Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #19
By Cathy Buckley
In July of 1934 the town of Bernice honored the memory of the first two Bernice soldiers who died in World War One with the organization of an American Legion post named the Reagan/St. John Post. The first commander was Mark Price, Jr. with James T. Porter as his adjutant. The first members were: G.C. Black, Sr., C.M. O’Bannon, J.M. Farrar, J.C. Davis, R.C. Odom, Henry Smith, L.D. Carroll, Walter Norris, G.L. Nelson, R.M. Driggers, K.F. Thaxton, Eza Grafton, James H. Fuller and W.R. Heard. The Depot Museum has a framed copy of the original Temporary Charter which was found inside the walls of the old Harris Five and Ten Cent store when Dr. Touchstone was remodeling.
On March 9th a terrible storm brought very strong winds and an hour long torrential rain and much damage to the town. The glass windows of the grammar school and Feazel Motor Company were blown out; the residences with considerable damage were Mrs. W.F. Grafton, W.H. Harris, Mrs. D.B. Garland, and C.K. Ozley; a barn and warehouse belonging to G.E. Lindsey were blown down; lumber stacks and sheds of the Bernice Lumber Company were destroyed; homes belonging to farm workers on the large farms of Harry Cook, G.C. Hicks and Mrs. R.G. Mitcham were blown down; half the fence around the baseball field was blown down and the grand stand was completely blown away; the wall of the basketball court was blown away and considerable timber in the area was blown down.
The wind on the 9th was followed by a terrible hail storm on the 10th which broke out more windows and knocked holes in the tops of school buses bringing children home from school.
The damage however brought employment for several in Bernice as the Times reported “every carpenter in Bernice was working rebuilding and repairing structures that were town down or damaged by the storm.”
A vacant building between the P and T café and the recreation hall was now used as a post office due to a fire which destroyed the post office building and all equipment. Postmistress Baldwin stated that now the “postal equipment consisted of old equipment held in storage or equipment borrowed from the bank and that despite being greatly handicapped the mails are being received and delivered regularly”.
In January of 1935 Mayo and Sons began installation of a new hardwood mill south of town. The mill cut hickory and oak in six to ten foot dimensions which were shipped to Dover, Arkansas and from there to Europe to be used in the making of snow skis.
In February J.J. Kelly, a Bernice area farmer, made the news when he went 180 plus hours with the hiccups. When first published in the Shreveport Times countless people wrote in offering remedies for his malady.
In early 1936 fifty Bernice citizens met at the high school auditorium and organized a club to promote the civic improvement of the town. The club was known as Bernice Boosters. George Grafton was elected President with Jack Salley serving as Vice President, E.F. Hollis as Treasurer and Leon Boyd as Secretary. The first project of the club was the installation of “Welcome to Bernice” signs on each highway coming into town. The club stated the wish to give “particular attention” to the cleaning of vacant lots and unsightly places.
Bell Telephone and Louisiana Power and Light extended their service in and around Bernice adding new poles and a new system of lines to farm houses which enabled many to install electric lights and telephones in their homes.
The biggest news on the streets of Bernice and many towns around North Louisiana occurred in June of 1937 when the Shiloh Baptist Church burned to the ground. The Monroe News Star of June 8th described the event:
“Historic old Shiloh Baptist Church located on the Bernice-Farmerville highway passed into history Tuesday, ashes and a few charred timbers bearing mute evidence of an early morning fire which destroyed the structure. The cause of the fire was not ascertained but it is believed possible that some wayfarer forced entrance into the building for a night’s shelter and accidentally set the building afire. The loss was not insured.
It is generally accepted that the church was erected in 1859. Mrs. Vicki Heard, 86 of Bernice recalls that when she was a child of about 7 years, the church building was being constructed. Also that year was mentioned by her elders on numerous occasions years ago as the year in which the church was constructed.
Many men who became prominent in the state worshipped at the church as children and young men. Two Governors of Louisiana, W.W. Heard and the late Ruffin G. Pleasant were among these men. At one time a state Baptist convention was held at the church.
Shiloh Church was well preserved and had been modernized with the addition of Sunday school rooms. Active church and Sunday school programs were conducted there until the fire leveled the structure. Reverend O’Bier has been the pastor in recent times.”
********************************************************************************************* 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.