Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Free State of Bossier

In the year 1900, Abney Downs Scanland, the son of William Henry Scanland, editor and proprietor of The Bossier Banner, set out to create a new newspaper for Bossier Parish. It was first announced in The Bossier Banner on Aug. 2, 1900, when Abney Scanland revealed his plans for the publication, and that the name he chose was The Free State of Bossier, stating, "this is the way some one, long since has nicknamed the great parish in which we live."

It appears that this nickname dates back to before the Civil War. According to Bossier Parish's official historian, Clifton D. Cardin, a group of citizens convened in Rocky Mount at the Hughes' home months before the civil war broke out, and "On November 26, 1860, Bossier voted to secede from the union and proclaimed itself the Free State of Bossier." Yes, this is the Hughes house that was relocated and restored by the Bossier Restoration Foundation and now is a part of Heritage Village in Benton.

In his announcement, Scanland asserted, "My final aim is to make of the Free State an interesting annual journal of a locally historical and advertising nature, through which the people of the parish may be brought closer in touch and have a medium that will be like unto a big scrap-book for the whole parish – in which we can publish biographies of our best citizens, write up our parish, towns, schools, churches, public and private industries and enterprises of any and all kinds whatsoever; in which we can publish minor affairs, little local anecdotes and all the 'funny stories.'"

The Free State of Bossier made its debut on Sep. 27, 1900, and it was everything Scanland intended it to be. The Shreveport Journal's editorial notice, published Oct. 3, 1900, remarked that "The annual deserves particular praise for its valuable historical, industrial and biographical features, as well as for its pictorial and typographical appearance." Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to this writer, Scanland did not continue publishing this annual newspaper, making this issue a real treasure today.

Archived newspapers are precious time capsules of history, and this first and only edition of The Free State of Bossier is a cherished relic for historians and genealogists alike. But you don't have to be a researcher to enjoy the contents of this paper, and it is available on microfilm at the Bossier Parish Library's History Center.

The History Center's curator, Randall Palmer, is excited to announce that he is working with and The Bossier Press-Tribune to digitize the newspapers on microfilm in our archives. The Free State of Bossier will be included in this digitization project, which consists of 190 rolls of microfilm. Digitized versions will be available for patron use upon completion.

While the BPL History Center is closed during the pandemic, our staff members are still available to answer any research questions you may have. What do you want to know about Bossier Parish History? Email or call us at 318-746-7717.Be sure to follow our Facebook page, @BPLHistoryCenter, for more Bossier Parish history, including lots of great pictures of its past.

By: Amy Robertson

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