Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Winham Family

Henderson Winham, foreground, and his brother Ben are shown in their Plain Dealing dry goods store in 1946.

In July of 1987, Mr. Henderson Winham, a 75 year old native and life-long resident of Plain Dealing compiled a history of the Winham Family. Derived from aged newspaper clippings, family Bible records, conversations with other family members and stories that were related to him by his grandmother, Elmina Smith Winham, the history begins with the departure in the fall of 1845 of 236 souls from Houston County, Georgia. After a long and arduous journey, the party arrived in Minden on Christmas Day where they were met by a leading merchant of Minden, John Chafee. A sumptuous Christmas dinner was enjoyed before the families proceeded on to Bellevue, then Sugar Hill the next day.

Each family left the party to settle in different parts of North Bossier Parish, with Reverend Allen Winham and his family settling near Rocky Mount. A year later he founded the Caney Creek Baptist Church, believed to be the first Baptist church in North Louisiana. Reverend Winham was also instrumental in the founding of Salem Baptist Church and Red River Baptist Church.

Recalling his grandmother Elmina with great fondness, Winham related how he prepared black gum toothbrushes for her to enjoy her dips of snuff. “… to enjoy a dip of snuff, one needs a black gum toothbrush. The way to fashion such a toothbrush is to cut a twig from a black gum tree about 3 inches long and the thickness of a kitchen match, peel the bark back 1 inch from the larger end, and then chew the end until it becomes a soft mop. Then thoroughly moisten that mop, dip it deep into that can of exotic powder, and bring it out laden with the same. Place it in the mouth, run it all around the gums; then anchor it in the back of the jaw and sit back and rock – That is pure pleasure.” As his grandmother was toothless, Winham prided himself on preparing the toothbrushes for her.

In his childhood Winham first attended the New Brushy School, and then later attended the Alden Bridge School. The original Brushy School and Church were located west of the present Sunflower Church on Highway 3 in Bossier Parish. Brother Holliday, minister of the Plain Dealing Methodist Church, was often invited to preach at the Brushy Church. He was known to readily pack his Bible and his nightshirt and spend Saturday nights with the Winhams so that he could preach at Brushy on Sunday.

Both of Winham’s parents were hard-working and God-fearing. His father was recognized as a mediator in the community to whom people frequently went for advice and help in resolving problems. A.B. and Lilla Mae Winham had 12 children, 10 of whom grew to adulthood. In this memoir Henderson Winham relates particular memories of all of them.

Winham devotes the final pages of his memoir to his own recollections of growing up in North Bossier Parish. By age 12 he had become the family chauffeur, even attempting to teach his mother to drive the 1924 T Model Ford Touring Car that his father purchased. “My mother had an earnest desire to learn to drive – she never accomplished it. I would drive out into the open pasture and turn the wheel over to her. She went about it in a very determined way, but while she was looking down trying to decide the pedal on which to place her foot, the car invariably got out of control. Some candid camera shots of her facial expressions at such times would be quite entertaining. Though Mamma could do many things, and do them well, she never mastered the Model T, and sorrowfully abandoned the attempt.”

This is a poignant memoir that reflects the lives of a North Bossier family in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To read more about them and other Bossier families, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Plain Dealing history

An article titled "Plain Dealing — Yesterday — To-Day" appeared in the June 9, 1932 issue of The Plain Dealing Progress. The article is unsigned, but was possibly written by Rupert Peyton.

In 1888 the Cotton Belt Railroad was laid in Plain Dealing and a depot was erected. The sign for the depot bore the name “Guernshein.” Shortly after, the name was changed to Plain Dealing to perpetuate the name of the 5,000 acre plantation which covered the area where Plain Dealing was located. In the same year, lots for the town site were sold, bringing a total of $12,000. B.W. Boggs was elected Plain Dealing’s first mayor when the town was incorporated in 1890. Fire destroyed the town twice, once in 1903 and again in 1906.

Early Plain Dealing merchants and some of their businesses includedthe following: S.J. Zeigler, a general merchandise store; John J. Swindle, a drug firm; mercantile firms of Nattin & Campbell and Cavett & Doles (where the post office was located); S.J. Cochran; E.F. Kirtley and Kelly Brothers. Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Smith operated the first hotel, and the wife of Mr. Grisdale, the first railroad section foreman, operated a section rooming house.

