Friday, December 16, 2011

Early Christmases in Northwest Louisiana


The archives of the Historical Center hold numerous accounts of what Christmas was like in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Bossier Parish. Before the 1880s Christmas decorations were usually garlands of native Northwest Louisiana trees such as cedar, pine and holly. By the 1880s, however, many church, school and home parties featured a tree that was supported in a large jar of wet sand or by two cross pieces of heavy wood.

Christmas Eve was the traditional time for tree trimming. Individual wires held candles on tree branches, with homemade ornaments and natural items from the outdoors being the other decorations. Popcorn and whole cranberries were strung to make garlands. Sweet gum balls and pine cones were dusted with flour paste or covered with foil to add sparkle to the tree. The December 25, 1866 diary of one Northwest Louisiana homemaker told “Yesterday all busy preparing the Christmas tree and cooking for the children. We had it well filled, or hung, with beautiful presents, not one was forgotten.” On December 25, 1882 L. T. Sanders wrote in his journal “We went up early to Mary’s early, and Ibis and I went to Redland and helped all day to dress the Christmas tree, etc. That night a large crowd gathered. We had a nice tree and plenty of supper. Santa Claus distributed the presents. We had an essay on home by Mr. J. Swindle. Our children received several presents, mostly from us.”

Other Christmas decorations might include kissing bells that were made from a raw potato wrapped with wire to form a hanger. Then fresh greens and mistletoe were inserted to cover the potato and a red ribbon attached underneath. Spanish moss, magnolia leaves, ivy and fern, holly and nandina berries were used to make wreaths and garlands to be hung on doors and columns.

The tradition of Santa Claus and hanging stockings for him to fill was an established custom in this area by the 1850s. In the December 23, 1880 issue of The Bossier Banner the editor remembered how boys had envied girls their long stockings at Christmastime when he was young. In homes where stockings were not hung, Santa would fill boxes or baskets with nuts, fruit, candy and perhaps a toy or book for the children. In its December 20, 1883 issue The Bossier Banner reported that Santa Claus was at Dr. W. J. Mobley’s store in Bellevue.

Historical Center archives contain numerous other references to Santa Claus and Christmas presents. In a December 1863 letter to his wife Mattie, Thomas Fort wrote “I bought some candy and picans for Santa Claus today.” In his journal entry for December 25, 1876 L. T. Sanders documented “Gave Lee an axe as a Christmas gift as a reward for his advance in his studies and industry. He has been through the 1st Reader 3 times and is only 6 years old. He seems to appreciate the gift very much.” Three years later Sanders’ Christmas Day entry was “The children got some ‘Santa Claus.’ Jannie got a china doll. Lee had bought himself a hat. I gave Charlie one and Lee and Hattie a book, each of them. I love to encourage them to study. Lee had worked and made the money that he paid for his hat.” In 1880 and 1881respectively, Sanders wrote in his journals “… the children got apples and candy. Leon got a ball & Jannie a pair of vases;” “The children only got some candy.”

In 1987 Clare M. Nelson researched Christmas customs in Northwest Louisiana 1850-1880. In her study she noted that following a night of dancing that rarely ended before midnight, Christmas morning brought early visits from friends and family who enjoyed the eggnog offered by hosts and hostesses.

Ms. Nelson also related that the main Christmas meal was served at mid-day. It included the usual fare of meat, vegetables, relishes, chow-chow, cucumber pickles and pickled peaches. Cornbread and beaten biscuits were eaten with butter churned at home. Oysters were a special Christmas treat, often brought as a gift to the hostess. Desserts would include cakes, puddings and pies. As an example of the ingenuity of these pioneers, “vinegar pie” would be made when no fruit was available or affordable. Such pies were said to have tasted remarkably like lemon pie. Because of their extravagant price of ten cents each, coconuts were a special Christmas present. After the milk had been drained from the coconut and the meat grated for a cake, even the shell was carefully saved and used as a dipper bowl or an ornament for the house.

Whatever your decorations and gifts and whatever is on your Christmas dinner menu this 2011 Christmas, all of us at the Historical Center wish you the happiest Christmas ever!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Open House on December 9th

Our Holiday Open House is next Friday! Join us on the 9th from 1 - 3 at the History Center for refreshments, live music by Allen Smith, and lots of holiday cheer. View our exhibit about Christmas stamps, read Christmas and New Year's cards from the 1940s, and see beautiful handmade ornaments. Everything is free!

Monday, November 21, 2011


The Historical Center will close at 7 pm this Wednesday and will remain closed Thursday and Friday. We will resume our normal hours on Saturday. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

1953 Bossier High School band trip

This October, we received an interesting donation of material of the Bossier High School band from the early 1950s. This donation included a photograph of the 1954-1955 band, two recordings of the band’s performance at a Natchitoches festival, a program for the 1953 cadet and concert band spring concert, and a scrapbook that chronicles the BHS band’s trip to Chicago. The scrapbook provides a wealth of information about the band’s trip in 1953.

