Claiborne Parish, Louisiana History and Genealogy
The History of Claiborne Parish, Louisiana by D. W. Harris and B. M. Hulse 1886
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Chapter II Louisiana as a Territory
~First Territorial Governor, ~Admitted into The Union
Chapter III Claiborne Parish
Chapter IV Climate, Health, Physical Resources
Chapter V Early Days In North Louisiana
Chapter VI A Georgia Emigrant, His Recollections
Chapter VII Overland
~From West Point, Georgia, Through North Louisiana To Arkansas
Chapter IIX Other Settlements
~and Neighborhoods Antibellum Villages Personal Mention Incidents
Chapter IX Germantown
~Its Origin, Growth and Final Decay
Chapter X Minden
~Its Origan, Growth and Present Status
A few words will suffice to introduce this book. It was written to keep alive the memories of the Fathers; to present to the youth of our land, of this and future generations, a picture of life as it was in North Louisiana sixty years ago, showing how people in that day made love, celebrated marriage, administered justice, went to church, etc.; to perpetuate the memory and preserve a record of the heroic deeds and sublime suffering of those who fought under a flag that is forever furled; to give to those who shall come after us, a correct history of the stormy Reconstruction days an ordeal more trying than the war itself and to protect the acts of that exciting period from misrepresentation; to encourage and stimulate to greater exertion those laboring in the cause of education and religion, by reciting the highly gratifying progress of the past; and to correct as far as possible the many false impressions that have been made upon those living in other sections about our State by partial and superficial tourists, and to set our rich and varied resources in their proper light before the world, with the view of turning emigration in the direction of our highly favored, and heretofore misrepresented and inaccessible section. How well the task has been executed, we leave for others to say. That the work is in some respects incomplete, and contains many errors, we are painfully aware. Some of the muster and death rolls are incomplete, and quite a number of soldiers from Claiborne joined companies in adjoining parishes, whose names we have been unable to procure. A number of enterprising citizens have aided us in the preparation of the work, in the way of furnishing data; to these we now return our thanks. We return special thanks to Capt. J. H. Walker, Prof. H. C. Brownfield, J. E. Hulse, Esq., and Mr. B. R. Coleman, for valuable assistance in compiling the work.
The art of navigation nearly to the close of the fifteenth century was confined to the inland seas and the coasts of the European or Eastern world. The compass not then being known, the seaman, in his voyages, was guided on his course by capes, headlands, the sun and stars; consequently, his voyages were of no great extent. Tradition had filled the wider seas with dangers and monsters dire; storms guarded all unknown regions and forbade all venture into the unknown. An obscuration by clouds of the sun and stars filled the seaman's soul with a sense of dread for fear he might lose his course and miss the port he sought. Furthermore, there was a danger line in the wide western sea and in the equatorial regions that he dared not approach. The descending waters of the one would surely prevent his return home the heat of the other would dissolve his ship.
But towards the close of the fifteenth century, new though vague ideas as to the shape of the surrounding seas began to be entertained; the geographer and the philosopher assumed to teach that the earth, instead of being a flat or vast plain, was round; they denied that the sea extended to an immeasurable distance in all directions from and around the earth and flowed over at some unknown limit and was wasted in the void below; or that the equatorial sea was a hot, seething cauldron in which life was impossible. Men now began to reason, that should this earth of ours be round or globular, the sea must reach from shore to shore of its different coasts. Should this be true, at once was dissolved the many doubts, and the absurd theories that then perplexed the geographer as well as the philosopher. In a great measure it would make plain many facts belonging to sea and land that appeared inscrutable: such as the flow of rivers, the rising and falling of the tides and the dip of the horizon.
Columbus had believed for years that the earth was round or globular, and that the waters of the ocean extended from the eastern shore of Europe to the western shore of India. If so, guided by that wonderful instrument, the compass which had then come into use he could sail across any sea to any land which it reached. Abjuring all traditional dangers he resolved to prove that nature's works were consistent, and an aimless creation impossible. His eagerness to prove his faith by his works became more fully aroused just at this time by the wonderful stories brought from the far east by the Venusian traveler, Marco Polo. These convinced him that the earth was round, and that by sailing to the west he could reach India then the land of wonders and fabulous wealth, by a much shorter and safer route than by the long and dangerous overland route Marco Polo had traveled. He determined to prove the correctness of his theory. With this theory well defined in his own mind, and with maps and charts in hand, he went forth in search of help, being poor, to enable him to undertake his great venture. Patiently, for years, he explained his theory of the conformation of the earth and urged the feasibility of the enterprise all in vain. The ignorance of that period, as it was in ours when Morse begged a pittance to prove his telegraphic theory, closed the ears of bankers and thrones to his appeals. Genoa, his native state, Portugal and other powers rejected him as the wildest of adventurers.
"What," exclaimed the learned schools and the great statesmen, "the earth round and like a globe swinging in space! and people on the other side with their feet towards ours! Impossible absurd; they would fall from the earth into the void below; the ocean would be emptied of its waters; the rivers would run dry, and the earth become a desert. More, should the earth be globular and a ship sail down to the other side, it could never return, for a ship cannot sail up hill."
As a last chance, Columbus approached the throne of Castile, or Spain. The King and Queen became interested in his theory, listened to his explanations until such rich visions of empire and wealth and the extension of the Holy Church arose in their minds, that they determined to equip a fleet and send him forth on his great venture. In due time a fleet of three small vessels, so small that few at this day would venture on a hundred miles from shore, were made ready. With much difficulty a crew was enlisted, and in August, 1492, Columbus sailed from the port of Palos on that voyage which has built up and revolutionized governments, religion, philosophy and knowledge. Touching at the Azores Islands, said to have been discovered by, a ship driven by adverse winds out of her course, he thence turned the prows of his little fleet directly west into the wide waters of the deep and unknown Atlantic.
After sailing many days to the west, without any sign of land appearing, the fears and superstitions of his crew began to make them uneasy. They murmured, and then demanded that the ships should be turned towards home. But Columbus, self-possessed, by persuasions and promises influenced his men to trust him and go yet further into the unknown sea. At last signs appeared which nerved the hearts of his trembling crew birds began to fly over and around the ships, driftwood was seen in the water, then a green bush floated by. These signs of land not far off were too plain to be unheeded; sail was shortened, and while moving slowly forward a close watch, by eager eyes, was kept for land. About midnight a light was seen moving as if carried by a person walking. Immediately the ships were stopped in their forward movement for fear of going ashore and all waited impatiently and wonderingly the marvelous revelation the morning was to bring forth. And when that memorable morning of October the 12th, 1492 came, a new world in all its pristine beauty lay before Columbus and his anxious crew. The fact that the earth was as a globe, that the waters of the sea reached from shore to shore was proved, and Columbus had triumphed.
Columbus, believing he was on the western coast of India, named the inhabitants Indians hence the name of the original people of the American continent. In a subsequent voyage, he sailed for miles along the shore of the main land south of the Caribbean sea, and yet died not knowing he had discovered a new world. This discovery of Columbus aroused a wild spirit of adventure among all the maritime people of Europe, and adventure after adventure was sent out to the new world, mainly in quest of gold and glory. Many sought, in the interest of commerce, a shorter route to India by way of the northern sea, but this vast continent, its extent then unknown, lay directly in the way. In search of this route, Cartier, a French navigator, in 1535, entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence and ascended the river of that name to an Indian village where now stands the town of Montreal.
In 1605 De Monts founded the town of Port Royal in Nova Scotia which claims to be the first European settlement in America. Champlain in 1608, established a trading post on the St. Lawrence river, which post in the course of years has become the historic city of Quebec. Sixty years after the establishment of this post, during which time the French had secured strong position on the St. Lawrence, Father Marquette, a Catholic priest and missionary learned from the Indians of a great river further west, by them designated The Father of Waters, because of its immense volume, and resolved to see it. In the light canoe or boat used by the Indians, he made his way down the Illinois River to the Mississippi, which he entered, in 1674 and continued down it as far as the mouth of the Arkansas. Returning to Quebec, he told of this immense river; and in 1683 La Salle and others, about twenty in number, made their way to it, descending it to the Gulf of Mexico and in honor of Louis the XIV, then King of France, La Salle named the country through which the Mississippi flowed, Louisiana.
Deeply impressed with the future possibilities of this great waterway and the adjacent country through which it carried him, he returned to Canada and immediately sailed for France. Convincing the King of the magnificence of such an acquisition to his domain, by order of the King a fleet was fitted out and La Salle; with a number of emigrants, set sail for the mouth of the Mississippi to establish a colony in Louisiana. But not having correctly ascertained the bearing of the outlet of the river, he failed to find it and landed at some point west on the coast of Texas. His brother soon departed with the fleet to France, leaving La Salle and the colonists ashore in the new world. Discontent arising among the colonists, La Salle in search of succor, started by land to Canada, but was assassinated by his followers, who disappeared in the wilds of Texas, and the colonists who remained at the place of landing were shortly afterwards made prisoners by a squad of Spanish soldiers from Mexico. This terminated for a number of years, all efforts of the French to colonize Louisiana.
The year 1698 is memorable in the history of Louisiana, for early in that year the brothers, Bienville and Iberville, entered the Gulf of Mexico with men and arms in search of the Mississippi, duly empowered by the King of France to take lawful possession thereof. Anchoring near Dauphine Island, they erected a small fort on Biloxi Bay, and for the first time, after so many years of delay and disappointment, the flag of France floated out in the breeze of the Mississippi valley, proclaiming to the world that France claimed legal ownership of the same. Early next year Bienville sailed up the river and established a garrison where now stands Fort St. Phillip, since so famous in the history of this country. Possession thus being secured, in 1712 the first civil government in all this wide expanse of unexplored country was authoritatively proclaimed.
The officer commissioned to administer this civil government after several years of perplexity and failure resigned his commission and the civil authority was turned over to Bienville. With that energy and judgment which characterized the man, he pushed further up the river, and in 1718 erected a fort and laid out the city of New Orleans. Forty-five years thereafter, the inhabitants of Louisiana having heroically endured many perils and privations, battling with the natives, disease and famine, the French government, exhausted by her long wars and misrule, and deriving no income from this far western colony; ceded New Orleans and all the territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain. A Spanish emigration followed the cession, but it failed to bring peace and prosperity to the colony, or revenue to the Spanish Coffers.
The French and Spaniards could not assimilate. Spain, in a short while, found the territory of Louisiana so costly a burthen that, in 1781, she gladly receded it to France. But France was now in the clutches of Napoleon I, and delirious with revolution, was contending in battle with all the powers of Europe. The movement of her armies required money, and in 1803 she sold Louisiana to the United States for the sum of $15,000,000. Slowly moves the march of empire. From the year 1535, when Cartier entered the St. Lawrence River, to the cession of Louisiana to the United States, 1803 elapsed a period of 268 years, filled with wildest romance, adventure and heroic endurance.
Chapter II Louisiana as a Territory
~First Territorial Governor
~Admitted Into The Union
The United States having assumed possession of this lately purchased territory. Congress, in 1804, in order to insure the people a stable government and as soon as possible reconcile the different races to the new order of affairs divided the country into two divisions; designating the southern division as the Territory of Orleans and the northern and western as the District of Orleans. Mr. Jefferson, then President of the United States and during whose administration and by whose advice the purchase was made, appointed W. C. C. Claiborne, Governor of the Territory of Orleans-which position he held until 1812, administering the government so firmly and wisely that, in a great measure, the conflicting interests and prejudices of the several nationalities became reconciled and quieted. The result of this wise administration of public affairs by Gov. Claiborne was to so rapidly induce emigration to the territory that in 1812 admission into the union was claimed, and in that year, by formal act of Congress, the territory of Orleans was admitted as the State of Louisiana, and W. C. C. Claiborne was duly elected her first governor.
It soon became apparent that the welfare of the people at the distant post of Natchitoches, on Red River, and of the scattering settlements that were gradually forming further up the river and in the adjoining country, required attention; consequently, the territorial legislature, by act in 1804, incorporated the Parish of Natchitoches, embracing all that part of north Louisiana west of the parish of Ouachita to the Sabine river, then the dividing line between the United States and Mexico.
North Louisiana at this time was covered with a dense mass of brushwood and interlacing vines the home of the wolf, the bear, and the panther. Numbers of horses and cattle, the progenitors of which had wandered from the inhabited sections of the territory to this wilderness, ran free and wild. Several tribes of Indians were living here and there, now and then visited by tradesmen in search of peltry, and the country by hunters in search of game. The few earlier settlers that ventured into these wild regions had to fairly hew their way, for only a few devious trails and paths were to be found. Roads, there were none, save the read that connected Monroe and Natchitoches. Subsequently the United States having established a garrison several hundred miles above, on Red River, at Fort Towson, opened what was known as the Military Road, connecting this post with Natchitoches and Alexandria, for the purpose of transporting supplies to that far-off post.
The settlements in those early days being so wide apart, and hunting and traffic with the Indians being the chief occupations, direct roads were impossible. But gradually, settlement followed settlement, clearings increased, and from these clearings and the camps of the hunters, fires broke out sweeping over all the land, killing the tangled undergrowth or brushwood, even destroying the foliage of lofty trees. In the following years fires again raged, consuming all the dead and fallen rubbish that then encumbered the ground. Being thus relieved of its heavy undergrowth or brushwood, in its place forest grass and switch cane sprang up, and in one season a mantle of green covered the nakedness of the earth. Then all north Louisiana appeared as an immense park, diversified with vast openings and vistas most enchanting. Game of every kind, peculiar to this region, increased rapidly, particularly the deer and the turkey.
