Lake Borgne

 ….when it extended to the south shore of Bay of St. Louis
 
“The French, thinking that it did not answer precisely the definition of a lake, because it was not altogether land-locked, or did not at least discharge its waters only through a small aperture, and because it looked rather like a part of the sea, separated from its main body by numerous islands, called it Lake Borgne, meaning something incomplete or defective, like a man, with one eye.
“On that lake there is a beautiful bay, to which Iberville gave the patronymic name of St. Louis.” – Charles Gayarre, 1847, from his History of Louisiana
 
Is it possible that Gayarre confused the location of Lake Borgne in relation to the Bay of St. Louis? To repeat “…on that lake is a beautiful bay.”
 
Today, Lake Borgne’s eastern edge is found at the mouth of the lake, just southeast of the terminus of Pearl River. However, at one time, it was considered that the northern borders of Lake Borgne ran along the Mississippi coast line all the way to the south shore of the Bay of St. Louis.
 
At least, that is my considered conclusion. Indeed, the Latour maps place the east end of Lake Borgne to be just south of Pass Mariann [sic].
 
It may be asked why I have pursued such an arcane subject over a long period of time,  when it is obvious that it is not so in modern day geography of the area. Partly, it has been to satisfy my own curiosity, which has been encouraged over the years in studying old maps, early deeds, and other documents.
 
On the other hand, understanding such difference in shapes and names of places could be helpful to someone else who studies early records, especially those that predate current land descriptions by township, range and section numbers.
 
Moreover, the changes may be of more than passing interest to those concerned about land and marsh losses over historical times, especially those losses that have disadvantaged St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans. In large measure, land that might have been viewed as permanent no longer exists.
 
There are a number of reasons for my conclusion. One source is found in the tax rolls of Hancock County from its earliest formation. In 1829, the Ioor plantation of 3,940 acres was said to be located at Pt. Clair, but the 1832 roll shows it at Bay of St. Louis. In 1836, it is identified as being at Claiborn [sic]. Finally, the land of the widow Joor (alternate spelling) is shown to be situated at Lake Borgne.
 
The land did not move. We know now that the Ioor/Joor plantation occupied primarily the area we now know as Lakeshore. All of the previous land descriptions are essentially correct, because in the early days of the county, there was little exact placement; locations were thought of in general terms.
 
Now, about the name “Lakeshore”:
In 1852, Benjamin Wailes, acting as the State Geologists, visited Asa Russ on the “Lake Shore,” located at the site of modern day Buccaneer Park.
According to Roy Baxter, in an 1978 article in the Echo, Weston mined salt “on the lakeshore.”
In 1852, Benjamin Wailes recorded in his journal that he left Clifton Plantation to go to “Mr. Asa Russ of the Lakeshore,” a distance of fourteen miles. This later became Andrew Jackson’s Sea Song Plantation, the present site of Buccaneer Park. Another reference in Hancock County records includes an August 3, 1877 mortgage of the site as “track section known as the Jackson Farm” and a June 13, 1877 deed describing the property as “situated upon the lakeshore…being the late residence of Col. Andrew Jackson.”
 
The Civil War files in the Lobrano House show a number of references to “the lakeshore” when discussing actions along the coast; for example, from the September 7, 1861 report: “The latest intelligence from Mississippi Sound and the lake shore is up to yesterday morning. It was then very quiet; no vessels off Ship Island more than what have been in sight for several weeks past.”
 
There is no doubt in my mind that the town of Lakeshore was given its name because it was once observed that Lake Borgne washed up on all the beachfront lands all the way to Bay St. Louis; it was all “on the lakeshore.”
 
Early maps give a clue as to why there was such a concept. These maps clearly show those Louisiana parts south of Bay St. Louis, including the islands and the marshes, to be much more complete and solid than they are today. They are shown to be south and east of a line drawn from the bay. This is reflective of land loss in those areas having begun in times gone by, but so much regretted today.
 
Russell Guerin
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