An Update on the Ioor Family

The James Papers
          A recent phone call from the Bay St. Louis library informed me that a Mr. and Mrs. James, of McComb, MS, were trying to locate me. They had read an article about the Ioors which had been posted on my website January 16 of this year. On returning the call, I was happy to hear that Mrs. James is a direct descendant of General John B. Ioor, and was in possession of a large amount of information about the history of the Ioor family.
          Soon after, Mrs. James mailed me a packet of papers, and it is with this information that I will update the previous posting, with particular attention to Hancock County, MS. I am indebted to Mr. and Mrs. James for their information certainly, but also for their patient assistance in helping me piece together the story of the Ioors.
          I have been able to confirm from further study of land deeds that the Joors owned more than I had reported. I knew previously that their holdings included all or part of what we call Lakeshore, but I also believe that they owned the land that eventually became the town of Clermont Harbor. It was in this latter village where I spent the summers of my youth and for which I continued to have a fondness to this day; I lost my last home there when the entire town was demolished by Katrina, but I continue to visit my land regularly.
            Further, I am now informed of the importance of the Ioor family residence at the town of Woodville, MS. It is a beautiful little city up Hwy. 61 (old Airline Highway) from Baton Rouge. I visited it some months ago, before I knew about the Ioor family presence there, because the area is integral to a history of West Florida which Marco Giardino and I wrote some time ago.
            The James documents make possible a good chronology of the Ioor family.
            The Ioor lineage is traced to an attack on the Huguenots which occurred in 1752, called the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve. This caused a migration first to Holland, and then to America. Even before, however, there is a 1696 record of a Joseph Ioor who settled in Dorchester, now a part of Boston, Massachusetts. Perhaps family members followed an early settler after the persecution.
            The James papers state that Joseph Ioor, the progenitor of the Ioor/Jours, first came to Dorchester, Massachusetts. From there, they made their way south to the Carolinas and Georgia. The earliest history of a Jour (and alternate spelling) in the new area can be found at Charleston. It recites the death in 1773 of one Catherine Jour.
            Joseph Ioor produced a son, the first in a line named John, who lived from 1712 to 1772. He fathered a son, John, Jr., after whom later descendants were so named. But it was his brother, George, who commands the most attention. This is because, while there is much more Ioor history, he is the direct ancestor of the Hancock County and Woodville families.
The Name Clermont
            The most gratifying part of this research to me is the knowledge of where the George Ioor family lived. For more decades than I care to count, I have wondered about the source of the name of my little Shangri La on the Gulf Coast got its name. I can recall my father speculating that Clermont Harbor was named after the city in France. I believe I am correct in recalling that an early settler, named Clem Bordage, came from Clermont, France, and I have considered that he may have been the first to christen the town. In reading about the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve, I even thought about the family of Admiral Coligny, who together with all of his sons was killed in the slaughter; one son
was named Clermont.
            I cannot help at this point to inject a humorous, but true, story I was told by a waitress in a New Orleans restaurant just after it reopened following Katrina. The lady knew that I had had a place in Mississippi and asked where it had been located. When I replied that it was Clermont Harbor, she said, “Oh, that was named after my Uncle Clem. His name was Clement, and that’s why it is named Clement Harbor.”
            I thanked her for the information.
George Ioor
            George was born in 1750 at Dorchester, SC, and is said to have been the first to plant cotton in South Carolina. Because so many of the Carolina and Georgia migrants to Mississippi planted cotton, this is very interesting. I wish I were able to connect Sea Island cotton, the favorite variety of the Gulf Coast planters, with this information. Perhaps one day it will surface. After all, someone brought the first seeds to Mississippi.
            George and his family of Ioors lived on a plantation near Statesburg, SC. It was called Clermont. It will henceforth be difficult for me to believe any other connection with the naming of the town Clermont Harbor.
            The name persists, even now, in South Carolina. For a long time, Claremont (another spelling) County existed there, with Statesburg as its county seat.
A recent obituary appears in commemorates a lady who died February 19, 2010; it reports that “She grew up in Claremont, her family’s cotton plantation near Stateburg [sic], S.C.” Even now, the office of the Attorney General of the state carries a listing for the Claremont Plantation, Inc. of Columbia. 
            George Ioor married Frances Guignard, whose maiden name also is found as a street name in Clermont Harbor. They had three children, including a son named John. There is evidence of George having served in the “Southern Army” in 1780 and 1781, as well as in the Revolutionary War.  His wife Frances died in 1807 and he, in 1809. They are both buried at Clermont Plantation.
            After the death of his first wife, George married Elizabeth Catharine, his widow’s half-sister.
