Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Bossier Parish to Celebrate Birthday

As the 175th birthday of Bossier Parish approaches in 2018, the Bossier Banner-Progress reported on the history of the parish and how the 110th birthday would be celebrated.

“The one hundred and tenth anniversary of the founding of Bossier Parish will be observed at Benton next Tuesday, February 24. Two ceremonies marking the event will be held. The Benton Lions Club will have a special talk on the history of the parish given by Rupert Peyton, associate editor of the Banner-Progress, at the Court House CafĂ© at noon.”

“At 2:30 p. m. a ceremony will be held at the Benton High School auditorium to which the general public, civic and patriotic groups and the North Louisiana Historical Association will be especially invited.”

“Mrs. Mamie Edwards McKnight of Benton has been named chairman of the program at the school auditorium which will also be highlighted by a review of the history of the parish by Peyton.”

“Special invitations are extended to former residents of Bossier to attend the ceremony. The use of the auditorium was extended by S. Hudson Johnston, principal of the school.”

“Bossier Parish was created by Act 33 of 1843 of the Louisiana Legislature and was named for Gen. Pierre Baptiste Bossier, then Congressman for this district. When Louisiana was admitted to statehood Bossier was a part of Natchitoches Parish. In 1828 it became part of Claiborne and in 1843 it was carved out of Claiborne and its eastern boundary extended to Dorcheat Bayou. In 1873 Webster Parish was created out of portions of Bossier, Claiborne and Bienville Parishes and its eastern boundary was moved to Bodcau.”

“The first parish seat was Bellevue and it was moved to Benton in 1888.”

You can learn a lot more about Bossier Parish history at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. The Historical Center will also be planning and coordinating programs for the 2018 175th birthday of Bossier Parish so watch for announcements of the activities and plan to attend.

By: Ann Middleton

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Elizabeth Parthenia Matlock (left) Martin Hlnes Matlock (right)
In a column that appeared regularly in the Bossier Banner-Progress during the 1970s Elizabeth Matlock Wise shared her memories of growing up in Bossier Parish.

In the January 1, 1976 issue of the paper, she wrote “My sisters have warned me not to air the family skeletons supposedly locked in the closets. I am not aware of any that would startle anyone. I’ll admit that I have been told my great grandfather Matlock owned a home in Montgomery, Alabama and that he killed a man and left in the night time, left valuable property behind and carried only his family. As I don’t even remember him, he probably died before I was born. It is possible, anyone only had to cross from one state to another and the law could not bother them at that time.”

“There [have] been more changes in the world, the way people live and rear children, in this 19th Century; it seems like a different country from what I was born and reared in. I was taught to respect and obey my parents, and certainly to work. Most children of today, their parents obey them, and it’s an insult to ask them to do anything pertaining to manual labor.”

“My parents have been gone for many, many years, but I love and honor their memory. I am glad they were my parents, though they left no marble statues and their names are not inscribed in any halls of fame. [I have] hope my children can say the same of me after my passing.”

“What is wrong with our country or Government? We read in history how Abe Lincoln, our 16th President, was so poor he worked arithmetic problems with charcoal on the back of a shovel and would walk miles for a book to read. Why does it take thousands of dollars for anyone to run for office now? A poor man could not possible be president now. Why does the government tell us what we can plant and what we can’t?”

“Still they say this United States of ours is the best country in the world, that we have more freedom here, but it seems to me we are losing our freedoms very fast and if the Federal Government doesn’t stop going in debt, we will soon lose the country itself.”

“I remember when 25 pounds of corn meal cost 25 cents. I paid $1.15 for 5 pounds last week. I also remember when we shelled our corn and carried it to a grist mill and had our own meal ground [by] Mr. Sam Goodwin, who lived at Red Land and had the last grist mill I know about.”

“I remember when it was a treat for my family to Plain Dealing and latter to Springhill and see a picture show every week or so, and how much we appreciated our first television set.”

“I also remember when we could send a letter anywhere in the United States for 2 cents.”

 “I remember my daddy’s old Model T Ford car in which we first began to make trips to Shreveport. It was cranked by hand and it kicked like a mule sometimes, and had to be continuously supplied with water. That must have been about 1915.”

“The world is full of turmoil now, with rotten politics, air pollution, inflation, high prices, etc.”

“But we have always had problems. I remember when my husband sold cotton for 3 cents per pound and could hardly find anyone to buy it at that price back in the depression years.”

“We are beginning a new year and regardless of all the problems, let’s hope for a year of health and happiness for everyone.”

