Progressive Union Settled By Immigrants From Alabama

David Baughman

Monroe News-Star – Morning World

October 24, 1957

In 1803, when the United States bought the Louisiana Territory from France, Territory of Orleans – now the state of Louisiana – was divided into nineteen parishes, the most northerly of which was Ouachita Parish. In 1839 Union Parish was created our of the northern part of Ouachita Parish, and Farmerville was made the parish seat. With an area of 910 square miles, Union Parish, and Farmerville was made the parish seat. With an area of 910 square miles, Union Parish is situated in the north-eastern part of the state and is bounded on the north by the state of Arkansas, on the east by the Ouachita river, on the south by the Ouachita and Lincoln Parishes, and on the west by Claiborne Parish.

It is doubtful if many parishes of Louisiana have had as colorful a history as Union Parish has had. Tradition has it that in 1790 one John Honeycutt, pushing across the wilds of Alabama and Mississippi, was granted a tract of land in what is now Union Parish by the Spanish government. Here he settled, trapped, and tilled the soil.

Learning from the Indians that a family of white people, the Feazels, had settled on Cornie Bayou fifteen miles away — close enough to be neighbors — he decided to visited them in search of a wife. On reaching the wilderness home of these people, it was presumed after introductions were made, he boldly asked his neighbor for the hand of one of his daughters in marriage. The daughters were lined up, and John Honeycutt made his pick. From this union has come many of the important citizens of this part of the state.

Birthplace of 4 Governors

What other parish can boast of being the birthplace of four governors for two states? William Wright Heard, governor of Louisiana, 1900-1904, and Ruffin G. Pleasant, governor of Louisiana, 1916-1920, were both born near Old Shiloh in Union Parish and attended school at Farmerville. George W. Donaghey, governor of Arkansas, 1908-1912, was born near Oakland, and Tom J. Terral, governor of Arkansas, 1924-1926, was born at Holmesville.

Steamboat Era

The streams in Union Parish — Cornie, D’Arbonne, and DeLoutre — and the Ouachita river played an important part in the pioneer days of the parish. By means of steamboats and river packets many of the early settlers pushed up these streams into the wilderness. Lock Lomond on the west bank of the Ouachita River was one of the first, if not the first, settlement in the parish. Then two ports that flourished and grew into thriving little settlements were Alabama Landing — so named because of so many immigrants from Alabama landing there — and Ouachita City. Both thrived on the enormous amount of cotton shipped from their ports to New Orleans, as cotton was brought from miles away to be loaded on barges at these places.

In the heyday of the Steamboat Era, when cotton ruled, the streams of D’Arbonne and Cornie were cleared for many miles, and steamboats ran regular schedules as far tip as Stein’s Bluff on D’Arbonne and Kilgore’s and Cobbs landings on Cornie. Most of the outgoing freight was cotton and cotton seed, loaded by the Negro slaves.

In the early days of Farmerville; and Highway 815 from the center of interest in the life of the people of the community. From the day the first steamboat came by Bayou D’Arbonne until the turn of the century the whole parish depended upon river transportation. When the Missouri Pacific built a branch line through Farmerville in 1904, the Steamboat Era came to an end. The steamboat could not compete with the railroad in speed.

With the coming of the automobile numerous roads leading to and from Farmerville gave way to four main highways — Highway 11, from Marion through Farmerville to Bernice, connecting there with National Highway 167; Highway 44 from Farmerville to Ruston, connecting there with National Highways 82 and 167; Highway 411 from Farmerville to Spearsville; and Highway 85 from Farmerville to Sterlington. Bus service over these highways give Farmerville excellent transportation facilities.

