Town of Farmerville Founded in 1830

Walter Hitesman
The Gazette
October 5, 1939

Organized at Second Meet of Police Jury: Named After Farmer

Townsite Laid Out in Wilderness After Clearing of Land Had Taken Place Following Orders of Parish Governing Body

 

The early settlers of our nation were concerned first with securing the necessities of life and giving then residence a sense of permanency before they turned thoughts to organizing a government.

Such was the history of Union Parish and Farmerville. The early settlers were concerned with securing food and keeping “bone and body” together and making homes out of the wilderness for the first 50 years after John Honeycutt, his traps slug over his shoulder and his flintlock firmly grasped in the crook of his elbow, made his way into this territory in 1790.

But, in 1839, these settlers, increasing in numbers with every year, gathered together on May 16, 1839 to form a parish and, on the next day May 17, 1839 formed a seat of government for that parish.

That seat of government those men formed was Farmerville.

Meeting on May 16 at the home of William Wilkerson at the mouth of Bayou Cornie, now known as Fork Ferry, one mile west of present day Farmerville, seven men gathered to form this parish.

On the next day, May 17, with the preliminary plans for a parish, government underway, they net to decide the location and name of a parish seat.

They had decided the day before that the parish seat should be located within one mile of the geographical center of the parish. They had to tackle the proposition of naming the location. Heated discussions followed as to the name of the townsite. Some wanted it named for Matthew Wood, well known and respected settler of the parish, and president of that first police jury. Wood, however, declined the honor and the group compromised on the name of Farmerville, after W. W. Farmer, a prominent man of the parts, who later became lieutenant-governor of the state.

The resolution, as passed by the group read:

Resolution

“Be it ordained by the Police Jury of Union Parish, Louisiana, that the seat of justice in and for Union Parish, Louisiana, shall be called Farmerville.”

That first police jury composed of J. N. Farmer, Jeptha Colvin, Phillip Feazel, Matthew Wood, Needham Bryan, Bridges Howard and D.P. A. Cook, must have been a sober, serious group of men as they convened. They had t make an organized government out of a section that up till that time, had been nothing but wilderness.

It is easy to see that the history of Farmerville is practically that of the parish itself. All motions passed by the jury during the first year directly affected Farmerville.

For example, in one of those early meetings, a committee was appointed to select and lay out a road from Farmerville to some point on the Ouachita River. Other road measures were passed also.

Lay Out Town

At the fourth meeting of the group they decided to meet at the site selected for the parish seat on June 14 to lay out the townsite. This was done, with the courthouse square plotted in the center of the town, 300 feet square.

On July 16, the day as advertised in the “Ouachita Standard”, 82 lots were sold to citizens of the parish.

An ordinance passed September 27, 1841, appropriated one-half an acre of land to the parish seat as a public burying ground. Today, this is the town cemetery. The same ordinance appropriated one-half an acre of ground to the Methodist Episcopal church.

The next meetings saw the establishment of more roads and the appointment of certain individuals to maintain these roads.

Organized at Second Meet of Police Jury: Named After Farmer

Town Emerges

Townsite Laid Out in Wilderness After Clearing of Land Had Taken Place Following Orders of Parish Governing Body

With the continual creation of these roads, Farmerville began to be settled. These men bought lots, built homes, opened stores and businesses. In short, Farmerville bean to emerge as a town.

By 1860, twenty years after its conception, Farmerville had taken on a permanent air. Many more lots had been sold and with the placement of the parish court house here more people had come in to settle the town. At the out break of the Civil War the town was ready to contribute its share of Confederate soldiers.

After the war the town continued to grow until in 1885 it had practically the same general layout as it has today.

Farmerville of that day is vividly recalled by on of the town’s residents at that time.

Vivid Memory

Henry J. Leimkuhler, a former resident of Farmerville now residing in New Orleans, recalled from memory the sites and history of the various spots here in town.

The old Baptist church he recalls “Mr. Jim Ramsey was the superintendent of the Sunday school, of which I was a member. I received two scholarship prizes for good scholarship. They used to give fish fries on the fourth of July, sometimes at the D’Arbonne. A barbecue was given at the Baptist church and it was a great success. That was the first time I ate chicken pie and have not eaten any like it since. Reverend J. P. Everett was the preacher at the Baptist church”.

