The Industrial Development of Lake Charles, Louisiana 1920-1950


Transcribed by Leora White, 2008 




Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the 

Louisiana State University and

Agricultural and Mechanical College

In partial fulfillment of the

Requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts




The Department of History




Bernard H. Lane


B. A. Lincoln University, 1951 

January, 1959





            I wish to make acknowledgement to the following people who so kindly assisted me in my search for material:  Mrs. Elizabeth H. Welcher, Librarian of the Louisiana State University; Mrs. Bernice McDaniel Washington, Librarian of Carver Branch of the Calcasieu Parish Library; and to the many other people with whom I held interesting conversations regarding the industrial development of Lake Charles, Louisiana. 


            I wish to express appreciation to Dr. Sherman W. Savage, Head, The Department of History, Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri, who first interested me in the field of history and who provided me with a background for my graduate work. 


            I am truly grateful to the History Department of Louisiana State University for the most pleasant and instructive hours that I have spent in the field of study. 


            To Dr. George B. Tindall, Dr. W. H. Stephenson and Dr. F. Jay Taylor who guided me through this thesis preliminary to its acceptance, I express gratitude and thanks.  To Dr. Bennett H. Wall, who has and must assume the chief labor, I am deeply indebted.  His patience and kindness have largely been responsible for the completion of this thesis.

































               There are many stories concerning the origin of the Calcasieu area.  Like all legends, perhaps these have been shaded to command an audience, and facts of historical importance, too, may have been distorted for better listening.  In any event, this writer believes that some of these may serve as a background for the history of the parish.


               Long after the North American continent had thrust itself from the bosom of the oceans, Louisiana still remained a part of the ocean bed.


               The Mississippi River then began its endless task of creating Louisiana, switching its course, according to some of our geologist, from the Sabine River on the west to its present course in the eastern part of the state. (1)  Sections of the lower part of Louisiana thrust themselves above the water inclosing large lakes which often imprisoned whales as may be deducted from the number of whale bones found along the edges of the lake below the city of Lake Charles.


               Years later for some unexplained reason a mighty torrent of water swept through the southwestern part of Louisiana, cutting a deep channel, one of the deepest in the United States, and created the Calcasieu River.  Ordinary erosion and drainage could never have created a river of this depth in view of its short length and its slight fall.  The lakes, thereupon, began draining through this channel, and the imperial parish of Calcasieu was born.  (2)


               After the swamps drained and the bayous assumed definite form, there came from the Northeastern part of Texas a band of roving Indians, known as the Atakapas, members of the Atakapan family. 


               The Atakapan consisted of a great number of small bands occupying the coast of the Gulf of Mexico from Vermillion Bay to Galveston Bay.  The principal bands of Atakapas properly so called were on Vermillion Bayou, Mermentau River, Calcasieu River, and the lower Sabine and Neches. (3) 


               Many Indians roamed over the country.  There is some authority for the statement that “Calcasieu” is derived from the name of an Atakapan Indian chief, “Crying Eagle.”  (4)


               In 1860 there were fewer than 200 Indians living on land given them by the government.  There is no record of the Alabamon, Atakapas, Coushattas and Caronshoway tribes.  (5)


               In the early days of American settlement, or in the sixteenth century A. D., when the Spaniards  were establishing colonies in Louisiana and Mexico, the strip of country forming the Western boundary of the Province of Louisiana was obscure and little known.  Early maps list it loosely as “Atakapa Country.”  (6)


               In 1800, France acquired this land from Spain, and sold it to the United States in 1803.  When the United States acquired Louisiana, prompt action was taken to define the boundaries.  Forts were established along the Sabine River which the United States accepted as the boundary of Louisiana and emigration to this section was encouraged. (7)


               Calcasieu Parish is located in the Southwestern part of Louisiana.  The sub-surface area contains vast deposits of sand and gravel which yield large quantities of water for wells.  The best aquifers (water-bearing formations) generally range in thickness from 200 to 600 feet.  The aquifers have a gentle gulf ward slope, are covered by a widespread deposit of impermeable clay at the land surface, and are exposed to rainfall and recharge from streams in the broad rolling uplands of the north of the rice-farming area. (8)  Salt and Sulphur are found in structurally up-warped areas called domes. (9)


            Turcan and his associates reported that:


The rather humid temperate climate of this area is partially the result of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.  The average year-roound temperature is 68° F. The average rainfall in southwestern Louisiana is about 59 inches, being relatively uniform from year to year, but the nature of the summer showers causes the total annual rainfall to vary geographically.  The season of least rainfall is usually in the spring, including the months of March and April; the normal rainfall for October is also rather low.  The rainfall is well distributed during the remainder of the year and it is almost impossible to designate any season as being characteristically wet or dry. (10)


        Southwestern Louisiana lies within the physiographic region known as the West Gulf Coastal Plain.  The area comprises parts of three physiographic belts which roughly parallel the margin of the Gulf of Mexico.  The principal surface features that distinguish these belts are (1) the degree of dissection by streams and (2) the regional slope of the land surface. (11)


The name Port Hudson was given by G. D. Harris and A. C. Veatch to the deposits forming the pine flats of Calcasieu Parish and the whole prairie region of southern Louisiana.  The lithology and fauna of the Port Hudson groups exhibit two facies, a marine and a fresh-water, although the type locality shows only fresh-water deposits of fluvia-tile origin.  In the vicinity of Lake Charles, Harris and Veatch estimated their Port Hudson to be about 200 feet thick. It is therefore evident that Harris and Veatch believed the clay, silt, fine sand, and marine shells that overlie the principal aquifer in southwestern Louisiana to compose their Port Hudson, which they considered to be of earliest Quaternary (oldest Pleistocene) age. (12)







               The settlers who came to the Calcasieu country were attracted to the banks of the lake, from which the city receives its name, by its great natural beauty and physical geography.  The broad prairies rolling away to the east and south that provided pasturage for their herds attracted then, too, as did facilities available for transportation of goods and products. (1)


               The first white settler known to have come to the Calcasieu country was Martin (Camersac) LeBleu.  Leaving Bordeaux, France, in 1775, he came to Virginia where he lived for five years.  During the troublesome times of the American Revolutionary War, he started westward in a two-wheeled bullock cart.  Several months passed before he crossed the Calcasieu River at a point about six miles northeast of the present site of Lake Charles.  Finally, he came to the shore of Lake Charles.  Finding it impossible to ford the enlarged river, he turned back, settling about six miles east of the lake along what is now called English Bayou. (2)  The place was so called because a large number of English people settled there.  English Bayou was later incorporated in old Lake Charles.


                Here, at English Bayou, Martin LeBleu erected a small log cabin which still stands.  In this cabin four children were born to Martin LeBleu and wife:  Martin Jr., Mace, Caroline, and Arsene, each of whom became important in the affairs of the early settlement. (3)       


               Shortly after the arrival of LeBleu, another migrant appeared, Lewis Reon,   He settled on the west bank of Lake Charles, but his later history was not recorded. (4) 


               In 1800, upon the shores of what is now Lake Charles, formerly just “The Lake,” Charles Sallier, a native of Savoy, France, built the first house in the city of Lake Charles. The Louisiana Almanac and Fact Book for 1949 lists him as Carlos Salia, a Spaniard from New Orleans.  William Henry Perrin in his South West Louisiana indicated that Charles Sallier came from Italy. 


               Among other settlers who came during this period were Reese Perkins, the first justice of the peace.  It has been said that his courts were administered with more backwoods justice than with statutory law; Jacob Ryan Jr., came to this area when he was but one year old, in 1817. (5)   Jacob was born at Perry’s Bridge on the Vermillion River, February 14, 1816.  His father, after whom he was named, was a planter and stock raiser, who lived in Calcasieu until his death.  Jacob Jr., known as the “father of Lake Charles,” was the son who moved from the prairies of west Calcasieu and lived for a time in the pine woods about six miles east of the present town of DeQuincy, but in 1850, he moved to Lake Charles.  Full of energy, he followed whatever occupation presented itself as an honorable and lucrative planter, stock raiser, mill owner, merchant and contractor.  In each of these he was successful. (6) 


               About 1824 more settlers came, among them John Bryan (father of J. W. Bryan Jr., Lake Charles’ first mayor), William Praither, James Hodges, James Barnet, Michael Pithon, Alexander Hebert, William Neeler, Able Lyons, and Richard West.  They formed a separate settlement.  The influx thus started continued until 1840 when Calcasieu was created a parish out of the western part of St. Landry Parish. (7)


               Thomas Bilbo, a French Canadian, was the first surveyor of Calcasieu Parish, laying out the boundaries of much of the land patented in the early 1840’s. (8)


               The preponderance of English names signifies that the English settlers were those who recorded their claims to lands.  Many others did not think it necessary or had good reasons for not recording their claims, at least in their correct names.  Among these were a number of refugees who fled France for political reasons.  It is said that some of them were aristocrats in their lineage.   The Acadians, who had been driven out of Nova Scotia in the latter part of the 18th century left little trace of their coming in historical records. (9)


               The settlers had been for years going to Opelousas, Louisiana, the county seat and register of the land office for St. Landry Parish, (10) to attend court and vote, if they voted at all.  Because the distance was inconvenient, from “The Lake” or Lake Charles as it was later called, to Opelousas, these people determined to create a parish. 


