: woods, swamp or marsh. Often it was referred to as “public land.” It was, according to one deed, “wild land.”
Eventually, one man, Alfred Bouquie, appears to have purchased land along the 40th arpent. Perhaps it was high land, maybe an existing path. Perhaps the route of Highway 90 was chosen for those reasons.
Indeed, most of the sales in the period 1830 to 1857 were of properties that extended back from the beach 40 arpents, almost 1½ miles. In number, there are 44 deeds in Book B which describe depth of 40 arpents. It is probably only coincidence, but Main St. from the beach to Hwy. 90 measures 40 arpents.
In totals, some owners were certainly more active than others. Francois Ladner was involved in no less than 10 such transactions; Carron was in 8, Toulme in 7.
Of those deeds which called for 40-arpent depth, most were for small frontage, as little as six feet, but usually in 40 to 70-feet range. Large lots were for one arpent (192 feet) and sometimes more. In the case of the larger ones were the following:
462 feet (7 chains): Avery to White, 1836 (value not known, as sold for tax due)
363 feet: Deblieux to Tremoulet - 1854 ($4,500)
257 feet: Pray to Fagot in 1836 (value not known)
257 feet: Fagot to Toulme et al - 1856 ($4,000)
198 feet: Olivier to Arnold - 1857 ($6,287)
192 feet : Wright to Roberts, and back to Wright (This was the Bay St. Louis Hotel) 1853 and 1857 ($6,000)
144: Monet to Carron - 1832 ($65)
144: Nicaise to Carron - 1844 ($60)
An observation easy to make is that in the 1850’s large amounts of money were being paid for land with beach frontage. Attention to the last parcels listed above, those of 144-foot frontage, gives an idea of the low values that occurred in the two decades prior to 1850.
Another question might be why so many parcels of large depth had so little frontage on the bay. It goes without saying that beach front was desirable and therefore more costly, but why so many deeds were described with small amounts of width is not clear. It is accepted that in many cases, plantations needed some water frontage and were therefore linear, as in the case of the many plantations on both sides of the Mississippi River, but it appears that most of the beachfront parcels were for home or small business use, and that large plantations were few.
Section, township, and range
Locations had long been identified by section, township and range. Why so few of these early transactions used this method is confusing. Certainly, we know from other studies that surveying was a profession relied upon heavily in preceding years, such as during the Spanish period.
It must be wondered whether many deeds were later considered confusing or inaccurate. Designations such as “XXX marked on the face of the big oak” or “five chains from the persimmon tree” could not always really designate with certainty a given piece of property. In one actual deed, the beautiful oak that stood for however many years at the foot of Washington Street, on the Gulf side of the beach road, was used as one survey point. Obviously, it can be used no more, as it - like so many over the years - was taken by a hurricane.
Remarkably, however, the descriptions agreed upon seemed to work. One method involved the repeat of who had owned the property previously, together with the named parties and dates. If some deeds were subsequently challenged as to location, such information would have to be found in probate records.
It was hoped initially that Bouquie’s land at the southwest end of several strips might be used to determine the exact locations of some parcels that were contiguous. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There must have been substantial lands sold in between the known pieces.
Establishing locations of various sites
An article in a 1922 edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune is an account of the memory of one James Cuevas of the residences and businesses in the area in the year 1849. Cuevas, already an elderly man, attempted to identify these going from west to east; he was not always accurate, but certainly the memories that he recorded are helpful. While his listing is accepted as a guide, it is no Rosetta stone. One obvious error is his placement of JFH Claiborne at what must have been the Pirate House. Of particular value is his recollection that John Martin in fact had two piers, one of which was next to the Louisiana pier.
On balance, his memory was in good repair; most of his placements seem to be in order.
While it is evident that many deeds name adjacent property owners who appear in other deeds, there are too many records missing to reconstruct the order of residences and businesses. Often, patterns and repeats may be seen, but they are seldom enough to give more than a suggestion. As already mentioned, township and range were not in use for most descriptions, although such are evident at least as early as 1822.