Born in 1899, Elizabeth Matlock Wise died in 1981, probably not realizing that more than 4 decades later, many of the same problems would still plague the United States. To find out more, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

By: Ann Middleton

This Day in Bossier Parish History

By: Laurie Dyche

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


The November 11, 1948 issue of The Bossier Banner proclaimed the 91st birthday of M. Levy
Company with a brief history of the popular store.

“M. Levy Company, leading Shreveport clothing store located at Texas and Edwards Streets,
today is observing the 91st anniversary of its founding.”

“The store, begun in 1857 by Morris Levy, is now owned jointly by Marx Levy and Nathan
Bernstein. Slogan of the store is ‘Shreveport’s traditional headquarters for fine wearing apparel
since 1857.”

“Ninety-one years ago when the store was established, Shreveport was a thriving river town of
about 2,000 persons. Among the travelers, traders, and planters attracted to the bustling
settlement was Morris Levy, who came from Marshall, Texas, where he had been in the clothing

“Destined to be one of the leading figures in the building of the city, Levy immediately opened a
general merchandise store in the 200 block of Texas Street.”

“The store rapidly became one of the most popular gathering places in North Louisiana. When
planters, hunters and traders came in from their plantations flung along the rich banks of Red
River and when captains docked their boats here, they all met at Levy’s store.”

“During the lean years of the Civil War, Levy’s store remained open. But in 1865 when the
carpetbaggers invaded the South, Levy moved to New York to give his children the benefit of an
eastern education. In 1869 he returned to Shreveport and opened a new store in the 200 block of
Milam Street. Levy, who had given generously to the cause of the South during the war, devoted
his energy and resources to helping rebuild the land as well as his store.”

“When Levy died in 1898, his sons continued to operate the store.”

“In 1903 the store was moved to 303-305 Texas Street. There it remained until 1916 when it
was moved to its present location in the Levy building at Texas and Edwards streets.”

“In 1920 the Levy brothers retired and the store became the property of Marx Levy and Nathan

“Both Marx Levy and Nathan Bernstein have lived in Shreveport all their lives, and both began
their careers in the store while they were in their teens.”

“Since that time the business has grown rapidly. The present store has a floor space of 10,000
square feet. Forty-five employees are kept busy in the store serving the public.”

“From all section of the Ark-La-Tex persons come to the store of M. Levy to buy wearing
apparel for all members of the family. Many of them are from families that have traded there for

“The 91st anniversary of the store is being observed by the executives of the company with pride
in the realization that the traditions and service of the founder of the store are being upheld

The final listing for M. Levy Company was in the 1978 Polk’s City Directory.

To learn more about the history of local businesses visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical

By: Ann Middleton

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Plain Dealing racetrack and grandstand, Circa 1910's. Beulah Findley collection, 1997.054.045 

When death claimed Robert Leonard McLeish the Bossier Banner- Progress recalled how he became a famous jockey in its December, 1955 issue.

“When Robert Leonard McLeish answered the call to his last ‘roundup’ on last Monday morning at his Collinsburg home, there passed from the scene of action one of Northwest Louisiana’s most famous jockeys, a daring horseman who won his first spurs when a lad of 12 at the colorful lists or tournaments, held around Plain Dealing in the mid-nineties.”

“While there is no definite evidence at hand to establish the fact, it is probable that at old Collinsburg, Red Land and Plain Dealing, the last days of ‘Knighthood in Flower’ were ushered into final oblivion. Old copies of The Bossier Banner give accounts of some of these tournaments when Mrs. W.E. Swindle, formerly Miss Davis, a relatively near cousin of Jefferson Davis, and daughter of Dr. Davis, Plain Dealing’s first physician, and Mrs. W.F. Bell, formerly Miss Maude Moses of Oxford, Miss., were crowned queens of the royal courts by some gallant knight of that day who, wearing the favor of the ‘fairest’, proved the conquering hero at the lists. At these lists prominently mentioned were Dr. W.F. Bell, Bobbie Doles, N.W. Sintel and Jim Walker, the latter, chairman at various times. Yes, Mrs. Mollie Banks Gray was one of the belles of those famous games.”

“Since our friend, Ardis Manry, is particularly interested in local lore and historic data, it is here suggested that he check on the significance of these games, not of personal combat, but centered about equestrian skill.”

“Reverting to our jockey hero, his role was that of dare devil riding and totally abandoned racing. He, from time to time, would recall the days when riding old ‘Salem’, ‘Lost John’, ‘Superintendent’ and other equally famous mounts, he won innumerable races, first at the lists, later at the parish and state fairs. His last victory was in the mid-thirties when riding ‘Lost John’ he was winner in one of the last parish fairs held in Plain Dealing. He was then over fifty. A winner over a period of forty years is certainly a record seldom, if ever, equaled.”

