Wednesday, October 16, 2019

J. P. Keeth: A Story of Grit

J. P. Keeth store in Plain Dealing on South Cotton Belt St. c. 1906.
Bryce Turnley Collection: 1997.062.105.
James Pleasant Keeth, born Oct. 30, 1854, was a natural-born businessman. He began working at the age of 10 as a mail carrier from Collinsburg to Shreveport, a distance of about 26 miles. Then at the age of 14, J. P. Keeth began clerking for Bill Marks on the Red River near Collinsburg. Keeth wisely saved his money and entered the Fillmore Academy, where he remained until he ran out of funds to pay for his education. During that time, Bossier Parish did not have public schools and only those that could afford to pay received a formal education.

After J. P. Keeth ran out of money for school, he left Fillmore Academy and began working as a clerk for Sentell & Nattin, a mercantile store in the Collinsburg area. By the time Plain Dealing was chartered in 1890, J. P. Keeth was already an established merchant in the area. He owned a general mercantile store in downtown Plain Dealing. Over the years, his store was in four different buildings.

The first two J. P. Keeth storehouses were located on East Cotton Belt, but they were both destroyed by fire. The first fire occurred on Dec. 19, 1902, destroying eleven of the principal businesses of Plain Dealing, which was almost all the business portion of the town. The storehouse was valued at $800 and was filled with $8,000 worth of inventory, of which $2,000 worth was saved. Insurance covered only $2,950 of the loss, leaving the company with a $3,850 loss on its books.

The second fire happened on May 22, 1906, and again destroying a large portion of the business section of the town. This fire was believed to have been started by robbers that robbed the Kelly Bros. store and then set fire to it. This time J. P. Keeth had $5,000 in inventory that was destroyed, and the value of the storehouse was $1,000. Again, insurance covered a small part of the loss paying $2,000 and leaving the company with a $4,000 loss.

The third location of the J. P. Keeth merchandise store was located on the west side of the railroad tracks. The building was said to be Plain Dealing’s first hotel and had a sign outside of the building that read “Hotel and Feed Stable.” This location was not ideal as it often flooded, leaving the store surrounded by water.
The J. P. Keeth store in Plain Dealing. The building was built 1888 and housed the first hotel in Plain Dealing. This picture was taken in 1906 and the flooding shown here in the downtown area was a common occurrence until 1961 when the three dams were constructed. Bryce Turnley Collection: 1997.062.013.
On Nov. 7, 1907, it was announced in The Bossier Banner that “Mr. J. P. Keeth has contracted with Mr. John Hill for the erection of an eighty foot brick store just in the rear of the one just finished for Mr. S. H. Cochran. The store will face on Palmetto Avenue. Verily our little town is putting on city airs.” In 1908 he moved into its fourth location, where he continued to serve the community as one of its leading merchants.
J. P. Keeth store, c. 1910s, in Plain Dealing located on the southwest corner of S. Lynch Street and E. Palmetto Ave. (Left to Right) Ben Keeth, J. P. Keeth, Johnnie Nuckolls, and T. Benton Bixler.  Bryce Turnley Collection: 1997.062.102.
Keeth ran an ad in The Bossier Banner on July 26, 1917, to announce the expansion of his mercantile business. According to this advertisement, J. P. Keeth now had three stores and one warehouse. He was currently leasing “the two Purcell Brick Stores, just across the street and next to the Plain Dealing Bank, and have opened their doors to the thrifty buying public. The old stand will be devoted to the display of my mammoth stock of Dry Goods, Shoes, Hats, Notions, etc. In one of the new stores my customers will find a full stock of Groceries and Feed Stuffs, and in the other Furniture.”

Less than a month later, J. P. Keeth died suddenly on Aug. 14, 1917, at his home shortly after his evening meal. His nephew, James Benjamin Keeth, succeeded him in the family business and J. P. Keeth’s mercantile store began operating under the name of J. P. Keeth Estate Store. In 1919 the Grocery and Furniture stores were sold to a new firm, Harrison, Purcell & Company.