The buffalo came up from the wide prairies of the Attakapas, and in a few years North Louisiana became known as the Hunters' Paradise. The surveyor's chain was stretched across the land, and both surveyor and hunter carried back to the older settlements, and to the States east of the Mississippi River, such glowing descriptions of the beauty of the country, the fertility of its soil, its health, its abundance of game, the streams abounding in fish, and in winter every pond and lake crowded with all manner of water fowl, that a regularly increasing tide of emigration set in to this promised land. So rapid was this emigration that it became necessary to divide this immense parish of Natchitoches, for the seat of justice was too far to be reached by distant settlements, consequently, in 1828, the Legislature passed the following act incorporating the parish of Claiborne, naming it for Louisiana's first governor.
An Act To Create a new Parish in the Parish of Nachitoches to be called Claiborne
Section I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Louisiana, in General Assembly convened: That all that portion of territory within the following boundaries, to wit: Beginning on the eastern bank of Red River, about fifty miles northwest of the town of Natchitoches, at the northern boundary line of Township thirteen; thence east, in the direction of said line, to the dividing line between Ranges three and four west; thence along said line, which shall form the western boundary of the parish of Ouachita, north to the Arkansas Territory, thence west to the main branch of Red River, and descending the same to the beginning, be and the same is erected into a new parish, to be called the parish of Claiborne.
Oct. La Branche, Speaker of the House of Representatives
Ad. Beauvis, President of the Senate, Approved March 13, 1828
H. Johnson, Governor of the State of Louisiana
Chapter III Claiborne Parish
The parish having been thus incorporated, the paraphernalia of law and justice was put in motion by the election and appointment of all necessary officers. The first District Court, in all its majesty, embodied in the person of Judge Wilson, of Monroe, supported by Isaac McMahan as Sheriff, and Robert Cochran as Clerk, was convened in the house of John Murrell, whose house for years was the center of all public business for the new parish, where law and justice were dispensed until the police jury, in its wisdom, selected a seat of justice.
The place selected was on the premises of Samuel Russell, and was named Russellville, in honor of Mr. Russell who had offered liberal inducements to the jury for the benefit of the parish, and because this locality had become more central to the widely diffused population. When the District Court convened at this new domicile Judge Overton was the presiding officer, Wm. McMahan was Clerk, and Isaac McMahan was yet Sheriff. Russellville remained the parish site until 1836 when the Population having tended westward, the seat of justice was removed to Overton on Bayou Dorcheat, near the place now known as Minden Lower Landing. This place being at the head of navigation, it was believed that the location would be permanent and a thriving commercial town would build up. But Overton proving to be unhealthy and subject to overflows, and the population having become preponderant in the eastern portion of the parish, in 1846 the seat of justice was removed to Athens, where it remained until the courthouse, with all the records of the parish was destroyed by fire believed to have been the work of an incendiary.
Then the police jury for by this time the rapidly increasing population had disseminated itself about equally all over the parish determined to locate the courthouse centrally and permanently. After due investigation and proper consideration of all claims as to locality as well as the main interests involved, the site where Homer now stands was selected. These lands had been entered and were owned by Allen Harris and Tillinghast Vaughn, both of whom made liberal concessions to the parish for the public buildings, and to the people for schools and churches. Frank Vaughn, son of Tillinghast Vaughn, had the honor of naming the new parish town.
The first District Court was held here in September, 1849, in a cheap board shanty erected for the purpose. Litigants and visitors encamped around in the woods, and, when court was in session would stand at the windows and peep through the cracks to watch the proceedings of the august tribunal within, until fatigue or hunger or thirst would drive them to their camps for rest, or to the grocery for refreshments. Roland Jones was then district Judge, Allen Harris, Sheriff and W. C. Copes, Clerk. But Claiborne Parish being prosperous and her people increasing rapidly in numbers every year determined to erect a suitable building in which justice should preside, and to execute this laudable intent, the necessary tax was levied, and in due time a commodious brick building, with all the proper offices, was erected. Judge Jones, supported by Sheriff Allen Harris and Clerk W. C. Copes, in 1850, held the first District term in this new courthouse, then the finest structure in all North Louisiana.
Following the incorporation of Claiborne Parish was a marked increase of emigration particularly about 1835when steamboats, navigating Ouachita and Red Rivers, made access to the country less difficult. But, from 1840 to 1860, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee sent in their sons and daughters and slaves by hundreds and by thousands. In a few years roads, farms, villages, churches and schoolhouses were to be found all over the parish. Every trade and industry was represented; bountiful crops rewarded the farmer's toil without stint, and peace and prosperity blessed all the people. This remarkable influx of population almost yearly demanded the formation of new parishes; consequently, out of the immense original Claiborne was formed, in their order of dates, the following parishes, Bossier, in 1843; Jackson, in 1845; Bienville, in 1848, Webster in 1871, and Lincoln in 1873.
This once great parish to its present limits bounds to wit: Union Parish on the east, Arkansas on the north, Webster Parish on the west and Lincoln on the south, leaving her a total area of 778 square miles, embraced in five townships and subdivided into eight wards; Ward 1 has an area of 120 square miles; ward 2, 110; Ward 4, 72; Ward 5, 72; Ward 6, 83; Ward 7, 104, and Ward 8, 107. And yet old Claiborne although so reduced from the grandeur of her original area, has not been shorn of all her glory; she yet proudly maintains her position as the banner parish of North Louisiana, and so she will remain, for her foundation is of iron, and she can and will conquer all adversity.
Chapter IV Climate, Health, Physical Resources
Claiborne is one of the old parishes of the State, having been organized as a parish in 1828. Previous to that time it formed a part of Natchitoches parish. When organized, Claiborne contained, in addition to its present area, all of what is now known as Bienville and Webster Parishes, and a part of what is now Lincoln. It now extends from Union Parish on the east, along the southern boundary of the State of Arkansas, to Webster Parish on the west, and is bounded on the south by Bienville and Webster Parishes, and on the southeast by Lincoln Parish. It will thus be seen that Claiborne occupies abut a central position in the northern tier of parishes, and is beyond question the highest as well as the healthiest portion of the State of Louisiana.
The average altitude of Louisiana, as set forth in Toner's Dictionary of Elevations of the United States, is 75 feet above the level of the sea. This is a somewhat lower average level than that of any of the other States, except Florida, which is put down at 60 feet above the sea in its average. Claiborne Parish has the highest average elevation of any parish in the State, being about 200 feet above sea level. Still this is a rather low average as compared with the country north and west. There is an impression with some that high places are the most healthy, but this does not always follow, and is not the testimony of experience here in Louisiana. Sometimes the lowest places in the same neighborhood have had quite the advantage in point of health. In the Old World some healthful and fertile localities are below the level of the ocean as the valley of the Jordan, more than 1,000 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, the shores of the Caspian Sea, and portions of Holland, reclaimed from the ocean by its dykes. Settlers here from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and other States, say they find Claiborne Parish as healthy as the countries from which they came.
It is never visited by the severe epidemics of yellow fever and smallpox which are so fatal in the parishes bordering on the rivers especially in the cities and towns on their banks; nor is it subject to those dangerous malarial diseases, such as swamp fever, typhoid fever, etc., which are such a scourge to the lower country; in fact, it is singularly free from epidemics and malarial disorders of all kinds, and will compare favorably with any portion of the United States in point of health. The only epidemics ever known in the parish is measles, and that of a very mild type, very rarely causing death. Area in square miles 778; in acres, 4,477,920; amount of land vacant, 537,660 acres; population in 1880, 18,857 Whites and Blacks equally divided; amount of taxable property, as per assessment roll for last year, $1,479,060; rate of taxation, 11 mills on the dollar; area in cultivation, 126,000 acres; valuation of land subject to taxation, $743,317; value of stock, $293,835. The conditions of the atmosphere in its degrees of temperature and moisture are items which affect organized life, animal and vegetable. Since the temperature of the atmosphere falls, as distance from the equator increases, one degree of depression for every added degree of latitude; and since, moreover, the thermometer falls one degree for every 300 feet of altitude, Louisiana being comparatively near the equator and so little above the sea level, might be thought, by residents of Northern States, to be very warm; but there are other influences which disturb this natural order of things which must be taken into account before the truth is reached.
There are dozens of rivers and hundreds of smaller streams coursing over the surface there, too, lakes and other bodies of water are numerous. The evaporations from these streams and lakes, and from the Gulf of Mexico on the south, rapidly consume or absorb the heat of the sun, just as water sprinkled on the floor absorbs the heat of a room, and this process is more rapid because, as the vapor rises, taking with it all the heat it can render insensible, breezes from the Gulf, as from the plains of the northwest, take it away and supply other air to be filled with other vapor performing the same office in the cooling process, so that, as a matter of fact, the thermometer rises higher in summer in New York, Boston and Philadelphia than in any portion of Louisiana. Sunstroke, so frequent and fatal in the cities, and, indeed in the country, north, is never known in Louisiana.
There is, also, another item not to be overlooked in seeking the causes of a higher temperature in summer in countries north of Louisiana it is, that the days are longer in summer as we proceed northward, and the nights shorter. There is, therefore, less time for throwing off or radiating the heat received from the sun, until his return with other supplies. I regret that there are no tables of mean relative humidity and temperature from which I can quote, for the information of the possible northern reader, on this important subject. But an experience of thirty years in this part of Louisiana enables the writer to say that the thermometer very rarely rises as high as 100 degrees in summer, and as rarely falls am low as 25 degrees in winter. As already noticed, the thermometer does not rise quite so high in Louisiana as in countries further north, but this is not the whole advantage. The temperature of the animal system is ordinarily above that of the atmosphere. The breezes are constantly removing from contact with the body the partially heated particles of air and supplying cooler particles, which absorb the heat, and the cooling sensation is in proportion to the rapidity of the process. Such breezes are a constant and enduring feature of Louisiana's summer climate, occurring with almost daily unvarying regularity. It is this feature that enables a man or beast to exist during a long summer day under our semitropical sun, without distress or danger; and it is this too, perhaps, which accounts for the total absence of sun strokes among men, and hydrophobia among dogs. It would, perhaps, not be well to omit mention in this connection, of the fact that we have some cold weather in Louisiana.
This country is subject to occasional cold waves brought down upon it by the northwest winds, but they are of short duration; lasting not generally longer than three or four days, as the wind quickly veers round, our Gulf breezes come, and our normal winter weather resumes sway, which is never cold enough to require shelter for stock, or to make fuel for heating purposes a matter of consideration. The surface of the country is undulating, hills and valleys running in every direction; or, perhaps, it might more properly be described as rolling, as the hills are only gentle elevations, never precipitous and high as in the States north and east. This rolling or undulating surface gives rise to numerous water courses, creeks, bayous, etc., which drain the country in every direction, and whose currents are generally sufficiently swift to carry off the greatest, rainfall, so that we have very little of what is known as swamp and overflowed land, with their ponds and lagoons stagnant water, breeding miasma, malaria, mosquitos, buffalo gnats and other ills and pests to man and beast. In this respect, Claiborne Parish is blessed above almost any other part of the State, the greater part of which, as is well known, is not sufficiently rolling to drain well, and in consequence the slow, tortuous water courses failing to carry off the water fast enough, it spreads out over the adjacent low-lying country, where a great part of it is left in ponds, lake, and lagoons, which, under the influence of our warm summer sun, doubtless gives rise to the various malarial diseases and insect pests for which Louisiana has acquired quite a reputation.
The writer has often been surprised at the opinion held by residents of other States, particularly the Northern States, in regard to Louisiana. They seem, in many cases, to regard the whole of Louisiana as one vast frog pond, interspersed with occasional dry patches or spots of land on which the inhabitants eke out a miserable, chill shaken existence; indeed, they would be surprised to find a resident of the South, outside the cities and larger towns where, as they think, man has improved natural conditions, who was at all robust or in ways like a man. They seem to think he should conform very nearly, both in his physical development and habits of life, to his most intimate friend, the frog. In fact, nothing could be more erroneous, or further from the truth, than the idea entertained of Louisiana generally by residents of other States, and this idea has originated and been fostered by the inaccurate descriptions of geographers and by the written accounts of travelers along our water courses, which, until late years, have been our only highways of trade, and these travelers, added to their lack of means of observation, have been, to say the least, very casual observers, and seem in most eases to have taken a jaundiced view of everything. It is true, and very proper to be noted here, that we have what is called malaria in Louisiana, but we have very little of it in the rolling woodlands of Claiborne.
Through about the center of this parish runs the ridge, or water divide, which separates the waters of the Red and Ouachita Rivers the water courses on the right, or west, emptying into Red River, and those on the left, or east, into Ouachita. We have no streams which are navigable within the boundaries of the parish, though there are several having their rise here which are navigable in their lower courses. Our natural scenery, though not perhaps as picturesque as that of mountainous Countries, is sufficiently varied and interesting to impart a sense of pleasure to any one not entirely blind to nature's beauties. We have winding streams, babbling brooks, gushing springs, many-hued forest scenes, birds with brilliant plumage, and merry songsters; we have rocks here, too, and minerals; strange as it may seem to those who only know Louisiana from hearsay.