Nonetheless, between Book B deeds, the recollections of James Cuevas, and other notes, we can fairly well place a number of properties. Going north from the Mary Parish land, there were Ripley, Jean Lafitte, Toulme, the Tulane Hotel, another Toulme, Spotorno, the Louisiana Wharf, Arnold, Eager, Sones, Ramon Cuevas, Bookter, Ramon Cuevas, Cannon, the Bay St. Louis Hotel, O’Brien, Klenk, Salles (the apothecary), Pericoli, Casanova, Toulme, Carroll, Boulanger, Monet, Marti, Benard Bouquie, John Martin and his pier, and Cowan.
One way to use the deeds is to try to establish a sequence of transactions, beginning with the earliest. Dates earlier than the date of the deed in which they are found are sometimes described in giving an account of previous owners.
One such case involves an owner named Lardasse. His holdings are treated in a separate section below.
The Streets, Washington and Main
Only a very few streets are named in these early deeds, those being Washington, Main, Apothecary, and Goodchildren. Apothecary St. was the same as the current State St., and in one deed of 1851 it is clearly identified as 18-feet wide and being the “drug store of Francois Salles.” It is believed that if there had been other streets existing which would help describe a location of a property, they would have been mentioned.
Main Street is mentioned far more times than the others. One particular deed may give an idea of how many and which citizens had invested in Main Street property by 1855. It is conceivable that the order in which they are listed is the order of parcels going up Main St. A synopsis follows:
Deed Book B, p. 380: 1 March 1855 agreement between the property owners of Main St., Shieldsborough, obligated to keep said street open 36’; each owner to give up 3’ signed 15 March 1855; signed D. W. Johnston, J. B. Toulme, J. H. Ulman, Joseph Burk; Jacob Brunkhost, Jule Fayard (his mark) Chas Atkinson, C. Hoffmann, John V. Toulme, F. G. Casanova, E. V. Saucier, Louis Ledoucy [?] John C. Himes, John Lang[?], Albert Fayard (his mark), Peter Huak, H. H. Gardebles, F. Vonau. D. W. Johnston certifies their appearance 22 October 1855; Jas A. Ulman member of the board of police certifies more signatures 1December 1855; D.W. Johnston deputy of Elihu Carver certified true copy 3 December.
A cemetery mentioned in one deed may indicate development of interior lands, although no street is named. It is found in an 1832 deed by Mary Favre to Julius Monet and describes land bounded on north by Charles Favre, on west by public land, on east by the bay, and on south “by the graveyard.” If this is referring to Cedar Rest, it could show an early attention to what was to become Main Street. On the other hand, it might be interpreted to have been another cemetery, located at St. Charles St. and the beach.
A clear indication of the development of Washington Street is found in a sale from Mazilly and L’Hote to Plough, in which a lot is said to be 987 feet from the bank of the bay, and is bounded by Washington to the south. This is dated 1855. Mazilly had bought the land in 1853 for $1,000. Another deed, two years earlier, seems to refer to the same land, and mentions Washington as being 18 feet wide. It is probable that Washington was being developed because of it close proximity to two major piers, the “Louisiana Pier” and the one owned by John Martin. In the days when water travel was so essential to commerce, this would make sense. A check of land values nearby should bear out this assumption.
There were many private piers. Our 1857 map shows about 60 by actual count, strewn from Cedar Point to Waveland. There were at least two and perhaps three large piers, used for commerce as well as personal travel and mail. These were necessary in mid 19th century, as travel and trade were essentially accomplished by water. No doubt land reflected higher values in these areas.
According to the Juan Cuevas memory of locations along the coast in 1849, he recalled two piers used for commercial purposes. One was in front of John Martin’s house, called the Hancock Wharf, and the other in front of Spotorno. The latter was called the Louisiana Wharf. Toulme, in his will, left to daughter Mary Virginia the beach lot near the Louisiana wharf, with improvements known as the Mississippi Exchange. It is not clear whether the Mississippi Exchange was a third wharf. It was also to this area that Spotorno later moved his dry goods business - the Old Market Store - from further up the beach, opposite Main.
Martin and Toulme were heavy investors in land close to Main and also close to the Louisiana Wharf. It is easy to see that these would have been commercial hubs of activity.
This early property owner had an indefinite number of acres at a time said to be ten years prior to 1803, leading me to believe this had been a Spanish grant. His successor was Charles Nicaise, by virtue of being marriage to daughter of Lardasse. Nicaise sold to Hopkins, in 1826. Daughter Euphrosine confirmed for $1 that such had been done, and thereby assured Bradford and Forest of their ownership, as heirs of Hopkins, 1855. The sequence was Lardasse to Hopkins to Nicaise to Bradford and Forest.
