Boggsdale is a legendary location in Mississippi Coast history, but it's as real as the family that slowly built up a compound of homes, large and small, eclectic and noble but always restful with shady oaks and sea breezes. |
"This is not a Kennedy compound built with money," said Claire Morrison, who grew up on Boggsdale and built a home there with her husband, Stan, in the late 1940s. "Boggsdale was built with love and sweat and tears."
In 1875, Georgian artist and writer Robert Boggs and his wife, Eliza Jane, bought seven acres of beachfront land with bayou and woods that included an area that would become Long Beach. Family legend claims Native Americans told them not to build so close to the Sound, but they did.
Their house named Breezydale was eventually inherited by their son William and his wife, Claire Hale. The Boggs gave another son, Archibald, property where he and wife Bessie built Driftwood, named so because its lumber had washed ashore.
A hurricane in 1947 destroyed Driftwood and Breezydale and killed Bessie.
The family that inherited Breezydale rebuilt, this time 600 feet back from the water. They called it Will-Stan after two male family members. Driftwood also was rebuilt.
Then came Camille in 1969. Will-Stan disappeared.
Post-Camille saw a spurt of building on Boggsdale. Louisiana Congressman Hale Boggs was planning to build there before his plane disappeared over Alaska in 1972.
That's when a Will-Stan II popped up. With its dormer and big front porch, this the home of Claire Morrison, who is Hale's sister and at 90 the matriarch of Boggsdale. All the similar names and the ins-and-outs of the houses on Boggsdale are more than outsiders can comprehend, but know that Boggsdale is a place beloved by the family.
"All my children went hither and dither and they were ready to come to the Coast because they love the land and water," said Morrison.
Katrina put their life plans in a dither when it took all 11 Boggsdale houses.
"My children say they have lost all the material stuff they gained. They had arrived. All were planning on retiring early and living the good life. Now they have to start over again, including myself at age 90."
Worries about beachfront development, insurance and rebuilding costs face all who had houses there. Charlie Boggs, retired attorney from New Orleans, is already making plans to rebuild.
To her own children, Morrison wrote them in a Thanksgiving letter of the weddings, birth, deaths and myriad of Boggsdale celebrations as a "full circle of family life."
- KAT BERGERON