No poets fancy has ever delineated in measured song the beauties of our fields and forests; no artists pencil or brush has transferred to canvass the beauties, of our landscapes; but they are here, and will abide their time. In this respect, as in many others, this part of the State is verily a terra incognito. As to the soil of Claiborne, it would be impossible within the limits of this book, or within the limits prescribed to this part of it, to do full justice to this important feature, important because the soil is as yet our country's only stock in trade, its only resource. We are emphatically an agricultural people. Everything is dependent directly and exclusively upon the productions of the soil when this fails everything else fails when the cultivation of the soil becomes unprofitable, everything else becomes unprofitable, Hence, the importance which attaches in a work of this kind to the nature and quality of the soil, Liebig, the celebrated German Agricultural Chemist, says that the poorest soils, even the Limeburg heath of his country, contains enough of mineral plant food for centuries of profitable tillage, but that it is locked in such chemical combination as to render it inaccessible to plants, except in a very slight degree.
If this be so, and it doubtless is so, for Liebig knew whereof he spoke in matters of this kind, it would seem that the quality of the soil is not a matter of such very great importance had we but the key to this chest, the means of unlocking this chemical combination, and surrendering this inexhaustible supply accessible to plants, but here is the rub, we have it not, nor are we likely to have it soon, if ever. The farmer in North Louisiana is obliged in the main to take his soil just as he finds it to accept the return it makes for his patient toil, of its own free will, without the aid which scientific discoveries have rendered possible in more favored cases; for he is, in most cases, ignorant of the elements with which his soil is supplied or in which it is deficient he knows nothing of the chemical combinations necessary to the growth of the plants he wishes to cultivate; and even if he possessed this scientific knowledge, he has not the means at hand to render it practicably useful. So the best he can do, is to make use of such fertilizers as he may have at hand which observation and experience tell him will be beneficial to his plants.
He is an experimenter, groping in the dark even the little way which his circumstances will admit of his going in this direction. The supply of fertilizers on an average farm in Claiborne parish, known to be of value, is so limited that a large part of the area in cultivation must necessarily go from year to year without fertilization; so that the quality of the soil is an item of the first importance. When I tell the practical geologist that the soil of Claiborne Parish is not alluvial in its character, he says at once, then it belongs to the tertiary formation, or to the tertiary geological epoch, and is formed in the main from the disintegration of sandstone. Your soil, says he, must be largely composed of sand. Quite true, sand seems to be a predominant constituent of our soil, but I say to him, we have red lands in Claiborne--lands in which sand is not at all conspicuous, as an element. They are, says he, somewhat sandy in their character, and are formed from the disintegration of red sandstone to which iron has given the coloring matter; such soils ought to be rich in the phosphates of iron and profitable to cultivate, as these elements are valuable as a plant food. Right again; our red lands are profitably cultivated on them crops do well, to which the phosphates of lime and iron are a vital necessity.
The practical farmer, or plant grower, knowing little of chemistry or geology judges of land by the natural growth upon it the trees which nature has planted there, and which have flourished and taken possession of the soil in its wild state. He sees the oak, the ash, the hickory, the walnut, the blackjack he knows that from their ashes good soap is made; he may not know that these ashes are rich in the phosphates of lime, so valuable as plant food, but he does know that where these trees grow, corn, cotton and potatoes will grow, and may be profitably grown. He knows, too, when he sees the character of the soil, that it is porous, loose and mellow, that it will readily yield up what elements of plant food it possesses, that it is generous in its nature and easy of cultivation. The practical farmer of Claiborne knows these things and makes practical and profitable use of such knowledge, but he does not know often, how, by several successive years of profitable tillage, he has robbed his generous soil of the greater part of its available plant food, and that he has to replace what he has recklessly, taken away to reinvigorate his exhausted soil.
In fact, he does not seem to be aware that these years of constant cultivation are making fearful inroads upon his bank account his stock in trade the available plant food in his soil; does not seem to know, or acts as though he did not know, that these elements of plant food are his only resource, the sole reason why his lands are worth anything whatever to himself or others. If he thinks about these things at all, he thinks that lands are cheap, and so goes ahead, year after year, without counting the cost, even to himself in the end, leaving out of consideration altogether the heritage of his children, the needs of the generation which is to come after him. In this case, the "sins of the fathers are indeed visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations."
The rule generally followed is, as fast as one field is exhausted it is turned out, the forest cut away and another enclosed to go through the same process of treatment; so that our domain will soon be largely composed of old fields turned out to grow up in pines, for it is a peculiarity of our soil that the natural growth does not return to it after it has been treated in this way, that natural growth which eventually enriches it and brings it back to its original state of available fertility, but young pines take possession of it, and they, as is well known, add little to the fertility of soil by the decay of their foliage, as is the case with numerous other plants. It might be well to enter a little more into detail as to the average farmers' methods and the success which attend them.
When he decides upon the precise plot of eminent domain which he will next lay waste, his first step is to seek out all the timber growing upon it which can be converted into rails, such trees are felled and converted into rails, next he cuts off the undergrowth, which is made into brush heaps to be burned when dry; then cuts down the saplings and smaller trees, whose bodies are cut into convenient lengths for hauling home and whose laps go to the brush heaps; he next chops around all trees left standing, thus "deadening them' as it is called. as this circular chopping through the sap part of the tree prevents the free circulation of the sap, thus killing the tree which is left standing to take its chances against decay and the prevailing winds, its falling is only a question of time. He hauls out everything available for fuel, thus frequently getting enough fuel for a year or two from a small plot of ground next he puts all logs left on the ground into convenient lengths which, with the help of his neighbors, he makes into heaps on the ground, and into these heaps go all refuse from the fuel selected. The brush with log heaps often cover almost the entire surface of the ground.
His clearing is now done and is ready for the grand burning as soon as the brush and logs are sufficiently dry. If the clearing is done in the summer or fall, the burning may be done in winter, but if the clearing is done in winter the burning is not generally done until in the spring, just before planting time. After this new field is burned off, he proceeds to surround it with a cross-fence of rails, when it is ready for the plow. The farmer frequently realizes enough corn or cotton from this new field the first year to pay for its clearing, though it generally happens that very little is obtained for the first year's cultivation, but the second year's cultivation generally yields excellent crops bale of cotton or thirty bushels of corn per acre being frequently realized on uplands the second year, but its maximum is not generally reached till the third year. This field is then kept in constant cultivation in crops which take all from the soil and return very little, or nothing, to it until by a constantly diminishing yield, it is found no longer profitable for cultivation; then it too, is laid aside, and another inroad made upon the forest.
Nowhere in the United States, perhaps, can more generous soil be found than the rolling woodlands of Claiborne Parish; nowhere a soil which more readily yields up its elements of plant food, or is easier of cultivation. There are richer and more durable lands elsewhere, but taking into consideration certainty of yield and ease of cultivation, there are none, I venture to say, which will better repay careful tillage and proper management than they, or more worthy of the attention of the intelligent agriculturist. These lands are almost all adapted to the highest fertilizing; they can, by proper management and very little cost, be kept at their maximum yield indeed, they can be made better every year instead of being made poorer, as is now too often the case.
I have heretofore spoken of the better class of uplands in Claiborne, these, as I said before, often yield, with careful tillage and without fertilizers, as much as a bale of cotton or 30 or 40 bushels of corn per acre. Corn and cotton being the leading productions of the country the value of land is generally estimated by its production of these two staples; but there are other lands not so productive; others in cultivation on which half of the above yield is considered a good one; others there are, too, which seem comparatively worthless, except for the timber on them. But this last class of lands form but a small part of Claiborne's area. There is very little land within the limits of the parish which may not be profitably cultivated, and upon all of it fertilizers may be profitably used. This fact has been demonstrated again and again, in numerous instances. The surface soil, though unusually light and porous, has underlying it a firm and compact subsoil which is within easy reach of plant roots, and which serves the double purpose of giving the plant a firm hold on the earth, and of preventing the leaking through of fertilizers applied to the surface soil. This subsoil is not entirely of clay or aluminum, as the chemists call it, which is not food for plants, but is found to contain, in many cases, a fair amount of plant food. The staple commodities of this part of the country for markets outside the State, it is expected, will soon enlarge in number, but at present they are extremely few, and might perhaps be summed up in one word Cotton. Cotton is almost our only crop for sale. It is, as we say here, our only money crop.
The history of agriculture in the United States, and perhaps in other parts of the civilized world, has always taught one important lesson which impoverished farms and empty purses are slowly urging the present generation to heed. It is this that no exclusively agricultural community can ever be prosperous while it confines itself to the production of a single commodity. No matter how well the soil may be adapted to its production, the climate and natural conditions suited to its growth, that country or community which links its fortunes to that of a single plant, that stakes its all upon its successful culture, will be and must needs be always poor and often finds itself in sad straits. Experience proves this lesson wherever such a course has been pursued. The most unobservant traveler through a country where cotton is cultivated to the exclusion of other crops suited to the soil and climate, or where tobacco, hemp, or any other single plant reigns supreme, has had this truth forced upon him by the worn out lands, the deserted homesteads, the dilapidated fences and farm houses, the utter absence of progress and enterprise, and the scenes of thriftlessness and want which meet his eyes on every side.
While cotton is now almost the only thing produced for market, the soil of Claiborne Parish is admirably adapted to the production of a variety of other crops, which might profitably take the place of cotton in part. The sweet potato is, for house use, a universal crop in this part of the State, and seems to be in its natural home. It is easily propagated from the roots, sprouts or vines, and with a little care in the preparation of the ground and subsequent cultivation; returns an immense yield, often as much as 300 bushels per acre. From its easy propagation and cultivation, its large yield and the variety and excellence of the dishes prepared from it, it is one of the indispensable crops for home use, but has not hitherto, been raised for markets outside the State. This is due, doubtless, to lack of transportation, but now that we have a railroad within easy reach and are likely to have another soon, this impediment will be removed and we may expect to see the sweet potato take its place among the products of the country and with great profit to the farmer. The Irish potato or "white potato," is accredited as a native of Chili and Peru, and was introduced into North America by the Spaniards, from whence it was, in 1586, carried by Sir Waiter Raleigh to England, and perhaps acquired its name of Irish potato from the extent to which it was grown in Ireland.
This tuber ought soon to take a prominent place among the very profitable crops of North Louisiana. There is probably nothing that the soil produces which can be more profitably grown than the Irish potato. Field peas of many varieties grow to perfection here and are often a valuable adjunct to the farmer's corn crop, as they furnish excellent food for all kinds of domestic animals, including man himself. Their cultivation is receiving a large share of attention now, which is a sign of better times, as besides its valuable qualities as a food, its culture is very beneficial to the land on which it is grown. The pea is largely an air feeder and hence may be grown on very poor land and be made to return much more to the soil than it takes from it, and thus increase fertility. It is found very advantageous to land to sow it in peas and plow under while the vines are green. Wheat does not seem to do well anywhere in Louisiana, though it has been tried at various times on the uplands of Claiborne; its culture has never been attended with marked success. Sometimes its yield has been satisfactory, more frequently however it fails.
Oats are a staple production of the country. If sown in the fall they rarely fail to amply repay the farmer for all the care and attention bestowed upon them. Barley and rye also do well here but are not at present largely planted, not as much as formerly. Sorghum has been at various times experimentally grown, and is at present grown in small quantities. It grows very luxuriantly, and is of certain yield if properly cultivated, but has been regarded as of doubtful profit. Its tops or seed are known to be excellent food for stock. Garden products are an essential feature of every household in the parish; no home is complete without its vegetable garden, the products of which go far toward furnishing the family with wholesome food throughout the entire year. Every variety of garden vegetable found in this latitude does well here, beans, English peas, cabbage, tomatoes, turnips, onions, beets, lettuce and numerous others grow very luxuriantly, and nothing pays better or is more pleasing to the eye than the well kept gardens in Claiborne Parish. The timber supply is sufficient to meet the demands of the population, as it naturally increases, for many generations. Pine, several kinds of oak, sweet and black gum, hickory, walnut, ash, maple, iron wood, persimmon and many other varieties are found in easy reach of nine-tenths of the farms.
There are thousands of acres once in cultivation worn out and now left to grow up or wash away, that are covered with young pines, etc. Here and on parts of farms too wet to cultivate, grow delicious blackberries, bushels of which may be seen at a glance; dewberries in luxuriant plenty are found in these old fields. These, together with various other berries, such as the different kinds of haws, huckleberries, paw paws, the banana of the temperate zones etc., may be had in plenty for the mere trouble of gathering; chinkapin, walnuts and hickory nuts are equally as numerous. Fruits of all kinds peculiar to this latitude grow to perfection, and a failure of the crop is rare. Flowers, native and exotic, are reared with little trouble, grow luxuriantly, and frost, except with the most tender varieties, seldom requires that they be housed or protected. Game of the smaller species, such as squirrels, birds, hare, etc. are numerous, but deer and turkey, though once very numerous, are now rare, having sought more thinly settled parts of the country. Melons of every variety, from the classic pumpkin to the primitive gourd, abound in Claiborne and of the very finest quality, among which the watermelon deserves special mention. It is probable that nowhere in the world can this fruit be grown more successfully than here on the sandy lands of Claiborne. It is extremely prolific, fully flavored and often grows to immense size. The writer has often seen them weighing fifty pounds, sometimes sixty. They might be very profitably grown here for northern markets.
Chapter V Early Days In North Louisiana
In the latter part of the winter of 1818 could have been seen in the Horse Shoe bend of Cumberland River, Tenn., about three miles from Carthage, a flat boat tied by ropes to the shore. On this boat was a man and his wife, some children, a few household goods, cooking utensils and a rifle. That man was John Murrell, starting with his family in search of a home in the far west, somewhere up in the Red River valley. Early in the morning the lines that held the flat boat to the shore were cut looser and John Murrell, wife and children turned their backs to their old Tennessee home. Floating down the river, they joined at Nashville, according to a previous understanding, a company of emigrants that were bound to the same unknown promised land.