               On March, 24, 1840, by Act 72 a new parish was created and designated the Parish of Calcasieu.  This act was signed by William Debuys, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Felix Garcia, Lieutenant Governor, and President of the Senate; and A. B. Roman, Governor. (11)


               At the time of its creation Calcasieu Parish was bounded on the north by Vernon Parish, north and east by Rapides and St. Landry Parishes; Bayou Nez Pique,  and on the west by the Sabine River.  In area the parish embraced nearly 2,000,000 acres and was larger than either the State of Rhode Island or Delaware and larger than the Kingdom of Belgium. (12)


               A site six miles from the present city of Lake Charles was selected as the Parish seat, largely because it was in the path of the trail from Texas to New Orleans.  This town was named “Marion.”  (13)


               The early parish Police Jury was composed of the Parish judge as presiding officer, eight justices of the peace, and a jury of twelve inhabitants.  In 1824, however, the justices of the peace were finally eliminated from the Police Jury, and in 1830, the Parish judge was displaced as President by a President elected by  and from the members.  The Police Jury system of local government, when Calcasieu Parish was set apart in 1840, was well established and defined.  This system seems to have come from earlier French and Spanish forms of government in Louisiana. (14)


               In 1855, Captain Daniel Goos, a German, came to Lake Charles and established a mill at what is now called Goosport.  Captain Goos extended his activities to schooner building and closed his mill. (15)  His farm, cut up into additions, was popularly called Goosport, and the name is not fanciful, for Goosport was a real port; wharves, docks and warehouses were the basis for heavy shipping business for the settlement. (16)  With the coming of Captain Goos, the industrial life of the little community began.  (17)


               On March 16, 1867, through the efforts of a local attorney, George Wells, the city of Lake Charles was incorporated, (18) its size covering an aera of approximately 12 square blocks.  The little village, with a population of fewer than 150 souls, had been called variously “Charleston,” and just “The Lake.” (19)


               The city fronts on the lake of the same name.  The lake, nearly circular in shape, is about two miles wide.  The Calcasieu River runs along the western side of this lake and bounds the city in the north.  (20)


In the 1860’s Lake Charles’ Public Square witnessed many strange sights.  Indian pow-wows; early political speechmakings; gatherings of townspeople; many a bloody fight – sometimes to the death; several assassinations.   Public hangings took place here; there were meetings to recruit soldiers for the Army of the Confederacy and, later, gatherings to discuss Yankee rule.  And there were meetings here to organize a band of “Regulators,” that is a group of citizens who were trying to bring order out of the chaos the war had precipitated.   Human beings were bought and sold in this Square, too.  Here is and advertisement in the Calcasieu Press of 1863:



‘A Negro woman named Venus aged about 15 years old, with her infant babe.  A lot of stock cattle; a lot of gentle cattle. One feather bed. A silver spoon and fork.

David J. Reid
Sheriff and Auctioneer. (21)  


                During the period of the cattle industry it was customary to drive cows once a year to New Orleans to market, and to purchase the few household articles, such as calico, gunpowder, and flour. (22)  Until the late 1870’s the settlers profited both from the sale of their cattle and from the renting of their fields to the drovers of Texas cattle who grazed them there on their way to New Orleans.  The owners earned money when the great herds of cattle came down the trail to swim across the Calcasieu ford for a toll fee of 5 cents a head.  Cash was also made from feeding – and watering – those Texas drivers at the “beef stands” along the trail. (23)


               The era of cattle raising lasted from its first settlement until the late 1870’s.  It should be pointed out that the 1870’s did not end cattle raising as an industry in the Lake Charles area, for it yet prevails.  In 1870 the United States Census of Manufactures reported 15 industries and 119 hired hands for Calcasieu Parish. 






Establishments................................. No. 15


Manufactures Steam Engines Water Wheels All Hands Capital Wages Materials Products
  11 4 119 $92,000 $44,197 $102,050 $206,500


        Communication with the outside world was still by schooner, and at times there were as many as fifteen of the big, white-sailed windjammers waiting on the lake to carry the products of the mills to Galveston, Point Isabel, Corpus Christi, Tampico and Tuxpan.  (25) 


        Early records of navigation on the Calcasieu River are interesting not only from the trade point of view, but also because there is an aura of romance and piracy prevailing in the early days. (26)   Our first record of any commercial navigation of any consequences is for the period following the Civil War.  (27) 


        The early inhabitants of Lake Charles used schooners and other vessels to navigate the Calcasieu River as a path of commerce to obtain merchandise, deliver lumber and to float timber. (28)


        Lake Charles officially became a port immediately after the Civil War when the Calcasieu Pass was made a port of entry by an act of Congress, and a Customs Office was established at Cameron.  (29)  In 1876, Congress passed a bill authorizing the improvement of Calcasieu Pass.  (30)   Before the turn of the century the pass was improved and jetties constructed, thus opening the river to larger schooner traffic carrying lumber from the numerous sawmills in this area to Mexico, to the east coast of the United States, and to continental Europe.  (31)


Lake Charles has many strong claims of being the best town on the line of the Southern Pacific between New Orleans and Frisco. 
It is not the largest town not the richest, but no town has in the last decade shown as healthier and a steadier development.  (32)


        The coming of Morgan’s Louisiana Western railroads in 1880, which became the Southern Pacific, spelled the doom of the schooner trade.  The railroads also brought a new era to the town and stimulated great interest in land speculation and development.  About this time a Mr. J. B. Watkins, representing the English Company of investors known as the North American Land and Timber Company purchased some 960,000 acres of land near Lake Charles.  He then promoted the immigration of thousands of farmers and mechanics from the middle west to the parish.  Watkins was instrumental in building the Watkins railroad, the first running north and south in this section, in the early 1890’s.  This railroad later became the Missouri Pacific with its terminal in Lake Charles.  Watkins also built the first bank in Lake Charles in 1885, known as the Watkins Bank.  (33)


        Until 1880 money was scarce.  What the people were unable to provide for themselves they secured by barter. Farming was carried on in a crude manner.  Rice was ground with a mortar and pestle.  While food was simple it was plentiful. (34) 


        In 1886, Dr. Seaman A. Knapp from Ames, Iowa came to Lake Charles at the suggestion of Watkins.  (35)  Knapp was a native of New York State who moved to Iowa while a young man and became the leading agriculturalist of the middle west.  He was a practical farmer, an educator, a publisher of a farm journal, and a pioneer in farm organization work.  Having resigned as president of Iowa State College, Knapp moved to this area to lead the progress of a large area in Southwest Louisiana. (36)  Dr. Knapp projected the first irrigation plant for rice in this section and was responsible for improved rice production. Through Dr. Knapp’s efforts the first rice mill was built in Lake Charles.  Dr. Knapp started the first boy’s corn club in this section of Louisiana.  This idea spread all over the country and grew into the 4-H Clubs of our nation. (37)


         Lake Charles became the center of the rice industry in southwest Louisiana.  It is generally accepted that after the coming of Dr. Knapp agricultural income greatly improved. 


        In 1891, Knapp and his associates in the Home Company, feeling a need of a local bank friendly to their interest, secured a state charter for the Calcasieu Bank of Lake Charles, with a paid-in capital of one hundred thousand dollars. In the same year Dr. Knapp established the Lake Charles Rice Milling Company, the first rice mill of its size west of the Mississippi.  (38) 


        In 1890, Southwest Louisiana became the leading producing area in the United States and today Louisiana still holds that position.  It was here that the first large irrigation systems in the United States were designed and built and agriculture gradually became the leading industry with the largest payrolls. (39)


        The next industrial development of any size was that of the  Union Sulphur Company who introduced and perfected the “Frasch Process” of mining sulphur and developed the largest mine in the world at Sulphur, Louisiana, (40) about nine miles from the city of Lake Charles. 