The parish’s second court house, erected in 1870, was getting along in years in 1885, the time when Mr. Leimkuhler recalls, with amazing detail, that the building was the center of the square with two small buildings at the northeast and southeast corners of the square he remembers were the register’s or recorder’s office and the clerk of court’s office.

“There were oak trees on the east side of the court house and two large pine trees on the west side. Under one pine was a hog wallow. The ‘corporation’ hogs wallow. The ‘corporation’ hogs used to make their winter nests there. I will explain what a ‘corporation’ hog means. They were owned by the corporation (we assume Mr. Leimkuhler means the town). They used to go around the town everywhere and eat refuse garbage of the town. There was a corporation dump cart and an old black mule. Dennis Cobb, negro, was driver and road repairer. Now to get back to the court house, at the back end of the building was a hickory tree. Close to the hickory tree was the public well in front of Donley’s hotel. It had a large shed over it with a picket fence around it.

Roads of Vicinity

The road coming from the lower ferry turned left from Dink Glasson’s place and past though the court house grounds. Buster Holmes, negro, drown for Daniel Stein. He cleared the land that was made Farmerville, The stumps of these trees were under the court house. I remember Uncle Brister, as we called him, gave my father the axe he used to clear the grounds with but some one picked up the axe and it was never seen again.

He recalls a feat of some of the negroes of the town performed during the time.

“There was a discussion of strength among Daniel Stein’s yardmen. They decided that the best way to see which one was stronger was to carry a bale of cotton. They selected one that weighed over 500 pounds. They placed it on top of another bale and a negro named Wilson Jones backed up and they rolled it off on his shoulders. He took a hook in each hand and caught the bale with the hooks and then walked around a square about 20 feet, backed up to the same place and rolled the bale off. None of the others would try it.”

Recalls Cyclone

Another interesting incident in the history of the town about 1885 was a cyclone that struck the village.

Mr. Leimkuhler recalls that there was a little saloon and the cyclone, sweeping down across the town, struck this small building. “The building was crushed to the floor and the falling shed crushed Dink Glasson’s head and hurt Judge W. A. Darby internally, they both died in Julius Arent’s sotre a short while later. Another man suffered a crush. I think Marion Shultz was bruised about the head and body and when they removed the boards he was found under a round table.

He continues his narrative “When Stein’s store burned he used his house across the street as a store until a new one was built. The old Pythian hall was two stories and was the full length of the block. The carpenters who worked on the building was Hilliary Ham, Jim McFaland, two other carpenters and a negro, Dave Christian. The ground floor in the front was Jeff Baughman’s clothing store and the center was Jack Apfel’s barroom. Next to the hall was the tin shop where my father worked for Jake Marx before he went to work in a barroom. Next to this was a livery stable which burned before we came. The charred timbers remained for a long time.

Prominent Men

Mr. Leimkuhler remembers some of the prominent men as Mr. R. Hunt Odom who was once mayor Jack K. Atkinson who was marshal. Mr. Poet, who was for a long time mayor, Mr. Turnage, who was also a marshal during that time, Jim McFarland, a dentist, Carol Otto, a jeweler, Mr. Issac Shuster, postmaster.

Mr. Otto was an athlete and formed an athletic club. A horizontal bar was in the post office yard and the gym was out by the roadside between Rabun’s and Shultz’s places. They had a mattress made of oak leaves and a horizontal bar. We all learned to make flips. They had a lot two blocks north of the court house on Main street where they used to place the horses to be roped and saddled for Jim Covington to break. He could break them too.

Recalled also is a well incident in a corn field north of town. Joe Shuster fell in a well and got out before he got wet. Henry Wanza and George Wheeler helped him out. One held the other by the feet and lowered him into the well and rescued Joe. There wasn’t any water in the well.

Next the old  Hearn saw mill was the baptizing pool which was lined with boards just like a well and had steps heading tot he pool.

