Once located on the beach front in Waveland, Mississippi, on what is now Nicholson Avenue, was a house known locally as “Fort Nicholson.” Built around 1880, the house was so named because of a substantial seawall that was built in front of the house along the beach. According to an article in the Sea Coast Echo, the high wall, unlike many other makeshift timber and piling retaining walls, created the semblance of a fortress. As recent years have shown, however, Waveland has lived up to its name and been the victim several times over of violent hurricanes and storm surges, most recently Hurricane Katrina. Thus, the original house is long since gone. More important than the house itself, however, is the life of one of its occupants. Eliza Nicholson, better known as “Pearl Rivers,” used the house as her summer home.
In addition to her romantic adventures, Eliza began writing poetry at an early age under the name “Pearl Rivers.” By age eighteen, she had already been published in several prominent newspapers in New Orleans and New York. Later on, in 1873, she published a book of poetry entitled Lyrics, and, in 1893, a major work of poetry entitled “Hagar” which was published in Cosmopolitan. This poem is considered her most significant literary work. Nicholson’s greatest contribution, however, was in the publishing business. In 1870, at age twenty and against the advice of her family, who strongly objected to her joining the predominately male workforce, she accepted the position of literary editor of the New Orleans Picayune. As such, she became the first woman to work on a Louisiana newspaper staff. Apparently, she soon won the praise and admiration of her male colleagues, especially Alva Holbrook (right), the owner and editor of the Picayune. Although quite a bit older than Eliza, the two married in 1872. Successful as a writer and married to a prominent member of New Orleans society, Eliza seemingly had everything going for her. On June 17, 1872, however, everything changed, and her life would become front page news.
TO BE CONTINUED