Southeastern dedicates exhibit to Charles Emery Cate, Hammond City Development
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
by: Rene Abadie
CATE EXHIBIT OPENS - Descendents of Charles Emery Cate and Southeastern officials cut a ribbon on Friday to mark the official opening of the Charles Emery Cate Exhibit located on the first floor of the Sims Memorial Library. Pictured at the event are, from left: Library Director Eric Johnson, President Crain, Samuel Hyde, director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies; Karen Fontenot, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Suzanne Graham, Cate’s Great-Great Grandaughter Suzanne Graham; Great-Great-Great-Great Grandchildren Lee Reymond and Emery Cate Reymond; John Graham, Stan Dameron; Ken Howe, director of Facility Planning; Tasha Dameron, Jeff Dameron, Cate Reymond, Professor Emeritus Howard Nichols, and former Southeastern President Randy Moffett.
HAMMOND – One of the early developers of the City of Hammond, Charles Emery Cate,
was recognized with a permanent exhibit of photos, writings, and artifacts recently
in Southeastern Louisiana University’s Sims Memorial Library.
“Charles Emery Cate was one of the most storied and important citizens in the early development of the city. This exhibit demonstrates the alignment of the missions of Southeastern and the City of Hammond,” said Southeastern President John L. Crain.
Participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony were Suzanne Graham of Covington, Cate’s great-great-granddaughter, Emery Cate Reymond, his great-great-great-great granddaughter, other members of the family and Southeastern officials.
The exhibit is located in a special glass room located on the first floor of the Sims Library and is open to the public 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays.
“This is a special day for the Cate family,” said Graham. This is what my mother wanted, and we are truly honored.”
Professor Emeritus of History Howard C. Nichols addressed the assembled group, which included descendants of the Cate family who contributed elements of the exhibit to the university’s Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies housed in the library.
A native of New Hampshire, Cate came from a family engaged in brick-making and shoe manufacturing, Nichols said. In 1852 he moved to New Orleans and worked as a shoe salesman, later purchasing tracts of property and establishing a shoe manufacturing plant in what would later become the town of Hammond. Later he would build a saw mill, a grist mill, leather cutting facility and other businesses.
“The Cate manufacturing facilities were destroyed by federal troops in April 1863,” Nichols explained. “After that, he devoted himself to grading and naming streets and planting water oaks along them.”
The empty shoe factory became a hotel, and Cate began offering lots to potential settlers. He rebuilt the sawmill and later developed a brickyard.
Nichols said it was Cate’s wife, Mercy “Mertie” Ann Cate who prevailed upon her husband to donate land for the erection of a chapel. The women of the community raised the funds to build the Grace Chapel, which upon her death would be renamed Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in her honor.
Nichols said Cate encouraged migration to the area, even soliciting visitors traveling via railroad to the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1884, to stop off in Hammond on their return trips to the mid-West and to consider the area for business investment. Cate died in 1916 at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans at the age of 86.
Among the reminders of his influence on Hammond are the site of his first home, now Cate Square, and the Cate Teacher Education Center at Southeastern.
The exhibit – which includes bricks from the original brickyard, Cate’s writings, bible and other artifacts – demonstrates “only a fraction of what this man meant to Hammond,” said Leon Ford Chair and Professor of History Samuel C. Hyde, director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies. Hyde oversaw the development of the exhibit and gave credit to the Cate family for its financial support and donation of materials to the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies and to the individuals at Southeastern who worked to make the exhibit a reality.