(Transcribed by Leora White, February 2007)

This work is being presented to the Southwest Louisiana Historical Institute by the author in the fond hope that it might serve to stimulate further research in the history of Southwest Louisiana.



A Dissertation
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
Doctor of Philosophy
The Department of History


Donald J. Millet, Sr.
A. B., 1935, Louisiana State University
M. A., 1941, Louisiana State University
January, 1964


In this study, southwest Louisiana may be defined as that general area from the Mississippi escarpment, which divides the prairie from the Mississippi alluvial plain in the east to the Sabine River in the west, and from approximately the 31st parallel of latitude in the north to the Gulf of Mexico. It thus comprises the present-day parishes of Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Saint Landry, and Vermilion. This area, largely prairie land, and referred to by early settlers and travelers as the "cow country" because of the vast herds of cattle found grazing there, contains approximately 8,936 square miles or 5,459,040 acres of land area, which is 18.4 percent of the area of Louisiana. These parishes vary somewhat in certain characteristics; therefore they do not constitute a homogeneous region. As will be seen in this study, however, after 1880 they developed regional characteristics.

In regional delineation, the writer has followed nineteenth century geographers’ practice of using the term "prairie" to include all of southwest Louisiana except in cases where the true prairie is designated.

Several studies, mostly individual parishes and towns of southwest Louisiana, have been made. Except for the work edited and published in 1891 by William Henry Perrin titled Southwest Louisiana: Biographical and Historical no other study has been made to treat the area as a region. Even Perrin’s work, however, gives more attention to parish development than regional development.

Settlers who began to move into southwest Louisiana in the latter half of the eighteenth century and most of the nineteenth century avoided the true prairie area because they looked upon it useful only for grazing. The result of this consensus explains why the region was settled in the eastern and western extremities, leaving the intervening prairies almost devoid of inhabitants save along the streams that penetrated the prairies. It was left to the Midwesterners who in the middle 1880’s began to move into the prairies to demonstrate to the natives the value of the prairies as an ideal area for the growing of rice. Thereafter, prairie land sold at a premium.

The eastern extremity developed earlier than the western. The rich black and brown alluvial soil in eastern Saint Landry, Lafayette, and portions of Vermilion dictated the growing of sugar cane and cotton as staple agricultural products. Economic development, therefore, hinged on these two products. The poorly drained forested and prairie soils in the western area that after 1840 came to be called "Imperial Calcasieu" precluded any extensive agricultural activity. Instead, a rather large sawmill industry developed there after the Civil War. The eastern section had its commercial activities oriented with the market of New Orleans, while the trade in the western section was with Galveston. The extension of the railroad through southwest Louisiana in 1880 changed this trading pattern by uniting both sections. There after, southwest Louisiana developed as a region. Its greatest economic advances were made after 1880.

The lumbering activities of Calcasieu modestly developing after the Civil War were greatly boosted after 1880. The almost non-existent rice industry similarly developed after that date. Sugar and cotton production greatly affected by the Civil War and its aftermath did not full recover until the 1890’s. Even then, cotton production was faced with low market prices that persisted to the end of the century. Sugar production recovered very slowly in the 1870’s, and 1880’s, but the 1890’s saw favorable tariffs, advanced technology, and central refineries that brought prosperity to the growers.

Other developments that contributed to the economic development of southwest Louisiana after 1880 were: scientific breeding of cattle stimulated largely by Midwesterners; the birth of the rice industry revolutionized in the last dozen or more years of the century; the introduction of banks, both State and Federal, after 1889; and the growing interest in sheep, hog, and poultry raising.

In the preparation of this manuscript the writer is indebted to scores of persons who rendered him genuine service. Traveling the length and breadth of southwest Louisiana, he found the people always generous with their time in discussing the various phases of the early economy of the area. It was possible only to document a relatively small number of those persons who made contributions to his understanding of the developments within the various parishes. He would, however, like to acknowledge the professional help given him by Professors Burl Noggle and Edwin A. Davis of the Department of History, without whose aid this work would have been made immeasurably more difficult. The author’s former colleague, Dr. Louis M. O’Quinn, now associated with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at Mississippi State University, gave advice on preparing the chapter on Money, Banking, and General Business. Dr. Lauren C. Post of San Diego State College was more than generous in making available reprints of his articles on southwest Louisiana. His colleague, Professor Dorothy F. Roberts of the McNeese State College English Department, edited the entire manuscript and made suggestions for the organization of material.

The author is also deeply indebted to the clerks of court of all the parishes embraced in this study and the Clerk of Court of Saint Mary Parish. Letters to them were at all times answered promptly. The library staff of Louisiana State University, Tulane University, University of Southwestern Louisiana, and McNeese State College who went far beyond the call of duty to be helpful. Particularly is an expression of gratitude due to Mrs. Ruth C. Murray of the Government Documents Department of the Library of Louisiana State University; to Miss Pearl Mary Segura, Librarian, Louisiana Room, Dupré Library, University of Southwestern University; and to Mrs. Mary Ory, Reference Librarian, Frazar Memorial Library, McNeese State College.

Held deeply in the author’s debt are a number of distinguished citizens of southwest Louisiana, notably Harry G. Chalkley, E. R. Kaufman, Edward Sweeney, and Miss Maude Reid, all of Lake Charles, and Congressman T. Ashton Thompson of the Seventh Congressional District of Louisiana who made available documents from the Library of Congress that were unobtainable elsewhere.

Finally, to his wife, he extends his deepest gratitude. For without her understanding and unfailing encouragement the task would have been harder, and the finished product less worthy.

No one mentioned in these acknowledgments is responsible for the conclusions reached, the nature of organization, or the conception of the work. He alone bears the responsibility for the text.






















I. Population Statistics from the United States Census, 1860-1900


I. Boundaries of Southwest Louisiana

II. General Soil Areas and Associated

Soil Series Groups of Louisiana

III. Lake Charles As A Prospective Railroad Center


This study is an inquiry into the economic development of southwest Louisiana from the termination of the Civil War to the end of the century. The area embraced by the study includes the present-day parishes of Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Saint Landry, and Vermilion which cover approximately 18.4 per cent of the land area of the State.

Long designated as the prairies of Louisiana from the time of the earliest settlers, the region was thought valuable only as a grazing area for livestock - principally cattle. Settlement, therefore, proceeded slowly partly for this reason and partly because of the difficulty of access. The eastern alluvial fringe developed earlier and at a more rapid pace than did the sparsely populated western section along the Calcasieu River. The intervening area, the true prairies, was generally avoided by settlers because agricultural pursuits were thought to be impractical, if not impossible here. Settlements, however, were made along streams penetrating into the prairies where the Acadians and Creoles developed a typical French-Spanish landownership pattern.

Although the region possessed the natural advantages of a mild climate, adequate rainfall for most purposes, and a variety of soils making possible a diversified agriculture consisting of such staples as sugar cane, cotton, and at a later time rice, the Civil War and Reconstruction delayed continued development. The lumber industry of Calcasieu was the only significant industry prior to 1880.

In 1880, however, the railroad was extended through the region, giving it access to markets hitherto not within its trading orbit. Stimulus was given to the sawmill industry of Calcasieu; new prairies once thought undesirable for agriculture. They brought with them advanced techniques in animal husbandry, horticulture, and most important for the region, machinery used in the wheat fields of the Midwest. Adapted to rice technology, these machines along with the solution of irrigation problems revolutionized the industry by the end of the century. The railroad also stimulated the development of towns in southwest Louisiana.

By 1890 the cotton and sugar industry had recovered. Although the prices of cotton remained low through the decade, such ameliorative developments as cottonseed mills eased somewhat the farmer’s burden. Sugar producers were aided by favorable tariffs and advanced techniques in the growing, processing, and marketing of the product. Banks provided ready credit for those who needed it.

Economic development in southwest Louisiana owes much to several inspired men. Principally among these are Jabez B. Watkins, entrepreneur in the age of enterprise; Seaman A. Knapp, educator who taught the farmers the value of experimentation and demonstration; and Sylvester L. Cary, land agent for the Southern Railroad Company, who induced thousands of Midwesterners to seek their fortunes in the prairies of Louisiana.

Relative lack of documentary material has made research into the economic development of southwest Louisiana a difficult task. Few diaries, letters, journals, account books, scrapbooks, and memoirs have been preserved. The occurrence of several disastrous courthouse fires in Saint Landry and Vermilion in the 1880’s and Calcasieu in 1910 greatly added to the writer’s difficulty. The Watkins papers were unintentionally destroyed in the 1930’s. Heavy reliance, therefore, was made perforce on other sources. Principally among these were contemporary newspapers, which, fortunately, have been preserved in relatively complete files; government documents, both State and Federal; and several books and scrapbooks written and kept in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Other materials relied upon were booklets, pamphlets, periodicals, and several private collections of letters and account books.

Prepared by Department of Public Works, Baton Rouge, LA, n.d.




Geographer William Darby, one of the first to make a systemic study of the physical features of Louisiana in the early part of the nineteenth century, believed that "few spots on the globe of an equal extent, exhibit more diversity of surface, or a greater variety of soil and vegetable production, than does Opelousas," for "every forest tree found in southern Louisiana, except a few species," exists in this area. "Here are beheld all the changes of soil, from the deep fertile loam of Bayou Boeuf, to the sterile pine woods" in the upper part what is now Calcasieu, Beauregard, and Allen parishes; "from the broken hills of Bayou Crocodile, Calcasieu, and Sabine, to the Marsh Prairies of the gulph / sic / of Mexico; and from the deep and almost impervious woods along the Atchafalaya, to the widely extended plains that open their vast area, upon the banks of the Mermentau and Calcasieu rivers." (1)

Lying within the physiographic region known as the West Coastal Plain, southwest Louisiana comprises parts of three physiographic belts paralleling the margin of the Gulf of Mexico in eastern Texas and Louisiana with a fourth belt transverse to them, the western margin of the Mississippi Valley. (2) The characteristic features of these belts that distinguish them are the degree of dissection by streams and the regional slope of the surface. (3) The general slope of the region is gulfward with the shore line trending east west. (4) Recognized as terraces, the origin of these belts has been a subject of controversy. Some authors consider them of marine origin while others believe that they were formed by stream deposition. (5)

The oldest and most dissected of the three physiographic belts is the upland-plains section comprising all of Beauregard, approximately the northern two-thirds of Allen, and the northwestern one-fourth of Evangeline parishes. (6) Here the plains between the principal streams are gently rolling with a relief of not more than twenty feet where erosion has not been pronounced. Slope of the surface is a few degrees east of south. (7) A second belt within the upland plains is not more than six to twenty miles in width and ranges north-south through southern Beauregard and northern Calcasieu and continues northeastward. It includes most of the upland area east of the Calcasieu River in Allen and Evangeline parishes. (8) The slope of these plains is gulfward and ranges from about one and one-half to two feet per mile making for a flat and relatively poor drainage pattern. Here swamps are prevalent. Areas of this belt of plains are called "flatwoods." (9) The upland-plains area was heavily forested with a pine growth before the sawmills stripped the land. Pimple mounds and bagols are surface characteristics of the upland plains. Ranging from about thirty to fifty feet in diameter and about a foot to five feet in height, pimple mounds are circular mounds of earth, probably erosional in origin, aligned parallel to the drainage pattern. (10) Bagols on the other hand are found in low, swampy areas shaped either round or elliptical, and are usually not more than one-fourth mile in greatest width. Since pine trees do not grow in these areas, the pine oaks and bay trees which do were left standing after the surrounding pine forests were cut, leaving "small island of woods in a sea of grassland and stumps." (11) Streams of the upland-plains are all transverse to the east west trend of the plains and have relatively shallow gradients. The floods plains of the streams support a dense, jungle-like thicket of tangled vines and palmetto with growths of cypress and gum trees. (12)

The second of the physiographic belts of southwest Louisiana is the prairie. Comprising abut half of the region, the prairie area is not entirely treeless since dense woods are found on the flood plains of streams that cut across the prairie. Between the streams where the land is not under cultivation is a thick growth of grass. (13) Extending almost without a break from the Sabine River on the west to the Bayou Teche-Bayou Cocodrie drainage systems on the east, the prairie area forms a triangle with the apex in northern Evangeline Parish and the base parallel to the gulf shore line. The width west-east is about 130 miles, while the north-south dimension is about seventy miles. (14) Where untouched by erosion, the relief of the prairie ranges from ten to twenty feet and slopes gently gulfward at the rate of one and one-half to two feet per mile. The greatest altitude is in Evangeline Parish where it is about one hundred feet above sea level. (15)

The eastern edge of the prairie, which extends from the northern-most point of Evangeline Parish to the south-eastern boundary of Iberia Parish, is an eastward facing escarpment having an elevation of eighty feet at its lowest in the area of Franklin. (16)

The principal streams of the prairie are the only visible relief. Natural levees formed by ancient streams which crossed and re-crossed the prairie are better drained than the back-swamp areas. These levees are the principal locations of railroad, roads, buildings, and cultivation areas. (17) Streams that cross the prairie - such as the Mermentau River and Bayou Nezpique - are generally shallow, since they do not cut through the clay that forms the land surface. Their dry-weather flow, therefore, is very small - a factor in their role as sources of irrigation water. (18)

The third of the physiographic belts characterizing southwest Louisiana is the coastal marshland. If it were not for the cheniers, which are old beach ridges in the marsh, there would be no observable relief west of the Vermilion River. (19) In few places does the land rise more then five feet above sea level. (20) Of the 2,771 square miles comprising the total area of Cameron and Vermilion parishes, it has been estimated that 2,321 square miles are marshlands. (21) Along the northern borders of the marsh the land is quite firm, having silt and hard clay at its base. However, in the central and southern parts, the high organic content of the mud makes the surface quite boggy and incapable of bearing the weight of these who attempt to cross it on foot. (22)

The cheniers are the most conspicuous features of the coastal marshland. They are beach ridges, composed mostly of sand and shells thrown up by the waves during a storm and comprise about seventy square miles in the area. The cheniers are the principal area of habitation. They arise as much as twenty-five feet above the level of the sea and extend for many miles paralleling the coast line. Seldom more than a hundred feet wide, they are steep on the gulfward side caused by their wave origin. (23)

An abundance of lakes is a characteristic feature of the marshland. Where some owe their origin to peat "burnouts" such as that of Lake Arthur, most of them are estuaries formed by wave erosion along the margin of watercourses. The best example of this is Grand Lake, White Lake, and Vermilion Bay. (24) Merging with the coastal marshland along an indefinable line trending southeast from Franklin in Saint Mary Parish is the Mississippi flood plain has been identified as the deltaic plain. That part of the deltaic plain lying west of the Atchafalaya River is composed of poorly drained swamp lands with a heavy growth of forests. (25) These characteristics differentiate the area west of the escarpment.

A significant topographical feature of southwest Louisiana that led to early land ownership patterns and agricultural development of the region is the frontlands and backlands. (26) (The cultural aspect of these land features will be discussed later.) The front lands are natural levees made by the overflow of rivers to which they are adjacent. They are higher near the streams and slope gently towards the swamp or backlands. The building-up process of these levees which occurs with the annual floods deposits coarser material near the channel while the finer material is carried to backlands. (27) Because these lands are higher, better drained, and more accessible, they were chosen by the early inhabitants for settlement. Thereby began the unique pattern of land ownership found in the areas of French and Spanish land grants in colonial Louisiana.

Maximum elevation of the region (not counting the hills of Evangeline Parish) is found near the city of Opelousas, on the escarpment. Here the elevation is about seventy feet above sea level. (28) The slope is southwestward toward the mouth of the Mermentau, where the elevation is only five feet above the level of the sea. The drainage pattern of the Mermentau and it tributaries is, therefore, in a southwesterly direction. (29)

Many of the geographical features of the region were given names - French always - by the Acadians who settled there:

Where a clearing was made by burning away the underbrush and the prairie grass to develop farm land, this was called a "brule" to which was added a specific name. Where gullies developed from rain water running down to some nearby stream, the name of "coulee" was given. A bit of highland was a "coteau." Any open tract of land was a "prairie." Where oaks grew in clusters, it was "cheniere." Where a bayou or a "coulee" made a sharp turn or two streams joined, there was "la pointe." If a swamp or shallow body of water pushed its way into the prairie, it was "l’anse" or bay. The spot where a bridge spanned a bayou was inevitably called "le pont," with some specific name added. These Acadian geographical terms and others are found all through Southwest Louisiana, together with those for the ever-present bayou. (30)

Guided by a compass, Samuel H. Lockett, professor of engineering at Louisiana State University, crossed the prairies on horseback in the early 1870’s. He described the region this way:

All of this extensive area thus broadly defined (the Great Prairies) is not one of treeless expanse. Coulees and bayous course through it, generally in a north and south direction, on the borders of which grows fine forests of timber. From the principal belts of timber spurs run into the open prairies like headlands into the sea, thus dividing the whole region in to separate tracts each having its own name. Faquetaique, Mamou, Calcasieu, Sabine, Vermilion, Mermentau, Plaquemines, Opelousas, and Grand prairies are the largest. There are many others with local names that it is needless to mention. The surface of the Prairies, though generally level, is yet not perfectly so. It is gently rolling like the billows of a deep sea. In fact, one cannot ride through the Prairies without having this resemblance to large bodies of water constantly recurring to his mind, and looks like capes and promontories, the "coves" like bays and bluffs, and the occasional clumps of trees like islands of the sea. (31)


The waterways of a region must always be considered when estimating the area’s value for human habitation and cultivation. A map of southwest Louisiana will show that the region is well supplied with waterways for navigation and irrigation. This was especially significant for the period of the study. Navigable streams, with their affluents, penetrate the region in every direction, supplying it with water communication. These streams all find their way to the Gulf of Mexico by five independent mouths. The Sabine River, which forms the western boundary of the region under study, was of a little importance in the economic development of the area. Only one tributary stream - Anacoco Bayou - is within southwest Louisiana, and it receives its flow from out side the region. (32) About thirty miles eastward is the Calcasieu River with its principal tributaries: Bundick, Whiskey Chitto, Six Mile, and Ten Mile creeks. (33) Originating in the parish of Natchitoches, the Calcasieu River meanders through Rapides Parish from whence it pursues a southwesterly course through Calcasieu Parish and Lake Charles and empties into Calcasieu Lake which in turn overflows into the Gulf of Mexico. (34) In the period of this study the Calcasieu River was navigable for light-drafted vessels to Lake Charles, but sand bars and other obstructions were constant hazards. (35) The Mermentau River formed from the united streams of the Nezpique, Cane, Plaquemine Brulé bayous and other smaller streams, flows into Grand Lake before discharging into the Gulf of Mexico. The stream was navigable for about seventy miles from its mouth. Thereafter, only small vessels could ascend the river and its tributaries. (36) Bayou Vermilion originates in Saint Landry Parish and empties into Vermilion Bay. William Darby, in 1816, considered the stream of river dimensions when it widened out south of Carencro. (37) (Natives made little distinction between river and bayou when describing the stream.) After the Civil War, an extensive trade developed on this body of water from Vermilion (Lafayette) for about seventy miles downstream through Vermilion Parish to the Bay. (38)

The Teche River, according to Darby, "claims more notice from the political economist and geographer, than either its length or quantity of water would seem to justify…." (39) Although not strictly within the area under observation, the Teche River played a role in the development of southwest Louisiana as a means of transportation to the area. This is also true of the Atchafalaya which forms the eastern boundary of Saint Landry. Serving as a distributary of the Red and Mississippi rivers, the Atchafalaya drains a portion of the eastern part of southwest Louisiana through the navigable bayous Boeuf, Cocodrie, Courtableau, Fordoche, Teche, and other tributary streams as it passes on into Berwick’s Bay. (40) It was one of the main arteries of water transportation to the prairies during most of its early history preceding the advent of the railroads in 1880’s.


Quantitatively, the climate of the prairies is meso-thermal. The maximum mean temperature for August, the warmest month of the year, is 82 degrees F., which almost equals the mean for July. The coldest month is January which has an average temperature of 53 degrees F. The mean annual temperature of seven representative stations in southwest Louisiana is 68 degrees F. (41)

Precipitation comes normally during all months of the year with a year-round average of fifty-six inches for the same seven representative stations mentioned above. The wettest month is July with approximately 6.30 inches, while October is the driest with about 3.50 inches. (42) Because of the high rate of evaporation, even daily rains may not be excessive. Favorable also is the pattern of drainage which takes care of unusual rainy weather. (43)

Generally, cold spells have long been most feared by the inhabitants of the prairies. Although of short duration, they cause much loss of livestock on the open ranges where cattle have no means of protection against the chilly blasts of winter. During these spells cattle parish by the thousands. (44) Orange groves and shrubbery were badly damaged during several freezes in the period under study. (45) Between cold spells, the warm winds from the Gulf blow inland, causing rain. Lauren C. Post, a native and geographer who has written extensively on southwest Louisiana, remarks: "The winter is thus a succession of changes between north winds and warm south winds, the one bringing clear cool days, and the other, warm, mild conditions with considerable precipitation." (46) Intermediate between these extremes is clear weather with little wind, during which daily sunshine causes the temperature to rise resulting in balmy days in the late winter and early spring. It is during this time that the prairie farmer begins to cultivate his lands. (47)

Spring is a season of full activity when such crops as corn and cotton are laid out with sugar cane coming somewhat later, usually in the month of June. (48) Summertime finds the prairies drenched with rain. The high relative humidity brings discomfort to the inhabitants, moderated somewhat by Gulf breezes which bring some comfort. (49) In the early fall cotton picking precedes the gathering of corn; the cutting of cane follows in the middle of October. A cool October increases the sucrose content of the sugar cane. (50) Late summer and early fall is the hurricane season, which, at times, has caused extensive damage to the prairies. (51)

Timothy Flint, who during the 1820’s crossed the prairie region, contrasted the Mississippi and Atchafalaya river bottoms with the prairies:

Being open to the Gulf, it (the prairie region), is generally fanned by the refreshing breezes of the sea. Its aspect of general fertility, its boundless plain of grass, its cheering views, its dim verdant outline, mingling with the blue of the sky, white houses seen in the distance, innumerable cattle and horses grazing on the plain or reposing here and there under the shade of its wooded points have an indescribable pleasantness to the traveler who has been toiling his way through the tangle, the swamps and along the stagnant lakes, and the dark deep forest of the Mississippi bottom. All at once he leaves the stifling air, the mosquitoes, the rank crane, and annoying nettles, and the dark brown shade, and emerges in this noble and cheerful plain, and feels the cool and salubrious breeze of the gulf. At first he finds it almost painful to dilate that vision, which has been so long confined to the forest, to the contemplation of the boundless prospect before him. (52)

Samuel Lockett thought that the prairie region was "the most pleasing part of the State." (53)


Wooded areas are found mostly along the banks of the many streams winding their ways to the Gulf. (54) The belt of trees extends variously from a half mile to a mile along the banks of the streams, and partly on the natural levees. The demarcation line between wooded areas and grasslands is sharp. (55) From a distance this line creates the illusion of a shoreline bordering the sea. Grassy areas between the wooded areas along the streams are called "coves" and early became the centers for settlement.

The woodlands produce a fine variety of timber. Cypress forests abounded along such bayous and rivers as the Calcasieu, Mermentau, Vermilion, Plaquemine Brule, and Queue de Tortue. To the north and northwest, in the pine hills and pine flats, the pine forests projected as spurs. (56) Most of the woods of southwest Louisiana, however, are mixed, with hardwoods predominating: hickories, oaks, magnolias, and gum. (57) The hardwoods are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the winter months.

West of the Red River valley, spreading westward to the Sabine, is the great pine region forming part of the pine forest which extends into eastern Texas. Increasing in width southward, its length from north to south (where it verges upon the lower maritime prairies of the Calcasieu) is not less than one hundred miles. It includes all of the parish of Vernon, the lower part of Calcasieu, and portions of the parishes of Allen, Saint Landry, Natchitoches, and Rapides, covering an estimated area of 4,500 square miles. (58) Lake Charles, on the southern border of this pine forest, as will be seen later in this study, became the principal center of lumber milling in the three decades following the Civil War. (59)

The heavy impervious soils of the prairies combined with the occasional droughty condition prevented forest growth. Instead, a vigorous stand of tall grass, including big and little bluestem, pine hill bluestem, switch grass, Indian grass, eastern gama, Paspalum (called gazon by the natives) and a host of associated herbs, once grew in profusion. The heavy clayey subsoil that prevented tree growth provides a solid bottom to retain water during the rice season. (60) William H. Perrin, who visited the area in the 1880’s, was surprised to find that "there was no attempt made to put any of this hay on the market." Instead, he found the "grass lying and rotting on the ground." (61) Sylvester L. Cary, in one of his articles written to induce Midwesterners to migrate to southwest Louisiana, mentioned that some twenty varieties of native grasses were exhibited at the Southern Exposition in Atlanta in 1895. (62) He had great hopes that hay shipping would become an industry in the prairies. (63) Lauren C. Post believes that white clover was introduced in the 1880’s, and that some time after the Civil War, cattlemen who came through the area on horseback in Bermuda grass from the banks of the Mississippi River. (64) Johnson and coco grass, both exotic, were probably brought by trains going through southwest Louisiana, since it is thought that the seed was distributed away from the railroad tracks where it first grew. (65)

From contemporary writings mentioning the abundance of wildlife in southwest Louisiana, it can be assumed that the area was hunter’s paradise in its earlier history. Certain species still abound. The Meridional, an Abbeville newspaper, reported in 1886 that "deer and bear as well as turkeys and prairie chickens have been well nigh exterminated. But there are plenty of partridges, squirrels and hares. In winter geese and ducks by the million flock to the marshes. Great numbers of woodcock resort to this region in winter, and remain throughout the winter season; from twenty to forty brace may be bagged per day by a good gunner." Also mentioned were the "Wilson snipe and three or four other varieties of plovers and curlews and sandpipers" found in abundance. (66) Daniel Dennett, writer on Louisiana economic subjects in the 1870’s added wild hogs, otters, and muskrats to the list of fauna. (67)

The many streams and lakes in southwest Louisiana contain a variety of fish. Among them are the freshwater drum, called gaspergou by the natives; the sunfish, better known as the perch; the catfish; the buffalo; the bowfin, referred to locally as the Choupique; the trout; the crappie, or sacalait to the natives; white and yellow bass; and the gar. As to sea foods, one contemporary newspaper mentioned fish and oysters as being abundant along the seacoast and in the bays and saltwater bayous along with mullet, redfish, sheepshead, turtles, and crabs. (68)


The 5,459,040 acres of land in the southwest Louisiana area defined in this study include soils differing in physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics which determined their suitability for agricultural use. Soil scientists have categorized these differences into six General Soil Areas for the State. These areas are the Coastal Plain, the Loessial Hills and Mississippi Terraces, the Flatwoods, the Coastal Prairies, the Recent Alluvial, and the Coastal Marsh soils. The soil areas, in turn, are subdivided into sixteen groups of associated soil series (see accompanying map.) (69)

All six soils of the General Soil Areas and eight of the sixteen groups of associated soil series are to found in the region. Three of the General Soil Areas predominate. These are the Flatwoods, the Coastal Prairies, and the Coastal March. Almost all of Beauregard and Allen parishes are found within the Flatwoods area along with contiguous portions of Evangeline, Calcasieu, and Jefferson Davis. Soils of this area are medium to strongly acid and low in organic matter and mineral plant nutrients. Drainage is usually poor owing to the presence of silt pans or clay pans and relatively high water tables. A dense growth of longleaf pine forests characterized the area before it was denuded by the timber man’s ax beginning after the Civil War. Grazing of cattle and sheep has been carried on here since the earliest settlement.

