Grayhawk Tells of Native American History
Local Native American historian Grayhawk Perkins spoke at a public meeting held at the Fuhrmann Auditorium in Covington on June 7, 2017, an event hosted by the Covington Heritage Foundation. Perkins shared several stories about his efforts over the past 40 years to preserve the history of the area’s original inhabitants through his teaching, his music, and story-telling.
Perkins, a well-known cultural historian and musician, told of the importance of his grandmother’s lessons about the past, as well those shared by his grandfather, aunts and uncles. “Because of my grandparents, I became the tribal story-teller,” he said, “and I’ve even traveled to the Smithsonian to take part in their Native American history programs.”
People are beginning to realize that cultural story-telling is very important to keeping your nation going and to keeping your family going, he said.
Perkins told about his early search for the history of the Native American cultures, especially those in the Muskogean Nation of which he is a part. “St. Tammany is know for its Choctaw population, but they were actually immigrants,” he said. “They came into this area later. They were pushed out of MIssissippi in the beginning of the 1800’s. But the Muskogeans were here first. The Choctaws spoke the Muskogean language however, so they were welcomed and blended in,” he explained.
What is known as the “Tchefuncte culture” actually represents a time period in Native American history, Perkins said. It involved native peoples all the way from the Texas border into the Florida panhandle. “They had architecture, astronomy, agriculture. They were not nomads, and they lived in villages, large villages. Several of these cities featured mounds, some of which were 80 feet tall, and houses for families. Those communities stretched out for miles and miles.”
Prior to his talk in Covington, Perkins had spent two days speaking to children at every library branch in Livingston Parish, explaining the values of life among the Native Americans, how they governed, their family life, and their day-to-day routines. He performs regularly at the New Orleans Jazz Festival where he has served as a coordinator for the past 25 years, and lately he has collaborated on music projects with French musicians and others around the world.
The Covington Heritage Foundation Crawfish Boil was held on Thursday, May 4, 2017, at the Covington Brewhouse. Photographs are available by CLICKING ON THIS LINK.
The Covington Antiques and Uniques Festival was held April 22 and 23, 2017, in downtown Covington, hosted by the Covington Heritage Foundation. Click below for a photo review.
To see more photographs from the Festival, CLICK HERE.
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On Tuesday, March 14, The Covington Heritage Foundation held a meeting that featured a talk by Father Matthew Clark O.S.B and Father Jonathan DeFrange, O.S. B., on the history of “St. Joseph Abbey: The Hidden Jewel of the Northshore.” The event took place at the St. Tammany Art Association House, 320 North Columbia Street, Covington.
They presented photographs from across the 125 year history of the Abbey, telling about the early German monks who first started the seminary college all the way through the present. Starting with an overview of St. Benedict himself, Father Clark explained the influential “Rule of St. Benedict” that has guided life in monk communities throughout the western world for hundreds of years.
Father DeFrange wrote a book detailing the history of the Abbey; it is called “The Century of Grace” and is available at the Abbey gift shop. He answered many questions about some of the more intriguing aspects of the facility, which is located on the little Bogue Falaya River about three miles north of Covington.
In fact, some of the buildings at the Abbey were flooded last year when the river rose quickly out of its banks and filled many homes along its flood plain with water, including the Playmakers theater barn down river. The Abbey is still recovering from that disaster. It had also been flooded in 1927 at about the same level.
The presentation was highlighted by questions posed during the slide show, and audience members who answered correctly received a loaf of bread baked at the Abbey’s bakery. Also on display was a selection of “MonkSoap,” another product made by monks at the Abbey, beginning in 2011.
Information was presented on each of the Abbots who had overseen the operation of the facility. The early efforts to begin a seminary college looked towards Rayne, La, but it was deemed too far from New Orleans, and land was bought and a facility was built in Ponchatoula in Tangipahoa Parish. It eventually moved to the present location in the Hosmer Mill area of Covington in 1901 and focused on the vocational training of monks.
Over the years, there had been some tension between the local French Creoles who wanted more of a French-oriented seminary and the German influence that started the Abbey, particularly during the Second World War, when some monks found themselves on opposite sides.
Area residents are familiar with the Abbey’s vocational efforts, from the bakery “Pennies for Bread” famous for its baked goods, to the most recent production of MonkSoap. The well-known production of caskets by the woodworking shop there was in the news recently. That casket business was the subject of a lawsuit questioning the state regulation of casket-manufacturing. The Abbey won the law suit and was able to continue to build its caskets. “Actually the lawsuit gave us considerable publicity nationwide, and we got many orders from out-of-state as a result,” explained Father DeFrange.