“Yes, while at the lists or fairs, Leonard McLeish may not have worn ‘my lady’s favor’, nonetheless he thrilled the hearts of thousands of true horsemanship and now, shall we say, figuratively, he has gone to his reunion with ‘Old Salem,’ ‘Lost John’ and ‘Superintendent’.”

“Leonard’s average weight thru life was about 110 pounds.” Robert Leonard McLeish, 69, a Collinsburg community farmer, died Monday, November 28, 1955, at his home.

To find out more and to read Mr. Dale Jennings’ article about the knighthood tournaments in Cottage Grove in the 1880s and 1890s pay a visit to the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

By: Ann Middleton, Director

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Health Train Comes to Bossier

The Health Train toured LA in 1910 (1911 in Bossier) in a two-car train with health exhibits and 10 health inspectors. The inspectors would inspect public buildings and all food production establishments, and then bluntly tell the townspeople the results. The Health Exhibit also showed films on sanitation and health.
See: Rudolph Matas'  History of Medicine in Louisiana, Vol II  pp 483-485 for more information.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Invention of Basketball

In December of 1891 James Naismith, a Canadian-American Physical education   teacher, invented the game of basketball. He invented the game in order to provide an indoor sport to help athletes keep in shape during the cold winter months. By 1904 the game had become so popular that it served as a demonstration sport at the Summer Olympics. Becoming an official sport at the Summer Olympics in 1936.

Princeton High School; Walter H. Martin Collection; 2004.003.016.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

VOA Toiletries Drive for Local Veterans

We are running a VOA toiletries drive for veterans served through the Veterans Program at Volunteers of America, North Louisiana. Please drop off your donations here at the History Center or at the Main Branch of the Bossier Parish Library. The donation boxes will be out all this week (Nov. 11-18).

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thursday, October 19, 2017

When you drive through Elm Grove and see the old church bell tower and wonder what the church looked like, here it is.
Taylortown Methodist Church 1898

Friday, September 29, 2017

Today is #NationalVFWDay! The VFW was started on this day in 1899 by a group of veterans from the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection to secure rights and benefits for their service. #NoOneDoesMoreForVeterans. This picture is of the 1974, VFW 75th anniversary U.S. postage stamp. Search our Pastperfect database for this and other unique U.S. postage stamps here:

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"Generations of Struggle"

Join us for a reading and discussion series, “Generations of Struggle.” Where we will present three critically acclaimed works, one film and two books, that provide a continuum from the aftermath of slavery to contemporary society, posing questions about our institutions, the changes in race relations, and the enduring challenges to equality for all citizens. The series will be facilitated by V. Elaine Thompson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History at Louisiana Tech University. Appropriate for high-schoolers and adults.

Works discussed:
Slavery by Another Name, film
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Every Thursday Starting Sept 7th through Sept 28th, from 6:30 P.M. until 7:30 P.M.

To register call the Historical Center at 318-746-7717 
Free Admission -- you must register to save a seat!

"Generations of Struggle" is presented by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#NationalSpiritof45Day is celebrated each year on the second Sunday in August to honor the WWII generation and the legacy of their can-do attitude to educate and inspire future generations of Americans. From our PastPerfect Collections Database we have a copy of a photograph of Mrs. Bonvillion's fifth grade class in 1944. The class is from Bossier Grammar School. They are standing behind a small banner that proclaims "We brought the GREASE to write the PEACE." The students brought waste fats and tin cans that were needed to make munitions for the armed services. The donor (then Mary Frances Morgan) is pictured on the front row.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Huey Long Political Rally in Plain Dealing.  Notice slogans on sides of trucks - "We said free school books for children and they all got them."   Held between S. Cotton Belt St. & railroad track.

In its July 1976 issue The Bossier Press reprinted articles from early issues of The Planters” Press.

The article “How About Free Books?” in the September 8, 1928 issue of The Planters’ Press conveys the mixed opinions of Bossier and Caddo residents about the constitutionality of free text books.

“Will Bossier school children have free textbooks when school opens Monday morning, September 17th, or will they be forced to buy their own books despite a free text book law passed by the state legislature?”

“That is the question that is bothering Bossier parents now that the Bossier [P]arish [S]chool [B]oard has filed suit against the free text book law.  The free school book law has been passed by the legislature and efforts by individuals to have it proven unconstitutional have failed in the court.  The Caddo and Bossier [P]arish [S]chool [Boards] have filed injunction suits to attempt to prove the law unconstitutional.  They are of the opinion that an individual has no right to file procedings [sic] but that the school board has.”