Not much is known about this man. We know that a family of that name came to the United States in the 18th century from Canada, but do not find any with the same first name.
This Boulanger is believed to be the one whose real estate property was valued at $20,000 in the 1850 census.
The most interesting part of the Boulanger history is found in Book C, with credit to Marco Giardino who found it in his pursuit of another project. It is a deed showing that Boulanger in 1866 sold a 420’ parcel which he had assembled from different deeds. It was sold to John Hosch for $8,000. This was bounded by Lanata on the northeast, heirs of Hopkins on the northwest, and heirs of Clarisse Lafito on the southwest.
The value of this document is that it identifies the previous owners whose properties together made up this one sale, and makes possible the placement of the land. The three sellers with their respective years of sale were Alexander Phillips (1847), Thomas Bradford and wife Martha Foster (1856), and Dominique Lanata (1859).
Together, this information makes possible the connection between Boulanger’s property and the land that was once Lardasse’s, which was inherited by his daughter Euphrosine, part of which was sold by her husband John B. Nicaise to Hopkins in October 1826. This was certified in a deed by Euphrosine in 1855, meant to clarify the ownership by the heirs of Hopkins. [See above.] This means the Lardasse property was part of the Boulanger transfer. Both have Clarisse Lafito as the southwest boundary.
The Necaise property description runs along the beach only two chains, or 132 feet. This would be part of the 402 feet of the Boulanger frontage. Because the Necaise deed to Bradford and Foster says that this land begins on northeast by Boulanger, it is indicated that there was another Boulanger parcel - unsold - which lay up the coast, or to the northeast. This would be the balance of the frontage, the difference between 402 and 132 feet. These details place the location of the frontage south of present-day Highway 90 at the beach, with part of the Boulanger property and the residences of Monet and Clarisse Lafito in between.
It should be noted, however, that there was more to the Lardasse property than what was sold to Bradford and his wife, Foster. The Nicaise deed specifies that it was “part of the land included in Warrant #131, Certificate 30, claim #30, commissioner’s report #12.” A good assumption is that if we could find that document, it would spell out the Lardasse grant.
Once again, the important question is, what do we know about John Palliosset? He was one of the earlier owners of a large strip of land and subsequent trading of lands in Shieldsborough. The location of the 1832 purchase would appear to be south of present highway 90, adjacent to the Lafito first purchase, because of the location may be in some way connected to the Boulanger history.
A history of his activity follows:
- In 1832, Nicaise sold to John Palliosset for $400 one arpent front on the bay by 40 arpents depth, bounded on south by Dimitry, on west by vacant land, on north by Lafito. (This was adjacent to earliest Lafito purchase, being the land in the 1825 deed.)
- In an 1848 deed to Carron, Palliosset is shown as owner of adjacent property.
- In 1849, Palliosset sold to Savinovich for $1,400 land with 48 feet front by 40 arpents.
- In 1850, Barthe sold to John Martinez and Cecile Palliosset 60 foot front by 40 arpents (part of Madame Charlo claim) for $1,350
- In 1850, executor sold part of Madame Charlo claim.
As early as 1812, the elder Toulme, John B., is reported to have been the first merchant in Bay St. Louis, having a leather factory which employed seven men. He bought a house on the corner of Union and the beach. He built a home with an address now of 218 N. Beach.
The Book B deeds do not show many purchases by Toulme. In fact, there were more sales than buys. Perhaps he had already done a lot of buying, but in any case it is obvious that he was a player in the real estate market.
Toulme and John Martin evidently had the same goals. They partnered together in several beach front parcels, including a 257-foot front, co-owned with Mazilly. This was in 1856, at a cost of $4,000. This land began on the south side by Esterbrook (it is assumed that this also became the street of the same name), and then moved up the beach toward Main St.
Previously, Toulme and Martin paid $3,760 for a 62-foot strip in 1851. This included buildings. Martin already was owner of the land north and south of the latter buy. It is not known whether the 257-foot frontage was contiguous with the earlier purchase, but it is evident that they had planned substantial beachfront acquisition.
Over the years, Toulme accumulated substantial holdings, in time donating land now occupied by the Masonic Temple, the Court House, the Methodist Church and Cedar Rest cemetery.
