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MSS 254 - Eads Poitevent Collection

Biographical Note



            The Poitevent family, of Huguenot descent, moved from South Carolina to Missis­sippi in about 1832.  William James (Bill) Poitevent (1814-1890), a native North Carolinian, settled first in Pearlington and then moved to Gainsville (Hancock County), where he was a partner in a sawmill business in the 1840s.  Poitevent made a fortune in shipping lumber around the coastal United States as his fleet of schooners transported piling and brick, as well as lumber.  Meanwhile he continued to reside in Gainsville, operating a sawmill and a brickyard.


            Poitevent and his wife, Mary Amelia Russ (1819-1873), had eight children: Junius (1837-1919), John (1840-1899), Adolph (1845-?), Ellen (1848-?), Eliza Jane (1849-1896), Virginia (1850-1882), Samuel (1854-?), and Lois (1856-?).  The eldest, Junius, called June, worked in his father's sawmill until 1868.  It is believed that he served as a midshipman in the Confederate Navy during the Civil War.  In 1866 he married May Eleanor Staples (1847-1932) of New Orleans.  They became the parents of three: Cora May (1868-?), Vera (1874-1897), and Schuyler (1875-1936).


            June Poitevent engaged in shipping on the Pearl River in Mississippi and on the Trinity River in Texas, and he owned farms in both states, as well as a Victorian Italianate home on the Bay of Biloxi which was called the “Bay Home” and a home at Palmetto, Florida, near Tampa.  His other interests included serving as captain of steamboats, including the Pearl Rivers and later the Lake Charles; operating a sawmill at Hillsdale in Pearl River County (Mississippi) in 1893; and maintaining a large truck and fruit farm near Tampico, Mexico, in 1895.  June Poitevent spent his retirement years in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.


            The eldest child of June and May Poitevent, Cora May, studied law.  In 1890 she married Charles Theodore Earle (1861-1901), son of horticulturalist and entrepreneur Parker Earle (1831-1917) and writer Melanie Tracy (1837-1889).  Charles Earle worked with his father in the Winter Park Land & Development Company and the Earle Farm.  Charles and Cora Earle were the parents of Eleanor Tracy (1891-ca. 1915) and Theodore (ca. 1893-ca. 1935), called Carlos.  It is believed that the widowed Cora married a man who worked in her father's boatyard and moved with him to Palma Sola in Manatee County, Florida.  There Eleanor, like her grandfather, earned a captain's license and worked in area bird sanctuaries as a warden for the Audubon Society.  She died in her sleep at age 24.  Carlos was employed in his stepfather's mango grove.


            Cora's sister Vera married Frank J. Lundy (1863-1912), owner of a mercantile store in Ocean Springs and the Ocean Springs Hotel.  Their daughter, Virginia May (1894-?), was called Vera.  June and May Poitevent's only son, Schuyler, was educated at Tulane University and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.  While attending the latter, he met Thomasia Overton Hancock (1879-1964) of “Ellerslie” in nearby Albemarle County.  They married in 1906 and moved to Tampico, where they raised cattle, fruit, and vegetables on the Poitevents' ranch until the Mexican Revolution forced them to abandon their interests and leave the country.  In 1914 they settled in Ocean Springs with their only child, Schuyler, junior (1911-1978).  The younger Schuyler earned a law degree at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.  He practiced law in Ocean Springs with his wife, Virginia Margaret Favre (1912-1990) of Gulfport, whom he married in 1941.


            As a boy, the senior Schuyler Poitevent began collecting artifacts, eventually amassing more than three thousand objects.  Many are thought to date from the period 1699 to 1702, when Fort Maurepas, the first French settlement in the lower Mississippi Valley, was established, probably on land which was later owned by the Poitevents.  Schuyler later composed at least five unpublished manuscripts based upon his research on early Mississippi Coast history.


            The second of Bill and Mary Poitevent's children, John, wed Emily Toomer (1843-1874) of Harrison County, Mississippi.  With Joseph Augustin Favre (1834-1909), who was married to Emily's sister Rebecca Ann (1841-1902), he operated the Poitevent and Favre Lumber Company, which by 1870 was the largest mill in Mississippi, employing over 150 workers.  The company supplied lumber, ties, and pilings for the building of bridges to the Mobile & New Orleans Railroad Company and provided materials for the jetties constructed at the mouth of the Mississippi River by James B. Eads in about 1874.  The brothers-in-law also owned three mills and a shipyard at Pearlington, and operated a line of steamers and schooners which transported lumber from New Orleans to Mexico, Argentina, and other foreign ports.


            John Poitevent was active in the New Orleans business community and a member of prominent clubs in the city.  He reigned as King of Carnival, a position which would be attained also by two of his grandsons, Eads Poitevent, Jr. (1974) and Edward B. Poitevent (1984).


            Eliza Jane, the fifth child of William and Mary Poitevent, resided with an uncle and aunt, the Leonard Kimballs, because of her mother's ill health.  Eliza was educated at home and at the Amite Female Academy.  Early she exhibited an interest in and a facility for writing, and, using the pseudonym “Pearl Rivers,” submitted poems to the New Orleans Daily Picayune and other newspapers in New Orleans and New York.  In 1870 she was appointed literary editor of the Picayune and, two years later, married its owner, Alva Morris Holbrook.  After Holbrook's death in 1876, Eliza took over as editor-publisher and rescued the newspaper from bankruptcy.  In 1878 she married the journal's business manager, George Nicholson (1820-1896).  They became the parents of two sons, Leonard Kimball (b. 1881) and Yorke Poitevent (b. 1883).




Source:         Bellande, Ray L.  “The Poitevent Family.”  Ocean Springs Record, August 11, 1994; August 18, 1994; August 25, 1994.