HOULTONVILLE, LA–In the late 1800’s major cities in the United States were growing. Southern Metropolises were reboundeding after slavery and New Orleans was no different. The city was on a mission like the rest of the south during the reconstruction era.
In order to build up the structures, bigger and grander than ever before, there was a great need for lumber. This was the era of “cut out, get out” era, where plentiful long expanses of longleaf pine trees were the foundation of a booming industry. Across lake Ponchartrain on the north shore, an entrepeneur was making a fortune with a sawmill empire. Over the next years, two brothers with the last name Houlton would create a town for what was predominately African American workers and their families. In doing so, Houltonville was born.
“Houltonville’s community never incorporated. It was initially the 4th ward of St. Tammany Parish, east of the Tchefuncte river. It was first named Jayville, by a man who was in the lumber industry in the northern United States,” says George White, a descendant of one of the original families.
You won’t find Houltonville on many maps, but you can find evidence of it along a road next to Fairview State Park, in Madisonville. Houltonville nowadays is nothing more than area between Madisonville and Mandeville. Interestingly enough, the people who live there today, have a Madisonville mailing address and a Mandeville voting address.
Historically, in 1925 the Helping Hand Benevolent Club Number One was founded. It was one of many benevolent organizations that popped up all around the south, to help African Americans better themselves. This club was founded partly, to help blacks with burial insurance, as well. Today, a handful of descendants from the original families meet up every October to tidy up the cemetery, which includes fresh burials as well as over 70 nameless burials. Some of the people laid to rest were born enslaved. “My great grandfather could read and write and so could his sister. His younger sister who I knew as a child growing up, could not read and write,” says White.
“we all went to the same school. We picked strawberries together and hunted squirrels together and did all that kind of stuff.”
Eagle Eye Baptist Church was one of two churches in the town, and it was later renamed Magnolia Baptist Church. Today, Magnolia Baptist Church is one of the oldest historically black churches, structurally in the St. Tammany Parish. “Just about everyone that lived in Houltonville who was black was connected to Magnolia Baptist Church at one time.”
Houltonville today, may be but a whisper of its former glory, as a town that helped to manufacture the building of New Orleans, but more importantly, its legacy survives in the descendants of the original families.
Every city, in the United States is beautiful, be it a small rural town or a gleaming metropolis. What they have in common, is that they all have a story to tell. “I would dare to say about 99 percent of the people who live in Houltonville don’t know it’s Houltonville,” says George White.
Magnolia Baptist Church was in operation until recent years and has been in quite a few movies. As it sits vacant, it has become the target of vandalism. However, there is an effort to have the church moved to Fairview State Park, to help preserve the story of Houltonville. The descendants are looking for ways to raise money for that to happen.