St. Andrews Subdivision

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St. Andrews Subdivision


Photo of 1768 Map courtesy of Smithsonian

Fontainebleau (02-29-88)
(History of Fontainebleau courtesy of Jackson County Web Page)

Family wants name spelled right
FONTAINEBLEAU—It’s spelled F-O-N-T-A-I-N-E-B-L-E-A-U and no other way will do. For over 90 years the Davis family and their neighbors have been correcting people who give the spelling of their community’s name a different twist.

One sees it Fontainbleau and even Fountainblue. But the Davises know how to spell it, says Charles Davis. His grandmother, the community’s first and only postmistress, Louise Richter, named it in 1892.

“It was not named after the Fountain family. That has a lot to do with it (misspelling the name),” explains his wife, Beryl Fountain Davis.

“It really used to bother my mother-in-law and our children will tell you right off. You’d better spell it right,” Mrs. Davis said.

“We’re always telling our children to be really proud of where they came from and to do thing that will reflect good things about it,” Mrs. Davis said.

When a post office was created to serve the sparsely settled community, its new postmistress, Mrs. Richter, had to have an official name. She decided to call it Fontainebleau, after Fontainebleau, France. Fontainebleau post office only lasted 20 years, from 1892 to 1912, but the name has lived on.

From early times, the beachfront area of Fontainebleau along the Mississippi Sound was called Belle Fontaine Point. Today it is usually called Belle Fontaine Beach. A letter in the Pascagoula Library files written in 1941, by the late Flora Bilbo, who had gathered much of the area’s history, said the name Belle Fontaine comes from its good water.

“…All of the earlier inhabitants claimed that Belle Fontaine had the best water on the coast and spoke of the spring as being the belle of fountains,” she wrote.

Originally, Fontainebleau encompassed the land east of Davis Bayou and west of the mouth of Graveline Bayou, south of Interstate 10 and north of Mississippi Sound. The area was a grazing land for cattle and sheep, a rich timberland with several sawmills and abundant orchards.

Among the early settlers of the area were the Bilbos and Ramsays. Walter R. Bilbo and his sons, William N. and Samuel M. Bilbo founded Belle Fountain Baptist Church in the settlement in 1890. The Bilbos are buried in the old church cemetery. Until recent years, Belle Fountain Baptist was the only church in Fontainebleau. The old church was replaced in 1960 by a modern sanctuary.

Other settlers were the Webbs, Davises and Nobles. Later the Richters, Byrds, Garlicks, Hollingsworths and others moved to Fontainebleau. Wealthy snow birds, like the Leavells and Bridsalls, also maintained winter homes there. But these homes were victims of the hurricanes that have struck the coast in the past 40 years.

The Richters were also Northerners. Frank August Richter was from New York State and his wife, Louise Knieriem Richter, was from Jonesville, Wis. They had lived in Humboldt, Iowa, before coming to the Mississippi about 1891. “They were looking for new frontiers and decided to move south,” Davis said.

In 1890, John B. Lyons of the Lyons Company of Chicago bought a vast area of Fontainebleau. After Lyons’ death in 1910, his widow, Emily, deeded the land to the Lyons Company. Robert W. Hamil of Chicago had married a Lyons daughter and the 57,000 acres of land was acquired by the Hamil Corporation, where they grew pecans, citrus and other fruit.

Still in existence today are a few of the wooden houses Hamil farms built for the workers and their families.

The Hamils also had an estate on Belle Fontaine Beach. The late Riley Webb was the caretaker of the estate from about 1912 until his death in the early 1920s. Webb’s family stayed on at the Hamil’s and his son, Aubrey, has continued looking after the property. Webb said the rambling Hamil home—15 rooms and nine fireplaces—was destroyed in the tidal wave of Hurricane Camille.

“I was brought up with them and they were some of the finest people you would ever know,” Webb said of the late Robert W. Hamil and his family. The Hamils divided their time between Chicago and their Mississippi beach home. When they would come south, they would often entertain the owners and executives of large companies, like Campbell Soup and Peabody Coal, Webb recalls.

But in hard times of the Depression, the Hamil’s sprawling farmlands had to be auctioned. “I remember I sat in the front row of the tent they had erected,” recalls Charles Davis, who was a small boy then. “They auctioned off all the property east to Graveline Bayou,” he said. “They sold it as cheap as $1 to $1.50 an acre.”

Davis’ uncle, Charles Richter, bought the 20-acre site where the Davises now live.

Charles Richter was railroad station agent at the Fontainebleau depot for most of the time that the station operated between 1905 & 1934. “People came down from Vancleave by horse and buggy to ride the train,” Davis said. The station was closed in 1934, after Hamil Farms had gone out of business and the building was destroyed by fire in 1937.

Walter Fuller of Gautier recalls the Hamil’s large pecan groves and satsuma orchards off the Old Spanish Trail. He said the workers would shell the pecans in railroad boxcars, where they were piled high without bagging, and shipped to market.

“The freeze about 1918 killed all the fruit and vegetables around these parts. I remember Mama and Papa saying how hard it was,” Fuller said.

There were many sawmills, processing the community’s abundant supply of yellow pine. Fuller said one of these was operated by Jerry Oliver at the site of today’s Sunplex Industrial Park off Mississippi 57. The locals called the sawmill site the Bear Pond, because of the wildlife there. Dick Taylor and his family once owned the area. Another sawmill was operated by Barnes and Davis of Meridian in the St. Andrews area.

At one time, there was a small school near the church, where the children of community learned the three R’s. In 1914, Fontainebleau children and their peers in Gautier, Graveline and Martin Bluff, who were also attending one-room schools, were sent to the new Lyons Consolidated School. They school was located at Hilda, a flag stop on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, located on the Old Spanish Trail in vicinity of Beasley Road. In 1931, the school was limited to grades one through eight and the high school students from Gautier and Martin Bluff went to Pascagoula and the Fontainebleau children to Ocean Springs schools. By 1940, Gautier had a new elementary school and Lyons School was no more. Children in Fontainebleau began going to Ocean Springs Schools.

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration built three large log buildings in Fontainebleau. There was a work center with a kitchen to show the women of the area the latest in steam cooking and canning. There was also a library and a large auditorium for gatherings.

During World War II people were drawn to Jackson County to work at the shipyards and nearby Keesler Field. Fontainebleau’s population began to increase slightly, but the boom was yet to come.

In the 1960s and 1970s, large tracts of land were sold to the developers of Gulf Park Estates Subdivision, which was laid out in southern portion of Fontainebleau, east of Davis Bayou. Later St. Andrews and Parkhurst were developed south of Hamil Farm Road near the Mississippi Sound.

Even with the influx of people and the building of houses, there is still a feeling of peace and tranquility around the Fontainebleau and its neighboring subdivisions today. But the tiny community Charles Davis and his father and grandfather before him knew is not quite the same.

Gone are the community gatherings at Graveline Lake, near the head of Graveline Bayou. “There was a lot of good fishing there and we would spend the day, cast out nets and get mullet. Then we would have a fish fry,” Davis said. “People worked hard then. But they would take time to get together and be with their families,” Davis said

Comma Separated 228 Phone Exchanges outside Ocean Springs Local



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