Within the Coastal Prairies are almost all of Jefferson Davis and Acadia parishes, the lower two-thirds of Calcasieu, and small adjacent portions of Evangeline, Lafayette, and Vermilion. This soil area, found exclusively in southwest Louisiana, was, as will be seen later in this study, a marked characteristic of the region. The plains are broad and level to undulating, and were originally covered with tall prairie grasses that supported an immense cattle industry in the antebellum and postbellum periods. As elevations range from only three to forty feet, the underlying sediments are of clay and back swamp deposits from ancient channels and distributaries. Because of the differences in coloration and degrees of acidity and alkalinity, scientists have divided the area into four groups of associated soils. In addition to grazing, the Coastal Prairies developed into one of the largest rice-producing areas in the United States.

Almost all of Cameron and Vermilion parishes are within the Coastal Marsh Area. In this area are two associated groups of soil varying from dark clays which are slightly acid to alkaline, to brown fine sands or sandy loams containing shells and organic matter. These soil groups are found on the beach ridges or cheniers in the western part of the marsh area. Trapping, hunting, fishing and recreation have long engaged the interests of the inhabitants. The beach ridges or cheniers have for many years grown rice, sugar cane, and varieties of grasses which have been used to graze cattle since the Civil War.

The Mississippi Terrace and Loessial Hills and the Recent Alluvium areas are much smaller in southwest Louisiana than those already described, but they played a distinctive role in the period under study. Soils of the former area (omitting Loessial Hills not found in the region) exist principally in western Saint Landry, almost all of Lafayette, and the approximate eastern half of Evangeline. The four groups of associated soils vary from brown to grayish and yellowish-brown to gray soils, generally low in organic matter and plant nutrients, and are medium to strong acid. Grazing and forestry have long been the major uses to which this land area has been employed, but cotton, sweet potatoes, and sugar cane have also been grown.

The Recent Alluvium in southwest Louisiana embraces about three-fourths of Saint Landry and a very small portion of eastern Lafayette. The associated soil, containing moderate amounts of organic matter and well supplied with mineral plant nutrients, were developed from Mississippi River alluvium. The land has for many years yielded bountiful crops of sugar cane, corn, and rice.

A small portion in the upper part of Beauregard Parish is within the Coastal Plain Area. The groups of associated soils made up of grayish-brown sandy loams, are nearly level to gently sloping. Luxuriant longleaf pine forests at one time covered the soils of this area. This part of Beauregard Parish was long used to graze cattle and sheep.

From the end of the Civil War to 1900, southwest Louisiana possessed many advantages appealing to settlers. The diversity of surficial characteristics, watercourses, soils natural resources, with the added advantage of equable yearly climate and adequate rainfall made possible the development of agriculture, livestock raising, and industrial growth.



Sparse population, few and poor roads, primitive means of transportation and communication, isolation, and mostly a self-sufficient household economy, characterized life in southwest Louisiana in the year 1865. The Civil War had wrought havoc in the once populous and wealthy eastern fringe of the area including the parishes of Saint Landry, Lafayette, and Vermilion. In an official report to Governor Henry Watkins Allen in 1865 recounting the effects of the war in southwest Louisiana, it was claimed that General Nathaniel P. Banks had found the region a garden and left it a desert. (1) The burned-out remains of plows, harrows, cultivators, hoes, shovels, and the tools of artisans, along with wagons and other rolling stock could be seen on plantations visited by Federal troops. Machinery from destroyed corn, cotton, and sugar mills was thrown in neighboring bayous. (2) Thousands of bales of cotton, large quantities of sugar and molasses, and droves of horses, mules, and cattle were shipped to New Orleans, along with large numbers of frightened Negroes. (3) Money, never plentiful, was further reduced by the war, making necessary a barter system of exchange.

Before the war, most of the white people engaged in farming pursuits and owned small tracts of land. Census figures for 1860 showed a population of 42,359 in the four parishes then comprising southwest Louisiana with concentration in Saint Landry and Lafayette and scattered centers mainly along the Calcasieu River. (4) An occasional house could be seen on the almost uninhabited prairies where large herds of cattle and droves of horses grazed on the open range. Little is known of settlements made in the first half of the eighteenth century; but, from William Perrin’s account in his book Southwest Louisiana…., by the end of this century and the beginning of the nineteenth, the population included "French, Creoles, Acadians, Spaniards, Swiss, etc.," and "representatives from half the States of the Union." At first they came from the south Atlantic seaboard and Tennessee and Kentucky, and then, beginning in the 1880’s, "from Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, and other States of the Northwest." (5) The total population in 1900 was 154,024 - an increase of 263 per cent in forty years. (6)

Table I








  White Negro White Negro White Negro White Negro White Negro












































St. Landry








































The vast province of French Louisiana in 1721, according to historian Alceé Fortier, was divided into nine districts or quarters. (7) Southwest Louisiana was included in the undefined district of New Orleans. (8) From this time to the beginning of Spanish occupation, few trappers, traders, and ranchmen were found scattered in the area that came to be known as the "Attakapas district," named after the Attakapas Indians, a tribe which once held possession of the area. (9) Within a decade following Spain’s occupation, grants were made in the district to the exiled Acadians, who took their families in the wilderness and founded homes. (10) Having no faith in colonizing companies, and believing that the new colony depended upon the development of agriculture and the raising of cattle on the prairies, the Spanish authority created two posts in southwest Louisiana: one in Opelousas, and the other on the present site of the town of Saint Martinville. The Poste des Opelousas was located near Bayou Courtableau, while Poste des Attakapas was on the Teche. (11) All civil and military authority in the two posts was vested in officials sent out from the governing center in New Orleans.

In 1769, Alejandro Don O’Reilly sent by the Spanish government to take charge of the province acquired from France, divided Louisiana into eleven districts, each under the supervision of commandants; (12) the two posts were included in the undefined area called the district of Opelousas. The districts, according to John Kyser who made a study of the origin of Louisiana parishes, are not to be confused with the same time. (13) Saint Martin was the ecclesiastical parish of the Attakapas region; Saint Landry was its counterpart in Opelousas. (14)

In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory retroceded by Spain to France; in 1804, the American authority created two territories: the Territory of Orleans, embracing approximately the present area of Louisiana excluding the Florida parishes, and the District of Louisiana. (15) The legislature of the Territory of Orleans proceeded to divide the area into twelve counties - one of which was the County of Attakapas comprising the ecclesiastical parish of Saint Martin, and commonly called the parish of Attakapas; and the other, the County of Opelousas comprising the ecclesiastical parish of Saint Landry and called the parish of Opelousas. (16)

Domestic disturbances prompted Governor Claiborne to visit the area in 1805. While there he considered defenses against a possible Spanish attack from that quarter. (17)

Again, in 1807, the territorial legislature subdivided the region. Instead of the twelve counties created in 1805, there were now to be nineteen parishes. The ecclesiastical parish of Saint Landry and the County of Opelousas were hence forth to be known as the civil parish of Saint Landry, and the ecclesiastical parish of Saint Martin was now to be known as Attakapas parish. (18)

Several years later, in 1811, Attakapas Parish was subdivided into two parishes: Saint Martin and Saint Mary. (19) Saint Landry and Attakapas "were essentially the vast prairies of southwest Louisiana….including what were once the magnificent longleaf forests of modern Calcasieu, Beauregard and parts of Allen and Vernon parishes." (20) This area, for the most part, was uninhabited and little known except for the coastal section. (21) It was not until 1817 that the boundary between the areas of the Opelousas and Attakapas "countries" began to be settled. (22)

A little over a decade after Saint Martin and Saint Mary were created from Attakapas parishes, the former parish had Lafayette Parish carved from it. (23) "Imperial Saint Landry" lost her empire status when, it 1840, Calcasieu Parish was created. (24) Now larger than the mother parish, Calcasieu was in time dubbed "Imperial Calcasieu" until it lost that status in 1912, when the parishes of Allen, Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis were created from its area.

Lafayette Parish in its original extent lasted for only twenty-three years. Out of this area Vermilion Parish was created in 1844. (25) No more divisions were made in the parishes of southwest Louisiana until 1870. It was in this year, however, that the southern portion of Calcasieu Parish and the western portion of Vermilion Parish were combined to form the parish of Cameron. (26) A large portion of the new parish contained the sea marsh - a geographical characteristic of the area. The last parish to be created in southwest Louisiana within the compass of this study was Acadia, which was carved out of the southwestern portion of Saint Landry in 1886. (27)

THE ABORIGENSES (sic) (Aborigines?)

Apart from the names they gave to rivers, bayous, towns, land areas, and a parish, the Indians made no lasting contribution to the development of southwest Louisiana. This fact is amply confirmed by such writers as John Sibley. (28) John R. Swanton, (29) Lauren C. Post, (30) and the present authority on Louisiana Indians, Fred Kniffen. (31) Volume III of American State Papers, Public Lands (32) gives clues to their dwelling places in its scattered references to land transactions between the whites and the Indians. The unpublished Brand Book for the District of Opelousas and Attakapas, 1760-1888, in the Dupré Library, University of Southwestern Louisiana, which contains brands under Indian names, indicate that some of the Indians were cattle herders.

The first written account of the southwest Louisiana Indians were made by the French. Fragmentary references by French writers tell something of their number, culture, distribution, and nature. Contacts with the whites, according to Kniffen, brought "an acceleration of cultural changes to a rate without precedent during two thousand years." (33) The Indians of the area belonged to the Attakapas linguistic stock, "separated politically in four sovereign bands oriented to the four streams, and a fifth, the Opelousas, centered near the modern town that was named for them." (34) Culturally, the Attakapas had much more in common with the lowly tribes of the Texas coast than with the more advanced people to the north and east. (35)

The Attakapas and Opelousas were modest agriculturists. They grew crops of corn, beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, and tobacco; but they were more interested in food gathering, fishing, and hunting. (36) Occasionally, these people were hired at low wages to do menial tasks about the house and fields of a white settler, but in time they were replaced by Negroes and whites. (37) Frederick Law Olmsted observed Indian labor in the late 1850’s when he journeyed through the region:

At a rude corn mill belonging to Mr. Beguin, we noticed among the negroes an Indian boy, in negro clothing, and about the house were two other Indians - an old man and a young man; the first poorly clad and the other gaily dressed in a showy calico frock, and worked buckskin leggings, with beads and tinsel ornaments, a great turban of Scotch shawl stuff on his head. The two men were hired at farm labor at three bits (37 ½ cents) per day. It appeared that they were Choctaws of whom a good many lived in the neighborhood. The old man had a field of his own in which stood handsome corn. Some of them were industrious but none of them steady at work - often refusing to go on, or absenting themselves….Our host knew of but one case in which a Negro had an Indian wife. (38)

Although the Attakapas seemed to be well fed, their standards fell far below those maintained by other Louisiana tribes. (39) Kniffen describes them as living in an "ethnological sink," for they "built no mounds and had no temples. They did not practice head deformation. They made little or no pottery. Clothing and housing appear to have met only minimum needs. Habitat and cultural deficiencies in supplying material requirements were in part satisfied through trading a surplus of dried and smoked fish, moss, feathers, and sharks’ teeth and other marine curios." (40) From the north, the Attakapas received through the middlemen Opelousas "flint, pottery, skins, and bow wood, and the latter the Osage orange bois d’ arc. Even the unaccomplished people to the west provided pottery in trade for fish." (41)

According to Swanton, in the year 1698, the total population of the Attakapas and their allies in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas did not exceed 3,500. Of this number, 1,750 lived in Louisiana. In 1805 this total had been reduced to 175, and by 1908 to nine. (42)

The Coushatta, or more properly, Koasati, not related to the Louisiana tribes, were another group of Indians who migrated to Louisiana in the vicinity of Elton in about 1800. (43) They are dwellers of the inland woods, and as such gives the student little notion of how the southwest Louisiana marsh and prairie Indians labored and lived. (44) They, too, have played a very minor role in the economic development of the area.


The French settlers and their descendents have far out-numbered any of the other ethnic groups that made their homes in southwest Louisiana. One writer distinguished three separate categories: Acadian, Creole, and Cadet. The Acadians, the exiles from Nova Scotia along with their children born elsewhere, began to make their appearance in the region sometimes after 1765, while the Creoles were the offspring of Europeans born in the colonies. The Acadians were often referred to as Creoles. Then, there were the Cadets of aristocratic lineage who were refugees from the French Revolution and from the uprising in the West Indies in the late years of the eighteenth century. (45)

The process of settling the prairies was very slow. Already mentioned were the trappers, traders, and ranchmen who infiltrated the region a decade or two before the coming of the Acadians. (46) After 1765, the Acadians began to make their appearance in fairly large numbers. Few people in the annuals of American history experienced such tragedy and suffering as did these people. By the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, France lost her Canadian province of Acadia to the British, who renamed it, Nova Scotia. Fearing disloyalty from her new colonists in the event of renewed hostilities with France, the British harassed and persecuted these simple people and forbade them to leave the colony. (47) Finally, with the coming of the French and Indian War, the English demanded of their French subjects that they take the oath of allegiance to the British king. They refused. (48) In reprisal the Acadians were stripped of their worldly possessions, separated from their families, loaded aboard ships and dispersed along the Atlantic coastal colonies. From thence many found their way to Louisiana, a French possession recently ceded to Spain in 1762. (49) V. L. Hair, who made a study of the town of Crowley in Acadia Parish, has found documents that purport to show that some settlements were made in the area a few years earlier. (50) Francois-Xavier Martin, first historian to write a general history of Louisiana, gave 409 as the number of Acadians in Attakapas in 1769. It might be assumed that gradual penetration continued after that date. (51) Martin told of a later influx of the exiles between 1785 and 1788 and estimated the number after the three-year period at 3,500, distributed in Attakapas and Opelousas, as well as in the other areas of Louisiana. (52)

Natural increase was high. Lauren Post believes that the Acadians were the most fecund of the French groups and were of the greatest importance in the peopling of the prairies. (53) It is his belief, too, that "their natural increase from the fairly well unified group can scarcely be overestimated in its importance in the establishment of a homogenous culture of the Prairies." (54)

Appraising the character of the Acadians, J. D. B. DeBow, editor of the well-known DeBow’s Review, said: "They are honest in their dealings, friendly and hospitable to strangers; they preserve a social intercourse among their neighbors of their contracts. They are, however, oppressive to their slaves, and this forms the only bad trait in their general character." (55) Sergeant S. Prentiss, famous Mississippi orator and statesman who visited the prairie region before the Civil War, had a somewhat different opinion of the Acadians. They were "the poorest, most ignorant, set of being you ever saw," said Prentiss. "They raise only a little corn and a few sweet potatoes merely sufficient to support life; yet they seem perfectly contented and happy, and have balls every day."(56)

Daniel Dennett, who had a firsthand acquaintance with the Acadians, wrote in the 1870’s that, although lands had been allocated to these people by the Spanish authority, "many of them (were) mere squatters on the prairies between the Vermilion river and the Sabine. Their houses, often half formed and half built of mud, are located sometimes on the open prairie, sometime in the skirts of a belt of timber, and often without even a yard or garden enclosed. A neighboring marais will be surrounded by a rude ‘pieux’ fence, and a small crop of rice raised. Their horses and cattle run at all times on the common prairie." (57) Dennett noted, too, that "with thousands of cows roaming on the prairies, you seldom see butter or milk in their houses. With the means around them of living well, they fare no better than the people who live on poor lands. Their educational advantages are poor, but they all learn to ride and use a shotgun expertly as soon as they learn to walk." (58) Olmsted, who accepted lodging and hospitality with Acadian families during his trip through southwest Louisiana, found their fields well cultivated and showing "the best corn we had seen east of the Brazos." Negro laborers - both men and women - worked for fifty cents a day. (59) He found the house interiors almost devoid of furniture, some with rooms of board floors, while others on bare earth. "The mud-walls had no other relief than the mantel, on which stood a Connecticut clock, two small mirrors, three or four cheap cups and saucers, and a paste brooch in the form of a cross, pinned upon paper, as in a jeweler’s shop." From the deer skin covered chairs "sprang an atrocious number of fresh fleas." (60)

Olmsted observed that the exterior of the house had low walls made of timber and mud with a high roof "sloping from a short ridge in all directions." The chimney was made of sticks and mud. The house was "divided into one long living-room, having a kitchen at one end and a bed room at the other." (61) This type of house, Olmsted concluded, "has grown to be common along our road." (62)

Within five miles from Opelousas, the Yankee visitor found "plantations on an extensive scale, upon better soil," where large groups of Negroes were hoeing cotton. (63) This was not typical of the region, however. These lands were owned by the more intelligent upper class Acadians. The lower class, Olmsted observed, "lived much from hand to mouth, and are often in extreme destitution." (64) Most of this class lived on rivers, as "those who resided on the prairies were seldom so much reduced." The land along the rivers where the back swamp is adjacent was of little value and produced a meager subsistence. (65) The upper class usually eschewed these areas and moved to the more productive soils.

Where the people lived in close proximity and in fairly large number, community characteristics developed. Cabins were usually built close together. Olmsted noticed that where this feature existed "there is always found, among the cluster of their cabins, a church, and a billiard and a gambling room - and the latter is always occupied, and play going on." (66) Too, he found these people "excessively apathetic, sleepy, and stupid, if you see them at home; and they are always longing and waiting for some excitement, and will not labor, unless it is violently, for a short time, to gratify some passion." (67) In much the same vein was a speech delivered by William H. Harris of Calcasieu Parish before the State Agricultural Society in 1892. He told of a trip he had made in 1871 through the area, driving a herd of cattle from the northwestern part of Calcasieu Parish to the Mississippi River. "…at that time," he said, "the description of the prairie region given in Darby’s ancient history of Louisiana still held good of this section. There had been no change. Many of the cabins had dirt floors - everything was primitive - every home had its loom and spinning wheel, but I did not see a milch cow, or a plow in the parish." (68) Perrin found that the "people of Acadian descent have progressed little since their ancestors left their homes in Nova Scotia." (69)

Plentiful supplies of meat from cattle, hogs, chickens, and wild game supplied the Acadian table. Lauren Post, born in Acadia Parish of non-Acadian stock, tells of other foods that made up the Acadian diet: cornbread, roasting ears, gros gru (big grits) and a breakfast food made from cornmeal called couche-couche were essential foods, as wheat flour was hardly known, much less used, in the prairies. (70) Most of the corn the Acadians grew they consumed themselves. Usually the owner of a corn mill charged from a fourth or a fifth of the corn as a toll for his service. (71)

Nearly all clothing worn by the Acadian was homespun. This task generally was performed by the women of the family. In an article in a New Orleans newspaper, a visitor to the region in the 1880’s reported on the life of the people. She told of seeing women picking and ginning cotton and learned that they also had seeded the fields that produced the lint. Of the wife in the family she said: "It is she who spins it into cloth, which she dyes with peach tree leaves and indigo, and of this she makes clothing for her family, blankets for her beds, curtains for her windows, and covering for her floor." (72) Post tells of the durability of these received from the battoir, a contrivance mounted a few inches above the level of the water in the bayou. (73)

Infiltration to all parts of southwest Louisiana was a gradual process. Such a pioneer as Martin LeBleu, who it is said came directly from France, settled in Calcasieu Parish in 1770. Others bearing French names followed him at about the same time and later. Among these was Charles Sallier, after whom the city of Lake Charles was named, who achieved some distinction among his patriots who continued to settle in the area along the Calcasieu River and around the lake named after him. In every respect an agrarian people, these early settlers established rural communities similar to those they had been forced to abandon in Canada. (74) Their "closely knit family groups were an important factor in the ultimate survival of their civilization. Above all, they were bound together by the common language."(75)

Refugees from the French Revolution and from the West Indian uprisings in the latter part of the eighteenth century claiming descent from aristocracy settled in the eastern part of the area under study. Some of them became owners of the largest plantations in Saint Landry and neighboring areas. Prominent among them, according to Perrin, were the Lastrapes, Louailliers, Martel, and St. Julien. (76) They took a conspicuous part in the economic and social development of the region, occupying the highest positions in society. (77) Gilbert L. Dupré, although not of the aristocracy, gave an insight into the life of these people in Saint Landry. "Our home," he said, "was feudal in its magnificence. The mansion, with an immense gallery, with rooms eighteen by twenty, and a dining room easily converted into a dance hall. We had room for company, and for our friends the latch-string was on the outside."(78)


The Spanish governing authority in New Orleans made several attempts in the latter part of the eighteenth century to colonize Louisiana with "Islenos," who were immigrants from the Canary Islands. (79) Later, immigrants from Malaga, along with the Islenos, settled in the Teche country in New Iberia. Their effort to raise hemp and flax providing a failure, they moved some miles westward to the vicinity of Spanish Lake, where many of their descendents live to this day. Among these are the Romeros, the Lopezes, the Sequras, and the Viators, who occupy land given to their ancestors. From the account of Perrin, they "are now classed among the richest in the land." (80) The cattle brand registry books already referred to, contain names of Spanish origin which indicate an infiltration of these people to various parts of the Attakapas country. (81) Because of their numerical inferiority to the Acadians, however, they were finally absorbed through intermarriage, leaving but their names to attest their Spanish origin. As Dudley J. LeBlanc, of Acadian stock, has indicated, the descendants speak English or French or both, but not Spanish. (82) Post believes that these immigrants "contributed more in numbers to the settlement of the Prairies than did the French Creoles," despite the fact that they were a less important group. (83)

Americans of Anglo-Saxon descent began to move into southwest Louisiana from the time of the American Revolution. Such names are found in sources as the American State Papers, Public Lands; the Slave Census for 1808; and the Opelousas Marriage list. In the Carencro area in Lafayette Parish are such as Peck, Cruther, Williams, and Linx, while farther west on Bayou Queue de Tortue, the names of Foreman and Spell are exceptions among French names. Perrin found Perkins, Ryan, Cornow, Smith, Blount, Clark, and Henderson among the names of settlers in the Calcasieu River area prior to 1824. These people, according to Perrin, settled there "in order that they might get the benefit of the Rio Hondo claims." (84) In the upper part of Calcasieu Parish, in what is now the parish of Beauregard, the first settlement was made in the community of Sugartown about 1825. Among the names found there, mostly American, were Iles, Lyons, Moore, Shirley, Simmons, Welborn, Young, and Corkron. (85) The decade of the 1840’s saw an influx of settlers from many parts of the South. Such families as the McGees, the Crafts, the Eaves, the Hickmans, the Whiddons, and the Burks made their way to the North Calcasieu country. (86) These people were for the most part either small planters or farm laborers. (87) In the period from 1848 to 1851, a colony from Hancock County, Mississippi settled in the Sabine River country in what is now Beauregard Parish. Among these were the Wingates, the Frazars, the Spikes, the Mitchells, and the Slaydons. (88) A Lake Charles newspaper, in 1895, expressed belief that many Union soldiers in the army of occupation after the Civil War, seeing possibilities in Calcasieu Parish, decided to settle there. (89) Cameron Parish to the south was settled by people who came from many parts of the Union and directly from Europe. From Mississippi came the Phillipses, the Armstrongs, the Sweeneys, the Doxeys, the Pattersons, and the Reads; from Massachusetts, the Joneses and the Carrs; from New York, the Roots; from Pennsylvania, the Wetherells; from Ohio, the Gilletts and the Wakefields. (90) Sailors directly from Europe attracted by the various landings along the Calcasieu River decided to abandon the sea and take up cheap land available in Cameron. Some entered the coastwise trade to ports along the Gulf. Such names as Hanson, Olsen, Jensen, Halverson, Drost, and Thompson are among those whose original Louisiana bearers were seamen. (91) According to Lauren Post, Americans living in the Teche region were for some reason reluctant to migrate into the prairies. (92) The last great influx of Americans to southwest Louisiana came in the 1880’s and the 1890’s, partly as a result of the completion of the first railroad through the area and partly through the enterprising activities of such men as Sylvester L. Cary, who advertised its advantages to the people of the Midwest, and J. B. Watkins, who promoted a land-development enterprise. More will be said of this phase of the population movement in another section.