Disposing of his old flat boat, Murrell and family got aboard one of two barges, or, as then called, keel boats. There were about ten families, to wit: that of Wallace: Clark, Ward, Manning, Dyer, Big Joe, Hutson, Robinson, Duty, Dooly, Peterson and Murrell. Descending the Cumberland, they entered the great Mississippi and floated down to the month of Red River. After resting here a few days, they slowly ascended the wondrous Red River, and after many days of toil and much loss of time in working their way through the Great Raft and among monster alligators, safely landed at Long Prairie, in the Arkansas Territory. All were charmed with the country; it was so fresh and new but it was a solitude. The sound of an axe or rifle was not to be heard, nor the smoke of a cabin to be seen. They were alone in a primeval world. One of the company, H. Robinson, became so dissatisfied because of the wild and unbroken solitude of the country, that he alone with his wife and child, made off through the wild woods for his home in dear old Tennessee. The others, having more nerve, spent some time in hunting out localities to suit them. Murrell and Wallace pitched their camp on the bank of the river, put up rude board shelters, cut down a small patch of cane and planted corn and vegetables.
Murrell having about $100 in cash, determined to invest it in cattle; so in June he took a trail that led down to Natchitoches Parish; for it must be remembered that the only pass ways were the hunter or Indian trails, or paths. On the trail Murrell traveled there were between Long Prairie and Natchitoches, only two cabins, one of which was vacant, for the man, Bosel, who built it, left in a few days after completing it for Texas, or the Spanish country, as it was then called. The other was the home of Isaac Alden and Mrs. Johnson, the place now known as the Bools place, eight miles east of Minden. Alden and his wife entreated Murrell to bring his family and take possession of this cabin. But Murrell wanted cattle, so he went ahead on his cow hunt south of Natchitoches found and bought ten cows and calves. On his arrival home with his cattle, he was horror struck to find a number of his family sick with fever.
This he could not stand, and at once determined to get his family away from the river. The deserted cabin on the Natchitoches trail, the kindly suggestion of the Aldens, promptly came to mind, and he resolved so soon as his family was able to travel, to leave the poisonous Red River and find a shelter in this lonely cabin. His wealth was not great, consisting of two ponies, ten cows and calves, one dog, one rifle and an axe, but of far more value to him than all else, a brave wife and six dependent children. August 6, 1818, he stopped in front of that vacant cabin on the place now belonging to Wm. H. Maxey, and beneath its humble shelter, thankfully placed his wearied wife and children. Letting Mrs. Johnson know that his family was in the Bosel cabin she immediately attended to his wants, letting him have meat, bread, corn, etc., and showing every delight at knowing she had a neighbor within twelve miles, for up to this time her nearest neighbors were at Campti a few miles below on Red River. As neighbors, we mean such as a civilized, Christian woman could welcome. We could almost daily see Indians, for there were many of them in the country. They lived in small villages, and moved from place to place as their hunting expeditions required. But these Indians were inoffensive, committing no depredations on stock or other property. One of these villages was on the land now owned by Col. John Kimbell, and among these roving people was a half breed Cherokee, who had fled from his people for killing one of the tribe. Away from the malarial Red River, Murrell's family soon regained good health, save the babe, which in a few days left the lonely cabin a corpse.
Murrell being possessed of a fair supply of native genius, as well as plenty of pluck, at once went to work and in a day or two had rigged up and in fine working order a first class Armstrong mill. This mill, though simple in appearance, combined several of the mechanical powers, operating through a spring pole to a pestle in a mortar box, or hole burnt into the end of a heavy block of wood. The spring pole is worked up and down by hand hence the name "Armstrong mill." The sifting apparatus of this mill was made of a dry deer skin from which the hair had been shaved, stretched tightly over a broad wooden hoop, and then burned full of holes with a hot spindle. It was a great success; far surpassing the common hand pestle and mortar. However, two or three years thereafter, he succeeded in getting an improved Armstrong, a steel mill, which proved to be a great saving of labor, and made a better meal than the old fashioned spring pole.
The country then was almost entirely covered with a dense thicket of brush, briars and vines. Cane was abundant on all the streams and abutting hill points, but fire breaking out and spreading, all over the land, killed this mass of brush, while a second fire cleaned off all the face of the land, leaving it an open, beautiful country. You could see a cow or deer as far as the eye could reach through the intervening living timber. New grasses sprang up, the wild pea vine and switch cane, and a better range for farmer’s cattle, hogs, deer and turkey was never seen. Murrell cultivated his first crop with the hoe, both his ponies having died. The woods abounding with all manner of game, he got his main supply there from. A turkey for dinner required only a few minutes hunt, venison steak was to be had at any hour, and bear in the proper season was readily converted into the best of bacon. Wolves, too, abounded. It was common to see them, of moonlight nights, traveling around the house or cow pen. Mrs. Murrell left her churn at the creek side one night and the wolves carried it off it to a tree top fifty yards away and gnawed it to pieces.
They were fearful on young pigs and calves. As previously stated, there were no roads, but in lieu thereof were two trails leading through the country one from Mt. Prairie, Arkansas, to Natchitoches, the other from Long Prairie, Ark, to Monroe, or Ouachita Parish. Natchitoches Parish, in which was then embraced Claiborne Parish, extended from Rapides north to Arkansas Territory, and from Ouachita Parish on the east, to Texas on the west. In the fall of 1818 several families moved into the country. Mrs. Long settled, where is now Haynesville. Her house, or cabin, stood about where now is the residence of A. Brown. Her son, Davis Long, settled the place now known as Long’s Springs, near Minden, and lived there a bachelor for years; but in 1836 he took unto himself a wife, and raised a clever family of children; among them we recollect Miss Lucy Long. She is now dead.
If I mistake not, about this time, Martin Allen came into this same neighborhood and settled on what is known as the J. W. Fuller property. He was the first Justice of the Peace appointed in this part of the parish. Mr. Holcomb, about the same time came among us, and Mr. Brazil and Obadiah Diskill, and Mr. A. Crownover. Mr. Diskill settled the Cooper place, and Mr. Crownover on the Dr. Harper Creek. Mr. Crownover was a hatter by trade, and to get me a hat I hunted coons many nights to get fur enough to make it. Ten good skins were required to make a boy's hat. Dr. Walker located on the same Harper Creek; and he was a doctor by nature and not by education, and very successful in treating all the simple sickness of that day, for the country was remarkably healthy. The population of this settlement increased rapidly, it looked to us to be numberless, and may be enumerated by calling the names of the families Mr. Jessie Williams and his good wife, Aunt Minnie, two children and a black dog, and Thomas Gray, who settled three miles south, of Murrell. He was a most zealous Methodist and seemed to think, from the way, he talked, that Methodism was first and the Bible second. But religion was at a mighty low ebb in those days. Meat, bread and shelter were the main considerations.
In 1820 news came that some German emigrants had been left near Loggy Bayou in a destitute and helpless condition. Mr. A. J. Alden, Thomas Gray and Murrell went to see if they could be of any assistance to them. Finding them in a truly bad condition, each contracted with a family to live with him two years in consideration of a support and being taught the use of our implements in making a living in a new country. Mr. Alden brought home with him Jacob, a peddler; Mr. Gray, Adam Miller and Murrell, Frederick Miller and his father, father and grandfather of Long John Miller. The old man Miller died the second year after he was brought among us, and for his body was dug the first grave, in Murrell's grave yard, and we believe he was the first man to die in Claiborne Parish. That grave used to look lonely out there in the woods, but it is in a little city of the dead now shaded by the cedar and forest growth.
These people worked out their contracts, then settled near by on homes of their own and raised large and respectable families. There are many of these true Millers in different parts of the parish. During this year William Gryder moved in and settled on Buck Creek, with all his girls, boys and dogs many, though he had no more than the law allowed him. He was our first blacksmith, and hammered more iron and with more persistence than any man in ail the land. With him bell making was a specialty; he could not be beat, and he learned all his boys to make bells his girls were belles by nature, of the best kind, as was proven by the boys taking one as soon as they could. Also came this year the McCaftys, the Edmonds and many others, good men and women, whose names I cannot now recall.
In 1821 Mr. Newt Drew settled on Black Bayou, near Driskill. Drew was a gunsmith by trade, though he here turned his attention mainly to farming. He sent his old servant, Jack, one morning to drive up his horses. That morning Jack found a bear turning over a log in search of bugs, and thinking himself a good bear hunter, picked up a pine knot and made for the bear. Slipping close up he let drive at the bear, and to his astonishment the bear wheeled around to see what was the trouble. Seeing Jack, the bear laid his ears back and made for him, but Jack, trusting to his legs, fled like a scared wolf. He escaped from the bear, but when he stopped in his wild flight, he was lost, and wandered around for three or four days when he was found in Dorcheat Swamp, near Long's Springs, as now known, about twenty miles from home. Jack quit the bear business. Mr. Drew afterward moved down on the Dorcheat, established the lower landing and got under way the town of Overton, which being at the head of navigation it was thought would become a big inland city. He also built the first saw and grist mill in the parish.
It was on the Cooly and ran by water power. Much might be said of this good old go-ahead pioneer. Himself and wife were true old Tennessee Baptists. His oldest son, Thomas Drew, became Governor of Arkansas. Harmond Drew, his youngest son, became District Judge in this State; and Richard Drew died while Probate Judge of this Parish. Some of his daughters married well, others, contrary to the old man's wishes, not so well. This makes me think of the first marriage that took place in our parish though the ceremony of the marriage was performed in Arkansas, if I mistake not. At least it soon became the fashion for the bride and groom to go to Arkansas to get married. People then were about the same as now, in this particular. When they determined to marry, any officer or preacher, who was able to administer the ceremony, would do. This was in 1821, and Mr. John Allen and Miss Mary Holcomb were the happy pair. The next, in 1822, was Wm. Crowly and Miss Jenny Long. This pair, I think went to Natchitoches. Then came the marriage of Raleigh Rogers and Miss Mary Ann Long; then George Demos to Miss Nancy Gryder, and then, well, almost a host in rapid order. All went to Arkansas for convenience.
A certain pine log in Arkansas became known as the stopping place, and which soon became famous for it had frequent visitors from far and near. One couple came from beyond the Sabine river. It was my friend Thomas Palmer and Miss Steel, They told a good joke on her old father. He left home for Natchitoches on business, when seeing their chance, they made ready and followed on just after him. When near Natchitoches they turned to Grande Core, crossed Red River, took the Claiborne trail and made direct for that old pine log, where they were duly married. They dodged the old man completely, because they feared, I reckon, he might say not and therefore knew nothing about thereafter until be got back home some two or three days afterwards. If that old log could talk it could tell some funny things.
Sometimes the justice of the peace would be absent on a bear hunt, sometimes attending court at Champanolle or Echore Fabre, and sometimes exercising himself as a good old Arkansas gentleman. He would be hunted down and brought in sometimes under arms. In the meantime the anxious Couple would camp out and wait patiently.
In 1822, Mr. Deck who was a gunsmith, blessed with an interesting family, settled near where Minden is now located, and Mr. Bias settled within three miles of him on the now Leary place. Near here also settled Mr. Loyd, a devout Methodist preacher, and John Gerren, a very quiet man, but a true born Methodist, and be-liked by everybody. James Crow one of our best citizen, and a full fledged Baptist, but not a fussy man, lived on a place that is now embraced in the farm of Mr. D. Murrell, now dead. Mr. W. Wright located on part of the same farm. Aunt Jenny, as everybody called his wife and whom everybody liked, could tell as good a joke and laugh as long and loud as any one. She was a kind hearted, generous woman. We had no such thing as store clothes in those days. Every family had their cotton cards, spinning wheel and loom. Our shirts and pants were all homespun, home woven and homemade. Buckskin pants and hunting shirts, and moccasins, the regular old Indian moccasins, were very fashionable, and a pair of good heavy homemade shoes made one feel almost proud enough, particularly if he was a young man, to think and feel like courting every woman he could hear of in the country.
Our first school was taught by James Ashburner, in 1822, at a salary of $15 per month. John Murrell employed him. We got our salt at McCally's salt works, somewhere in the vicinity of Drake's old salt works, in Bienville Parish. It was about this time, too, that Mr. James Brinson of Ouachita parish, commenced his monthly preaching at John Murrell’s house. Assisted by Mr. Arthur McFarland, they soon established a Baptist Church and kept up regular services for many years. These were the first Baptist preachers in the parish. To show how our section was improving, and what notoriety it was gaining, sometime in this year, 1822, Harrison & Hopkins of Natchitoches, sent up a small stock of goods in charge of a Frenchman by the name of Forshe, who opened up in a small cabin close to Murrells. But he went off on whiskey, and in a year or two lost his stock in trade and ran away.
In 1823 a long step towards the civilized world was made, for in that year a mail route was established from Natchitoches to Washington in Arkansas. Our post office was called "Allen Settlement Post office," because Mr. Allen was our first Justice of the Peace, and John Murrell was appointed postmaster. Trips were made back and forth twice a month. Letters conveyed over 500 miles cost twenty-five cents, and under 500 miles twelve and one half cents postage. Let us here state that our old friend Peter Franks, was an early settler on Brushy Creek, now in Bienville Parish; also John Leatherman, the Cragiles, and Robert and Jas. Henderson were on the road near the place now known as Buckhorn, but the date of their coming we have forgotten. The first cotton gin was erected by Thomas Moore, in 1824, for Adam Reynolds, who sold it to Russell Jones in 1825, then on the present Harper place. Reynolds was a man of great energy. He made more improvements and sold out oftener than any man in the parish, except perhaps, John D. Pair. About this time Josiah Wilson, believing competition to be the life of trade, started up the Middle Landing, near Minden. These two landings go to show that the boating business-keel boats- amounted to something. James Lee and R. L. Kilgore, in 1825, opened a fair stock of goods in the little storehouse near Murrell that had been put up by Harrison & Hopkins. And in this year we had our first camp meeting, held near Isaac Miller's place, and conducted by Revs. Wlm. Stevenson, McMahon and Ross.
