Wednesday, August 28, 2019

L&A Railroad Establishes Princeton

Mrs. Perry at the Central Point South Princeton train sign in Princeton, La, 1996.
Kenneth R. Perry collection: 1998.048.003.
In the early history of Bossier Parish, the steamboats and later the railroads influenced the movement of the populace. Communities like Fillmore and Bellevue suffered because they were not selected as depots when the railroads came in 1884 (VS&P) and 1888 (Cotton Belt), respectively. Likewise, Haughton, Benton, and Plain Dealing grew because they did become depots during that time. In 1909 the L&A Railroad was built establishing Princeton as a depot. The first train passed through on November 2, 1909.

We can’t be confident as to how Princeton got its name because there are at least two different accounts. Both accounts agree that the community was named for early settler Joseph Wilson Prince, Sr. It has been written that Princeton was named when it was established as a train depot. One account is that Joseph’s wife Dollie McDade Prince was given the honor of naming the community for the sake of the train depot. Her first choice was Princeville. Since this name was already in use at another train depot, she decided on Princeton and was quoted as saying, “Princeton is a pretty name.” However, Joseph Wilson Prince, Sr.’s great-granddaughter, Dorothy Watson Glover, believes that Ella Cooper Watson named the community after her beloved deceased stepfather, Joseph Wilson Prince, Sr. (1833-1902).

The railroad caused the little community of Princeton to change from being just a quiet farming community to a bustling railroad depot community. On March 24, 1910, it was announced in The Bossier Banner that Mr. Burge of Minden was erecting a store.

In an article found in The Bossier Banner on August 11, 1910, the writer describes Princeton as having “a store, a freight room, and several residences,” but not a post office. The writer notes, “things bear the appearances of being exceptionally busy during weekdays for a little flag station.” He also writes that Mr. F. E. Burrage served as the ticket and freight agent for the L&A while running his store and raising chickens. Bellevue sawmill was one of Burrage’s freight customers shipping thousands of feet of lumber, such as pine cross ties and piles. “A number of the piles, sixty feet in length and skinned from end to end ... were consigned to the creosoting plant in Bossier City and will later be shipped to West Texas, where they will be used in the construction of a new railroad.” The writer finishes by opining that, “Princeton is admirably located to become a trading and shipping point of local importance and no doubt it will develop into such within the next year or so.”

By September of that same year, the first Post Office was opened at Princeton with Allie J. Burrage as postmaster. On January 31, 1919, the post office was discontinued in Princeton with all mail being sent to Haughton, but it was re-established on October 30, 1922, with Clara M. Crawford as acting postmaster.

Over the next few years, Princeton continued to grow. By 1914 it had a sawmill that was producing about “20,000 feet of lumber daily.” Their railroad depot went from being a “little shack” to “a large and commodious depot.” An express office was planned along with the promise of telegraph and telephone facilities. A new school building was constructed and filled with new desks and equipment. “Land in and around Princeton was beginning to be hard to find.” And apparently so were wives according to an article by an unknown writer in The Bossier Banner on March 5, 1914, “Princeton can boast of a high, salubrious, free-from-malaria atmosphere, of an intelligent, broad-minded and progressive community, and six or seven of the handsomest, most industrious and good all-around young bachelors that can be found anywhere. If you girl readers doubt this last statement come and see for yourselves.”

By the beginning of 1915, the cross arms and insulators arrived for the telephone lines which were run by Cumberland Telephone Company in April. Finally, the telephone box was installed in May, making it possible for the Princeton community to communicate with the outside world via telephone.

To learn more about Princeton or Bossier Parish history, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street in Bossier City.

Note: The History Center's collection database could use more historical photographs etc. of Princeton, La. If you have any you would like to donate; please contact the History Center today (318.746.7717). If you do not wish to part with your photographs, but would like to share them, we are happy to scan them to add to our collection.

By: Amy Robertson

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