Shared History - October 2019
- Story by Jerry Beaugez
Today we sometime take for granted the convenience of having our mail delivered to our house. But before there was a post office and mail carrier to deliver to our homes, Bay St. Louis had Mr. Hypolite A. Perre.
Born in 1852, Hypolite, better known in the community as “Mr. Polite,” was the owner of the Crescent Bakery on Main Street, which was founded by his father in 1871. Not only was Mr. Polite the baker, he was known for his personal delivery trip from Bay St. Louis into Waveland every morning. That may not sound like a great task, but in the days before maintained roads, the highway system and even automobiles, traveling that distance was big undertaking. Mr. Polite would leave Bay St. Louis every morning at 3 am, rain or shine, and would bring customers freshly baked goods, as well as carrying mail and packages to their intended recipients. His wagon is said to have looked like a small post office.
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No man was more accommodating or had more friends than he. If anyone met him and said they were hungry, Polite would say, “Well, you can’t eat your hat. Here, try this,” and he would leave them with something to eat. The mailman, messenger, general delivery man and baker all in one great character continued to helping others for nearly half a century. Mr. Polite passed away in 1930.
Rufus Randolph Perkins
Mr. Perkins was the president of the Imperial Naval Stores Company and the Hancock Naval Stores Company, one of the largest companies of its type in Mississippi at the time, which produced such items as resin, tar, and timber used for sailing ships. The company also produced pine oil, pitch, and turpentine which were shipped through New Orleans, Mobile, and Gulfport. Under Perkins’s supervision from its Bay St. Louis headquarters, the Hancock Naval Stores Company was capitalized at half a million dollars. Today that would earn him $12,500,000.00. Perkins was also the president of the Merchant’s Bank, which was originally housed on Beach Boulevard just south of the tracks. The building remained standing until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged the structure, and it was eventually torn down.
Perkins was a kind and giving man who quietly dispensed with an open heart to many charities as well as family and friends alike. When he passed away on December 10, 1915, his obituary stated, “He had the biggest trust in mankind; ever hopeful, his life was indeed an inspiration to those who knew him.” His tombstone is as large as his presence in the history of Bay St. Louis and is the largest single stone in the Cedar Rest Cemetery, weighing 1,700 pounds. The stone was brought from New Orleans by train, which stopped at Second Street; there it was loaded onto a skid and was pulled by eight mules to mark his final resting place.
Ludovic A. de Montluzin
L.A., Reine and their six children began their new lives in Bay St. Louis. Their family home was located at 208 North Beach Boulevard, at the foot of what is now de Montluzin Avenue. The de Montluzin home would later become the original Bay Town Inn, which was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While looking for a hobby to pass his time, L.A. decided to open a pharmacy. The de Montluzin Drug Store was opened on Beach Boulevard in 1878 and soon became a trusted establishment for stocking pure, fresh drugs, sundries, toiletries and other quality goods. L.A. and Reine’s son, Rene, received his pharmacist license in 1893 and worked alongside his father.
The devotion to his wife and family was very strong. During a deadly yellow fever epidemic along the Gulf Coast, Mrs. de Montluzin took her two youngest children to visit her family in Paris. Her husband missed her greatly, and letters to her during this time “overflowed with his tenderness and love.” That love of the two remained constant for 62 years until the death of L.A. on December 26, 1909. Heartbroken and not desiring to live, Reine took to her bed, and on January 19, 1910, she passed away, simply by willing it so. A love like that can only be described by the Latin inscription engraved inside her husband’s wedding ring, Virtus iunxit; mors non separabit – “Virtue united us; death will not separate us.”
Their son, Rene, continued to operate the de Montluzin and Sons Drug Store for years. Rene passed away on February 18, 1959, at the age of 93. His son, Rene Jr., would become the third generation to carry on the family business, doing so until his death in 1977. The pharmacy was then closed, and patient records were transferred to another pharmacy in town.
The oldest and most trusted name in pharmacies in Bay St. Louis was in continuous operation just short of 100 years. Many older residents of Bay St. Louis still speak of the de Montluzin family and the de Montluzin & Sons Drug Store.