The next, in 1826, were held on the Maxey place, and in 1827 was assembled our first Baptist Association, in a school house on the late Dr. Martin's farm, near Germantown. In 1825 Charley Hays settled on the place now known as Keener farm, near Athens. He was reputed the greatest bear hunter of his day making bear hunting a specialty in the winter when they were fat. In those early days the French Creoles in and about Natchitoches and Campte would make raids through the country bear hunting, having with them from 25 to 30 ponies and as many dogs. They moved northward in December and returned generally in February, with their ponies loaded down with bear meat and skins. This year George Grounds located on Flat Lick. He was as kind and true a hearted Dutchman as ever lived but would go off on whiskey sometimes. He had a large family, some of whom were devoted Methodists. I think some of his descendants are yet in this Parish.
Our first singing school, in 1827, was taught by Mr. George Ridley, near Mr. Ground's house. He used the patent notes. In this year also, and I am sorry to tell it, the Baptists had a split in their church about the fellowship of the members, whose conduct was not in keeping with the word. Some condemned while others sustained them believing their conduct not to be unscriptural. The parties sustaining the brothers, took the Bible for their creed and guide, and went off, refusing to be governed by man’s greed, and there are a few of that faith in the parish yet calling themselves Christians, for short. They came very near playing out though when the war of 1861 came on.
Some time during this year the road heretofore referred to as the military road, was cut by United State troops, connecting Fort Jessup, on lower Red River, with Fort Towson, away up on upper Red River. This road was opened to transport supplies to that distant garrison. I well recollect that the soldiers and recruits passing to and from that fort, stole everything of small value they could lay their hands on such as bells, whetstones, chickens, geese, etc., and among other things a pet deer from Murrell’s yard. In 1828 Claiborne Parish was created. It was bounded on the east by Ouachita Parish, on the west by Red River, on the north by Arkansas Territory and on the south by a line dividing townships 13 and 14, crossing the old military road at or near what was then called Boggy Branch, and touching Red River at or near East Point. Our first probate judge was Chichester Chaplin, a young lawyer and widower of some promise. He was from Natchitoches and was appointed judge. But he soon cast aside his weeds and married Mrs. Palmer, a most estimable lady. Bol was Clerk of the Court, Isaac McMahon Sheriff. Mr. Wilson of Monroe, District Judge. Murrell’s house was used for a courthouse for a year or two, when, by the influence of Sam Russell and others at interest, a place on Russell’s property was selected as the parish site, which was named for him, Russellville.
Then James Lee and R. C. Killgore moved their stock of goods there, thereby being the first merchants in Russellville. As our people had now increased considerably in numbers, the convenience of public roads began to be called for. So in 1829 our first public road was opened. It was from Russellville to the Minden lower landing, the head of navigation on Bayou Dorcheat. Hands were summoned for a distance of 25 to 30 miles to open it. This road was a big item in our history then. An election was held this year, and Murrell’s house, which seems to have become the headquarters on all public occasions, was the voting place. A difficulty sprang up while the voting was going on between George Grounds, Jr., and James Madden. They exchanged a few blows and were then separated. Wm. Robinson, Justice of the Peace, ordered the Sheriff to arrest the two combatants and bring them before his august presence, which order was promptly executed. On investigation the J.P. found Grounds guilty of assault and battery, fined him $20 and to be held in custody until paid. Grounds, poor fellow, had no money, but offered to sell two cows and calves to pay the fine.
A purchaser was soon found for the cattle, the fine paid, and so was closed this breach of the peace without further trouble. Was that not a better way to dispose of such troubles than now prevail? James Dyer, who moved to Texas after the war, was the first representative, 1829, that Claiborne Parish had the honor of sending to the State capital; and his immediate successor, a full-blooded Democrat, was Berry A. Wilson. It was in 1830, I think, the legislature appropriated $1,500 for the improvement of navigation in Loggy Bayou and Lake Bistenau. The contract was awarded to a Mr. Leavright, which work he executed to the satisfaction of the committee appointed to examine and pronounce upon the faithful fulfillment of the contract. And now as our honorable Court had got into good working order, it may be well to refer to the first case of any importance that was spread upon the court docket. This was Hempkin vs. Mabry Wafer. It hung fire for years.
Mr. Wafer lived on Sugar Creek, and was Justice of the Peace in that ward. He was a shrewd man, knew what he was about, and in law was generally successful. By this time and up to 1837 a number of small trading houses were set up in different parts of the parish. Mr. Savage, of Campte, had a shop at Overton, and was succeeded by Joe Robinson, also of Campte. D. C. Pratt was his successor. One McGrady opened up on Flat Lick. George A. Bell succeeded him and then Wm. Harkins bought out Bell. They all carried on a splendid one horse business. Mr. Harkins was justice of the peace for years, and was considered a good judge of law at least he had considerable experience as defendant.
As before stated, roads in these early days were not, and the pathways and byways were winding, yet along these ways our people would bring from distant trading points nearly all their supplies on horseback, even to bars of iron. Our rude wagons would sometimes set out on a trip to Natchitoches or Monroe, with wooden axles and no skeins, and the screeching of the wheels, which were long and loud, could be heard of a morning three and four miles away, reminding one of a pack of hounds at full cry in the distance. But the boys and drivers were used to such a racket, and the game was so plentiful that by the time the wagons would reach Natchitoches or Monroe they would be bearing an extra load of deer skins and skins or peltry were then our main staple or exchange in trade. It took twenty to forty days to make these wagon trips. Sometime in 1833 Mr. Alexander and Jake Masters determined to slaughter an old bear that had got into the bad habit of making away with their hogs in Dorcheat swamp.
They soon got Mr. Bear up and then the chase began. The bear passed several times through an open slough in the cane brake, and Alexander discovering this, took a stand for him in the slough. Soon the bear entered the slough, and spying Alexander, made for him with a vengeance. Alexander's gun failed to fire, the bear went for him, and had it not been for Alexander's buckskin suit he would have been killed he was maimed for life. Masters said it was the first fight he ever saw that he had rather not take choice of sides. I should have stated that the first killing in this section was by a Mr. Sapp who killed his brother-in-law, Bryant, and then fled to the Indian Nation. The cause of the killing was said to be heinous. Then came the next murder in our parish. It occurred about eight miles east of Minden, on the military road. It was the willful assassination of a Mr. Sloan, of Arkansas, by John Halthouser, for his money. Halthouser believed Mr. Sloan had a good sum of money on his person as he was a trader, but he had only $370 with him at that time, of which sum $60 was found in possession of Halthouser. To make a good thing of it, watch was kept on Sloan until report said he had some $1,500 that he was taking to Arkansas. Secreting himself in the brush, on the military road, Halthouser waited his opportunity. The old man Sloan, apprehending no danger, rode by where the murderer was concealed, and was shot through the head from behind with a rifle ball. It had been raining a good deal and the ground was wet and the grass luxuriant.
The track of the dead man was left on the ground, as his body was dragged to one side, about fifty yards from the road, and thrown into a pool of water. The buzzards attracted the attention of some passersby, a few days afterwards, when on examination the ghastly corpse was found, and a too precipitate display of money led to the suspicion of the Dutchman, which demoralized him. It was generally believed at the time that Halthouser's brother in law had a hand in the murder, but if such was the case Halthouser was too plucky to tell on him. Halthouser was found guilty, confessed, and was executed at Russellville in 1835, by Mr. Dyer, then our sheriff. But after this followed one of the most horrible murders and shocking crimes ever recorded. It was the desecration and murder of Miss Demos, a young lady about eighteen years of age. She was on horseback, going by a pathway from her father's house to a neighbors, to warp some thread. Failing to return in time search was made, the signs of a desperate struggle found, and the signs being followed, the dead body of the girl was found, with both arms broken and the face pressed down in a pool of water.
The footprints of the murderer were plainly to be seen on her shoulders, where he stood pressing her down. The whole community arose in its wrath and instituted search for the monster. A bloody shirt belonging to one Lambright was found in his own cabin, and on failing to satisfactorily to explain, he was arrested as the murderer, but escaping from jail, how, no one knew, fled to Texas and was no more heard of. Here we close these reminiscences, because a number of the actors of that day are yet living and the events of the later years are patent to many now with us, and can be recalled by them, perhaps, with more relish than myself, for we were all plain people then, with few wants and much love for our fellow man. Sixty seven years, with all their promises and disappointments, their sunshine and shadows, have come and gone since I came to North Louisiana. Many changes, ups and downs, since then have occurred. Then I was young and jubilant, now I am old and stricken in years; my sons and daughters, save one, fail to answer my call. Ah, Yes. '' My head it is gray; Yet I sit in the sunshine to watch you."
Chapter VI A Georgia Emigrant, His Recollections
On the 28th of November, 1847, my father and stepmother, with eight boys, left Troup County, Georgia, for a home somewhere west of the Mississippi River. On the 8th day of January, 1848, we landed in the little village of Athens, which was situated on a deep sandy ridge about ten miles south of today's Homer and fourteen miles north of Minden. Minden was then a small but active trading point at the head of navigation on Lake Bistenau. This I hope will enable you to know where Athens is. We found in Athens, when we stopped there, a beautiful flowing spring, a court house, which was then considered a creditable building, and about a dozen dwellings, here and there.
The court house remained at Athens until 1849 when on the night of Nov. 27th, it was fired and burned down with all the parish records. How it took fire has never been found out. The post office was in charge of Arthur McFarland, who was a Baptist preacher. There was a little tavern also kept by one Saunders P. Day; also a small stock of goods in a little log house, managed by a man named Kiser. Right here was concentrated the business part of town. We had a good camping ground just above the spring I have referred to. Shortly after we had got our camp pitched, who should ride up but Mr. John Kimball, and to father's great surprise he at once recognized him. He and father, when boys, were play mates. Well, you can imagine how pleasant was the meeting between these two men in the wilds of Louisiana, who separated when boys in old Georgia. Mr. Kimball at that time was living on the John Frazier place, now known as the Keener place. Mr. Kimball was anxious for all new comers to do well, so he told father of a good place about three and a half miles southeast of Athens, known as the Nelson place, and which he thought could be bought cheap and on good terms. Nelson had moved to Arkansas, leaving this place in charge of Col. Lang Lewis, as agent.
On agreement, early next morning, Col. Kimball was back at our camp, and in a little while he and father went off together to look at the Nelson place. On examination father was so well pleased that he and the Colonel went direct to Col. Lewises, and, behold, here came together three old Georgian boys, now men with families in the far West. Father did not hesitate to make known his business to Col. Lewis; a trade was soon made, a good dinner partaken of, and a long old Georgia talk indulged in all round. Then father and Col. Kimball set out for our camp in Athens, to bring the good tidings that we had a home now, and would next day be under our own shelter. I tell you that was a happy camp that night.
The next morning, January 10th, we rolled out of camp for home where father lived until September 30, 1867, on which day he died, aged seventy-four years. When we settled down in our Louisiana home, the country was new, open and full of game, such as turkey, deer, coon, etc. We could have venison or a turkey just any day. Often we would have as many as a dozen dried venison hams at a time. Wolves were numerous and very troublesome. They were very fond of pigs, and many a night have I heard a pig squeal as Mr. Wolf was flying off with him to the thicket. They disappeared in 1852, and the last bear killed in our neighborhood was in 1850 by Thomas Berry and A. J. Durant, near the old Windfall race track. Lands were cheap, $2.50 per acre on an average up to 1848. It was very productive often making as much as forty bushels of corn per acre. There were only a few common watermills in the country then, and when the summer came the winter and spring supply of water in the ponds would become exhausted, and of course the mills would stop grinding. Two were on the Murrell creek and one just below old Russellville, on the Berry Creek. There were a few horse mills and gins here and there.
Densmore Cargile and Sam Leatherman had mills attached to their gin machinery and made very good meal. The tole then was only one fourth of the grist. Wonderful changes and improvements have taken the place of those early day makeshifts. But we all thought nothing of it then, satisfied in believing we had the best times could afford. Now I am in hearing of eight steam mill whistles where lumber of all kind is made corn ground and cotton ginned, and even pressed by steam at some of them.
As for churches and schools, very little interest was taken in them when we first landed in this country. But in 1850, when the Georgians and Alabamians began to crowd into the country, a great interest in both church and school was soon manifested, and this interest has been making more or less progress up to this date, as is proven by the numerous schools and churches throughout the parish. Perhaps it may be well to name the families living in this part of the parish when we came their descendants or many of them are here yet. We will name the McFarlands, Brinsons, Nelsons, related families; Albert Ashbrook, Jessie Long, Luther and Dave Pratt, Esquire Russell, the Butler’s, Browns, Isaac Alden, Peter Franks, Berry Wilson, Jim Lee, R. L. Killgore, James Dial, Madden, Sr., Thompson, Tom Berry, Martin and Jimmy Crow, Bob Henderson, Wright, Sam Williams, Leathermans, Pruits, Taylors, Cargile, John Wilson, Parker and Barfield, Mullens and Charley Hays, father of C. L. Hays. Some of these families were in the Russellville and others in the Athens neighborhood.