His will serves as an excellent guide to the real estate he had acquired:
- He left to daughter Adele the house on Union Street, said to be adjacent to Francis Casanova, as well as property next to George Carico, and one formerly belonging to S. Broadwell.
- To Victoire he bequeathed two lots identified as being on the south side of Union, known as Mrs. Stockton’s Hotel.
- Also, to son John v. he left unsold properties which were on the north side of Main and included the “market house” at the beach.
- To Mary Virginia, he gave two lots on the south side of Main and the beach lot near the Louisiana wharf, called the Mississippi Exchange.
- Madeleine received the Ledoux property and a lot on the north side of those left to Mary Virginia.
- Delphine was bequeathed a lot on the south side of Washington known as the Mazilly property.
- Other properties included were outside of the study area, some of which were in New Orleans.
The man known as usually as Jean Lafiteaux - as well as other spellings such as Lafitte and LaFito - might have been the famed pirate. Certainly the legend says so, but actual evidence is not so sure. In any event, Lafito and his wife Clarisse can be found in at least six deeds, although not all are in Book B. The following particulars, using the name Lafito for simplicity, show the adjacent owners when known:
- 1. 1825 French deed: Nicaise to Lafito, one-half arpent by 40, on S JB Nicaise; on N and W by Hopkins
- 2. 1833: Johnston to Lafito for $100, one arpent by 40, on N bounded by Sibolet, on S by Ripley, on E by the bay, on W by public lands. (This would previously have been Mary Parish land.)
- 3. 1833: Nicaise to Lafito, one half arpent bounded on N and S by Hopkins or Pallioset
- 4. 1845: Lafito sold to Dufour, 48 feet (1/3 arpent)
- 5. 1845: Clarisse Lafito to O’Brien for $700, 96 feet (1/2 arpent) on N by John Defour, on S by O’Brien, on E by bay, on W by Guex.
- 6. 1855: Clarisse to Josephine Fayard for $200, 84 feet front by 300 feet, bounded on N by Boulanger, on E and W by Clarisse, on S by passage of 12 feet and land of Pardian. (This was a sale of an interior parcel of land described in Deed #1.) [Ed. Note: the parcel to the south, measuring 40-arpent depth, owned by Pardo, Perolli and Lesseps, sold for $1600.
I had been under the impression that the first property, described in an 1825 French deed, would have been down at the northwest extreme of the Mary Parish land. Perhaps this is because the legend places the Pirate House, which had been located on that land, with Lafitte assumed to be close by, or in some versions, as owner of the Pirate House. It now seems clear that this was next to Hopkins, which was originally owned by Lardasse. This places the site very close to what eventually became the home of Julius Monet.
Deed #3 may have been an addition to the land of Deed 1.
Deed #5 may represent a sale of one half of #2. It too was once part of the Mary Parish land. She had sold to Sibolet, who then sold to Jean, and it was inherited by Clarisse.
To further clarify the1825 deed, it should be noted that it specifies that the land was bounded north and west by Hopkins, but it must be further noted that it had been Lardasse land. It was in the following year, according to Euphrosine Nicaise, that her husband had sold the Lardasse land to Hopkins.
The will of Clarisse Lafito disposes of the part of Deed #1 which she had maintained until her death. Apparently she had sold all but 300 feet of frontage. It contained her house and was sold by her executor for $650.
Perhaps a relative of Jean was Auguste Lafitte, who lived with his family on beach property a few parcels above the Spotorno house and the Louisiana Wharf.
One very curious pattern may help to determine the exact placing of various parcels of land. This involves the person named Dimitry Bouquie, mentioned above in the discussions of 40-arpent depths.
He owned two parcels, one of which was formerly public land or “wild” land, running along 40th arpent line. This may not have been just an accident. Roads often followed Indian and animal paths because they were on high ground. Important is the fact that there are no less than seven deeds in which his property is said to be at the west end of the 40-arpent strip. The 40-arpent adjoining property owners, that is, those who owned from Bouquie to the beach, included Dimitry Canna, JB Toulme, DR Walker, John Lardasse, Melite Lessassier, Martial and Joseph Nicaise, Madam Charlo, and EF Guex.
The other parcel was above present-day Hwy 90, located in the area of Bayou LaCroix and may have been adjacent to heirs of Hopkins.
