February 16-29
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February 16, 1889
Today in 1889, the last of the armaments and ammunition at Fort Livingston on
Grand Terre Island were removed, completing the process of abandoning the
fortress that had never been completed. Fort Livingston had been designed to
control the entrance to Barataria Pass, guarding New Orleans against naval attacks.
Construction at the site began in 1834, but was not completed before the Civil War
broke out in 1861. The fort was used by the Confederates to protect blockade
runners coming into and out of Barataria Pass en route to New Orleans. The fort was
permanently abandoned after a hurricane destroyed most of the structure in 1872.

February 17, 1805
The City of New Orleans was incorporated by the territorial legislature today in 1805.
But where was the territorial legislature in 1805?  Government House was located on
the northeast corner of Levee Street (Decatur) and Toulouse Streets in the French
Quarter. It was built in 1761, and territorial and state legislatures used the building
after Americans purchased Louisiana in December 1803. In December 1814, Andrew
Jackson allegedly threatened to “blow up” Government House after rumors circulated
that the legislature might surrender to the British. Government House burned down
after a fire broke out in a dry goods store next door.

February 18, 1971
Dorothy Mae Delavallade Taylor of New Orleans made history this week in 1971
when she became the first African American woman to be elected to the Louisiana
legislature. Taylor’s career in public service began with her efforts to equalize the
segregated schools by demanding equal supplies for African American schools from
the School Board. She first entered politics in 1971, running as a candidate for
Louisiana House of Representatives. After two terms in the legislature, Governor
Edwin Edwards recruited Taylor to become his Secretary of the Department of Urban
and Community Affairs, making her the first African American female to head a state
department.

February 19, 1912
Southwest Louisiana was terrorized today in 1912, when the mangled bodies of Hattie
Dove and her three children were left piled almost naked on her bed, each one
slaughtered by axe-blows to the head. They were only the latest in a series of two
dozen axe murders across the area. Afterward, police apprehended 18-20 year-old
Christine Barnabet creeping around the house, her dress covered in blood.
Everything about Barnabet, from her mixed-race heritage to her exotic beliefs in
voodoo baited the tabloid press. Initially protesting her innocence, she later blamed
her father and brother. In April 1912, Barnabet would be convicted of seventeen
murders and be executed.

February 20, 1914
Storyville’s most famous madam, Josie Arlington, professional name of Mary Anna
Deubler, died this week in 1914. Mary Anna had been born in New Orleans went to
work as a prostitute at the age of seventeen. She operated from her family's house
on Iberville Street in the 1880’s, until she was able to build a more elaborate brothel
on Basin Street which drew in wealthy and influential men. After her death, she was
buried in a large red marble tomb in Metairie Cemetery, which became a local
attraction when it was noticed that a nearby traffic light seemed to make it glow red.

February 21, 1882
Today in 1882, Momus, King of Mardi Gras in Lake Charles landed his royal yacht at
the foot of Pujo Street and greeted his loyal subjects in the city’s first Mardi Gras
celebration. Mardi Gras would go underground for much of the twentieth century, but
resumed in the 1970’s and 80’s. Today, Lake Charles has more than fifty Mardi Gras
krewes, making it second only to New Orleans in the number of krewes, and it is
unique in that it is the only place where the public is invited to see the costumes of
the all the krewes in one place, at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

February 22, 1819
The Adams-Onis Treaty was signed today in 1819, settling the boundary between the
United States and the Spanish Empire at the Sabine River. Prior to the treaty, the
United States had claimed all land east and north of the Sabine River as part of the
Louisiana Purchase. Spain maintained that all land west of the Calcasieu River and
south of the Arkansas River belonged to Tejas and Santa Fe de Nuevo México. The
area of southwest Louisiana in dispute had neutral status from 1806 to 1821 and was
referred to as the Neutral Ground, the Neutral Strip, the Neutral Territory, and the No
Man's Land of Louisiana.