        The first commercial sulphur  was brought forth sometime in 1896, by Union Sulphur Company, (41)  production on a big scale started in 1900, and at one time Union Sulphur Company was producing at a rate of 4,000 tons per day. (42)  W. R. Keever, of the Union Sulphur Company, succeeded in developing crude oil production around the flanks of the sulphur dome and this development has continued successfully. (43)


        By 1900 New Orleans, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge were the only cities in Louisiana with a population of 10,000 and over, but increase in population after 1900 brought the cities of Alexandria, Lake Charles and Monroe into this class in 1910.  Although the total value of products in 1909 of the last three cities named was $4,785,230, it was not large enough to affect materially the showing for two groups (44) presented in the Thirteenth Census of the United States Manufactures. 


        In 1910 the population of Lake Charles was 11,449 an increase of 71.4% in the last decade.  Nineteen hundred and ten was the year in which the Lake Charles’ city charter was amended under Louisiana Act 12, in order to permit the Commission form of government. The latter was approved on July 11, 1912, under Louisiana Act No. 207.  (45)  In recent years the number of commissioners was raised from the original two to five.






Persons Engaged in Industry

Proprietors and Firm Members 20
Salaried Employees 90
Wage Earners 736
Total 846
Number of Establishments 33

Thousand of Dollars

Capital 1619
Salaries 128
Wages 395
Value of Products 2251








Number of inhabitants
Year Population Increase over Preceding Census

      in number

    in per cent

1950 41,272 20,065 94.6
1940 21,207 5,065 34.3
1930 15,791 2,703 20.7
1920 13,088 1,639 14.3
1910 11,449 4,769 71.4







        In 1920 the industrial record for Lake Charles as reported by the United States Bureau of the Census showed 45 establishments and 1,222 wage earners and wages of 1,426 in terms of thousand of dollars.


        The people of Lake Charles knew that their sawmills had virtually depleted the surrounding forests of virgin pine.  They also knew that while large quantities of rice were grown within a radius of sixty miles of Lake Charles, most of it moved through the ports of New Orleans and Beaumont.  In order to retain their industrial strength, the people decided of obtain Federal aid to improve their natural waterway. (1) 


        The people of Lake Charles wanted a seaport.  They sought Federal assistance to open a deep-water channel to the Gulf of Mexico and had submitted plans.  The United State Army Engineers said:  “No.  It can’t be done.  It won’t work.”  Definitely, Lake Charles was a dying city. (2)








Census 1919
Number of Establishments 45
Wage Earners 1,222
Wages 1,426
Cost of Materials 5,325
Value of Products 8,291
(Thousands of Dollars)



        The citizens of Lake Charles determined to build themselves a seaport, even without Federal appropriations. (4)  Thus in the year 1921, the people of Lake Charles made the momentous decision to build a ship channel and port facilities with their own money. (5)  The constitutional convention of the State of Louisiana changed the constitution in 1921 and with it abolished previous navigation districts which were in the earlier constitution.  Therefore it was necessary to get parish wide support for the project.  To do this an election had to be called by the Police Jury. (6)


        This election was called in the early part of 1922.  Despite opposition, the special bond issue was carried at the polls.  It was then fought in the courts.  The District Court of Calcasieu Parish reversed the election returns but the Louisiana State Supreme Court decided in favor of the parish and the bond issue.  Shortly thereafter work was commenced to bring about the realization of the dream of creating a port at the city of Lake Charles.  The engineers expected to do this so thoroughly that ships of all tonnages could enter and take on and discharge cargo. (7)


        The city took on the responsibility for the first Lake Charles seaport bond issue of $1,700,000.  Then they raised the amount to $4,450,000 and finally to $7,750,000.  They dredged a channel, bought property, built wharves and wharf sheds.  The seaport was linked with railways serving Lake Charles, and became the only American seaport built and put into operation without one cent of Federal aid.  The people of Lake Charles put up their money and built their port on the theory that the primary function of a seaport is to develop industrially the immediate area it serves. (8)


        This was an undertaking in its nature unprecedented, and rarely in history has a small community of this size assumed such a burden and carried out plans to completion for a large project of such magnitude.  The plans included a twenty-foot bottom width.  This became the largest straight man-made channel in the United States and connected two important rivers, the Calcasieu and the Sabine. (9)  But a channel without port facilities was of no special value.  In preparation for the completion and use of the channel in 1924, a constitutional amendment was submitted to the voters of Louisiana to create the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District.


        Act 67 passed in 1924, created the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District.  It established a board of commissioners, defined their powers, jurisdiction and duties; provided revenue by authorizing the Commission to levy taxes, to incur debts, and to issue bonds for works of public improvement.  The title to all property was to be held in the name of the public and for public purposes in the Harbor and Terminal District.  The commissioners were given general power to do any and all things necessary or proper for the government, regulation, development and control of the business of district and to repeal conflicting laws. (10)


        The Port of Lake Charles, known as the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District, when completed was to embrace an area of 95 square miles entirely within Calcasieu Parish and include the city of Lake Charles and towns and communities of West Lake, Mossville, and Millard Junction.   The limits of the water front of the Harbor Terminal District was to include both sides of the Calcasieu River from a point at its junction with the upper end of Lake Charles to the public wharves.  There were to be approximately 48 miles of frontage on deep water and 18 miles on shallow water. (11)


        When completed Calcasieu Parish was to be served by the Port of Lake Charles which was to have two outlets to the Gulf; the Calcasieu Ship Channel to the intersection with the Intracoastal Canal to the Sabine River and thence to sea through Port Arthur, Texas and the New Calcasieu Channel crossing Calcasieu Lake.  The latter was to reduce the distance to sea from 75 miles to 33 miles. (12)


        The act provided for a Commissioner of five members, with terms of six years, but so staggered that not more than the terms of two members would expire at one time.  This was done to create, if possible, a board that would continuously be in existence and with the expectation of keeping it non-political.  The Board members are appointed by the Governor of the State, and they in turn employ a Port Director and such other employees as might be necessary. (13)


        The first board of commissioners appointed by Governor Henry Luce Fuqua were Guy Beatty, Willis P. Weber, Rudolph Krause, Frank Roberts and Elias R. Kaufman, all of whom had fought long and hard for the development of the Port.  Harris J. Lund was employed as the first Port Director. (14)  These commissioners decided to make Lake Charles a combination public and industrial port. (15)   This was done in order that the industrial growth of the city might be accelerated.  The timber reserve of Lake Charles was being depleted while the people of this area were awaiting the opening of their port.  But virgin pine could not last forever and the people had to turn their attention to exploring other resources. (16)


        In 1926, The Lake Charles Rice Milling Company of Louisiana, Inc., completed the largest plant of its kind in the world, and became the only cellulose plant in the world converting rice hulls into chemically pure cellulose. (17)  Rice is the major crop produced in Southwest Louisiana, the cultivation being somewhat similar to wheat.  As the rice yield per acre is approximately three times that of wheat, a much heavier type of machinery is used. (18)  Although it is thought by many that rice is grown in swampy lands, this is untrue;  the lands of Calcasieu are rolling prairies from six to twenty feet above the level of the streams.  (19)


        On April 2, 1926, eight months prior to the formal opening of the Port, the S. S. Sewall's Point steamed up the channel and into Lake Charles harbor.  The ship, chartered by Kelly-Weber Co., to bring fertilizer to their West Lake plant did not actually dock at the Lake Charles wharf.  It proved however, the community ability not only to build a channel, but to utilize it for seaborne commerce.  On October 22, 1926,  or one month prior to the conventional opening, Kelly-Weber and Co. had their vessel, the S. S. Quincy, dock and discharge 3,339 net tons of cargo at their private wharf. (20)


        The official opening celebration for the Port of Lake Charles took place on November 30, 1926. (21)  The opening of the port was made the occasion of a big celebration, the largest up to that time in the history of Lake Charles with the exception of Armistice Day, 1918.  A war ship, the Cleveland, with over three-hundred blue jackets aboard come to participate in the celebration with the people of the parish. 


        In the operation of the Port of Lake Charles, Kaufman reported that: 


The Port authorities decided that while thy might have the right to levy charges against industries using the Port, they had not exercised any right over private industry to operate its own boats or to permit at their plants vessels loading there and at no time have they assessed a fee against any industry which might be located in the Port of Lake Charles.  (22)


        As the business of the Port doubled, the War Department in 1928 took over maintenance of the channel.  While the citizens of Lake Charles first thought that the government should refund the money which had been spent on the construction of the channel, it was determined that it would be better to ask the government to improve facilities which the Parish had provided.  (23)


        The Port of Lake Charles became a prominent factor in the community.  It provided permanent employment for a substantial number of laborers, both skilled and unskilled, as well as members of professions.  As a deep water port, it has been one of the principal factors in the development of the industrial section of the trade area, not to mention that it makes deep sea transportation available to non-industrial products, such as rice, meats, flour, and other products.






