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 Times of 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.
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:
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".P hil 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 of ST. MARTIN
Between 1902 and 1905, several related families of Italian origin settled in the St. Martin community north of Biloxi, Mississippi. They were the Terrettas, Lepomas, and Giamettas. Initially they were truck farmers, but these Sicilians immigrants also worked in seafood and commerce. Another Italian and the progenitor of the Lepre family of D' Iberville and the Mississippi coast, Captain Peter Lepre (1841-1916), immigrated to the United States circa 1853. He married Celina Moran (c. 1845- 1870+), the daughter of Edouard Moran (c. 1812-1880+) and Celestine Ladner (c. 1816-1880+) in September 1869. Peter Lepre immigrated from Palermo, Sicily and at the time of his demise resided on Fayard Street in Biloxi.
Frank Terretta (1870-1917) and his wife, Rosa Pria (1873-1945+), appear to have been the first of the 20th Century Italian expatriates to arrive at St. Martin, probably about 1902. They immigrated to the United States in 1894, from Palermo, Sicily. His brother, Alberto Nunzio Terretta (1868-1954), came to America in 1897. Before coming to Jackson County, Mississippi the Terretta brothers lived at Brooklyn, New York. Their parents were Antonio Terretta (1837-1927) and Catherine Giaccona (1839-1930) who must have joined them in Jackson County after 1910. Frank Terretta and Rosa Pria had one adopted son, Anthony Terretta (1913-1996+), who was born in Louisiana. Rosa married Anthony Rodriguez (1855-1928) after her husband died in June 1917. Tony Rodriguez had been wedded to Josephine Miller (1861-1914), the daughter of George Barney Miller (c. 1820-1860+) and Marie Delphine Bouzage (b. 1823-1860+). Josephine was the mother of Amelia R. Fountain (1879-1949), Daniel Rodriguez (1885-1964), and Augustine R. Fountain (1887-1958). Rosa Pria outlived several other husbands and died at Independence, Louisiana, after WW II. Her remains were interred at Tangipahoa Parish. In July 1903, Frank Terretta bought five acres of land near Miguel Rodriguez and Eugene Bosarge in Section 15, T7S-R9W from Louis Raymond. Anthony Lepoma (1866-1923) and Tony Terretta (1837-1927) were his partners. Included in the land trade were Lots 5-7 of the Francis Fountain tract.(1) Lepoma was residing at St. Charles Parish, Louisiana as late as April 1910, when Laz Lopez (1877-1918) acquired these tracts from them. Frank Terretta also purchased five acres of land from Samuel M. Tracy (1847-1920) on the east side of the old Martin Fountain tract in February 1910.(2) He planted pecan trees here when a small nursery grown tree cost about seventy-five cents. Later Peter Arnold bought the orchard and harvested 4,000 pounds of pecans. In July 1911, the Terretta brothers bought ten acres of forested land from Jacob Husley (1863-1948) along the west side of Reynoir Road (now Brittany).(3) Anthony Lepoma (1866-1923) who was married to Maria Terretta (1883-1941), the sister of Frank and Nunzio Terretta, bought the west five acres of this tract in November 1915. It fronted on Race Track Road.
Anthony Lepoma (1866-1923) was born at Naples, Italy. In the old country, the Lepoma name may have been spelled Lipuma. Immigrated to USA in 1890. He met Maria Terretta (1883-1941), a Sicilian, in New York. They resided in Michigan and Louisiana (LaPlace-Kenner area) where he worked in animal husbandry. The Lepomas arrived at St. Martin circa 1911. In 1920, Tony Lepoma made his livelihood as a fisherman. He and Mary had a very large family: Ross Lepoma (1899-1963), Anthony Lepoma Jr. (1900-1926), Roy Lepoma (1905-1963+), Sam Lepoma, Joe Lepoma (1907-1957), Lee R. Lepoma (1909-1959), Jeanette L. Landry (1910-1978), Catherine L. Stiglets, Frances L. Monteleone, Katherine Lepoma Bellew (b. 1913), Josephine L. Vassalli (1915-1963+), Madeline L. Lanz (1917-1963+), James Lepoma (1920-1945), and Vincent Lepoma (1923-1975). The Lepoma children were born at New York, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Tony Lepoma Jr. (1900- 1926) operated a small store in the front yard of his home on the east side of Reynoir (Brittany). Mrs. Mary Terretta Lepoma commenced the St. Joseph altar in the St. Martin community. This was a Sicilian custom, and an annual fete was held on March 19th to honor St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. During the Middle Ages, a drought and then famine brought the people of Sicily to their knees, praying to St. Joseph for relief. St. Joseph had provided the Christ child bread, and they wanted him to do likewise for them. If their prayers were answered, the suffering Sicilians promised to share food with the poor. Their prayers were answered. The St. Joseph altar is built by the men. The women prepare seafood, pasta, vegetables, sesame seed cookies, and fig cakes. Italian bread is baked in the forms of crosses, St. Joseph's staff, and other symbols of this holy occasion. The food, to be divided among those in need, is placed on the altar, which is decorated with flowers and candles. The green fava bean is also served. When dried, roasted, and blessed, it is transformed into the "lucky bean". Tradition relates that you will never be broke as long as your person carries the lucky fava bean! After Mrs. Lepoma passed on, her daughter, Catherine Stiglets, continued the tradition at her home. Today, Mrs. Lepoma's granddaughter, Janice L. Fountain, and her sister-in-law, Jackie Landry, prepare the St. Joseph's altar at the Lee Landry home in the St. Martin community. Alberto Nunzio Terretta (1868-1954) was married to Maria Gagliano (1868-1954), also a native of Italy. Their three children, Catherine T. Galiano (1900-c. 1975), Lucy T. Cannette (1903-1973), and Anthony Joseph Terretta (1907-2005), were born at Brooklyn, New York. At Brooklyn, Nunzio Terretta made his livelihood cleaning ships' boilers. He became dissatisfied with the work there and came South to New Orleans.
