Civil War Saw Money Printed Here

Edward Everett, Jr.
The Gazette
October 5, 1939

Paper Bills Issued In All Denominations To Care For Situation

Not many people now living in Union Parish have knowledge of the fact that at one time Union Parish printed, issued and circulated its own money, unless it may be some of those few who can still remember those few who can remember those days of Reconstruction while they were children and the tales  told by some of the older members of the family who had first hand information.

It is a fact, however, and not one bit of myth, that at one time an emergency confronted the police jury of the parish as to necessitate the printing, issuing and circulation of its own currency. That emergency arose early during the War Between the States; and it is indeed interesting to pursue the records of the police jury during those times and obtain first hand information of the dilemma in which they were placed.

When President Mouton of the Secession Convention of Louisiana issued the following proclamation, “By virtue of the vote just announced I now declare the connection between the State of Louisiana and the Federal Union dissolved, and that she is a free sovereign and independent power”, the die was cast. Louisiana had seceded from the ‘Union’ and, henceforward, for at least four years was to enter into a most unique situation.

Col. Sid H. Griffin and Dr. W. C. Carr represented Union Parish at that convention and even though the citizens of Union Parish received first had information as to the precarious condition for the future from these gentlemen upon their return from the convention and from other sources, the people still did not realize the seriousness of the situation.

First War Measure

The first war measure of the police jury was an ordinance introduced by Benjamin Ford of Ward 2 levying a military tax “of 100% of the State Tax proper” to be submitted to a vote of the people. Although the young blades were “rearing” to march off to war and a great many of the older ones were clamoring for state’s rights and a continuation of slavery, the tax payers were not as ready for war as their otherwise visible actions indicated for they voted unfavorably on the levying of the tax.

Illegal Tax

The election was held on June 1st, 1861, several months after the fall of Fort Sumter. However, the police jury valiantly met the situation, and on Saturday, June 22, 1861, they disregarded the fact that a small majority of the people had said “No” at the polls, but “took the bull by the horns” and levied the tax anyway without submitting the question to the people. Those police jury members were straightforward thinkers, acted according to their honest convictions and cared nothing for public opinion when necessity required the meeting of an emergency.

It was early realized that the folks back home would not only be required to furnish provisions and the like, but man power and “cannon fodder” as well. So, at the same meeting at which the police jury “took the bull by the horns” they grabbed another bull somewhere and, by unanimous vote, illegally appropriated $1,500.00 of the school funds to aid a company of volunteers known as the “Yankee Pelters”. They must have decided that about the only education that was to be received for the coming years would be war and that they were warranted in using the school funds for the purpose.

New Appropriation

The appropriation evidently did not exhaust the school fund for just three weeks later on Saturday, July 13, 1861, Capt. J. G. Taylor obtained appropriating an additional $1,500.00 from the school fund “to aid a company of volunteers at the seat of war styled ‘Independent Rangers’”.

However it did not take them long to run out of money. A month later on Tuesday, August 13, 1861, the police jury offered parish scrip to all persons who would furnish money to aid volunteers at the seat of war, and the president and clerk of the police jury were authorized to draw from the school fund an amount sufficient to give each member of the “Phoenix Rifles” $15.00 from the amount subscribed by individuals to such fund. Later in the year similar assistance was given the “Pelican Greys” and the “Vienna Rifles”, but the school funds and contributions to it had been exhausted and the president was authorized to draw on the parish treasury from money appropriated for military purposes.

Critical Situation

Those citizens possessing money which at the time was gold and other current money of the United States, gave until “it hurt”. and in their ordinary business affairs and the purchase of necessities for the home it was not long before this money was also exhausted. Then there were also the wives and children of soldiers left at home without support who had to be taken care of. By March 31, 1862 the financial condition was so critical that the police jury authorized the issuance of $20,000.00 worth of parish bonds for “war purposes”, and negotiations were commenced for the sale of those bonds to New Orleans banks and to obtain from the State of Louisiana. Union Parish’s share of the ammunition appropriated by the state. The grim realities of war were upon Union Parish and actual invasion of the parish was feared.

The bonds were sold but more money was required. So at a special session of the police jury on Tuesday, May 6, 1862 Benjamin Ford’s ordinance appropriating $10,000.00 to be issued in bills of denominations of $1.00 to $20.00 to aid families of absent soldiers was adopted and the parish treasurer was authorized to receive the parish scrip authorized in January previously in exchange for the bills. Necessity being the mother of invention, and there being no money of any kind anywhere, the police jury solved the problem by issuing its own currency on the faith and credit of the Parish of Union, negotiable by delivery and to be paid by future taxation, as its only security.

