Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #11
By Cathy Buckley
As early as 1914 the citizens of Bernice began a fight for good roads leading into and out of town and would yearly hold “good roads” day when all the businesses would close and men would work on improvement of the roads.
In 1916 forty of the citizens filled ten automobiles to capacity and came to Farmerville and appeared before the police jury. The plan they presented to the jury was for the use of convicts in the improvement of the Farmerville-Homer highway from Farmerville, through Shiloh, and Bernice to the Claiborne Parish line. They presented a promise of $600 in pledges and promise of additional labor. The Police Jury granted the request as “people from that section were boiling over with enthusiasm for better roads.”
In March of 1916 the Ladies Civic Club installed a new pump and bubbling fountain system on the school ground and had the entire school grounds thoroughly cleaned.
In the fall the town of Bernice held a Chautauqua/Political Rally and barbeque prior to the election for Governor in which home town candidate Ruffin G. Pleasant was one of the speakers. Pleasant went on to win that election by carrying every Congressional District in the state with the exception of one.
The war in Europe was being heard even in Bernice and the patriotism of the Bernice citizens was displayed in May of 1917 with a flag raising ceremony in the center of the public square. Long before the hour for the flag to be hoisted the streets were crowded with people.
As the hour of four drew near, 24 automobiles, beautifully decorated with bunting and flags lined up on each side of the crowd. Then a group of school children carrying flags marched from the school house and formed lines in front of the platform in the square. The school children were followed by “Uncle Sam”, “Miss Liberty” and “Miss Columbia”.
Mayor Talbot was Master of Ceremonies and the large flag was raised by Don James (Uncle Sam) and Lizzie Belle Gwyn(Miss Liberty). Hamp Lewis the city marshal secured the flag to the flagpole and there were three cheers from the crowd and long blasts from all of the automobiles. There was then a parade through the streets and the city park.
The Bernice Red Cross did their part for the war effort by hosting chicken dinners in order to purchase materials for the comfort of the soldiers. They served chicken in every way it could be prepared. Soldiers who were passing through Bernice on the train were given food and other items. The Red Cross also knitted scarves and caps for the soldiers and it was said their youngest member, Minyon Lindsey, who though only five was very efficient at the art and eager to help the soldiers.
Bernice young men were volunteering to serve their country and in April of 1917 Leonard Ferguson, Allen Grafton, Marvin Fallin and Young M. Strickland left Bernice by train on their way to Shreveport to enlist. A total of 7 Bernice boys had now joined the war effort.
By May of 1918 boys all over the parish were eager to do their part. 36 boys from Union left in May and several from Bernice were in this group. They were escorted to Farmerville by the citizens of Bernice led by George C. James who dressed as Uncle Sam and perched on top of the first car in the grand parade which was met by patriotic cheers as it rolled into Farmerville.
One of the largest buildings in town burned in 1918. The building owned by G.E. Lindsey and Y.S. Fuller contained the post office, a printing shop, two barber shops and two restaurants.
In June Bernice soldier Govan B. Reagan became the first casualty of WWI followed in July by Dennie St. John. In later years the American Legion would form a post in Bernice and it would be called the Regan-St. John Post in honor of these two young men.
New buildings and homes were going up all over town and the Shreveport Times noted in their April 9th issue that BUILDING BOOM MAKES BERNICE NEW TOWN. The fact was given that 3 new homes have been completed and occupied and 7 others were under construction and that most of the old homes had been repaired and repainted. In addition the roads leading into town had been widened, streets cleaned and opened and the town presents a thriving appearance.
NOTE: We have some displays at the Bernice Depot Museum on those Bernice soldiers who gave their lives in WWI, WWII, KOREA and Viet Nam.
********************************************************************************************* Cathy Buckley is a native of Union Parish and lifelong citizen of Shiloh. She served as Principal of Spearsville High School for many years until her retirement. Cathy is now the director of the Bernice Depot Museum and a active member of the Bernice Historical Society.