The Widow Morin and her Land

…a search through 200 years
 
            What follows is the result of a study of the land of “the Widow Morin,” which comprised much of the present town of Waveland, in Hancock County MS. We have a large file of legal documents relating to the claim in the name of the Widow Morin; the file has grown thick because of all the challenges to her title.
            Even now, we have nothing remotely resembling a biography of the widow. Few of these papers refer to her first name. It was first observed in an 1833 deed for part of her property sold to Elihu Carver that she is referred to as “Susan.” The lack of information regarding the background of this woman is emphasized by the continual references to her simply as “the Widow Morin.” A few details about this person can be gleaned from court and deed records, but it is the land that has become the subject of an  important investigation of historical value.
 
A Few Facts
            What we know with relative certainty is very little. Hard evidence says that Marie Susanna Lochonne was settled on Hancock County public lands in 1813.  In 1821 she married Jean Ramon [also spelled Raimon, Raymon] at New Orleans.
             Her land was confirmed by Act of Congress in 1830 in a document that specifically includes the word “improvements.” The land was for 640 acres. A warrant having been issued by the land office at Augusta, Mississippi, the matter was placed in the hands of Elihu Carver for the purpose of a survey, which he completed in 1830. It was designated warrant no. 672, Cert. 17, claim 17, report no. 5.
            A later legal description identifies the land as parts of Sections 1, 2, and 11, Township 9 S. Range 14 W. It is possible from such descriptions to map the perimeters. They extended from present-day Nicholson to Oak Blvd. in Waveland, running back 40 arpents from the latter street to Emerald Lake Drive and back to Nicholson. 
            After owning her land for some 26 years, the widow died at the residence she shared with Ramon in Madisonville, LA, in 1837. It was reported that she had no children.
 
Cast of Characters
            Like the characters in a play, those players named in old documents may be better understood if one has clear identifications of them beforehand. For this we have the assistance of researcher Norma Jean Soroe, a direct descendant of some of early owners of the land in question.
            The Widow Morin’s first marriage was to Jean Baptiste Morin. She later married Jean/John Ramon/Raimon, of Madisonville, LA.
            Elihu Carver, born January 6, 1777, was a prolific surveyor of much of early Hancock County. He married Justine Nicaise. He died on December 31, 1855. She was born January 10, 1797, and died on March 1, 1849.
            Their daughter was Honorine, born July 16, 1816. She married Guillaume Ladner, also   known as Victor Ladner. They were 3rd cousins who married at age 19.
            Honorine is said to have been the “God-daughter” of the Widow Morin.
            Parents of Victor Ladner were Gilbert Ladner and Louise Desiree “Pouponne” Morin.
            Judith Nicaise, sister of Judith Necaise Carver, married Pierre Morin. Their son was Pierre, Jr., born August 8, 1808.
 
Title Questions
             We will begin firstly with the land being surveyed by Carver in 1830. It was from that point forward that claims and counter claims – in fact, lies and false documents – made their way through deed records and the courts.
           One item of note indicates that two people, one named Bourgeois, attested to “improvements” on the property, usually indicating a house, at minimum, and it can be found in documents that she actually resided on her land from earliest times.
 