February 23, 1843
Bossier Parish was created by the legislature this week in 1843 and named for Pierre
Evariste Jean-Baptiste Bossier, a former state senator and Congressman who had
been born in Natchitoches in 1797. He was a general in the state militia when he was
elected to the Louisiana State Senate in 1833 and achieved fame in 1839 for a duel
with fellow state militia officer Francois Gaiennie. Their duel set off an avalanche of
honor killings that would eventually leave another eleven people dead. Bossier
served in the Senate until 1842, when he was elected to U.S. House of
Representatives.

February 24, 1873
Lincoln Parish was created by the legislature today in 1873, with Vienna as its parish
seat. With the news that the Vicksburg, Shreveport & Pacific Railroad would be built
in the vicinity, prominent local landowner and former sheriff Robert Edwin Russ was
persuaded to donate six hundred acres of his land for a town to be built around a
new depot. "Russ Town" opened in 1883, with lots selling for $375 each. So many
people flocked to the new town that a year later, in 1884, the parish seat was moved
to thet town that was now coming to be known as “Ruston”.

February 25, 1807
This week in 1807, the territorial legislature probably thought it knew what it was
doing when it enacted legislation regulating marriages in the territory. The legislation
largely reflected the tenets of civil law, rather than English common law. Section 60 of
the lengthy act provided that "the husband and wife owe to each other mutually,
fidelity, support and assistance. Section 61 provided that the wife was “bound to live
with her husband and to follow him wherever he chooses to reside; the husband is
obliged to receive her and furnish her with whatever is required for the wants of life,
in proportion to his means and condition.”

February 26, 1903
After serving as president of what would become Iowa State University until 1881,
Seaman A. Knapp moved to Louisiana in 1886 and founded the town of Vinton in
Calcasieu Parish, naming after his old hometown of Vinton, Iowa. Knapp’s passion
and mission were agricultural reform. By 1902, he was employed by the government
to promote good agricultural practices in the South. He was convinced that
demonstrations carried out by farmers themselves were the most effective way to
disseminate good farming methods. In 1903, he led an agricultural demonstration at
the Walter G. Porter farm near Terrell, Texas, that eventually led to legislation that
formalized Cooperative Extension work.

February 27, 2005
Madea made her American film debut this weekend in 2005, when Tyler Perry's Diary
of a Mad Black Woman
opened in theaters across America. In 1969, Tyler Perry was
born in New Orleans as Emmitt Perry, Jr. He once said his father's "answer to
everything was to beat it out of you.” In contrast, his mother took him to church each
week, where he sensed a certain refuge and contentment. At age 16, he had his first
name legally changed from Emmitt to Tyler to distance himself from his father. While
Perry did not complete high school, he earned a GED. Around 1990, Perry moved to
Atlanta.

February 28, 1932
Radio station KEEL in Shreveport went on the air today in 1932 as Louisiana’ second
commercial radio station. While the station has experimented with a number of
formats over the decades, none were so beloved as the rock and roll format of the
1950’s and 60’s. In the days before the internet, KEEL’s 50,000-watt station cast a
“clear channel” signal across the middle of America, bringing new artists and songs
to teenagers and others in thirty states. Managed by Marie Gifford White, the first
woman to manage a local radio station, performances by on-air personalities in the
Ark-La-Tex generated big audiences for national and local performers in the 1960s.

February 29, 1976
Monroe’s Mohawk Tavern opened its doors on Louisville Avenue in 1952, and it
finally got around to filing for a business license this week in 1976. Tom and Alline
Fontana opened what is now believed to be the oldest restaurant in North Louisiana,
serving raw oysters and a few other basic seafood dishes to the people of Monroe. In
the 1960’s, the menu was expanded to include a wider range of seafood, but the
flavor of the restaurant remained the same. Today, stepping into the Mohawk is like
stepping into another era. Vintage photos from the early years still hang on the walls,
and the restaurant is being run by the second and third generations of the family.