Ghosts of Bay St. Louis
Every community is the sum of its residents, past and present. But we'll bet that none of these gentlemen had an inkling that we would be talking about them more than a century after they left us.
- Story by Jerry Beaugez
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
R.R. Perkins was known as a “big operator” in Bay St. Louis. Born in Bernice, South Carolina, in 1869, he and his family moved to Broxton, Georgia, where he met and married Tempie Lott. Perkins moved to Bay St. Louis in 1903 where he and his wife raised six children.
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
For nearly 100 years the de Montluzin name was known in Bay St. Louis as a distinguished family and the proprietors of the city’s oldest and most reputable pharmacy. Ludovic A. de Montluzin, otherwise known as “L.A.” was born in December of 1827 in the town of Luneville in the province of Lorraine, France. An idealistic young journalist with political opposition to the French Emperor Napoleon III, de Montluzin felt despair for the future of France and emigrated to the United States with his wife, Reine Helluy de Montluzin, and their three small children. Settling in Louisiana, the couple had three more children. In 1878, L.A. suffered a heart attack and, at the urging of his doctors, he retired to Bay St. Louis to “give up some of his activities.”
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.
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