Downsville Got Her Name From General Downs

The Gazette
October 5, 1939

Like the majority of the other Union Parish settlement, Downsville was settled in the early 1840’s by immigrants from Alabama and Georgia.

This community is in the south-eastern part of Union Parish near the Lincoln Parish line. In 1850 Philoman Willhite settled there, but other families had settled there as early as 1843 or 1844, among them was J.  t. Hester who came from Alabama.

Philoman Willhite was the first merchant in the community and through his influence a post office was established and took its name from that distinguished Democratic congressman, General Q. S. Downs. Of course the ville was added.

Post Office Established

When the post office was established June 9, 1851, Mr. Willhite was appointed postmaster and served for many years. He also carried on his mercantile business at the same time. He finally quit the business, went to Florida where he purchased an orange orchard, and later died there.

By the end of the Civil War, and the community had furnished many volunteers, Downsville had progressed until it had about four stores, churches and a school. The Baptist Church, however, was constituted in 1852 with 42 members. Some of the early merchants were Leon Kern, Philoman Willhite, W. L. Ethridge and Green Watson.

Two of the real early preachers were Robert Parish and D. L. Hicks.

Following the Baptist Church, a Methodist church was organized but the two soon dissolved and consolidated in one. Some of the early pastors were, G. N. Martin, J. L. Mayers, J. r. Edwards, J. J. White, W. A. Mason, D. F. Head, T. N. Rhymes and C. R. Newton.

Old Families

Some of the old families who settled in the district were: Wilhite, Landers, Hendrick, Stinson, Ethridge, Brewster, Pipes, Hines, Shields, Reynolds, Watson, Kelley, Lewis, Downs and Calloway.

The section was mainly an agricultural one in those days with cotton furnishing the main source of income. Like its neighboring settlement, D’Arbonne, Downsville was the trading center for its particular section. Old settlers recall the days when oxen used to haul cotton overland to Monroe or, a shorter haul, to Fork Ferry and Farmerville Landing on the Bayou D’Arbonne.

J. T. Hester, who settled there in 1843 or 1844, has said that “there were only deer trails through where Downsville now stands — only one road leading from Shreveport to Monroe.” He settled first near Walnut Lane and his people later moved to Downsville where he went in business.

Early Teachers

At one time school was conducted in a little house just south of  where Fred Hamilton now lives and also in the old Methodist Church. Some of the teachers in the late 60’s where Mrs. S. J. Calhoun and daughter, Anna, Sallie and Julia, Mr. Tucker, Jake Brewster and others.

Extracts from a letter addressed to The Gazette by S. P. Lewis in 1912 follow:

Downsville, La
Jan 4, 1912

Editor The Gazette:

“On January 4, 1858, just 54 years ago, my father and family moved to Downsville, there being 8 of us at that time. Of that number only four are now living, three sisters and myself. I was then in my eighth year, entering school March 1. Our teachers were Prof. Huett and Miss Flora Buchanan. The school was taught in the Baptist Church, an old log house out near where the cemetery now is. The seats we used were hewn logs with holes born and pegs driven in for legs. Our writing desks were of the same material, being broader and fastened up against the wall.

Some of the books used were Blue back speller, Spelling and Definer, McGuffey’s Reader, Davie’s Arithmetic, and Smith’s Grammar.

The merchants then engaged in business were: Philoman Willhite, Rich Williams, Dr. Larche, Henry King, D. L. Hicks adn David Calk.

Many changes have taken place since that time. Of the number of people living in five miles of this place at that time only few remain, viz: W. B. Ethridge and wife, Miss Elissa Harper and myself. Some of the citizens that were: Rev. John L. Mays, Rev. Malcolm McFarland, Wm.  McNewton, William Mattox, Mattie Kelly, Thos. Green and many others, all of whom have crossed the chilly waters of death to see the resurrection morn.”

Downsville today is a thriving prosperous community and has a very modern high school, two churches, gin, several stores and many modern country homes.

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