        The beginning of the present industrial expansion as we know it today in Lake Charles can definitely be dated from the time when the original Calcasieu Parish Ship Channel from the Sabine River to Lake Charles was completed. 


        As early as the 1920’s Mathieson Alkali Works became interested in the developing Southwestern area of Louisiana.  This area was rich in natural resources and seemed destined to become a rival of other industrial areas in the country.  Mathieson’s survey of the southwest to determine a suitable location for a new alkali plant to supplement its two existing plants (Saltville, Virginia and Niagara Falls, New York) was completed in the early 1930s and Lake Charles was selected as a site for this new plant. (1)  A suitable location for an alkali plant requires transportation convenient to the consuming area and an economical source of fuel and raw materials. (2) Lake Charles met these requirements.   On October 13, 1933, Mathieson Alkali Works received its charter from the Louisiana Corporation Department. (3)  At that time, the Southwest and Middle South were just becoming industrialized and showed great potentialities for growth. (4)  In 1933 the Mathieson Alkali Works were built at a cost of $7,500,000.  The plant was now ready to operate.  One day after Christmas, 1934, the first processing of manufacturing chemicals began in the plant – the most modern ammonia-soda plant in the world.  The first car of liquid caustic soda for market rolled out of the factory on January 1, 1935. (5)  It was an auspicious beginning for the New Year.


        The Mathieson Alkali Works has been called the “father of Lake Charles’ chemical industry” and has been credited with starting this section of Southwest Louisiana on its way to become one of the major centers of industry of the Gulf Coast. (6)


        The principal products of Mathieson’s alkali plant at Lake Charles which employs the “ammonia soda” are light dense soda ash and caustic soda.  Limestone in some form is necessary to the ammonia soda operation and, in its Lake Charles operations; Mathieson employs oyster shells which are a source of a very pure form of limestone. (7) 


        Major use of soda ash is in the manufacture of glass.  Sand and soda ash are heated to a molten condition to produce ordinary glass.  The chemical industry uses large amounts of soda ash to produce other chemicals and cleansers, and washing powders are made with soda ash.  The chemical also has a variety of other uses, including the removal of impurities from iron and non-ferrous metals. (8)  


        All of the chemicals produced by Mathieson Alkali Works, at Lake Charles are basic to the nation’s economy, and they find their way into a wide range of industrial applications.  They are themselves resources which attract other industries. (9)


        In 1931, it became necessary to increase the facilities of the Port.  Wharf number three, sixteen hundred feet long and two hundred feet wide, was built after a $7,000 bond issue had been voted.  On the structure were placed two seven hundred feet sheds one hundred and sixty feet wide.  The total transit shed area of these facilities comprised some four hundred and forty thousand square feet of floor area.  (10) 


        In 1934, a formal request was made to Congress to construct a direct channel approximately thirty-five miles south from Lake Charles to Calcasieu Pass.  This project included the approach channel and the jetties in the Gulf of Mexico. (11)  It was reported unfavorably at first, but in 1937 the approval of the Engineer Board of the Chief of Engineers and the River and Harbors Committee of Congress was secured.  During the discussion hearings on this channel, the business of the Port of Lake Charles developed so rapidly that in one year’s time the tonnage growth exceeded the War Department’s estimate for a ten year period.  It was estimated that the saving in time and money to ships and shippers predicated on the use of the thirty-five mile channel instead of the seventy-five mile route by way of Sabine Pass would be sufficient to amortize an investment by the Federal government of $9,600,000. (12) 


        In 1938 a new item in the Hammond Progress stated:


Bids for the first year of construction on the great $9,600,000 ship channel from Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico will be opened at the Army Engineers' office in New Orleans on September 28.  The channel will have a depth of 35 feet and a width of 250 feet, with a turning basin 500 feet wide and 2,000 feet long at Lake Charles. (13)


        Work was started in 1938 and was originally set up as a five year program, but due to the urging of the citizens of Lake Charles and the industries located in the city, every effort was made to speed up completion of the project. (14) 


        In 1939 new industrial plants located while old ones expanded in Lake Charles, Louisiana: 


                        $150,000         Building, Substation Improvements

                                                Gulf States Utilities Co., Synthetic

                                                Salt Cake Plant - Mathieson Alkali Works.



                        $150,000         Steel Barrel, Drum Plant - Wackman

                                                Welded Ware Co. (15)


        In 1940, so rapidly had been the development of the port and so profitable its operation that it was not necessary for the Parish to assess the tax against he taxpayers; still the bonds and interest were taken care of regularly. (16)


        In order to encourage the establishment of new industries and the building of additions to existing industries in the State of Louisiana: 


The electors of the State, at the Congressional Election in November, 1936, amended the Constitution of Louisiana so as to authorize the Governor, or the State Board of Commerce, to contract with the owners of any new industry to be established in the State, or an addition or additions to any industry or industries already existing in the State, for the exemption from property, or ad valorem, taxation of any such new industry or any addition to any such existing industry, upon such terms and conditions as the Governor, or the State Board of Commerce and Industry with the approval of the  Governor, may deem to the best interest of the State.  (17)  


        This was implemented by Act 68, an amendment to Section 4 of Article X of the Constitution of the State of Louisiana. (18)




No particular form for applying for an exemption contract is necessary. The usual procedure is to submit to the Governor or the State Board of Commerce and Industry a contract covering the exemption, which provides for the following:


1. Minimum cost of new industrial plant, or of additions to an existing industrial plant.

2. Full description of the plant or additions, together with description of real estate upon which located.

3. The approximate number of employees.

4. Date of completion and beginning of operation. (19)



        The Swift Packing Plant became interested in Lake Charles about this time. From the meager records available, it appears that negotiations for the land were started in the summer of 1936.


        The Company purchased 600 acres of land near Lake Charles.  In 1937, construction began; 37 miles of fence were built around the land.  These acres of property were turned into a model feed and pasturage area to show the cattlemen how to feed scientifically.  A $16,000 barn was erected to house the cattle. (20)


        In 1938, Swift & Company opened a million dollar packing plant with a capacity of 8,000 head of cattle.  It was estimated that two hundred men went to work when the plant started operating.  (21)


        The plant was more than a cattlemen’s market.  It was also a cattlemen’s college.  Since 1938, the plant has teamed with Louisiana State University livestock experts from Baton Rouge. (22)  These experts conducted investigations of the best feeding and breeding methods to fit the environmental conditions of Southwest Louisiana.  Graduates of the Louisiana State University College of Agriculture supplied by the experiment station of the University took charge of the work. (23)



THE ECONOMIC LEVEL OF 1941 – 1950;  

        In assessing the economic status of Lake Charles, seven cities were chosen for comparative purposes. The criteria used in selecting these cities for comparison were population, location, trade, industrial occupation and the number of workers employed.  Alexandria, Monroe and Lafayette may be compared with Lake Charles as cities of Louisiana in the same population and industrial classification.  Meridian, Mississippi, was chosen because it is similar to Lake Charles in industrial corporations and because it is a southern city outside Louisiana.  Burlington, Vermont; Columbia, Missouri; and Eugene, Oregon were selected because they offered comparison in the same population category and because of their respective areas. (1)

        Arnold Dahl, in attempting to evaluate the importance of oil, said:  “The basic changes in everyday life comes from man’s mastery over nature.  They are not wrought by conquerors or rulers or even statesmen; they are wrought by innovators, men who learn how to do new things.” (2)


        In Lake Charles more than half of the area’s industrial workers are employed by the oil or petro-chemical industry.  Heavy production of gulf coast oil tends to assure this area of an increase not only in the refining of crude, but in the utilization of the innumerable by-products of oil. (4)


        The Louisiana Act of 1940 was passed to conserve the oil and gas resources of the State of Louisiana and to prevent waste and depletion.  The act states:


It authorized the Commissioner of Conservation to regulate for certain purposes the exploration for, and the marketing of, oil and gas.  It also provided the Commissioner to issue orders for carrying out the provisions and purposes of the act, and provided for and conducted investigation, hearings, and suits with respect to enforcement of the act. (5)


        The Lake Charles District of the Department of Conservation comprises the six parishes of Allen, Calcasieu, Cameron, Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and Vernon, with the district office located in Lake Charles. (6)


        The fields in the Gulf Coastal area produce oil of high specific gravity; the wells have a depth of from 8,000 to 12,000 feet and their life expectancy is from 20 to 30 years. (7)