The Bossier High School band, which was under the direction of Mr. Kenneth L. Green, attended the Lions International convention in July of 1953. The band was selected by the Louisiana Lions Clubs to represent our state in competition with dozens of other bands from across the nation, as well as from foreign countries. The band participated in a parade down Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago and won second place in the 56 band competition. The musicians then completed an eleven day educational tour on their bus trip back to Bossier. The band performed additional concerts on their journey, including one at baseball stadium Comiskey Park, where the Chicago White Sox played the Cleveland Indians. The students traveled to Director Green’s hometown of Michigan City, MI, then to Toronto, Canada, and Niagara Falls. The band then went to Cincinnati, OH and made their final stop in Savannah, TN before returning home. A group of band mothers raised funds for the journey.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Preschool archaeology

Tomorrow, Bossier Central Library's preschool reading program is all about archaeology! Bring your little ones to the children's department Wednesday the 26th at 10 am so they can discover why and how archaeologists dig up the past. Miss Pam will teach them about "Clues in the Ground" and each child will get a magnifying glass to take home.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sacred to the Memory exhibit open

Our newest exhibit focuses on the meaning behind gravestone symbols. Learn about common symbols found on Bossier Parish headstones and grab a symbol guide to bring with you to area cemeteries. "Sacred to the Memory" will only be up through November, so be sure to visit soon.

Our Fall Festival next Friday, the 28th, from 9 - 4:30 is a perfect time to check out the exhibit! We'll also have a craft for the younger visitors - kids can make pumpkin or tombstone treat bags. Kids will definitely need that treat bag to carry their Halloween haul. We'll be passing out candy and toys. Head over to the reading garden in the Central Library for face painting, apple bobbing, pumpkin painting, and other games.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Historical archaeology program this Thursday!

To celebrate Louisiana Archaeology Month, we are presenting a program this Thursday, Oct. 20th at 6 pm. in the Historical Center. Dr. George Avery, an archaeologist at Stephen F. Austin University will give a show-and-tell talk about antique bottles. Curious about a bottle you found? Bring it with you to the program and Dr. Avery will help you learn more about its history.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October is Family History Month

Front row, left to right: Larry Vance, Ed Logan, Tom Land Back row, left to right: Cal Vance, Pixie Butler, Joe Adger, Bev Hill

Here is a photo that is not new to our collection, but until now had been unidentified. Local historian and History Center patron Dale Jennings solved that mystery when visiting with Caddo Parish resident Dan Logan. The men in this photo were identified by Mr. Logan’s father Buddy Logan before his death. Buddy Logan’s father, Ed Logan, is in the photo. Get those mystery family photographs identified by older relatives before they pass on, or write identifications in soft pencil on the back of pictures for future generations.

A program for Family History Month will be held at the Benton Branch of the Bossier Parish Library: On Wed. October 19, Historical Center Director Ann Middleton will present “Do You Own a Radio Set? (What Census Takers Wanted to Know 1790-1930)" Benton Branch Library, 11:30 a.m. Bring your lunch, if you wish.

Census program this Wednesday

Curious about the US census records? Attend Ann Middleton's presentation "Do You Own a Radio Set?" at the Benton branch library at 11:30 this Wednesday, the 19th. She will explain what census takers wanted to know for the 1790-1930 enumerations. Learn how the census can help in your genealogy searches. Bring a brown bag lunch if you'd like!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Archaeology month events

October is Louisiana archaeology month and the Historical Center is excited to highlight local cultural resources and the work of archaeologists.

We have an archaeology month scavenger hunt in the Historical Center for ages 8 - 13. Participants will search for answers in our Caddo Indian exhibits and receive prizes. Our grand prize winners for each age group will get a book about archaeology! Join the hunt anytime during the month of October.

We also have a program next Thursday, Oct. 20th at 6 pm. Dr. George Avery, an archaeologist at Stephen F. Austin University will give a show-and-tell talk about antique bottles. Curious about a bottle you found? Bring it with you to the program and Dr. Avery will help you learn more about its history.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Our collections are on!

We are excited to announce that we are now working with's new Content Publisher service to convert some of our records to searchable online collections.
This service is free for us and free for our patrons! To take a look at the site and search for members of your family tree, just click here to go to the Publisher site. You can also find a link in the "important documents" menu to the right.

We have included our Bossier Banner index on the publisher site, but we also have many collections that have never been online before. These include an index to the Plain Dealing Progress, records from the Rocky Mount Presbyterian Church, Salem Baptist Church, and Red River Baptist Church, and Bossier Parish conveyances, tax rolls, wills, and probates.

Right now only text files are available on publisher, but we plan on adding images of documents and photographs. If you see the name of an individual in your family tree, please contact the Historical Center so we can send you a copy of the information you need. We'd also like to hear your comments about the publisher site and what you'd like us to add.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Davis Theatre

Photo of the Davis from Clif Cardin’s book, Images of America: Bossier Parish.

We received an inquiry about the Davis Theatre, which was located at 915 Barksdale Boulevard in the 1940s. With that basic information, we were able to begin a hunt for information. A few photographs of the theatre are in our collection, including one of an unknown woman and child standing in front of the theatre marquee. The Davis is showing a movie called “The Gold Rush”, which was a 1925 Charlie Chaplin silent film about a prospector in the Klondike Gold Rush. It was rereleased in the US in April of 1942 with a musical score and narration by Chaplin.

Historical Center staff member Laurie Dyche worked to find any newspaper articles regarding the theatre’s opening. In order to get a better idea of when the Davis opened, she checked our collection of city directories. The directory listing for the Davis also included the name of Don and Darrell George, brothers who owned and operated the theatre. A quick internet search on the George brothers resulted in the discovery of a court case involving Don George and Paramount Pictures. Paperwork for the case shows that the brothers owned the Davis from May 17, 1942 until January 1, 1947. With this new date established, Laurie looked through our microfilm collection and found the article we needed in the May 14, 1942 issue of The Planters Press, “New Davis Theatre Opens Sunday 1 p.m.” It provides a wealth of information about the motion picture house.