            A copy of George Ioor’s last will can be found on-line. It indicates that he provided for his second wife sufficient funds for her to “go to house keeping,” leaving that part of the plantation on which he had resided, “with the dwelling house, outbuildings, % ct,” to his son Benjamin, containing 495 acres. To John he left 650 acres, “that tract of land known by the name of the machine Fort.” The will also provided for the distribution of slaves to a number of heirs.
John B. Ioor
            George’s son John B. Ioor, born 1780, is shown in the James papers as having a distinguished career. One account describes him as follows: [He] “was educated at Charleston College. After his graduation, he traveled. He was a man of magnificent memory. It is said that he could read a book through one night and repeat it from memory the next day.”
            John married his cousin, Emily Guignard Richardson. They lived near Statesburg until they left South Carolina for Mississippi in 1810. It was then that they settled with their three children and numerous slaves in Woodville.
            The James documents include the following:
       When the Ioors came to the new settlement, John was 30 and Emily was 28. It was a long and dangerous trip over a rough wilderness, passing through many hostile Indian camps.
       Bethia [Mrs. Ioor’s sister] brought with her the library mentioned in the Richardson story, the elegant arms-embossed books of England. The library was lost when they were crossing a flooded river.
       They settled two and one-half miles from Woodville, Miss. (Wilkinson County). Now arose a new and beautiful home in the undulating country. This home Emily named The Hills. Perhaps she chose that name in memory of her childhood home, Bloom Hill. But likely it was because of the rolling nature of the lovely Woodville landscapes….
      Emily’s life spanned three wars. She was born in 1782 amid the roar of Revolutionary cannon            ; her husband was a conspicuous figure in the War of 1812; and her dying days were saddened by the Civil War. In all these trying times her home was a center of patriotism.
        On coming to the new territory, Mississippi, John changed his name from Ioor to Joor, saying it was too hard to make persons understand the first spelling. His sons all followed his example, out of loyalty to him. The daughters all clung to the old form of Ioor….
         John B. Joor was Captain in the Indian War. When the War of 1812 broke out, he was active. Mrs. Jefferson Davis has said that when this war came on, so many men volunteered from Woodville, that it was necessary to appoint a guard to protect their homes during their absence. John Joor furnished the cannon for the Battle of New Orleans and contributed largely from his private means for the support of his command. On June 14, 1814, he was commissioned Captain of the 2nd Regiment, a company of light artillery.
        Andrew Jackson was guest at The Hills on his way to the battle and returning. He had come from the same section of South Carolina as the Ioors.
         In 1817, John Joor represented his county (Wilkinson) when the new state of Mississippi emerged from its territorial status….
         In 1817 he was made Brigadier-General of the state’s troops. This was a life of danger. Indian raids were common. He often rode alone through villages of Choctaws and Chickasaws, a solitary figure on horseback.
            In summary, the Joors of Woodville led a full and prosperous life. They ran a successful plantation at The Hills. The general served as a Justice of the Court, and was a friend of Governor Alston and Governor Poindexter. John James Audubon was also among his acquaintances and it is believed that he taught the children at The Hills.
Death of General Joor
            After all his experiences in was and other dangers, John Joor died a violent death in his own little township when he was on his way to hear a lecture at the city hall. The date of death was May 16, 1836.
            The cause was said to be a blow to the head from which he never regained consciousness. It was thought at the time that he had been thrown by his “vicious” horse into a tree. Years later, however, the story was told that there was a deathbed confession by a negro who had been hired to kill the general.
            There is still doubt about the truth of the story. Another version says that the slave held Joor’s horse while his master hit him on the head with an iron bar. That man supposedly offered to sit with the general while he lay unconscious. Later, the suspected murderer committed another “heinous crime” and fled to Texas.
            John Joor made his last and testament on the 25th day of October, 1853. I am happy to report that I have saved a copy of the original document that I found before Katrina, and kept it in a file in New Orleans. I have checked the original source recently and it, along with many other will copies, is no longer available. It had been on a roll of microfilm that can no longer be found in the library.
            Considering the extent of John Joor’s holdings, his will is a simple one. Scarcely more than one page, it is written in the general’s clear hand. It left to wife Emily “my plantation on which I now reside known by the name of the Hills, with the stocks of every kind, horses, carriages, waggens [sic], carts, tools, furniture and other movables in the house and yard, also five hundred acres of land to be laid out in a square on any part of my Pt. Clear Plantation which she may think proper to select, also the following negro slaves with their future increase ….” He then named, one by one, 57 slaves by one name each.
            The will was concluded with some small specific bequests and a mention that “if any debts be outstanding….” In that no debts were itemized, it may be concluded that he had none.
            The Joors of Hancock County
Sometime in the 1820’s, John Joor made an investment in Hancock County. The
first evidence of this shows in the 1828 Tax Rolls of the county, in an inclusion of 3,940 acres. In layman’s equivalents, that was over six square miles. It is listed at Shieldsboro, later Bay St. Louis, but that is accepted as the general area. He had 42 slaves. His tax was $45.95.