        Oil was first discovered in the Lake Charles area at Jennings, Louisiana.  The first refinery in Southwest Louisiana was built with local capital at Jennings.  In 1918, a second small refinery was built at Lake Charles, also with local capital.  In 1939, the Continental Oil Company had decided to build a refinery in Lake Charles; however, their decision did not materialize until 1941, and with its coming large production of oil in the area began. (8)


        The first major oil refinery in the Lake Charles area came in 1941, when the Continental Oil Refinery opened a $4, 000,000 plant near West Lake.  The refinery is located about one mile from the Port of Lake Charles and had a capacity of 45,000 barrels of oil daily.  This plant produces motor and aviation gasoline, diesel and tractor fuel, kerosene, heating oil and heavy residual fuel oil. (9)


        The Continental Refinery pipes large quantities of oil from the Tepetate Oil Field which is located northeast of Lake Charles near the town of Eunice, Louisiana.  Another pipeline was extended south to take care of the production in Jennings area.  The Refinery’s present investment, including pipe lines, is approximately $27, 000,000.  (10)


        When the Cities Service Refinery was looking for a site to build an oil refinery, its engineers found in Lake Charles the industrial facilities they were looking for:


These fields insured a steady supply of crude.  It also was near main pipeline systems that could deliver the crude.  Less than 20 miles south of the site selected the intracoastal canal offered a water route for barge delivery of crude, and for the distribution of products, both east and west and north through the Mississippi River system.  (11) 


        The Missouri Pacific and the Southern Pacific provided rail transportation east, west and north, and the U. S. Highway 90, provided a main route both east and west, and this highway made connections with northern and southern routes, for the possible distribution of Cities Service products. (12)


        When the Cities Service Refinery opened its eighty million dollar plant in 1942, it was called the greatest of all the industrial oil refineries in Lake Charles.  This plant provided employment for approximately 2,100 workers. (13)  Cities Service processed octane gasoline, with a high record annual production of 140,000 barrels.  A butadiene plant was located adjacent to the Cities Service Refinery and was operated by this company.  One observer reported:


Oil men rated Cities Service Refinery as ‘the most modern oil refinery in the world.’  It had new and revolutionary equipment not yet installed in any other refineries.  With the advance in industrial chemistry during World War II, men at the head of an industry like Cities Service foresaw an accelerated increase in population for Lake Charles.  Leaders in Lake Charles said:  'This was just one of the industries that came to lake Charles after the City’s Port was opened.’  Lake Charles has the cheapest fuel on deep water of any city in the United States.  This kind of magnet draws industries. (14) 


        The next oil refinery to come to Lake Charles of any size was the Cit-Con Oil Corporation, jointly owned by Cities Service and Continental Oil Refinery.  On November 3, 1947, Cit-Con received its charter from the Louisiana Corporation Department, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to operate in the city of Lake Charles. (15)  Cit-Con was built at a cost of $42,000,000. (16)  This refinery produced lubricating oil and paraffin wax, and employed about 740 people when it opened in 1949.


        Cit-Con had the added distinction for the area of having the world’s most modern lubricating oil plant and the largest of its kind in the world, as well as one of the nations most important wax producing plants.  (17)  The design capacity of Cit-Con was 6,000 barrels of lubricating oil a day, extracted from 18,000 barrels of crude stock.  After passing through a series of processes the oil and wax became ready for market. (18) 


        In 1949, Esso Standard Oil Company began work on a $150, 000 bulk terminal in Goosport.  The terminal was to serve as a distribution center for all Esso Agencies in the Southwest Louisiana area. (19)


        The last oil company established in Lake Charles during the period was in 1949, when the Shell Oil Company established a Lake Charles Division Office.  It was the largest in the Southwestern Louisiana area, with its exploration, land and production departments.  Geographically, the Division office extended from Lafayette, Louisiana, west to the Sabine River, and from the Gulf of Mexico on the south to the Troy, Arkansas field on the north. (20)


        Production in the Lake Charles ranged from high pressure gas and oil wells, to stripper pumping wells.  Fields in the Lake Charles Division included Black Bayou, Ora, Bear, Cankton, Chalkley, Iowa, Jennings, Roanoke, South Roanoke, Chatman, Dorcheat, Haynesville, Magnolia, Stevens and Vixen.  (21)  In 1948, located in the Lake Charles District were 73 oil and gas fields which produced approximately 75,000 barrels of liquid hydrocarbons per day.  There were 916 producing oil wells; 96 producing gas wells; 337 inactive oil wells; and 77 shut-in gas wells. 


        In addition to the above, 129 additional developments were prospected, resulting in 71 oil wells, 15 gas wells, and 43 dry holes.  During 1948, the wells in this district produced a total of 23,465, 435 barrels of oil; 945,703 barrels of condensate; and 94,247,321 M. C. F.  (one million cubic feet) of natural gas. (22)


        During the years 1948 – 1949, drilling activities in the Lake Charles District continued practically unabated since 1946 – 1947.  In 1948, there were 48 wildcat wells drilled resulting in the discovery of 5 new oil fields and 3 new gas fields; a ratio of 1 discovery to each 6 wells drilled.  These fields were:


Caney Creek Beauregard Parish
Hurricane Creek  Beauregard Parish
  North Gordon Beauregard Parish
North Bivens      Beauregard Parish
Bell City Calcasieu Parish
 East Bell City Calcasieu Parish
Hog Bayou  Cameron Parish
Edna Jefferson Davis Parish (23)



        In 1949, there were a total of 174 wells drilled, of which 33 were wildcat wells.  These wells resulted in the discovery of 5 new oil fields and 3 new gas fields, on a ratio of 1 new field to each 4 wells.  These new fields were:


East Longville  Beauregard Parish
North Bancroft Beauregard Parish
 DeQuincy Calcasieu Parish
West Cameron   Block 33 Cameron Parish
West Cameron  Block 149 Cameron Parish
Mallard Bay  Cameron Parish
North Welsh   Jefferson Davis Parish (24)


        In addition, there were 141 field wells drilled, resulting in 86 oil wells, 21 gas wells, and 33 dry holes.  During 1949, production from this district was 22, 261, 116 barrels of oil; 935,980 barrels of condensate and 92,739,020 M. C. F. of natural gas. (25)


        As the reflection of continued stability in the oil industry in the Lake Charles district, there were 52 permits issued to prospect for oil in 1948 as compared with 48 permits in 1949.   The most active parishes were: Calcasieu with 15 permits issued and six renewals in 1949. Beauregard had six permits issued and one renewal in 1948 and 13 permits and six renewals in 1949. (26)


        In 1950 there were 78 producing oil and gas fields in the Lake Charles district.  They produced more than 75,000 barrels of liquid hydrocarbons per day.  There were 917 producing oil wells; 154 producing gas wells; 57 shut-in gas wells.  During the year 1950, 42 wildcat wells were drilled, resulting in the discovery of 2 new oil fields and 40 dry holes or 1 discovery for each 21 wells drilled.  The new discoveries were: 



Lake Misere Cameron Parish
Phoenix Lake   Calcasieu Parish (27)



        In addition to the above, 198 development wells were drilled of which 122 were oil wells; 30 gas wells; 1 sulphur; and 45 dry holes.  It can be seen that drilling activities for 1950 were at an accelerated rate compared to the years of 1948 and 1949.  This activity was in part influenced by the laying of several large diameter gas lines into this area, which provided a market for gas and in turn caused an increase in the number of gas wells drilled.  During 1950, wells in the Lake Charles district produced a total of 25,443,676 barrels of oil and condensate and 69,756,696 M. C. F. of natural gas. (28) 






1950 (29)


  Capacity in Barrels Acres Number of Tanks
Continental Oil Co. 2,000,000 200 50
Magnolia Petroleum Co. 560,000 168 7
Union Sulphur Company 735,000 288 11
Shell Oil Company 364,000 50 4
W. T. Burton 365,000 11 5
Cities Service 6,000,000 2600 130
Cit Con 1,700,000 367 134


        In 1950, there were seven oil tank farms located on the Lake Charles Ship Channel.  This concludes the industrial development of the oil industry in the Lake Charles area for this period. 


        Lake Charles oil refineries became the center for substantial chemical developments which used the products of refineries or furnished products to them. 