“It is stated that although there is not enough money to supply new books to all school children an allowance of $1.00 is being made by the [S]tate [B]oard of [E]ducation to supply each child with books.  The Caddo Parish School Board officials declared that an average of $3.00 per pupil is necessary for books.  That board in special session Wednesday refused to accept the free books for Caddo school children and in addition filed an injunction suti [sic].”

“The Bossier School Board suit attacking the validity of the validity of the free text book law has been filed in Baton Rouge District Court in the name of Walter Connell, president of the Bossier Parish School Board, and M. V. Kerr, school superintendent for Bossier.  In the meantime it is reported that petitions are being circulated in Bossier Parish by the school patrons asking that the suit be withdrawn.”

“It is stated that the Bossier Parish School Board has already ordered the free text books and that they are ready for distribution.  Schools in Bossier will open Monday morning, September 17th, according to the schedule, and Bossier school patrons are anxious to obtain the free books at that time.”

“It is reported that the majority of the Bossier school patrons are desirous of obtaining the free text books.”

“In the petition filed by the school board, the $750,000 a year appropriation is attacked.  The suit asks that the State Board of Education show cause why it should not be restrained from distributing the free text books.  The petition alleges that under the Constitution public schools’ funds must be distributed to each parish solely for the use of supporting the free public schools.”

“The petition further alleges that the appropriation is unconstitutional as it is for the purposes other than those provided by the Constitution for the general appropriation bill which does not include school book appropriations; that the Constitution prohibits appropriations for private charitable or benevolent purposes, that it also prohibits loaning, pledging or granting funds to any person or persons; and that it limits the state educational system to the free public schools.”

“Virtually the same allegations of constitutional violations are made in the petitions as respects the act setting aside part of the severance tax fund for buying free books.”

“It was learned here Tuesday from John M. Foote, of the State Department of Education, that requisitions for free books for 50 of the 64 parishes have been approved and the books ordered shipped from the state school depository.’

The real objection to the free books was that Bossier and Caddo Parishes did not want to accept “charity” from the state.  Ultimately, until Caddo Parish children were allowed the free books, Huey Long refused to authorize the location of Barksdale Air Force in Shreveport (at that time).

More interesting historical facts about Bossier Parish are available at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

Written by: Ann Middleton, Director

Saturday, July 29, 2017


The September 8, 1938 issue of The Bossier Banner boasted of the readiness of Bossier Parish high schools to open on September 12, 1938.  At the opening Bossier Parish would employ 108 instructors for its six high schools.

“Everything is in readiness for the opening of all six Bossier Parish high schools next Monday morning, September 12th.  Every school is expecting some increase in enrollment.”

“Superintendent of Schools R.V. Kerr said this morning that the pre-school institute for teachers will be held Saturday morning at Benton High School, and that all instructors for the1938-1939 session are expected to attend.”

Books and supplies for each school have been turned over to the respective principals ad will be ready for distribution Monday morning.  Lesson assignments will be made that morning and regular class work should begin next Tuesday.”

“This year he schools will be served by some 40 vans.  Of this number, ten are of the new all-steel type, lately adopted as standard equipment by state school authorities.  It is planned to replace all old wood-type bodies with steel ones as they wear out.  Within the next five or six years all of the old vans will be retired, it is estimated.”

“For the information of readers who missed the story last week, a complete list of the 108 teachers for the parish is listed elsewhere in this issue.”

In the previous issue of The Bossier Banner (September 1, 1938) the editorial column cautioned Bossier citizens not to rush into more bonded debts.  The column pointed out that Bossier had never voted against a school or road improvement tax.  It went on to say that bonds were readily bought for roads, bridges, good public buildings and a very good school system but stretching too far would endanger the secure standing of the parish.  The editorial concluded that “these words are not directed against the recent school bond elections which will enable us to avail ourselves of PWA [Public Works Administration] grants.”  Next week’s issue reported that “Five school projects in Bossier Parish have been awarded PWA grants totaling $355,901.”  The projects included “a high school plant in Bossier City and repairs to two existing buildings, a high school plant in Plain Dealing and repairs to two old buildings, a gymnasium-cafeteria for Benton High School, a gymnasium for Rocky Mount and construction of some 20 to 25 Negro schools, representing a total outlay in excess of $700,000.”  Bonds, of course, would need to be sold for these projects and the paper supported the sale of such bonds.

