Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Early History of Fillmore

Dove A. Horton, Sr. with his family in front of their Fillmore home, formerly Connell's Inn, C. 1903.
Thelma Horton Porter Collection: 2003.011.008e
Around 1835 settlers came to the beautiful hill lands of what is now known as Fillmore. Fillmore is believed, by many North Louisiana historians, to be the oldest European settlement in Bossier Parish. “At one time, Fillmore was the most important town in Bossier Parish.”   

Fillmore was originally called Connell’s Crossroads named after its founder Thomas Dixon Connell. “Crossroads mercantile establishments in the 1800s were the centers for information, the post office and the source of innumerable personal, household and farm items.” “Fillmore probably exemplified the idea of “Bossier’s Crossroads” more than any other local community.”  

In May of 1852, Connell’s Crossroads was renamed Fillmore after the 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore. Fillmore is located eight miles south of Bellevue on the “Old Wire Road.” The “Old Wire Road” was the first road across north Louisiana wilderness. It began as a Native American trail. As settlers moved in, it became a stagecoach road making the passage from Monroe to Shreveport a bit easier. It also served as a Pioneer route to Texas. After 1847 it became known as the Wire Road because of the parallel telegraph lines that ran along with it. A commercial stagecoach operated along this road with stagecoach changes made at the Connell Inn, which was built around 1848. For $12, a person could ride the stagecoach 120 miles from Monroe to Fillmore.  

Before the Civil War, Fillmore enjoyed great prosperity with the community being distinguished for its wealth and cultural background. Surnames of early settlers include the McDades, Connells, Platts, Forts, Hickmans, Hillmans, MurffsSandidges, Reeds, BeauchampsMcClanahans, Hamiltons, and many others. Many of these early settlers are buried in the Fillmore Cemetery, which sits on land that was donated by Thomas Dixon Connell. Thomas Dixon Connell and William Purvis Haughton were the first two people to be buried there.  

In 1847, one of the first Methodist churches in Bossier Parish was built in Fillmore on land sold from Thomas Dixon Connell for $1. In the fall of 1871 when Marion Britt relocated his family to Fillmore, he recorded the village as having “three churches (Methodist, Baptist, and Christian), a Masonic Lodge, Griswold’s Academy, several large mercantile establishments, a large horse barn (that also housed the stagecoach), and considerable population.”  

On June 20, 1850, Connell’s Crossing received its first post office with Thomas A. Snider as Postmaster. The post office was discontinued on June 26, 1867, but it was re-established December 12, 1870. Then, on January 10, 1881, the post office was discontinued again, and to this day, there is still no post office in Fillmore.  

One of the oldest schools in North Louisiana was the Bossier Academy at Fillmore. The earliest evidence of this school can be seen in an advertisement looking for a qualified teacher for Bossier Academy in Fillmore that ran in the South-Western on July 25, 1855. After the Civil War, Lyman Griswold came to teach at Fillmore Academy and Normal School. He not only provided a sound education for the children, but he was also credited with turning out qualified teachers.  

When the Civil War broke out between the north and the south, the abled body men of Fillmore enlisted in Louisiana’s 19th Infantry Regiment, the Robins Greys. Captain Loudon Butler was commanding officer of the Robins Greys and he led them away from their Fillmore homes to Camp Moore on Monday, September 23, 1861. They “went away to fight for a cause they believed to be right. They marched gaily away to the strains of martial music, some never again to see the red hills of their ancestral homes.”  

In 1884 the VS&P Railroad came to Bossier Parish passing through Haughton. In 1885 Fillmore residents began to leave their homes for Haughton. Dr. Luther Longino wrote, “The glamour of moving trains and a railroad center, coupled with bad roads between these two points, forced upon the denizens of Fillmore the inevitable result: the village’s decline and fall. The crash was made complete, when at a later date the L&A Railroad (April 2, 1909) pushed through to Shreveport on the north of Fillmore, Establishing Princeton, and still farther, dividing what business Haughton did not take. Fillmore read these inexorable laws of business, and in a frantic effort to hold the community together went into the dairying business, which was carried on for several years...”  

To learn more about Fillmore or any of Bossier Parish’s communities, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City. 

By: Amy Robertson

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