A Fascinating Court Case
            The widow’s claim was warrant #672, claim #17, certificate #17. It was contested over the years, but not within her lifetime. The fact that she died before any of the litigation might be assumed to have saved her much grief, for it is certainly so that appellants and defendants alike shared much agony first before the Chancery Court and ultimately before the Supreme Court of Mississippi.
             Important and truly fascinating information is contained in the records of the Mississippi Supreme Court. In its April, 1856 term, the court heard an appeal from a decision of the Chancery Court. It is included in Vol. 31 of the court’s history as compiled by Volney Erskine Howard et al. Credit for this source, as well as other information above, is well deserved by Norma Jean Soroe.
            From the statements in the bill, it was claimed by Ramon, the widower of the Widow Morin, that Carver, in his official capacity as a deputy surveyor, “…by means of false, elusive, and unfounded statements, made with a view to his individual benefit…induced complainant’s wife, the Widow Morin, to make an assignment or transfer to him, of one-half of said claim.” The suit is complicated by appeals and cross-bills, but Ramon’s answers “…amount to a substantial abandonment of the claim asserted in complainant’s [Ramon’s] bill.” Instruments executed by him were “declared void, and delivered up for cancellation.”
            The court ordered Ramon to convey to defendants, “by deed of release and quit claim, to inure to the benefits of all of the defendants in the said original bill, and of all persons holding under said Carver, according to their respective interests, that certain tract of land….”
            Thus, the final decree left all transfers stemming from the Widow Morin’s assignment to Carver in place.
 
Morin: in the Service of Spanish West Florida
            The Morin name, we believe, reaches way back into our early history. One source tells us that one Martial Morin landed in Louisiana in 1719.Marcel Giraud, in hiscomprehensive History of French LA 1723-31,lists a Joseph Morin as a major speculator in John Law’s system. His brother was Francois Morin de Tourville, a director of the Company of the Indies.
            We are not certain of the connection of these persons to the Morin family of the first part of the 19th century, but we know that one Morin – first name Pedro – was active in the Spanish military in the period of Spanish West Florida. We have this from a collection of Spanish letters of the period in the Hancock County Historic Society. Extracts of those letters which bear on the person of Pedro [Pierre] Morin are contained in the Appendix, below.
             It is evident in the Spanish letters that he was an important person in the service of Spain. The reason that this is of interest is that grants of this type seem to have been in many cases rewards for military experience.
            While the Widow Morin was not married to Pedro, it is interesting that her husband, like Pedro, had connections with Cat Island.   According to Scharff, in Louisiana’s Loss, Mississippi’s Gain, was the place where Jean Baptiste Morin settled. “Many Acadian families have been separated by the expulsions from Canada in the 1750s….The three Morin brothers came to the coast and settled in the mid-1780s….Pierre settled on the Wolf River, Jean Baptiste settled on Cat Island with the Ladniers and others, and Joseph settled at the old brick yard on Biloxi’s Back Bay…. John (Jean) B. Morin received his land grant prior to the 1790s….”
 
A Spanish Grant
            Scharff does not identify the latter claim as to location, but it must have been what later became known as the Widow Morin claim. This certainly might have been so even had he been living on Cat Island. If this information is accurate as to the timing, it would have been a Spanish grant.
             It is to be noted that the Widow’s land was confirmed by an Act of Congress on May 28, 1830. On surface, this would seem to mean that it was a grant from the United States, but in point of fact, what the Act really said was that it was to recognize and confirm her settlement. This leaves reasonable room to believe the 1790s date offered by Scharff. 
            At this point nothing has been found to show a grant to Pedro [Pierre], and yet he was the one who clearly had military service. There is also confirmation of the Cat Island connection of Joseph Morin in the Spanish letters. In a March 1808 letter, it was reported that he – as “Jose Maurin” –  had lost five cattle taken by American gunboats. The same letter indicates that “Pedro Maurin” lost 34 head from “Bay St. Louis” due to the gunboats. The location could well be his Wolf River settlement, as reported by Scharff.
            As several mentions of gunboats are noted in the Spanish letters as “corsairs,” it may mean that they were the same as the “American” gunboats.
 
