AmiteCity:Early History and Families, Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana
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EARLY HISTORY AND FAMILIES OF AMITE
According to local legend Amite is located just east of anold ChoctawVillage.The last Chief of that village, a man named Baptiste, welcomed the earliestsettlers. The earliest settlers in the area settled near the TangipahoaRiver. In 1813 Elijah Self acquiredland in Head Right 49 and Joel Ott in Head Right 50. These lands now composemuch of the eastern part of Amite. Indians continued to occupy most of thelands until later settlers arrived in the area. Some of these included GeorgeRichardson, James Ballard, John Coleman, R.C. Self, Rueben Ballard, Thomas Jones and Amos Kent.When the survey of the railroad between New Orleansand Jackson marked a route nearby,three men, William H. Garland, John M. Bach and S. Coleman acquired a largetract of land on the railroad about 68 miles from NewOrleans at a spot that railroad engineers projected asa station stop. They proposed to develop a town around the station. Initiallythey erected a store, which promptly began doing a good business with the earlysettlers in the locality, and then they framed up a hotel. An article in theNew Orleans Picayune of July 29, 1854,announcing an excursion, contained what might be the first mention of Amite ina newspaper. The article refers to Amite, one of the stations along the route,as a place designed for rest and refreshments. By August 1854, the track hadbeen completed between New Orleansand Osyka, Mississippi.A later article in the Picayune reported that on August 17, 1854, an excursion train carried a large partyof gentlemen from New Orleans toOsyka and back. The president of the railroad, Colonel Cole, and its chiefengineer, Mr. Grant were in attendance. The visitors were treated to fishing inthe TangipahoaRiverand a ride to the state line before a formal banquet under the branches of alarge old oak tree. Colonel William Christy presided and in a speech filledwith classical allusion, named the new town FillmoreCity. The name of FillmoreCity did not persist and eventuallythe town took the name Amite. The survey for the town called Amite was made in1860 by Major J.M. Wentz and N.J. Herex.The following year the town was incorporated as AmiteCity. As the town began to grow with homes andbusinesses the Methodists and Presbyterians built a single building to house bothcongregations. Archbishop Jean Marie Odin of New Orleansestablished the first Roman Catholic Parish in Amite when he sent Father JohnScollard, around 1868, to take up religious work in the new community. Earlyparishioners were the Clements, Durnins, Illys, Kopflers, Sharkeys, and Weigles. A young deacon in the Episcopal Church,Herman Cope Duncan, participated in the establishment of an Episcopal parish inthe new town. By April of 1873, Duncan'slabors along the railroad line had resulted in two new church buildings - theChurch of the Incarnation in Amite and the Church of the Annunciation inPonchatoula. The year 1869 proved important in the life of Amite because inthat year Amite became the parish seat of the new parish of Tangipahoa createdby Act No. 54 of the Louisiana Legislature. Members of the AmiteCity government, Mayor HenryBankston and Aldermen G.R. Green, F.W. Huling, J.P. Longley, C.S. Stewart, W.Welhausen, and John Wentz were instrumental in securing creation of the newparish. The year 1869 also proved important in the history of Amite, for inthat year the Gullet Gin Company located there. The firm came to Amite becauseits original plant at Aberdeen, Mississippiwas destroyed during the Civil War. The charter of the Gullet Gin Company capitalizedat $18,000 was recorded March 2, 1870.The firm continued to produce cotton gins into the middle of the twentiethcentury employing as many as 250 people. In 1937, the Honorable Harry D. Wilson(1869-1948) former Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture wrote an article aboutearly Amite for the "News Digest" Newspaper. In the article hesays, "Amite was founded over 100years ago as an Indian trading post, and was quite a hustling town of some 1,500 or 1,800 inhabitants when I went to work for the late Jacob Stern in hisgeneral merchandise store 56 years ago. At that time we did not depend on strawberriesand vegetables for business. Amite was a real cotton market. It was the tradingcenter for 30 to 40 miles on every side. At that time, there was more cottonhandled in one day than is now handled in a whole season. Our citizenship haschanged greatly and as rapidly as our trade territory and our agricultureindustries. If my recollection serves mecorrectly, on March 1, 1881, the day I was installed as uncle Jake Stern's counter hopper, chicken coop maker, and general all around country store helper,the following citizens
still residing here, or their parents were residents of Amite: Fred Weist, Dr. Charley Stewart, Vernons, Sterns,Sternbergers, the Kopflers, Feiglers,Forshags, Conners, Ellis's, D.H. Sanders, Cothrans, Mrs. Henry Saal, Mrs. Noyes (then Mrs. Marion Bankston), the Lautiers, Friersons, Andy Lawson, CharlesH. Eagan, the Kemps, Benders,Welhausens, Illys, Goldsbys, Wilsons, McElwees, Reids, Sowells, Rothers, Van Osdalls, Warners,Houeyes, Addisons, Spillers,
James Scott, the Evans, Weigles and Dorhauer. You will note that only about 35old families remain out of all the population that made up Amite 56 yearsago."
The above has been written to provide genealogicalresearchers with an insight into the early origins of Amite. More can belearned about the entire history of Amite from Mr. Edwin Schilling's bookentitled "Amite Now and Then", which can be purchased from the AmiteCity Chamber of Commerce. "TANGIPAHAOA CROSSINGS, Excursions intoTangipahoa History" is also an excellent source of information on earlyTangipahoa Parish and the major towns. It was published in 1979 by MoranPublishing Company in Baton Rougeand was distributed by Citizens Nation Bank in Tangipahoa Parish.