        Early in World War II, Mathieson Alkali Works constructed for the United States Government a plant for the production of synthetic ammonia for military uses. (30) The plant was owned and supervised by the United States Defense Plant Corporation. (31)  Ammonia is a basic chemical produced by combining nitrogen from the air with hydrogen from natural gas.  It was used to manufacture fertilizer and plastics.  Sodium nitrate was widely used to manufacture explosives, matches, glass and etc. (32) 


        During World War II, Mathieson developed and operated a Magnesium Plant for the United States Defense Plant Corporation.  Magnesium is manufactured by electrolysis of a molten or by the passing of a chemical compound through an electric current. (33) 


        The next chemical plant to establish in Lake Charles was the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.  Firestone opened its plant in 1943, for the purpose of manufacturing synthetic rubber.  Synthetic rubber, “was not only a substitute for natural rubber,” but a new material from which many products could be made much better than with natural rubber.  The plant at Lake Charles had an annual capacity of 60,000 tons.  (34) 


        In addition to Mathieson Alkali Works and Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, another major chemical plant was built in Lake Charles, the Columbia-Southern Chemical Corporation.  Columbia-Southern, owned by the Pittsburg Glass Company, (35) leased the Magnesium Plant from the United States Government in 1946, and converted it into a chemical plant manufacturing chlorine and caustic soda.  The first cell circuit was put into operation on October 7, 1947.  Personnel at the plant numbered about five hundred. (36)


        The last chemical plant to be built in Lake Charles during this period was the Mud Supply Company.  This plant was formed in 1947, and four bulk mud installations were opened.  Bulk mud was handled in mud containers at marine points and was delivered by barge. (37)


        During World War II, because of the urgent need for war materials, heavy demands were made upon the city of Lake Charles industrial plants.   The United States Government urged increased production of oil and the manufacturing of chemical products in order to combat her enemies.


        On May 31, 1943, some World War II administrators arrived in Lake Charles and inspected some $200,000,000 worth of war industries.  The plants they inspected were:  Cities Service’s $50,000,000 refinery for high octane gasoline; a $25,000,000 butadiene plant; a $25,000,000 toluene plant; Firestone’s $20,000,000 synthetic rubber plant; $8,500,000 Mathieson Alkali Works; a $43,000,000 magnesium plant; $10,000,000 ammonia and chlorine plant, and a $1,500,000 salt-cake plant. (38)


        The purpose of the visiting war administrators was to evaluate progress, perfect plans for a “truly integrated” war effort and to smash bottlenecks. (39)


        Included in the party were William M. Jeffers, U. S. Rubber Director; Undersecretary of the Navy, James Forrestal; Undersecretary of the U. S. World War II Board, Robert Patterson; W. A. Jones, President of Cities Service Oil Company; Rear Admiral, E. W. Mills, Assistant Chief of the U. S. Bureau of Ships; Ralph K. Davis, U. S. Deputy Petroleum Administrator; and J. W. Livingston, Vice President of the Rubber Reserve Company. (40)


        In August, 1944 an American-British-Russian supply mission completed a two day tour of war installations in Lake Charles.  A joint statement by the three officials, William L. Batt, Vice Chairman of the U. S. War Production Board; Lieutenant General L. G. Rudenks, Chief of the Russian Purchasing Commission to Washington, D. C.; and Lord Pentland, British member of the United Nations Production and Resources Board said;


We witnessed today an extra-ordinary feat of American ingenuity and industry.  The full conversion of a pine forest into three great war plants including the largest aviation gasoline refinery in the world, the synthetic rubber and ammonia plants.

To the management of Cities Service Company, Firestone and the Kellogg Companies, they offered congratulations in the name of the three mighty allies on the work of the management and the men who built and operated those powerful industrial weapons in the war of liberation. (41)


        On July 3, 1945, the United States Department of Labor advised the people of Lake Charles to start post-war planning without delay in an effort to preserve wartime industrial gains.  (42) 


        On August 28, 1946, it was reported by the Lake Charles American Press that “an expected expansion in business and agriculture in the Lake Charles labor market would call for employment of 2,000 additional workers by September 15 according to the Lake Charles Market, a monthly publication of the area office, U. S. Employment Service. (43)


        Colbert stated that “the distribution of workers among various occupational and industrial groups has an important bearing upon the economic stability of Lake Charles.  A concentration of workers in particular industries is an indication of the income level of the community and its needs in housing, transit, and recreation.” (44)





1940 AND 1950 (45)


  1940 1950 % Increase
Occupation Group Number % Number % 1940-1950
Total Employed 8,025 100.0 15,502 100.0 93.2
Professional 659 8.2 1,658 10.7 151.6
Farming 64 0.8 71 0.4 10.9
Management 1,006 12.5 1,800 11.6 78.9
Clerical & Sales 1,492 18.6 3,179 20.5 113.1
Craftsmen & Foremen 648 8.1 2,377 15.3 266.8
Operatives 974 12.1 2,322 15.0 138.4
Domestic Service 1,310 16.3 956 6.2 27.0
Service (except domestic) 986 986 1,501 9.7 67.5
Labor 926 11.6 1,504 9.7 62.4
Not reported 50 0.6 134 0.9 168.0





1940-1950 (46)




Lake Charles 








Workers employed 1940 8,025 10,311 9,740 7,653 8,303 6,663 13,046 11,570
1950 15,505 12,906 12,352 10,989 13,905 11,814 16,767 15,311
Extractive 1940 4.9 1.3 0.7 2.1 1.6 3.5 1.1 1.9
1950 3.4 1.4 0.9 2.1 1.3 6.1 0.9 2.1
Constructive 1940 4.7 4.7 4.2 7.6 6.4 9.1 4.4 5.3
1950 10.9 7.2 4.7 5.8 6.2 8.5 5.0 7.5
Manufacturing 1940 12.5 14.2 22.5 6.7 11.8 6.4 20.0 11.3
1950 20.2 11.9 23.1 6.1 13.5 8.8 18.9 11.6
Transportation, utilities, and communication 1940 10.3 9.3 6.7 5.2 9.9 11.6 12.5 9.9
1950 8.7 10.1 6.8 4.3 10.0 13.0 12.1 10.8
Wholesale trade 1940 4.8 3.9 5.5 2.4 4.3 4.1 3.4 5.8
1950 4.4 4.5 5.9 2.8 5.9 5.5 4.8 6.5
Retail trade 1940 20.5 19.9 19.5 18.7 23.7 20.4 16.7 19.6
1950 20.9 22.2 19.7 19.2 22.4 20.6 21.2 21.8
Finance, insurance, real estate 1940 3.9 3.1 4.0 3.8 4.2 2.5 3.0 3.2
1950 3.4 4.2 4.1 3.8 5.0 3.4 3.3 3.6
Business, personal service 1940 26.5 29.4 16.1 19.4 16.4 25.3 25.9 31.0
1950 15.5 20.1 11.5 13.4 14.0 17.4 19.5 21.7
Other 1940 4.4 5.5 5.9 8.3 6.5 5.5 4.3 4.0
1950 4.2 6.3 5.5 5.6 4.4 3.8 4.5 4.2


        In 1950 for the seven selected cities, Lake Charles was second for the number of workers engaged in extractive industry and first in manufacturing.  The extractive industries included farming, mining and oil refining.  Lake Charles had the highest number of workers in this group in 1940 but changed places with Lafayette in 1950.  Although there was a decrease in the number of workers for Lake Charles, the 1950 figure is still high compared to the six cities with a lower number of increased workers.  In the manufacturing category, Burlington was the only city of the eight with a higher number of employees than Lake Charles.  The significance in this group, however is that Lake Charles increased 12.5% in 1940 to 20.2% in 1950, whereas the comparable figures for Burlington were 22.5% and 23.1%.  These statistics emphasize the increased importance of Lake Charles as an industrial city.  In all other categories by industry group Lake Charles had the lowest number of laborers compared to the other seven cities except for retail trade where the Lake Charles figure was average. (47)


        The amount of retail trade is directly related to the area, population, and character of the area it serves.  Lake Charles does not compare too favorably with the seven selected cities.  The number of stores decreased and Lake Charles went down from fourth to last and then to second to last in 1948.  In both 1939 and 1948, however there were three cities with lower per capita sales than Lake Charles.


        Lake Charles was partially established because of the commercial advantages and possibilities of water transportation on the Calcasieu River.  Water transportation is closely linked with the industrial and commercial growth of a city. (48)


        Lake Charles more than doubled its imports in 1949 over 1948, with value of imports increasing 200 per cent and weight 119.7 per cent.  Lake Charles gained from 1948 to 1949, 190.4 per cent in exports by weight. (49)


        The trend of employment during the past several years for Lake Charles has been predominantly industrial, where by previously agriculture and stock raising were the main industries for the city’s area.  However, rice farming has retained its peak activity.  The employment for Lake Charles had increased the past several years.  However, the 1950 level of employment for Lake Charles was slightly below that of the previous year.