German settlers, virtually unknown to southwest Louisiana prior to 1870 except in the sawmills in the area of Lake Charles, made two settlements within a dozen years: one in 1870-1871 at Faquetaique, about thirty-five miles southwest of Opelousas; and the other, some ten years later, at Robert’s Cove, a village near the town of Rayne. Need for labor on the rich lands of the region served as an inducement for getting the Germans to settle in the area. Through the efforts of an old German resident of New Orleans, Joseph Fabacher, who made a fortune in the distillery business before the Civil War, the first German colony was established. (93) With an eye to the future development of southwest Louisiana, Fabacher purchased a large tract of land in the Faquetaique prairie as a speculative enterprise. Soon he had a sawmill in operation. To his disappointment the railroad by-passed his land. Undaunted, Fabacher decided to plant a German colony on his property and undertake the cultivation of rice. (94) The Opelousas Journal reported somewhat later: "the first arrival of Germans took place in January last (1871); and up to this time there have been ninety entries of land under the Homestead Act, comprising upwards of 14,000 acres." (95)

The colony was a success from the beginning. A letter written by one of the settlers to the Commissioner of Agriculture in New Orleans, William H. Harris, gives some idea of the prosperity existing in this German colony:

About nine years ago myself and Mr. Joseph Fabacher started the German settlement. We are from New Orleans, but were born in Germany. I am from Baden and Jos. Fabacher from Bavaria. Mr. Peter Klein, Chris Rupert, John Frey followed the year following. They had nothing when they came here and today each of them have about 40 head of cattle and horses; they homesteaded some land and they are doing well. Messrs. John Linden and The. Flesh arrived here about eight years ago. They are all doing well. They homesteaded some land. Fred Zenter from Prussia arrived here also about six years ago; he also homesteaded a piece of land and is doing well. Each and every one of the parties mentioned today have plenty of cattle and horses to do their work with; they have planted about 40 acres of rice, and never buy anything on credit; pay cash for everything they need. They all raise plenty of corn, Irish and sweet potatoes, sugar cane and oats. (96)

The other settlement, at Robert’s Cove, was made in 1882 through the inspiration of Father Peter L. Thevis, a German Catholic priest from New Orleans, in co-operation with the German Society of the city. (97) Ten families agreed to emigrate from the Fatherland to the prairies of southwest Louisiana. These were the Reiners, the Gossens, the Zaunbrechers, the Thevises, the Hensgens, the Schlichers, the Writs, the Tellers, and the Leonards. (98) These immigrants procured some six hundred acres of land on Bayou Plaquemine and proceeded to build homes from timber cut and sawed on the land they had acquired. (99) The large families characteristic of these immigrants meant large homes. They constructed sturdy houses, usually two stories, and painted them white. The architecture is not unlike the contemporary type found in parts of Wisconsin where Germans settled. (100)

In 1872 a Lake Charles newspaper reported that "the little steamer Cassie, belonging to Capt. Daniel Goos, (a German who had come to Calcasieu Parish sometime before), arrived here from Galveston, with about fifty or sixty German emigrants, direct from Germany," (101) It was the belief of this newspaper that these Germans "are an honest and industrious class of people (who) will develop the resources of this lovely, healthy and beautiful portion of Louisiana," and that there was ample territory to locate at least thirty thousand families from their country. (102)

A Mr. Bal, representing the immigration society, according to the New Orleans Times-Democrat, purchased from the state 10,000 acres of land in the eastern portion of Calcasieu bordering Bayou Nez Pique, and appointed agents in Europe to encourage emigration. Five Alsatian families were sent over. The society provided houses "and all the necessary arrangements … for their care and comfort." (103) These families were only the first to be helped by the society. Bal’s plan was to have about fifty families for his colony, each to be given 160 acres of land, a house, two mules, and necessary agricultural implements, with a check of $100 "as a further aid in their undertaking." (104) The products to be grown were cotton, rice, potatoes, and Indian corn. It was hoped that each family could realize about $200 a year; and at the end of six years, those who had remained were to receive title to the land and improvements. Bal and the society he represented were to get in compensation one-half of all the products grown within the allotted six years. (105) Since no more was heard of the society, it can be concluded that it failed - or maybe never even got started.


A study of the Census of 1860 (see Table I) shows a population of 42,359 for the four parishes then making up southwest Louisiana. Of this number, 19,894, or almost half, were Negroes. Their largest concentration was in the sugar and cotton lands of Saint Landry and Lafayette, while to the west in Calcasieu, only 1,476 out of a population of 5,928 were Negroes. This difference of ratio in Calcasieu can be accounted for by the economic activity there. Most of the people engaged in subsistence farming and cattle-raising, which required very little outside labor. A. A. Taylor, who made a study of Negro movements in the South in the thirty-year period before the Civil War, indicated that the main source of slaves in southwest Louisiana came from the exhausted cotton lands of the southeastern states. Many of the slaves were moved by their owners, while others were sold to sugar and cotton planters of the area. (106)

After 1769, when there were only thirty-three slaves in Attakapas and 116 in Opelousas (107) (and perhaps some Free Negroes), the colored population grew steadily as the demands for labor on the sugar and cotton plantations increased. The Census of 1870 shows a decline in the Negro population in the decade of the 1860’s, while the Census of 1880 registered an increase in the 1870’s. (108) The decline in the 1860’s can be accounted for by the exigencies of the Civil War, when large numbers of Negroes "were forced in the Federal ranks," and others, frightened by propaganda that the Confederates were slaying Negroes as they advanced, fled with Federal troops toward Berwick’s Bay where "two thousand perished in six weeks." (109) The increase in the 1870’s came in Calcasieu, where, presumably, the demand for laborers in the sawmills attracted Negro hands from other areas. The greatest increase came in the decade of the 1880’s and the 1890’s, when the prairies were opened to rice cultivation on a large scale. This increase can readily be seen in the newly created parish of Acadia (1866), which was rapidly forgoing ahead to become a rice capital, where the population growth was from 1,629 in 1890 to 4,820 by 1900. Lafayette, Saint Landry, and Vermilion also experienced substantial increases, caused, apparently, by the sugar prosperity in the early 1890’s. Although the period is marked by increases in both white and Negro population, the white ratio was greater. A comparison of census figures for 1860 with those of 1900 will clearly demonstrate this fact. In 1860 the Negro population accounted for nearly half of the total, while in 1900 it was only about a third (see Table I).

The assertiveness of the Negro during the Reconstruction period, combined with his unwillingness to abide by the terms of work contracts, led the planters of the area to advocate the immigration of white people from the North and from Europe and Chinese Coolies. (110) The editor of an Opelousas newspaper, in 1867, recommended joint action of the land owners of Saint Landry to fix "a price at which they would sell or rent land unemployed." He believed that land prices were so exorbitant as to preclude purchases by would-be settlers. (111)

By 1900, somewhat less than a third of all farmers in the region were Negroes. The Census of that year showed a farming population of 18,926, of which 5,750 or 21.6 per cent were Negroes. The same Census showed that 8,251 farmers were share tenants. (112) Although the Census does not indicate it, it might be assumed that the greater number of these farmers were Negroes.


Three factors stand out in the last great population movement experienced by southwest Louisiana in the last twenty years of the century: the extension of the railroad through the area, the generous land laws enacted by the State and Federal governments, and the foresight of several men, specifically Sylvester L. Cary of Iowa, and Jabez B. Watkins of Kansas. By 1900 the population had more than doubled from 76,572 to 154,024.

As early as 1873, Samuel H. Lockett, who made a geographical study of the area, made recommendations regarding immigration and land utilization. He suggested advertising to the world the great potential wealth of the state with the idea of encouraging white immigrants to settle there; and using the alluvial bluff lands for the growing of grapes and the prairies for the grazing of improved breeds of horses and cattle. (113) Lockett’s recommendation bore fruit, but his land utilization ideas did not follow the pattern he suggested; instead, the prairies were used for rice production, while the sea marsh never succeeded in growing grain.

The interest of the State in fostering immigration in the period following the Civil War was early manifested in a legislative act in 1866 providing for a bureau of immigration with the purpose of encouraging Europeans to come to Louisiana. The bureau was authorized to send agents to foreign countries to advertise the merits and resources of the State and to aid immigrants in all ways possible. Agents were to keep the bureau informed on the immigrants planning to sail. (114) Subsequent legislation increased the scope of the bureau by combining with it the bureau of agriculture with the stipulation that all salable agricultural lands, whether public or private, be described and the records kept in the principal office in New Orleans for immigrants to examine. (115) The legislature, in 1884, separated the two departments and provided that the bureau of immigration be composed of a commissioner appointed by the governor with the approval of the senate. (116) The Opelousas Courier enthusiastically called upon every landowner in the State to send descriptions of available lands to the central office. (117)

As early as 1868, an immigration society had been formed in Opelousas, but "died a short time after its organization from neglect." (118) Later, in 1881, another effort was made by a group of Opelousas citizens. The purpose of the new organization was to "collect and compile statistics of health, population, lands," and "whatever may be of interest to immigrants or capitalists." (119) Similarly, Vermilion Parish organized an immigration association in 1878. (120) Governor Murphy J. Foster issued a proclamation in1893, inviting the parishes of the State to send delegates to an immigration convention, "to impress upon our people the advantages of inducing intelligent settlers to take up the vast areas of magnificent lands now lying fallow and abounding in undeveloped riches, and of the importance of developing the material and agricultural possibilities of our State." The governor trusted "that all will actively interest themselves in this undertaking." (121)

By 1870 the population of the area was showing a steady increase, but the greatest advance came after 1879 when the Louisiana Western Railroad began to lay a road bed in southwest Louisiana. Hitherto, the company’s tracks went as far as Morgan City; the rest of the journey to Texas had to be covered by stagecoach overland or by schooner around the Gulf of Mexico. The gap between Morgan City and Houston was closed in 1880, and the first excursion went through on April 7, 1880. (122) A New Orleans newspaper reported sometime before this event that the completion of this railroad "shows very plainly the direction in which the tide of immigration is setting. The parishes along the line….(which) have hitherto been without adequate communication with the outside world will soon have fine transportation facilities, and will, therefore, possess every feature likely to attract the immigrant. (123)

Considerable land was opened to the settler under the various land acts passed by the Federal government. Two acts passed March 2, 1849 (124) and September 28, 1850 (125) donated to The State of Louisiana all lands subject to tidal or alluvial overflow and mounting to 9,195,675 acres. (126) This acreage, constituting a large area in the parishes of Vermilion, Calcasieu, and Cameron, was adapted to the culture of rice and subject to a fixed price of twenty-five cents an acre as provided by State law. (127) Later, in 1861, the Homestead Act made it possible for a settler to get a grant of 160 acres of land, while a similar acreage was made available under the Timber Culture Act passed in 1873.

Despite the liberal land laws, however, it is inconceivable that southwestern Louisiana could have developed so rapidly after 1880 without the enterprising initiative of several farsighted men. One of these, Jabez B. Watkins, from Lawrence, Kansas, backed by English capital in 1883, "purchased most of the prairie and marsh land available from the Sabine River east to the Vermilion Parish line, and from the Gulf up to the timberline. The purchase contained nearly one and one-half million acres." (128) Originally intended as a timber-buying enterprise, the company reclaimed as much of the marshes as was feasible for the growing of rice. (129) In 1884 Watkins’ brother-in-law, Alexander Thomson, professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State College, joined in the enterprise, along with Seaman A. Knapp, former president of Iowa State College and a former resident of Vinton, Iowa, "to investigate the agricultural resources of Southwest Louisiana…and help bring in settlers." (130) As it turned out Knapp’s greatest contribution to the enterprise, to be discussed later, was in the development of the rice industry in southwest Louisiana.

Among the settlers who were induced to leave their Midwestern homes were a number of families from Vinton, Iowa, who purchased land and laid out the towns of Vinton and Iowa, Louisiana. Many who had been merchants built stores in Lake Charles. "Thus, the families of Horridge, Loree, Eddy, Rock, Kinney, and others were known as the Vinton colony." (131) Kansas followed the Iowans – the Kings, the Webers, the Clines, and the Silings. (132) These Midwesterners were in the vanguard of thousands who were to follow within the next few years.

As a promotional devise to induce migration, Watkins made the following offer:

To the ten first acceptable applicants that meet our conditions, we make the following offer: He may select 100 or 230 acres of the southern half of any section of land owned by this company, not less than two nor more than five miles from a railroad station, we will designate, at $5.00 per acre, and eleven years’ time in which to pay for the land.

As soon as he has settled upon and improved the same we will furnish the material to fence the remainder of that section, and furnish him 25 mares, 20 cows, 10 brood sows and 50 ewes, and will provide for the breeding to improved males for one-half the increase. The mares will be (bred) to the best jacks and stallions on our Stud Farm.

For this purpose a stud farm will be located in the immediate vicinity of the ranches or small farms to be improved.

Conditions: The man must be an experienced and energetic farmer, honest, industrious and temperate. He must be worth $1000 or more, and have plenty of help in his own family to do all the work. (133)

The North American Land and Timber Company - under the management of Watkins - advertised southwest Louisiana by preparing an exhibit car "filled with products from this section," which it sent through Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois. According to a Lake Charles newspaper, "hundreds of our best citizens were attracted to Lake Charles in this way." (134)

Sylvester L. Cary, a contemporary of Watkins, was the "Joshua who led the Iowans to the new Iowa" (135) of southwest Louisiana. Induced to visit the area by immigration Commissioner William H. Harris, (136) Cary later said that he was the first pioneer of the "Iowa colony." He reached Jennings on March 31, 1883, "when there were only four buildings…and about twenty people."(137) Liking the place, he decided to settle there. (138) Cary "wrote back to Iowa, and devoted all his energies toward bringing out his neighbors" to the thousands of acres of government land in all directions awaiting the taker. (139) He served as stationmaster for the Southern Pacific in Jennings until the railroad company, in 1886, named him Northern Emigration Agent, with headquarters in Manchester, Iowa. (140) In an undated article in a New Orleans newspaper, Seaman A. Knapp estimated that over 10,000 men, women, and children had settled in the southwestern portion of the State "in the past five years." (141) Another New Orleans newspaper, the Times-Democrat, wondered how so rich and productive an area "should have been so long overlooked." "A dozen years ago," the newspaper continued, "Calcasieu was regarded as a parish of little, if any agricultural value. It was a lumber region, nothing more; today its agricultural promise is great. All the fine prairie region of Southwest Louisiana, Calcasieu and St. Landry, can be placed in the same category; it is equally good land and can be converted into many prosperous farms." (142)

Some years later, in 1892, a correspondent of the same newspaper complained about Midwesterners who came to southwest Louisiana with the idea of land speculation. "This non-resident land ought to be so relentlessly taxed," he said, that he would "be either compelled to sell it, or to come here and live on it and improve it." (143) He contrasted the Jennings area of 1892 with its earlier condition:

Another contrast of the now with the then of six year ago - that there is not to be found an acre of land for homesteading anywhere in Southwest Louisiana (that is worth the having) in this prairie region. Then, one could have taken his pick within a mile of Jennings for a homestead, or brought out a pre-emption by paying a trifle; then the government price was $1.25 per acre. Now, Mr. S. L. Cary gives it thus: Unimproved land within five miles of Jennings, $15 per acre; from five to ten miles off, $10 per acre; beyond (even twenty miles away), $5 per acre. I am afraid to say how about prices a mile or so from the town. Here is enchantment! And, mind, no taxes to pay in many cases. (144)

Cary was tireless in his advertising activities. At the Omaha Exposition in 1899, he exhibited forest and fruit trees, agricultural products, salt and sulphur mining, and the products made therefrom, all coming from southwest Louisiana. In addition, some 30,000 copies of Cary’s booklet Southwest Louisiana, extolling the advantages of the region to would-be settlers, were distributed by the Southern Pacific throughout the country. (145)

According to the Times-Democrat of New Orleans, the population movement from the Midwest had a wholesome effect on the native population in that squatters sought clear titles to the land on which they had settled. (146) In many cases they had built cabins and assumed the land was theirs. When they finally realized that they stood a chance of losing their possessions to qualified homesteaders, they bestirred themselves and secured legal title to the land. (147) "Thus it comes that there is hardly a country on earth where there are so many unencumbered homes…In many cases they could not mortgage their homes. Almost everyone paid cash, and left not mortgage hanging over their homes as a threat and care." (148)

M. B. Hillyard, in an article appearing in a Lake Charles newspaper, gives an insight into the growth of Calcasieu Parish from some years before the Civil War to 1890:

The first book (conveyance records) opened in the parish…in 1840, a very small book and which contained all the transactions of the parish up to 1862; four deeds of land from 1840 to 1863. Book B commenced /-in-/ 1862 and closed in 1868. Book C closes in 1873. Book E closes in 1876. Book F closes in 1880. The books all the time getting larger, containing more pages and deeds. G closed in 1882 with over 600 deeds. H closed in 1883 running 508 days, with a record of 492 deeds. I closed in April, 1885, with 651 deeds in 503 days. J runs until December, 1885, with a record of 428 deeds in 226 days, K numbers 52 in 189 days and closes. L closes in January 1887, 431 deeds in 206 days. M records 462 in 197 days. N goes 462 in 171 days and closes. O ends May 1888, making a record of 521 deeds in 107 days. P ends October 3, 1888, 123 days and 556 deeds. Q ends March 21, 1889 with a record of 531 deeds in 167 days, R goes 550 deeds in 166 days, ending September 3, 1889. S ended January 16 1890, making a record of 589 deeds in 134 days. (149)

Hillyard also investigated 327 purchases to determine the origin of the purchasers. He found that:

There are 81 from States unknown; but they are mainly Western men, and certainly from some other State than Louisiana. Despite all my efforts, and Mr. A. Mixer Mayo’s best recollections, this number is in the category of unknown. Ninety-three are from Iowa, 24 from Michigan, 21 from Texas, 19 from Kansas, 16 from Canada, 8 from Minnesota, 10 from Illinois, 8 from Missouri, 12 from Dakota, 6 from Wisconsin, 3 from Maryland, 2 from Vermont, 2 from New Jersey, 1 from Indiana, 1 from New York, 2 from Florida, 3 from California, 1 from Mississippi, 1 from Kentucky, 1 from Washington, D.C., 2 from Nebraska. (150)

Population was growing apace. In 1900, however, the New Orleans Picayune had this to say: "The Southern Pacific Company is seemingly bent upon forcing the agricultural and farming interests of southern and southwest Louisiana to the front. Although a very considerable portion of this section of Louisiana had been settled with desirable immigration, there yet remains a large area along the line of the Southern Pacific in which farming could be practiced with good both to the individual and to the state." (151)

When Cary died in the early part of 1915, the Times-Picayune carried an obituary:

There was no dress parade of glittering generalities, no marshalling of unusual crop yields, no trick photography about Father Cary’s immigration methods. His circulars told in plain and simple language of actual results achieved. Whenever it was possible, home-seekers were given a chance to see the growing crops or the ripened products themselves. His work for Louisiana was successful, because it bore the stamp of honesty and good faith. While his active work for Louisiana had ended, he leaves as a heritage for those who must assume the task where he laid it down a splendid example of the best and most effective way to secure the kind of settlement for Southwest Louisiana that will stick. (152)


Roger W. Shugg, who made a study of class struggle in Louisiana which embraced the period from 1840 to 1875, suggests that "nothing more clearly reveals man’s adaptation to the physiographic features of Louisiana than the composition and distribution of population." (153) Accepting this thesis, this writer will attempt to correlate land features with settlements and land acquisitions in southwest Louisiana.

Two types of land patterns cover the entire area: the "river bank type" and the "checkerboard," or rectangular type, provided for by the Land Ordinance of 1785. Neither type had its origin in Louisiana. The former originated in Canada along the Saint Lawrence River and was adapted by the French in Louisiana during the early colonial period. In this type of holding the land fronts on the river - or bayou - and extends at right angles for a distance inland to the backlands or bottoms generally forming a rectangle. Grants of forty arpents depth (profoundeur ordinaire) by one arpent (a French land unit slightly less than an acre) fronting the river (arpens de face) were made to the settlers. Such a tract of land formed a rectangle provided the stream was a straight one. Since most streams meander, however, the tracts of land presented special problems in surveying. Grants on convex banks of the river were shaped like trapezoids, while concave ones were triangular. It can readily be seen what would happen to such a grant after several generations of partitions - the backlands would literally be reduced to inches. However, in the early days of settlement, backlands were of little use and, therefore, presented no problem. It was the front lands that counted; for here were the houses, roads, fertile soil for cultivation, and, perhaps a sugarhouse. (154) Sociologist T. Lynn Smith said of this type of landholding:

No doubt this (the checkerboard) system is a most convenient and efficient system of dividing lands for the purposes of surveying and recording, but not from the standpoint of the people residing upon the land. And, after all, it would seem that their desires and needs should far outweigh those of the surveyor and recorder. (155)

Rural isolation was lessened somewhat by having houses close to each other under the river bank type of landholding.

After Louisiana became a part of the United States, the checkerboard system with its townships and sections supplanted the old custom. As a consequence, "some irregularities came about in various land sections in adjusting the checkerboard pattern to the rear of the other pattern." (156) Along the Vermilion River most of the adjacent land is held under the old system. Subdivisions have been made both lengthwise and crosswise. Section 14, for example, a standard section a mile square, fits within the pattern; but the intervening section has only 500 acres. (157)

When the checkerboard pattern was introduced, little or no effort was made to maintain roads; however, space was left between properties for them. Landowners whose properties ran along these open spaces attempted to build makeshift roads which could give access to their holdings. According to Post, "any road that runs diagonally across a section line is a pretty certain indication that the road separates two old bayou-front grants. The farther west one goes the fewer the diagonal roads encountered, the larger the individual prairies and the greater the proportion of space served by roads following the section lines." (158)

Perusing the Spanish Surveys of Louisiana, (159) one finds that the Spanish during their period of occupation used the same French system in allocating land grants on the rivers and bayous of southwest Louisiana. When this period ended in 1803, the best front lands had been assigned, while the intervening interfluves or grasslands, long looked upon as fit only for grazing, remained open country. Oftentimes it happened that backlands, called brules, were cleared for occupation when either the population increased or newcomers entered the area. This was a feature of pioneering.

Settlement in the early years was influenced by type and quality of lands being settled. Front lands were looked upon as lands of first quality because they were higher, better drained, and more fertile; while grasslands which were not always well drained were of secondary importance and prairies were denominated as of no worth save for grazing. Even as late as 1886 a correspondent for a New Orleans newspaper said of Calcasieu: "the creole is rarely seen out in the prairie, but clings to the streams." (160) This view, of course, was not true of the Midwesterners who were now beginning to enter southwest Louisiana and homestead areas out in the prairies. However, it is Post’s contention that "little change has taken place in the original property lines in Louisiana" over the past two hundred years of division and subdivision. (161) Olmsted observed in the 1850’s that the French custom of dividing paternal lands among all male children restricted poor Creoles and Acadians to small plots. (162)

Extant records show that many tracts of land between the Calcasieu and the Sabine rivers were granted to Spanish, French, and English grantees. (163) As long as Spain held the province, these grants, though often unrecorded, cause no contention; but when the United States acquired Louisiana in 1803, the Spanish claims, particularly in the neutral strip, became the subject of extensive litigation in Washington. When, in 1819, Spain by treaty conceded the neutral strip to the United States, the United States agreed to recognize Spanish grants provided that proof of ownership could be established. An act of congress passed in 1823 provided for the execution of the titles in the neutral strip; Congress further agreed to take, in default of documents, the testimony of reliable witnesses. (164) Prominent among these grantees were Jacinto Mora, Samuel Davenport, and Jose Flores, each of whom established rights to large areas in southwest Louisiana. (165)

Elsewhere in the area many grantees without valid titles ignored the government’s offer as the following excerpt in a New Iberia newspaper, in 1873, would suggest:

Strange to say many of the holders of these lands have never to this day, presented their proofs of ownership, or title from the French or Spanish government, although the government has made diligent efforts to have then do so ………………..Upon the 10th day of June, 1872, Congress passed an act, granting three years additional time for the proving up of titles of these lands. Nearly one third of that time has already expired, and but two years remain in which such proofs can be received by the General Land Office of New Orleans. At the expiration of that time, there can be no doubt that such of these claims as have not been presented for adjudication, under the provisions of this act, will revert to the government, and be irretrievably lost to the heirs of the original owners. (166)

Already mentioned are the swamp lands given to the State of Louisiana by the Federal Government in 1849 and 1850 and opened to public sale by the State in 1871 (see ante, pages 66-67). Additional lands were thrown open to settlement in 1870, when the State authorized the sale of Section 16, defined earlier as school lands. (167) These lands, with the approval of the people living in the township, were to be sold at public auction in lots not less than forty nor more than 160 acres with a ten percent down payment and the rest in nine annual installments at the interest rate of eight percent a year on the whole sum. (168) Since most of these lands not already claimed by earlier grants were found in the open country, the sale of the sixteenth section in every township encouraged a new pattern of land ownership away from the front lands.

In 1865, the sparse and relatively scattered population, especially in the western part, gave little promise of the future development of southwest Louisiana. This, along with the almost non-existent roads and the curtailment of trade caused by the Civil War, were witnesses that the frontier stage of existence was still a fact in the area. There were still a few Indians trading their wares with the inhabitants. The dominant French-speaking element with their unique culture was slowly spreading throughout the area. Other elements had made their appearance. Among these were the Islenos, of Spanish ancestry and engaged mostly in cattle raising, although smaller in number than the other ethnic strains, left their mark. They were followed by the Americans who settled mostly in the western area along the Calcasieu River and its tributaries. The Germans made their appearance in the years immediately preceding and following the Civil War. Their number was later augmented by two settlements: one in the early 1870’s, and the other ten years later. They were among the first inhabitants of the area to engage in commercial rice growing. The last great population movement came in the last sixteen years of the century. Attracted to southwest Louisiana through the efforts of such men as Jabez B. Watkins and Sylvester L. Cary, thousands of Midwesterners made their homes in the prairies and helped develop one of the area’s most important industries: the growing of rice. By the end of the century, southwest Louisiana was one of the most cosmopolitan sections of the State.