“The new Davis Theatre owned by Mrs. J.E. Davis [Mary Paulk Davis Gresham], a resident of Bossier City, stands as one more example of her far-sighted confidence in the future growth and development of this prosperous community. Started during the early days of the war, and completed under the trying conditions created by the all-out war effort, this theatre will probably be one of the last privately owned motion picture houses built for some years to come…Mrs. Davis and her lessee exhibitors, Messrs. Don and Darell George, have spared nothing in an effort to give the people of Bossier Parish one of the country’s finest small theatres.” The article describes every inch of the new theatre building that was designed by Peyton and Annan Architects with building contractor A.J. LeVasseur. The Davis was air-conditioned, equipped with fire prevention devices, and could seat 702. “The attraction sign of blue and cream porcelain enamel, opal glass, three-dimensional aluminum changeable letters, and Neon tube lighting forms the central feature above the marquee.” The lobby was painted light coral and maroon with gold light fixtures. The Planters Press article ends by writing “everyone in Bossier appreciates the addition of this institution of education and amusement and will attend regularly.”

If you have memories of the Davis Theatre, please let us know! We would love to have more information about the Davis and other entertainment venues in the Bossier area, like the Southland Theatre (also on Barksdale Boulevard). If you are willing to share your photographs, antiques, or stories with the Historical Center, please contact Marisa at 746-7717.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adley's Grocery

Here is one of our new acquisitions, a 1930s photograph of the interior of Adley's Grocery. Adley's was located at 901 Barksdale Boulevard. You can see advertisements for Holsum Bread, Wonder Bread, Baby Ruth candy bars, Coca-Cola, and Carnation Milk. The meat counter along the back wall sold "six tasty new meat loaves" and porkchops. Do you remember Adley's Grocery or other local shops from Bossier's past? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fold3 news

Our genealogy database service previously called is now
A shift in content accompanies the name change. Whereas pulled content relating to census records, city directories, and other various genealogical sources, Fold3 will focus solely on military records and stories. Fold3 aims to be "the web's premier collection of original military records." All non-military content that was searchable on will remain on the Fold3 site, but military information will be the only new content added to the site.

All of the Historical Center's subscription services with the site remain the same. You can still access all content on Fold3 by using any Bossier Parish Library computer at any branch. For those of you with servicemen or women in your family tree, this switch to Fold3 will give you more research avenues to pursue. Of course, we still have our library subscription to for anyone who is looking for general genealogy content.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bonnie & Clyde in Bossier

From Ann Middleton's weekly column in the Bossier Press-Tribune:
On May 23, 1934 Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were ambushed by law officers and killed in Gibsland, Louisiana in Bienville Parish. From 1931-1934 the couple had led a life of crime committing robberies and murders in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota and Louisiana.

In one of the fascinating oral histories at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center, Mathilde Gatlin McLelland recalled that Bonnie and Clyde had visited Bear Point, her childhood plantation home in Bossier Parish a few days before they were killed:

“Almost every plantation has something special to tell about happenings there. These things are sworn to be true, and I always really thought this to be true. Frank Monroe, one of our most trusted workers, lived over by the railroad track down in a large field. [His] was the only family in that area. A little road led to the very end of the place that, where the old bears used to walk. Something happened funny that night that scared that man to death. He said that overnight a strange car came up way over in the field and he said they closed all the shutters on their door and wouldn’t even open it ‘cause they looked out and they saw a man and a woman, and they had guns everywhere. And they had this open car kind of thing, but guns everywhere. And they were out working on the guns and Frank, he was so scared that the next morning when he came down, he could hardly speak. His voice was trembling so, and he gave this description of this great big old car and so Daddy said, and he said. So two or three days [later] we saw the horrible picture in the Times where these two people were shot to death in Gibsland, Louisiana and the people that had been looking…Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker [and] the girl that accompanied [him]. And a sign is made of stone there today where they were killed. So the old Bear Point had this uninvited guest that turned around and made a little bit of bad history there. The fact is that this interesting little road that the bears crossed and that the cotton gin was on and the criminals came and that is interlocked now with Dam Number 5. It runs right into Dam Number 5.”

The oral history interview collection at the Historical Center reveals interesting and often unusual interpretations of Bossier Parish life by the people who lived it. Visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center to listen to or read transcripts of approximately 125 oral history interviews.

Friday, August 12, 2011

National Spirit Of ’45 Day

Mrs. Bonvillion's fifth grade class in 1944 at Bossier Grammar School standing behind a small banner that proclaims "We brought the GREASE to write the PEACE." 2006.013.001

On August 14, 1945 President Harry S. Truman announced that World War II was over. Newspaper headlines across the country proclaimed victory for the United States as Japan surrendered, inciting spontaneous celebration nationwide.

In Northwest Louisiana throngs cheered the arrival of peace with joyous, noisy celebrations. The three and a half year war had cost Caddo and Bossier Parishes an estimated 1,000 casualties—some 300 of them killed, captured or missing. President Truman’s declaration of a two-day holiday closed local businesses and expressions of gratitude in church services and a city-wide service at Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium. As soon as Shreveport received word of the surrender, all restraint was cast aside. Confetti and scraps of paper floated down from windows of office buildings, laughter and tears intermingled, car horns blared, church bells rang and firecrackers burst. Traffic did not move, gasoline rationing was forgotten, sidewalks were lined with thousands of soldiers and civilians and switchboards were swamped. Amazingly, the crowds were comparatively orderly.

