Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Gravestone of  Benjamin F. Ratcliff 1862-1868 and Frances E. Ratcliff 1855-1862.
Bossier Parish Library History Center Collection 1998.027.004

The following article appeared in the May 3, 1951 issue of The Plain Dealing Progress.

“Since 1862, white iris reverently raised their heads over the long forgotten graves of Frances E. Ratcliff, born 1855, died 1862, and Benjamin F. Ratcliff, born 1862 and died 1868. But on this happy May Day, 1951, the secluded spot just three miles west of Plain Dealing and only a few paces off the now celebrated Plain Dealing Dogwood Drive, has assumed new significance. No longer will the broken marble slab placed there by loving parents, whose names we know not, desertedly lean against the towering oak that in years past burgeoned forth from the center of those forgotten graves. On this day, May 1, 1951, through the thoughtfulness of the Plain Dealing Home Demonstration Club, this spot is to be a shrine, sacred to the memory of Bossier’s early youth.”

“These two children, unknown to each other, doubtless in some way the tragic victims of those terrible Civil War and Reconstruction days, unquestionably were scions of one of Bossier’s early sturdy families. Meager reports have it that the Ratcliff, who lived somewhere near the present Gilmer Park overlooking the formerly famous Phelps Lake, migrated to Texas.”

“Digressing, Phelps Lake, shorn of its former glorious splendor, is now only the locale of a few hundred pasture acres, small cotton acreage, and mainly a vast expanse of willow brakes. With a possible half million tourists yearly driving along the bordering heights at the tip of the Ozark Spur, overlooking the former sportsman’s paradise, the thought of restoration [of Phelps Lake] inadvertently grips our attention. But back to our subject. The Ratcliffs definitely lived near Phelps Lake and enjoyed its wonderful beauty.”

“It is a most worthy project that this constructive organization has championed and already a real transformation in taking place. Additional and remarkably beautiful genii of iris were planted along the bordering road today, and the shrine is hereafter to be known as the Ratcliff Iris Garden, according to Miss Van Landingham, parish demonstration agent and prime motivator of the appealing project. The local club will see that the iris still grow about the graves of Benjamin and Frances, six and seven-year-old brother and sister of pioneer Bossier days.”

To see the headstone associated with these graves visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center.

By: Ann Middleton

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