Wharves and Breakwater

Two three-masted and two two-masted schooners loading lumber at Walton in 1910. (R. Clark collection)

Two three-masted and two two-masted schooners loading lumber at Walton in 1910. (R. Clark collection)

Schooners loading lumber at Walton. Three churches in the background, 1910. (R. Clark collection)

Schooners loading lumber at Walton. Three churches in the background, 1910. (R. Clark collection)

Lucia P. Dow loading gypsum at Walton, 1928.  (R. Clark collection)

Lucia P. Dow loading gypsum at Walton, 1928. (R. Clark collection)

Buntentor taking on a cargo at Walton. Sitting on the crib at low tide, 1955. (R.Clark collection)

Buntentor taking on a cargo at Walton. Sitting on the crib at low tide, 1955. (R.Clark collection)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The earliest noted shipping activity from Walton (then Petite) was in 1820 where ships tied up along the bank of the Walton River near the creek outlet of the South Mountain gypsum quarry. In 1836 there are reports of a plaster mill and wharf near the present location of the aboiteau. The lighthouse was built in 1873 as a vital navigation aid to the increasing ship traffic in the area. In 1889 as gypsum exports from the area were increasing, E. Churchill built a shipping pier near the location of the government wharf. This was quickly followed by the construction of the breakwater in 1891 and an extension to the gypsum wharf was added in 1913. Various upgrades to the gypsum wharf were added over the years mainly to increase the loading rate. However, modern steel ships were upsizing to take advantage of lower freight costs. This was the undoing of the gypsum exports from Walton where the largest ship able to tie up could carry only 4000 tonnes of ore. The last ship loaded by National Gypsum sailed from Walton in 1972. The Government wharf was built in 1914 and survived intact until 2013 when it was destroyed by fire. Dresser Minerals barite mining operation commenced in 1941 and ceased in 1978. Nearly five million tons of ore was mined and processed. Some was shipped as coarse ore for further processing to southern parts of the United States – Lake Charles, Brownsville, New Orleans and along the Gulf of Mexico. Some was crushed and milled to a fine powder, bagged and loaded on ships for oil well drilling in such places as Trinidad, Venezuela, Iran, and Arabia. The only remaining evidence of this once thriving port is the remains of the breakwater and the lighthouse.

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