Education

From the earliest days education has been a major task of the police jury in Union Parish. Soon after the parish government was set up, John H. Feazel, W. C. Carr, J. N. Farmer, and Wiley Underwood were appointed education commissioners. In 1804 trustees of the Union Male and Female Academy were authorized to locate on any land in Union Parish not disposed of and not to exceed fire acres. Somewhat later the surveyor of the parish was instructed by the police jury to survey and lay out the land granted for this school. Supposedly this academy stood where the Farmerville High School is located. Court records show that this school was foreclosed in 1850. In 1859 in the same place the Farmerville Institute was stared but had only a short period of operation before the Civil War started. For the duration of the war its doors remained closed, but after the war it reopened and operated several years. Most of these schools charged tuition of about five dollars a month. Besides the public schools many families had private tutors from the East for their children.

Today – An Era of Progress

From 1790 to 1957 — a span of 167 years — Union Parish has grown from the one lone trapper to around 25,000 inhabitants, from the one little settlement to the thriving communities of Farmerville, Bernice, Junction City, Marion, Downsville, Spearsville, and a score of smaller ones. From the tuition school or no school she has made the transition to a free, modern educational system available to every boy and girl in the parish. Her school plants, found in every community, are the pride of her citizens.

There are three Negro public high schools in the parish, namely — Union Parish High of Farmerville, Marion Industrial High at Marion and Westside High at Lillie. All of these schools teach grades from 1 – 12 and all are state approved.

The Union Parish Trade School, located in the city of Farmerville, was established by Act 141 of the 1950 session of the Louisiana State legislature to serve the area of Lincoln, Union and Morehouses parishes.

The Union Parish School Board donated a plot of ground 260 feet wide and 300 feet deep located adjacent to the Farmerville High School for the site on which to place the Trade School buildings. The 1950 Legislature appropriated $150,000 for the constructing and equipping of a modern brick trade school building consisting of 2 large shops, 3 commercial class-rooms, a drafting room, 2 offices, 2 wash rooms, and a janitorial supply room. Of this amount $13,851.57 was used toward the construction of the building and $26,148.43 toward the purchasing of modern equipment of the latest design to equip the following class rooms, shops and offices; accounting, typing, shorthand, drafting, farm mechanics, welding and the office.

Religion

The early settlers brought Christianity to the wilderness, and wherever a little band stopped to settle on their trek westward, they soon established a church. The pioneers of Union Parish were mostly Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists.. At first they had no church buildings and from old records we find that they held services in various places — out of doors, in homes, at the courthouse, and in lodge halls.

In pioneer days, Baptist elders, most of whom were itinerant preachers, were very active in organizing churches throughout the parish, which probably accounts for the pre-dominance of Baptists in this area today. Good Hope, Concord, Sardis, Shiloh, Zion Hill, Liberty Hill, Bethel, and Springhill are Baptist Churches, all of which are over a hundred years old. Liberty Hill, a Primitive Baptist Church, seems to have been a church back in 1820. Old Shiloh, which burned in 1937, was a sacred shrine for Baptists of this section for three quarters of a century. The Baptist convention met at Shiloh in 1858, 1878, and 1889. The church has the distinction of having sent the first Baptist missionary to Brazil.

The Methodists, although they were given one-half of an acre of ground in Farmerville for a church when the parish was organized, worshipped in the Baptist Church for several years and did not build a church of their own until the 1880’s. A Methodist church was built north of D’Arbonne in 1850.

In 1875 a great influx of preachers of the Church of Christ came into Union Parish and churches were established at Spearsville, Wards Chapel, and Rocky Branch; later churches were built at Lockhart, Lin Grove, Fairview, Junction City and at Farmerville. The church in Farmerville is a beautiful new brick church which is modern in every detail.

The Farmerville First Baptist Church was organized in the year 1847.

Union Parish has many churches in all leading denominations. The following churches are located in Farmerville: First Baptist Church, Second Baptist Church, First Methodist Church, Church of Christ, Assembly of God Church and the Farmerville Catholic Church.