On Jan. 8, 1920, an announcement in The Bossier Banner that the J.P. Keeth Estate Store was reorganized and began operating “under the name of The Keeth Company, with Mr. C. R. Keeth of Hosston, as President; Mr. J. B. Keeth, of Plain Dealing, Vice-president and Manager, and Mrs. Mollie S. Keeth, of Plain Dealing, Secretary and Treasurer.”

The exact year that the Keeth mercantile company closed is not clear. However, according to James B. Keeth in his book Benjamin Franklin Keeth: A Family History, “the store lost money, and it was eventually sold to the bank.”

To learn more about the Keeth family or Plain Dealing history, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center, 2206 Beckett St., Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Levi Strauss & Co. Chooses Bossier City

Levi Strauss (before 1902)
During the 1960s and 70s, the growing popularity of the casual look rapidly increased the demand for blue jeans. This fashion movement provided Levis Strauss & Co. with a period of rapid growth as the blue jean became more than a working man’s jean. During this period of rapid growth, Levi Strauss & Co. opened many plants throughout the United States. In the fall of 1969, it was announced that Levi Strauss & Co. would open its first plant in Louisiana.

The location for Levi-Strauss’s 32nd plant was right here in Bossier City on a five-acre site on Airline Drive near Douglas Drive and Melrose Ave. Groundbreaking for the 28,000 square-foot facility took place on Mar. 16, 1970. The Bossier City Industrial Development organization built the building and leased it to Levi Strauss & Co. The Cherokee Construction Co. of Shreveport expected to have the construction completed by the beginning of Aug. that year. The initial cost of the plant was approximately $180,000 and it contained $500,000 worth of machinery.

Job posting in the Shreveport Times, 1970.
Why did Levi Strauss & Co. choose Bossier City? Well, according to an article in the Bossier Banner-Progress published Nov. 27, 1969, “A spokesman for Levi Strauss said that the success of the Labor Registration Drive conducted by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce influenced the company’s decision to locate in Bossier City. The Labor Registration Drive was held with much enthusiasm through out the area with help from Plain Dealing, Haughton, and Benton. Some of these towns had volunteer men and women who maintained a registration desk for one week. Many of the churches and other organizations in the area also helped. The efforts registered over 13,000 persons.”

This “pilot plant” was expected to initially employ about 300 people, mostly machine operators with some office personnel and manual labor positions as well. Long-term goals for a permanent facility predicted employment estimates as high as 2,000. Initial plans for the Levi plant was to produce Levi’s pants for women, a marketing campaign known as Levi’s for Gals that launched in 1968.

Job posting in the Shreveport Times, 1971.
On Sep. 25, 1970, it was announced in the Shreveport Times that the Bossier City Levi Strauss & Co. production plant would officially operate as part of the firm’s Levi’s for Gals division starting on the first of Dec., along with the Tyler and Corpus Christi, Tx. plants. “Walter A. Haas, Jr., Levi’s president, said the move is an important step in the company’s divisionalization program and will help keep pace with LfG’s rapid expansion in the women’s sportswear field.”

In the Oct. 5, 1973 issue of the Shreveport Times, the Bossier Industrial Foundation and city officials announced, that Levi Strauss & Co. would cease operations in Bossier City, and Sondra, Inc. of New York City would take over the production facility with its ladies ready-to-wear line. In the same article, the writer states, “Expansion plans call for Sondra to increase the size of the operation on Douglas Drive by 25,000 to 30,000 square feet and hire 150 new employees, which will increase the annual payroll over the Levi total by some $250,000.”

Throughout its history, manufacturing has always contributed to the economic growth of Bossier Parish. With October being Manufacturing month it’s a great time to visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center to learn more about these and other manufacturers that operated here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Tri-State Oil Tool Co.: 45 Years of Success

Tri-State Oil Tool Co. was established in Bossier City on Dec. 1, 1945, co-owned by Gary H. Burnham of Longview, TX and Earl P. Sawyer of Hamburg, AR with only seven employees. They were a general oil field machine shop specializing in cleaning wells and correcting other problems in well drilling.

In six short years, the company grew “from a modest beginning to one of this area’s leading oil tool service and supply companies,” according to “officials of the firm.” According to Burnham, they carried “a complete line of squeeze, acidizing, and fishing tools, well testing tools, both formation and casting: all sizes of washover pipes, and several types of drill pipe equipment with tool joints.”