Patterns of inland transportation and communication in southwest Louisiana developed long before 1865. Because of the generally low, swampy terrain, subject to periodic flooding between the Mississippi River and the higher lands of the escarpment, and the presence of several waterways giving access to the region, travel by water became the predominant means of movement for humans, animal cargoes, and goods until the advent of the railroad in the early 1880’s. The area can be divided into two fairly distinct sections from the standpoint of transportation and communication: the eastern, along the fertile, well-drained, and relatively populous escarpment; and the western, along the thinly populated Calcasieu River and its tributaries. The intervening zone was practically devoid of roads and bridges save occasional Indian or cattle trails. All waterways generally flowed north-south with no water communication east-west. Each section, therefore, developed its own system of water communication and trade, and was not finally united into a region until the railroad made its appearance.


From the writers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, who told of the movements of people between New Orleans and the Attakapas and Opelousas territories, it can be inferred that a well-developed pattern of transportation had been established by the early nineteenth century. It is probable that some people made their way overland, but the bulk of the population movements was by water through the intricate system of interconnecting rivers, bayous, lakes, and bays by batteaux, rafts, pirogues, and other water craft, sometimes upstream and other times downstream, to the prairies. (1)

One route from New Orleans lay along Bayou Lafourche, which leads off from the Mississippi River about 117 miles above the Crescent City; while another, Bayou Plaquemine, branches off about thirty miles upstream. Both bayous have branches which flow into the Atchafalaya River, from which ascent was made up the Teche to landings at Saint Martinville and Breax Bridge, or up the Courtableau to the Opelousas country. These two bayous - Teche and Courtableau - are tributaries joining the Atchafalaya River on its west side, which, at times of high water, water craft could cross from one tributary to the other. At low-water stages, since there was no flow from the Mississippi River and its tributaries, steamboats of a later period had to ascend the Mississippi to the mouth of the Red River, pass through Old River into the Atchafalaya, and then proceed downstream. If their destination was the Opelousas country, they entered the mouth of the Courtableau and then went upstream. If it was the Attakapas, they continued downstream to the mouth of the Teche and then up that bayou to Saint Martinville. The route was long, circuitous, and time-consuming, but it was the only one during low-water stages. (2)

Driftwood and low-water conditions early made the Lafourche route impracticable, if no impossible, leaving the Plaquemine outlet the only alternative to the long route up the Mississippi to the Red River. Trouble developed here, too. Since the bayou, located on the outside of a curve and served as a spillway to the Mississippi, it, too, tended to clog up with driftwood. To protect the planters along that bayou from the possibility of flooding, it was found practicable to leave it closed. While the closure of this water-way was a boon to some planters, it meant a longer and more costly means of transportation for others, since the long trip up the Mississippi to the mouth of the Red River and down the Atchafalaya was the only other access route for the Opelousas inhabitants. (3)

William Darby’s tables of distance give some idea as to how the approaches were made: (4)

New Orleans to Opelousas by Water

Efflux of Bayou Plaquemine 117
Blakes 123
Mouth of Plaquemine in Atchafalaya 132
Outlet into Lake Chitamacha 143
Outlet of Lower Tensas 146
Cow Island Lake 149
Lower extremity of Cow Island 151
Upper end of Cow Island 156
Lower raft 181
Mouth of Courtableau 182
Mouth of Bayou Fordoche 188
Mouth of Bayou Bigras 189
Efflux of Bayou Fusilier 195
Bayou Derbane 196
Barre’s first settlement and prairie 206
Wikoff’s prairie north and Alabama prairie south 208
Mouth of Bayou Wauksha 211
Bayou Carron 213
Opelousas landing 215
Opelousas town 220

An idea of the distance from Washington, a landing on the Courtableau which served as a shipping point for a large part of Saint Landry, to New Orleans by way of the Mississippi - Red River - Old River – Atchafalaya - Courtableau route can be gained from the Opelousas Courier in 1879: "….from Washington to Barry’s Landing, or Port Barre, 12 miles; to Wharf Boat, at the mouth of Red River, 117 miles; Wharf Boat to New Orleans, 210 miles. Washington to New Orleans, 339 miles." (5) The time interval between the two ports was between thirty-five to forty hours. (6)

The "outside approach" was a name given to another entrance into the Attakapas and Opelousas countries. This approach was made by way of the Gulf of Mexico and the lower Atchafalaya - a route called the "outside channel." The Spanish were reluctant to develop this route because of the fear they had of possible invasion by an enemy through this passageway. (7)

Contemporary newspaper reports are replete with accounts of steamboat accidents, especially during low-water stages where sandbars were constant hazards to navigation. The vessels, of necessity light-drafted with flat bottoms to negotiate shallow water, were often equipped with capstans on their decks to pull themselves over bars with hawsers tied to trees on the bank. (8) In addition, rivers and bayous bedeviled boat captains by the existence of snags, log jams, and fallen and overhanging trees that were a constant menace to navigation. Planters, boat owners, and other interested persons joined forces to get Federal appropriations for the dredging and clearance of streams. Louisiana congressmen and senators made efforts in the 1880’s and 1890’s to secure these ends. That success crowned their efforts is shown by a review of the Index of the Report of the Chief of Engineers to the Secretary of War, which indicates surveys made and appropriations allowed. These appropriations run into the hundred of thousands of dollars for the streams of southwest Louisiana. (9)

The steamboat era opened in the area in the decade of the 1820’s, when the Louisiana Legislature passed two acts, one providing for the Attakapas Steamboat Company in 1821,(10) and the other for the Opelousas Steamboat Company in 1826. (11) The former company received "the sole and exclusive right and privilege of navigating from the mouth of the river Teche to St. Martinville, in the Attakapas, with boats or vessels which may be urged or impelled in whole or in part through the water by the force of fire or steam, for and during the full term of seven years …."(12) The latter company was "authorized to establish, keep and maintain a steam-boat and ferry from the bayou Plaquemine in the parish of Iberville, through the usual route of the Grand River, Atchafalaya and the river Opelousas or Courtableau to the junction of the bayous Crocodile and Boeuf, ….for and during the term of ten years." (13) From this time on, the hand-propelled vessels were gradually supplanted by the wood-burning steamboats especially constructed for river service. Invariably of shallow draft, the vessels were able to get over bars during low-water stages.

Washington Landing, already referred to, located about six miles north of Opelousas on the Courtableau below the confluence of bayous Cocodrie and Boeuf, which streams form the Courtableau, had developed a thriving trade years before the Civil War brought it to a halt. After 1865 Washington Landing resumed its position as "the principal shipping point" in Saint Landry. (14) From riverboat advertisements appearing in an Opelousas newspaper after 1865, it can be concluded that river transportation in southwest Louisiana recovered rapidly after the war. One steamer, the Pauline, in September 1865 offered to transport a bale of cotton to New Orleans for $1.25 - a reduction from the pre-war rate of $3.75. (15) A week later came the announcement in the same newspaper of a regular packet service to New Orleans by the steamboat Scioto, "leaving Washington on Wednesday at 9 in the morning, and New Orleans on Saturday at 5 o’clock P.M." (16) The new steamer Cleona, "a very light draught boat," with "good cabin accommodations," announced its readiness to take passengers and freight to New Orleans on regular schedule. (17) Another steamer, the Anna E., offered daily services between the Crescent City and Brashear City (Morgan City) with mail and passenger coaches bound for Saint Martinville, Vermilionville (Lafayette), Grand Coteau, Opelousas, Washington, Ville Platte, and other points. In the same advertisement were inducements to the traveler: "The Anna E. being furnished and fitted out in the most superior and comfortable manner, expressly for the conveyance of the U. S. Mail and Passengers, offers the most pleasant and expeditious means of transportation upon the Attakapas waters." (18) Among other steamers plying between New Orleans and Washington were the Irene, the Selma, the Jennie Howell, and the Ruth. (19)

Arriving in New Orleans on November 14, 1871, from Washington was the Lula D., "with 249 bales of cotton, 6 sacks seed corn, 401 sacks cotton seed, 61 bbls., molasses, 7 bbls. pecans, 184 hides, 39 bundles hides, 3 packages tallow, 63 head cattle, 8 rolls leather, and a lot of sundries." (20) The previous day the Tahlequah, also from Washington, unloaded at the New Orleans wharf a cargo consisting of 134 bales of cotton, ninety-eight sacks of cotton seed, twenty-six barrels of sugar, five hogsheads of sugar, ninety-nine barrels of molasses, fifty-four bundles of hide, and 117 head of cattle. (21)

A tabulation of shipments from Washington to New Orleans in the year 1877, when legal reconstruction had come to an end and normalcy was returning to the area, showed the quantity and type of goods shipped: (22) 30,000 bales of cotton; 32,000 sacks of cotton seed; 3,000 hogsheads of sugar; 5,800 barrels of molasses; 500,000 dozen eggs; 30,000 dozen poultry; 15,000 head of cattle; 20,000 hides; 200 barrels of rice; and 2,000 sacks of wool.

These statistics provided a good index of the economic activity of the time. It will be noted that cotton and livestock predominated as sources of wealth in the eastern portion of the area under study, while rice was as yet a minor activity. By the end of the century rice shipments were to increase tremendously. A statistical study authorized by the police jury of Saint Mary Parish in 1887 to determine the commerce of the Teche country estimated that the entire commerce of Saint Landry for that year amounted to $7,250,000. (23)

Smaller than Washington as a shipping point was Barry’s Landing or Port Barre, located on the upper Teche River in Saint Landry Parish, which handled cotton mostly. It was only during seasons of high water that the stream from that point was navigable and then only by flatboats consigned to New Orleans. (24)

Farther southward was Vermilion Bayou which handled cargoes from as far north a Vermilionville. One newspaper reported in 1879 that the stream "is now fairly alive with water craft." "The steamers, Mattie D. Stein, E.W. Fuller and Exchange - together with a half dozen schooners are now plying on her waters. It has been many years since she has witnessed such activities along her banks." (25) The bayou, not navigable to any great distance beyond Vermilionville because of obstructions along its course, prompted one editor to hope that something would be done to improve navigation. He suggested that Bayou Plaquemine be cleared of the log jam which had rendered that stream useless for commerce between Vermilion Parish and New Orleans. Such an undertaking by the Federal Government, according to the editor, would make it possible to land products in the Crescent City from Vermilion "at a small expense and without the oppression of monopolies." (26) Daniel Dennett wrote at about the same time that, "freights sometimes are received and sent off by way of the Vermilion …, through Vermilion [Parish], Cote Blanche, St. Bernard (Bayou Sale), and Atchafalaya river, Brashear City, and the Morgan L. & T. Railroad. Generally the freights are carted across the country between Vermilionville and New Iberia, and take the line of the Teche steamers and the Morgan railroad." (27) Carting rates between New Iberia and Vermilionville, a distance of twenty-five miles, as quoted by Dennett, were: "dry barrels, 75 cents to $1.25; and from 15 to 20 cents a cubic foot. Wet barrels, $1.25 to $2; sacks of coffee and salt, 75 cents to $1." (28) Dennett also gave passenger rates between the two points, a distance of 167 miles, as ten dollars, and the travel time, thirty hours. (29) The enthusiastic editor of the Meridional, and Abbeville newspaper, reported in 1883 "the Vermilion is now never at rest; …. its limpid waters are being troubled by watercrafts from Lake Charles, Galveston and other points and the piping steamboats, the Pallie, Sammie, Sprengler and Fuller, from Morgan City and other Gulf points." (30) He had great hopes for the future development of Abbeville. Five years later the same newspaper announced that a new steamer, the Letcher, would put in service between Abbeville and Pinhook, a distance of sixty miles up Vermilion Bayou, to make connection with the Southern Pacific Railroad at Lafayette. (31) Efforts had been made to get congressional appropriations for deepening and making the bayou navigable to Lafayette Bridge. In 1880, $9,900 had been available for the removal of obstructions, but in 1885, an army engineer reported adversely on further appropriations, claiming that the benefits would be local and the improvements temporary. (32) Congress, acting on the report, made no further appropriations until 1892, when $7,500 was granted, followed by several other grants amounting to $8,500 at the end of the century. (33)

The Mermentau River, as has already been seen, is formed by the sluggish and un-navigable Nezique, Cane, and Plaquemine Brule bayous, and is navigable for about seventy miles from its mouth. Lumber manufactured on its banks and those of its tributaries was shipped down its waters to Texas, Havana, and Mexican ports. (34) Total tonnage over the waters in 1900 amounted to 27,034. (35)

Commerce on the Calcasieu River prior to 1865 was negligible. The opening of the lumber industry in Lake Charles in the years following the Civil War made the stream one of the most important in southwest Louisiana for the shipment of forest products to distant ports. The river reached its greatest importance in the decade of the 1880’s when the railroad began to make serious inroads on its transportation usefulness. Schooners plying its waters brought cargoes of lumber to Galveston, for a long time the most important trading center for Calcasieu, and brought back groceries and other supplies. (36) According to one writer, immediately after the Civil War when Confederate money had become valueless and business had degenerated into barter, "landing," which in some cases later developed into villages and towns, came into existence along the Calcasieu River. Here such products as lumber, cowhides, cloth, tin plates, pewter tableware, some chinaware, and livestock were exchanged. In one instance cowhides and logs brought to a landing store were traded for "two bolts of calico, one bottle of meal, coffee, salt and sugar." The sloop Emma took lumber and cowhides to Galveston and returned with "a cargo of salt bacon, 50 sacks of meal, 12 sacks of flour, black pepper, salt, furniture, chinaware, pants, shirts, muzzle-loading shotguns, powder, shot, wads, and caps." (37)

A large portion of the products brought up the Calcasieu River from Galveston had originally come from New Orleans, for as early as 1856 Cornelius Vanderbilt had established a steamship line operating between Brashear City (Morgan City) and Galveston and intermediate points along the Texas coast. The next year when Brashear City became the terminus of the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railway, the Crescent City was now connected by rail with the town on the Atchafalaya. Subsequently, Vanderbilt sold the steamship line to Charles Morgan, who operated it until the Civil War temporarily brought a halt to the traffic which did not resume until the conflict ended. (38) It was thus that the people of the Calcasieu country could get goods indirectly from New Orleans. In 1869 Captain John Miller of the schooner Ramsey attempted to establish direct connections with the Crescent City. (39) This venture was evidently not successful, as ten years later a Lake Charles newspaper reported: "The present trade is principally with Galveston, from which market schooners discharge about 250 bbls. freight for Lake Charles and the interior," and to which lumber is shipped. (40)

Regular packet services between Galveston and Lake Charles was encouraged by the volume of trade that existed. Commenting on the extent of this trade, a Lake Charles newspaper, in 1874, editorialized:

The importance of Galveston to Calcasieu parish of regular steam communication between … [them] can scarcely be overestimated. In the first place, if there were a regular semi-weekly mail line, by steam, on the route named all the trade now existing between the upper part of the parish and Alexandria and other points on the Red River and its tributaries would come this way. This trade is much larger than most of the readers imagine. Already it amounts to over one thousand bales of cotton annually, to say nothing of other products. To this would be added a large share of the trade already existing between Galveston and Lake Charles and other points on the Calcasieu River. The enterprise is easily accomplished. Let a few of our Calcasieu people organize under the private incorporation laws of our State a joint stock company, with a capital stock of fifty thousand dollars …(41)

Like most of the streams of the area, the Calcasieu River was obstructed with snags, logs, fallen and overhanging trees, and sand bars, especially above Jones Bluff, twenty-eight miles north of Lake Charles. (42) The river south of Lake Charles had an average depth of ten feet at low water, and widths varying from two hundred to six hundred feet. Where the river flows through Calcasieu Lake, a body of water fifteen miles long and about four miles wide, the depth averages not much more than three feet at the entrance and the from five to six and a half feet at the Pass. It was clear to the schooner captains that heavier cargoes were possible only if the shallow areas were dredged out. In 1872 the bar at the head of Calcasieu Pass was deepened to form a channel eighty feet wide and five feet deep at mean low water. (43) Sometimes later a Lake Charles newspaper reported: "We regret to learn that the improvement of the inner bar of Calcasieu Pass completed about a year ago…is already useless. The ditch…had filled up completely [so] that all lumber schooners are compelled to lighter to get through it." (44) Later, in 1881, a channel seventy feet wide and eight feet deep was dredged and thereafter modified to provide a channel one hundred feet wide and six feet deep protected by a plank revetment on each side. In addition, a channel of similar dimensions was dredged through the bar at the head of Calcasieu Lake. By a later authorization, in 1892, a channel eight feet deep was dredged through the bars, and jetties built to prevent shoaling. All this work was of little effect. By 1900 the bars had been dredged and redredged always with the recurring problem of shoaling. (45)

The bulk of the trade of Calcasieu Parish was in its lumber exports to Galveston and other Texas coastal towns. Exports to foreign countries presented a special problem because Lake Charles was not a port of entry. Duties had first to be paid in Brashear City, which had served as a port of entry for a number of Gulf ports, before a ship could get clearance papers for proceeding to Lake Charles. French capitalists were particularly interested in purchasing lumber supplies in Calcasieu if only Lake Charles would be made a port of entry. Several trial runs had shown that a ship had first to go to New Orleans to pick up a pilot to navigate the shallow Louisiana coastal waters, then go up the Atchafalaya River to Brashear City to pay duties on the cargo discharged, get necessary papers, and then proceed to Lake Charles for a lumber cargo. Too much time was lost in the transaction to make the venture profitable. (46) A letter written by George W. Wells, a Lake Charles attorney, to Congressman J. H. Acklen of the House Committee on Commerce presented the case clearly:

The importance of making Lake Charles a port of entry is obvious. We have now ten sawmills running at Lake Charles and on the Calcasieu River, cutting together over 100,000 feet of lumber daily. We had about 70, and have now about 50, sailing lumber schooners transporting this lumber to market, at Galveston and other Texas ports, and bringing back merchandise, etc. for merchants and mill-owners.

The completion this year of the railroad from Houston, via Lake Charles, to New Orleans, will immensely increase the number of lumber vessels. The Calcasieu is one of the deepest rivers on this continent, averaging 60 feet in depth for 150 miles. Being a tide-water river, it rises and falls very little. French capitalists will open a direct lumber trade with Calcasieu if we have Lake Charles a port of entry, because French ships can come to the pass (Calcasieu) through an open sea and gulf, and cannot come here from New Orleans except through a wilderness of shoals….

The Morgan steamers hail from New Orleans, and there are scarcely any vessels, except oyster boats, hailing from Brashear (Morgan City) and actually going there. Yet, all Calcasieu vessels - even though built at Lake Charles, with owners living there - are now ordered to hail from Brashear, and as "of Brashear" must be painted on the stern, and no vessel is allowed to have "of Lake Charles" or "of Calcasieu" so painted, merchants and passengers in Galveston - where we do most of our trade - are often annoyed by failing to find at their wharves a vessel ostensibly hailing from Lake Charles, though there may be a dozen there at once. Foreigners are often seriously delayed in consequence. (47)

An act, H.R. No. 2785, authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to appoint a deputy collector at Lake Charles was enacted in 1880. (48) None, however, was named. In 1889 the Secretary of the Treasury was again petitioned by Lake Charles citizens, who asked that the town be made a port of entry, and explained that mill owners were now producing over 100,000,000 board feet of lumber a year and that the advantages accruing to the people of Lake Charles would certainly warrant such a concession. (49) The petition was a success. A deputy collector made his appearance in 1890 and established his office at Calcasieu Pass. (50)

High freight rates caused constant complaint in southwest Louisiana during the 1870’s, "Changes for freight between Opelousas and New Orleans," said the editor of an Opelousas newspaper in 1870, "are now enormous." "For example, a thousand feet of dressed lumber (ceiling) can be bought in New Orleans for $25; while the freight to Washington is $8, and hauling to this place $6, making $14 charges on $25 worth of lumber." (51) Some years later, the Lake Charles Echo was indignant over freight rate from Galveston to Lake Charles. Its editorial began:

For shame.- The schooner Cecilia arrived here last Tuesday from Galveston with a heavy cargo of freight, chiefly provisions, on which the captain of the schooner demanded freight sixty-six and two thirds per cent above the usual rates. We are glad to state that this palpable attempt to take advantage of the necessities of our people on account of the existing quarantine regulations was generally rebuffed by our merchants refusing to accept their consignments except at the usual rates of freight. (52)

Perrin, citing the high ferry rates in Calcasieu Parish as a deterrent to the growth of Lake Charles, said, "It is a well known fact that a large portion of the produce of the northern part of our parish, which ought to be marketed in Lake Charles, is hauled to Lecomte, in Rapides Parish, simply because of the high charges by the ferries of the parish." (53) Perrin suggested tax-supported ferries as a solution to the dilemma. (54) In 1887 a New Orleans newspaper, quoting from a report of a United States Army engineer to the Secretary of War, cited advantages to the planters on the Teche by the reopening of the Plaquemine route to the Crescent City. According to the report, the route was approximately 425 miles and could be shortened to 245 miles, thus lessening the cost of transportation. Estimating the annual value of the output of the Teche country at $3,355,000 the report indicated that more boats could be brought into service, thereby competing with the railroads and forcing a downward revision of freight rates. Reference to extreme low water stages at the mouth of Old River, which practically closed navigation, was another argument advanced in the report in favor of opening Bayou Plaquemine. (55)

Another cause of complaint among shippers was the hazard of navigation. In 1875 the steamer Fleta was reported to have sunk after striking a snag in the Mississippi River. The boat was on its way from New Orleans to Washington. (56) Sometime later it was announced that the Sandy No. 2 sank after striking a heavy log near Baton Rouge. The steamer, with a cargo of cotton, cotton seed, and cattle valued at $15,000, was, with the exception of a few rescued animals, considered a total loss. Passengers were saved, but three crewmen were lost. (57) The Exchange sank after striking a snag some distance below Abbeville on the Vermilion River. The crew was saved along with most of the cotton and light freight, but the sugar and freight on deck and in the hold were "a total loss," while chickens, geese, and ducks were "floating around in their coops drowned or nearly so." (58) In 1893 one newspaper reported that the steamer E. H. Barmore, operating on Vermilion River, "came to her end in Bayou Pigeon some eighteen miles above here. So quickly did she go down that Mr. Johnson, the chief engineer, was compelled to swim from the engine room, where he was in charge at the time of the disaster." (59) Schooner trade in the Gulf was also subject to hazards. In 1875 another schooner, the Pee Dee, with its cargo and part of its crew, was lost in the Gulf during a hurricane. (60)

Steamboat transportation in southwest Louisiana had just about reached it zenith when the railroad was extended through the area in 1880. From that time on decline was apparent. According to Joseph Vincent, an historian of the area, "the coming of the east-west railroad through southwest Louisiana in 1880 marked the invisible beginning of a change in the visible picture, a change which was not markedly perceptible until the twentieth century [which] brought out the apprehensions among schooner owners." (61) A factor leading to the decline of steamboat navigation in the area was the removal of the Great Raft on the Red River. Water from that stream flowed into bayous Cocodrie, Boeuf, and even the Teche during high water, forming a complex drainage pattern. These bayous came into their own when the Great Raft - made up of many separate rafts - hampered the free flow of the Red River into the Mississippi. Waters inevitably flowed into the distributaries Cocodrie, Boeuf, Courtableau, and other streams, making them navigable during time of high water, which was about nine months in the year. With the clearance of the Red River in the 1890’s, that stream now flowed unhampered into the Mississippi, leaving the bayous too shallow for continued navigation. (62) Opelousas, taking advantage of the change, became an inland town dependent on railroad connections. (63) Other ports of southwest Louisiana shared an equal fate as the railroad became the dominant type of transportation in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Certainly, the passing of the packets brought to a close a colorful post-Civil War era that connected New Orleans with southwest Louisiana.


Good roads and economic progress go hand in hand. As long as populated areas were centered on watercourses, land transportation was of secondary importance, needed mostly as a means of getting products to the waterways for shipment. So it was with southwest Louisiana - at least until the 1880’s, when the prairies were becoming populated. The Louisiana Constitutions of 1879 and 1898, along with the implementing statutes, were liberal in the authority they gave to parish police juries in the building and maintenance of roads and bridges. Progress, some what uneven in the parishes, was generally slow. A review of police jury proceedings of the period under study reveals an active interest in road building. Criticism made by newspaper editors was a spur that brought about demands among interested groups for better roads. However, by 1900, good roads were still something to be attained. Many years were to elapse before the State grappled with the problem and produced the desired results. The task was too great for the parishes.

Describing the conditions of travel on his way through southwest Louisiana in the 1850’s, Frederick Law Olmsted was not a little annoyed by the monotony of the scenery. "Everywhere," he wrote, "extended the immense moist plain being alternate tracts of grass and pine." (64) The road between Big Woods, which fronted the Sabine River, and Opelousas, was distinctly marked, "but had frequent and embarrassing forks, which occasioned us almost as much annoyance as the clouds of musquitoes [sic] which, east of the Sabine, hovered continually about out horses and our heads." (65) Notions of distance, Olmsted found quite vague. In his trip to Opelousas he wrote:

At Lake Charles we were informed that the exact distance to Opelousas was ninety-six miles. After riding eight hours, we were told by a respectable gentleman that the distance from his house was one hundred and twenty miles. The next evening the distance was forty miles; and the following evening a gentleman who met us stated first that it was ‘a good long way; next, that it was ‘thirty or forty miles, and damn’d long ones, too.’ About four miles beyond him, we reached the twentieth mile-post. (66)

According to Olmsted, bridges had been erected, but they were "so rudely built of logs that the traveler, where possible, left them for a ford." (67) This is in accord with Samuel H. Lockett’s experience a decade or more later when, during a trip through Calcasieu, he wrote, "I had to swim several streams;"(68) either the bridges were non-existent or too rickety to entrust the weight of both horse and rider. Added to the inconvenience of the traveler was the tall grass encountered on the prairies, which prompted Lockett to use a compass in getting through and to recommend its use to others. (69) Though the local inhabitants knew the surrounding area of their homes, they, too, found it difficult to go any long distance, since few landmarks existed to guide them. Traveling at night was especially hazardous.

