The History of Ponchatoula


Ponchatoula was established in 1820 and Incorporated February 12, 1861 in the Parish of Livingston during the period that Louisiana was an independent nation. Ponchatoula, originally a logging camp, had no name and only one road connected it with Wadesboro, the river shipping point. Virgin pine, cypress, and oak trees were cut and hauled by ox teams to Wadesboro, there hand-hewn into pickets, shingles, barrel staves, sills, and mast poles for sailing vessels. The hand finished product was sold in New Orleans on the lake docks. The road that connected the logging camp with Wadesboro was part of the Old Spanish Trail from Florida. The trail followed the high ground around lake Pontchartrain through the logging camp to Springfield - one branch going to Baton Rouge, the other to Natchez, Mississippi. The Natchez branch was known as King's Highway.

William Akers was the founder of Ponchatoula. He was born in New Orleans on October 20, 1808 and moved to Springfield in 1818. During 1832, he bought from the Federal Government over one thousand acres of land for 12 1/2 cents per acre; the actual deed stated "For a bit an acre". (A bit being the Spanish for 12 1/2 cents.) The land extended from Ponchatoula River east to Selzers Creek. During 1832 Akers began building his home on a spot selected by friendly Indians. This location was on a knoll next to the Old Spanish Trail; today, it is the terminus of West Oak Street. The present home of our past Mayor Haight is located on the exact spot where the original Akers home was built. Mayor Haight's mother's maiden name was Akers. The Indians selected the timbers for his home and with the aid of slave labor, a seven room home was built October 30, 1834. Akers married Margaret Richardson of Springfield, Louisiana. William Akers named the settlement Ponchatoula in honor of a great Choctaw Chief because the Indians helped him and told him the history of their tribe and the names of the streams and the animals of the woods and swamps.

Ponchatoula is a puzzling name signifying "falling hair'' "hanging hair", or "flowing hair" from the Choctaw Pashi "hair" and itula or itola "to fall, "to hang" or "flowing". The Indian name Ponchatoula means "flowing hair", arrived at by the Indians as a way of expressing the beauty of the location with much moss hanging from the trees. "Ponche" is an Indian word meaning location, an object, or a person.

The name Akers is the Post Office at Manchac, eleven miles South of Ponchatoula. The Post Office was established as Akers; not for William Akers, but for his son, Willie Akers, who was a telegraph operator on the Illinois Central Railroad for many years. Manchac was first established by the Indians on the West side of lake Maurepas; the word Manchac meaning "rear entrance" to the LAke. Ponchatoula was recognized as a village in 1857 and officially incorporated during 1861 in the Parish of Livingston by Act of State officials. The elections were not held due to the outbreak of the Civil War. The town government did not go into operation until later.

The present Illinois Central Railroad was established early in 1850 as the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern. The present I, C, R,R, Company acquired the Railway during 1867, The first Railroad Depot in Ponchatoula was built in 1853 and the present depot was built in 1923, The first one hundred miles of railroad was completed in April, 1854, and the first connection was from New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi in 1858. The Railroad was virtually destroyed by Union forces (Ponchatoula to Jackson, Miss.) in 1862,

James B. Clark planned the town of Ponchatoula, Four squares were given for public parks: one NW, one NE, one SW, one SE; and a fifth square was given to the Railway Company for a repair shop and a Railroad station. Several men were killed in the fray between the Union Army and Southern defenders and were buried where the Vinyard Mill now stands, but later moved to Chalmette Cemetery in New Orleans, The Union Soldiers went to slave quarters and told them to go to New Orleans and they would be sent North to freedom,

The First Local Government

On August 12, 1872, the first municipal government of Ponchatoula met, William Akers was Mayor; R. Duncan, M, Biegel, and James Tucker were Aldermen, George H, Biegel was elected secretary and F, B, Mix, City Marshall. The succeeding Mayor was E, J. White on May 3,, 1873, Arthur Tasker, a Negro Preacher, became Mayor on September 13, 1873 due to the Carpetbagger movement and Republican reform, Tangipahoa Parish was surveyed out of the Parishes of St. Helena and Livingston in 1869, The word Tangipahoa is a derivation of a Choctaw word meaning Corncob: "Tonche" -Corn, "Pahoa" - Cob. Today, the Ponchatoula area is the LArgest strawberry producer in the state, Farming and timber are still a large part of the local economy, but many citizens now travel local interstates to work at the numerous petrochemical plants located along the Mississippi River in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area,

Besides being the "Strawberry Capital of the World" Ponchatoula is also Americas Antique City. Our old town area was recently developed into an antique center with numerous antique dealers offering the finest of "yesterday".

Ponchatoula has excellent schools, numerous churches, parks, tree lined streets, and a community center. Residents enjoy the small-town friendly atmosphere of Ponchatoula, which offers all of the services and conveniences of any large metropolitan area, Sources: C. H, Lindsay, Julian Dufreche


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