Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nat F. Dortch steamboat model

The History Center has a model of the Nat F. Dortch steamboat on display.

The Nat F. Dortch was built in Jefferson, Indiana by Howard in 1889 for the Lovell Line. It was named for a tobacco merchant in Nashville. The boat was sold and started to run along the Red River in 1894, captained by Matt F. Scovall. In March of 1895, it snagged in Ninock Lake and sank in five feet of water. The wreck was visible for many years after.

Mathilde Gatlin McLelland, who grew up on Bear Point Plantation in south Bossier Parish, wrote about the Dortch in her memoirs. Their plantation bell was actually the bell from the Dortch! Mathilde's father, Thomas Gatlin II, rescued the bell and a boiler from the sunken boat. Both were about 15 feet down in the mud. Mathilde writes that the Dortch hit a large snag near Cotton Point Landing while it was carrying 828 bales of cotton and 119 sacks of seed. She found a detailed description of the steamer and asked Bill Atteridge of Arcadia Crafts to construct this model. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Practical Preservation exhibit

We have a new exhibit in the History Center - "Practical Preservation" - that has recommendations on the best ways to preserve your own family heirlooms.  If you're wondering what to do with those old photo albums or a handmade quilt, we have plenty of information for you. We even have handy tip cards that will help you "Save Your Stuff!"

So if you have books, films, textiles, photographs, documents, audio, slides, furniture, paintings, etc. that you would like to save for future generations, be sure to stop in.  We even have some suggestions for what to do with your digital collections!

This exhibit will coincide with Preservation Week, April 21-27, a time when libraries nationwide present activities, events, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections.  We encourage Bossier Parish residents to bring in items that they would like to preserve.  We would especially like patrons to bring in photos, papers, etc., regarding Bossier Parish history so that we can make copies to add to our collection! With your help, we can pass Bossier history on!

To learn more about Preservation Week, head to Preservation @ Your Library.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Artifact of the Month - March

March’s Artifact of the Month is a small wooden box with an unfortunately violent history.   The box belonged to Judah Nachemsohn, a Jewish peddler who traveled from Waco, Texas to the Bellevue area in April of 1871. It contained eyeglasses and samples of various lenses, including a pair of eyeglasses from Carter Opticians, located at 322 Texas Street in Shreveport.  This little box has quite the story behind it.

On April 19, 1871, F.M. Braden found an abandoned wagon in the woods about 2 miles from Bellevue, near the Minden Road.  Braden reported his discovery to Richard Welcome Turner and the two men returned to the wagon the following day, where they soon realized a crime had been committed.  Blood was on the wagon and several trunks were broken open.  They followed the wagon tracks and came upon a man’s body.  Several clues hinted at the man’s identity:  a bill of sale for a wagon and two horses from H. Kruse of Waco, TX to John Nachemsohn was found in the man’s coat pocket, a pair of pants in the wagon had the same name, and an accounting cash book in the wagon had “Nachemsohn, Silverstein & Co” written on the cover.  According to the account book, the murdered man carried about four thousand dollars. The Bossier Banner notes that “it is evident the deceased was a peddler, and was killed for his money.”  

The Jewish community in Shreveport took Nachemsohn’s body for burial, and correctly identified the man as Judah Nachemsohn, not John. He was an immigrant from Hamburg.  News from the Waco Register ran in the May 20, 1871 issue of the Bossier Banner: “Mr. Nachemsohn left [Waco] about six weeks ago; after converting all his effects into cash, and took with him, as a companion, a young man named Lamb. He had about him between three and four thousand dollars in specie, and dissolved his copartnership with Messrs. Silverstein & Ettleson (both gentlemen now in [Waco]), and left with the intention of visiting his home in Europe.  Mr. Nachemsohn was a clever gentleman, and a Mason and Odd Fellow in good standing.  Young Lamb, his companion from this place, has not been heard of since he left.”

This is an intriguing mystery and it seems like police had several leads to follow, but that newspaper article was the last mention of Nachemsohn’s murder.  Just like today, the news cycle continued and on May 27, the Fillmore shooting of James McClanahan and James Wooley by D. Charles Mims captured the attention of the Bossier Banner.  Nachemsohn’s unsolved murder was “old news” and Banner readers moved on to the next headlines.  No arrests were ever made and the matter remains a mystery to this day.

This unassuming wooden box tells the story of many men like Judah Nachemsohn.  Hundreds of Jewish peddlers worked throughout the South, traveling through small towns and bringing their goods to the rural population.  Peddlers generally traveled alone and carried cash, so stories of robberies and murders abound. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Photo of the Month - March

March's photo of the month is an image from the construction of Barksdale Field, taken on March 17, 1933. Teams of mules are grading the site of the future hospital.

The construction of Barksdale Field in the early 1930s was an exciting time for both Bossier City and Shreveport. Approximately 20,000 acres were purchased for the airfield. Jobs were scarce during the Great Depression, so Shreveport's mayor, J.G. Palmer, requested that contractors give preference to local labor. The Planters Press newspaper of April 30, 1931 notes that a "literal flood of money" flowed into local business channels and there were "hundreds of men employed at one thing or another on various projects related to the field".

The first nine troops arrived at Barksdale in August of 1932. Seven of the men came in planes piloted by Army Air officers, while two came in their own automobiles. In the party were seven privates and two non-commissioned officers.

February 2, 1933 saw the dedication of Barksdale Field. The City of Shreveport and the Town of Bossier City decorated their streets with "beautiful banners and flags in commemoration of the greatest event ever witnessed in this community."  The dedication ceremony began with a concert by The Standard Oil Refinery band and was followed by speeches. Then an aerial review was held with demonstrations by the attack and pursuit teams. Over 100 of the newest and most modern planes took part in flying maneuvers during the day, and the Barksdale acrobatic team performed stunts. Later that evening, a banquet was held at the Washington-Youree Hotel followed by a ball at the country club.

The Historical Center has more photos of Barksdale's construction and a small display will soon be up at our Aulds Library Branch.