Bossier’s celebration of America’s return to peace was described in The Shreveport Times issue of August 15, 1945. “From the new traffic bridge to the far reaches of the town, Bossier City last night cheered the news ‘the war is over,’ and within seconds of the official flash, Barksdale Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare, was a continuous string of cars, horns blowing, occupants yelling. Stores closed their doors in accord with requests of city authorities. Bars quickly closed their doors.” The war was over and Bossier City Mayor Hoffman Fuller recognized that every Bossier City citizen had cooperated to make the war effort in the city and parish a complete success.

To establish an annual day of remembrance and national renewal, August 14th has been established as “National Spirit of ’45 Day.” This Sunday will see celebrations all over the United States as we remember.

Excerpted from Ann Middleton's Bossier History column in the Bossier Press Tribune

Friday, July 22, 2011

Brrr, It's Freezing...

1999.159.001 Before electric refrigerators or freezers there were 'ice boxes', food cabinets kept cold by the blocks of ice an “ice man” would deliver to Bossier residents.

Brrr, It's Freezing...

Well, not outside any way, but it sure is cold inside our new large chest freezer at the Historical Center. No, we’re not having an ice cream party - it’s potentially hidden bugs that are getting frozen! Freezing is the most accepted way by conservators to ‘decontaminate’ new collections. We love to get donations of Bossier Parish related objects, documents and photographs, but if they’ve been stored in a shed or an attic, little critters might tag along. These insects, who like to eat holes in paper or the wool fibers in a soldier’s jacket, would be ready to feast on the rest of our collection. A freeze-thaw cycle will kill the bugs and their eggs – eliminating any potential infestations.

Speaking of freezing, there was a time when a freezer and the electricity to run it would have been unobtainable to many families. The first electric service came to Bossier Parish (Bossier City) in 1912, but some rural families were still without it in the 1940’s. In the Feb. 15, 1945 Bossier Banner newspaper, Home Demonstration agent Lettie Van Landingham announced that machinery was being purchased for the Bossier Frozen Food Locker. This community freezer allowed any Bossier Parish resident to reserve space to freeze food. A similar freezer had been up and running for a year in Webster Parish. Ms. VanLandingham made this announcement during World War II when citizens were encouraged to win the war effort through gardening and raising their own food. Community freezers provided a way to extend the time that families could consume the yields of their “Victory Gardens” or home chicken coops.

Friday, July 1, 2011

70th Anniversary

The Bossier Parish Library's 70th anniversary celebration was yesterday at the Historical Center. We had great attendance, including members of the Bossier Parish Police Jury and the Library Board of Control, and Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker. Thanks to everyone for coming to visit! If you missed it, you're always welcome to view the scrapbooks and photos that document the Library's 70 years - just head over to the Historical Center.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Newsletter

Our summer newsletter is available! Click here to read about our new summer exhibit, learn about recent donations, and find information on our upcoming September RELIC program. Be sure to read the article about the Bossier Parish Library's history - we have a 70th birthday coming up!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teens Travel in Time

"You Are Here - Travel in Time". If you’re a teen, you’re invited to go backward and forward in time this summer with the Bossier Parish Library’s Teen Summer Reading Program. The program meets every Wednesday June 15-July 13 2-4pm, but teens can go to as many or as few sessions as they want. Historically they will be diving into the 1920’s, touching on the popularity of flappers and the opening of King Tut’s tomb before traveling back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians. They’ll look ahead to 2012 and the Mayan prophecy that the world will end on December 21, 2012, and finally back again in time to a Renaissance Faire. On June 29, Local History and Outreach Specialist Pam Carlisle will be conducting a program on the history of Bossier Parish, from Caddo Indians up through at least the 1960’s, particularly from the perspective of food! They’ll even do a little cooking themselves (traveling forward in time with the use of a microwave). Teens will also learn about a Bossier Parish ‘then and now’ photography project in which they can participate. Programs will have plenty of future speculation, too, including this year’s SRP lock-in (July 8-9 from 7pm to 7am), with a theme of space, aliens, and robots. Go to to see the Library Events calendar for each day’s theme. To sign up, see Tonya Oswalt, director of Young Adult Services at the Central Library or call her at 746-1693.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bossier Parish School Yearbooks

The collection of Bossier Parish School Yearbooks at the History Center is one of our most frequently used resources. However, there are many schools for which we have no yearbooks, or only a partial collection for a school. If you have yearbooks that you would like to donate, or if you know someone who might want to donate yearbooks, please contact a staff member at the History Center at 746-7717. Your donation will be greatly appreciated, and you will be contributing to the preservation of Bossier Parish history.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Billie Stevens - In Honor of Bossier Parish Library's 70th Anniversary

Billie Stevens and the Bossier Parish Library Bookmobile

Wanted: Bossier Parish Librarian C. 1950. Duties include: Put buckets under leaks, cut the tops off of large cans and nail them to cover holes in the floor, order books for all the schools in the Parish (in addition to the public library books), take the bookmobile on unpaved roads to Rocky Mount (or Chalybeate Springs, Red Land, Walker’s Chapel, or Mott), help get it out of a ditch, get back to Benton and type all the records of the circulated books and magazines, present children’s story hour, write a book review of the latest gardening book for the parish garden club meetings and home demonstration clubs, paint the walls and shelves, fix the plumbing and pay son to mow the grass out of own pocket or do it yourself. Sound nearly impossible? It was all in a day’s work for Mrs. Billie Williams Stevens of Benton, who worked for Bossier Parish Libraries from 1950 to 1984 and sat for an oral history interview in 2001.