Original Documents in Hancock County
            Several original documents relative to this litigation can be found in the early deed books in Hancock County. One, in Book A, beginning on page 47, is a deed of release signed by Jean Raimon [John Ramon] in favor of Honorine Carver, wife of Victor Ladner. This writing essentially withdraws Ramon’s assertion made in the above suit. His words explaining his change of heart are, “…and whereas, I know it was the wish and desire of my deceased wife in her life time to transfer the title to said tract of land to Honorine Carver….” It was dated on July 18, 1853.
            Another, dated July 25 of the same year, is a revocation by Ramon of the Power of Attorney given to Leon Ladner, his attorney in fact, in order to recover his “right and title” to the land of his deceased wife. In it, he presented false claims, making the charges listed in the Supreme Court decree. The three pages can be summarized in his own words: “…and by these presents do revoke, recall, countermand and to all intents and purposes, make null and void and of no effect the said recited writing.” His intent was also graciously stated: “…with a respectful remembrance of the wishes of my wife, I did on the 18th July 1853…convey to said Honorine Carver by deed by release all said Southern portion of tract….” He said that this had been the wish of Honorine for her “God-daughter.”
            The above, found on pages 50 to 53 of Deed Book A, may be interpreted essentially as a confession.
            Still another deed of release is contained in Hancock County’s Deed Book B, page 70-72, in which Leon Ladner, the attorney listed above and one of the defendants in the suits, gives up all his rights to Honorine Carver, wife of his cousin, Guillaume [Victor] Ladner. It is dated March 15, 1854.
            Once more in Book B, on pages 490-494, another entry was made, clearly showing a purchase by Elihu Carver of the land, for $150, from Susan Morin, at Madisonville in 1833. Interestingly, it was accepted for Hancock County by Elihu Carver, Jr., clerk, on December 10, 1856. [The clerk was the son of Elihu Carver, the central character in the history of this land. A detailed synopsis is included in the Appendix of this article.]
            Indeed, how very detailed must the litigation records be after a false claim has once been accepted into litigation!
 
Other Challenges
            Two noted city fathers of Shieldsborough, Toulme and Monet, at some point asked for an inquiry about title validity, saying that several people were “interested” in that land.
            We think of Julius Monet as an important city father, active in many capacities including his term as mayor of Shieldsborough. There was, however, another side to this man: he was also an important surveyor, as well as a developer, and probably an investor.
            In May of 1852, Monet wrote a letter to the Commissioner for the General Land Office in Washington about the lands included in the Morin claim. He was writing
as “agent for the assignees of Widow Morin.” Part of that letter reads as follows:
“Sometime in the latter part of April ultimate their security was sadly disturbed by the intelligence they received that their lands appeared upon the maps at the land office in
Augusta, Miss. as public lands liable to be entered, and afterwards that they had actually been entered by speculators. Those lands being highly improved as summer retreats are of great value, the improvements alone being over forty thousand dollars in value….”
            Monet was able to prove his case on behalf of the developers.
            An early involvement of Monet in this land dates from the 1840s. Monet had surveyed the land and lots were being sold, according to some indications, rather quickly.  The importance here is that what was later to become Waveland was being developed as early as the 1840s, and it was already thought to be suitable as “summer retreats of great value.” One lot, sold by Beverly to Purvis in 1855 had a price tag of $1,700.
Still Unanswered      
            The name “Lochonne” was apparently the maiden name of the Widow Morin. I have been unable to find any other reference to this unusual name except that in Florida, there is a river which runs to the Gulf, named Oke-lochonne. Perhaps her maiden name was a Choctaw name.
 
 
Mary Parish and her Land
            Although this study is primarily about the land of the Widow Morin, it would be in error if it did not consider the person who owned the adjacent parcel as well. Together, these claims substantially covered what became the city of Waveland.
            The other person who also excites curiosity was the lady known as Mary Parish, sometimes spelled Mary Parache. Her land was contiguous with the Morin land, running along the coast from present-day Nicholson to Ramoneda St.
            Like the widow, little is known about Mary, or by what right she was given her land. One of the most intriguing aspects of this land is that it contained, possibly long before it was her claim, the famous Pirate House. Much has been written about the history of that structure, dating to the early part of the 19th century.
             A portion which included the Pirate House was called the Fremaux tract, for which we have an excellent map. It was purchased by Stephen Fremaux in 1833 from Mary Parish. The son of Stephen divided the tract into 90-foot lots, which were sold beginning in the 1840s. 
            The first purchase by a Fremaux was for the full 1,980 feet along the beach. It sold for $500. After the division into lots, prices from 1849 to 1852 ranged from $500 to $800.           
           