One of the few roads that did exist in 1865 was the "Old Spanish Trail," with its innumerable cutoffs and detours occasionally bearing local names. It served as a cattle trail from Texas to New Orleans. (70) Then, during the Civil War, a road was built from Niblett’s Bluff on the Sabine River to Alexandria to supply Richard Taylor’s army in central Louisiana after the Mississippi River had been closed to Confederate commerce. (71) This road, cut through the dense pine forests in the area that later became Beauregard Parish, served for many years as a "feeder" of products of southwest Louisiana to the Red River for shipment to New Orleans. Nolen Trail, crossing at Burr’s Ferry in Beauregard Parish, was still another means of travel. (72) Lack of roads in general and good roads in particular was one of the reasons for the agitation to create new parishes out of old ones in southwest Louisiana. Seats of justice and administration were too far away for the convenience of the inhabitants. As late as 1876, Judge Gilbert L. Dupre recalled, "our judge and District Attorney would drive to Lake Charles [from Opelousas] and hold court. One hundred miles without even a trail." (73) And according to Robert Jones, who lived in the upper part of old Calcasieu during the period of the study, the round trip from the Sabine River to Opelousas involved a week’s journey beset with many dangers. (74)

As already mentioned, constitution of 1879 provisions for roads were quite liberal. By the Constitution of 1879, the legislature was given authority to enact general laws giving parochial or municipal authorities of the State the right to levy special taxes with consent of the property holders for public improvements. The tax was not to exceed five mills nor extend for a period longer than ten years. (75) Later, the Constitution of 1898 gave in greater detail the explicit right of police juries in the parishes to form road districts, raise funds for building and maintaining roads and bridges, and license vehicles using the facilities thus provided. By majority consent of the property holders, taxes on the property in the parish could be levied at a rate not to exceed five mills per year. Further, the police jury could levy a tax not to exceed "one dollar per annum upon each able-bodied male inhabitant of the parish between the ages of eighteen and fifty-five years. (76) Convicted persons could be made to work on "public roads and bridges and the other public works of the parish where the crime was committed, if the sentence actually imposed does not exceed six months." (77) Fines and penalties imposed on persons infringing ordinances affecting roads and bridges, should, when collected, be used for the road and bridge fund of the parish. (78) All those eligible for road duty could be exempted by paying the required taxes. (79)

Section 3373 of Act 1818, passed by the Louisiana legislature, provided for the following regulations in regard to public roads and bridges:

It shall be the duty of the police juries to divide their parishes into as many districts as they may think proper, for the appointment of overseers of roads. They shall annually appoint overseers of highways or roads, who are to summon all male persons from the age of fifteen to fifty (except ministers of the gospel and such other persons as are or shall be exempt) to meet at such places and times as to them, the said overseers, shall upon such summons, refuse or neglect to do and perform their duty, shall forfeit and pay the sum of two dollars per day for each person so neglecting or refusing, to be recovered by judgment before any justice of the peace of the parish, and paid by said justice to the overseer; and by him to be expended in hiring other hands to work on said roads; and in default of or refusal to pay such fine such person shall be confined in the parish prison until such is paid; provided, he shall not remain in prison for more than five days. (80)

No eligible person was to work on the roads for more than twelve days in the year, and he was to supply the tools required of him by the overseer. (81) Dereliction of duty on the part of the overseer was finable to an amount not less than $11 or more than $500 upon conviction in court. (82) Pursuant to the requirement of the constitution and the statutes passed by the State regarding roads and bridges, the parishes of southwest Louisiana made the necessary moves to improve land transportation. Typical of the ordinances enacted by the police juries of the various parishes was that of Calcasieu Parish in 1871. The ordinance read in part:

Sec. 1. Be it ordained by the police jury of the parish of Calcasieu, that all male persons between the ages of 15 and 45 years, living in said parish (except the following, viz: Ordained ministers of the Gospel, practicing physicians, telegraph operators, mail carriers, mail agents, postmasters and jury men, who are hereby exempt from road duty), shall be liable to work on the public roads of the parish, and shall work on the road to which they live nearest except where the hands have been or may be divided by the police jury, and required to work on certain roads.

Sec. 2. Be it ordained, etc., that all public roads be at least eighteen feet wide, and when to the overseers of said roads it may be deemed expedient to make or repair causeways on the same, they shall be at least fourteen feet wide at the top.............

Sec. 7. Be it ordained, etc., that overseers of roads shall be allowed one dollar per day while actually employed. No one shall be bound to work more than12 days in the year. (83)

Several months earlier the police jury of Saint Landry Parish enacted a similar ordinance, but with severe penalties added for young men failing to comply with the summons of the overseer. The fine exacted amounted to $5 for each day missed, or a 30-day imprisonment in the parish prison. By the payment of $1.50 a day to the overseer within twenty-four hours after the summons, a person could get himself excused from road duty. (84) One John Toley, wishing to test the constitutionality of the law in Saint Landry, refused to comply. The District Court in Opelousas upheld the law. (85)

A grand jury especially charged to inquire into the conditions of the roads and bridges in Calcasieu Parish in 1878 reported that the public roads were "in a very bad condition," and required that "immediate work be done." The grand jury found that since its last report, "little or no change had taken place, although the attention of parochial authorities was called to this matter in said report; that no complaint has been made to the grand jurors against any one for refusing to work on the roads, nor against any road overseer for neglect of duty…." (86) Several years later a similar complaint was made on the condition of roads in Saint Landry. (87) One editor in 1882 wished to know just what the overseers were doing. He reported that some of the public roads were almost impassable and no one was doing anything to rectify the condition. (88) A letter to the editor from an irate citizen who had taken a trip over the Calcasieu roads said: "We were happy in the thought of a pleasant drive; but, after traveling about twenty miles over a road rendered expressively interesting by its ‘ups and downs,’ and the jolting over pine knots and roots,…we were convinced that our drive was anything but pleasant." (89) An editorial in 1883 assessed the roads in Abbeville: "We have often heard it said and often so proclaimed ourselves that the condition of the public roads in a community marked its degree of progress and civilization. If we of the parish of Vermilion are to be reckoned by the road from Abbeville to New Iberia, most especially at the Marais Carlin crossing, and the impassable one on the west side of the bayou near the Pimeaux and Bigat farms, we would be rated mighty low in the way of advancement and enlightenment." The condition of the road was "a shame to the people and its parochial representatives, and stamp the administration of our parish affairs most unfavorably in the eyes of the travelers and would be immigrant." (90) Some citizens in Saint Landry Parish threatened to withhold payment of their taxes unless they were provided with passable roads. (91) In the same year one William Dickens, a resident of Calcasieu Parish, while returning from Alexandria with merchandise, suffered the loss of an ox when it fell through the bridge at Six-Mile Creek and was killed. The local newspaper believed that Dickens had cause to bring suit for the dead animal. "Rotten bridges," it said, "are expensive luxuries sometimes." (92)

Police jury minutes are filled with petitions from interested citizens seeking improvement of bridges and roads. A case in point was petition from Jennings asking that something be done to improve road transportation. (93) A particular request asked for the erection of a bridge across Bayou Nezpique, which served as a boundary between Calcasieu Parish and the newly-created parish of Acadia. The police jury of Calcasieu Parish showed interest in the petition by naming a committee to confer with the Acadia Parish police jury, with the idea of making the project of a joint endeavor. (94) The latter refused to assist, but did extend the privilege to the former to proceed with the construction of the bridge. (95)

Appeals to the various police juries were sometimes made on economic grounds. One such appeal, made by a person who used the initials "W. M. T." to the editor of the Weekly Echo of Lake Charles in 1886, asked for better roads and bridges for the marketing of goods. He claimed that at least seventy-five percent of the products of the parish were raised in the north-central portion which could not be marketed in Lake Charles because of poor roads. Berating the police jury for allowing privately-owned tolls ferries to charge all that the traffic would bear and, thereby, raising shipping costs, he continued: "Will we allow 2,000 bales of cotton, 25,000 pounds of wool, thousands of pounds of hides and immense quantities of country produce of all kinds to be shipped from our parish without adding one cent to our exchequer from the immense trade which that creates; and all for the want of one good direct road, and the paltry sum that would be necessary to keep a public ferry?" "Thousands of logs," he said, "are cut by men who live up toward the heads of our streams and the money is taken from here and laid out for goods that are hauled from Lecomte and Alexandria."(96) One newspaper in 1889 looked upon good public roads as a strong factor in the prosperity and advancement of Saint Landry. It reported that the railroads had been of great benefit to Louisiana, but that to enjoy these "benefits to their fullest extent carriage roads must be well constructed and well maintained throughout the country parishes…. It takes about eight hours to travel from Opelousas to New Orleans, a distance of 166 miles. During the season in which most of the produce from this parish is shipped to market, it requires nearly a whole day to haul this produce on our roads from the distant parts of the parish to the depots along the railroad." By keeping the roads in good condition, the newspaper continued, half of the time would suffice, and the time saved by the planter plus the saving made in the wear and tear of his rolling stock and teams would compensate him for what time and labor he might be called upon for the repair and maintenance of the same roads he uses to ship his crop. Travel would be easier for himself and family while attending business and fulfilling the social amenities. (97)

One newspaper recommended a system of taxation for road purposes. With funds derived from the tax, it said, each parish could purchase one or two good road machines, a ditching machine, a road plow, and some scrapers. In the same article was a realistic appraisal of the existing system in practice:

Once or twice a year the road overseers call those who are subject to ‘road duty’ together. Some will have hoes, a few, spades, others axes, one or two will bring a team and plows - for which extra compensation is allowed - and some bring no implements at all. With this badly equipped force the ‘generalissimo of highways’ begins the ludicrous farce of improving the roads. Moving along without any method or well defined idea of what should be done, the work (?) begins. Here and there the plowmen run a few shallow furrows; the hoe man pull out the dirt to the center, and the spade men throw a few shovels from the sides, and par excellence this scratching and scraping is called grading or road making. No ditches of any length are made on the sides to drain the water from the roadbed, and very often the center is the lowest part of the road. Merrily the laborers go on, laughing and cracking jokes, going through the routine called work, and the demands of the road law are said to be compiled with ….(98)

The editor of a Lafayette newspaper in 1891 recommended a similar plan of taxation for the building and maintenance of roads. Through taxation, no one would be exempted from working the roads; every taxpayer would pay according to his assessment, and contracts would be left out to the lowest bidder to construct and maintain roads. (99) In 1892 a like suggestion was made to the police jury of Vermilion. (100) The same year, the Lake Arthur Herald foresaw better roads for Calcasieu, since the police jury of that parish was just about to let a contract for the grading and bridging of all roads in that jurisdiction.(101)

In 1893 a call was made for a meeting of the Attakapas Convention for Immigration and Roads, sponsored by the Lafayette Business Men’s Association, to consider the existing system of road law and recommend a better system. (102) The convention, meeting June 21, in the town of Lafayette with C. O. Mouton named as president of the association adopted the following resolution:

1st. That you (the committee selected) effect permanent organization to be known as the Southwest Louisiana Road and Immigration, said association be composed of three members from each parish.

2nd. That the object of said organization is declared to be to promote the adoption of the best measures and methods toward maintaining a good and thorough public road system throughout southwest Louisiana and to induce desirable immigration.

3rd. That this convention do now proceed to select the members of said association from the parishes herein represented, and that a committee of three be appointed by the chair to communicate with the Police Juries of other parishes composing Southwest Louisiana, to wit: St. Landry, Vermilion, St. Mary and Cameron, requesting the appointment of a like representation in said permanent organization. We further suggest the ultimate extension of this association so as to invite and secure the co-operation of all parishes of the State.

4th. That the chair appoint a committee of three from the delegates present to call upon the State Commission on constitutional amendments and on the general assembly of the State to urge the changing and remodeling of our laws on the subject of roads.

5th. That we would suggest the creation of state and local road boards with the right of local direct taxation.

6th. That our representatives and senators in the general assembly are specially requested to take into consideration the questions touching our roads and road laws.

7th. That we further recommend that the association specially requests the Governor of the State to call at an early date a State Road Convention. (103)

A review of newspaper opinion in the 1890’s seemed to favor a tax on property owners as a solution to the ineffective system of hiring road overseers and requiring free labor for all eligible males. Criticism of the system continued throughout the period with the overseer receiving more than his share. In defense, one overseer gave his version of the problem, saying that, under the existing system, he doubted whether parishes could ever develop roads for the following reasons: first, the salary of $120 a year to superintend an area of the over thirty miles was much too low. Secondly, the law operated unjustly. "A poor laboring man may be called 12 days in the year to work the roads. This man’s labor is his capital. Allowing 300 working days to the year, this man pays a road tax of four percent, while the property holder - the one who is most benefited, whose property is much enhanced in value by good roads and the one who uses the roads to the greatest extent, contributes much the same in proportion, and, if a non-resident, as often happens, actually does not pay a single cent toward keeping the roads." Thirdly, the labor cannot be equalized justly. "A good, strong man goes to work by the side of a feeble or indolent neighbor and does four times as much which often dissatisfies him and causes him also, to slack up, and so it goes from bad to worse." This overseer, too, called for a tax on property valuation and, in addition, the payment of a poll tax. He believed that the money so obtained should be used to contract for professional road builders. (104) Using almost the same argument, the editor of the Crowley Signal called the existing road system "an abominable one. It is void of equity and fairness and is absolutely little else than a farce." He pointed out that the property assessments of non-residents in Acadia amounted to $461,834, while that of residents was $356,400. According to the law only residents were required to do road service, whereas non-residents, not required to do road work, had the value of their property enhanced by the labor of others. (105) "In my opinion," said the editor of a Lake Charles newspaper in 1894, "the entire road system is vitally wrong, and should be revised from the beginning. Individual and local efforts will never make good roads…. Let the roads be under state control; a superintendent of roads be elected by the state, a state tax levied each year for the building of roads upon all the taxable property of the state. Let this fund be augmented by a poll tax in lieu of the twelve days now required." (106)

Occasionally a newspaper commended the work of the police juries in their efforts to provide better roads. A case in point was the Lake Charles Commercial. The editor castigated other newspapers for their criticisms of the system, and pointed out "that in no parish in the state has there been as great an improvement in the way of good roads and bridges as Calcasieu. Not only has a large amount of money been expended but it has been used in the main judiciously and the people have had the full value thereof." (107) The same newspaper, in 1887, had called for the enactment by the State legislature of a statute levying a tax upon all property holders "for the specific object of building and maintaining good highways." (108)

In 1896 a "Good Road League" was formed in Opelousas for "the improvement of the public roads of St. Landry." (109) Two years later, through the leadership of one of its founders, James O. Chachere, it obtained a appropriate (sic) of $500 from the police jury to purchase "mules, scrapers, shovels, plows and road machines" for the improvement of the first ward. The appropriation covered only a portion of the cost of the material purchased; the rest came from private subscription. (110)

The Louisiana Constitution of 1898, in addition to the provisions concerning roads already mentioned, also provided that the State Board of Engineers "shall furnish the different road districts with plans and specification for the public roads." (111) Commenting on the road provisions in the new constitution, one Abbeville newspaper said: "There are some excellent provisions in the new constitution of Louisiana for the procurement of good roads; but these provisions will not execute themselves. If any parish wishes to possess good roads, its police jury must make road districts, set aside at least one mill per annum of taxes levied by them, impose a per capita tax of not more than $1 per annum on each able bodied male inhabitant between eighteen and forty-five years of age, levy annual license on each vehicle, including bicycles; enact ordinances for the enforcement of the property and license tax, and also for the per capita tax." (112)

At the end of the century newspapers were still using such terms as "deplorable," "terrible," "scandalous," and "lamentable," to describe the roads and bridges of southwest Louisiana. In many places the only communication was by water. This was especially true of Cameron Parish, where practically no roads existed. Towns were still connected by unimproved dirt roads. "Turnpikes and macadamized roads," said Perrin, "seem to be among the lost arts in southwest Louisiana, or among those not yet discovered." (113)

Most men traveled on horseback in the latter part of the nineteenth century in the area; however, according to Lauren Post, "heavy goods were hauled in oxcarts and wagons," made invariably of wood except for the tires on the wheels; but the vehicle of style was the caleche. (114) Thomas C. Nicholls, from the Teche country, describes its construction and use in his "Reminiscences" of 1805 to 1840. "On a Saturday evening, might be seen, caleches (as they were called) a wooden vehicle, put together with pegs, not a particle of iron, being used in their construction, mounted on wheels without tyre, placed on rawhide supporters attached to two little windlasses behind which were wound up, to the proper height filled with young ladies and old ladies…." (115) Although very stylish, few people seemed to own the vehicle, according to Post, except the planter class or, perhaps wealthy owners of Vacherie. (116)

Oxen were extensively used as beasts of burden. The manner in which they were used was described by Sylvester Cary in 1886: "for a team the natives use a yoke of oxen with a ‘homespun’ cart made entirely of wood, or a team of small horses with a harness made of rope, chain tugs and corn husk collars. I must say, however, that all this is changing fast; the native becomes a Northerner as soon as he can see the latter’s improvements." (117) The gig and buggy were ubiquitous conveyance used in town and country in southwest Louisiana. Although the roads were poor, the soil was such that the people could drive through ponds and shallow lakes after heavy rains with the wagon wheels sinking not more than two or three inches when loaded. (118)

In 1878 and Illinoisan described a trip taken from New Orleans to Lake Charles:

To reach this place one has to come by rail to Morgan City, and thence up the Teche by a steamboat to New Iberia, 72 miles, and thence by mail stage, 135 miles, through a sparsely settled prairie country, almost level, but of sufficient elevation for successful drainage into the lakes and rivers, which are sufficiently numerous for all practical purposes….

Another way to reach here is by steamers from Morgan City to Galveston, and thence by the numerous sloops that run in the lumber trade and from Lake Charles; or by steamboat to Houston, and then by rail to the terminus of the H. and O. Railroad, 100 miles, and thence by skiff, 18 miles up the Sabine river, to Niblett’s Bluff, on the Louisiana side, and thence by a little steam tug to this place. (119)

The coming of the railroad through the prairies two years later changed the transportation picture; New Orleans could now be reached directly. A new era was about to open in a new and more effective means of communication and transportation.


The decade of the 1850’s was an auspicious period in the development of railroads in Louisiana. Along with the general prosperity, the Constitution of 1852 permitted State subscription of one-fifth of the stock of all internal improvement companies. Added to this was the generous allocation of lands by the Federal Government for railroad building. With such advantages railroad construction went on apace. Many programs were overly ambitious and failed; while many were launched with business foresight and succeeded. At the time that construction was reaching its zenith, the Civil War brought a temporary halt to activities not to be resumed until the conflict ended. Lack of capital, however, was added to political instability, revelations of fraud in the promotion and construction of railroads in the post-war period, and the financial panic of 1873 all militated against any easy resumption of railroad activities. Although instability continued in State government after 1877, when legal Reconstruction ended, railroad construction proceeded at an accelerated pace. By 1900 the great trunk lines connecting New Orleans with other parts of the nation had been completed. It was during this period that southwest Louisiana witnessed its greatest economic development. It is safe to conclude that had the earlier railroad projects for the region materialized, the area would probably have developed a decade earlier. As it turned out, the extension of the first through-railroad in 1880 was followed by a great influx of Midwesterners to the region that had been heretofore virtually isolated by the lack of adequate transportation facilities. The nascent rice industry, which was to become the area’s greatest enterprise, was an indirect result of the railroad.

In 1852 a group of railroad promoters in the Crescent City chartered the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad Company, with a capital stock of $3,000,000, for the purpose of building a railroad from Algiers, opposite New Orleans, to Berwick’s Bay on the Atchafalaya River. From there, the railroad was to be extended to, or near, Washington, on the Courtableau in Saint Landry Parish, and thence continued to a point on the Sabine River "most favorable to the purpose of continuing said road through the State of Texas to El Paso on the Rio Grande." (120) In the year following, the legislature boosted the capital stock to $6,000,000 and subscribed up to $1,200,000 or the full one-fifth permitted by the Constitution of 1852. (121) In 1854 the legislature allowed the City of New Orleans to subscribe not over $1,500,000 of the Company’s stock with the right of naming three members to the board of directors of the Company. (122) By 1857 the road was open to Berwick’s Bay, eighty miles from its origin in Algiers. (123) At the same time, and agreement was made with Charles Morgan, owner of a steamship line, to maintain steamship communications from Berwick’s Bay, southern terminus of the railroad, to the seaports of Texas. (124)

In the meanwhile, Congress had approved an act in 1856 to grant public lands to Louisiana for railroad purposes. This act affected the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad Company. The law allowed six sections of land, or so much thereof as could be made from vacant lands, for every mile of railroad built. The land to be assigned was designated by sections with odd numbers within fifteen miles of the line on either side. According to the act,

… a quantity if land, not exceeding 120 sections, and included within a continuous length of twenty miles of said road may be sold; and when the Governor of said State shall certify to the Secretary of the Interior that any twenty continuous miles of said roads are completed, then another like quantity of land hereby granted may be sold; and so from time to time, until said roads are completed; and if said roads are not completed within ten years, no further sale shall be made, and the lands unsold shall revert to the United States. (125)

Approximately 720,000 acres of land were ultimately listed and approved to the Company, but they did not actually become available until 1861, after the Civil War had begun, and five years after passage of the act. The war, during which sales of land were prevented, consumed most of the remaining five years. According to G. W. R. Bayley, engineer of the project, "some few sales were made, but the expenditures for obtaining the selecting and approved lists were largely in excess of all receipts from sales of land. There were no vacant lands worthy of mention opposite the first 125 miles of the road, and the bulk of the grant was between the 190th mile and the terminus of the road at the 258th mile, or Sabine River. (126) Actually, Bayley said, "the Opelousas company never realized any benefits whatever from this land grant." (127) Later, in 1866, when the ten-year limitation had expired, the company sent a memorial to Congress, backed by resolution of the Louisiana legislature, asking for an eight-year extension of time. But because of the political situation it was alleged, the request failed. (128) Two years later, a petition made by the people of New Orleans, praying for an extension of time also failed. A. B. Segers, president of the Company, in the same pamphlet in which the petition was printed, indicated that eighty miles of the roadway had been completed "without trenching on the donated lands,… (we) having determined to reserve the same, and the proceeds thereof, for the completion of the road from Opelousas to its western terminus on the Sabine River…. (129) In 1870 Congress passed an act forfeiting all lands given to the Company and decreeing that "these lands shall hereafter be disposed of as other public lands of the United States." (130)

The railroad and its rolling stock that had been confiscated by the Federal Government in 1862 after the capture of New Orleans by Union forces was returned to the Opelousas Company in February 1866, nearly nine months after the cessation of hostilities. An inventory of this property showed:

Of the 12 locomotives, 21 passenger and baggage cars and 209 freight cars on hand July 1st 1862, there were returned 9 locomotives, more or less out of repair; 5 passenger cars, old and out of repair; 45 freight cars, generally in a damaged condition, and a portion of the wheels, axles and iron work of a number of wrecked cars. Two locomotives, one passenger, one baggage and ten box freight cars had been sent to Memphis and Little Rock Railroad, and one locomotive and cars to the Brazos, Santiago and Brownsville Railroad, by the military authorities, and no account, no credit, nor return of this property was ever made to the company. (131)

Loss of rolling stock was estimated at about $300,000. (132)

The road was soon in financial difficulty, the government failed to extend the land grants of 1856. Crevasses appeared, caused by breaks in the levee in Point Coupee and Iberville parishes, thus inundating the Atchafalaya valley and covering the railroads with three to five feet of water. Yellow fever epidemics broke out in New Orleans and Galveston in 1867, imposing quarantine restrictions on travel and commercial intercourse. Finally, the Company could not dispose of its bonds. (133) At about the time the president of the Company reported solvency, suit was brought in the United States District Court to force the Company into bankruptcy on a claim of $400 for ten mortgage bond coupons. Meanwhile another suit was filed in the State courts by Charles Morgan "for the foreclosure of the mortgage, or with that end in view, on a claim of $219,000, for the first mortgage bond coupons." This suit, for the time, was set aside by the United States District Court. (134) The Federal case of bankruptcy was finally dismissed, but Morgan’s suit was withdrawn from the State courts and filed in the United State District Court and pressed for judgment. (135) By writ of seizure, the properties of the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Company was advertised for sale. The terms of the sale specified that $606,600 and costs be paid in cash by the successful bidder at the time of adjudication, and the reminder of the purchase price be paid on the first of April, 1889, with interest at the rate of eight percent, payable semi-annually. (136) Morgan, the successful bidder, paid $2,050, 000 for the railroad line, plus an additional $250,000 for the remainder of the property not seized and for franchises of the Company west of Berwick’s Bay. (137) To save the road and the money already invested, the people of New Orleans were called upon to subscribe $1,000,000 of second mortgage bonds and stocks to relieve the road of financial embarrassment. "Had the people of New Orleans, in 1869 responded to the call for a stock bond subscription of $1,000,000" according to Bayley, "the company would have been completed to Vermilionville in 1870 and to Texas in 1871 or 1872 at farthest." (138) Southwest Louisiana, then, would have developed a decade earlier than it actually did.

