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Augustus Edward “Gussie” Fountain

Born into a schooner-building and seafood industry family, Augustus, better known as “Gussie” was the son of Augustus Fountain, Sr., Clara Noble Fountain and grandson of Martin Fountain, so his training in boatbuilding began early. His father and grandfather would show him how to use the lumber remnants from their schooner building in the construction of catboats and would enjoy sailing the Mississippi Sound.

Gussie was only sixteen years old when his father passed away in 1926 and he became an integral part of the family business, Foster Fountain Canning Co. He married Pearl Trahan of Houma, Louisiana in 1934. With war efforts ramping up, Gussie and his brother, Roy, went to work at Higgins Boatyard of New Orleans in 1938. Upon the untimely death of his brother, he returned to Biloxi and began working at Westergaard Shipyard on Bayview Avenue. Having a passion for the industry, he partnered with Frank Gutierrez and began his own shipyard on Bayview Avenue building both shrimping and pleasure boats. The partnership was dissolved in 1950, but Gussie continued the operation in the same location until he suffered a heart attack at the age of fifty-one. Determined to continue his work with boats, he began building Lafitte skiffs of various sizes in his back yard on Walker Street in Biloxi. These skiffs were quite favored and sold from Florida to Louisiana, and many are still in existence today.

As his health deteriorated, he began building smaller and smaller boats due to the demanding work involved. He began building replicas of the ships that explored the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the early 1700's with d’Iberville and Bienville, using the ships’ plans he found in the Cabildo in New Orleans. These beautiful replicas would be displayed throughout Biloxi at places such as Joe Moran’s Art Studio, The People’s Bank of Biloxi and the West Biloxi Library. They are now held by collectors, with one being restored after being found among the rubble from Hurricane Katrina.

As a mentor to wooden boat builders that followed, Gussie Fountain contributed to the maritime and seafood industries in a meaningful way—by promoting its continuity for many years. While Gussie passed away in 1973, the impact of his contributions is still evident today.




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