Along with the railroad, the first school was established in 1888. The Plain Dealing Academy had an enrollment of 56 students. Classes were held in a frame building that, by 1932, had been replaced by two brick buildings with an enrollment of 700 pupils.

Plain Dealing’s first bank was founded in 1906. P.B. Holt was the editor of the first newspaper, The Plain Dealer. The first church was a Methodist church founded in 1888, with a Baptist church following closely. By 1932, a Presbyterian Church was cooperating in the spiritual development of Plain Dealing.

The 1200 residents of Plain Dealing in 1932 numbered among their businesses: the mercantile firms of W.W. Oglesby and W.H. Martin; three drug companies; The Jewell Café and The Home Bakery and Café; A.W. Heifner Hardware Company; S.J. Caldwell Motor Company; three filling stations; offices of Southern Cities Distributing Company; Southwestern Gas and Electric Company; Bell Hotel; one recreational parlor; two tailor shops; one newspaper plant; one ice plant; two gins; one wholesale house and telephone exchange. Typical village roads had been transformed into model streets including gravel and paving.

Early doctors of Plain Dealing included Dr. Davis, Dr. W.J. Baird, Dr. Blackman, Dr. W.F. Bell and Dr. T.N. Keoun.

In 1932, the oldest citizens of Plain Dealing in terms of continuous residence were Mrs. Roy Bolinger who moved to Plain Dealing with her parents when she was three years old, and W.E. Swindle who moved to Plain Dealing when he was a small boy. Next in line for the honor of oldest resident was Mrs. Mollie Banks Gray who moved to Plain Dealing in 1897.

For histories of other Bossier Parish towns and villages, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cypress Masonic Lodge

In the late 1950s, C.K. Wright dedicated a short publication to past brethren of Cypress Lodge No. 89. A copy of the publication tells the history of the lodge that was organized in 1849 in Benton, Louisiana.

Cypress Lodge No. 89 was the first Masonic Lodge established in Bossier Parish. When the charter for the lodge was issued in 1850, twenty-three men were members.

On June 3, 1850 James Blair Gilmer donated a one-acre lot in Collinsburg to Cypress Lodge of A.Y. Masons and the Sons of Temperance. Lodge minutes do not record that a building was ever erected on this property, so the title reverted to Gilmer, a pioneer settler of Bossier Parish.

Some of the events that are recorded in the minutes of the early lodge were the death of worthy brother Henry Clay, for whom a motion was carried appropriating ten dollars to erect a suitable monument over his remains; the annual return to the Grand Lodge on January 31, 1863 could not be forwarded by the secretary because the Grand Lodge Hall was in the hands of Union soldiers; and on February 20, 1864 the minutes noted that the Grand Lodge was still in the hands of the enemy and no communication could be established.

Minutes for September 7, 1867 noted that a motion was carried to change the meeting place of the lodge to Quality Hill in the upper story of Doles and Lambright’s store, and on October 1, 1867 a committee was appointed to make arrangements with Brother Lambright to rent that room. Even though a subsequent communication from the Grand Lodge authorized the removal of the lodge to Quality Hill, no action was ever taken. On April 4, 1868 permission was granted to move the lodge to Benton and on July 4, 1868 the Deputy District Grand Master was contacted for permission to move. Permission was given and the first meeting was held in Benton on August 29, 1868.

A site for the construction of a lodge building was acquired on April 12, 1876, and the new hall, the first home owned by the lodge itself, was completed on June 23, 1877. The lodge prospered between 1877 and 1884 but, because of a sharp decline in attendance from 1884 to 1887, the charter was forfeited on February 16, 1887. When a new charter was granted on February 12, 1890 meetings were held in a building used jointly by the Woodmen of the World, the public school, and the lodge. That building was ultimately replaced by the former location of the Benton Branch of the Bossier Parish Library. Sometime between 1890 and 1901 the lodge occupied a building located adjacent to the 1958 site. When a fire destroyed that building, communication was held in the lodge of the Knights of Pythias in Alden Bridge while a new building was being constructed. The 1958 site was acquired in 1901. From 1902 through 1952 the new building was used until a windstorm damaged it so badly that it was demolished.

The cornerstone to a new building was laid on April 11, 1953. The dedication was held on August 23, 1953. Five years later, in 1958, the funds for the final payment on the mortgage were paid. Besides being the oldest lodge in Bossier Parish, Cypress Lodge is presently the 22nd oldest active lodge in the state of Louisiana.

For more about Cypress Lodge #89 and other Bossier Parish history, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.