She was with the library almost from its beginning. The library started in 1940 at the urging of the Bossier High School PTA as a demonstration library by the Louisiana Library Commission (now the State Library). It relied on library assistants from the Works Progress Administration, which was a Federal employment program created by the Franklin Roosevelt administration to pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Bossier had never had a public library save for some books donated to the courthouse for public use. The demonstration library system allowed the parish to experience the benefits of a public library for a year-long trial period, after which the parish would choose to either to abandon the program or take over the library by accepting the state’s books and equipment. The Police Jury voted almost unanimously to adopt the library on June 12, 1941. Although the war made the library very focal as a “War Information Center”, dedicated funding for the library was thwarted by World War II. It limped along financially until 1947 when it was funded with a tax specifically for the library system.

Bossier Parish Libraries 70th Anniversary Event

Bossier Parish Libraries are turning 70! On Thursday, June 30, 2011 from 11:30AM—3:30PM, Bossier Parish Library will host a reception in the History Center to celebrate 70-years of public service to the citizens of Bossier Parish. The public is invited to celebrate with us. There will be cake, cookies, coffee and lemonade. At 11:30AM a small ceremony will take place in honor of this special occasion. Please stop by, and you can check out our exhibits while you're here (including current temporary exhibits Confederate Currency, Summertime in Bossier Parish and Something Blue - Weddings in Bossier Parish).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer Hours

Just a reminder that we have switched to our summer hours - the Historical Center now closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lorain Cooking

We have a small cookbook from 1930 in our collection entitled "Lorain Cooking". The cover shows a simple red wheel, which was a revolutionary tool for the kitchen that we take for granted today. The Lorain Oven Heat Regulator with its signature Red Wheel allowed cooks to maintain a constant temperature inside the oven during any baking period. The wheel is marked at intervals of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. After setting the Red Wheel, the flow of gas is automatically reduced when the oven registers the desired temperature. Can you imagine what baking would have been like prior to the introduction of the Lorain Oven? The Red Wheel eliminated the burning of food (except for in the case of chef error!) and assured uniform results each time a recipe was cooked. The thermostat control freed cooks from watching the food as it baked.

Here are some recipes from the Lorain Cooking book.

Monday, May 2, 2011 is now at the Bossier Parish Library

A new genealogy database has been added to others available at the Bossier Parish Library branches. While it can't be accessed remotely, you can come to any branch and search Footnote's many history and genealogy resources. Among them are the Brady Civil War photos, Confederate Amnesty Papers and Confederate Citizens Papers. Numerous newspapers, naturalization records and indexes, and city directories can be browsed. World War II and Vietnam War records are there, as well. One resource that you won't want to miss in is "Project Blue Book--UFO Investigations." Visit us soon (or any library branch) and take advantage of these resources and many more.

To access, simply click here or choose the link from the menu to the right.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Festival this Saturday!

Visit the Louisiana Boardwalk this Saturday, April 30, from 9am - 1pm for Bossier Parish Library's Spring Festival! There will be something for everyone: games, crafts, face painting, performers, Build-a-Bear mascot, technology, Bossier history, water safety, railroad safety, door prizes - fun for the whole family!

The History booth will feature photos and information about the steamboat era along the Red River. We will also help you make your very own "Steamboat in a Cup" craft to bring home!

The festival will be under the Texas Street Bridge and it's FREE! Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Talley murder

We've spent some time digging deeper into the newspaper account of Elias O'Neil's murder in Shreveport. Martin Talley, Jr. shot O'Neil in April of 1871, an act of retribution for O'Neil's murder of Fred Talley, Martin's father. Fred Talley's murder occurred just 8 months earlier, in August of 1870.

Fred Talley has a violent history of his own, with the Ouachita Telegraph reporting on Talley's killing of EB Huff in November of 1866. "The difficulty originated at a gaming table." Fred Talley had nine children, but his third daughter, Lou, died at age 9 on August 10, 1870, just 7 days before Talley was fatally shot by O'Neil. Talley's wife, Elizabeth M. Fite, was left to raise her remaining 8 children alone.

According to the memorial obituary for 39 year-old Talley placed in the Southwestern on 24 August 1870, "Though fearless and calmly resolute in danger, it could never be said of him that he was a quarrelsome man; and it was a source of consolation to him in his last moments to know that he had received his death wound while acting the peacemaker."

Elias O'Neil, was confined upon the charge of killing Talley, but was supposedly too unwell to be brought into court right away. The Southwestern reports that "in the difficulty, he was several times struck on the head by a large walking cane, and as erysipelas [infection] has supervened, his physicians regard him in a somewhat critical condition." This diagnosis did not stop the trial and on the 30th of August, O'Neal was "brought before Judge Levisee to undergo a preliminary examination upon an application for bail."

According to the Southwestern's 7 Sept 1870 article, within the week, "the application to be admitted to bail by Mr. Elias O'Neal, charged with murder in killing Mr. FW Tally, was finally argued yesterday, the examination of witnesses having occupied three days. The arguments of cuonsel, pro et con, were able and exhaustive, though not so ornate and flowery as usual, being limited in time. After a lengthy, impartial, and thorough investigation, Judge Levisee decided that the accused be admitted to bail in the sum of $20,000."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gale news

Have you been using the free Gale trial to search for Bossier City or Shreveport news? We have! Here is one of the articles that we were able to find that ran in the Daily Evening Bulletin of San Francisco, CA on April 28, 1871:
A Young Man Kills His Father's Murderer