The history of Bossier Parish education is long and very interesting.  Visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center to discover more, as well as to see pictures of early schools here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The July 11, 1918 issue of The Bossier Banner defined rationing rules to be followed a little over a year after the United States entered World War I.
“New rules were recently adopted in New Orleans by the State Food Administrator to further conserve sugar and meat.  The open sugar bowl will no longer be seen on public tables and the coffee drinker is limited to one spoon for each cup.  The order reads as follows:”
“The great general rule for catering resorts which includes boarding houses and commissaries is the abolition of the open sugar bowl.  The resolutions were adopted at a meeting of hotel and restaurant men in New Orleans.  John M. Parker, Food Administrator, declares that the rules will be strictly enforced, even if he has to take command of the inspectors in the field.”
“The sugar plan for eating places is the same as for families, the allowance being based upon three pounds per person per month.  One teaspoonful is allowed for a small cup, two for a large cup, and three for a pot of coffee or tea.  Two teaspoonfuls is the measure for cereal or fruit orders.  A lump of sugar is counted as equivalent to a teaspoon.  Cane and beet sugar are barred from bakery and kitchen.  Meat saving is to be accomplished by using only eight or nine pounds for each ninety meals served.  Roast meat is limited to Monday’s mid-day meal.  Stewed, boiled or beef hash to Wednesday’s and Saturday’s mid-day meals, and steaks in any form, including hamburger, to Thursday’s mid-day meal.  Byproducts such as tongues, livers, etc., may be used as substitutes.  Further substitutes are fish, crabs, shrimp, sea foods of all kinds, rabbits and wild game.  There will be plenty to eat there will be a reserve built up for the soldiers.  The latter duty leaves this country with only a three-days’ supply ahead, and conservation is wisdom.”
“The United States Food Administration has already tied up the coming Louisiana crop of sugar by ordering that no deals ahead be made without permits.  The Sugar Control Committee is still confident that Louisiana will receive about a cent per pound more for her crop than last year.”
“The United States Food Administration has issued similar orders with regard to the sale of clean rice, and it is evidently the intent to first take the full supply needed by the Government before the product is made available to the public.  Rice has been greatly popularized as a food through the broad advertising given by the Government, and the price has virtually been fixed with all branches of rice production and selling.”

War times were not the only hard times over which Bossier Parish residents have had to overcome.  Learn more at the Bossier Paris Library Historical Center.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Shreveport Times’ May 16, 1941 carried the following story about an accidental bombing in Bossier Parish.
“The mystery of the big holes in a cow pasture between Koran and Lake Bistineau in Bossier Parish which flabbergasted at least five Negroes, was cleared today when it was revealed that it was just a case of a Barksdale student bombardier hitting the jackpot by pulling a lever which sent all of his practice bombs down at once instead of one at a time—and sent them down at the wrong time.”
“Henry Allen, Negro whose cow pasture was hit, thought the Nazis had arrived when he heard a whizzing noise late Monday and then found 10 holes in the sandy soil.  He told his wife and the two of them told Carrie Jefferson, Negro neighbor.  All inspected the ‘craters’ in the pasture and then told Willie Miles.  Next Willie Woodson was informed and all five Negroes were in a state of mystification until Barksdale officials came out yesterday.  The appearance of the fliers, in full uniform, duly impressed the Negroes and the assurance that no ‘attack’ had taken place was accepted.”
“The Barksdale student bombardier was mystified, too.  He had started out on the first flight on which he was entirely ‘on his own’ so far as bomb dropping was concerned.  A pilot and co-pilot handled the plane as he got ready for 11 trips over the target, on the Barksdale range, intending to drop one practice bomb at a time.”
“The plane swung out over Allen’s cow pasture to come back across the target, and something happened.  The bombardier had a mess of levers in front of him.  One lever would drop one bomb; another would drop others, et cetera.  The student in some way hit the jackpot by accidentally touching the lever releasing 11 at one time, long before reaching the target.  Two hit in one spot, explaining 10 craters from 11 bombs.”
“An official investigation is underway at Barksdale.  It is believed the bombardier may have caught a parachute strap in the bomb lever.”
“Anyhow, the bombs are harmless, being metal shells loaded with sand and one pound of black powder to make a smoke puff by which accuracy of the aiming can be determined.  They throw no fragments and the craters they make re merely from the weight of their own sand.”
“They might do damage by hitting someone in the head, but planes are not allowed to fly over Shreveport or any towns with the bomb bays open, so there normally is no danger.”
“With full explanation made to [those involved], all is quiet in the Koran and Lake Bistineau sectors tonight.”
Old newspapers can solve many mysteries.  Come to the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center to get answers to your own history questions.