The railroad also made it possible for the seafood industry to develop. As early as 1872, Peter A. Pons was shipping Ocean Springs oysters to New Orleans and Mobile. The seafood industry at Ocean Springs was, for the most part, a small family oriented business with the products shipped via rail to markets in the East and Midwest.
From the late 1850s until the first canning plant, The Ocean Springs Packing Company, was erected near the L&N railroad bridge in 1914, seafood was processed in wood and tin sheds called “fish or oyster houses.” Here, oysters were shucked, fish cleaned, and crabs and shrimp sorted, before being sent to the local and regional markets. The buildings were cheaply constructed because they were always subject to storms and hurricanes as they were located at or near sea level.
The oyster houses were generally located at the foot of Jackson and Washington Avenues, but occasionally someone would be in business at Martin Avenue. The Antonio Catchot family dominated the oyster business on Jackson Avenue until their site was sold to the Purity Seafood Company in 1945. Earl H. Fayard leased the site from Purity in 1956, and purchased it in 1962. The Fayard family has operated here for forty years as the Ocean Springs Seafood Market. Washington Avenue was the focal point of the Narcisse Seymour family. They processed seafood here from the 1880s until the late 1930s. Other operators on this site through the years were the Dolbears, Friars, and Van Courts.
Pecan and Citrus Culture
In addition to seafood, Ocean Springs at about the same time was developing orchards and nurseries. In the 1880s, several agricultural men, W.R. Stuart (1820-1894), Parker Earle (1832-1917), and Charles E. Pabst (1851-1920) among them, found their way to Ocean Springs and developed the pecan and citrus industry in the immediate area. Stuart came from New Orleans, Earle from southern Illinois, and Pabst from northern Germany. In the 20th Century, Charles Forkert (1854-1928), J.H. Behrens (1848-1917), Theo Bechtel (1863-1931), D.W. Halstead (1842-1918) and Gus R. Nelson (1886-1970) were well-known pecan and nurserymen. Additionally, H.D. Money (1869-1936), a native of Holmes County and the son of Senator Hernando D. Money (1839-1912), had hundreds of acres of satsuma oranges and grapefruit on the Rose Farm north of Fort Bayou. A series of severe freezes in 1917-1918 crippled the citrus industry in Jackson County.
North of Ocean Springs in the Latimer and Fort Bayou communities, sheep were raised for wool. The Ramsay, Krohn and Basques families were well known for their range animals. Ocean Springs was a market for wool buyers coming primarily from Mobile. Stock laws in the late 1920s severely curtailed wool production.