A correspondent of a New Orleans paper writes from Shreveport, under date of April 8th as follows:
Our usually quiet, very orderly and law abiding city was thrown into great excitement to-day about dinner time, by the discharge of two shots from a double-barreled shotgun in the hands of a wild young man, eighteen years of age, named Martin Talley, Jr., on Market Street, about a square from the Brooks House. Coming from an alley, he approached very near without speaking a word to his victim, Elias O'Neil, of Bossier Parish, and fired one barrel into his face killing him instantly; but after O'Neil fell, put the gun to his head and discharged the other barrel, charged with buckshot, completely tearing his head to pieces. By the first shot, he, it is feared, also mortally wounded Dr. L.S. Fisher, who was conversing with O'Neil, blowing out one eye and horribly disfiguring him. Dr. Fisher has recently moved here and is not as well known here as O'Neil, who was almost forty-five years of age, and long a resident of the neighboring parish. Mr. O'Neil, last August, near the same place where he was murdered, killed the father of his murderer in a gambling difficulty, and this retribution has come to him. Young Talley attempted to escape, but was captured at once and conveyed to prison. It is a sad event viewed from any point...especially it is sad in regard to Dr. Fisher, who was innocent in every respect, and it is to be most sincerely hoped he may recover.

We will be checking our newspaper collection to see what locals had to say about the murder.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Free Access to Gale for National Library Week

Gale will offer their vast historical newspaper collection for National Library Week this year for a full two weeks Apr 10 to 24th. Click below or to the right to browse through the historic newspapers for the following categories!

Gale NewsVault — The definitive cross-searching experience for exploring Gale's historical newspaper and periodical collections — with access to more than 10 million digitized pages.

Global Issues in Context — Empower your users with the tools they need to understand today's world issues from a truly global perspective.

GREENR (Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources) — From the green-collar economy to questions of energy and resource management, GREENR is the foremost online reference portal for sustainability and environmental studies.

Powerspeak Languages — The perfect language learning resource teaches users how to immerse into cultural authenticity. New languages include ESL Mandarin, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Korean.

Science in Context — From global warming to space exploration, students are drawn into the subject by integrating pure information with today's headlines and videos — showing how scientific disciplines relate to real-world issues.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive — The largest, most ambitious collection devoted to the study of slavery. In its entirety, it will consist of more than 5 million cross-searchable pages. Part I: Debates over Slavery & Abolition available now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Leaving Bossier Parish

In 1861, nearly 800 Bossier men departed the parish and headed off to war.

The June 19, 1861 issue of The Southwestern notes the Bossier Volunteers leaving town.
Captain Randolph's company of "Bossier Men" passed through this place en route to the wars last Thursday. Our citizens vied with each other in giving them a hospitable reception. The Shreveport Sentinels received them at the ferry landing, and escorted them to the boat, where R.J. Looney, Esq., delivered a neat address, which was responded to by Capt. Randolph. Lieut. Winans, on behalf of the ladies of Shreveport, in a few appropriate remarks, presented them with a wreath of flowers. We understand the ceremonies on the other side of the river were still more interesting, consisting of a barbecue and flag presentation, by one of Bossier's loveliest daughters, Miss Maples. We learn that some of the returned "Bossier Boys" have embraced this opportunity to prove themselves "Men".

The Bossier Banner also reported on the events at the Volunteers' departure.
On June 13, the Bossier Volunteers, under Captain E.G. Randolph, left. At the Cane place, Miss Mattie Maples presented the flag. Mrs. Cane gave a reception dinner, and Wesley P. Winans and Robert J. Looney delivered addresses. The company, numbering 104 men and 9 servants, left per steamer via New Orleans for Camp Moore, where it and other companies were organized into the 9th Louisiana regiment with Richard Taylor as colonel; E.G. Randolph as lieutenant colonel, and Wm. R. Peck, as major.

On June 13, the Bossier Volunteers, under Captain E.G. Randolph, left. At the Cane place, Miss Mattie Maples presented the flag. Mrs. Cane gave a reception dinner, and Wesley P. Winans and Robert J. Looney delivered addresses. The company, numbering 104 men and 9 servants, left per steamer via New Orleans for Camp Moore, where it and other companies were organized into the 9th Louisiana regiment with Richard Taylor as colonel; E.G. Randolph as lieutenant colonel, and Wm. R. Peck, as major.

The Bossier Banner of the 19th of April contained a headline "Off for Charleston," announcing the departure, on the 16th, of Ed. A. Lowry, Morgan O. Taliaferro, J.E. Jackson and Wm. G. Aarons. They joined the Caddo Rifles at Shreveport and went to Virginia, whither the Shreveport Grays had already gone.

A military ball was given at the courthouse in honor of the departure of Capt. Loudon Butler's company, the Bossier Boys, on Wednesday, May 8. Miss Maggie Moore presented the flag. This company left Shreveport the next day on the Grand Duke, arriving in New Orleans on the 12th, where it was mustered into service by the State authorities, but, owing to a disagreement between Gov. Moore and the Confederate secretary of war as to term of enlistments, Capt. Butler's company, together with many other companies, were disbanded at Camp Moore with all but a few members returning home and joining new companies as they were organized.

The Banner also reported on the events at the Volunteers' departure. On June 13, the Bossier Volunteers, under Captain E.G. Randolph, left. At the Cane place, Miss Mattie Maples presented the flag. Mrs. Cane gave a reception dinner, and Wesley P. Winans and Robert J. Looney delivered addresses. The company, numbering 104 men and 9 servants, left per steamer via New Orleans for Camp Moore, where it and other companies were organized into the 9th Louisiana regiment with Richard Taylor as colonel; E.G. Randolph as lieutenant colonel, and Wm. R. Peck, as major.