 
Appendix
 
Book B
p. 490 to p. 494:
Warrant no. 672
Certificate no. 17
Report no. 5    Land Office, Jackson Court House, MS [blank] day of [blank] of
 182 [blank]
To the principal deputy surveyor for the district east of the Island of New Orleans.
In pursuance of the authority vested in us by law, you are hereby directed to survey claim no. 17 in certificate no. 17 hereto annexed, in the manner following to wit: Comprising the original improvement in the most compact manner, making a quantity not exceeding 640 acres and not interfering with any other claim and to return a particular plat or certificate [part page torn away] thereof. When completed, together with the [illeg] to the Register of this office. Signed 9-28-34 by ? House, Register, R. Damorai ]?] Ex officio commissioners.
Know all men: Susan Morin of St. Tammany for $150 deed to Elihu Carver my claim to east half of warrant no. 672, Cert. 17, claim 17, report no. 5, as surveyed by deputy surveyor in that district. Signed at Madisonville on 21st of Nov. [?] 1833 as Susan Lachome [Lochonne] Morin.
Attest: William Boman, John Kern
State of La, parish of St. Tammany. Before Richard Brenan, commissioner of Ms for LA, appeared Joseph Colamer of Madisonville, who testified he was well acquainted with late Susan Lachome [Lochonne], wife of Jean Raymon [Ramon] from AD 1834 until her death, but he could not confirm name Morin because when he knew her she signed her name Susan Ramon. Signed Jose Colamer 5-2-54.
Above followed by similar deposition before Richard Brenan by A. Raby to effect that he knew Susan Lachome [Lochonne] Morin, wife of Jean Ramon, during lifetime of her first husband, Jean Baptiste Morin. Signed by Raby on 5-2-54, and Jean Baptiste Morin. Signed by Raby on 5-2-54.
Above followed by statement for Eastern District of La, City of New Orleans by George Dermeyer to vouch for signature of Wm. Boman, now deceased, who had witnessed Susan’s signature. Dermeyer signed 24th of ? 1856.
J. Zimmerman testified to signatures of Boman and Kern, above. Dated 24th of Nov. [?] 1856
All above accepted for Hancock by Elihu Carver, Jr. clk, and DW Johnston, deputy clk., on 12-10-56.
 
Spanish Letters
 
Pedro Morin, Bay St. Louis, to Philip Saucier, February 28, 1805.
 “You called me these past days to give you an account of what happened with the people the american corsair: In compliance with your order I have removed to your lodgings without seeing you because of your absence so that I shall detail the event and request that you inform the Señor Governor.”
 
Saucier’s answer:
 “On my return from New Orleans Morin I encountered an American Corsair which fired a canon at me and forced him to stop at his side, they took my musket, my knife and ordered me to anchor under their artillery. The captain asked if any of the King's ships should pass that way to which I responded yes; he replied that the Maria saw the same the ships of individuals; also the same Captain asked me if I would serve as pilot for the Plaza [Pass Christian]? Having declined that and saying at the same time that I would be and prepare to continue my voyage. They immediately pointed a canon at my boat and threatened to fire if I did not do as they asked, I was obliged to promise all that they asked, but in the same night of the same day at three I took advantage of the dark and succeeded in escaping from their hands.  The next day the same corsair came to anchor front of Cat Island and ordered its launch with sailors to the island where they killed various animals of the inhabitants.
[Signed] Philip Saucier
  “All the events related in the forgoing letter have been committed in the dominion of His Majesty.”
[Editor’s note: The ship Marie is identified by Davis in The Pirates Laffite as “one of a parade of privateers…sailed in and out of New Orleans. Of course, we cannot be certain this was the same ship, but it must be considered. Also, Davis reports that one Maria Mischief, an American vessel, was captured by a corsair in 1805.
 
