Collaboration of Jon McKinnie & Jimmy Dean
Like most of Union Parish’s settlements, the community of Haile was settled early in the 19th century by immigrants from Alabama. These pioneer families had disembarked at Ouachita City and Alabama Landing, working westward to what is now the Haile community.
Some of the early families settling in this area included: Johnston, Thomas, Love, Reppond, Lee, Abscent, Toler, Wheeler, Stringer, Edwards, Williamson, Beasley, Stripling, Jordan, Turner, Randall, Pace, Haile and Day.
Most families farmed for a living. Families would gather and held log rollings to clear the land. Logs to build homes and barns would be kept and the rest burned. There were not many sawmills back then. Shingles were rived out of pine and heart cypress. Chimneys were made with a wooden frame that was covered with mud bats which were made by mixing red clay, broom sage and water.
Liberty K. Thomas was an early farmer, operating a large plantation in the Haile area. The Edwards family acquired a large area of land also.
The Samuel Lorenzo Haile family became owners of a large area of land and it’s from the Haile family that the town got its name. In 1903, S. L. Haile donated land for the new railroad to pass through this yet to be named town based on two conditions: 1) a depot be established there and maintained so supplies could be shipped to the depot by rail, and 2) that the town be named “Haile.”
The railroad was established in 1904, running from El Dorado, Arkansas through Huttig, Arkansas down through Dean, Haile and Spencer across a new bridge at Sterlington, on to Monroe.
It wasn’t until the railroad came through the town in 1904 that any increase in the community’s settlement was noticed. Several years after the railroad was built, S. L. Haile succeeded in getting a depot built, the town surveyed and laid out. The settlement was named after Haile for the work he had done.
The town of Haile was surveyed and mapped on November 27th, 1905 by W.E. Atkinson. Streets were laid out and lots numbered. Smallest lots were 25’ wide by 125’ deep. All roads in Haile are 90 degrees to each other. The survey ran parallel to the railroad track, which was not true North South line. This misalignment is still a problem.
Jake Parker’s wife, Marie Wilson, recalled the importance of the railroad depot to the Haile community. Anything shipped to you typically was picked up at the depot. Marie told a story of being frustrated when her first washing machine was mistakenly dropped off at Spencer. All items that were ordered came out of the “Sears and Roebuck catalog”.
The railroad depots were established at Haile, Dean and Spencer. Hugh Parker as section foreman and Clarence Sehon was depot agent at Haile.
Marie recalled the section foreman would live in the Section House at Haile. It was painted yellow, the colors of the railroad. She also recalls a two story “Woodmen’s of the World Hall.”
When the railroad was established in 1904, the first post office for the settlement was established on October 31 1904, with John M. Waldrop as postmaster. Jimmy Dean has researched and found evidence the post office was located near the intersection of Defee-Lankford Road and Linville Fire Tower Road. The post office relocated to the west side of the railroad in a building fronting the new Highway 143 in 1930. F.P. Brown served as Postmaster until his death and J.O. Brown served until it closed in 1974.
S.L. Haile and others wanted to establish a church at Haile. The church was organized on October 20 1912, with Bro. J.V.B. Waldrop, former preacher at Liberty Baptist Church, called as pastor. The initial church was called “Unity”, later changed to Haile Baptist Church.
More changes came to Haile with the 1930 construction of the Bernice-Bastrop Road from Bernice through Farmerville, Marion, Linville, Haile, Spencer, Sterlington and on to Bastrop, which is now Hwy 143.
During the 1950s, the settlement has several stores, a cluster of houses, the church and school. It was a trading center for that area.
- Dick Lankford operated a store from the beginning of Haile, which was later sold to his son K. D. Lankford which likely burned by 1930.
- Samuel Lorenzo Haile had a large general merchandise store which he operated until his death during World War I. His sons, Blake and George ran the store for several more years.
- W. B. Haile’s general merchandise store opened in August 1926. Haile moved his store to the new highway on the west side of the railroad about 1930 giving Haile a new look, three stores and a post office in a row.
- Albert Barr built a store about 1930 which was the first store coming into Haile from the south.
- Ferris Brown operated a men’s barber shop at Haile. Shave and haircut was 50 cents. He also cut women’s hair. The building was destroyed about 1970, when a car ran off the road and went through the building. The accident took the walls down and the top collapsed intact, killing one person.
- Vada Norman built a large store about 1950, located between Barr’s store and Haile’s store. Later Dewey Roberson operated the store and served meals.
- Billy Williamson built a washeteria around 1970, which was closed when the highway was widened.
Several local small schools were established during the 1800s, including Marion, Linville, Dean, Spencer and Haile. Trucks were modified for school buses the best as they could.
Early Haile School principals included 1910-W. C. Flowers & 1911-J. W. Thorne. Haile School’s new three-room building was built in 1912 on the north side of Parsonage Loop. The new school was a large building with three rooms, ceilings 12 feet tall and large windows. Windows and doors were opened to allow breezes to cool the building. Haile School once taught ten grades but downsized to 6 grades in 1927.
I remember when Haile School was consolidated into Linville School in 1954. Haile teachers, Miss Callie Reppond and Miss Novie Buckley, started teaching at Linville. Joe Wheeler & Emery Perkins, two of my Linville classmates, transferred to Linville when Haile School was closed.
By 1980, the railroad system in need of repairs, Delta Southern bought the railroad and ran from Huttig to West Monroe with wood products. The tracks became so bad, the train could not exceed 5 mph. The railroad system was abandoned in 1993 and its rails, ties and gravel were removed by 1999. This was the end of another era.
Blake Haile and sons built a sawmill on their property after WWII. They had a planer mill and a gas fired kiln. Many local residents worked at the mill until it closed in 1980.
My uncle, Bonnie E. McKinnie, recalls the major sawmills of that time were self-sustaining, with worker living camps and issued its own currency which could only be used at the store on the grounds.
Another pleasure in the Haile community was Jimmy Dean unselfishly saving our bluebird population with 1,000 bluebird boxes, which he built. You can still see them scattered across the area.
A special thanks to Jimmy Dean for his assistance and input when writing this article. Jimmy wrote “The History of Haile La 1904-2004” an excellent history prepared for the 2004 Tick Creek Festival.
Originally from Union Parish and a resident of Farmerville, Jon R. McKinnie enjoys writing and spending time with his wife, Phyllis Richardson Hal, two children and four grandchildren. Jon also serves as the Historian ofr Lt. Elijah H. Ward Camp #1971. Sons of Confederate Veterans, Farmerville, La.