On September 22, the Robins Grays left, with Loudon Butler as captain. A barbecue was given by the friends of the company at Fillmore and Miss Emily Garrison presented the flag. This company went directly to Camp Moore, via Monroe and Vicksburg.

On September 25, the Vance Guards left, under Captain Richard Welcome Turner. Miss Lizzie Dickson presented the flag. A barbecue was given to the Guards at this place the day before their departure, and on the day of their departure another barbecue was given on the Bellevue and Minden road, between the residences of John W. Hudson and C.P. Thompson. The Rev. Baxter Clegg delivered a few friendly words of admonition and offered a prayer for their safety.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring newsletter

Our Spring newsletter is complete, so watch for it in your mailboxes. You can also click here to view it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Louisiana Secession

On January 26, 1861, the state of Louisiana seceded from the Union. This caused immediate changes in the lives of residents in the Shreveport and Bossier area. One of those changes was visible in the Shreveport newspaper, The Southwestern. You can see in the January 30, 1861 issue, the paper's masthead features the American flag.

In the next issue (February 6, 1861), the flag has been removed. The editor notes that
As Louisiana is no longer a member of the federal government, we this day, as orderly citizens, lower the "stars and stripes" from our masthead! It is with heart-felt emotions, better imagined than portrayed, that we fold the saucy looking "star spangled banner" that we have always loved, and place the precious memento under our pillow.

From this description, we understand the notion that many newly seceded Confederates had - that the disagreement over slavery would be quickly resolved and peace negotiated. For currency notes printed by the Confederate States of America, each note was redeemable after the ratification of a treaty of peace between the Confederate States and the United States of America. As the war progressed, it became clear to Confederate leaders that President Lincoln would only negotiate a complete surrender. In his book, The Atlas of the Civil War, James McPherson writes that "to every proposal for an armistice or preliminary terms, Lincoln replied that the Confederates must lay down their arms, give up slavery, and rejoin the Union." Bossier had an enslaved population of 8,000 individuals in 1860, much larger than the free white population of approximately 3,347. The abandonment of slavery was paramount for Lincoln and this was an issue that would directly affect the way of life for the residents in Bossier Parish.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Black History Month Speaker, Saturday 2/28/11

For Black History Month, we are extremely excited to have a speaker coming to the Historical Center all the way from Phoenix, Arizona who has an amazing life story, some of it right here in Shreveport-Bossier. Col. Richard Toliver, USAF, Ret., author of An Uncaged Eagle – True Freedom, lived his early childhood in Bellevue, Bossier Parish, where his family left in the middle night to move to Shreveport to escape from white citizens who wanted to persecute his father for defending his land. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Shreveport, went on to the Tuskegee Institute where he was trained by some of the original Tuskegee Airmen, and worked to make the Air Force truly integrated while climbing its ranks. Anyone interested in Air Force history, Civil Rights history or a story of faith to overcome odds and to forgive will find something of interest in this book and his talks. Col. Toliver will be speaking at the Historical Center meeting room on Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 1 p.m.
The meeting room will open at noon, so get there early to ensure a seat. If you are bringing a group of 10 or more, kindly notify Pam at 746-7717 so we can accommodate you. Here is the Colonel’s schedule of additional programs while he is in town. Barksdale events are for those with Base access:
February 27
Barksdale AFB Chapel Program
Bossier City, LA 71110
12:00 Noon
Capt. Paul P. Loser, 2 BW Protestant Chaplain Barksdale AFB

February 27
Shreve Memorial Library Hamilton Branch
2111 Bert S. Koons Industrial Loop, Shreveport, LA 71108
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Ms. Ivy Woodard-Lattin, Public Relations Coordinator

February 28
Barksdale African American Month Celebration Luncheon
11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Barksdale Base Exchange book signing
February 28 in afternoon, contact
SSgt Justin R. McMullen Executive Assistant
8th Air Force Command Chief

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day

Our collection has many scrapbooks containing cherished mementos, photographs, and holiday cards. One of the scrapbooks, saved by a Bossier City woman, holds her memories of the 1940s when her husband was serving in the Army Air Corps. Below are some valentines that she carefully tucked away in her book. Some are loving and sentimental, while others feature jokes and puns.

This watery-eyed onion is now missing his moveable arm, which held a tissue to wipe away his tears.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February is Black History Month

Photo courtesy of The Shreveport Times
Charlotte Watson Mitchell, Jeanes Teacher

In the early to mid twentieth century, to find the leaders of African-American communities, look in the schools. The most educated and often highly regarded members of the community were there, working as school teachers or administrators. One of these leaders was “Jeanes Supervisor” Charlotte Mitchell who is known today as the namesake of the Charlotte Ann Mitchell Educational Center in Bossier City.

The Anna T. Jeanes Fund was another Southern-wide fund from a Northern benefactor to improve black children’s education like the Rosenwald Fund, which was created by a wealthy Jewish benefactor to build model school buildings for African-American children across the South. Anna T. Jeanes was a wealthy Philadelphia Quaker woman who in 1907 set aside money to provide aid to rural African-American schools in the South. The Jeanes Fund soon developed a model of funding a supervisor for black schools who met any needs both the teachers and the students, as part of a wider community, might have. These were called “Jeanes Teachers” or “Jeanes Supervisors” but in a sense they were more like early Peace Corps volunteers than school teachers. They did community beautification, food production and distribution, public health and sanitation work and teacher training. Their motto was that they always did “the next needed thing”.