The Abbey has suffered fires as well. The presentation included accounts of several expansions and renovations to the facility over the years, the artwork that graces the walls and ceilings of the church and other buildings, and the newly-installed Dobson church organ that is renowned for its sound and “direct action” technical specifications.
The many theatrical productions put on by the seminary students were mentioned, as were the “retreats” offered to the general public at the “Christian Life Center.” Art classes are being taught in the old Abbey chicken coop, which has been converted to an art studio. The theater building has been the site of many community programs and art exhibits.
Father Clark said that St. Joseph Abbey and its church is well-known and respected throughout the world, and its outreach has been felt in Central America and even in Europe.
In 1960, the Knights of Columbus Abbey Summer Youth Camp was established, with many area residents remembering their visits to the camp and are subsequently sending their grandchildren to the facility. The speakers also told of nearby St. Gertrude’s Convent as well as the Abbey’s association with St. Peter’s Catholic Church and St. Scholastica Academy, both in Covington.
The one-day Abbey Youth Fest is an annual event that attracts thousands of young believers from throughout the region, it was said.
New Officers and Board Members Elected
New officers and members of the board of directors were elected Tuesday night by the Covington Heritage Foundation. Mark Johnson was elected president, and he will be replacing outgoing president Sharon Nunez. Gina Hayes will be taking over the duties of Vice President from Sue Osborn, and Gina Rowbatham will serve as treasurer for the group, taking the office held by the late Lee Alexius.
Helen Curran will serve as recording secretary in 2017, the same position she held in 2016, and corresponding secretary for 2016 Anna LeDonne will be handing the reins to Alice Couvillon for next year.
Board members appointed by the Mayor will remain the same. They are Pam Keller and Aimee Faucheux. New Board members at large include Ron Barthet for a three year term; Mary Pratt Lobdell for a two year term, and Cindy Mendow for a one year term. Outgoing Board members at large are Mark Johnson, Gina Hayes and Ralph Menetre.
Photos of Early 1900’s Covington Street Scenes: CLICK HERE
Heritage Foundation Holds Gala
The Covington Heritage Foundation held its annual Gala at the Southern Hotel on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, with Mark Johnson speaking before a packed room about the connections and inter-connections of the people of Covington over the past 100 years. To view photographs from the event, CLICK HERE.
He accompanied his talk with a slide presentation showing the people, businesses, and buildings of key importance in Covington’s history, weaving the storyline through several decades and winding up with the calling of the names of many of the people in attendance at the meeting. The room was filled with people who were the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the pioneer Covington families being discussed.
Johnson launched his talk by focusing on the Elmer E. Lyon family, telling how that led to Lyon High and its achievements and the Covington High Lions fielding many excellent basketball and football teams. Historical highlights came one after another, punctuated by humor, a heaping measure of memories, and a standing ovation to the late Lee Alexius, a foundation officer and City Councilman who died recently.
Mayor Mike Cooper gave the welcome to the event, with President Sharon Nunez conducting the business part of the meeting, including the election of new officers and board members.
The standing room only crowd filled the meeting room to capacity, and music was provided by the Covington High Talented Music students. Among those in attendance were C. Howard Nichols, Pat Clanton, Ralph Menetre, and Sammy O’Keefe.
Heritage Group Hears Of Saints, Spirits, and Cemeteries
Writer and photographer Deborah Burst spoke to the Covington Heritage Foundation Tuesday night, November 1, 2016, about the looks and legends of southern Louisiana cemeteries and churches. She has written many articles about New Orleans and its history, and in the past few years she has published four books featuring photographs of trees, chapels, tombs, graves, bayous and butterflies, with a few dragonflies as well.
Her talk before 20 or so members of the history appreciation group was held on the lawn of the old City Hall on Columbia Street, right across from the cemetery, which was appropriate for the All Saints Day presentation. Her presentation included several references to Covington area cemeteries and churches.
Her work in researching cemeteries and their stories as well as the churches of New Orleans and Cajun country have earned her great respect locally and a national following as well, especially since she recognizes the spiritual side of the many accounts. While she doesn’t tell ghost stories, she does relate many odd coincidences between the recently departed and the location of their gravesites.
She was introduced by Foundation president Sharon Nunez, above right, who told of the importance of Covington’s cemetery to the community.
Ms. Burst has a schedule of her local book signings on her website http://deborahburst.com as well as many of her photographs on display.
The latest book is a kind of travel guide for a driving tour of southern Louisiana cities and their churches and cemeteries. During her talk, she told of the true nature of the Voo Doo religion as practiced in New Orleans, and her slide show spotlighted the beautiful architecture of Catholic, Episcopal and many other churches throughout Louisiana, particularly St. Francisville, Covington, and New Orleans.
Ms. Burst is a native of New Orleans and a resident of Mandeville.