City Sales, Entire Year Stores (Number) Population Per Capita Sales (Dollars)
  Rank in U.S. Amount (Thousands)      
  1948 1939 1948 1939 1948 1939 1950 1940 1948 1939
Lake Charles 337 398 44,565 11,316 465 355 41,202 21,207 1,082 534
Alexandria 321 376 46,822 12,278 578 423 34,685 27,066 1,350 454
Burlington 316 299 48,244 16,886 423 416 33,039 27,686 1,460 610
Columbia 421 416 33,479 10,284 318 311 31,731 18,399 1,055 559
Eugene 195 284 79,104 18,122 514 450 35,652 20,838 2,218 870
Lafayette 450 463 27,059 7,024 434 320 33,465 19,210 808 366
Meridian 367 377 40,039 12,215 520 450 41,709 35,481 960 514
Monroe 241 293 62,679 17,003 635 484 38,375 28,309 1,633 601








Year Employment Unemployment
1946 19,725 2,800
1947 20,100 2,625
1948 22,275 2,100
1949 22,675 2,700
1950 22,650 3,025






        Lake Charles, located in the Southwestern part of Louisiana on rolling prairies, at the present time is one of the fastest growing industrial centers along the Gulf Coast.  This development had been the result of four basic factors. 


        First, the area has an abundant supply of natural resources.   This part of Louisiana had been a farming and cattle raising section from its origin up to the 1870’s.  In the years following the lumber industry developed and declined as the virgin pine forests were cut over.  With the decline of lumbering in the early 1920’s the city turned its attention to developing other resources, principally oil and chemicals. 


        Second, in order to attract industries and to develop their natural resources, the people of Lake Charles saw the need for improving their inland waterway.  First, they sought Federal assistance to open a ship channel from Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico.  After being rejected by the United States Government in 1926 the people of Lake Charles, drawing on local capital resources, built a ship channel with adequate facilities; this became the only seaport built in the United States without Federal aid.  The business of the port proved so lucrative that in 1928 the United States Government took over its maintenance. As the port developed, Lake Charles became the trade center for Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jefferson Davis Parishes.


        Third, in 1938, the Federal Government built a direct channel from Lake Charles to Calcasieu Pass at a cost of $9,600,000.  This was necessitated by increased business brought on by industries and the tonnage volume which exceeded the War Department’s estimate for a ten year period.  This channel shortened the total distance from Lake Charles to the sea from seventy-five to thirty-five miles, saving both time and money to ships and the owners. 


        Fourth, the civic leaders of Lake Charles demonstrated great faith and initiative in promoting industries for this area.  These people gave generously of both time and money to bring about the industrial growth of this area. 


        Industry alone does not make a city.  A city must offer other things that are needed in life; spiritual and cultural values; a democratic form of government unmolested by political corruption; educational facilities and a conducive social atmosphere.  Lake Charles offered these to her area.  With these attractions and tremendous material resources, the area was able to build a balanced and diversified economy on a solid foundation. This is responsible for its steady growth and augurs well for future economic and social development.






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Newell, J. F.,   “We Choose Lake Charles,” The McNeese Review, II, Spring, 1949.


Louisiana Municipal Review, Alexandria, February, 1956.




Perrin, William Henry, Southwest Louisiana, New Orleans, 1891.


Bailey, Joseph Cannon, Seaman A. Knapp, New York, 1945.


Landry, Stuart O., (ed.), Louisiana Almanac and Fact Book: 1949, New Orleans, 1949.




Ferguson, Stewart Alfred, "The History of Lake Charles, Louisiana," Unpublished Master's thesis, The Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1931.


Personal interviews with Mr. Elmer E. Shutts, May 21, 1958, and Miss Maude Reid, May 8, 1958.


A letter from Mr. Donald W. Johnson, Manager, Louisiana Division of Employment Security, Lake Charles Division, to the author, August 12, 1957.


A scrapbook in possession of Miss Maude Reid.




Crowley Signal Annual, 1908.


Hammond Progress, 1938.


Baton Rouge State Times, 1944-1948.


Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, 1943-1944.


New Orleans Times Picayune, 1943-1949.


Lake Charles American Press, 1900-1956.




Shell Oil Company Bulletin, “New Oiler,” October, 1949.


Mud Supply Company Incorporated Bulletin, Lake Charles, Louisiana.


Cities Service Bulletin.


Columbia Southern Chemical Corporation Bulletin.


Lake Charles Chamber of Commerce Bulletins.


Lake Charles Association of Commerce Bulletin, September 1, 1951.




            Bernard H. Lane was born on June 29, 1926, in New Orleans, Louisiana.  He attended Thomy Lafon and McDonogh No. 35 schools and was graduated at the age of fifteen.  There upon, he entered the United States Navy.  He received an honorable discharge from the Navy and entered Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, where he completed two years of college work.  In September, 1949 he entered Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri and in June, 1951, he received the Bachelor of Arts degree in History.


        In June 1955, he entered the Graduate School of the Louisiana State University and is now a candidate for the Master of Arts degree in the Department of History.




Chapter I


1.                  Stewart Alfred Ferguson, “The History of Lake Charles, Louisiana,”  (Unpublished Master’s Thesis, The Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1931), 2.

2.                  Ibid.,  3.

3.                  John R. Swanton, A Structural and Lexical Comparison of the Tunica, Chitimacha, and Atakapa Languages, United States Bureau of American Ethnology. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), 8.

4.                  Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, Calcasieu Parish Resources and Facilities, Louisiana Department of Public Works (Baton Rouge, October, 1945), 10.

5.                  Maude Reid, “Our Town in the Sixties,” Lake Charles American Press, April 29, 1956.  This writer interviewed Miss Reid, noted historian of Lake Charles, Louisiana and granddaughter of the second Sheriff of Calcasieu Parish, David J. Reid, on May 8, 1958.

6.                  Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit., 8.

7.                  Ibid.,  10.

8.                  A. N. Turcan and others, Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Southwestern Louisiana (Baton Rouge, 1954), 5-6.

9.                  Ibid.,  10.

10.              Ibid.,  14-15.

11.              Paul H. Jones, “Physiography,” Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Southwestern Louisiana, 17.

12.              Ibid.,  37.


Chapter II


1.                  Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit.,  11.

2.                  Ferguson, op. cit., 6-7.

3.                  Ibid.

4.                  Lake Charles American Press,  November 15, 1909.

5.                  Grace Ulmer, “Economic and Social Development of Calcasieu Parish,” Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXXII (July, 1949), 568.

6.                  Lake Charles American Press, February 1, 1917. 

7.                  Calcasieu Parish Planning Board,  op. cit., 12.

8.                  Ibid., 11-12.

9.                  Ibid., 12.

10.              The American State Papers, Public Lands,  III (Washington, 1834), 345.

11.              Acts of Louisiana: 1840, Act 72, Published By Authority (New Orleans, 1840), 72.

12.              William Henry Perrin, Southwest Louisiana (New Orleans, 1891), 120.

13.              Calcasieu Parish Planning Board,  op. cit., 12.

14.              Historical Records Survey, Inventory of the Parish Archives of Louisiana:  No. 10, Calcasieu Parish (Lake Charles) (Baton Rouge, 1938), 20.

15.              Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit., 13.

16.              Ulmer, op. cit., 595; citing an interview with A. M. Mayo.

17.              Ferguson, op. cit., 32.

18.              Acts of Louisiana: 1867, Act 79, Published By Authority (New Orleans, 1867), 155.  The first act incorporating a town on the site of the present city of Lake Charles was Act 95, in 1861.  Lake Charles was incorporated on March 16, 1867, under Louisiana Act 79 signed by Duncan S. Cage, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Albert Voorhies, Lieutenant Governor and President of the Senate; J. H. Hardy, Secretary of State; and J. Madison Wells, Governor.

19.              Reid, op. cit.,  21.  It was never regularly surveyed and laid out as a town.  It was incorporated as Charleston in 1861.

20.              Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit., 19.

21.              Reid, op. cit.,  21.

22.              Ulmer, op. cit., 575.

23.              Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit.,  21.

24.              United States Bureau of the Census, Ninth Census of the United States: 1870, Manufactures, IV (Washington, 1872), 825.

25.              Ibid., 13.

26.              The Port of Lake Charles, Lake Charles, I (May, 1949), 14.

27.              Elmer E. Shutts, “ The Port of Lake Charles,” Address delivered before the American Society of Civil Engineers, Louisiana Division, November 25, 1946, 1.

28.              E. R. Kaufman, “The Port of Lake Charles,” The McNeese Review, I (Spring, 1948), 50.

29.              Interview with Elmer E. Shutts, member of the Louisiana State Board of Commerce and Industry and Consulting Engineer for the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District, May 21, 1958.