Near Athens you will find Thomas Leatherman, who has ever proved himself a worthy citizen, and C. L. Hays, who has as few enemies and Isaac Butler, who yet loves the fun of beaver, rapping, and Tom Crow, who can makes dollar and has sense enough to save it. Among the old ladies ye, among us, who were young and in their prime when they came here, let me mention Aunt Charity Berry; she is about eighty-five years old and is still living on the place where she first settled, fifty years ago. My old step mother also, who came to this land of promise with father thirty six years ago, is still living, and is seventy-eight years old. Russellville being the parish cite of Claiborne Parish, perhaps a few words as to its history may not be out of place here.
Its settlement began, if I mistake not, about 1825. B.L. Killgore deposited the money in the Land Office at Natchitoches to enter the land on which the Village was built. This deposit of the purchase money was made at the request of many citizens in order to secure that particular locality for the town as the land in that part of the parish had not yet been surveyed. The courthouse and jail, both of wood, were promptly erected, also several small business houses and grog shops. It was a wild place inhabited in part and visited by a number of hard cases to be found in all new countries, Russellville had the honor of the first man tried, convicted and hung as the law directs. The miserable man, Halthouser, was hung about half a mile east of the courthouse.
R. L. Killgore, one of the early merchants of Claiborne, first sold goods, etc., near the Murrell place and next at Russellville. Lee and Berry Wilson were with him. Soon after commencing business in Russellville he married Miss Maxia A. Miller, whose father was the first white man buried in the Murrell graveyard. Killgore was a popular and worthy citizen, and the people showed their appreciation of him by electing him parish judge, which office he filled eight years. He was next elected by the Democratic party to represent Claiborne Parish in the State legislature, defeating his Whig opponent, James Dial, by a large majority. Killgore, after serving his term in the legislature, retired to private life, esteemed by all. He raised a large family of children five boys and six girls. He lost two gallant sons in the late war, and his youngest son was the first person buried at Salem church. Judge Killgore died in 1871 and his wife in 1883. Both were buried by the side of their son.
A parting word about Russellville. We have referred to her when she was in all her pride and prosperity. When the courthouse was moved her glory departed. The village ground is now an old worn out field, and the only house that was a part of the village stands solitary and alone, just above the spring. This was the house of Judge Killgore, and is the oldest house in this part of the parish. Having referred to Athens as she was thirty-six years ago, let me refer to her as she is now. Athens is situated in the midst of a good and religious people. There are none better, taken all in all in the parish. She has two first rate Baptist and Methodist, each blessed with a large membership. She has the parsonage of the Tulip circuit-has a good school--a good doctor-two commodious storehouses--a good steam gin and gristmill--a blacksmith and woodshop and a post office with four mails a week. Four public roads lead to and from the village, and on each are several beautiful residences. And now let me close this little narrative by advising all men to obey the laws; keep God's commandments, and then we will dwell in peace and harmony.
Chapter VII Overland, From West Point, Georgia, through North
Louisiana to Arkansas
On the 8th of December, 1843, with wife and four children, I left my old Georgia home for the State of Arkansas. There had been a continued and unusual amount of rain, the streams were much swollen and the roads were almost impassible. On this account, when we reached Eutaw in Green County, Ala., we stopped four months. This place had lately been made the county site, consequently it was fall of life and activity in the way of improvements. The surrounding lands were rich, and mostly owned by wealthy planters. We utilized our time and skill while in this place. The first of May, 1844, I was en route to the West. B.P. Robinson, who left Georgia with us, had stopped over at Greensborough, the late county site of Green. He left Greensborough the day before we left Eutaw, it having been agreed that we should meet at a certain place, but in this we failed, and I moved on. But Robinson overtook me at Pearl River, in Mississippi. At Jackson we took the road to Rodney, having learned we could not get through the Mississippi bottom opposite Vicksburg. Crossing the river we traveled down the west bank to Waterproof.
Then we left the river, turning northwest to Green's bayou. And this was our first day west of the great river. In Alabama and in Mississippi we had seen large bodies of rich land and magnificent farms stretched out as far as the eye could reach, around splendid mansions. My thoughts would go back to Morgan County, Ga., where I was born and partly raised, and to Troup County which I had so lately left, and the contrast was wonderful. We found a great deal of poor land though, both in Alabama and Mississippi; but when we beheld the land west of the Mississippi we found the soil far beyond anything we had ever imagined. We could but think of that granary of the world, the land of the Nile, in Egypt.
We had some trouble in crossing Green's Bayou, for it was full. Getting side by side two dry cypress logs, we made a raft, and fortunately, being in the days when corded bedsteads were in vogue, we tied our bed cords to the trees on either bank and thereby drew our raft across. We carried a wagon at each trip, then carried over the women and children and last swam our stock over. We were of course delayed here some time, in the midst of immense canebrakes, cypress and other swamp growth. The noises of this howling wilderness at night were peculiar and to us horrible. Believing we had crossed the most difficult stream on our way to Sicily Island, we resumed our journey in good spirits, but were soon and sadly disappointed. We came to the Tensas River, where the Choctaw enters it, at Kirke's Ferry, and was told and saw that there was no chance of pursuing our way to Sicily Island by land, for from the ferry to the island nearly everything was under water. We pitched our camp on the edge of a canebrake near the banks of the river, and fed our stock on cane.
There were but few settlers near our camp, which made it rather lonely, and as the river was rising very fast, we also felt a little uncomfortable, for retreat was impossible. Apprehensive that our camping place might be entirely submerged, we determined to build a proper raft, and try to make our way down the Tensas. Robinson had three sons nearly grown, a lad of a boy, a negro man and woman. I had one negro woman. We determined to utilize all our force in building our raft, had determined on plan and size, and were about to commence work, when as fortune would have it, up came a little stern wheel boat, propelled by horsepower, Hailing this boat she came to land, and it was not long before we made a trade with the proprietor to take us around to Harrisonburg, on the Ouachita River, but as the boat was on her up trip, we had to remain in our disagreeable camp two or three days, and daring this time we took to pieces our hack and wagons.
On the return of the boat we got our families aboard, then our teams, and so placed our wagons as to prevent our stock from falling overboard. Our horse steamboat moved down stream slowly, and on reaching Waterproof, greatly to our annoyance, remained there some time. We could only be patient, however, and abide our boat’s time. At last up the Ouachita, we went creeping along, taking three days to make a trip of seventy miles. We landed at Harrisonburg in the night, but desiring to leave that boat, we went to work and got everything ashore and had our wagons together ready for an early move the next day. Harrisonburg was a small place and looked rather ancient boasted of two or three business houses with small stocks of goods. Turning our way north we found the country very poor, but having plenty of fine pine timber; occasionally would be passed a body of good land, and now and then a settlement on the road we traveled.
We began to feel discouraged, to think we had left behind the Eden of America. When we reached Jackson Parish, we found a little more promising country, more settlements, and the people had plenty of all the essentials. Watermelons were abundant and free. Pushing on through, we reached and crossed D'Arbonne near the junction of Corni Bayou. On reaching Farmerville, then a new place and improving rapidly, we rested a while. Leaving Farmerville with a good impression of its people, we pursued our journey through Union Parish to Union County, Arkansas, and stopped at a place which afterwards became known as Lisbon. After crossing the D'Arbonne, we found the lands generally to be of a deep sandy soil, well watered, with an abundance of pine timber. A peculiarity of this region I noticed, was a swamp growth all over the hills, and this was a new chapter to me. Emigration was pouring into this hill country from all the Southern States.
A few of the old settlers, Hoosiers, some called them, who had been here for years and who had made hunting their main business, still remained on their old homes. They were generous and kind, though rude in their way, but felt grieved at seeing the forest, in which they had spent so many happy days, so ruthlessly cut down. Most of the emigrants of that day were men of some means, with growing families. Union County tilled rapidly with a class of men, take them all in all, that could not be surpassed in those sentiments that go to make up a reliable and trusty people. About the time Eldorado was laid off into lots, 1845, I settled down about two miles from it, but remained only one year. The improvement of town and country that year was wonderful, and for years the agricultural yield was great. But in a few years the lands washed badly and began to fail when they should have been in their prime.
We left Union County the last of December, 1845, and went to Deshee County. We got to our new home in the early part of January, 1846. Deshse is a river county, and Napoleon, situated at or near the mouth of the Arkansas River, was and yet may be the county site. I spent the year in that part of the country lying between the Barthalomew and Saline Rivers. In 1847 I had to move, but it was only to another place in the same region. Being in the saddle most of the time, I traveled over large portions of the country, but mostly in the Arkansas River sections. From Pine Bluff to the Arkansas Post the lands were very rich, and a number of large farms were being worked there. A few farms only were back from the river. At the close of the year, I moved to Drew County, settling down in the parsonage, where I remained during 1848 and 1949. Having to change my location, I moved to a small town not far from Monticello, known as Rough and Ready. At the close of 1850, I was broken down in health, and with a dependent and expensive family of seven children to raise and educate. Having visited Claiborne Parish, I decided to make that my home. Leaving Pine Bluff in the latter part of December, I arrived in Claiborne in April, 1857, having been delayed by business on the way. There was then a heavy tide of emigration pouring in.
I have never seen more energy displayed than was displayed by these newcomers. Thousands of acres were yearly cut down and brought into cultivation. As to intelligence and morality, this community was comparable with any. There were many men of sterling and superior worth here. The soil of the parish, her prodigality of forests, were unsurpassed by any upland parish in the state or county in south Arkansas. From 1850 to 1861, the accumulation of property in the parish was immense, churches were established everywhere; schools in every neighborhood; prosperity blessed the land and the people were just and happy. But the war cloud came down in 1861, and the present and promising future vanished in the turmoil and devastation of marching and contending armies.
Chapter IIX Settlements and Neighborhoods Antibellum Villages
Personal Mention Incidents
Although the tide of emigration had been steadily increasing in volume, it was not till 1850 that it reached its flood; then the rush, by land and by water, was continuous and immense, particularly to the eastern portion of the parish. Up to about that year, this part of Claiborne was rather thinly populated but those that had come in were of the best material. It was composed of such families as that of O'Banon, Hargis, Dr. Bush, Thomson, Nolan, Williams, Smith Barber, Wasson, Bruce, Kennedy, Hall, Nelson, Wafer, Bullock, Aitken, Stephenson, Dyer, Gee, Butler, Henderson and Henry, James Dyer, Sam'l Smith, Dr. Bush and Richard Hargis, who once, represented the parish in the State Legislature. These pioneers came to North Louisiana when it was one of the most charming countries in the west. The axe had never resounded in these forest isles, save the chipping of the early surveyor.
The forest was grand in its primeval state; the cloth of green spread interminably, presenting a vast range for all manner of stock in summer, and in winter was the switch cane on the hillsides and dense masses of large growth in the bottoms. The huge oaks never failed to furnish a bountiful supply of mast, or acorns. Game, consisting of bear, deer, turkey, wolf, fox, cat, ducks, numerous birds, fish in such quantities that the supply really appeared inexhaustible. It was certainly the happiest community to be found. Unpretending, possessed with a bountiful supply of the real comforts of life, with elementary schools in log cabins, the pathetic story of the Cross told under some umbrageous arbor, or in a rude log house with puncheon floor and seats, with wants few, and ways just, these people were happy. But about 1849-50, this primeval land was found by the working Georgian and Alabamian, and from 1850 to 1861 lands changed ownership rapidly, the large area of public lands, then vacant, were soon entered.
Then indeed the busy hum of agricultural industry commenced in earnest.
Loud sounds the axe,
redoubling stroke on stroke.
On all sides round, the forest, hurls the oak.
Headlong, deep echoing, groan the thickets brown,
Then cracking, crashing, rushing, thunder down.
And the busy thud of the massive maul, swung by black sinewy arms, kept time to the old plantation song of the simple happy Negro, which for its plaintive melody can never be recalled on stage or in song. Roads were opened, the bayous bridged, academies were built and churches reared, in which such men as Randal, Wafer, Pennington, Fancher, Fuller, Simmons and others of equal ability and earnestness worked to develop the religious spirit of the people. Up sprang the village of Lisbon, surrounded and built by many well known families.
I recall those of Killgore, McClendon, Cook, Duke, Patton, Tate, Bullard, White, Simmons, Heard, Coleman, Tippet, Aycock, McCasland, Dawson, Williams, Pennington and many others, with Dr. Seth Tatum, making it a live village. A few miles west of Lisbon was the thriving business stand of Forest Grove, the leading spirit of which was that truly good and upright man, Frank Taylor. He now sleeps in the bosom of Texas, and the place he once made noted throughout Claiborne, is now pointed out by the cold marble shaft in its silent forest grave yard. Here rests the remains of that eloquent and active Christian, Tatum Wafer; and Dr. Scaife, a physician of note and a man of business; of Milton Barnett, and many others whose memory is yet green in the hearts of surviving friends and relatives. The Methodist Church at this place was the most noted in the parish in its day, for here the ablest men preached and the most effective work was accomplished in the name of the Master.
North from this place on the banks of the Corni flourished for years the active village of Scottsville at the supposed head of navigation on that stream. But navigation never came. Yet such men as Major Browning, Dr. Bush, Thomas Hart, the Stanleys and others like these, gave it life and vigor for years. But the village is now dead and no longer known. West of this place was situated the little inland village of Colquitt, surrounded by such men as John Wilson, Elbert Gray, the Tignors, and others, whose names we cannot now recall. Blessed with a good church and a thrifty community, it flourished as did Claiborne, but is now nearly silent. A few miles west of this place, we come to Gordon, named for Dr. Gordon, who started it, and is now, if living, a citizen of Texas. It too, was surrounded by an active, growing community, and flourished to the outbreak of the war.