In 1951, they moved into their new headquarters one-quarter mile east of Benton Rd. on Highway 80. Here, they had “a 250-foot frontage as compared with the old 55 feet” giving the company a larger building, more storage space, and parking. They had a large fleet of cars and seven trucks offering their services to the Ark-La-Tex around the clock.
Tri-State Oil Tool Co. new headquarters, plant, and pipe yard built in 1951. Photo taken in 1959.
Collection ID: 2000.036.001-2.
By 1953 they boasted five branches throughout Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. They had a staff of 90 highly skilled employees divided among plants in Lafayette, La; Beaumont, Kilgore, and Corpus Christi in Texas, and Magnolia, Ar. They did not limit themselves to work only in the Ark-La-Tex. They also provided their services as far north as Canada, as far east as Florida, and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Cameron Parish.

In September of 1954, Tri-State Oil Tool Co. announced that they had perfected a new fishing tool. “The Tri-State Special Washover Drill Collar Spear is installed inside the washover pipe at a desired point so that it may be screwed into the fish before the rotary shoe reaches the stuck point. After the joint is securely tightened the working string is turned about one-eighth turn to the left and lowered. This operation releases the tool from the control bushing and washover operations may proceed with the comfortable feeling that when the fish is washed free it will be securely and safely caught.”
Tri-State Oil Tool Co.'s new Washover Drill Collar Spear.  
“Another interesting and time saving feature of this new tool is that the spear may be released and lowered to the control bushing and wash pipe laid down before having to do the usual difficult stripping job.”

“The remarkable efficiency of this new tool has been proven on many jobs under adverse conditions for such companies as Penrod Drilling Co., Phillips Petroleum Co., Hunt Oil Co., of Texas, Lion Oil
Co., and many others.”

Over the years, Tri-State Oil Tool Co. became a leading oil tool service and supply company not only for the tri-state area but for the country. For 45-years they remained an essential part of Bossier City’s economy; until 1990 when they merged with Baker Hughes International of Houston and relocated its corporate headquarters to Houston, Tx.

To learn more about the industries of Bossier Parish, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

This Month Inn Bossier Parish History

October: Through the Years!

Oct. 4: National Manufacturing Day.  Manufacturing Day is observed annually on the first Friday in October and was proclaimed by the governor of New Jersey in 2012.  In 2014, a Presidential Proclamation was signed,.  Manufactures across the country use this day as an opportunity to inspire the next generation of manufactures. 
Please enjoy the photos and article clippings of industries from our parish.

Mar.8, 1894: The Bossier Banner
C.1890's: Whited & Wheless Sawmill and Allen Manufacturing, Plain Dealing
2001.041.082 Burrows J. Wheless Jr. Collection
Feb.19, 1972: The Times
1972: Ribbon cutting ceremony at the
GE Plant Service Parts Division, Bossier City
1998.047.196 Bossier Chamber of Commerce Collection

Oct. 20, 1881: the first telegraph office opened in Bossier Parish
Oct.20, 1881: The Bossier Banner
Oct.20, 1881: The Bossier Banner
Telegraph Key
1998.045.003 Mike Montgomery Collection
Glass covers/insulators
1999.066.001.014 Samuel Touchstone Collection

Oct.24 - Nov.10, 2019: Louisiana State Fair, has been an annual event attended by the residents of Caddo and Bossier Parish since the mid 1800's. 
Oct.28, 1886: Bossier Banner
C.1900's: "Beautiful Orient" attraction at the state fair
1997.054.029 Beulah Findley Collection
C.1900's: Exhibit building and concession stand.
Sign on right of building advertises "Beeman Tractors"
1997.054.031 Beulah Findley Collection
C.1900's: Ferris Wheel at the Louisiana State Fair
1997.054.064 Beulah Findley Collection 
C.1900's: Louisiana State Fair attraction "Smallest Entertainer"
1997.054.030 Beulah Findley Collection

Oct.11, 1963: an article from the Shreveport Journal reflects back to 1929 Dixie-Overland Highway project, extending from the east and wet coast. 
Oct. 31, 1929: The Shreveport Times
Gov. Huey P. Long cuts the ribbon at a ceremony 
held in Fillmore, Bossier Parish to mark 
the opening of Highway 80 (Dixie Overland Highway)
 extending from Bossier City to Minden. 
It was the first concrete road in the state.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Celebration: The Birth of a City and Its First Flag

Did you know, following New Orleans and Shreveport, Bossier City was the third municipality in Louisiana to have an official flag?