Under the new ownership the old company name ceased to exist, and the name Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad became a component part of the New Orleans and Texas steamship line. (139)

The following year, 1869, Morgan was instrumental in forming a new corporation called the Berwick’s Bay and Texas Railroad Company, "for the purpose of constructing and operating a railroad from the terminus of ‘Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad,’ on the east side of Berwick’s Bay, by the most eligible route to the State of Texas, with a branch or branches to form connections with the districts of country on Red River,.…..and which said railroad shall be constructed in such a manner that it will be fitted to serve for the main trunk of the line of railroad to be continuous between the city of New Orleans, Texas and the States of the Pacific Ocean." Capital stock for the venture was to be $4,000,000 at a rate of $100 a share. (140) Morgan subscribed $2,000,000 of the amount, hoping that others who had a common interest with him in the prosperity of Louisiana "would come forward and take the remainder of the stock." (141) Actually, only little over $175,000 was subscribed. The venture failed. (142)

Ever seeking outlets for investments, Morgan petitioned the Louisiana Legislature in 1870 for a law re-incorporating the Berwick’s Bay and Texas Railroad Company with a perpetual charter that would exempt the company from taxation for a period of ten years after the completion of the road. He also sought a pledge from the State, as a condition of building a railroad from Berwick’s Bay to the State of Texas, not to grant "to any railroad to be built or extended in that portion of the State….any further subsidies" for the building of a competing line. (143) In return for this concession, Morgan offered to forfeit $500,000 to the State should he fail to build the railroad within three years. (144) The State rejected the offer. (145) Bayley believed that had such an act been passed, New Orleans would have had connections with Texas and have been in a position to compete with St. Louis for its trade. (146) And it follows that southwest Louisiana would have had a railroad a number of years earlier. The failure of a railroad chartered by the State in 1870 from Vermilionville to Shreveport elicited from Bayley the comment, "we are no nearer to Texas by rail today than in 1870. In fact, no nearer than in 1857." (147)

Morgan, in 1871, sold to the New Orleans, Mobile and Texas Railroad Company "all of the property, rights and franchises appertaining to the old Opelousas road west of Berwick’s Bay for $250,000." The Company agreed to complete the road "from the terminus of Mr. Morgan’s road at Brashear ….by the time at which it shall complete its main line of railroad from Vermilionville to Houston. (148) An Opelousas newspaper reported the next year that "work on the road from Brashear City to Vermilionville, and thence to the Sabine has already commenced. It will be pushed forward with the energy and enterprise which characterize capitalists." (149) This was too optimistic a view since work on the road was abandoned in August, 1872. (150) The following year, the Company defaulted on its bonds and the property west of New Orleans and in Louisiana was sold in foreclosure in 1874 and finally came under the ownership of the newly-incorporated Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company. (151) According to a newspaper editorial in 1873, "the members of the old company have not been harmonious for a long time, and there have been complications with….Morgan and others which have greatly interfered with their proceedings." So long as differences existed, the editorial continued, "The credit of the company was impaired,…and a reorganization was imperatively demanded." (152)

A New Orleans newspaper reported in 1873 that Morgan had gone to New York to make arrangements in co-operation with the New Orleans and Texas Company for extending his road from Brashear to Houston, Morgan, from the account of the newspaper, proposed to make the road bed and the crib walk and to assign certain rights and privileges while he expected the other party to supply the iron. Each party was to have half interest in the road. The newspaper commented, "Recent experience had demonstrated that the Opelousas Road, terminating at Brashear, will not be very profitable and productive property on the investment made," since the Missouri and "the other more northern roads from Texas" would "be pretty certain to draw off the trade from this new Southern route. Should the Louisiana Central be completed to Shreveport, so as to connect with the several lines which from that point are to pierce the State of Texas, Mr. Morgan’s business would be greatly affected." (153) In addition, the newspaper said, "many of his boats are laid up, and the revenue from his line enormously reduced since the opening of the road from St. Louis to Galveston." Therefore, the newspaper concluded, "it becomes a matter of great need and urgency to Mr. Morgan to extend his Opelousas road to Texas." (154)

Between 1877 and 1879 the Louisiana legislature passed three acts providing for charters to build railroads between Brashear and the Sabine River. The first was granted to the Morgan Company, "to incorporate Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company, to expedite the extension, construction and maintenance of a railroad between New Orleans, Louisiana, and the State of Texas,…to run from or near Morgan City, Louisiana, to some point on the Sabine." (155) The act was amended in 1879 to read: "that the railroad which is now being extended beyond Morgan City by Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company, shall be completed to Vermilionville within eighteen months from the passage of this act…." (156) A second act, approved March 29, 1878, incorporating the Lake Charles and Orange, Texas Company and made up of Lake Charles businessmen, authorized the construction and maintenance of a railroad "from a point at or near the town of Lake Charles,….to the terminus of the Texas and New Orleans Railroad at Orange, Texas on the Sabine…." (157) The next day, March 30, 1878, the Governor approved an act incorporating the Louisiana Western Railroad Company with the authorization "to locate, construct and build, and thereafter to own, maintain, manage, and use,….between any point in or near Vermilionville, in the parish of Lafayette, and any line between the State of Louisiana and the State of Texas." (158) In the same year a tri-partite agreement was made for twenty-five years by the Morgan Company and the Louisiana Western Railroad, and the Texas and New Orleans Railroad Company to complete the route between New Orleans and Houston. (159) The Lake Charles Echo described the assigned routes for each company: "from Orange to Vermilionville (via Lake Charles) the road is owned by the Louisiana Western Railroad Company, and is known as the Louisiana Western Railroad. From Vermilionville to New Orleans (via Morgan City), it is known as Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad." (160) From Houston to Orange, the railroad was owned by the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. (161)

At first, it seemed that Opelousas would be left with no railroad connected to the projected route through Vermilionville. Later, however, James G. Parkerson, agent for the Morgan Company, offered to extend a line from Vermilionville to Opelousas "provided the right of way be secured, and a subscription of $20,000 be raised payable as the road progresses, returnable in ten percent deductions on freight and passenger fares." (162) On June 10, 1880, an Opelousas newspaper reported the favorable progress in soliciting subscriptions and securing the right of way. (163) Later, on July 17, 1880, the people of Opelousas overwhelmingly voted a tax to secure $2,000 for obtaining land and the building of a depot in that town. (164) Years of patient waiting for a railroad connection with New Orleans had at last been realized. On April 3, 1880, a newspaper editorialized:

Yesterday there occurred an event outside the state, and more than a hundred miles away, but one of importance to this city. The last rail was laid, the last spike driven that was to fill up the gap in the line between Houston and Lake Charles…. The road, now completed to that place, not only brings us so much nearer to the great Southern metropolis, but opens up daily communications with a new region hitherto sealed up so far as we were concerned, by the way of travel and land transportation. The extensive parish of Calcasieu, into which the line of rail penetrates, and indeed crosses, is one of the finest timbered regions anywhere in the United States…. A new era dawns for the timbered solitudes east of the Sabine. In the meantime Houston will not only lose nothing by the change, but will immediately begin to reap the benefit of a newly sprung up trade, a portion of which at least cannot help drifting this way. (165)

Five months later, on August 28, 1880, the same newspaper jubilantly announced: "Linked at last. Last Thursday, at 9 o’clock, A.M., the last spike was driven on the Louisiana Western Railroad, and the important enterprise of railroad connection between New Orleans and Houston, Texas, was there-by completed." (166)

In Opelousas, the St. Landry Democrat mused: "Things have brightened up wonderfully since the completion of the railroad [from Vermilionville to Opelousas]. Now that the passenger train is making regular daily trips, the landing place of the road is crowded every evening by the people of the town. No one ever thinks of taking a walk in any other direction from that leading to the railroad tracks." In the same article, the editor commented: "A very great change is taking place with our people. They are rapidly casting aside their old rustic country ways, and are becoming metropolitan-like in appearance and deportment. Old Opelousas is fast fading away. New Opelousas is now ‘the boom.’" (167)

Owners and captains of boats plying the Calcasieu River at the time feared that the railroads being built would obviate the need of schooners. A Lake Charles newspaper gave a different assessment. It said optimistically: "We assure the hundreds of men engaged in making, repairing and running schooners add other vessels for the lumber trade of the Calcasieu River that their business will be immensely and permanently increased…." (168) Six months later, on October 9, 1880, the same newspaper reported: "….every mill is chocked with orders. The Texas and New Orleans railroad is hauling from these mills an average of more than 40 carloads [of lumber] per day, and running to Orange and Lake Charles are between thirty and forty schooners. These vessels are putting in their best licks, and yet the combined efforts of the railroads are at present meeting the demands of our manufacturers. Surely it not unsafe to say the timber regions are enjoying a ‘mighty boom,’ and our section is on the high road to prosperity." (169)

Continued well-being, prompted from the same newspaper in the following year this comment: "…. The completion of the railroad from Houston,… to New Orleans, via Lake Charles, has so increased the sawmill business and the demand for lumber [that] the transportation facilities, by rail and by water, are far inferior to the demand for lumber, and [that] the construction of new lumber schooners has become an imperative necessity." (170) Shipping statistics for the depot in Opelousas revealed that "the railroad business….for October [1886] makes a very good showing - over 1000 bales of cotton and more than 500 sacks of rice shipped, besides a large amount of miscellaneous freight. The number of cars forwarded was 132, and the number received 99. For the first nine days in November 314 bales of cotton and 1500 sacks of rice were shipped, with other goods." (171) In 1887 a Lake Charles newspaper reported that Calcasieu Parish had more than doubled its population since the railroad came through, and the products of the parish had increased tenfold while real estate had increased over two hundred percent. (172)

The Southern Pacific Company, on March 1, 1885, leased for ninety-nine years the properties of the Louisiana Western Railroad Company, the Texas and New Orleans Railroad Company, and Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company. Thus the three companies that were instrumental in building lines across the prairies of southwest Louisiana became a part of the Southern Pacific system. (173)

Other railroads in the area followed. The New Orleans Pacific Railway, extending from the Crescent City to Shreveport, crossed Saint Landry Parish in its northeastern corner. (174) In June, 1881, this road was consolidated with the Texas and Pacific under the latter’s name. (175) Except for the rail connection that it gave Opelousas at Alexandria, the railroad played a small role in the economic development of southwest Louisiana because of its distance from the trade center in Opelousas.

Jabez B. Watkins, the president of the North American Land and Timber Company and the man responsible for bringing in thousands of Midwesterners to the Calcasieu prairie, initiated a movement in 1887 to build a railroad from the Gulf coast to Kansas City. A charter obtained in Kansas under the name of The Kansas City, Watkins and Gulf Railway Company and domiciled in Lake Charles was to have a capitalization of $5,000,000 divided into fifty thousand shares at $100 per share. The incorporators were J. B. Watkins, Alexander Thomson, Seaman A. Knapp, Wilbur F. Presby, Frank A. Banker, and William M. White. (176) The proposed route of the road, according to the Lake Charles Echo, was "to begin at a point upon or adjacent to the Louisiana Western Railroad in the parish, and will run in a northerly direction to the north line of this State, thence through the States of Arkansas and Missouri to Kansas City." The editor believed that,

The building of this road will be the making of Lake Charles, as it will compel the National Government to dredge our bars and rivers and give us a 12 foot channel to the Gulf to accommodate the vast trade that will enter at this point. And we feel safe in saying that in eighteen months after its completion ours will be a city of 25,000 inhabitants, with electric lights, water works, street railroads, college buildings and solid blocks of brick and stone buildings and warehouses which will be necessary to accommodate the vast quantities of Western produce that will be brought to this city for shipment.

Then will Lake Charles become what nature intended it to be - the entrepot for the products of the great west. (177)

At a meeting in Lake Charles to discuss the proposed railway, Seaman A. Knapp, one of the promoters, pointed out the great benefits and advantages that would accrue to both city and parish. Alexander Thomson, another promoter, explained that the parish and city would called upon to make a donation of $2,000 a mile for the building of the railroad and a right of way for the forty or more miles that the road traversed through Calcasieu. A tax of five mills for five years would have to be levied by the parish to complete the railroad through its boundary. (178)

Following the suggestion of Thomson, the people were called upon to vote on the tax proposal that would have obligated them to pay a tax of two and one-half mills for a period of ten years. An affirmative vote was secured. (179) Sometime later the New Orleans Times-Democrat reported: "And a good example of the good will of the people is the action taken in Calcasieu Parish, the other day, giving the Kansas City Watkins and Gulf Railroad a bonus in the ay (sic) of remission of taxes for fifteen years, assuring this important line." (180)

Construction was begun in 1890 and completed from Lake Charles to Alexandria in 1892. (181) "Thus," predicted William Perrin, "it is only a question of a short time when the products of Kansas and the great northwest will find their way to the markets of the world through this deep-water port. For when the improvements are made already ordered by the Congress of the United States of deepening Calcasieu Pass, then Lake Charles becomes one of the safest and most important seaports of the Gulf of Mexico." (182) Fear that the railroad might divert rice cleaning and shipment to Lake Charles prompted the editor of the Opelousas Courier to recommend to the business interests of Opelousas that they build a railroad west of the town to tap the sources of rice for processing and storing. (183) Nothing came from the suggestion.

By an arrangement with the New Orleans Pacific Railroad in 1899, it became possible for people living in Lake Charles to get through service to New Orleans in less than a day by way of the Watkins’ Railroad through Alexandria. (184)

The railroad was not without its difficulties. In the latter part of 1898, the Kansas City and Gulf Railroad was placed in the hands of a receiver, and an investigation followed to inquire into "the title to certain bonds, which some of the stockholders thought Mr. Watkins had secured without the usual process." (185) Watkins, according to the Lake Charles newspaper, believed that the railroad could be taken out of the hands of the receiver through the expedient of allowing it to be sold. The Watkins’ interests would then purchase the railroad and thereby, end the receivership. (186) This eventuality never came to pass. The railroad was operated under the receivership through the early 1900’s. In 1900 a Lake Charles newspaper reviewed the railroad’s affairs from 1898:

Three years ago there was a fierce dispute among the stockholders in the road, which finally terminated in a receivership in January 1898. Running through what was almost a trackless wilderness ten years before, with its patronage all to create, the tie-up of all business in the dark years naturally struck the railroad hard, and internal disagreements did not help matters any.

When Henry B. Kane arrived in Lake Charles, 1898, to take charge of the road as receiver, he found 52 cents in the treasury and the railroad burdened with a floating indebtedness of $10,000. The roadbed was in an unsafe condition, the bridges weak, the ties rotted away and the entire equipment in a demoralized state. Scarcely had he taken charge than the car shop in Lake Charles burned down, inflicting a further $30,000 loss on the road - a total loss as the company had not a cent of insurance. With a railroad only 95 miles long, and running through an underdeveloped country, the outlook was unpromising enough, and Mr. Kane’s achievements in a little more than two years are certainly remarkable. (187)

Although the railroad was not the success that the promoters had anticipated, it doubtlessly had some effect on the economic development of the area. In 1900 according to the Lake Charles Daily American, when Watkins came to southwest Louisiana in 1882,

The census of 1880 had shown him that in a parish containing an area of 2,163,600 acres only12, 484 inhabitants were living, and they had in all the years of its settlement reduced only 14,000 acres of its soil to cultivation.

In 1882 under the primitive influence of the time, the total assessment of Calcasieu amounted to only $1,991,085. Seventeen years thereafter under the energetic action of corporate combinations it had increased to $9,322,745 or $7,331,620 while in the same brief period the area in cultivation had increased in improved land, and the population had grown from 12,484 to about 35,000.

In 1882 W. H. Hargrove, in the New Orleans Picayune, described its wonderful advancement in the following words: ‘That from 1880 to 1890 the increase in the wealth of Calcasieu parish was 562 ½ per cent while the remainder of the state during the same time was increased only 40 per cent in wealth and 19 per cent in population.’ (188)

The Midland Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad, started in 1893 and completed the following year, owned its inspiration to C. C. Duson, one of the founders of Crowley, who persuaded the company to build the line. (189) The branch leaves the main line at a point near Estherwood, eight miles from Crowley, and runs for twenty-five miles north, crossing Bayou Plaquemine on what was then "one of the longest wooden bridges on the line of the Southern Pacific Railroad between New Orleans and San Francisco, being 1,700 feet long," through Prairie Hays across Bayou Mallet to Eunice - a town founded by Duson. The area traversed by the branch, largely unoccupied, (190) was purchased on each side of the line by the Pacific Investment Company. The Company later offered this land for sale at a price ranging from seven to twelve dollars an acre. (191) Upon completing the line to Eunice, the Southern Pacific built a southern extension of the Midland Branch to Gueydan in Vermilion Parish, a distance of about fifteen miles. Upon its completion, predicted an Abbeville newspaper, "there will be from 60,000 to 75,000 sacks of rice carried over it annually." (192) Stated the same newspaper, "Heretofore, this great amount of products has been obliged to find its way out of the country by many different routes, such as Abbeville, Lake Arthur, Mermentau, etc." (193) Furthermore, "fully 20,000 additional acres of fine farming land will be thrown open to settlers by the completion of the Midland Branch, and at the terminus of the road Senator C. C. Duson has already located the site of the new town which he called Gueydan…" (194)

The Iberia and Vermilion Railroad, a sixteen-mile line between Abbeville and New Iberia and connecting with Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad, was chartered April 6, 1891, with its domicile in New Iberia. (195) Capital stock of the enterprise was fixed at $300,000 with shares of $100 par value. (196) To help subsidize the venture the people of both parishes voted a five-mill tax for five years. (197) The line, completed in November 1892, (198) was leased to the Southern Pacific Company in 1895. (199) Land values along the line advanced $5 and $10 to $25 and $35 an acre. (200) Along with the Midland Branch, Vermilion Parish now had two railroads at the end of the century to ship its rice and other agricultural products to market.

In the last two decades of the century several efforts were made to connect Kansas City by rail with some port on the Gulf. This dream was fulfilled by the organizing genius of Arthur Stilwell, (201) who lived to see his brainchild sold under foreclosure proceedings to the Kansas City Southern in 1900. (202) Under the leadership of Stilwell, the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad Company was organized in 1889. The Company completed the railroad to Shreveport. From this point, Stilwell hoped to depend on other lines to tap the traffic from New Orleans, Galveston, and Houston. (203) Seeing, however, the possibilities of a railroad to the Gulf under his company’s ownership, he organized the Kansas City, Shreveport and Gulf Railway as a subsidiary company to build southward from Shreveport. To finance this enterprise, he sought the help of Dutch financiers. (204)

Stilwell visited Cameron, seeing it as a possible site for a port on the Gulf; but being unable to come to terms with the large property owners in that parish, he turned his attention to Texas, where he bought land and laid out the city of Port Arthur. (205) The rails reached the site of DeQuincy in 1897, and a town was laid out. Southwestward a line was built to Beaumont, and sometime later another went to Lake Charles – the most direct route to the Gulf. (206) The company purchased the narrow-gauge Calcasieu, Vernon, and Shreveport Railroad, which extended for about twenty-five miles in the direction of DeQuincy and which was already tied for a broad gauge road. This greatly facilitated the entry of the Kansas City, Shreveport and Gulf Railroad into Lake Charles. (207) On December 15, 1898 the first train entered Lake Charles on the new railroad. (208) Freight consigned to New Orleans was transferred to the Southern Pacific line in Lake Charles. (209) Southwest Louisiana with its vast cattle industry now had direct access to the great packing houses of Kansas City. (210)

The railroad was an important factor in the economic development of southwest Louisiana. Population growth in the last two decades of the nineteenth century; as was indicated earlier is directly attributable to the ease of communication that the railroad provided, for with few exceptions, the migrations of the period from the Midwest to the prairies were by rail. Too, the advertising of railroad agents, inducing migrations to southwest Louisiana from all parts of the country, was an indirect factor in this movement. The landed area called southwest Louisiana as defined in this study, scarcely considered a region in 1865, was now bound by iron rails into a common economic interest.



Few places in the South - and, perhaps, the United States - have afforded more natural advantages to the raising of livestock than southwest Louisiana. (1) For here tens of thousands of cattle, horses, sheep, and other livestock grazed on the open range from the early history of the area. (2) The nutritive quality of the native grasses, (3) the usually good climatic conditions, favorable water resources, and the relative absence of predatory animals, all made for an ideal stock-raising country.

Cattle raising early became the dominant economic activity of the inhabitants, (4) and so remained until rice culture on a commercial scale in the 1880’s and the 1890’s began to challenge its supremacy. Ample evidence exists to show that the quality of the livestock was inferior. (5) One writer described the cattle as being "all-horn-and-hide-with-no-meat" critters (6) because of the negligent care given to them. (7) And from their appearance, other writers have concluded that they were of the Spanish type that came from Mexico by way of the Gulf Coast, and being of a very hardy variety designed by nature to care for themselves without human aid. (8) Accepting the Spanish origin of these cattle, one authority described them as having "enormously long and wide-spreading horns, narrow chests, high flanks, deeply-sunken backbones," with all characteristics for good breeding animals notably absent. (9)

The Vacherie of the Acadian settlers became an important feature of the old cattle industry. It was to these settlers what a rancho or a hacienda was to Spanish-speaking people of Texas and Mexico. (10) The term merely suggested a place where cattle was raised. It had no connotation of a system of cattle raising that may have originated in France. Lauren Post has found no connecting link between the Louisiana system of raising half-wild cattle on open ranges with any contemporary system existing in France. (11)

Like the rest of the South following the Civil War, southwest Louisiana had insufficient breeding stock and money to build a cattle industry. (12) The foraging invader under the command of General N. P. Banks, operating in the general area of Opelousas, either drove thousands of head of cattle to New Orleans and other points, or slaughtered them on the spot to care for troops. In one area along the Vermilion River, natives counted almost two thousand heads in every stage of decay from these slaughtered animals. (13) New Orleans, which had been the great marketing center for cattle of the area before the war, now, after the conflict, and for some five years thereafter, afforded only a limited market. (14) Recovery was gradual. Available statistics for the parishes within this study showed a cattle population of 69,881 in 1860 as compared with 71,059 in 1870 and 102,632 in 1880. (15) Quantitatively, the losses sustained during the war were more than replenished in the five years following with an increase of nearly a third in the decade of the 1870’s. Markets, too, had improved. One newspaper reported in the spring of 1870 that large droves of cattle were going through the Lake Charles area headed east where, it added, they met with a ready sale. (16) In 1877 Washington Landing in Saint Landry Parish shipped 15,000 head of cattle to New Orleans. (17) From the newspaper accounts of railroad loading at the principal shipping points in southwest Louisiana, it appears that by the 1880’s recovery seemed complete.

Although stock raising along with farming pursuits on the side became the mainstay of large numbers of families throughout the area, (18) only a relatively small number of them can be classified as having had a thousand or more head of cattle. Without giving the number of heads owned, Perrin listed 124 names as being among the largest stockmen in Southwest Louisiana. (19) Identified as living within specific parishes, Perrin listed the following as owning extensive Vacherie: Acadia: Theodore Flesh, Bosman Hayes, W. E. Hockaday, and James Webb; Calcasieu: Emile Corbello, John F. Cloney (could be Clooney,) Oscar David, W. E. Gill, D. Hebert, Madison and Malachi Lyons, William M. Perkins, A. Perry, Aladin Vincent, and J. B. Watkins; Cameron: Rutherford Jones and James Welsh; Lafayette: Edward T. Broussard, Charles C. Brown, John Constantin, Paul L. DeClouet; Saint Landry: Clophas Comeau and Edward J. Conway; Vermilion: William Harrington, Adrian and Adrien Hebrard Nunez, and J. P. Gueydan. Not mentioned by Perrin was Lastie Dupre, who reputedly owned about twenty thousand head of cattle "ranging over the greater part of southwest Louisiana, from Bayou Teche on the east to the Sabine river of the west, and from Bayou Chicot on the north to the Gulf on the south." (20) Similarly not mentioned by Perrin were other owners from Cameron. These were Eugene Miller, Pierre Baudoin, Armelin Richard and his sons Auguste and Sostain, James A. Wakefield, John Sells, Villoir Theriot and his five sons, each of whom had a separate brand, Joe Erbelding, W. D. Donahoe, and Abel J. West. (21)

Routine on a Vacherie in southwest Louisiana varied little from one owner to the other. "Even up to the present day," one newspaper observed in 1885, "the sum total of labor and expense gone to in this industry amounts to branding and marketing, only." (22) "No such thing as feeding and sheltering stock during the winter," the newspaper continued, "has ever been done, nor is it really necessary with the native cattle." (23) On occasion, especially during severe winters, stockmen fed their cattle from the 15th of January to the 15th of March. Wild cattle "are never fed on hay and have no shelter." (24) Despite this lack of care, incomes of twenty-five percent on the investment in cattle were recorded, while higher incomes - as much as forty percent - came from gentler stock. (25) An Iowan visiting the prairies in 1887 in a letter to a Lake Charles newspaper gave a description of the stock he saw there: "The cattle in general looked well," he said, "taking into consideration that they live on grass the year round, [and] never get a bite of any other food. They make as good beef as I ever ate. I think there is as much nutriment in that [grass] as in our wild grass." (26) Cary, the man who advertised southwest Louisiana to Midwesterners, wanted to know how a northern man could compete with his southern counterpart in the raising of cattle when grass grew ten months in the year. "I turned my cow and her Holstein calf on the prairies over two years, at Jennings, La.," said Cary, "she then being worth $100. They have been fed and are and have been in good flesh all the time." (27) Elsewhere Cary noted that cattle on the Calcasieu prairie were better than the common cattle of the North and that they wintered better on the open range than northern stock which were housed and fed for six months. (28)

All cattle, of course, were not so treated. An exception to this lack of care is given by Samuel Lockett, who visited the Mamou area in the early 1870’s. He encountered a Negro family by the name of Pierre, who had set themselves up as independent landowners sometime after the Civil War, and pursued a systematic plan of managing their stock and farm, with satisfactory results. During the grass season, Lockett observed, Pierre allowed his livestock to run freely on the common prairies with occasional runs to specially enclosed lots for salting. In another lot were kept cows with their calves, mares with their colts, and other horses during the winter season and fed. By the time the spring planting season arrived, the lot had been tramped and fertilized resulting in a bountiful harvest. While the crop was in the growth process, other lots constituting about half of his farm were used by the livestock for grazing. By this method of land rotation, Lockett said, "M. Pierre has become famed far and wide as being the owner of the best stock in the prairie." All of this, Lockett continued, was in marked contrast to the haphazard methods of many Creoles living in the prairies. (29)