We next come to Haynesville. The original name of the place was Taylor's Store, for J. C. Taylor, who opened a small retail business there in 1848. Previous to that date, in 1843, Hiram Brown had located close by, also J. C. Wagon and L. S. Fuller, in 1844. In 1846 Miles Buford and Samuel Boyd cast their fortunes in this settlement, and in 1849 Henry Taylor came among them. Yearly the settlement increased in numbers, and farms, large and small, were opened. In consequence of this increase in population and agriculture, Wm. W. and J. L. Brown began a mercantile business, next door to Taylor. Sam Kirkpatrick and Dr. Wroten opened a drug business. Up to 1848 very little of the public lands had been entered in this neighborhood, and farming was on rather a small scale. The country was full of game, and deer skins and hams were staple articles of trade. But with the rush of emigration that began in 1850 and which continued up to 1860, new ideas came, new wants and new industries. Agriculture began in earnest, and in a few years large farms were in every direction, the public lands were all entered, roads opened and a mighty prosperity was exhibited all through the region.
Summerfield, situated in the northeastern portion of the parish, is a thriving village of about one hundred and twenty inhabitants. It was settled by W. R. Kennedy in l868, by the erection of a wood and blacksmith shop, and a business house. It now has four stores dealing in general merchandise and plantation supplies, several drug stores, a saw and gristmill, and several mills in the vicinity, all run by steam. It has four churches, M. E. Church South, Methodist Protestant, Missionary Baptist, and Primitive Baptist, all with live and progressive congregations. The town has a good school building, with a good and regular attendance of pupils. The four stores do an aggregate business of about fifty thousand dollars annually. The town has two mails a week. The country around is in a prosperous condition, and with good water, pure air, good health, and a fertile soil. Summerfield and its neighborhood offer strong inducements to those hunting homes. The land is well timbered, and can be bought, at from one to five dollars per acre. The agricultural future of this section of our parish is bright for him who puts his heart in his farm work and will use progressive methods of tillage.
About six miles east of Homer is located the beautiful village of Arizona. Soon after the war a magnificent cotton factory was erected at this place, capable of employing a large number of hands. Its inconvenience to easy and rapid transportation, with other trouble, caused it to cease operating after a few years. It is now owned by John Chaffe of New Orleans, and is motionless. Arizona for a number of years, was the seat of Arizona Seminary, a very popular and flourishing school under the principal-ship of J. W. Nicholson, now the eminent Professor of Mathematics in the State University at Baton Rouge. Not withstanding the discontinuance of the factory, and the decadence of its school, Arizona has held many of its best citizens, the Willises, Wafers, Nicholsons, Drs. Calhoun and Baker, Dutcher, Corrys, etc., and is happily blessed with, surrounding community of thrift, morality, and intelligence. In addition to the school and factory buildings, Arizona has one or more stores in operation, and a large and excellent meetinghouse, the property of the M. E. Church South, in which large and intelligent congregations meet regularly for religious worship. Tulip, another small village, situated about nine miles southeast of Homer, was, until quite recently, a fine trading point. Here for many years, P. Marsalis & Sons have carried on a heavy general merchandise and supply business; but lately much of their custom has, been drawn to Arcadia, a rising town on the V.S.&P. Railroad, twelve miles south; and to meet the exigencies brought about by this change, they have moved the greater portion of their business to that place. Besides its store and post office, Tulip owns a steam saw and grist mill, a steam cotton gin, a schoolhouse, and a commodious and very good Methodist meeting house.
There are a number of other steam cotton gins and saw mills in the immediate neighborhood, no less than five or six steam whistles being in easy hearing of the place. Tulip is noted for the steady and churchgoing habits of its people, and for the permanence and excellence of its school. The neighboring lands are among the most productive in the parish, and are occupied by a class of industrious and thrifty citizens. Among the old settlers, we may mention the Watsons, Marsalises, Whites, Gandys, Fomby, Leslie, Hays and others. The water shed of Claiborne is quite simple; Dorcheat carrying the water from the western slopes to Red River and D’Arbonne and Corni to the Ouachita River from the eastern slope. From D'Arbonne east the country is gently rolling, but from D'Arbonne to Sugar Creek south, the ridges are more sharply defined, particularly near the bayou, as well as the valleys and plains. This portion of the parish was very thrifty in the antebellum days, and claimed the largest farms and heaviest taxpayers, of whom I recall the names of W. A. Obier, S. P. Gee, J. W. Andrews and B. C. Frazier.
The Sugar Creek and adjoining lands were fine, and here were to be found the Hood family from Alabama, Buck Edmunds, Perritt, Howard, Snider, Landers, Robinson and many others; here their numerous industrious descendants are yet to be found. We cannot close these notes of the early days in Claiborne without referring to two or three characters among the living and the dead. James Dyer, who represented this parish in the State Legislature when the country was in its primeval state left just after the war, an old gray headed man, with his young wife and several children, for Texas. He has been dead for some years. Josephus Barrow, a leading man in the Primitive Baptist Church, and who died six or eight years ago, was a worthy man and well qualified. He was a good neighbor and an active citizen, possessed of strong natural ability, considerate in the discharge of all his duties in obedience to the law of his God, as he understood it.
He was steadfast in his friendship, his word was his law, provided for his family, left them a competency and has many children to revere his memory and follow in his path of truth and honor. Joshua Willis, yet with us, a native of Virginia, but from Troup County, Georgia, to this parish, now in his 90th year, belongs to that modest but true type of Virginia, gentlemen, that secures the regard and esteem of all good people. He has a numerous family of sons and daughters, grand and great grand children around him. Courteous in manner, even in his temper, just in his ways, he can truly say he is ready to leave without an enemy. His good wife, Aunt Barbara, who had stood by his side aiding and encouraging in all the vicissitudes of his long life, has gone to her happy home. And now, as this upright old man, veteran of the War of 1812, a pensioner of the United States, nears the apex of that mount which stands before all the human family, he no doubt feels in his heart that when his eyes look out upon the pleasant, restful plains of the true promised land, that wife who was the soul and the pride of his young days, and his prop and stay in the hard toils of this life, will be the first to greet, as of yore, and welcome him home.
But here comes another character before us, with head gray but not bowed, and eye flashing as ever, Capt. W. G. Coleman. Genial in manner, with a good word for all, he was and is yet a son of Carolina. An ardent subscriber to the Calhoun school of polities, in his early manhood he was an outspoken nullifier, and in older years a bold and defiant secessionist. His first taste of war was as a volunteer, under Captain Jarnigham, in the Creek War of 1837. Returning to Carolina he married, and in his native State remained till the death of his wife. The charms of old Carolina now became dimmed to his eyes, and with his four children he emigrated in 1844 to Perry County, Alabama. Here he contracted a second marriage, and this wife, who has borne him eight children, is yet with him.
In 1846, when Mexico declared war against the United States, he was one of the first to respond to his country's call, at the head of one hundred gallant men, known as the Perry Rangers. He joined Col. Coffee's regiment of Alabama volunteers, and with that regiment: for twelve months, was engaged in all it, marches, hardships and battles. And here let us not fail to recall the name of his faithful body servant, Sep. Although in a free country and other servants fleeing to the Mexican lines, Sep stood fast by his master, nursed him in sickness, faithfully administered to his wants when worn down with fatigue and exposure, and not only to him but to others of the company when he possibly could. He had the good will and confidence of all the men, became the custodian of their little treasures and never betrayed a trust. Returning home with his master, he died in his arms, and as his glazing eyes looked up into that kind master's face for the last time, that master's stricken heart blessed the faithful African.
In 1850, Capt. Coleman moved to Claiborne Parish, and being fond of the chase greatly enjoyed the rare sports of the day. In 1854, he with Col. J. W. McDonald, in a hotly contested campaign, as the Democratic candidates, gained a signal victory over the then rampant Know Nothing party. He has refused all political preferment since. When the war of secession was about to commence he, being to old to serve, drilled several volunteer companies previous to their march to the front.
Capt. Coleman joined the Missionary Baptist Church at Lisbon in 1854, and was elected clerk of the church. For twenty three years he has as promptly taken his seat at the desk as he did at the head of his company when the long roll called it to arms on the arid plains of Mexico. Always fond of company, always, good neighbor, his friends are many. Having ever been temperate in his habits, he now, although in his 80th year, writes a clear and even hand, and can yet bring down his bird on the wing as often as the best shots among our young men. Without enemies, with hosts of friends, he now serene and happy, awaits the bidding of the Master, summoning him to the great church above.
Another character who appeared in this parish between 1830 and 1840, and is yet with us, is Col. John Kimball. A Georgian by birth, in his young manhood he sought this part of the western world, and by strict attention to duty and business, secured to himself a competency and hosts of friends. He represented this parish in the State Legislature in 1855-1856 with credit to himself and satisfaction to his people. He is now an old man, feeble in strength but with a heart strong as ever; yet a tiller of the soil and with honor untarnished, he is beloved by many and respected by all.
Nathan Brown, with his wife and four children, left Tennessee in 1833, crossed the Mississippi River at Memphis, from which point he made his way slowly through the wilds of Arkansas, camped a day or two where now stands the flourishing town of Prescott in amazement gazed at the magnificent meteoric display in November of that year, and in the timbered lands on their route had frequently to cut their way and as often dig down the banks of streams or bridge them before crossing, finally landing at or near Crystal Springs in Claiborne Parish. Here he remained about five years. When he settled down at his home, near Haynesville, where he has resided since.
Prospering in this world's goods he reared a large family of sons and daughters, sixteen only, thus enlarging the little family that left Tennessee toward a regiment in number. Mr. Brown, after an absence of fifty two years, returned to Tennessee on a visit to a sister whom he left a young married woman. She is now a grandmother. Old and stricken in years, but with honest hearts and dear consciences, this brother and sister meeting will they recognize each other can they recall, he young manly and sweet womanly faces that separated so many years ago in Tennessee, when life's young morning was bright, and so full of promise.
Almost weekly can be seen on the. streets of Homer, the tall, erect form of Isaac Gleason. He came from the swamps of the Mississippi and Ouachita to this Parish in 1835. Born on the frontier and there raised, he is one of nature's unsophisticated children, warmhearted, liberal, just, doing evil to none. All around Homer, in the D'Arbonne bottom was his hunting grounds, and many are the bear, panther, turkey and deer that have fallen at the crack of his long flint and steel Kentucky rifle. He claims to have killed the last bear that was killed on the grounds of Homer. Nature was his school, and he has culled much profound knowledge there from, knowledge by experience, which others only obtain by reasoning. Uncle Isaac has raised a good family of sons and daughters, has given his daughters every advantage the schools of Homer could offer, and now he can safely point to all his children with pride, for they have taken their places among the just and the good.
As another of our old and honored citizens, we may mention Col. J.W. Berry, who came to Claiborne in 1834, when a mere youth. In 1836 and 1837 he resided at Overton. In 1838 he moved to Minden and engaged in merchandising, which he continued till near the commencement of the war. He has been honored by his fellow citizens with many positions of trust. In 1847 he was elected 1st Lieutenant of a company of militia, and commissioned by Governor Isaac Johnson In 1849 he was appointed on the staff of General Gilbert, of Shreveport; was elected to the Legislature in 1851; elected Colonel of Claiborne Regiment in 1855; reelected to the Legislature in 1860; appointed Colonel in the Confederate service, and assigned to duty as enrolling officer of Claiborne Parish; and was again returned to the Legislature in 1864. Since the formation of Webster in 1871, Col. Berry has resided in that parish, and has been constantly honored with public trusts.
Among the early settlers of Claiborne Parish, who yet live, is W. F. Moreland. Engaged in agriculture, he has never sought political preferment, but at the request of his people has served them m both Houses of the Legislature. In these positions he discharged the duties with marked judgment and ability, and to the satisfaction of his constituency.
In 1879, with Rev. J. T. Davidson, he represented the Parish in the Constitutional Convention, and his course was heartily endorsed by the people. Pure and irreproachable, he has passed through the trying ordeals of public life with honor unsullied; and honored of all who know him, he is now spending the evening of his life in the quiet of his country home.
Chapter IX Germantown Its Origin, Growth and Decay
This is a town or settlement, the history of which is full of interest, embracing much that is romantic; and could all the details be had, the events would be thrilling. In 1830, and for some years previous, Germany had become infected with revolutionary ideas that were then declared wild and dangerous, and many of which, when attempted to be carried out, proved altogether visionary. Among others who became involved in these schemes was the Count Von Leon. His liberal movements or ideas were declared treason.
He was arrested, tried, and condemned to die, but a powerful influence which then pervaded Germany came to his rescue, and his life was spared. This mighty influence emanated from the Masonic order. Count Leon had taken the highest degrees, and in his own state Or principality, was the head of the order. Through this influence his sentence was commuted to perpetual banishment. Bowing to this cruel, though merciful sentence, as to the matter of life and death, in 1831 Count Von Leon of the principality of Hapsburg, and Madam the Countess Von Leon, daughter of one of the merchant princes of Frankfort on the Rhine looking for the last time on their native land, turned their faces to the west, giving up all the comforts and luxuries of wealth and religion, an untried and unknown home in far off America.
