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Newspaper Archive of
The Ponchatoula Times
Ponchatoula , Louisiana
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October 23, 1986     The Ponchatoula Times
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October 23, 1986
 

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The Tragic End of Last Island THE PONCHATOULA TIMES, OCTOBER 23, 1986, PAGE By BILL GRAZlANO Special To The Time= The story I am about to tell ts true, the names of persons I will use are of those who llued at that time. it was a strange moon that hung from an early August night sky. Michael Schlatre had never seen the moon look so large, nor had he ever seen a copper halo circle it before, nor had it cast such a sinister glow over the Island. The cottages that lined the beach lay llke gray shadows against the southern horizon, the rippling wave= ran along the beach with a cinnabar reflection. Michael stood on the beach watching the fading lights of the blue hammock as it made its run toward Shell Bayou. When the last light had faded he turned toward hls house. Michael Schlatre was 37 years of age, he was tall In stature. The fearsome summer Louisiana had burned his face into an attractive reddish brown. The sharp facial outlines created a handsome- hesS. The year was 1856. The date was August 6. And nothing that came after would ever stand out so much as the annihilation of all he knew and loved. Fred Husser and I had flown to Last Island aboard a chartered seaplane for a day of speckled trout fishing. The plane had dropped us off at the island at seven that morning for a day of fishing in the surf. It was to pick us up at three that afternoon. By noon we had all the six and seven pound speckles we could jam into our ice chest. Though I had fished the surf of the island before, I had never explored it, so while Fred (who died some years ago) dozed on the beach I started to explore the island. It was such a shabby little island, barren as a silent desert. With my pants legs rolled up and barefooted I splashed in the surf. It was a great feeling. I was a kid again. Kicking at the water, sending up a white spray. Kicking and splashing I made my way toward the eastern end of the island a half mile away. Rounding the point I started back to camp. A short distance from the point a brick lay embedded in the sand. I pried it loose. It did not have the coarseness of a brick, nor did it have the sharp edges. It was as smooth as flesh but still held its brownish color. When I reached camp I showed it to Fred "How do you suppose this brick got washed up on shore, and where do you suppose it came from?" I asked him. That&apos;s when I heard the story for the first time: "My guess is that it was not washed ashore but brought here by boat for the construction of a summer cottage. This island was not always as you see it now. At one time it was a resort island for the very rich." "But the island is not over a half mile long and not over 500 feet at its widest point," I interrupted. "Now, yes, but back in those days the island extended 25 miles or more eastward. It was then known as the Isles Dernieres which means in French Fast Island." "How did you come to learn about the island," I asked. "I read it somewhere or other some years ago and that's about all I can remember." We touched down at the Hammond airport shortly after 4 p.m. From there I drove directly to the library. But of all the history books that I had leafed through, none mentioned the island, nor did the librarians' files shed any light on the history of the island. The search had come to a fruitless end. In the days that followed 1 continued the search, consulting with historians who were as much at a loss as I was. They had never heard of the island. It was just possible that Fred was putting me on, but two weeks later the librarian phoned. She had two manuscripts written by two survivors of the great storm that thundered out of the South, ending the lives of all but a handful of the island's in- habitants. I devoured both manuscripts. One was written by Michael Schlatre Jr. In the dark hours of Sunday morning Michael Schlatre's life as he had known it came to an end. This is his chilling account: Of the 17 who had been in the house only he, Ceily and William survived. (In the manuscript Mr. Schlatre did not state who Celly and William were, whether they were his children or those of the house servants.) In the explosive fihes of lightning, Michael saw the bobbing head,of his loved ones. Then they weie no more. Tears stung his cheeks as he watched helplessly. Smashing waves tore at his body as he held desperately to some heavy timbers as the village and the island it rested on was annihilated. He could feel the breath of death tear at his heart. Sobbing, he began to recite an Act of Contrition, "Oh my God ! am heartly sorry." He called on God to receive his soul, that he might join Old MacDonald's Randy, Raymond & Nell Specials Pizza- 1 6-5 oz .......................... $6 99 pepperoni Pizza-6-6.5 oz ................ 99 Combination Deep Dish Corn Dogs 36 ct ............... Chicken Nuggets 2V, Ibs ....... 74s- All White Chicken I" ........................................ $13 as ......................................... $2500 Pepsi 6 pk. 1 2 oz ....................... $ I s9 3 ,iter. ................ ' ........................... Farm Fresh Eggs Brown or White Saturday October 25 We will be Servin Free Corndogs SEAFOOD CATFISH CATFISH STUFFED FILET-LEMON PEPPER STYLE ..... z,,,. 8.40 FILET-CAJUN STYLE ................ z,k. 8.40 CRABS... ......................... OILY 65u. WE ACCEPT FoOD STAMPS Old MacDonalds 1400 MORRISON BLVD. Ipm ,ll B roll lira II llb i.wv =3qz-/00zu those he Iovecl. But death was not ready to rec$ive him. He was lifted from seething waters by what seemed to be the side of a h and saved. The years that followed were filled with torment. Why God had spared his life he would never understand. Mr. Schlatre later married and fathered 17 children. By a strange coincidence Mr. Michael Schlatre Jr. died in early September 1900 the same month and year as the great .Galveston hurricane. Mr. Schlaffe wrote that there were about 100 houses on the island and a hotel and that there were trees, livestock, chickens and horses. He also wrote that his house was a two-story affair and that it was located about 2 miles from Joe's Landing. As soon as the storm had passed and the seas had settled the Blue Hammack returned to the island with members of families who had been lost. There were silent sobs and prayers for loved ones whom the would never see again. There were cries of joy and a mist of tears when one sighted a loved one miraculously saved from the storm. The storm left no signs that a village had ever existed. The second manuscript was written by the Rev. R.S. McAllister of Thibodeaux, Louisiana. The reverend was a God-fearing God-loving man who had come to the island for a short vacation and to meditate. He chose to stay at Mr. Llngard's house. The household consisted of nine persons: Mr. Lingard, his wife, and three children ages 10, 12 and 14; there were three young ladies, single, cultured and beautiful; a Mr. Roland Delaney who was the cook and his son; and of course, the Rev. McAIlister. The Lingard house was located a half mile from the island's leading hotel (so there was more than one hotel, there may have been three or four). He wrote in his diary that for days the cattle had shown signs of nervousness walking about their enclosure and lowing in a plaintive way which was an omen that, according to the manuscript, went unheeded. The first signs of fear were seen on Sunday morning when the guests looked out of the windows at a dark sky that seemed to grow darker as they stood by the windows. The wave crests were white with foam and growing higher and more menacing with each passing hour. The torrents of rain driven by wild winds began to flood under the door. Lightning which stabbed from horizon to horizon crackled with a frightening sound never heard before. Thunder pounded the island. So forceful was the thunder that windows smashed, door frames twisted. There was a massive shudder and the roof was ripped away. Water poured down the steps from the upper floor in cascades. Fear was in every face. The wild winds tore at the house. With a thunderous crash the walls parted. Those who had been within its shelter were swept away never to see each other again. Of the twelve only the Rev. McAIlister survived. Te 00chers' union suggests Board cut travel, not teachers By BRYAN T. McMAHON Editor & Publisher School teachers and other school employees told the Tangipahoa Parish School Board Tuesday night that any education cuts made here should come from non-educational programs, not out of teachers' salaries. Speaking through their union spokes- man, local school workers also went on record opposing a shortening of the school year unless it is the only alter- native left the board due to state cut- .backs. The state is expecte(:l to order cuts in this parish of $1,036,831 in the general fund, $96,355 to the lunch program. lna six point program proposedl Tuesday by Tangipahoa Federation or Teachers Doris Flanagan, the school workers made the following suggestions for saving money without damaging the educational system here further; @ Drastically cut back the lucrative travel allowance enjoyed by members of the school board. (Each member now enjoys the state maximum of $800 per month for mileage and per diem and an additional $2,000 per year pure travel expense). Tap'school administrators (but not principals or the superintendent) should go into the classrooms at least two days per week to act as substitute teachers, thereby saving over a quarter million dollars put out annually to pay substi- tutes. Classroom temperature should be kept at 68 degrees this winter. The board's "internal services budget" should be curtailed at least to - last year's level. District Attorney Duncan Kemp should be required to fulfill his respon- sibilities under state law and serve as attorney for the school board, thereby saving needless legal expense. And Shop-At-Home campaigns should be waged in and out of the schools in an attempt to remind citizens that for every dollar spent in Tangipahoa Parish two cents goes into the educa- tional system here. The suggestions come in stark contrast to those made by the other teachers' union in the state, the Louisiana Association of Educators, which earlier this month threatened to wage a campaign warning industry not to locate in Louisiana, adding they would encourage their union member teachers to leave classrooms in this state and move elsewhere. "We're not leaving/Louisiana is our state, Tangipahoa is our parish and teaching is our profession," TFT Presi- dent Flanagan told The Times Monday foUowing a press conference at union headquarters in Hammond. Her union represents "about half of all teachers in the parish." She said that the result of the school board not accepting the union's cost- cutting program would be "layoffs, schools closing, erosion of workers' fringe benefits such as insurance. Deva- stating is the only way I can put it, if these recommendations are not followed." And the local teachers' union is not the only entity concerned over cuts in education made by the legislature (4.5 percent in the past session) and the governor (a proposed five percent general fund cut and a proposed 10 percent cut in the school lunch program). State Superintendent of Education Tom Clausen has defied the governor and has so far refused to implement the PLEASE SEE PAGE THIRTEEN I )-9 x v u -,,i 1 I 13u -,m vo i / Ilm '00 EOUNTRY ELUTTER Register.for Christmas Design Classes beginning, November 10 Classes Taught by ANNEStrother Christmas Merchandise Arriving Daily Layaways Welcome Open 7 Days a Week Featuring Selected Lines from National "Country'" MaRizines! of Home interior items. Gifts and Fine Wood Furniture. Monday Thru Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. , Sunday ,J./!,/ 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. ""''" . , . . 'tt0taStm" , (;all us if you can t fi.a us. p'.. 0L)I x N,/ I k<' 2 8 5  S C 5 " . 3 4. .." 7 2 ' ..... X ...... ? ..... ....-" ....... 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