The First Baptist Church has grown to a resident membership of around 675. The physical plant has grown to keep pace with the increased demands made upon it by a larger number of active members. Just completed this month is an additional educational building to the rear of the main building. The addition provides eleven additional classrooms, a Chapel with seating capacity of 80. The building is constructed so that two additional floors may be added when the need arises. Its modern air-conditioning and heating plant have a large enough capacity to care for this addition when it occurs.

The First Methodist Church has recently built an educational building and hope to start on their Sanctuary in the near future. The plans have been drawn up for this beautiful new structure.

The Farmerville Bank

On June 15, 1903, eleven business men of Farmerville, having conceived the opinion that Farmerville needed a bank, proceeded to organize The Farmerville State Bank, which was the original name given the institution. The bank opened for business on September 1, 1903.

“Great oaks from little acorns grow.” This is certainly application to the local bank, for, indeed, the beginning was “a little acorn,” which was to grow and thrive and eventually develop into one of the strongest banking institutions in north Louisiana.

On February 15, 1954, The Farmerville Bank opened for business in its beautiful new building at the corner of Main and Franklin Streets. This bank is modern in every respect and represents the last word in skilled architectural design.

An unusually attractive feature in the lobby is a complete map of Union Parish showing its ten wards in different colors and location of towns and villages. This map is permanently embedded in the terrazzo floor. The new back building stands as a mark of progress in this community.

Clinics and Hospitals

Farmerville has three up-to-date clinics – The Farmerville Clinic and Hospital owned and operated by Dr. James T. Henry; Wadlington Clinic, a beautiful new brick building owned and operated by Dr. A. C. Wadlington; and the Norris -Booth Clinic owned and operated by Dr. John G. Norris and Dr. Jones Edward Booth. The Norris – Booth Clinic has recently purchased the adjoining lot to the present clinic and have plans to build a new modern clinic and hospital.

Bernice has a modern up – to date clinic, The Colvin -Reeves Clinic owned and operated by Dr. Colvin and Dr. Reeves.

Marion also has a well equipped clinic and hospital operated by Dr. Dugas.

Farmerville has one of the most modern and largest drug stores in this part of the state. The City Drug Store is owned and operated by M. Stein Baughman, Sr.

The new health center building, recently built, is constructed of white brick and 40 X 76 feet, having ten rooms including an X-ray for chest work. The Union parish health unit also has a small branch office in Bernice.

Unique Claims

Union Parish can make a number of unique claims. One of the most interesting of these is that the first telephone lines in the entire south was constructed by Colonel Daniel Stein from his store at Stein’s Bluff to his store in Farmerville and to this residence. On one of his trips to New York he brought three telephones back with him. The story goes that he and his brother took two hundred bales of cotton by boat to New Orleans. On reaching New Orleans, they were offered three cents a pound for it, which they refused. In an effort to get more, they decided to work the ports up the Mississippi River. Stopping at St. Louis, they exchanged the two hundred bales of cotton for two hundred shares of Bell Telephone stock and three telephones.

Marion, one of the oldest towns in Union Parish, was settled by pioneers from Alabama, who named it after their old home county, Marion. Working their way back from Alabama Landing and the Ouachita River, these settlers stopped their westward movement near the site of Marion as early as 1830. The first record of a land sale was on June 13, 1839, to Pascal Traylor from the United States Land Office for $379.00. This Traylor grant today is the center of the town.

The Honorable L. E. Thomas, now deceased, born in Marion in 1866, was one of Union Parish’s illustrious sons. He was a descendant of these pioneers — on his father’s side of the Reverend Sampson B. Thomas and on his mother’s side of the Reverend Elias George. He became speaker of the house of representatives of Louisiana and state bank examiner. Later he served as mayor of Shreveport for eight years.

A beautiful new high school building was recently completed in Marion . They have three thriving churches – The Methodist, Baptist, and Assembly of God. It has a sound bank, a good drug store and several business firms that would be a credit to any small town. Its leading industries are timber, cattle, and poultry. Most of the year in the vicinity of Marion it is estimated that there are one hundred thousand chickens on feed. Commercial fishing in the nearby Ouachita River is done on a fairly large scale, and as a fishing resort for pleasure, this part of the river is almost unsurpassed.

