The J. W. Heard House

Bernice Historical Society

People and Places

The J. W. Heard House

This beautiful home which has recently been restored to some of its earliest magnificence was added to the National Register in 1994.  The architecture of the home is a combination of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival.

The home dates back to the earliest days of Bernice having been built by local contractor Jake Crews in 1904 for the Joseph Walker Heard family.  J. W. Heard was only 15 years of age when his family moved from Perry County, Alabama and settled near Shiloh in 1850. As a young man he served in the civil war and was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.  At the end of the war he had attained the rank of First Lieutenant.

In 1869 as a young man of 34 he went into the mercantile business in Shiloh, Louisiana.  Heard was a natural business man and quickly became one of the most successful businessmen in Union Parish.  In the early 1890’s he brought his brother, Thomas into the business with him and operated under the name J. W. Heard and Brother.

By 1892 Heard and Brother was the oldest business in Shiloh and was described in an article in the Arkansas Gazette as a general merchandise and cotton business conducting over $12,000 worth of business yearly.  In addition it was noted that J. W. Heard also owned 2,970 acres of land, seventy-five percent of which was covered in marketable timber.  Both brothers were known to be shrewd, practical and honorable in their business practices.

In 1899 fire destroyed the business portion of Shiloh and when the smoke cleared only two businesses were left standing.  Unfortunately, Heard and Brother was not one of them.  Two months after the fire the newly formed town of Bernice began to sell lots for homes and businesses.  J. W. Heard purchased a business lot on which he would erect a two story building which housed not only his own business on the lower floor but several other businesses on the second floor.  Unfortunately, this building would also burn when a fire broke out in March of 1904 destroying 7 buildings in the Bernice business district.

In that same year J. W. Heard hired Jake Crews who had also lived in Shiloh to build a large home for his family.  This home was owned by the Heard family until 1967. 

This home has undergone an amazing restoration over the last year under the guidance of current owner Mary Jane Wainwright Lane.  I personally cannot wait for the time when a sign appears in the yard welcoming visitors to The Heard House, a Bernice fixture since 1904.

And “A Little Something Extra”-This letter was written by an 83 year old woman to her friend.  I find it more meaningful as each year passes by.

Dear Bertha,

I am reading more and dusting less.  I am sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden.  I am spending more time with my family and friends and less time working.

Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not to endure.  I am trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.

I am not saving anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped or the first Amaryllis bloom.

I wear my good clothes to the market.  My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $30.00 for one small bag of groceries.  I am not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.

“Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary and if it is worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now!

I am not sure what others would have done had they known they would not be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted.  I think they would have called family members and a few close friends.  They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles.  I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever their favorite food was.

I am guessing I will never know.

It is those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited.  Angry because I had not written certain letters that I intended to write one of these days.  Angry and sorry, that I did not tell my family often enough how much I truly love them.  I am trying very hard not to put off, hold back or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives.  And every morning when I open my eyes, tell myself that it is special.

Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift.

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.

To that I say, AMEN.



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.





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