Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #17
By Cathy Buckley
1930’s Part Two
The year 1932 began with an inconvenience for those traveling south to Ruston. Due to construction and high water the Bernice-Ruston highway was closed to traffic and if you wanted to go the 22 miles to Ruston you had to take a 40 mile detour to get there. The Bernice-Summerfield road was almost impassable and all other roads around Bernice were under water. It was necessary for the school to close at 1:30 in order for the trucks (buses) to get the children home in time for supper. It would be April before paving work on the Pershing highway north of town could be started again, due to the late floods of 1931.
Relief for the depression would come to Bernice in several ways. One of these was the Emergency Jobless Relief which would provide jobs for those unemployed. In Bernice the applications were taken by Mrs. E.B. Green and Mrs. Y.S. Fuller. The first call for applicants saw 25 men seeking employment. These men would be put to work making improvements around town in the cemetery and at the high school.
These men would also assist in the repairs to the Bernice Grammar school which was condemned in November due to a break in the wall and a sagging roof. During the two weeks the repairs were being made the children attended school at the Baptist church and in the Grafton building.
In December the Bernice Mill reopened after being shut down for almost a year and as a result a number of men were able to find work. The Red Cross came to the relief of the needy in Bernice and in November distributed 1000 sacks of flour.
Mayor J.M. Talbot held a meeting of the citizens in Bernice in June and called for a reduction in taxes as a means of giving financial assistance to the area. The group came up with other ideas as well: reduction in business taxes, reduction in salaries of public officials, abolish unnecessary parish offices and quit the practice in Union Parish of creating new jobs just to give family members and friends jobs.
G.B. Cagle, agent at the depot for the previous 8 years left to run the depot in Winnfield. Cagle was described as a man “with a systematic method of business and of splendid Christian character” who had won for himself many friends who regret to lose him.
Unemployment saw an increase in robberies across north Louisiana. On the Friday before Christmas three men were overheard formulating a plan to rob the Bank of Bernice on the following Saturday. On that day a record breaking snow fell and the robbers decided their chances of escape would be impossible so they delayed their plans. The three robbers planning their crime continued preparation for the deed at a later date. In a wooded area near Dubach the men were seen in some sort of mysterious work that was later proved to be the shortening of two shot guns. The sawed off sections were picked up by a man who had witnessed the activity from a distance and carried to the sheriff of Lincoln parish. The men were picked up and convicted of robberies in Dubach and Lisbon as well as the planned bank robbery in Bernice.
The year 1933 started with another Shreveport Times story on the town of Bernice: “Hurrying the traveling Times route man reaches Bernice, another of the thriving communities in the Land of the Ark-La-Tex, shortly after 6 pm each day. He unloads a large bundle of papers at Bernice before proceeding on his way. Bernice with its 1000 or more inhabitants is the home of the Bernice Lumber Company, the Lindsey Gin Company, the Lomax Gin Company and utilities companies furnishing electricity and natural gas to the surrounding communities.
Among the assets of the city are the two school buildings in which are enrolled more than 600 pupils. The principal is M.A. Price and he has charge of the 16 teachers. Recently the institution celebrated its 25th anniversary with homecoming festivities. (First homecoming – more on that will come in future articles on education in Bernice)
In 1899 when the Rock Island was extended to link Ruston and El Dorado, people flocked from all directions and settled in Bernice, beneath the great pines which dot the country. The town is indeed proud of its beautiful homes, with their well-kept lawns and yards. Instrumental in this beautification feature is the Civic and Garden Club, whose industry and work has led to the improvements.
Cotton is the principal money crop of this section; corn is the best food crop. Many of the farmers in and near Bernice are practicing diversified farming. They make their own syrup and raise hay, potatoes and peas. Sales from produce such as chickens, butter, eggs and other similar things net the farmers some loose change.
G.E. Lindsey has been a member of the police jury from Bernice for 13 years and has three more years to serve on his present term. J.T. Porter is a member of the school board and J.M. Talbot is now serving his 14th term as the mayor of the city. Elsy Grafton has been the marshal for the past six years.
Bernice is composed of church going people. The Rev. R.L. Morgan is the pastor of the Baptist Church and the Rev. W.F. Henderson is the pastor of the Methodist church. All organizations of the churches are active and participate in the life of the community.
Health is one of the noted features of the town. Owing to the elevation and the excellence of its water supply, its citizens are proud to say that they are no unusually subject to contagious diseases and epidemics are almost unknown.”
********************************************************************************************* 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.