Philip Saucier, Bay St. Louis, to Governor General of Florida [Vicente Folch], February 28, 1805,
            “I have just learned from Pedro Morin, inhabitant of Cat island, of the insult committed by an American corsair against that coast. The enclosed letter informs you of what has happened
Regarding the hostilities which have occurred I have ordered the inhabitants to be ready and have respect for their property, and if they attempt to land to throw them back by force. In the name of the inhabitants I ask you to deliver us from uneasiness and place us to the side of such actions.
[Signed] Philip Saucier”
 
Juan Bautista Pellerin, Pascagoula. to Francisco Maximiliano de St. Maxent, Number 8. November 17. 1805.
 “The inhabitant of the district of Bay St. Louis pedro morin informed me that the 16th of that in course, que the schooner Luisiana had a Combat with an English Corsair, at the distance of two leagues of Pass Christian and that said Corsair had to flee because in the Fight the Luisiana partially cut the halyard of the jib and of the foremast. The cited morin Appeared when the action was in progress travelling to Deer Island in a boat of his which I put in notice to you for your government.'
[Signed] Juan Bautista Pellerin”
 [Editor’s note: I have checked the name Luisiana as pirate ship in Davis, The PiratesLaffite.    Davis lists the Louisiana as “revenue cutter” under Patterson when Patterson was menacing Lafitte; this could be same as above. Maximiliano was a Spanish commander at Mobile. Pellerin was the Spanish Civil and Military Commander of Bay St. Louis and its Coast.
 
Juan Bautista Pellerin, Pass Christian, to Vicente Folch, Number 9, May 16. 1806.
 “By my official communique Number five, I informed you that by the Master don José Labat I sent the your Black and the English Sailor; but having learned afterwards from the inhabitant Pedro Morin that there is a corsair on the point of Cat Island, believe that I should not Do so in this occasion, which I inform you so that you can determine that which is convenient.
[Signed] Juan Bautista Pellerin”
 
Pedro Reggio, Goleta La Favorita, to Vicente Folch, August 5, 1808.
     “Phelipe Sosiez [Philip Saucier] Sindic of the district of Pass Christian: that in January or February of this year there anchored near Cat Island four American Gunboats and disembarked people on said Island, they killed various cattle, belonging to Mr. Morin inhabitant, who was of said Island, presently established at Wolfs Bay [Wolf River] …the end of February last one of the expressed Gunboats, being anchored to the west of Pass Christian, sent people ashore and killed a cow belonging to Jose Labat, and this Gunboat registered various Ships.
     “In the month of May three Gunboats anchored off the west point of Bay St. Louis and they stayed there until July 8 last, these did not commit any assaults only forced the Masters of three little Schooners anchored in at Pass Christian to show their documentation threatening them with registering their ships if not; immediately showing their Passports and knowing them as Spanish they were respected.
     “The Master of the Schooner 'Gertrudis' Esteban Adam told me that being anchored at Pass Christian at the End of the month of June saw that coming to his Ship was a Boat of the American Gunboats that was anchored in Bay St. Louis. Spitefully they said they came to register, for which they raised their flag and having moored said Boat to his Schooner, the American official asked, what was in it the Schooner, from where it came, what cargo carried, where was it bound, to which he replied that he came from a Spanish Port, going to a Spanish port, and that he was anchored in water Pertaining to the King of Spain, and in consequence did not have to give any account: then the American official very upset.”
[Editor’s Note: The name Gertrudis was searched for, as well as the master, Esteban Adam, but without positive results.  Still, one must question why three gunboats would have spent about two months west of the Bay of St. Louis. The area could well have been the location of the Pirate House.]
 
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