30.              Kaufman, loc. cit.

31.              Shutts’ interview, op. cit.

32.              Crowley, Louisiana, Signal Annual, December 19, 1908.

33.              Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit.,16.

34.              Ibid., 13.

35.              Stuart O. Landry (ed.), Louisiana Almanac and Fact Book: 1949 (New Orleans, 1949), 161.

36.              H. C. Sanders, “Seaman A. Knapp, Father of Agricultural Extension,” The McNeese Review, V (Spring, 1953), 17.

37.              Landry, loc. cit.

38.              Joseph Cannon Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp (New York, 1945), 126.

39.              Shutts’ interview, op. cit.

40.              Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit.,103.

41.              The Port of Lake Charles, Oil: $5Million Per Acre, I (Lake Charles, November-December, 1950), II.

42.              Shutts’ interview, op. cit.

43.              H. F. Whiton, “Sulphur, Oil and Salt Development Mines, Louisiana,” The McNeese Review, II (Spring, 1949), 34.

44.              United States Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States: 1909, Manufactures, VIII (Washington, 1913), 98.

45.              Lake Charles Papers.  List of Municipal Incorporations, in Department of Archives, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

46.              United States Bureau of the Census, loc. cit. Value added by manufacture (value of products less cost of materials).  Cities with less than 10,000 inhabitants do not appear in the Manufacture Census. 

47.              United States Bureau of Census, Seventeenth Census of the United States: 1950, Population, II (Washington, 1952), 18.



Chapter III


1.                  New Orleans Times Picayune, October 14, 1945.

2.                  Kaufman, op. cit., 50.

3.                  United States Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States: 1919, Manufactures, IX (Washington, 1920), 523.  Manufacturers census from 1929-1950 does not give special recognition to cities, instead counties and states with perhaps minor exceptions are noted. 

4.                  New Orleans Times Picayune, loc. cit.

5.                  Shutts’ interview, op .cit.

6.                  Kaufman, op. cit., 51-52.

7.                  Ibid.

8.                  New Orleans Times Picayune, loc. cit.

9.                  Kaufman, op. cit,.  52.

10.              Acts of Louisiana: 1924 (Baton Rouge, 1924), 93.

11.              Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit., 127.

12.              Ibid., 115.

13.              Kaufman, op. cit., 52.

14.              Ibid., 53.

15.              Louisiana Municipal Review, Alexandria (February, 1956), 4.

16.              Louisiana Commerce and Industry, Industrial Lake Charles, III (Baton Rouge, May, 1940), 3.

17.              Manufacturers’ Record, Blue Book of Southern Progress (Baltimore, 1927), 83.

18.              Lake Charles Association of Commerce Bulletin (n. p., n. d.).

19.              Lake Charles American Press, November 9, 1916.

20.              The Port of Lake Charles, Lake Charles:  Bayou Publications, Incorporated, I (May, 1949), 38.

21.              Ferguson, op. cit., 291.

22.              Kaufman, op. cit., 55.

23.              Ibid., 56.


Chapter IV


1.                  J. F. Newell, “We Choose Lake Charles,” The McNeese Review, II (Spring, 1949), 21.

2.                  Ibid., 21-22.

3.                  Louisiana Corporation Department Files, June 18, 1957.  Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Capital.

4.                  Lake Charles American Press, September 26, 1954.

5.                  Calcasieu Parish Planning Board, op. cit.,  20.

6.                  Lake Charles American Press, loc. cit.

7.                  Newell, op. cit., 22.

8.                  Ibid., 23.

9.                  Lake Charles American Press, loc. cit.

10.              Kaufman, op. cit.,  55.

11.              Shutts’ interview, op. cit.

12.              Kaufman, op. cit., 56.

13.              Hammond, Louisiana, Progress, September 23, 1938.

14.              Kaufman, op. cit., 56.

15.              Manufacturers’ Record, Blue Book of Southern Progress (Baltimore, 1940), 16.

16.              Rupert Cisco (ed.), “Lake Charles, Louisiana’s Second Port, Louisiana Police Jury, 1940, 10.

17.              Louisiana State Board of Commerce and Industry, Tax Exemption to Industry in Louisiana (Baton Rouge, 1937), 11.

18.              Acts of Louisiana, 1936, Act 68, Published By Authority (Baton Rouge, 1937), 888.

19.              Louisiana State Board of Commerce and Industry, op. cit., 13.

20.              Miss Maude Reid’s Scrapbook, (n. p., n. d.).

21.              Hammond Progress, April 15, 1938.

22.              Reid, loc. cit.

23.              Hammond Progress, loc. cit.


Chapter V


1.                  Charles R. Colbert, A Sketch Plan for Lake Charles, Louisiana (Lake Charles, 1955), 44.

2.                  Arnold Dahl, “Oil and Our Way of Life,”  The McNeese Review, V (Spring, 1953), 25.

3.                  Ibid., 31.

4.                  Lake Charles Association of Commerce Bulletin, (September 1, 1951), 7.

5.                  Louisiana State Department of Conservation, Eighteenth Biennial Report: 1946-1947 (Baton Rouge, 1948), 58.

6.                  ____________.  Nineteenth Biennial Report: 1948-1949 (Baton Rouge, 1950), 47.

7.                  Lake Charles Chamber of Commerce Bulletin, op. cit.

8.                  Shutts’ interview, op. cit.

9.                  Lake Charles Chamber of Commerce Bulletin, op. cit.

10.              Ibid.

11.              Cities Service Refinery Bulletin, “Lake Charles Refinery” (n. p., n. d.).

12.              Ibid.

13.              Reid’s Scrapbook, op. cit.

14.              Lake Charles Association of Commerce Bulletin, op. cit.

15.              The State of Louisiana Corporation Department Files, June 18, 1957, Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State Capital.

16.              Lake Charles Association of Commerce Bulletin, op. cit.

17.              Lake Charles American Press, August 7, 1949.

18.              Ibid.

19.              Ibid.,  November 4, 1949.

20.              Shell Oil Company Bulletin, “New Oiler”  (October, 1949), n. p.

21.              Ibid.

22.              Louisiana State Department of Conservation, Nineteenth Biennial Report, op. cit.,  47.

23.              Ibid.

24.              Ibid., 48.

25.              Ibid. 

26.              Ibid., 127.

27.              Louisiana State Department of Conservation, Twentieth Biennial Report: 1950-1951 (Baton Rouge, 1952), 138.

28.              Ibid.

29.              Lake Charles Association of Commerce Bulletin (n. p., n. d.).

30.              American Press, op. cit., 3.

31.              Baton Rouge State Times, September 20, 1944.

32.              American Press, loc. cit.

33.              Columbia-Southern Chemical Corporation Bulletin (n. p., n. d.).

34.              Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, August 28, 1943.

35.              Columbia-Southern Chemical Corporation, op. cit.

36.              Lake Charles Association of Commerce, op. cit.

37.              Mud Supply Company, Incorporated Bulletin (Lake Charles, n. d.), 2.

38.              New Orleans Times Picayune, June 1, 1943.

39.              Ibid.

40.              Ibid.

41.              Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, August 6, 1944.

42.              Ibid.,  June 3, 1945.

43.              Lake Charles American Press, August 28, 1946.

44.              Colbert, op. cit.,  45.

45.              United States Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census of the United States:  1940.  Characteristics of the Population.  II, Part 3, Louisiana (Washington, 1943), 424; id., Seventeenth Census of the United States: 1950.  Characteristics of the Population.  II, Part 18, Louisiana (Washington, 1953), 53.  Cities with less than 25,000 in population are not listed by the United States Bureau of the Census in 1940 and 1950.  This is why no figures were given to the previous years.

46.              United States Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census of the United States; 1940.  Characteristics of the Population.  II, Part 3, Louisiana; Part 4, Mississippi and Missouri; Part 5, Oregon; and Part 7, Vermont (Washington, 1943), 130-139; id.,  Seventeenth Census, Parts 24, 25, 37, and 45 (Washington, 1952, 18-51; 45-30.

47.              Colbert, op. cit.,  49.

48.              Ibid., 152.

49.              New Orleans, Times Picayune, July 5, 1949.

50.              United States Census of Business, Retail Trade-General Statistics, 1948:  The United States Census of Business, I, part I, Louisiana-Mississippi-Missouri-Oregon-Vermont (Washington, 1952), 1.42-1.47.

51.              Letter from Donald W. Johnson, Manager, Louisiana Division of Employment Security, Lake Charles, to the author, August 12, 1957.  The Louisiana Division of Employment Security is unable to produce figures for Lake Charles from 1938 to 1945.


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