By the middle of the 20th century, census figures revealed that Bossier City was the fastest-growing municipality in the state. On August 9, 1951, Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long issued a proclamation changing the municipality of Bossier City from a town to a city. “By this proclamation, ‘A City Was Born,’” headlined in the papers and plans were set in motion for a celebration.
Proclamation making Bossier City a city

Hoffman L. Fuller
Bossier City's sixth mayor
In planning for the celebration, Mayor Hoffman L. Fuller appointed Bossier civic leader, Arthur Ray Teague, to head a committee to conduct a design contest for the first official Bossier City flag. Another contest sponsored by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce and the Planters Press was for a slogan for the newly formed city.

Initially, the celebration was scheduled for the end of September, but Mayor Fuller announced that the ceremony was postponed, “until the polio situation clears up and the parish schools open.” Before long, it was announced that the celebration would take place on October 16 at the Bossier High School Memorial Stadium dedicated in 1948 to the memory of the local high school students that lost their lives in World War II.

The celebration started with a parade at Fort Smith park and moved through the stadium. Chief of Police Burgess McCranie and State Trooper Capt. H. H. Hollenshead led the parade on horseback. Each parade float reflected one of the chief industries which aided in the growth of Bossier City; cotton, oil, agriculture, and Barksdale Air Force Base (a significant factor in the growth of Bossier City). The parade also included a marching contingent from Barksdale Air Force Base along with Bossier City’s police and fire departments, honor guards, and the bands of Bossier High, Byrd, Fair Park, and BAFB.

There was a pageant of Bossier City written by Ira Harbuck and Kenneth Green, a short history given by Arthur Ray Teague, and Mayor Fuller read the proclamation. Bossier City’s first mayor, Ewald Max Hoyer and Ellen Lowe Sims, a pioneer resident having lived in Bossier City the longest, were both honored in the ceremony.

Bossier City Chamber of Commerce manager Bob Conwell awarded the slogan contest winner, Irene Vinson, for “Next Door Neighbor to World’s Largest Air Base,” a $15 cash prize. Arthur Ray Teague, master of ceremonies, awarded the flag contest winner, Velma Hagert, with a $10 cash prize, who then presented the flag to Mayor Fuller.

Velma Hagert is holding her entry of the flag of Bossier City
and Miss Hall, A. R. Teague's secretary holds the entry of
runner-up W. E. McFarland.
The winning design consisted of a gold star in the middle of a green flag with a magnolia blossom centered in the star and circled with the words “Bossier City, Louisiana.” According to the rules of the contest, changes to the selected entry were allowed. Only two changes were made one replacing the magnolia bloom with a cotton boll and the other changing the star to a circle. Robert H. Rogers of Shreveport made the flag out of rayon with gold braid lining.

The Official Flag of Bossier City.
(L to R) Clyde Nelson, Jr., C. L. Madden, Jr., and acting
Mayor John Ford (Times Photo by Langston McEachern).
The flag was donated by the Louisiana Municipal Association and the Bossier Tribune, and the flagpole was donated by Arthur Ray and Albert Hugh Teague. The flagpole was dedicated in memory of their brother Lt. Edward Teague who was a graduate of Bossier City High School and a veteran of WWII. Lt. Teague was a flight instructor in the Air Force at Goose Bay, Labrador, where he died in an airplane crash on March 13, 1947.

The flag was raised in the stadium in memory of the deceased high school students that died in WWII: James O. Avery, Luther Bedingfield, William Bedingfield, James Francis Brown, Jr., Robert Edwards, Alfred D. Bond, Harold M. Valentine, Burton McCallum, Jake Maniscalco, Jr., Francis Peters, Jr., Edward Teague, and Sedric White.

This flag remained as the official emblem of Bossier City until 1986 when, through another contest, a new flag design was selected, which has not changed since.

To learn more about the history of Bossier City, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson