Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Bayou Bodcau’s History


Bayou Bodcau’s History

The Times: 09 Jan 1949
Bayou Bodcau begins in Southern Arkansas and drains the district lying south of Hot Springs. It flows south into Bossier Parish’s Red Chute Bayou and Loggy Bayou, then eventually to the Red River. The area was home to the Caddo Indians who used the bayou as a water source and for transportation.

Ezekiel Calhoun Long purchased property on both sides of the bayou in 1839 to operate a ferry. Long built a cabin on the land and since there was not yet a Bossier Parish Courthouse, the Police Jury met at his home for their July 1843 meeting. Newsome Durden and his family moved to Bossier Parish from Georgia around 1851. Durden purchased the Long ferry and cabin, which eventually burned down. It was rebuilt in 1925 by Newsome’s grandson, Ben Durden, and still standing today.

Benjamin Fort wrote in an 1881 Bossier Banner column that Bayou Bodcau should be studied regarding navigation and drainage. He examined the Bayou at a dozen different points and was convinced that making the channel more navigable from Loggy Bayou to Bellevue would not cost more than five hundred dollars. Fort said that the work required was to “chop out and blow out” any cypress stumps in the channel at very low water and clear away overhanging trees. If this work were to be done annually, the channel would deepen and have a greater drainage power. Once this occurred, Fort envisioned a permanent saw mill business on the bayou.

Although an act of the legislature passed to permit navigation as far as the Arkansas line, the area above Durden’s ferry was never cleared. Other reliable means of transportation came into the picture. The Shed Road that ran from Red Chute to Bossier City, allowed for all-weather travel and put an end to muddy wagon trips. The combination of new railroads and the 1890 relocation of the Bossier Parish Courthouse from Bellevue to Benton led the Durden’s ferry to cease operation.

Record floods washed over the region in 1905, 1930, and 1933, when fifty to sixty thousand acres below the proposed dam site were covered with water. Damage in each of these floods totaled over a million dollars. Many lesser floods hit the same bottomlands, wrecking the highly cultivated and valuable lands. In May of 1944, high flood waters left levees crumpled near Buckhall, Brownlee, and the Beene plantations. A solution to these frequent floods was urgently needed.

The US Army Corps of Engineers brainstormed for a coordinated Red River Valley flood control program. Local government agencies backed these federal efforts to reduce flooding. The first step to address regional flood control was the construction of Denison or Lake Texoma Dam, next was the Wallace Lake Dam below Shreveport. The third step would be the Bodcau Dam, followed by the Texarkana Dam and Reservoir, now known as Wright Patman Lake to honor a longtime East Texas congressman.

In 1945, the Bossier Parish Levee Board and the Red River Valley Improvement Association unanimously approved the federally-financed flood control project at Bayou Bodcau. The initial project was estimated to cost nearly three million dollars. Senator John Overton and Representative Overton Brooks offered their full support for the project. The dam would regulate water, releasing it gradually into Red Chute and Loggy Bayous. During flood periods, a forty-mile-long pool would fill to protect over 72 thousand fertile acres below in the Red River bottoms. It would also help shield Barksdale Field from floodwater, as well as the highways and railroads entering Bossier Parish from the east. The ground-breaking ceremony for the dam was held on 9 April 1947 with Volney Voss Whittington, president of the Bossier Levee Board, serving as master of ceremonies. Construction began in May of 1947.

The Federal government bought out the lands for the reservoir area. Ben Durden, whose cabin was mentioned earlier, did not want to move from his five acres of land and flat out refused. Construction of the dam was already underway. The US government chose to purchase his property and gave Durden a free lease while the home was in the family. The small Durden cemetery was included in this agreement. Carrie Cunningham was the last of the Durden family to hold the property. She signed the five acres back to the government circa 1996. The Corps of Engineers renovated the building for use in environmental education, and this reuse allows the historically significant home to be accessible to the public.

The Shreveport Times featured an article in January of 1949 titled, “Big Bossier Dam Rising From Earth!!” and included photographs of the construction progress. Costs had ballooned to five million dollars, two million above the estimate. The dam did not have gates to open and close; rather, the earthen embankment had two long outlet tubes. The reinforced concrete tubes were designed to release flood water at a controlled rate. A long concrete spillway sits at the north end of the dam. Should excessive flooding occur, water could flow over the spillway to protect the top of the earth dam from erosion.

When the dam neared completion, the Corps of Engineers advertised that most land was still suitable for timber, plus some farming and grazing in the upper regions. The land could be leased for these purposes, with the former owner or tenant offered first crack at the lease. Seventy-five percent of the rent from these leases was to be returned to the state for expenditures on public schools and roads.

The US Army Corps of Engineers continues to operate the Bayou Bodcau Dam and Reservoir for flood management, environmental stewardship, and recreation. Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries leases the property for its wildlife management area. One of the largest remaining expanses of bottomland hardwoods in northwest Louisiana is found here. For birdwatchers, Bayou Bodcau is a treasure. It’s located within the nesting range of the bald eagle and you can spot them during the winter months, along with over 140 other bird species.

Visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center to learn more about the bayous and flood control projects in our parish. We are open M-Th 10-8, Fri 10-6, and Sat 10-5. Our phone number is 318-746-7717 and our email is history-center@bossierlibrary.org

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Purim Ball

 The Purim Ball

May is Jewish-American Heritage Month. An early founder of the local Jewish community is Jacob Bodenheimer, who took advantage of opportunities in the newly-formed frontier parish of Bossier in the 1840s. Jacob had been born in Europe, likely Germany, but the location is not certain and neither is his date of birth, thought to be around 1810. His port of entrance to the United States was unspecified in his naturalization documents, though family lore says it was New Orleans.

Jacob Bodenheimer (c.1810's-1864)
 He was a traveling peddler of high-end wares and eventually opened a mercantile business in the town of Bellevue, Bossier Parish’s first parish seat. He married Eliza Weil, herself a Jewish European immigrant. The couple raised a family while also operating a hotel in Bellevue. Jacob’s hotel served the needs of attorneys who traveled to do business in the rural parish seat, and the Bodenheimers operated a livery and the stage coach depot, as well. On top of all these ventures, Jacob served briefly as Mayor of Bellevue.

Bodenheimer enthusiastically encouraged Jewish settlement in    the area, praising the region’s virtues in his correspondence with family and friends. Jacob’s niece and nephew, Fanny and Lazarus Bodenheimer, came to Bellevue in 1851. Jacob gave Lazarus his first job, probably as a clerk in the store.

 Jewish worship in private homes in nearby Shreveport began in the 1840s. Though no record shows Jacob owning property or living there, Jacob was noted as a founding member of Shreveport’s Jewish community. For a Jewish service to be held at that time, a quorum of ten men needed to gather to form a minyan, so likely he would have traveled across the river. Some congregations now allow women to make up the minyan.

Jewish residents in Shreveport maintained friendly relations with their non-Jewish neighbors during the Civil War and in the years that followed. The holiday of Purim commemorates the defeat of Haman's plot to massacre the Jews as recorded in the book of Esther. Dates of the festival vary according to Jewish calendar, but it is observed in the spring. In the upcoming year it will be celebrated Monday, March 6, 2023 through Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

Purim is sometimes called Jewish Mardi Gras, or even Halloween, although those descriptions lack the nuances of the holiday’s meaning. Purim’s traditions of drinking, costuming, and farce offer opportunities for challenging the religious system, but in a controlled structure. At the same time, consequences of losing control or behaving “outside the norms” are balanced by customs of giving charity (Tzedakah) and special gifts to friends and neighbors (Mishloach Manot).

An inter-religious Purim Ball in Shreveport was held annually from at least 1872 to 1882. However, a Purim Ball was advertised as early as March 11, 1868 in Shreveport’s South-Western newspaper. At an event hosted by the Young Men’s Hebrew Benevolent Association, the newspaper reporter stated, “The dance was kept up until the small hours of the morning, when all retired much pleased with the night’s enjoyments.” The writer said hopefully, “May the members of the Association live to give many more such entertainments to their friends.”

In 1872, the Shreveport Times reported that “our amusement loving Israelitish citizens are inaugurating a novelty in Shreveport.” In March 14 of 1872, the paper stated that this ball “will be the grandest affair ever before seen in this community. We have had plenty of balls here before, but a masked ball is something new and it takes like wildfire with our fun-loving community.” The writer also recommended

that as additional incentive to attend, potential revelers and costumers should take a look in the window of P.F.L. Frank’s Jewelry Store to see the two prizes, one for best costumed lady and one for best costume on a gentleman. Newspaper stories about the Purim balls show that to win one of the coveted prizes, a ball-attendee will likely need to be willing to act their part, and not just dress it! In 1875, “Captain Levy,” likely Simon Levy, the partner of Lazarus Bodenheimer and son-in-law of Jacob Bodenheimer, was listed as a judge of the costume contest.

As is Purim tradition, revelry was not the only object of the festivities, but also charity. The Times in March of 1873 reported of the ball, “The proceeds will be devoted to a most commendable object, and Jew and Gentile should be prompt to contribute to it.” The article doesn’t say to what object, but other Shreveport Purim balls have mentioned the money raised went to places such as orphanages, the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, or a synagogue building project.

The event became a highlight of the Shreveport social calendar for the following decade. In its heyday, the Purim balls and feasts offered the Jewish community a chance to share their culture as well as promote fellowship between different groups. The ball of 1877 featured an opera depicting the Purim story performed by a company from Marshall, Texas, with the king and queen named Ahasuerus and Esther straight out of the story. The 1875 ball was apparently such a delight that the writer in the Shreveport Times of 28 March (with questionable appropriateness) admitted to feeling strangely grateful for the vile villain Haman, as the commemoration his defeat became the source of so much amusement.

It is uncertain why the public Purim Balls came to an end, but in ensuing years, Shreveporters tended to celebrate the holiday privately within the Jewish community and its congregations.

If you have any information, stories, or photos about the Bossier Parish Jewish community or the Bodenheimer family, we would love to add to our History Center’s research collection. Contact us at 318-746-7717 or email history-center@bossierlibrary.org

For other intriguing facts, photos, and videos, be sure to follow us @BPLHistoryCenter on FB and @bplhistorycenter on TikTok,.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Handmade in Bossier: Flags of the United Nations

 “United Nations Flags Made Here” said the caption in the Planters Press newspaper of Bossier City, La. above a photo of Mrs. W. P. Belcher holding the United Nations emblem and Mrs. W.E. Richie with a standard flag-sized cloth laying on the table before her. No, a new factory didn’t open up, though the two factories that did exist in the U.S. for making the flags were already cranking them out as fast they could in the Fall of 1950. Taking up the slack for the increased demand for U.N. flags caused by the onset of the Korean War and the United Nations Day of late October, were women and girls of Home Demonstration Clubs and 4-H clubs that were affectionately referred to at the time as modern-day “Betsy Rosses.”


When North Korea attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950, the United Nations, formed on October 24, 1945, took action that invigorated much of the American public’s interest in and support of the U.N., even among folks who originally did not have high hopes for it. It was American farmers, under the urging of Mr. Albert Johnson, the head of The National Grange, a longtime fraternal organization for farmers, who conceived of the United Nations countrywide flag-making effort. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture through its Cooperative Extension Service endorsed the project and provided the leadership to promote the effort. The Extension Service tapped the National Committee on Boys and Girls Work (later known as the National 4-H service Committee and National 4-H Council) to make kits of materials and patterns for the flags, and got the woman and girl-power to put them together through its Home Demonstration (women) and 4-H Club (youth) membership.


The kits contained iron-on patterns of the U.N. logo design, blue cloth, and directions to make the 3x5 foot flag. Clinics for making the flags were planned for Oct 16th through Oct. 23rd of 1950 though Bossier actually started on Sept. 22nd when the home demonstration council had its regular meeting. The Louisiana State Agricultural Extension Agent, H.C. Sanders, assured potential makers that the plans were simple. (The fact that the Bossier Parish “champion United Nations Flag Maker,” Mrs. Clotelle McCoy of the Bossier City Home Demonstration Club, was so-designated because she made two flags, with each one taking twenty hours, seems to belie that statement!)


Ultimately, 25 flags were completed by the Bossier Parish home demonstration and 4-H clubs. The flags were presented to local mayors, including Bossier City mayor Hop Fuller, high school principals, home demonstration club buildings and other schools. The hope for the project, according to head agent Sanders, was that it would provide the participants, especially the youth, not only a practical stitchery lesson but a broader understanding of the U.N. and U.S. efforts for world peace.


Anything to which people pledge their allegiance attracts scrutiny, and the U.N. flag making project was no exception. The program had critics who said it was un-American. One of these critical groups was the Veterans of Foreign Wars under its National Commander, Charles C. Ralls, who disparaged it as an effort to supersede the American flag. The major U.S. farm organizations released an editorial to rebut this claim, saying:


“Kremlin propagandists who have been attempting to discredit the United Nations have been given invaluable assistance by uninformed and bigoted American groups seeking to block display of the UN flag on October 24, United Nations Day; The farm organizations


unanimously reaffirm their confidence in the United Nations as the greatest single instrument for peace in the world; The project…was accepted immediately by members of the national labor, business, veteran, civic, fraternal and educational groups; Display of the United Nations flag along with the American flag on October 24 will be an expression of the same unity on the home front that exists on the battlefield of Korea where the men of free nations are fighting and dying under the United Nations banner...” - Joint statement by American Farm Bureau Federations, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union and National Grange, 10/12/1950.


Perhaps as a rural locale with a strong farming tradition and an exceptionally strong Home Demonstration program, U.N. flags were completed and raised, often accompanied by elaborate ceremonies, throughout Bossier Parish. The publisher of the Planters Press boasted in his newspaper that they were the first in the parish to fly one of the flags at their printing plant on Traffic Street in Bossier City and that he personally hung it. The following week his paper gave a detailed example of U.N. Day (October 24th) 1950 at a local school with Benton High School’s event, which was sponsored by the Benton 4-H Club:


The entire student body, faculty, T. L. Rodes, Supervisor of Schools, Home Demonstration Club members Mayor Carter and Mrs. Voncell Lank associate Home Agent, attended the celebrations. A letter to all youth of the nations was read by Mary Alice Stinson. The United Nations flag, made by 4-H members of that club, was advanced on a staff by George Stroud along with a United States flag of the same size advanced by John Paul Jones. The audience then pledged allegiance to the United Nations Flag. Barbara Grisham gave the history of the flag. A panel discussion on United Nations was led by the 4-H Club, president, Bobbie Jones…


If you have any information, stories, or photos about the UN Flag project or other Home Demonstration or 4-H local club photos or stories, we would love to see them or to copy them, with permission, to add to the History Center’s research collection. Please come to the History Center to do research or see our exhibits at 2206 Beckett St, Bossier City, LA. We are open M-Th 10-8, Fri 10-6, and Sat 10-5. Our phone number is (318) 746-7717 and our email is history-center@bossierlibrary.org

For other fun facts, photos, and videos, be sure to follow us @BPLHistoryCenter on FB, @bplhistorycenter on TikTok, and check out our blog http://bpl-hc.blogspot.com/.

Photo: H.C. Sanders, Director of the Louisiana Agricultural Extension Service, and Miss Ellen Le Noir, State Home Demonstration Agent, hold up the first United Nations flag made in Louisiana to launch a statewide campaign to make the flags in preparation for United Nations Day on October 24, 1950. Bossier Parish Home Demonstration Clubs and 4-H Clubs answered the call and U.N. flags were raised throughout the parish on that day. Photo from The Planters Press Thu, Oct 19, 1950 · Page 4

Sunday, May 1, 2022

This Month In Bossier Parish

 May: Throughout the years!


May 1st: National “Get Caught Reading” month!

Get Caught Reading Month is all about reading books and raising awareness regarding the advantages of indulging in literature. The genres of books you can read include nonfiction, history, fables, etc — the options are unlimited. So get your hands on some books and start reading! 

     
Photos; Top left: C.1900’s: Mary Arnold (left) and Nettie Dunlavey (right.) Two young women posed for studio photo, reading a book.    1999.127.012B Jennings Collection.  Top right: Unidentified man and young boy are pictured in a living room. The man is sitting down in a floral chair & the young boy is leaning over the chair looking down at a book the man is reading. 2018.038.205 Jones Collection
Bottom left: C.1900’s: Abney Scanland as a young man reading in his sister Mabel's room. 1999.136.005.  Bottom right: C.1900’s: Elias Goldstein and  Jacob Mahne Bodenheimer at LSU 2002.036.020      

 

 

May 11th:  Weekly news from 100 years ago.   

*Please enjoy the newspaper clippings from the 11 May 1922 issue of the Bossier Banner

· More new cars are being seen in town.


  • Plain Dealings postmaster, John H. Allen,  takes his first vacation after serving for 12 years.


· Mr. & Mrs. R.E. Wyche announce the engagement and approaching marriage of their daughter Katye (Katie)



  • Big gasser at Bellevue Oil Field


May 30: Memorial day

In honor of this day, may we pay tribute to those who have fallen.  Here are some of Bossier's unsung heroes. 

To all military personnel past, present and future...Thank you for your service. 




































Wednesday, April 27, 2022

UPHILL BOTH WAYS: GOING TO SCHOOL IN “THE BOTTOMS” OF WARDVIEW

 Have you ever heard the stories, or told them yourself to sleepy kids or grandkids reluctant to get on the school bus, about having to walk 20 miles to school uphill both ways? Some early residents of Wardview, a remote farming community as far northwest as you can go in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, actually had those stories beat. And, unlike “uphill both ways,” they weren’t telling tell tales, they were telling local history of life in “The Bottoms.”

Wardview is directly bordered by the Red River to the west, Arkansas to the north and Plain Dealing to its southeast. As described by local resident Jack Gore, who wrote a column for the former Plain Dealing Progress newspaper, the heart of the area was where Highway 537 met “the road to Arkansas” and “the road to the river.” With its proximity on the eastern side of Red River, the area was also known as “the River Bottoms” or just “the Bottoms.” The rich soil meant it was once a thriving a farming community for cotton and food crops. Nowadays, the community of Wardview lives largely in memories, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and oral histories, including several from the History Center collection.

Former Bossier Parish librarian and bookmobile driver, Billie Williams Stevens, who was born in 1928, told in one of these oral history interviews of the adventurous school bus rides when she was growing up in Wardview and attending school in Plain Dealing. At that time, Wardview consisted of a couple of stores, a cotton gin, and a church. “I remember one time we hit a bump and a nail hit my head,” Mrs. Stevens said, laughing, “and I bled for a long time. Of course, I went home and Mama poured some coal oil or turpentine on it, and I didn’t go to the doctor. We didn’t go to the doctor back then.”

“Of course, … we’ve always said about Huey Long, with him getting the schools consolidated from out there, we’ve always said that he should have done the roads first because sometimes we would have to get off of the bus and try to push the bus up some of those slick hills, and by the time we got to school we’d be late.”

Unbeknownst to young Billie, this experience would serve her well in her future library career. She was known to push the Bossier Parish Libraries bookmobile out of a ditch a time or two – or three! Even an uneventful normal ride lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, one way, with 45 other bus mates. Of course, that was practically a shortcut compared to when there was flooding, a common occurrence in a place referred to as “the Bottoms.” Mrs. Stevens recalled,

“I don’t remember what year it was, I was in the first grade, and we had a flood, and you could not get the bus down to Wardview. The only way to catch the bus was to take a boat out to the hills and then catch the bus.” Mrs. Stevens laughed when the interviewer asked if the boat was a ferry. “No, no,” she replied. “Usually, it was just the road that was under water, so people who had boats ‘ferried’ across with their Jon boats (a small but stable flat-bottomed utility boat).”

Mrs. Virginia Horneman Allen who grew up in Wardview reminisced in her oral history interview with her two sisters,

“I had to get up early and catch the bus [to school in Plain Dealing] and walked a mile until I was in the 7th grade to catch the bus unless it rained and they’d take me, somebody would take me down on a horse…I had to wear overshoes all the time and

pull ‘em off and leave ‘em down at the house down at Uncle Will’s place where we caught the bus. [The bus] came around the river then. That’s where the road…”

Virginia’s sister, Mrs. Winona Horneman Authement, chimed in: “It was the only road, Old River.”

“And then,” interjected Mrs. Allen, “when I was in the 7th grade, Mr. Roy Bolinger [neighbor] was on the Police Jury or something like that and they built a road off of the road that went on to the Arkansas line to our house.” That way the bus could come right to their house on Arkansas Line Rd. when their father donated the land for it. Mrs. Allen no longer had to carry her overshoes anymore and they didn’t have to climb what all three sisters, Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Authement and Marihelen Horneman, remember as a “really high levee.”

For Wardview’s African American students, the schools were not yet consolidated until the 1950s. Students attended small, frame school houses like the two-room Still House School and the one-room Lake Port School in the Wardview area. Although they did not yet have to make the trek to Plain Dealing, their travels to school did not follow a simple, straightforward route, either. For example, to get to Still House school there was only one possible road to take - Log Ferry Road. This road crossed the “the Big Ditch” (created to alleviate flooding in the Bottoms), which was over a hundred feet wide in places. The Still House and Lakeview sports teams played against each other but did not have buses to travel to games. Athletes would have to walk several miles from one school to the other in the soft, damp ground of the Bottoms.

If you have any information, stories, or photos about Wardview, we would love to add material to the History Center’s research collection. Please come to the History Center to learn more about Wardview and other rural Bossier communities at 2206 Beckett St, Bossier City, LA. We are open M-Th 10-8, Fri 10-6, and Sat 10-5. Our phone number is (318) 746-7717 and our email is history-center@bossierlibrary.org

For other fun facts, photos, and videos, be sure to follow us @BPLHistoryCenter on FB, @bplhistorycenter on TikTok, and check out our blog http://bpl-hc.blogspot.com/.


Photo: “Lakeport School” two-room schoolhouse in Wardview, northwest Bossier Parish, in 1907. In this early photo, Lake Port school housed white students before they were bussed to Plain Dealing, La. to attend school in the new, brick Plain Dealing High School building that was completed in 1921. Lake Port then became a school for African-American students.