Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Bellevue 1875

Louisiana legislature carved Bossier Parish out of Claiborne Parish on February 24, 1843, fixing its boundary roughly from Red River to Dorcheat Bayou. The first members of the Bossier Parish Police Jury were William Crowley (President), B. J. Williams, Joseph Graham, and Isaac Lay with James C. Scott serving as the clerk. Until the courthouse was built, the Police Jurors met in homes. The courthouse was to be built in a central location in the Parish, which was Freedonia, the Parish seat at that time. During the second meeting of the Bossier Parish Police Jury, held July 8, 1843, the jurors changed the name of Freedonia to Society Hill, and a month later the name was changed to Bellevue.

Upon the first official federal census of Bossier Parish in 1850, the population was 6,962. By 1870, the population of Bossier Parish was up to 12,675. Today the population of Bossier Parish is approximately 127,634, and we are considered one of the fastest growing areas in the state.

The State of Louisiana decided to perform a state census in 1875, due to some political party disagreements concerning the accuracy of the 1870 census results for Louisiana. As a result, the writer was inspired to write the following article, which appeared in The Bossier Banner on June 5, 1875. This article paints a picture of life in Bellevue during that time.

William Henry Scanland, Sr.
Editor and Proprietor of The Bossier Banner
Abney Dell Scanland Flynn collection: 1999.136.034
 “As the census is being taken, we are fearful that our CITY may not occupy the position it should in the statistics; for the reason that only men, women, and children appear therein—whereas it requires more than inhabitants to constitute a town or city. In addition to the population of Bellevue, it has sixty seven houses—not all dwellings—but among which are a Court house and jail, and where is the other town in the Parish that has more, or is ever likely to have the later? We have an Academy, with a Principaless eminently qualified to train the youthful mind. One store that can furnish anything called for, from a needle to an anchor, at cost prices, freight added—freight tolerable heavy sometimes! One Grocery, where you will be FRANKly told that too much will make drunk come. One Hotel, that asks no odds of the St. Charles, in the way of substantials. One Preacher, ready to tie the knot and see that the same is Recorded! Two Doctors, that will cure you of all the ills flesh is heir to--if they can—if they can’t, why, you go under. Four Lawyers, always waiting to be gracious—they are waiting yet. One printing office— the man who runs it is too modest to blow his own trumpet but “hangs out his Banner” every Thursday morning. We have three dogs—one black cur, one terrier and one “yaller dog.” We defy any town in the State to do as small a business in the dog line; but in bovines and cats we can beat the universe. On a fair count we have about 200 of the former including Mr. Rasberry’s oxen, judging by their tracks in the morning after a slight shower, 1400 more or less—and a small stear! Cats! We defy any man to take their census, unless he were to imbibe a quart of benzine; locate himself on the Court house roof of a moonlight night, and count the number of spits! Spits! And me-ows. To sum up, we have a very pleasant, quiet town, and birds that make sweeter music than anywhere else. There is one singing now, that would put Jenny Lind to the blush.”

Unfortunately, some people were, and still are, afraid to take part in the U.S. Census and refuse to answer the questions being asked by the census takers. The reason it is so important to participate in the U.S. Census is that the data collected by the census determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment), which was the cause of the political disagreement over the 1870 census results. The federal census is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. As a bonus, those of us that are tracing our family heritage, we can find our ancestors and know more about them, thanks to the information that is provided on the census.

To learn more about Bossier Parish history, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett St., Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

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