Today in New Orleans History

March 15

Shushan Airport      Milneburg Joys

Pontchartrain Railroad Begins and Ends
March 15
Right-of-way Approved by City Council
March 15, 1830
Century of Service Ends -- Final Trip from Milneburg
March 15, 1932
Theresa Gallagher and her second husband Conrad Freese pose on the front walk of a camp in Milneburg c. 1880 - 1890.
The Pontchartrain Railroad’s “Smokey Mary” can be seen in the background.  (Photo courtesy of Henry Harmison.)
The Pontchartrain Rail-Road was an early railway, chartered in 1830, which began transporting people and goods between the Mississippi River front and Lake Pontchartrain on April 23, 1831, and closed more than 100 years later.  The 5-mile long line on Elysian Fields Avenue connected the Faubourg Marigny along the riverfront with the town of Milneburg on the Lakefront. When built, the majority of the route ran through farmland, woods, and swamp.  Meetings discussing building a railway began in 1828. The Pontchartrain Rail-Road was chartered on January 20, 1830. The right-of-way was approved by the New Orleans City Council on March 15, and construction began immediately, with a pair of parallel railroad tracks. Through swampland, up to 4 feet of fill was needed to create a sufficient road bed. A 150 foot wide bed was constructed along the entire route, with the rail line laid with red cypress timbers and English rolled iron rails. Construction of the line was completed on April 14, 1831, and it officially opened on April 23rd, with horse drawn railway carriages. The first steam locomotive, "the Shields", was built by John Shields and arrived from Cincinnatti by steamer on June 15, 1832. This first locomotive proved unreliable; the company even tried using sails to help propell the train.   A second locomotive "the Pontchartrain" built by Rothwell, Hicks, and Rothwell arrived in September, was tested on September 6.  It proved better, allowing the line to advertise regular steam service of 7 round trips per day (9 on Sundays) starting on September 27, 1832. "The Shields" was cannibalized, the boiler used to run equipment at the railroad's machine shop. "The Pontchartrain" as well as succeeding locomotives became known as the famous and beloved "Smokey Mary". It was comprised of an "engine car" (with the power of 24 horses) and 12 passenger/cargo cars.

Saturday, August 17, 1844 Schedule 

"When put to the test, Smoky Mary could, amidst great puffing and blowing and much expulsion of smoke and cinders, attain the remarkable speed of ten miles an hour. Passengers usually emerged with clothes blackened and eyes and throat stuffed with cinders"  from [GumboYa-Ya].  The line was the first in the world to include a freight landing platform.  Milneburg had no jail but the train had a prison car -- rowdies were loaded throughout the day and night into the car which was hooked to the train for its last run of the night to transport the captives to Parish Prison in the city.   Passenger service on the Pontchartrain Railroad, one of the nation’s oldest lines, ended after a century of service on March 15, 1932, when Smokey Mary made a final trip from Milneburg -- three coaches packed with riders led by John A. Galivan, engineer during a third  ( 32 years) of the railroad's history. 

1922 - Pontchartrain Railroad Schedule
A 1922 Pontchartrain Railroad Schedule

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Born on September 26, 1918, Fred James Cassibry received a B.A. from Tulane University in 1941 and an LL.B. from Tulane Law School in 1943. After serving in the Navy during World War II he became a field examiner for the National Labor Relations Board from 1946 to 1948. He entered private practice in New Orleans from 1948 to 1961, and was a New Orleans City Councilman from 1954 to 1961. He was a judge on the Civil District Court for Orleans Parish from 1961 to 1966.  On October 11, 1966, Cassibry was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson to a new seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana created by 80 Stat. 75. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 20, 1966, and received his commission on November 3, 1966. He assumed senior status on March 15, 1984, serving in that capacity until his retirement on April 3, 1987.  He died on July 6, 1996.

Photo of Melpomene Avenue (now Martin Luther King) between South Claibourne and South Broad "after" covering of canal, March 15, 1956. Photography by Leon Trice.

Leon Trice photo of Simon Boliver Avenue looking uptown from near Union Station, March 15, 1956.

Photo of Louisiana Avenue at Magazine Street toward river, March 15, 1956, which includes the Rednour building, by Leon Trice.

Loyola Avenue at Tulane toward Union Station, March 15, 1956. Photography by Leon Trice.

South Claiborne Canal after covering between Third and MelpomeneMarch 15, 1956.  Photography by Leon Trice.

Photo from the Fourth Annual Automobile Show in the Municipal Auditorium, which opened on March 15, 1930.

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1916March15KreegersCorsetTP.jpgMarch 15, 1916 Kreeger's adverstisemnt (on the right) from the Times-Picayune.  

Several streets scenes from the Wilson S. Howell Photograph Collection,Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library taken on March 15, 1890.

Several photos taken "on the levee" on March 15, 1890 from the Wilson S. Howell Photograph Collection at the New Orleans Public Library.

The New Orleans Savings Institution, was incorporated by the Louisiana legislative act of March 15, 1855.

Francois Robert Avart, husband of Amelie Delassize, owner of a plantation situated above Faubourg Bouligny and measuring eight arpents front on the River, had acquired the property from his mother, Julie Allain, widow  of Valentin Robert Avart, by act before M. de Armas, Notary Public, on March 15, 1815. Mr. Avart had a plan made by H. Maulhauser, Surveyor, dated October 26, 8141, whereby he subdivided his plantation and called it “Faubourg Avart”. Its boundaries were Upperline Street  on the lower side and Valmont Street on the upper.

Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventhPresident of the United States (1829–1837). Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814), and the British at the Battle of New Orleans (1815). A polarizing figure who dominated the Second Party System in the 1820s and 1830s, as president he dismantled the Second Bank of the United States and initiated forced relocation and resettlement of Native American tribes from the Southeast to west of the Mississippi River. His enthusiastic followers created the modern Democratic Party.

On March 15, 1729 a ceremony was held for Sister Stanislas Hachard at the Ursuline Convent, where she became the first woman to become a Catholic nun in the United States.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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