Ama Town History

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Courtesy of L’Observateur
First Published in ‘River Current’ magazine, January 2000

The origins of Ama lay with the fortunes of the Sellers family, still prominent in the area. The name Ama itself is of undetermined origin. One source states it was named for the daughter of an early owner of Alice Plantation. Another says Ama is Greek for “to love.”

Ama itself grew up around the plantations and the population in 1891, when the post office was established, was between 450 and 500. The post office was founded on April 27, 1891.

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St. Mark Catholic Church was spawned as a chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in 1898. While the present structure was built in 1946, mass was celebrated in the Ama school. St. Mark’s became a mission church in 1961 and was established as a parish in 1974.

Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church dates back to 1898 when the Rev. Joseph Thomas founded it. In the early 1900s, the present church was completed (as of this publication). A new church was built following damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In 1772, Mathew Sellers was born in North Carolina. He, his wife Marie Reine Aucoin and their 10 children migrated to Lafayette with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. One son, John Sellers was married in 1837. With the 1849 California gold rush, John dashed to the West Coast to “strike it rich,” leaving his wife and children behind. Reportedly he was murdered, and his wife died within a year of the news. The children were raised by Duvhiel Peyroux at Myrtle Land Plantation (once known as the Trepagnier Plantation near present-day Norco). One son was Thomas Joseph Sellers. Sellers, born in St. Tammany Parish in 1846, worked on the riverboats as a “mud clerk,” or an assistant to the purser. A lifelong friend was Samuel Clemens, later known to the world as Mark Twain.

During the Civil War, Sellers served in Ogden’s Regiment and was discharged as a private. However, due to his association with Twain, he was nicknamed “Colonel Mulberry” Sellers for the rest of his life.

In 1871, he married Louise Marie Pyramid Wiser of Swiss origin. Five years later the couple moved back to Myrtle Land, renaming it Diamond Plantation. The Bonnet Carre Crevasse wrecked his plantation. The persistent Col. Sellers, by 1885, was operating Sellers and Company, in charge of demolition of structures after the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans. By 1889, he was back in St. Charles Parish, having bought the Lone Star Plantation near present-day Luling. The Davis Crevasse washed away his rice crop and, in 1893, he bought Alice Plantation in present-day Ama and named it for their daughter, Alice Augusta Sellers. With forethought, he and his sons, Thomas (born 1872), Robert Sr. (born 1875) and John (born 1888), built Sellers Canal as a short cut to Grand Isle, where he would take the family every summer on his steam launch. When the Hymelia Crevasse struck in 1912, he and his family rode to safety in the launch. He died in 1915.

His daughters included Marie Higgins, Alice Sellers Grazan, Louise Sellers and Florence Sellers Walton.

His grandson, Julius B. Sellers Sr., son of Thomas Sellers, earned a degree at Loyola University in New Orleans and was a teacher and coach at his alma mater, Hahnville High School.

Julius Sr. won a state representative seat in 1940 and served four years. In 1948 he was elected Clerk of Court for St. Charles Parish and served 12 years. He then was elected assessor and served until his death in July 1966. He was succeeded in office by his son, Julius B. “Ducky” Sellers Jr.

“Ducky” Sellers was then elected sheriff in 1972, served four years, and retired from public office. Reportedly, he personally removed his official portrait from the courthouse lobby where it was displayed with other past sheriffs saying he didn’t want to have it hang with such “unsavory” company.

Edwin Trellue Jr., 80 (at the time of this publication) remembers well those early days of the town of Ama. Born in New Orleans in 1918, he attended school there two years before moving to Alice Plantation to be closer to relatives. His father Edwin Sr. was originally from Paterson, where the family ran Trellue Cypress Lumber. His mother was Eugenie Sellers Trellue, one of the daughters of Thomas Joseph Sellers. His mother also taught three grades and was principal at the old Ama school, which was demolished in the 1980s. She also served for a time as postmistress.

Life on Alice Plantation was a bit lonely, despite being surrounded by so many relatives. One of his friends, a classmate at Hahnville High, has remained a lifelong friend, Mary Robert, who later taught at Hahnville High School and still lived in Ama until her death.

Edwin Jr. developed a lifelong fascination with radio. As a child, he built his own crystal radio and entertained passing riverboats with music he broadcasted from an old Victrola he spun with his finger. His interest in radio led to college-level studies at Delgado.

During World War II, Edwin Jr. taught electronics classes to thousands of servicemen. He later went to work for Frigidaire in 1949 and retired in 1979.

After retirement he worked for a time at Lakeside Camera in Metairie.

Trellue recalled that Alice Plantation, which once stood near the present-day Ama Airport, had a massive front porch 60 feet in length which had roll-down canvas shades to create an additional room in inclement weather. Two of his aunts held their wedding on that porch. He commented on his grandfather’s inventive skill, such as in the erection of a windmill on the river batture, which pumped water to a 75-foot-tall cistern filtration tower to supply the plantation with indoor plumbing thought the house.

In later years, after the river levee was relocated, the windmill was replaced by a one-cylinder “bulldog” motor.

“My job was to start the pump every morning,” he said.

He met his wife, Hilda Viola of Cedar Grove Plantation in St. Rose, and a Destrehan High School graduate, when she came to stay with her sister, Ellen Sellers, wife of Julius Sr. Edwin Jr.’s mother, Eugenie, was also an aunt to Julius Sr. They married in 1940. Hilda’s family, the Crespo family of St. Rose, was descended from Juaquim Joseph Crespo, originally from Barcelona, Spain. Edwin and Hilda had one son, Edwin Jr. “Butch,” three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Hilda later attended Dominican College and taught special education for years and retired at the age of 69.

Alice Plantation was moved back once to avoid the encroaching levee, but in 1938 a fire of mysterious origin leveled the old place.

Nowadays Alice Plantation is long gone, but as evidenced by the construction of a brand-new post office, the town of Ama will endure and prosper.