Dotting the prairie were thousands of small, roundish ponds from forty to fifty yards in diameter and somewhat more than a foot in depth, made presumably by the cattle milling around in small holes until they were enlarged by the animals and by cave-ins. Since the claypan was impervious, these ponds served as water reservoirs for the cattle during most of the year. Where these ponds did not exist, farmers made "digs" for their cattle to drink or their hogs to wallow in. (30)

An interesting custom developed among the small stockmen of the prairies. In the days before there was refrigeration to preserve meat and meat products, a co-operative institution, called the boucherie de campagne, developed. Each of the participants in the enterprise - usually twenty-four or more – drew lots to determine who would supply an animal for the weekly Saturday butchering. After the drawing of lots, each participant called upon the man responsible for supplying the animal of the week for his ten or more pounds of meat. This supply of meat presumably lasted until the next lottery. Large families supplied two beeves and drew a double portion. This lottery proved to be so successful as a means of supplying fresh meat that it remained in existence until supplanted by modern refrigeration. (31)

It was not until the late 1870’s and the early 1880’s that stockmen learned that the sea marsh area of Cameron and Vermilion afforded as good pasturage "as there is in the world, [where] strong, nutritious grass grows in great abundance, resembling very much in taste and appearance what is known in the Middle States as red top, only a little taller and as thick as it can stand." (32) One observer in the early 1880’s saw cattle, turned out in the marsh in December, when they were in poor condition; emerge in the early spring in marketable condition. (33) These stockmen who used the sea marsh as a cattle range usually drove their animals off in the latter part of August, when the spring and summer growth had matured and dried. The grass was then burned to prepare the land for the fall and winter growth which grew rapidly and provided excellent pasturage at the time that the prairies had begun to show the effect of midsummer, especially if the season was long and dry. (34) Aladin Vincent, one of the biggest stockmen of Calcasieu Parish, had a Vacherie called "Himiny Hill" about four miles south of Vinton bordering the marsh land. (35) In 1888 he marketed three-year-old wild, marsh-range steers averaging 900 pounds each. According to one account, these steer were part Brahma. (36) Cattle were driven along Calcasieu River to Mud Lake - a route called the West Track - in the fall and returned in the early spring. Trails were usually cut through the marsh by a cowboy on horseback followed by several gentle cows. (37) The White Lake area in Vermilion Parish similarly became a winter grazing area with its advantage of fresh water in the lake and the existence of willow trees which provided protection against bitterly cold winds. The area was ideal for summer grazing. (38)

Driving cattle from the summer range to the comparatively low, boggy, salt marshes south involved a somewhat different operation from the usually dry, hard uplands. Cowhands slushed by day through knee-deep mud and slept at night in the marsh with its myriads of mosquitoes and other insects. (39) At appointed places along a lake or river bank, a small vessel - the chuck wagon of the coastal country - met the herd. Manned by one or two men, each being both sailor and cook, these vessels sometimes served as sleeping quarters for cowhands. After the herd had safely reached the marsh lands, saddles and cowhands were loaded aboard the vessel for a two-to-three day trip back home. (40)

Cattle owners participated in the semiyearly "round-ups" for the purpose of branding calves and colts. Each stockman had his own brand which the law required him to record. (41) This mark was a sign of ownership. After the branding, which took place in the spring and fall, the animals were released on the prairies to mingle with other herds and to graze on the open range. (42) In old "Imperial Calcasieu" the drive started in the northwestern part of the parish with about twenty-five or thirty men riding herd. The cattle, driven southward, followed the edge of the woods on the west bank of the Calcasieu River past Lake Charles, then crossed the prairies eastward to end the round-up at "Andrus" Cove south of Jennings, where the unmarked animals were cut and branded. (43) Other round-up points were at 5-6-7-8-mile ranches, "Ardoin" Cove, and other points within southwest Louisiana. (44) According to one veteran stockman, ranchers were generally honest. When they found a stray animal, they usually notified the owner of the brand carried by the critter. (45) "One man has branded as high as seven thousand and five hundred calves, and fifteen colts a year on this prairie," wrote an Iowan who had settled in the Welsh area to his home newspaper. (46) Salable stock was usually separated from various herds, and the rest were allowed to return to their grazing grounds. (47) Police juries of the various parishes enacted ordinances regarding unbranded stock. In Saint Landry the surplus fund obtained from the sale of unbranded cattle was to be used to pay bounties for the scalps of wild cats and wolves. Any funds left over were to be used to defray the costs of parish road equipment. (48)


It is entirely possible that the scientific breeding of cattle in southwest Louisiana started in isolated instances before the 1880’s among Vacherie owners. This writer, however, has found no evidence of this. Consensus among stockmen opposed the importation of blooded stock into the area on the ground that such stock "invariably die off. The few that live after the first year have made these efforts to improve stock expensive and unprofitable." (49) Perrin, who did not give dates, mentioned several natives who showed interest in improving their stock. Among these were Adrien Hebrard Nunez, who imported Durham bulls for breeding purposes; (50) Sidney Martin; (51) and Martial Billaud, owner of 1,300 acres of land, who imported the first Holstein cattle brought into southwest Louisiana. (52) Presumably, with the coming of the Midwesterners to the area accounts of scientific cattle breeding increased. The St. Martinville Observer, in 1881, reported that a Mr. Webster from Kentucky, who owned a farm in Poupeville in Saint Landry Parish, introduced several Durham bulls to improve his stock. Editorializing, the editor said: "Mr. Webster’s visit may have the good effect of convincing our stock raisers that the quality, and not the quantity, of cattle raised, constitutes their real value, and it may suggest to them the idea of doing away with that diminutive race of cattle which now graze on our prairies." (53) The following year, a Lake Charles newspaper told of the return of Frank Bass from Trenton, Kentucky, with "several heads of as fine specimens of Jersey cattle as were ever imported into this section of Louisiana." According to the newspaper, it was the intention of Bass, in partnership with Dr. W. H. Kirkman, to breed fine stock exclusively. (54) An Abbeville newspaper in the same year editorialized: "The breed of cattle here is a cross with the Derham [sic] and Bramah [sic] with our Creole stock, our cattle have the advantage of the acclimatation and of the cross with blooded stock, and the consequence is that they are pretty good milk cows." (55) Then in 1886, a special correspondent for the Times Democrat in New Orleans observed that the Jennings Colony was introducing "improved stock of beef and butter strain." (56) W. E. Hockaday of Acadia Parish was mentioned as one who "gave special attention to the breeding and importing of a fine grade of Hereford and short horned cattle."(57) E. M. Powers, formerly of Iowa, was reported in 1886 to have "the largest stock-raising scheme on foot….He has twelve sections - about 800 acres - under fence of five wires. He has a thousand head of cattle and a number of fine large cows for breeding purposes, which he intends crossing with Herefords and Durham bulls. He has in use two Brahman bulls of high grade." (58) A short distance out of the town of Opelousas, the Reverend T. J. Hough owned a herd of forty thoroughbreds and graded Jersey cows that he started to raise in 1882 from blooded stock purchased in New Orleans. (59) Evidently influenced by the success of Midwesterners in breeding blooded stock in southwest Louisiana, Aladin Vincent in 1900 purchased a carload "of fine Hereford and Durham bulls including a $500 Hereford." "It is to be hoped," said the editor of a Lake Charles newspaper, "that this example will be speedily imitated by others." (60) Hereford bulls from five to fifteen months old "were received here last week by Messrs. Sims &Wathen," reported the [Abbeville] Meridional at the end of 1899. "The Herefords are at the head of the list as beef cattle, and one [of] these yound (sic) bulls weighed 950 pounds, though only a little over a year old," the newspaper continued. (61)

By the middle of the 1880’s a revolution in the beef-cattle industry was becoming apparent. An editorial in a New Orleans newspaper reported: "It may be said to be a corollary that Western immigration has transformed the habits of the inhabitant." These people began to fence the open range which "was resented by some lawless natives, who cut wire fences again and again." (62) Cultivated grasses were introduced, and more care was given to blooded stock brought in from other parts of the country. "By more care," editorialized the newspaper, "the losses can be greatly reduced, and if the animals are brought here when young, instead of fully matured, they escape mightily [from acclimating fever]. Once over this fever, they do as well, if not better than in the West, as they escape the extremes of climate of that section. Losses have been light lately in consequence of following these precautions." (63)

Evidence of the revolution in the cattle industry can be seen in the activities of J. B. Watkins, who, coming to southwest Louisiana in 1883 to exploit the land and timber resources of the area, found possibilities in the cattle industry. Watkins, with the aid of Seaman A. Knapp, who had been persuaded to give up the presidency of Iowa State College to come to southwest Louisiana, conceived the idea of fencing in an area for the pasture of 100,000 cattle. (64) One newspaper assessing the immensity of the project estimated that such a scheme would "require 60,000 posts and ten care loads of wire, of ten tons each." (65) The next year, Watkins brought in a man from the Isle of Jersey "familiar with cattle and their treatment," and imported from Europe through New York "Short-horns, Herefords and Galloways." Knapp had fenced-in ranches built six miles apart in order that his caretakers might more effectively patrol the prairies in search of weak animals that might not be able to withstand winter weather without special attention and to extinguish possible grass fires. His plan for breeding cattle was to divide his steers into two groups, each group being assigned a ranch. One ranch, he stated, "is for preparation for market, especially adapted for fattening, another is for raising steer."(67) Cows were divided into three groups. Those over nine years of age were not to be bread, but prepared for market. It was Knapp’s contention that the death rate among cattle in winter was found in this class of animals. He classified in the second group those animals under nine years of age which were used for breeding purposes. His third group was an especially selected one for breeding blooded heifers and bulls which were to be the foundation for the future improvement of the stock. Each group was assigned a ranch "with a competent superintendent and a trained corps of assistants." Bulls were allotted according to the demands of various herds. (68) According to Knapp’s plans for the future:

The fields will be divided into immense "shifts" for stock, so that there will always be fine grass. In various fields on each ranch will be built large sheltered pens for stock. Scattered all over the entire system of ranches will be built sheltered salt licks, where the cattle die by being choked with bones, seeking then in their craving for salt. In the pasture immense troughs will be built for drinking purposes of the stock. These will be fed from immense tanks, into which water will be pumped by wind mills. Prof. Knapp advances the idea that the surface water is injurious, more of less, to cattle.

Immense quantities of hay will be cut, both from native grasses and grasses hereafter to be sown. For bailing hay many grasses are being now made at their shipyard in town. (69)

With the vast herds of cattle in southwest Louisiana, very little attention was given to dairying. According to an agricultural specialist, who made a survey of the area in the 1880’s, this potential was being neglected. (70) "I stopped for some time at the house of a gentleman who owns about three thousand cows," he said, "and the butter for his table came weekly by express from Philadelphia." (71) In accord with this view was the comment of another observer who said, "With thousands of cows roaming on the prairies, you seldom see butter or milk in their houses." (72) Toward the end of the century with no real attempts having been made to create a dairy industry, a Lake Charles newspaper editor expressed concern: "Something should be done to reduce the stringency in the milk market," he said. "Thousands of cattle feed in this parish, but it would seem that few of them are the kinds that give milk. Hotels, restaurants and householders complain that milk if scarce. When farmers around Lake Charles really farm and improve all the opportunities, eggs, chickens, milk and butter will not have to be imported." (73) Of the cattle in Cameron, Dennett observed that "some of the Creole cows give twelve quarts of milk a day without shelter in winter or summer, and with no food except the natural grasses of the marsh and the prairies, [and] as good butter has been and can be made along the coast, as is made in the North or West." (74)

Although southwest Louisiana possessed many natural advantages in the raising of livestock, there were many attending hazards. Among them were lack of shelter, occasional prolonged drought periods, unstable soils where cattle bogged in the marsh areas, excessive heat and cold periods, disease, heavy rains, wind tides in the lowlands which submerge grazing areas, over grazing, poor grazing distribution, lack of fences, inadequate drinkable water, marsh fires, salt water intrusion, growth of undesirable plants, lack of reserve feed during critical periods of drought and cold weather, (75) and occasional rustling.

Extreme weather conditions and floods were perennial hazards. One newspaper in the early part of 1877 reported that "cattle are commencing to parish from the inclemency of the weather and lack of forage, and if the winter continues as severe as it is now, the grim skeletons which will dot the surface of the prairies by spring will be legion." (76) The weather was even harsher the following year, but the editor of an Abbeville newspaper was optimistic: "The immense herds of cattle roaming our prairies," he said, "are now looking in fine condition. It has been the harshest winter within the knowledge of the oldest inhabitants." (77) "Heavy losses of stock are reported from every direction," reported another newspaper in the mid-winter of 1881. "In addition to the great mortality caused by the severity of the weather, and the repeated freezing of vegetation of the prairies, a large grub worm, in the backs of horned cattle, has destroyed a great deal of stock east of Calcasieu." (78) The winters of 1883, (79) and 1895 (80) seemed to have been particularly severe from the newspaper accounts which reported heavy stock mortality. It was estimated that the blizzard accompanying the cold weather took as heavy a toll as fifty per cent of the sheep in some localities. (81)

According to Lauren Post, Vacherie owners did little or nothing to cope with abnormal weather conditions except to skin the dead animals. He ascribed the high mortality rate among cattle on the open ranges not so much to the severity of the cold weather as to the lack of feed for the animals during the cold spells. Heavy frosts preceding rains usually killed the grass causing it to rot if rains followed leaving little fodder for the livestock thereafter. (82)

Droughts and floods often took heavy toll. Cameron was particularly hard hit by droughts in the spring of 1875. "It is a pitiful sight," wrote a Cameron inhabitant in that year, "to look upon great collections of stock of every kind compactly wedged, each between others, in and around small pools of miserable, disgusting fluid, the unwholesome odor from which will reach the nostrils at some distance; or, maybe, you will find small groups gathered here and there on the gulf shore, with half closed eyes, dropping heads, and every aspect of listlessness…" (83) He continued, "These seasons of water famine are the almost certain precursors of heavy harvest of hides." (84) The writer felt that the condition was inexcusable, since water was available almost everywhere on the coast ridges and the marshes. The mere digging of wells from six to twelve feet would bring a copious supply of water. (85)

Floods, though rare, were quite destructive when they took place. An 1876 report estimated that 3,000 head of cattle perished in Cameron Parish. (86) Six years later, in 1882, after a long drought in the fall and winter preceding, heavy rains resulted in a flood which an Opelousas newspaper reported had "no counterpart within the memory of the oldest inhabitants…" of Saint Landry. "It is estimated that 600 square miles of our bottom lands are covered with water on the Atchafalaya, Bayou Rouge, Petit Prairie, Waxia, Courtableau, and the Teche. Several hundred of our people,… and an abundance of stock, are now left destitute." (87)

One traveler through the region wrote of a black gnat that plagued cattle during the winter months. "This insect," he said, "breeds in the low woodlands, and when a freshet occurs in winter is driven out in swarms upon the prairies, attacking cattle terribly." Worse than mosquitoes and flies, the insect, called the "eye-breaker," forced the cattle to herd together and "wander wildly about, not looking for the best food," often causing some to die. (88) Flies and mosquitoes affected live stock in the marshes of Cameron and Vermilion during the summer and fall. A writer from Leesburg (original name of the parish seat in Cameron) told of the "countless myriads [that] swoon around and upon the cattle and horses tormenting them … to the very outer verge of endurance." "But," he continued, "the afflicted creatures manage to obtain comparative relief during these visitations by congregating in large herds and by the simultaneous working of several hundred brushes, or rubbing sides together and shaking their loose skins, many of the little tormentors are kept on the wing." (89)

The marshes could be treacherous. Charles D. Warner, who visited the prairies in the 1880’s, wrote of seeing cattle wander at will over the marshes often getting stalled and lost. "We saw some pitiful sights," he said. "The cattle venturing too near the boggy edge to drink became inextricably involved. We passed one ox sunken to his back, and dead, a cow frantically struggling in the mire, almost exhausted, and a cow and a calf, the mother dead, the calf moaning beside her. On a little lookout nearby sat three black buzzards surveying the prospect with hungry eyes." (90)

Epidemic decease among the cattle was rare. (91) Occasionally an outbreak took place that cause large numbers of animals to perish. One writer believed that overstocking the range caused cattle to lose weight for lack of fodder. Thus, in a weakened condition, he said, the animals become susceptible to disease. (92) In 1885 a Lake Charles newspaper carried an article written by Dr. W. H. Kirkman, physician and cattle raiser of the lake city, describing a disease called "cramp" by stockmen. From several years’ observation of this disease, Dr. Kirkman came to the following conclusion:

First, the condition that brings on the disease is for the want of proper nutrition, arising from two causes: poor range, lacking in phosphates sufficient to supply bony material. Secondly, from a long course in in-breeding, which has weakened the animal economy to such an extent that it is not capable of utilizing the food consumed.

Now as to remedies, they are plainly indicated, which are phosphates in some form. But in this, as in all other diseases affecting large stock running wild on the prairie, they are of little moment. Preventatives are our principal reliances. In this case I would advise a gradual improvement of the stock by crossing some of the breeds that adapt themselves readily to our open ranges, and for the stock-raiser to supply himself with a pasture sufficiently large to accommodate all of his crampy cattle and fertilize it well with bone meal, or some phosphates in use. These cattle all get well as soon as they are well fed. (93)

The most dreaded of all diseases to stockmen was charbon. In the summer of 1886, several animals were reported to have died of the disease in the prairies near Opelousas. Because of this, inhabitants of the area were reluctant to milk their cows for fear of contracting the disease. (94) In 1899 an outbreak of charbon took place in the marsh areas of Cameron and Vermilion. (95) "I have seen the carcasses of cattle and sheep scattered for miles along the road south of Crowley," said an eyewitness, "that caused a stench that was stifling." (96) Steven O. Carter, veteran physician of Cameroon for sixty-nine years, saw cattle die by the hundreds from the disease. According to Carter, vaccines of the time were none too good, and they failed to prevent the disease. Usually it was the healthy cattle that were inflicted, and once stricken there was no cure. Bacteria entered open cuts and wounds of skinners and handlers of meat which, in turn, infected them, the doctor said. (97) Anthrax and blind staggers were other diseases affecting cattle and other livestock in the period of this study. (98)

Cattle rustling, while never on a large scale in the period following the Civil War, must nevertheless be considered a hazard to the stockmen. In 1870 a newspaper reported the killing of two men in Vermilion Parish by a band of Acadian stock thieves. (99) Three years later, the Opelousas Journal commented on the vigilance committee of the same parish: "The vigilance committee of Vermilion Parish," it said, "consists almost entirely of Acadian cattle owners. They are generally illiterate, keenly averse to agricultural pursuits, fond of their pastoral life which brings a rude living without labor, and intensely opposed to American immigration into the country, because Americans have a way of going to work fencing the ‘range.’" (100) Sometimes the cattle thieves and the vigilance committee were composed of the same individuals. According to the same newspaper, "they are all relatives of their executioners. In many cases it is hard to draw the line of demarcation between them, and to say how many cattle a man if justified in stealing before he becomes sufficiently respectable to join the vigilance committee." (101) "Two horse thieves," boasted another newspaper, "were captured in town [Lake Charles] last Saturday by our Sheriff, who were making their escape from St. Landry with two stolen horses… We advise all such [persons] to steer clear of Lake Charles, as we have a vigilant police who are always on the qui vive," concluded the newspaper. (102) A committee calling themselves "Regulators" was organized in Cameron in 1884 "ostensibly for the purpose of suppressing lawlessness on the cattle stock range." (103) In the same year a band of Negroes were reported driving stolen cattle from Acadia Parish northward. (104) Some years later, in 1894, three young men, "of respectable family connections," were lodged in the Lafayette Parish jail for stealing four heads of cattle. (105) Dr. Carter remembered being told of a group of Abbeville Regulators who came to Cameron and shot a number of innocent citizens who had been suspected of a cattle theft. (106) However, according to Edward D. Sweeney, former citizen of Cameron Parish, such activities were rare in the parish simply because there were no ways of getting cattle out of the marsh except by boat and by those natives who knew of the existence of submerged ridges used as tracts. (107)

Years before the Civil War, Texas cattle were assembled in Beaumont, Texas, to be driven across southwest Louisiana to the New Orleans market. No phase of the cattle industry was more colorful. The Old Beef Trail, also called the Opelousas Trail, (108) crossed the Sabine River from Texas at one time from Niblett’s Bluff, and later, at a point a short distance north called Sabine Island, by way of Salem’s Ferry, and thence over the Calcasieu River at Hortman’s Ferry (previously called Perkins’s Ferry) into Lake Charles. From there the cattle followed the Old Spanish Trail where rivers and bayous proved no hindrance. The cattle were driven across with little difficulty. (109) Several routes were developed to get the cattle to their destination - New Orleans. Breaux Bridge on the Teche became a gathering place for some herds. From there the cattle were either placed on boats to make the circuitous journey to New Orleans through the Atchafalaya-Red-Mississippi River route, or driven overland to the Crescent city. (110) Other herds were driven downstream along Bayou Teche to Berwick’s Bay, where they were loaded on large cattle boats called "round boats" because of the trip "around" by way of the rivers indicated above. Washington Landing on Bayou Courtableau was third center for shipping cattle to New Orleans. (111) One centenarian living in the West Lake area of Calcasieu Parish remembers seeing a herd of Texas longhorns which he estimated at 5,000 head driven past his property in the 1890’s on their way to market. According to his account the herd required over four hours before the last steer was seen. (112) A newspaper in 1878 reported that 15,000 head of cattle were shipped from Washington in that year. (113) Cattle raised on the prairies were also shipped to market. In 1870 The [Lake Charles] Weekly Echo reported that "almost daily for the last few weeks large droves of beef cattle have been passing here on their way east, where, we are informed, they meet with ready sales. With two or three exceptions these beeves are from this [Calcasieu] and Cameron parish." (114) An 1876 advertisement offered to take cattle from New Iberia to New Orleans by "Pharr’s Line" of steamers and Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad at the following rates: (115) Beeves $2.50; Two-years-old $2.00; Yearlings $1.50; and Calves $1.00.

According to an earlier advertisement appearing in 1875, Nix’s Ferry and store, located a mile above Lake Charles on the Calcasieu River, offered facilities to travelers and stock drovers. The owner wished the public to know "that he had put his Ferry and beef pens in good repair, and is ready to accommodate all who may wish to cross with him… [and has] everything that is generally required by stockmen and travelers. He has a Flat, suitable for crossing any kind of stock; also two chain booms for swimming. Pasturage on each side of the river, free of charge." (116)

When the railroad was completed through southwest Louisiana in 1880, the old cattle trails began to yield to the new type of transportation and a new impetus was given to the industry. Cattle were now driven to specially-constructed stockades near the depot for shipment. Since no roads existed in the marshes, steamboats were used to ferry the animals to the nearest railroad shipping point. Leesburg (present town of Cameron and parish seat of Cameron Parish) was a center from which cattle were shipped up the Calcasieu River to Lake Charles, where they were loaded either at the foot of Pujo Street on the lake or at the foot of Ryan Street on the Calcasieu River. The steamer Hazel offered regular packet service to both man and beast on the Calcasieu River, while the steamer White Lily did the same on the Mermentau River with Grand Chenier and Lowry being the shipping points on that river to the rail head farther north in the town of Mermentau. (117) Cattle were also shipped from Leesburg to Galveston. (118) The Chenier Tigre area in Vermilion Parish shipped large numbers of cattle by barge from the loading center in Belle Isle. (119) Cattle buyers from Texas and other areas came to Cameron to purchase cattle, sending barges down the Calcasieu River to pick up their animal cargoes. (120) A Lake Charles newspaper reported in 1886 that " the beef cattle which are now being driven from the marsh pastures, are all in fine condition, and bring a handsome price." "Mr. John Vincent," the newspaper continued, "has been shipping regularly to Thibodauxville and other points on the road." (121) Prices for beef in the 1880’s were good. One observer, commenting on the cattle market, said: "Cattle grazing yields an enormous profit. Cows can be bought very cheap from the fact that there is so little demand for their meat…. They can be bought from $12 to $18 per head, and calves will command from $7.50 to $9 in the pasture fields. The only way to account for this high price for calves is that veal seems to be the favorite meat." (122)

Added railroad connections in the 1890’s, brought a greater sale for cattle to distant markets. Professor A. Thomson of Lake Charles, vice-president of the Kansas City, Watkins and Gulf Railroad, and chief engineer and superintendent of the North American Land and Timber Company, marketed 5,000 head of Calcasieu cattle in St. Louis in 1894. (123) The following year a Lake Charles Newspaper reported an extensive trade. "This parish," it said, "is just now developing an unexpected amount of stock cattle raising and sales. Within the past few days a stock raiser at Edgerly [a cattle-loading station west of Lake Charles] sold $8,000 worth of cattle, while two sales of $2,500 each are reported at Oberlin. Numerous sales have been made down the river. The buyers come from Texas and ship to Texas markets." The editor noted that shipping cattle from Calcasieu to Texas seemed much like carrying coals to New Castle, but added, "there is really no absurdity in the matter. This is undoubtedly one of the best stock raising sections in the south, and after our breeds shall have been improved, the superiority will be much more manifest." (124) The North American Land and Timber Company shipped about 5,000 head of cattle to DeWitt and Scarbrough, of Fort Worth, Texas, in the early part of 1897, said one newspaper, and added that it required 130 cars to carry them. (125) "One hundred and thirty-five car loads, or 5,000 head of cattle," wrote the Lake Charles Commercial the same year, "are being loaded here today for shipment to Oklahoma," and then commented: "A shipment of 5,000 head is a common occurrence." (126) Another Lake Charles newspaper informed its readers in 1897 that a big cattle deal had been closed. "Benj. Chadwell, of Cameron, acting as agent for G. L. Woodard of Clinton, Wisconsin," it said, "bought about 1,400 head of cattle from Rev. W. M. Perkins, of Big Woods." (127) The same newspaper mentioned that four carloads of prime cattle had been sent to the Chicago market with others to be shipped as they came in condition. (128) Also mentioned in the article was the prospect of Wisconsin "parties…becoming interested in [the] Calcasieu and Cameron stock raising territory;" and conjectured, "they may put in a big ranch here." (129) "It is early in the season for cattle buyers to invade this part of the country," said the same article, "but cattle are scarce in the north and the big corn crop makes a strong demand for feeders." (130)

Southwest Louisiana supplied the Spanish government in Cuba with a large number of cattle in 1897. Aladin Vincent, owner of one of the largest Vacherie in Calcasieu, made arrangements with a Spanish agent in New Orleans to ship cattle to the Crescent City for re-shipment to Cuba. "Last week," reported one newspaper, "Mr. Vincent shipped five car loads to this agent and now is buying all he can get for the same purpose." (131) Vincent voiced optimism. "The cattle business this year," he said, "has been magnificent. There have been at least 15,000 head of cattle shipped from this parish since the first of January. The number is insufficient to supply the demand." (132)

The spring of 1899 witnessed the greatest shipments of cattle that Lake Charles had ever handled within a season. One shipment from the marshes of Cameron, totaling 1,800 heads, required seventy-five cars. The cattle were sent to Davidson, Kansas, to graze on government land in Indian Territory. (133) Several weeks later Aladin Vincent and F. D. Woods shipped from Edgerly 600 head of cattle to be grazed in Chickasha, Indian Territory in Oklahoma. An account of the transaction indicated that "a substantial sum was paid for the cattle and it means that cattlemen are enjoying prosperous times." (134) A. Perry and William Perkins, whose ranges were on the prairies extending west and south of Sulphur, shipped 2,500 head of cattle to the Osage Nation in Indian Territory for fattening purposes. (135)

The Census of 1890 showed a cattled population of 141,939 for the six parishes of southwest Louisiana, (136) while the Census of 1900 registered a substantial increase to 191,478. (137) Although other economic activities were vying with the cattle industry, (138) by the end of the century there was no evidence of decline. On the contrary, the industry evinced a great deal of vitality. As early as 1890, Calcasieu Parish had surpassed Saint Landry as the greatest cattle producing parish of the region - and, perhaps, the State.