Perhaps there are a few of our old people, from the states east of the Mississippi River who raised in wealth and all its comforts, but were suddenly reduced there from can realize and sympathize with the miserable change that thus suddenly occurred in the life of this family, aggravated too by knowing that a return to their old home was forever forbidden. Embarking at the nearest seaport, Count and Madam Leon, accompanied with about 300 persons, who came with them as colonists to build up a new home in untrammeled America, without accident or mishap on the sea, safely landed in the City of New York. Resting here a while and the better to determine whither to go the company moved down into Pennsylvania, the neighborhood of Pittsburg, where it resided two years. Becoming dissatisfied on accountant of the harshness of the climate and the indifference or cold welcome meted out to them, some of the company removed to Ohio and other northern states.
But the main body, following the fortunes of the Count and Countess, determined to seek a milder climate than was to be found in the northern portion of United States. Having determined to make Louisiana their home, they gathered up their stores, and after a long and arduous journey, in which they endured many hardships and much suffering, they landed safe near Natchitoches, on Red River. Here they located and commenced business; but soon the colony fell victims to swamp fever of the most malignant type.
Count Leon and the most of his followers died and were buried here on the banks of the Red River not under their native linden trees, but under the stately cotton wood, and the solemn cypress. The Count and the most of his faithful followers now sleep that long, dreamless sleep, in unknown graves somewhere on the banks of the Red River. No friendly hand can ever decorate their graves, but with each returning spring the wild flowers will bloom over them and the tall cypress will keep ward over them till the morning of the resurrection.
How lonely and sad the Countess now weeping in a strange and far off wilderness, over the grave of her husband! One of Louisiana’s noble representatives in Congress introduced and had passed a bill, donating the colony a good body of land in Claiborne. The colony was very wealthy when it left Germany, but they had spent a large sum for implements and equipment which were all lost, together with much of their jewelry and, fine furniture. A large part of this wealth was sunk in barge boats on which they traveled. The last articles of value which the Count owned was a beautiful set of Masonic regalia, set with precious stones, and valued at $6,000. This was sold to the Catholic Church at Natchitoches, and is, we believe, still in its possession.
The Countess now, after a stay of about two years on Red River moved with the remnant of the colony to Claiborne Parish, and settled on the land donated by Congress, which lies about twelve miles southwest of Homer. When they reached their destination, there was not the sign of a habitation to receive them, nor to be seen in that vicinity. The only road near was the military road from Natchitoches to Fort Smith in Arkansas. Brought up in towns, these people knew nothing of country life, but they went to work with 'willing hands and brave hearts, and soon built themselves rude log houses to protect, themselves from the storms of winter and the heat of summer.
The colony still had its own minister, physician, mechanics, etc., and of course held everything in common. Here the colony engaged in agriculture and merchandizing, and succeeded well. Their mercantile business was small at first, but gradually increased till in 1870, they did a business which aggregated $100,000. Their business was conducted on the credit system and a large number of their customers failing to settle, in 1871 they failed.
Had they enforced collections, they might have continued to prosper financially but recalling to mind their own distresses years before and the aid and sympathy extended to them at that time, they deeply sympathized with their customers, who had lost their all in the great civil war, and they could not find in their hearts to oppress them. Noble Countess! That old ledger is her grandest monument. Countess Leon left Germantown in 1871, went to Bastrop, La., and resided a while there with her daughter. From Bastrop, she moved with her daughter to Hot Springs Arkansas, where in 1881, she died at an advanced age.
The Count Leon had but one son, a noble young man, greatly admired by all who knew him. He died while yet young, in 1870, we believe of yellow fever, near Vernon in Jackson Parish.
A few months ago the writer of this sketch visited the scene of this old settlement. The store and shops in which the former inhabitants did business, are all gone. In a small house near, we found an aged gentleman, Wm. Stakouskya, native of Germany, and one of those who came over with the Count Leon. The old gentleman is a fine scholar and well read in both German and English literature. At our request he recited the history of the colony, and gave it an interest we have wholly failed to transfer to these pages.
Chapter X Minden Its Creation, Growth and Present Status
Prior to February, 1871, at which time the Parish of Webster was created, the town of Minden was embraced within the limits of Claiborne. Its mention may therefore be properly included in this work. This beautiful and thriving little city was founded in the year 1837 by Charles H. Veeder. Veeder was a man of great energy and enterprise. At that time Claiborne included the greater portion of the territory of North Louisiana lying between the Ouachita and Red Rivers, and a movement being on foot to divide the parish, which would necessitate the removal of the parish seat, Mr. Veeder worked hard to have the new Courthouse located at Minden; and it was principally through his efforts that an appropriation was secured from the state to build Minden Academy.
Thus may be claimed for him the honor of having been one the originators and the chief promoter of this institution, which was subsequently change to Minden Female Seminary, and that later to Minden Female College. Defeated in his efforts to get the Courthouse, and failing financially, Mr. Veeder soon after left the country. He died at Bakersfield, California, September 6, 1875 at the age of 79 years.
The following extracts from an obituary notice published in the Weekly Courier of that place will be interesting to those who knew him: Col. Veeder was born in Schenectady, N. Y., Oct. 1st, 1796. He was educated at Union College, Schenectady and adopted the profession of the law. At an early age he sought service in the War of 1812, served with distinction, and was a pensioner of the government to the time of his death for services rendered in that struggle. He was of a restless disposition, and constantly sought excitement in new and stirring scenes. He traveled the West and South pretty thoroughly, figuring at various times in Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas, and finally finding his way to California in 1849. Here he lived in Vallejo, Sonoma, Mendocino, and eventually came to this place. Col. Veeder was a man of large intelligence, warm sympathies and kindly instincts, and his loss will be generally deplored.
Adam L. Stewart, who sold to Veeder, was probably the first white man to occupy the ground on which Minden stands. The first merchants to follow Veeder we re Wilson & Wells; Lee & Co.; Morrow, Berry & Co.; W. A. Drake, Sr.; and Myers Fisher. Soon after these came John Chaffe, Foster Robinson, Berry & Thompson, Harry Drake, Wm. Oliver, D. & J. H. Murrell, and others. Minden's first lawyers were E. Olcott, Tillinghast Vaughn, D. L. Evans, G. W. Peets and Andrew Lawson; and her first physicians were Wills, Pennell, Williams, and D. M. Farland.
Dick Thompson was the first hotelkeeper. His hotel stood where T. B. Neal’s old brick store now stands. The first business house erected in Minden was on the site of the handsome brick store now occupied by Leary & Crichton. The site of the old Minden Academy is now occupied by Minden Female College. Minden’s first newspaper was conducted by a Mr. Craig, and was Democratic.
The first church was built by the Methodists in 1839; the next by the Baptists in 1841. The Catholic church was established in 1867 and the Protestant Episcopal in 1870. Of the pioneer citizens of Minden, Col. J. W. Berry, Dr. Dan M. Farland, Wm. Hardy, E. Etter, and David Canfield are about all that remain in the place. A few linger yet in other homes; the rest have gone to the silent shore.
In 1871, Minden became the parish seat of Webster, a new parish organized that year from portions of Claiborne, Bossier and Bienville. The present Courthouse was built immediately after the incorporation of the parish at a cost of $25,000 and is one of the finest structures of the kind in this portion of the State. In addition to its handsome Courthouse, Minden has many bountiful residences, and numerous large and substantial brick stores, all of which indicate the cultivated taste and solid prosperity of its people.
The excellent location of Minden as a trading point, added to the liberal and progressive policy of its merchants, assured it a prosperous business career from the beginning. We have no figures to show the extent of its trade prior to 1882 but in that year there were shipped from the town 22,000 bales of cotton, of which 15,000 bales were handled by its own merchants. In 1883, the shipment was 15,000 bales, of which its merchants bought l0,000. In 1884 the receipts were 10,000, and the purchase 9000. During the last ten years the annual receipts have averaged fully 15,000 bales, of which its merchants have handled about 10,000. Minden's average annual sales of merchandise during this period, have aggregated fully half a million.
The decline in business in l883 and 1884 was owing to the changes wrought, first, by the extension of a branch of the Paramore Railroad to Magnolia, Arkansas, which town, in consequence has controlled about 5,000 bales of cotton that had formerly gone to Minden; and secondly, by the completion of the V.S.&P R.R. running five miles south and cutting down its receipts another 5,000 bales. Such heavy inroads upon their business would have discouraged and paralyzed many, but not so with these people. They were equal to the emergency. Nobly, and with their accustomed zeal and activity, did, they go to work and build a tap connecting them with the V.S.&P R.R. which they have now completed at a cost to themselves of nearly $50,000 and which connects them with every train on the main line.
They have also succeeded in impressing the V.S.&P R.R. authorities that Minden can control a large amount of business for their road, which until the completion of the tap had gone to Magnolia. This together with the fact that it is more to theV.S.&P R.R. to have business concentrated at Minden than to meet the strong competition at Shreveport, has induced it to give a through rate of freights to and from Minden for less than that of any other town along its line. To compensate theV.S.&P R.R. for this concession, the Minden men have agreed to do all their shipping by rail, not patronizing the boats at all, believing that the rates they have obtained from the road are about as low as they formerly were by boat.
The merchants of Minden repudiate the idea of the railroads having done anything for them as a favor but claim that its geographical position has made Minden a competitive point; not, however, to the extent of Shreveport, but sufficiently so to entitle it to the comparative freight rates given, these advantages Minden now enjoys, and the high financial standing of its business men, and the energy and pluck displayed by them in laying out $50,000 in cash on their branch road, and this just after the loss of $40,000 by the burning of some 1,200 bales of their cotton two years age and the financial embarrassment occasioned by the failure of some of their friends in New Orleans last spring, are a sufficient guarantee that Minden is to be herself again.
She will ship fifteen to eighteen thousand bales of cotton this season, 1885-1886, and with a good crop next year, 25,000 bales are the figures set by her merchants. Minden claims that she should handle all the cotton in Webster Parish, and in the west half of Claiborne; and will contend for the trade of Bienville Parish lying around Ringgold and believes that hereafter in time of low water a considerable amount of cotton will come to her from Red River below Loggy Bayou. Minden is amply able to pay cash for all the cotton brought to her, and with her reduced freights, she is certainly a formidable competitor of the towns along the line of the road; and when the known liberality and progressiveness of her merchants are taken into the account, there is very strong additional inducement for farmers to patronize her market.
For her educational advantages, Minden is not surpassed by any town in the State, nor, as for that matter hardly any where else. Her Female College is one of the oldest institutions west of the Mississippi River, giving superior education to young women. Its alumni, widely scattered over the State, have always maintained the high position the College holds in the public estimation. They are among the most honored wives and daughters of her citizens. Many of them have achieved distinction as writers of prose and poetry, and some of them are among the best female teachers in the State. A brief history of the school, we are sure, will be interesting to the reader.
In 1838, Minden Academy was organized and was successively conducted by Rev. R. T. Baggs, Henry M..Spofford, Prof. Burke, Rev. Wm. Brooks and Rev. W. H. Scales. In 1850, the name was changed to Minden Female Seminary by organizing it under the first Board of Trustees. The first Principal of the Seminary was John S. Garvin, who took charge in September, 1850. He did not finish a scholastic year, but resigned and left it in charge of some of his associates, who were assisted by J. D. Watkins, then one of the principals of the Minden Male Academy his associate being A. B. George. Of these teachers, Mr. Spofford subsequently became one of the eminent Supreme Judges of La, and Mr. Watkins a Judge of the District Court now one of the most distinguished jurists of the State. Mr. George is now one of the eminent Judges of the Court of Appeals.
In 1853 a new Board of Trustees was formed, who elected Mr. S. L. Slack as principal. Under his administration the name was changed by Act of Incorporation to Minden Female College. President Slack began his administration by securing funds and erecting the main buildings of the College and no man ever brought to it more zeal, energy and ability. The buildings erected under his supervision show the wisdom of his plans.
President Slack resigned and was followed by J. Franklin Ford. This gentleman succeeded in having two additional buildings added to the College one the large Concert Hall, the other a large building for boarders. Under the administration of President Ford, which lasted six years the college was in a most prosperous condition. In February, 1862, he resigned, and was succeeded by J. E. Bright, D. D. Dr. Bright was a scholar of rare attainments, and a minister of great celebrity. A large number of pupils from every part of the State attended while he was in charge. He served as President eight years, resigning in January, 1871.
The next President was Rev. T. B. Russell, who served only one year, resigning on account of ill health. After the departure of Mr. Russell, the Board employed Miss Mildred Boyle, as Principal. Miss Boyle had been one of Mr. Russell's associate teachers, was a graduate of the College, and had taken the first honors of her class. She managed the institution very successfully until failing health compelled her resignation.
In 1876, Col. Thos. O. Benton, formerly of the law firm of Garrett, Benton & Slack of Monroe, La., was elected President. Col. Benton, a profound lawyer and elegant scholar, held the position three and a half years. Resigning, he was succeeded by Col. George D. Alexander, who was elected President for five and a half years. Col. Alexander entered upon the discharge of his duties in February, 1879, and the term of his office will expire with the scholastic year 1885-86. He is a gentleman of erudite scholarship. The reputation of the college has increased greatly under his administration.
The old Minden Academy, erected mainly through the agency of Charles H. Veeder, was, as we understand, a school for both boys and girls. When it was, changed to Minden Female Seminary, in 1850, provision was made for the separate education of boys. The present male Academy was built about that time mainly through the liberality of W. A. Drake, Sr. who donated the sum of $1500 for that purpose, thus putting himself on record as one of the benefactors of Minden, and of his race. This school has been in charge of many able teachers and has a high reputation.
Its pure water, good health, pleasant location, fine residences and beautiful shade trees, together with the literary air of its citizens, render Minden a most desirable place for a home where both daughters and sons may receive a finished education.
*W. H. Stansbury & Company;
24 Natchez Street;
New Orleans, La.,
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