Haile

Like most of union Parish’s settlements, Haile was settled early in the nineteenth century by immigrants from Alabama. The town was a typical small settlement up until a few years ago. Today, Haile has several stores, a church and school and a cluster of homes.

It is a trading center for the section.

Downsville

Like the majority of the other Union Parish settlements Downsville, a little village in the south-eastern part of Union Parish near the Lincoln parish line, was settled in the early 1840’s by immigrants from Alabama and Georgia. On June 9th, 1851, this little community was named Downsville after the distinguished Democratic congressmen, General Q.S. Downs. Like other north Louisiana settlements, cotton furnished it main source of income.

Today Downsville, although a rural village, has a modern outlook on life. It is so situated that it has easy access to the three larger towns in this area. Monroe, Ruston and Farmerville. The people have pride in their two churches and in their excellent school system. In spite of its smallness the business firms are prosperous.

Downsville is quite proud of the Bryan Sausage, Inc., owned by Mrs. Mavis G. Bryan and two sons. This sausage mill was started in the year 1943 and using the back yard for a kitchen. Mr. Elvis R. Bryan started making sausage for the public. A few years ago Mr. Bryan was killed in an automobile accident. Mrs. Bryan, together with the help of Ralph Talley who was made manager of the plant, have shown much progress in this business. They have several trucks that delivery sausage to all the surrounding towns and as far as Alexandria, Baton Rouge and many other cities in the south. This plan uses around 100 hogs a week, selling close to 4,500 pounds of sausage to 1,500 customers. They do approximately $250,000.00 worth of business a year.

Bernice

Although Bernice is one of the youngest towns in Union Parish, it is by no means the least important. The site where it stands was know fifty-seven years ago as the “Big Woods”. Virgin pines that had never felt the axe of man stood in all their glory. It was only natural that lumber companies, which were springing up all over the south, would not pass them by forever.

Captain C. C. Henderson, realizing the possibilities of this area began to develop it. In 1894 he had built the Arkansas Southern railroad from El Dorado to Junction City, 14 miles away. Planning to extend the railroad to Winnfield, he immediately started to negotiating to purchase land for townsites south of Junction City. His original intention was to build the town of Bernice a mile north of the present – day site, but being unable to obtain a valid title to the land, he purchased a tract of land from Allen Lowery and Dave Cole for the new town. He laid off the townsite in lots, put on an extensive advertising campaign, and in 1899 sold all the lots at auction, with the exception of one block which he gave to the town for a park. He christened the new town “Bernice” naming it for the daughter of Allen Lowery, at whose home he stayed until the railroad was completed.

Several merchants from the old Shiloh community moved into the new town to enter business. In 1901 the Bank of Bernice was chartered, with J. R. Fuller as president. This bank has withstood all depressions and is considered one of the strongest small town banks in the state. The faith that these early settlers put in Bernice has been fully justified, for from a business standpoint for a town of its size, it ranks second to none, in the state.

Bernice has three beautiful churches: The Church of Christ, The Baptist Church and the Methodist Church.

The Bernice High School is modern in every respect. This school has a large enrollment due to consolidation.

The business firms of Bernice are prosperous and well established. Three saw mills still cut timber from the “Big Woods,” the newest being Reed Lumber Company. It might be said that the town has gained its reputation as a thriving business community from being the hometown of the Salley Wholesale Grocery Company, which operates extensively in north Louisiana and south Arkansas, and from the enterprises operated by the late G. E. Lindsay and now carried on by his sons. These include the Lindsey Lumber Company, the Linsey Ginn Company, the Lindsey Farm Implement Company. Farming has always been engaged in this area and of late years cattle raising is becoming an important factor in the economy of the people.





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