The beginnings of Waveland
We have a large file of legal documents relating to the claim of the Widow Morin, grown thick because of all the challenges to her title. Her land was surveyed by Elihu Carver in 1830. One item seems to purport that two people, one named Bourgeois, attested to “improvements” on the property.
None of these papers seems to refer to the widow’s first name. It is only in an 1833 deed for part of her property sold to Elihu Carver that she is referred to as “Susan.”
The widow’s claim was warrant #672, claim #17, certificate #17. It was contested over the years, but not within her lifetime as far as I can tell. Toulme and Monet at some point asked for an inquiry, saying that several people were “interested” in that land. None of the challenges were successful.
The land extended from present-day Nicholson to Oak Blvd. in Waveland, going back 40 arpents from the latter street to Emerald Lake Drive and back to Nicholson. In all, it totaled 640 acres. After Carver bought the east half portion in 1833, he sold to JB Toulme, who is turn sold part to Broadwell in 1846 for $250. In 1847, he sold another to Carrico, measuring one arpent front, for $2,000.
An anomaly of equal wonderment is the lady known as Mary Parish, sometimes spelled Mary Parache. Her land was contiguous with the Morin land, running along the coast from present-day Nicholson to Ramoneda St.
Like the widow, little is known about Mary, or by what right she was given her land. One of the most intriguing aspects of this land is that it contained, possibly long before it was her claim, the famous Pirate House. Much has been written about the history of that structure, dating to the early part of the 19th century.
A portion which included the Pirate House was called the Fremaux tract, for which we have an excellent map. It was purchased by Stephen Fremaux in 1833 from Mary Parish. The son of Stephen divided the tract into 90-foot lots, which were sold beginning in the 1840’s.
The first purchase by a Fremaux was for the full 1,980 feet along the beach. It sold for $500. After the division into lots, prices from 1849 to 1852 ranged from $500 to $800.
Monet: Surveys and Land Promotion
We think of Julius Monet as an important city father, active in many capacities including his term as mayor of Shieldsborough. There was, however, another side to this man: he was also an important surveyor, as well as a developer, and probably an investor.
In May of 1852, Monet wrote a letter to the Commissioner for the General Land Office in Washington about the lands included in the Morin claim. He was writing as “agent for the assignees of Widow Morin.” Part of that letter reads as follows:
“Sometime in the latter part of April ultimate their security was sadly disturbed by the intelligence they received that their lands appeared upon the maps at the land office in Augusta, Miss. as public lands liable to be entered, and afterwards that they had actually been entered by speculators. Those lands being highly improved as summer retreats are of great value, the improvements alone being over forty thousand dollars in value….”
Monet was able to prove his case on behalf of the developers. Monet had surveyed the land and lots were being sold. The importance here is that what was later to become Waveland was being developed as early as the 1840’s, and it was already thought to be suitable as “summer retreats of great value.” One lot, sold by Beverly to Purvis in 1855 had a price tag of $1,700.
It would not be surprising to find that some of the sales were made to New Orleanians, as eventually Waveland was to become a weekend resort for people of New Orleans.
A nearby parcel, just east of what is now Buccaneer Park, and not part of the Morin or Parish land, is interesting in that it was a further indication of the early development of what became Waveland. This land, further down the coast and adjacent to the Morin land, was platted by Julius Monet and sold off as small lots in the 1840’s. It was initially patent #941, a 100-acre tract awarded in 1820 by the US Land Office to Elihu Carver.
Monet was involved as a surveyor in at least one other development. For this, we have a chapter and verse: section 35, T8S R14W. This places the land as having previously been part of Mary Parish land. He had platted land acquired by Mrs. Guex in deed of May 5, 1853. Lots were being sold in that year, but prices are not known.
One more survey by Monet was made for land which had been owned by the Toulme family since 1830. This appears to have been located north of present-day Hwy. 90.
Land Values Growth in 1850’s
Essentially, land values grew all along, but appear to have shown the greatest acceleration during the 1850 period. Often, some of the first purchases showed very little change. For example, Pray bought a lot “near the old graveyard” in 1846 for taxes. A year later, he sold that lot to Johnson for $100, who sold it in 1848 Carron for the same $100.
