Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spring newsletter

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Earl Long

In 1948 Louisiana’s gubernatorial race was in full swing. Roger E. Wheless, Bossier Parish Chairman for the Sam Jones Campaign Committee, took out a large ad in The Bossier Banner to express his concerns about Earl Long who was running against Sam Jones in the race. His concerns are reprinted in part below from the February 19, 1948 issue of The Banner.

“This letter is primarily directed to the people of Bossier Parish, but it is hoped that it will be read by all who are interested in good government. Bossier Parish is my homeland—I was reared there. Now I am serving as Parish Chairman there for Sam Jones’ campaign. I think Jones is a real statesman—not a politician— and that he made an excellent governor. But it isn’t just that which makes me want to help him win; but because I think his defeat by the man he is running against would hurt everything in the state, including our own little parish.

It’s every man’s job to do what he can when he thinks there is danger threatening, and I surely think there’s danger now. I tell you and the wide world that I AM afraid of Earl Long. That doesn’t mean that I am afraid of what he would do to me or that I wouldn’t fight him on any ground. I AM AFRAID that he will, if elected, bring back all the hates and prejudices; all the political trading and intimidations; all the extravagances, graft and dishonesty; and all the personal favoring of friends and persecution of enemies that went on in Dick Leche’s and his own administration.

That would be mighty bad, but it could be worse that it was then. Earl Long is getting a lot of money (maybe most of it) for his campaign from outside of the state—and he is spending an awful lot of it. It is said to be coming from a bad source. When people outside OUR state put up money to elect OUR governor, they are sure to be gambling for something—and that something is just what I don’t want them to have, even if we wouldn’t have to suffer from all the ills I have just mentioned.

Many of you already know, just as I do, what the money-givers are gambling on. You and I don’t know just what agreements have been made but it is likely that the money-givers are to have control of the Conservation Department or the Highway Department. They wouldn’t be likely to gamble four or five hundred thousand dollars unless they were after some such big prize. Millions of dollars can be taken in graft in either of these departments. And it is certain that they will insist upon control of the Public Safety Department for only by this means can they assure themselves of the protection they MUST have.

Louisiana is rich in oil, timber, sulphur and furs, and the man who controls the Conservation Department controls them. The Highway Department is just about to enter upon the biggest road building campaign the state has ever had, and the graft that can be taken there will be enormous, There is now in the state treasury two hundred million dollars, saved up since the war stopped all road building. If the money-givers could take ten percent of that in graft, that would be twenty million dollars. That’s a big prize and that’s probably what they are playing for.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 1899's Sub-Zero Weather

In the February 19, 1948 issue of The Bossier Banner, the paper’s editor reflected on what the weather report was for Benton in February of 1899.

“For almost two weeks we have experienced freezing weather. Thursday of last week we were treated to the most genuine surprise of this remarkable winter — a snow storm of unusual proportions for February. The fall was about five inches and a portion of the snow was still on the ground today at noon. During the week the thermometers in Benton have registered several degrees below zero.”

The “Weather Notes” column of the February 16, 1899 indicated that many other states were experiencing severe cold. Eastern cities of the United States, still digging out of the snow, had reported much damage and many deaths. It was predicted that the cold spell would go down in history as the longest in duration, most widespread and worst ever experienced in the United States.

The poor in New Orleans were suffering terribly because of their inability to secure coal and deaths were being reported there, as well.

Deaths were also reported in Houston, Texas, Arkansas, Colin County, Texas, and Montgomery, Alabama. New York was without railroad communication as a result of the snow storm. Grain, cattle and produce industries in Missouri were injured by the cold weather. The coldest weather in 56 years was reported in Natchez, Mississippi. The Mississippi River was frozen over at St. Louis last Friday for the first time since 1895.

The March 2, 1899 issue of The Bossier Banner reported more news about the severe cold from around the state of Louisiana: “Many thousands of shiners were frozen up in the ice in Lake Providence during the blizzard; during the big snow about 250 rabbits ere caught near Indian Village, Ouachita Parish; several colored families in East Carrol [sic] Parish who were out of wood during the late blizzard burned their fences; rabbits were frozen to death by the hundreds during the cold spell in the neighborhood of Holmesville, Union Parish.

Another newspaper, The Baton Rouge Democrat, reported that cattle were dying all over Morehouse Parish because they were unsheltered and half-starved as a result of the cold.

Bossier Parish residents can be grateful for our own current very mild winter. After 2011’s extreme heat and drought, it is gratifying to experience mild weather. While you are enjoying the mild temperatures, take some time to visit the very comfortable Bossier Parish Library Historical Center to learn more about the history of Bossier Parish.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Historic spots in Bossier

An unsigned article titled “Let’s Know Our Historic Shrines” appeared in the February 1, 1951 issue of the Plain Dealing Progress, shortly before the first annual Dogwood Drive pilgrimage was to begin.

The author of the article wrote that “It seems altogether apropos that special attention should be focused on several historic points comprehended in or closely adjacent to the proposed touring site.”

The Dogwood Drive brochures then being prepared centered mainly on the twenty-mile dogwood scenic route, but a real opportunity to tie in several very historic points presented itself.

The first historic destination pointed out by the writer was just three or four miles from the Arkansas-Louisiana state line and seven miles north of the terminus of the Dogwood Drive route. The last resting place of Arkansas’ first governor, James Conway, the spot is one of the truly historic shrines of Arkansas. Conway is buried in the Walnut Hill Cemetery. The grave had special local interest because a number of Conway’s direct descendants were living in Bossier Parish—the Dooleys, Dismukes and several other prominent families. The route from this Arkansas point could branch out from Bradley and via Walnut Hill tap the Dogwood Drive. It was the most direct route from Arkansas and it contained significant scenic beauty.

The next point of historic interest is the George Oglethorpe Gilmer mausoleum in the Plain Dealing Cemetery. George Oglethorpe Gilmer was the founder of the vast Gilmer Plain Dealing plantation from which the present town received its name. The article points out that Hammond, Louisiana recently honored its founder by placing an historic marker in the middle of Hammond, and questions why Plain Dealing could not erect such a marker to honor Gilmer.

Perhaps the most interesting Bossier historic shrine on the list is a frequently overlooked one — the Cottage Grove Academy site.

“The academy day, the immediate period before the present high school years, has a very important place in Louisiana’s educational history and so far as we know, Cottage Grove has the last physical remnant or relic of the era, now extant. The very rooms that some of North Louisiana’s most esteemed matrons occupied and some of these still live, are still a part of the present Millen home hard by a spot where stood the Cottage Grove seminary or academy. This history of that famous seat of learning dips back to the Civil War and reconstruction period, almost a hundred-year span. Just a fortnight or so ago fire came near consuming this last academy day physical vestige. Is there any one or group that would like to take measures to perpetuate this sacred shrine?...Surely a secondary route marker, Plain Dealing Dogwood Drive, via Cottage Grove and Collinsburg pointing left and the same pointing right, via Rocky Mount, should find a place on the maps or charts being prepared by the Dogwood Drive committee. Let’s know and appreciate our historic shrines. Let’s not miss this opportunity of perpetuating them.”

The Dogwood Drive Festival ended in 2004.