Interestingly, the roll indicates no (-0-) white people at the location. That has always confused me, but my assumption has been that he was an absentee landlord. Later court documents contain testimony from surveyor Elihu Carver and county official Julius Monet that John Joor visited only two to four times per year.  
The following year, 1828, the location is shown as “Pt. Clear.” Again, this has been a source of confusion, as in modern day the only Point Clear is a marsh island across from Bayou Caddy, at the western end of the county’s developed area. While it is a beautiful, natural piece of high land, it is primitive and can only be reached by water. I have explored the area several times, loving its little sand beach and scrub oaks, but it also has cacti with needles that can penetrate a boot and very poor, sandy soil.
Looking into old maps, I have found that Joor bought what had been called the George Mares tract, which essentially includes the areas we now know as Lakeshore. In addition, it would appear that he bought adjacent parcels, which became Clermont Harbor.
Subsequent rolls in the early 1830’s show similar amounts of land, with the number of slaves increased to 56. But in 1835, the report is of zero acres and zero slaves for John C. Jore [sic], and 1,280 acres at Bayou Philip for Peter H. Jore with 18 slaves.
Undoubtedly, the change is reflective of John Joor’s untimely death on May 16, 1836. (It may be assumed that he was charged no tax in 1835 as his death had been reported by the time the 1835 taxes were assessed.)
In 1838 to 1841, Widow John Joor appears on the rolls. At that time, she was said to have 3,000 acres but no slaves. She was assessed a tax of $1.50. That property was said to be located at Lake Borgne, which in early days was considered to extend to the mouth of the Bay of St. Louis.
Peter Ioor
            John and Emily Joor had twelve children. The second of these was Peter Horry Ioor. This would have been the Peter H. who was charged tax in 1835. What we glean from the James documents about him is that he married Charlotte Withers Herron of Charleston; thus we have another Clermont Harbor street, named Herron St. He lived at Woodville until the death of Charlotte in 1871, after which he moved to Bay St. Louis.
            Not to question whether the report of his moving to the bay after 1871, it is nonetheless evident that he was active in managing land and slaves in Hancock County from 1835 forward. Besides the listing above of 1.280 acres, he paid tax on 640 acres, 30 slaves and a $300 carriage in 1837. It is also recorded that he bought 440 acres in 1852 from Maria Herron, a relative – possibly the mother – of his wife.
 Also in that year, the state geologist, Benjamin Wailes, in traveling through the area recorded in his journal, “I parted with him, Judge Daniels, in the morning and traveled 14 miles, through a level, dreary, wasted pine forest, with only two or three widely separated huts, and swarming with mosquitoes, and very destitute of water, to Mr. Peter Ioor’s, who was kind enough to ride with me by road leading to Mr. Asa Russ’s on the Lake Shore.” (Ref: unpublished manuscript, Marco Giardino and Russell Guerin)
            While Peter could have lived comfortably at Woodville, the pioneering genes of the Ioors were still at work.
            Peter and his wife had four children, none of whom married. Their daughter Ella was a long-time postmistress of Bay St. Louis. Son John Ioor was a Confederate veteran who returned from the war “clad in ragged, dingy white, made from sacks, shoeless, his face bleached and bare as bone.” Eventually he served as tax assessor for many years. He died at Bay St. Louis in 1878.
Of the twelve children of General Joor, it was Peter and his children who had
the most to do with Hancock County.
            Deed search and genealogy are important. They are time consuming and necessary, but dry. They do not put flesh on the bones. On the other hand, the Joor history contains a sad narrative which does reflect the reality of human experience. It is contained in a fascinating document that involved real people.
            It is debatable whether I should have included this story. It is told in a letter written by John Joor about another of his sons.  I have elected to do so because it is significant in being indicative of the times, and because it was written by a father to his son about another son, the facts cannot be in dispute.
            It is a sad story about an incident that happened on the shores of Bay St. Louis.
It was dated March 14, 1836 at Woodville and was written by Gen. John Ioor to his son Joseph, who at the time was a 16-year old student in Kentucky. After the usual opening introduction, the letter states, “Your brother John had the misfortune to kill Mr. Brewer in self-defense.”
            It then narrates that three men, “on the best of terms,” were trying to cross the Bay from somewhere near the Cedar Point area. These were Ioor, Brewer and Mead. It was reported that Brewer had been drinking heavily decided to walk to Shieldsboro in the company of a Mr. Cole. When Ioor and Mead caught up with them, an argument ensued and Brewer attacked both Ioor and Cole, who had tried to intervene. Ioor believed that Brewer had drawn a large knife and then drew his own “dirk,” with which he killed
            The letter concludes this story, saying, “It is an unpleasant transaction but the whole community acquitted him.”
            General Joor himself was killed just two months after writing that painful letter.