On the other hand, the time value of money did hold true over longer times. One important piece, mentioned elsewhere, is a 257-foot frontage parcel sold by Pray to Fagot in 1836 for $2,500. This was sold to Toulme et al for $4,000 in 1853.
Another example is found in a deed for a 45-foot frontage sold by Monet in 1841 for $1,000. That land went trough a couple of hands before being sold by Salles to Pericoli (curiously, a previous owner) for $4,250 in 1852.
Sometimes buildings are mentioned in the deeds; other times, larger values may indicate presence of buildings without being so stated. To compare values where buildings were known, the following are offered:
Roselius to Deblieux, 1838 $180
Laforest to Beblieux, 1842 250
Philips to Boulanger, 1847 800
White to Nixon, 1850 350
Salles to Coitte, 1852 3,000
Russ to Poitevent, 1853 500
L’Hote to Mazilly, 1853 1,000
Deblieux to Tremoulet, 1854 4,500
Russ to Carre, 1854 6,000
Wingate to Weston, 1/3 interest, 1854 4,000
Pericoli to Slade, 1856 600
Wright to Roberts and back, 1853 and ‘56 6.000
Muniz to Murphy, 1856 5,000
Salles to Pericoli, 1856 2,600
Ogden to Damont, 1856 2,800
Value per Front Feet
A traditional way to evaluate property is by dollars per front foot. This may be difficult where we do not always know whether improvements had been made, but a few generalities may be helpful.
In the 1830’s, a round figure would be $1 per foot. In the ‘40’s, it rose from $2 or $3 to $8. In the beginning of the ‘50’s, there is a huge range, from $17 to $71, with most at a midway point. By the end of the decade, values of $70 to $83 are observed.
Largest real estate values
Study was made of all persons where census of 1850 shows real estate value of $5000 or more. Most were in Shieldsborough (13), with Gainesville second (6), and Beat 1, which included Pearlington third (5).
Largest in Shieldsborough as follows:
Jessee Cowand $160,000
James Forbis (listed as plantation owner from VA) 50,000
J B Toulme 25,000
Ambrose Boumbstaurk 23,000
[Other than Toulme and Cowand, it is difficult to
identify these people. Monet, incidentally had only
Alfred Boulque (could be Bouquie of Boulanger?) 20,000
Largest in Gainesville:
Lewis Daniells $20,000
Wm. Poitevent 9,000
Asa Russ 5,000
Benjamin Leonard 5,000
Largest in Beat 1, including Pearlington
Robert Montgomery (Napoleon) $17,000
Wm. Brown 11,000
Edwin Russ 8,000
Sam. White 5,000
[Marceline McArthur, with $35,000, is not shown
by location, but it is thought thought that she was
in Beat 1. David Wingate is shown with only $3,000.]
Calendar of important early deeds
1803 (10 years prior to) - Lardasse claim confirmed by Congress of US
1805 - Spanish grant to Rousseve in Pearl River area
1817 - Sheriff buys part of Pearltown (Napoleon) from Widow Favre
1819 - Wingate sells to John Russ part of Logtown tract
1820 - Claim # 24 to Eliza Ripley, and Claim # 31 to Joseph Favre
1820 - Samuel White purchase from Nathaniel Hide
1826 - Nicaise transfer of Lardasse land to Hopkins
1826 - Auction of lots by Pearl Co.
1829 - White buys land laid out by Pearl Co.
1831 - Bouquie sells to Canna
1833 - Susan Morin deeds east half of warrant #672 to Elihu Carver
1834 - Wingate sells to Carres and John Russ
1838 - Fayard buys part Widow Morin’s land
1838 - Pray deeds to Hancock County two lots for court house.
A study of the land deeds of Hancock County from the early to mid-19th century gives a picture of an area that lay fairly still for several decades before it split its seams in the 1840’s and ‘50’s. With the assistance of some other resources, it can be seen that lands were then being swapped. Investments were made in hotels and shops. Values appreciated. Streets were cleared and maintained for predetermined widths and were platted into lots. Some local residents became entrepreneurs, while still others profited from afar.
It is no longer surprising that the memory of James Cuevas was to any degree accurate. After all, there were not a lot of residents to remember. The reason he remembered only people on beach properties and a few on Main Street is simple: hardly anyone lived further inland.
Perhaps the most exciting conclusion is in the observation that they did move inland. They developed cities.
Article by Russell Guerin