1857 Map of Shieldsboro

An important map has been added to the collection at the Hancock County Historical Society. It may be viewed at the Lobrano House.
A study of this map may have a direct bearing on the previous article, that being “Belle Fontaine.”
Having learned early on, partly from a map-reading course in the military, maps may be trusted to be accurate. That is not to say that they are always correct, but even primitive ones are remarkably trustworthy.
The case in point is a picture of the area that has become Bay St. Louis, as well as Waveland and Pass Christian. I stand in awe of the people who had such ability before the days of photographing from high above.
Odometer readings from the point where Highway 90 meets the bay to Sears Ave. in Waveland appear to be correct. These are measurements easily understood. Other representations are more surprising, however, including details of streets, old roads, and bayous. Some are puzzling.
There are by actual count no less than 65 piers shown, some small, some large. Little black boxes presumably accurately indicate houses and outbuildings. The delineation of marshes adds to one’s ability to picture the landscape as nature would have provided it before man-made changes.
I believe it possible to find the location of important sites – present or future – such as Sears Ave., St. Clare’s, Nicholson Ave., the Pirate House, Aiken Rd., the Waveland line, St. Charles St., Washington pier, John Martin’s Pier, Highway 90 bridge, Felicity St. and the Cowand Plantation.
The last, Cowand, is shown in detail: there are several structures by the manor house which probably constituted the main buildings of the plantation; in addition, there are 25 white squares in a complex behind that part fronting on the bay, undoubtedly the slave quarters for the plantation, which encompassed 550 acres. There is also a pier.
A surprising thing about the Cowand is what seems to be a very straight road or ditch that runs N/W to the mouth of the Jordan. More investigation is necessary to determine the shape of the acreage, but if it included such a road, it would have served to bring the harvest to pier; if a ditch, it would have drained the farmland, measuring almost one square mile. If any modern street traces such a path, it might be Thomas St.
The most exciting part of the map has to do with Belle Fontaine. A very thin line, apparently representing natural drainage, runs from a marsh area behind the present site of the yacht harbor, underneath present Highway 90, and splits at a point just south of the John Martin pier. The important thing, if all this guesswork is accurate, is that the waterway is traced, serpentine, to the immediate west of the Indian mound and the Whitfield House, which JFH Claiborne called “Belle Fontaine.”
We do not know much about the Whitfields, but a picture of the house does remind one of other early pioneer buildings, such as the Krebs house at Pascagoula.
Incidentally, a roadway is drawn to both sides of the waterway, the whole being shown as less than a quarter mile from the beach.
I had previously thought of Belle Fontaine as being a natural spring, as well it might have been. However, it is surely possible that it was a natural rivulet providing fresh water. All in all, this would have been a good place for early Native Americans to plant a settlement, and for the earliest of Shieldsboro settlers to make their home.
Because many of these conclusions are speculative, further study and comment will be welcomed. Please note email address on my home page.
Russell Guerin