He vividly and completely recalls the North Louisiana Appeal. O. C. Dawkins was editor. A Mr. Lewis came to town and took the Appeal over from Mr. Dawkins. Mr. Lewis moved in Dr. Butler’s home and I worked for Mr. Lewis a while then we left Farmerville. Those employed at various times in the “Appeal” were Mr. Golden, Bob Windes, Gus Mason, Eps Mayo, Perry Cooper, Tom Dawkins, Bob Lankford and H. J. Leimkuhler.

“I remember there was an Arkansas firm which was getting a large boiler. I think for a cotton gin. There were about 20 yoke of oxen and it passed through the town in the early afternoon. The drivers would place the butt end of their whip stocks on the ground and make the whip pop like firecrackers.”

“I remember when I saw the first calliope. It came to town to advertise St. Jacob’s oil. The chorus of the song they sang was “Close the Blind Gently Do Dear” and the next chorus was Tink Tink Tink Tink Thral. La La”.

Parish Officials

The court house and some of the officers of the parish, this old settler remembers as B. F. Pleasant, sheriff, Marcus W. Rabun is still living here, deputy sheriff Judge G. A. Killgore, Jr..is still living and residing in Baton Rouge, Judge George H. Ellis, Judge W. R. Rutland, James M. Smith, clerk of court, J. C. Montgomery, civil sheriff and Ross Cox, assessor.

Farmerville had its first baseball club about that time. “The team as far as I can remember, was John Rabun, Jake Stein, Horace McFarland, Willis Darby, Willie Smith, Jim Underwood, Ledger Simmons. The prescription clerk in Brown’s drug store organized the club, he came from New Orleans. He taught the boys how to play the game and how to throw a curve ball. It seemed they could never beat the Shiloh boys. The diamond was right across from the old Rabun home.

“The first brass band Farmerville had was (as far as I can remember) John Rabun, Ledger Simmons, Jake Stein, L. Bernstein, George Schmidt and two more I don’t remember. Their professor was nicknamed Professor Keggy. There was also a string band with Professor Hefner. As far as I can remember they were Professor Hefner, leader, Abe Stein first violin, H. J . Leimkuhler, second, William Leimkuhler, piccolo, Henry Meyers, flute, and a bass violin player whom I  don’t remember.”

He faintly recalls an old town character called Uncle Dunk, who died at the age of 125 years. Mr. Leimkuhler recalls that he was chopping wood when he was 115 year old.

Town Incorporated

The town was officially incorporated by Act 104 of the State Legislature in 1842. This was amended by Act 58 of the legislature in 1886. At the extra session of the legislature in 1870, Act 51, the town of Farmerville was issued a charter, under which the town now operates.

One section of the Charter of 1872 was amended by Act 62 of the legislature in 1872.

After the granting of the 1872 charter after the major and town council had been elected the group passed numerous measures regulating the government of the town. The minutes of the town council show that the council was kept very busy passing ordinances which ran from a stock law to the issuing of peddler’s licenses.

The town sought an extensive amendment to the charter of 1870 in 1904 but this was not fully approved.

Ordinance No 36 passed on June 2, 1914 granted authority for the erection of an electrical power plant. The firm Ramsey & Digby were granted the franchise, which was issued for 25 years.

First Traffic Laws

The first traffic laws of the town were passed in January, 1917. Ordinance No. 46 regulated the speed and parking rules governing the automobiles. In the year 1922 in November ordinances were passed that saw to the authorization, letting of contract and franchise for a water system in Farmerville.

A new franchise governing the electric light condition in Farmerville was passed on February 21, 1923. This granted the franchise to Selig-Davis Light & Power Company.

Ordinance No 81 of the town council granted a franchise to H. Wade concerning gas in the town. This was passed on September 22, 1926.

Thus with those ordinances did the modern conveniences come to Farmerville.

The last census in 1931 showed 1,134 persons residing here. An estimated population today is set around 1,500.

The last few years have seen many improvements in Farmerville. Practically all the main streets are paved, a new mayor’s office has been erected, a new post office building, an agricultural building and many other structures.

The town has progressed greatly in the last 100 years. The next 100 years will show more progress.

 

 

 

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