Additional Issue

In June 1862 an additional issue of $10,000.00 in parish money was authorized and the president was authorized to pay parish scrip and all claims against the parish with the same. At the September, 1862 term of the police jury, the budget of expense for 1863 was adopted. It totaled $23,230.00 which was $14,950.00 more than the expense budget of the previous year. Up to this time a bond issue of $20,000.00 had been effected and $20,000.00 in parish bills had been authorized. Demands were evidently already being made upon the parish to redeem its currency so the police jury immediately met the situation by providing that the president could issue parish bonds to redeem the currency when and amount of not less than $100 was presented.

At the very beginning small change vanished. The situation was met by giving postage stamps for change. In some instances merchants, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, farmers and others, in order to obtain necessities, issued their own obligations payable either in cash or in the product they were producing. Some merchants and traders actually issued private currency. At the March, 1883 meeting, the police jury authorized the issuance of $2,000.00 in small change bills of 50¢, 25¢ and 10¢ “in the event suitable paper can be found at any of the printing offices of the adjoining parishes” with which to print the same. The money was not only giving out but the paper on which to print the same was also scarce.

Hear Vicksburg Guns

The June, 1883 meeting of the police jury convened. Grant had been hammering away at Vicksburg since the first part of May and a great many of the sons of Union Parish were with the Confederates in the besieged city. The war was no doubt brought closer home than ever before for the distant thunder of the siege guns at Vicksburg could be heard in parts of the parish and it is imagined that those faithful members of the police jury became more grim and determined when, during a lapse into silence during the session, a low distant rumble would be heard accompanied by rattling of the windows and the lines of their faces tighten into more intense determination. It was at this session that the futility of the circulation of money by the parish was seen for Mr. Ford obtained adoption of an ordinance withdrawing from circulation all parish bills, except small change bills, with an order on the parish treasurer to burn all of such bills as fast as redeemed. These bills were redeemable in state and Confederate Treasury notes.

Redemption Ordinance

Things rocked along until June, 1864. It appeared that the holders of parish bills were not presenting them very rapidly for redemption so the police jury adopted an ordinance providing:

“All parish bills of the Parish of Union aforesaid above the denomination of one dollar shall be redeemed immediately at the Parish Treasurer’s office in State Treasury notes at par and in Confederate Treasury notes (old issue) at the rate of three dollars for two dollars in parish bills until the first day of December next A D 1864 after which date every parish bill above the denomination of one dollar shall be taxed in the hands of the holder thirty-three and on-third per ct., which tax shall be deducted from the face of the bill whenever presented and said bills shall neither be received in payment of parish dues nor redeemed in money except with said reduction of thirty-three and one-third percent.”

So we see the end of the parish bills and of the printing and circulation of money by the Parish of Union. The inevitable happened. The holders were given the opportunity of a very fair proposition of redemption, after which the parochial authorities showed an inclination to tax the currency out of existence.

At the same meeting which adopted the above referred to resolution the finance committee made the following report.

Liabilities of the Parish

Due Banks in New Orleans$8,260.00
Parish Bills over $1 in circulation$19,937.00
Parish Change Bills in circulation$1353.95

Assets or Cash on Hand

Parish Bills$10,456.00
Carroll Parish Bills$80.00
Catahoula Parish Bills$2.00
Bienville Parish Bills$5.00
State Treasury Notes$4,500.00
Confederate Treasury Notes$7630.00
Parish Change Bills$2.76

Finance Committee Report

The finance committee then stated that omitting the debt due the New Orleans banks there was a balance on hand in the treasury of $1,394.81. (An error of $1000 is noted). Thus we have a fair picture of the situation. Instead of there being issued $20,000.00 in parish bills over $1 as might be indicated in this treatise and in the records of the police jury there was only issued $19,937.00 and only $1,353.95 in small change bills instead of the $2,000.00.

Thus ends the period of the history of Union Parish when she printed, issued and circulated her own money. It is indeed amazing when we view the situation and see how those intrepid gentlemen of the days of the war met the situation by providing something out of the thin air to meet the emergency. Union Parish has ever been populated with citizens of such spirit and will continue to be.


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