Anthony J. Terretta (1907-2005)
The oldest child, Catherine Terretta, married Joseph Galiano who resided in the Vieux Carre and sold produce at the French Market. Lucy Terretta married Julius Cannette (1897-1983), and they resided at St. Martin. Anthony Joseph Terretta was married to Mona Louise Khayat (1909-1973) of Biloxi. Mona was the daughter of Assad A. Khayat (1875-1929) and Mona Butrous (1878-1922), both Syrian immigrants. Mona was the sister of Eddie Khayat (1911-1993) who served on the Jackson County Board of Supervisors for thirty-two years. After her demise, Anthony wedded the widow, Lynn V. Mayo Carr (1919-2006), a native of Clarke County, Mississippi. Mona went to Hollywood in the early 1930s and played minor roles in several motion pictures. She was in 'The Lives of a Bengal Lancer' starring Gary Cooper in 1935.
Joseph Giametta (1857-1935)
Biloxi Cemetery-October 2012
Giuseppe (Joseph) Giametta (1857-1935) and Camella Terretta (1868-1944) arrived in the United States from Canada in 1915. Mrs. Giametta was a twin sister to Nunzio Terretta. The Giamettas had immigrated to Canada in 1895. Their children, Anna Borne Giametta m. Beaugez (1898-1986); Charles Giametta (1900-1970) m. Theresa DeCarlo (1901-1937); Catherine Giametta m. Dauro (1904-1970+); Pauline Giametta m. Dauro (1906-1970+); and Josephine Giametta m. . Fountain (1907-1982), were born in Canada. Joseph Giametta acquired a small tract of land on Race Track Road east of the Trochesset strip from Joseph Schmid in July 1915.
Charles Giametta (1900-1970)
Biloxi Cemetery (October 2012)
In 1931, Charles Giametta bought a lot on the east side of his father's land adjacent to the Trochessets. He was married Olena Cannette (1900-1920), who died of the pandemic Spanish influenza. After her demise, Giametta wedded Theresa DeCarlo (1901-1937) of New Orleans who died in childbirth. His last wife was Josephine Chiniche. Giametta moved to Bay St. Louis circa 1945, where he worked for the L&N Railroad as a bridge tender.
These Italians families worked very hard in their fields, which they had cleared of pine trees and stumps. These sons of the Mediterranean fertilized with a mulch made from decaying shrimp hulls. The hulls were obtained from the refuse piles at the seafood factories along the north shore of Back Bay at Biloxi. They also used horse manure gathered at the stables in Biloxi, and the dried droppings of stock animals, which roamed the area.
These immigrant farmers grew vegetables and fruit-sweet potatoes, beets, tomatoes, okra, peppers, okra, corn, shallots, garlic, beans, gourds, cantaloupes, figs, pumpkins, sugar cane, etc. They bought some of their seeds from the Quave store on the west end. In addition, they raised some livestock, particularly goats from whose rich milk they drank and made cheese.
After the crop matured and was harvested, the Italian men loaded it in horse drawn wagons and headed south to Biloxi. Here, they peddled their fresh organic produce along the city streets. Sweet potatoes went for $1.00 per bushel basket and okra for a nickel a dozen. The Terrettas didn't own a scale to weigh their green wares.
It was common to see Mr. Nunzio Terretta, with his stripped umbrella, sitting high on the seat of his wagon crossing the old wooden Back Bay Bridge. His son, Anthony Terretta, who was born in 1907, and presently resides at Pascagoula relates a story about his father and uncle, Joseph Giametta: The housewives of Biloxi called my father, Nunzio, "sweetie peppa". He spoke broken English and would cry, "sweeta peppa", as his produce rig rolled through the dirt and shell roads of the working class neighborhoods of Biloxi. His brother-in-law, Joseph Giametta, spoke very little English. His produce wagon followed Terretta's. When Nunzio would announce his presence to the neighborhood with his calling card, "sweeta peppa", Joe would follow with, "mea too ah".
On his return to St. Martin, Nunzio Terretta would kindly stop and give grateful school children, who were heading home from their classes, a ride in his hopefully empty produce wagon.
The Italian families were self reliant. They baked their own bread, dried tomatoes to prepare tomato sauce, made pear and blackberry wine, and brewed a malt beer. Occasionally, they would take the excursion train to New Orleans for indigenous provisions. At the Quality Grocery store on Decatur Street, olive oil, dried figs, and five pound boxes of spaghetti were purchased. Christmas was often celebrated with an undecorated pine tree. Their children received apples and oranges as gifts. In good times, a small wooden toy might appear under the tree. Mrs. Terretta made small cakes in the shape of crabs and shrimp filled with figs.
Some of the Italian women worked in the local seafood factories. They would rise in the wee hours of the morning with the factory whistles blaring and walk miles from their homes on Race Track Road to their jobs on Back Bay. Some worked at the Quave factory in North Biloxi.
Descendants of all three families still reside in the St. Martin community with the Lepoma name being the most ubiquitous.
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