Charlotte Watson Mitchell was a Jeanes Supervisor in Bossier Parish after many years as a teacher. As a Jeanes Teacher, Charlotte Mitchell not only affected the educational life of the Parish’s Black community, but home life as well. From July 1, 1932 to February 28, 1933, she made 75 visits to schools, 209 visits with teachers and 60 visits to homes, as reported to the State Agent for Jeanes Teachers. She also assisted Lettie Van Landingham, Bossier Parish Home Demonstration Agent, by leading the Colored Home Demonstration Clubs in the Parish. A Home Demonstration Agent often taught local women homemaking techniques through organized Home Demonstration clubs. According to an April 14, 1932 article in the Plain Dealing Progress, Bossier Parish was one of only a few parishes that had an active Home Demonstration program for African-American women. In 1931 members of these clubs filled 6,000 tin cans of food at canning centers in four of the Parish’s African-American schools, with many of the cans going to the Red Cross to distribute to the hungry.

Jeanes Teachers made significant contributions to community life in Bossier Parish; however, the Jeanes program ended in the 1960’s with school integration. If you know any additional information about Charlotte Mitchell, Carrie Martin (the first Jeanes teacher in Bossier Parish) or any of the other Jeanes Teachers* in Bossier Parish, please contact the Historical Center.

*Including Crecy Ann Hudson Evans, Ella Mae Booker Wiley, Inez Patty, and Gussie Mae Hudson

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Genealogy Help

Genealogy is a very popular topic, as evidenced by the popularity of TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are? and Faces of America. If you’re interested in tracing your family tree, we have two free quality resources – Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest. You can access Ancestry from the Bossier Parish Library homepage on a library computer at any branch. HeritageQuest is accessible from your home computer; you just need to enter your library card number. You can also get to both sites from the links in the menu to the right of this post.

Ancestry Library Edition is a fantastic tool for anyone who is researching family history. With Ancestry, you will be able to search US federal censuses, the social security death index, military records, state censuses, immigration records with ship manifests, passport applications, birth and marriage records, and heaps of international sources, which come in handy once you are able to trace your ancestors back to a country of emigration. You can also view and print images of the original records. If you’re lucky, you might locate a forgotten picture – I was surprised to see a high school yearbook photo of my grandfather!

It’s very easy to start searching with Ancestry. You simply type in any known information about the person you are trying to find. If you don’t know the exact birth date or birthplace of an ancestor, take a guess. If you heard family stories that Great Grandpa was born around the turn of the century, add 1900 to your search box. Ancestry will use this information and give results that closely match your search items. At the History Center, we recommend that beginners start by researching family members that they know personally. Backtracking is easier to do; you simply follow the records, linking the people you do know to the mystery branches on your family tree.

One of the best sources of information on Ancestry is the US Census Collection. US Federal Census records range from 1790 – 1930. The 1940 census will be made public in 2012. The information from each census varies slightly, depending on which questions were asked. You will almost always find name, age, gender, race, marital status, nationality, and relationship to head of household. You may also find occupation, real estate value, age at first marriage, birth month and year, education level, year of immigration, citizenship status, naturalization dates, and place of parents’ birth.

HeritageQuest (HQ) is another genealogy resource that provides census records and allows users to view, print, and download original images. If you can’t get to the library to use Ancestry and want to do some genealogy detective work at home, HQ is your best bet. It provides a collection of material for both genealogical and historical researchers, with coverage dating back to the late 1700s.

In the Books section of HQ, you can search through genealogy and local history books with digitized pages. Use it to find published works on families, as well as historical books that focus on specific regions. Learning about the time and place where your ancestors lived can give you a good sense of their daily life. The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) on HQ is a comprehensive index to genealogy and local history periodicals. For example, you can search through issues of The Genie, the journal of the Ark-la-Tex Genealogical Association.

There isn’t enough space to fully explain all of the resources you will find on both Ancestry and HeritageQuest, but it’s easy and fun to browse through their databases as you begin your genealogy journey. I encourage you to take a peek into your family’s past if you haven’t started to already. If you’d like some assistance, the staff at the History Center is always ready to help!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Abolition sentiments

2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Several states, including Louisiana, are planning commemorative events for the sesquicentennial. Here at the History Center, we would like to demonstrate what daily life was like for Bossier Parish residents before, during, and after the Civil War. Our newspaper collection is integral to aiding our understanding of these turbulent times. We have issues of the Bossier Banner from 1859 to the middle of 1860. The Banner ceased publication during the war, as editor William Scanland departed to fight for the Confederacy. Another important source is The Southwestern, a Shreveport newspaper published by L. Dillard and Co., that printed throughout the war. News from Bossier was printed in The Southwestern, so we can get a glimpse of what was happening in the parish.

The January 30, 1861 issue of The Southwestern relates some news from Bossier:

The Bossier Banner states that on Monday, 24th instant, there was a meeting of the citizens of Bellevue and vicinity, of Bossier Parish, appointed a committee of five to wait upon Mr. Jesse McHenry; said committee being instructed by the meeting to invite the said McHenry to leave the town and parish within twenty-four hours, because of his abolition sentiments and proclivities which have been too strongly evinced by his speech and acts to be tolerated in a southern community. The committee discharged their duty, and the said McHenry complied with their request by rolling out on Wednesday's stage, eastward.

The same paper informs us that a company of light infantry was organised in Bellevue on Saturday, the 19th inst. Old and young have alike pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honors, to the maintenance of the protection of their homes, their firesides, and their family altars.

I am currently searching through the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census records for the parish and will be on the lookout for Mr. McHenry. Does he return to Bossier by 1870? I don't think it's likely, given his hasty exit from the parish. Do you think he will be living in the North or the South?