Following his defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815, General Andrew Jackson ordered the construction of a military road along Bayous Gentilly and Sauvage to a fort on the west bank of Chef Menteur Pass.
Chef Menteur Pass is the 6-mile-long link between Lake Pontchartrain to the north of the city and Lake Borgne to the south of the city, east of which is the Mississippi Sound and to the west are the Louisiana marshes, well-known to professional hunters and fishermen, who annually reaped a harvest in supplying the markets with game and fish of every variety.
Previous to the road, this fabulous hunting area had been accessible primarily by boat. Now sports could travel by horse-drawn “Tally Ho Four-in-Hand Coaches” from New Orleans all the way to the Chef.
“Tally Ho” at this early date literally meant “urge on,” for it must have been men of courage and imagination who penetrated this sportsman's paradise in their search for the pleasures of game.
It was on Bayou Sauvage in 1815, close to its junction with Chef Menteur Pass, that the first Tally Ho Club clubhouse was erected.
In 1869, after the completion of the Mobile and New Orleans Railroad, the club built new quarters across Chef Menteur Pass in close proximity to the newly constructed railroad trestle and tracks. A portion of that century-old building stands today and is used as the club's dining room.
In the railroad's heyday, the keeper met members and their guests at the railroad's Chef Menteur station, helped them with their gear and led them on a boardwalk across the swamp to the clubhouse.
Later, when ferry service was provided from the west bank of Chef Menteur Pass to Pearlington, Miss., the keeper met those who motored down at the Automobile Club's building at the Chef Menteur ferry landing and took them by skiff to the club for a charge of 25 cents per head.
When a highway was constructed from Chef Menteur to Pearlington, with a bridge across Chef Menteur Pass, most members drove down and parked at Marques Restaurant, located on the east bank of Chef Menteur Pass and adjacent to the newly constructed highway.
Always in the forefront of progress, in the late 1800s, the club installed an acetylene generator and lighted the clubhouse with gas, replacing the oil lamps which had been used for many years. Most of the gas piping and burners still remain.
In 1905 electricity was introduced and an electric generator was installed at a cost of $575. Such a newfangled gadget was bound to cause problems, so the gas lighting system was maintained as a standby for many years thereafter.
Although the city has expanded eastward for miles during the last hundred-plus years, The Tally Ho Club is still close to thousands of acres of almost virgin marshland, laced by miles of bayous and dotted with hundreds of ponds and lagoons.
The members still enjoy hunting for teal, mallard, black duck, dos gris, poule d'eau and other waterfowl. While they no longer lease hunting land as an entity, individual members frequently get their limit in ponds which they lease in areas adjacent to Lake Borgne.
Being so close to the hunting grounds, one can wake up, have breakfast, take off with pirogue, and be in a blind by daybreak. After the hunt, it's back to the club for a short rest before lunch and picking and cleaning the birds. And, if you fell short of the limit, you can make a late afternoon hunt.
The club's location makes it vulnerable to hurricanes, and on several occasions it has suffered substantial damage to buildings and equipment. However, its continuous existence for 191 years bestows the club the honor of being the oldest hunting and fishing club in America.