Falling far below the raising of cattle in economic importance was the interest given to other livestock of the area. Census figures gave 16,829 as the number of horses in southwest Louisiana in 1860 as compared with a smaller number in 1870. However, from 1880 through 1900, there was a gradual increase from 30,783 to 61,368 at the end of the century. (139) Samuel Lockett, in his tour of the prairies in the early 1870’s, wrote of the droves of horses he saw grazing on the open range. "The horses," he said, "were merely ragged little ponies, with some hardiness, but very little strength or capacity for enduring a long trip." "I wanted to make at least a thousand miles more before the summer was over," Lockett continued. He was dissuaded from making the trip on such a horse, however, because prairie horses, fed only on grass, could scarcely accomplish such a journey. (140) From Lockett, too, came the observation that no effort was made to breed horses and that they were neglected during the winter months. (141) A somewhat different view regarding these animals was reported in an Opelousas newspaper at about the same time. "Creole horses running on the prairies will not eat corn," the article said. "They are taught to eat by starvation in a stable. With no sustenance by the prairie grass, they will travel further in a day and endure more fatigue then what are here called American horses. The only expense connected with raising Creole horses is that of branding," the article continued, "and they sell from fifteen to one hundred and fifty dollars, according to size, quality and training." (142) The article did admit, however, that these horses were objected to because they were too small for heavy work. (143)

William Darby, writing a half century earlier, had indicated that the horses of the region were from the Andalusian, or Nubian breed, and "they are, like their ancestors, small, compactly built, and inconceivably durable." (144) That the animals were durable was seen by their ability to withstand occasional harsh winters. "All stock came through the past winter with a loss not exceeding one per cent," observed one newspaper in 1884, and "they are never cared for." (145)

Selected animals on the open range were trained for the saddle and/or harness and, when sold commanded a higher price on the market. (146) Rarely were horses of the prairie used for the heavy work of plowing. Instead, for this type of work horses and mules were being imported from the Midwest - especially was this true in the period beginning in the 1880’s. (147) In this decade stockmen were coming to the conclusion that "it would be more profitable to dispense with horse-raising, dispose of all stock of that kind except for their use, and allow more range for the cattle," since the prices for the latter were so favorable at that time. (148) In accordance with this decision, Cameron stockmen sold a drove of 300 mares to Texas breeders. (149) Occasionally, an effort was made to improve breeds by the importation of blooded stock in the 1880’s. (150) By the middle of the 1890’s one newspaper commented: "Large Percherons, Clydes and other all-purpose horses and mules are occupying the farms and pastures where once roamed the small Creole ponies over the unbroken range. (151) By the end of the century there were 18,694 mules listed in the Census of 1900 with the greatest increase from 1890 in the rice-growing parishes of Acadia, Cameron, and Vermilion. (152)

William H. Harris’s contention in the 1880’s that sheep raising in southwest Louisiana had largely fallen off since the Civil War is not born out by fact. The census of 1860 showed a sheep population of 21,573 in the four parishes then constituting southwest Louisiana as compared with 24,521 ten years later. In 1880 there was a very small decrease from the figure of 1870, while the Census of 1890 showed a trebling of the number of sheep to 63,437, and a substantial increase to 79,182 at the end of the century. (153) Wool production in 1870 amounted to 22,711 pounds compared with 83,859 in 1880 and 161,859 in 1890 and approximately the same for the year 1900. Whereas Saint Landry led in the number of sheep and production of wool in 1880, by 1900 Calcasieu had forged ahead to become the largest wool producer of the area with almost double the combined product of the other parishes. (154)

Because of the natural advantages for the raising of sheep, Dennett and others wondered why more were not raised. (155) One newspaper observed in the early 1880’s that "sheep raising has of late begun to attract some attention, particularly in the northern portion of the parish [Calcasieu], where they thrive well and require but little care." (156) Several years later the same newspaper announced, "Sheep have been tried and found very profitable. In some instances, of late years, more attention has been given to their raising, and consequently, some considerable herds are now doing splendidly." (157) The quality of the wool was superior. According to a Lake Charles newspaper in 1890, the editor said: "We are informed by Mr. J. S. Davidson, our largest wool merchant who has handled nearly 50,000 pounds of wool this season, that piney woods wool brings about one and one half cents per pound more than prairie wool." (158) The same editor reported the experiences of Levi Rollins, a sheep owner of Calcasieu Parish. He "shears about 500 sheep this year. They have not cost him one single cent, but have lived and kept fat in the pine woods." (159) The account continued, "His wool clip amounts to 2,200 pounds of wool, which is sold for 23 ½ cents per pound, or a total of $517, or more than $1 per head. Besides this Mr. Rolling has marked 300 lambs this year." (160) In 1888, reported the Lake Charles Echo, "Messrs. Prentice and Fulton, E. M. Powers and B. F. Carr have imported large flocks of improved sheep and have gone into the business of sheep raising on quite a large scale." (161) A few years later, L.L. Seller brought to Lake Charles a shipment of Merino sheep, which according to one newspaper, when sheared, yielded fleeces from nine to eighteen pounds after they had been previously sheared six months earlier. "The shearing," commented the newspaper, "indicates an average of about twenty-five pounds to the twelve months." (162) One native remembers that the high quality of Calcasieu wool at the end of the century was bringing in a premium price of from 2 ¾ cents to 3 ¼ cents a pound over the regular market price. (163)

The greatest hazard to sheep raising in southwest Louisiana was cold weather. Sheep suffered severely from the cold spell in the early part of 1895, taking a heavy toll in some localities within Calcasieu Parish. "Over 50 percent of the sheep," reported one newspaper, "were frozen to death." (164)

Census statistics for hogs in 1870 showed 34,618, (165) which is a rough approximation, since a large number of these animals grew wild in the prairies and marshes. By the end of the century, a fourfold increase had become evident by the Census of 1900, which then showed a hog population of 146,505, with Saint Landry having 60,650 of that number. (166) "Saint Landry," according to one account, "abounds in oak forests and masts of various kinds. The hog-range is excellent, and white clover grows luxuriantly, equal to the native grasses, in no other portion of the United States are hogs more healthy or profitable…." (167) Notwithstanding the natural advantages of the region for growing swine, except for "keeping enough to furnish lard, and, occasionally fresh pork for home consumption," the people paid little attention to them because of "the difficulty of curing and saving bacon." (168) According to Perrin, "hogs have little market value, being plentiful and cheap." (169) Some change became apparent in the 1890’s regarding these animals. One newspaper in 1895 indicated that the place of the common Louisiana "rail splitters" or "razor back" hogs were being supplanted by Chester Whites, Berkshires, and Poland Chinas. (170) The Lake Charles Commercial commented the following year: "There is a growing demand for hogs, corn and rice and feed, and this hog industry bids fair to run into a living industry before too many years, for it is the only industry which holds out any encouragement to the farmers in this part of the State." (171)

"Chickens and eggs to the value of $20,000 and more are sent from this parish [Vermilion] yearly to the New Orleans market," according to Dennett, writing in the 1870’s. "The peddlers buy up more than $5,000 worth of poultry and eggs as they travel from house to house on the prairies and bayous," continued Dennett. "Eggs often sell for ten cents a dozen, and spring and grown chickens from ten to twenty-five cents," said the same writer. (172) Of poultry production in Saint Landry, Dennett said: "They ship yearly to New Orleans….about 3,000 boxes of eggs, 2,000 coops of chickens, turkeys, ducks, etc. Say 150,000 dozen….The real value of the yearly product of these articles in St. Landry cannot be short of $200,000." (173) Cameron is reported to have shipped "barrels of eggs…to the Galveston, or other markets," along with coops of chickens. (174) Despite the fact that Calcasieu was listed by the Census as a fairly large producer of chickens, the Lake Charles Daily American commented in 1899: "When farmers around Lake Charles really farm and improve all the opportunities, eggs, chickens, milk and butter will not have to be imported." (175) Other fowl listed by Dennett as being produced and sold in the area were turkeys, geese, and ducks - both wild and domestic. (176)

Southwest Louisiana possessed almost ideal conditions for development of a livestock industry. The area early became the center of one of the largest, if not the largest, cattle-producing sections of the United States. Although little attention was given to the improvement of stock before the 1880’s, the period following saw many efforts made at scientific breeding by the importation of blooded stock to the area. By the end of the century, though other agricultural enterprises were beginning to compete with cattle raising, the industry continued to flourish. In the last decade of the century, cattle were being shipped to many parts of the United States and to Cuba. Other livestock, though significant, fell far below the cattle industry in economic importance.



The story of the rice industry in southwest Louisiana from 1865 to the end of the century can conveniently be divided into three rather distinctive periods: (1) from 1865 to 1884, a period of slow growth along time-honored lines; (2) from 1884 to 1894, a period which heralded the coming of Midwesterners to the prairie region with mechanical devices used initially in the wheat fields and applied to the production of rice; and (3) from 1894 to the end of the century, a period which witnessed the development of irrigation techniques which, with the mechanical devices earlier introduced, revolutionized the industry.

There was little in the first period to foreshadow the revolution in the rice industry in southwest Louisiana that was to take place in the last twelve or more years of the century, a revolution destined to make of the area the largest producer of the ceral [cereal] in the United States. At a time that the staple crops were a glut on the market and thus commanding low prices, the editor of the New Orleans Picayune in 1873 found some satisfaction in seeing planters turn away from the exclusive culture of cane and cotton to other crops. (1) He noted that there were large areas in the State in which rice of excellent quality could profitably be produced in large quantities and at a cost less than that of either cotton or cane. (2) A few years earlier, Federick Law Olmsted had observed possibilities of the region for the production of rice. "So wet a region and so warm a climate suggested rice," he wrote, "and were the land sufficiently fertile, it would, doubtless, become a staple production," (3) In substantial agreement was Seaman A. Knapp, who made a study of the area in 1899. To Knapp the best rice lands were those underlaid by an impervious subsoil that could be satisfactorily drained at the harvest in order to permit the use of heavy harvesting machinery and teams of horses. (4) This feature, plus the rich drift soils of the Louisiana and Texas prairies, had shown "a marvelous adaptation to rice." (5) These soils were retentive of water because of the claypan which underlay them and had about the right proportion of potash, phosphoric acid, and other essential mineral elements along with humus to make them lastingly productive. (6) They were sufficiently removed from the coast to be free from storms and the attack of birds. The expense of clearing the land was negligible along with the small cost of ditching or leveeing to prepare the soil for rice. Drainage being good, the land could be cultivated for winter crops, thus preventing the growth of undesirable red rice and injurious grasses and weeds. (7) Cultivation of these soils was much the same as practiced by northern prairie farmers on their wheat lands - and with double the crop yield. Comparing the growing of rice in southwest Louisiana with the production of wheat in the Midwest, Sylvester L. Cary in 1897 amplified his view with the following figures: "Ten bushels of wheat [per acre] is the average crop north; equals six hundred pounds, worth at point of production, about four dollars. Rice gives an average of, say eight barrels, 162 pounds each, equals 1,296 pounds worth an average of $2.50 a barrel, or 1 ½ cents a pound, making twenty dollars per acre against four dollars for wheat." (8) The only difference in cost, according to Cary, was the amount paid for water in the case of rice, which varied from nothing to three dollars per acre, depending upon the rainfall; and this was offset by the cost of fertilizer for wheat, since rice required none. (9)

Acadians grew small patches of rice "Providence style," with dependence upon the bounty of nature. Sufficient rainfall meant a good crop; deficient rainfall meant either no crop or, at best, a meager one. This cultivation, primitive in its methods, was found mostly in the lowlands along the bayous; the prairies afforded pasturage for herds of Acadian cattle. Because of the poor drainage in the lowlands, crops were usually too small for profitable harvests. Crop failures were common during years of little rainfall. To circumvent this possibility, additional water supplies were created by building dams across low sags or coulees at points higher than the cultivated areas to impound water during heavy rains, but in many cases the rainfall proved deficient or the reservoir capacity too limited for the amount of land cultivated. (10)

A Chicago traveler visiting southwest Louisiana in 1886 observed the "Cajun" method of cultivation, harvesting, and milling:

Why, they don’t have to work. They just tickle that magnificent soil with the hoofs of their cattle and it laughs at harvest. They do not even have to plough for their rice crop. When it stops raining in the spring they ride out on horse back to their rice fields, which are then ponds, and sow the seed rice broadcast over the water, after which they have nothing more to do till harvest. If the season is dry the seed is scattered over the ground and tramped into the soil by the cattle, which are driven over the fields for that purpose. July is the month of harvest, and in it the happy "Cajun" cuts his rice with the primitive sickle and hauls the sheaves home in a clumsy cart made entirely of wood and drawn by oxen, which are fastened to the tongue by loops passed over their horns. When the harvest is over the grain is trodden out by the oxen as in the days of the patriarchs. It is then ground in a little wooden mill and winnowed in a sieve, when it is ready to be made into bread. (11)

When more efficient methods of rice culture were recommended to a poor Creole farmer, he would shrug his shoulders and make the characteristic reply, "Je fais comme mon pere." (12) Even before the Civil War an effort was being made by "progressive Americans" to move the Acadian landowners from the vicinity of what was to become the town of Crowley to the higher cotton lands miles eastward. As an inducement to the Acadians to accept other lands in exchange for their own, prices equaling two or three times the actual value were offered. (13) This was a token of what was to take place several decades later on a much larger scale within the same general area for the cultivation of rice.

Rice production showed an increase from year to year in the 1870’s. Census figures for 1870 show a yield of 705,876 pounds for the four parishes then constituting southwest Louisiana as defined in the study, with Vermilion taking the lead producing 421,501 pounds or more than half of the total. (14) Ten years later the Census of 1880 revealed a production of 1,049,379 pounds produced on 2,284 acres of land, with Calcasieu supplanting Vermilion as the greatest producer of the cereal with a crop of 387,224 pounds followed by Vermilion with a yield of 368,623 pounds. Calcasieu was destined to retain this supremacy through the rest of the century. (15)

Perrin credits Joseph Fabacher, a German who settled in the region in the early 1870’s, with having "cultivated the first large field of rice ever grown in Southwestern Louisiana." Perrin also credits Fabacher with introducing the first rice-threshing machine. Of primitive structure and drawn by oxen, this machine did the work of a number of men. And "from this small, insignificant beginning," Perrin wrote in the early 1890’s, "has grown the present successful industry…" (16)

A newspaper reported in 1875 that rice was "becoming a favorite crop in some sections of the South." Emphasizing the profits to be made in the growing of the cereal, the newspaper added, "It cost $36.40 to cultivate and send to market an acre of rice, yielding 1,200 pounds of clear grain which sells for $84. The profit is about $46.60 per acre, and the crop is not a difficult one to grow." (17) Five years later another newspaper reviewing the crop of 1880 predicted that rice "is destined soon to be one of the greatest industries in southwestern Louisiana," for "no crop in this section will pay as well with so little labor. All the capital required to begin rice culture is a year’s provision, a shanty, the fencing, a spade, horse or mule, plow and harrow." (18) Such a system of cultivation was possible at this time, since "five acres was about the largest field." (19) A few years later, with the introduction of mechanized, large-scale production utilizing irrigation either produced by the owner of the farm or purchased from companies supplying water, adequate capital resources became a necessity. Lack of capital, however, was not a deterrent. In 1884, a rice grower wrote from Jennings: "Rice is becoming ‘everything’ with some people, as cotton was at one time in the South." There was, he said, "a disposition to rely altogether on it, to the neglect of upland crops, particularly corn, peas and potatoes." (20) By 1881, Louisiana had forged ahead as the leading state in the United States in the production of rice. (21) Calcasieu Parish alone could show significant strides in the several years prior to 1881. In this year, a Lake Charles newspaper exulted: "The best evidence of the profits of rice culture in Calcasieu parish, is the fact that for three years past the crop has increased annually one hundred per cent; the crop of 1878 doubling that of 1877, and that of 1879 doubling that of 1878 - and that of 1880 doubling that of 1879. The same enormous promises for the crop of this year." (22)

How can one account for the large increase in rice production? Because of the low prevailing prices for sugar in the decade of the 1870’s, many planters were turning to rice cultivation. The Meridional of Abbeville looked upon rice as the alternative to sugar in the region, "and the area devoted to its [rice] culture increases proportionately with the unprofitableness of the alternate industry." Low prices for cane products in 1884 led many sugar planters to turn to rice entirely, while others combined the two - planting cane in the upland areas of the farm and rice in the lowlands. The yield of rice averaged fifteen barrels to the acre of land, and with prices averaging four dollars a barrel for rice, profits far exceeded those gained from sugar. (23)

Rice growing on a commercial scale began in southwest Louisiana with the coming of Midwesterners and the application of the twine-binder in 1884 in the harvesting of rice. (24) It is true that German settlers in the 1870’s had produced rice for commercial purposes, but this was never done on a large scale. With the introduction of the twine-binder and other mechanical devices within a short time thereafter, rice production soared. Sizes of farms increased from a few acres in the early 1880’s to hundreds and thousands of acres by the end of that decade. The demand for mechanical devices increased in proportion to the size of farms and the demand for rice. An indication of this rapid growth can be seen through railroad car loadings between the towns of Lake Charles and Lafayette. The Southern Pacific Railroad shipped about 250 cars in 1884; over 1,000 in 1889; 2,000 in 1890; 5,000 in 1891; and for 1892 and 1893, 10,000 cars. (25) For the same period of time, the number of twine-binders being used in southwest Louisiana increased in proportion. (26)

Year No. of Twine Binders
1884 1
1885 5
1886 50
1887 200
1888 400
1890 1,000
1891 2,000
1892 3,000
1894 32,000

It was estimated that the yield of rice per acre under the best conditions of cultivation was approximately fifteen barrels; and with a market price of three dollars, the gross return per acre was forty-five dollars. Deducting the cost of production, estimated at a dollar a barrel, would leave a net profit of thirty dollars per acre. (27)

Among the outstanding leaders assigned by various writers as responsible for the growth and development of the rice industry in southwest Louisiana, the names of four men stand out. The first of these was Sylvester L. Cary, whom Perrin called the "Joshua who led the Iowans to the new Iowa." (28) Attracted to the area in 1883, Cary soon became station agent in Jennings for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Later, in recognition of his activities in inducing fellow Iowans to migrate to the prairies, the railroad company made Cary immigration agent with headquarters in Manchester, Iowa. From this point of vantage, he spent $30,000 of the company’s money advertising southwest Louisiana to Midwesterners who began to arrive in fairly large numbers by the end of the 1880’s. (29) The second of these men was Jabez B. Watkins, "a restless and competent entrepreneur of America’s Age of Enterprise," (30) who spent $200,000 making Louisiana’s potentialities known to the rest of the nation. The third was Seaman A. Knapp, who Watkins brought to southwest Louisiana as an agricultural expert to find out what crops could most profitably be grown in the area and to attract desirable citizens to the region. (31) The forth leader was C. C. Duson, who, with his brother W. W. Duson, came to be known as builder of towns. They were responsible for the foundation of Crowley, Eunice, Gueydan, Kaplan, and engaged in the growing of rice on a large scale. They were also land developers. (32)

Within five years after Watkins and Cary had set themselves to the task of advertising the advantages of southwest Louisiana, the area had been "transformed from a vast cattle range to a region thickly populated and dotted with the best aspects of a well-estimated Prairie State….the most distinctive Anglo-Saxon migration ever known to the South since the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia." (33) The first Midwesterners had no idea of making rice their principal crop, but within time they learned of the purpose of the dammed sloughs forming small reservoirs for water, and they, too, like the natives, began to grow the cereal "Providence style." (34) In time these newcomers, who, for the most part, had been wheat farmers, learned that the wheat machinery they had brought with them could with minor adjustments be adapted to the prairies for the growing of rice. Instead of the hoe or walking plow, the Northern farmers used the gang plows; and instead of sowing by hand, they used seeders and disc harrows. (35) These devices were wonderfully adaptable except for the twine-binder, which, with its complicated mechanism, continued to clog in the coarser stalks of the rice grain. (36) Reasoning that the twine-binder should work in the harvesting of rice, Maurice Brien, who had brought one of the machines with him to Jennings, Louisiana, persistently tinkered until success crowned his efforts. Most of the trouble, it seemed, came from the fact that the bull wheel could not get the necessary traction in the mud to drive the sickle, reel and courasses. After many failures, Brien hit upon the expedient of attaching spades to the bull wheel. Now, regardless of the mud, the bull wheel was able to bite deeply, gain traction and operate the machine. Harvesting now could be carried on, on a much vaster scale. (37) "The sturdy immigrant and the ambitious native vie with one another in the enlargement of their fields, in the selection of their seed and in reaching the best general results." (38) The Deering Company incorporated the modification in their machines, and in 1890 shipped to Lake Charles twenty-two cars loaded with three hundred binders built for rice. (39) Brien had now eliminated the last bottleneck that had thwarted the complete substitution of modern farm machinery for the primitive, laborious hand-tool methods that had made the growing of rice such a task and had limited its production. "This worked a revolution in rice growing by increasing the yield per man ten-and twenty-fold or even more. One man and four mules, thereafter, could plant on the Louisiana prairie land one hundred acres of rice." (40) From 1890 to 1893 the State registered a fivefold increase in production, and a decade later it was producing seventy per cent of the total American crop. (41) The area had become the only part of the world "where the most improved agricultural machinery is used in rice culture." (42) The use of machinery and the superior organization of growing the cereal allowed an American farmer to "produce from sixty to seventy times as much rice as an oriental farmer." (43) Now, one crop could under favorable conditions of rainfall sell for enough to repay the farmer the cost of the whole farm and still enjoy a surplus. (44) In 1890 the Crowley Signal reported: "Three years ago three carloads of rice were shipped from what was then Crowley switch. Now, a shipment of ten carloads per day from this place is not uncommon." (45)

Technical improvements continued. Writing in 1894, Cary desired a binder of double capacity that would cut a swath of twelve feet and harvest thirty acres a day to supplant the older machine that cut five - and later ten - feet in one operation. (46)

Land values were affected by mechanization. Prior to 1886, good rice lands could be obtained at less than a dollar an acre. With the application of wheat machinery to rice production, land values increased from five to ten-fold, and a newspaper predicted that in ten years prices would quadruple. (47) Income from the rental of rice land "ranges from $6 to $12 per acre," reported an Abbeville newspaper in 1896. "Lack of capital," continued the newspaper, "is the only reason that the price of an acre of land is less than the annual income." Such a situation could continue indefinitely, believed that newspaper, because farmers from the North were coming in carload lots to investigate the possibilities of settlement in the area. (48)

Promoters were exploiting these possibilities to the fullest. A large rice exhibit demonstrating all stages of production was shown at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Samples of rice in unlimited number were given away with a view of extending the rice market. (49) In the same year, promoter Watkins sent out a railroad car filled with rice exhibits on a national tour that lasted four years. (50) The consequence of such advertising was a land-office business for the Watkins Syndicate. Although it was the hope of Watkins to introduce rice cultivation in the marshlands of Cameron and Vermilion parishes - areas within the North American Land and Timber Company’s possessions managed by Watkins - the project was a failure after a million and a third dollars had been expended on the project. (51) Machine techniques in the growing of rice, a cereal usually grown in the swamps and marshlands, now made the well-drained upland prairies a more favored area for its production. This reversal made the Company’s extensive coastal marshes almost valueless. (52) Watkins had to recoup his losses. He did this by selling a half million or more acres of upland lands within the Company’s possession at greatly accelerated prices. (53)

Watkins’ unique scheme of draining the marshes for the cultivation of rice, although a failure, deserves mention here. The experiment was tried on a 12,000 acre tract near Lake Calcasieu in Cameron Parish with Watkins’ brother-in-law, Alexander Thomson, in charge of operations. (54) Canals twenty-one feet wide by six feet deep were dug in parallel form a half mile apart, then cross-cut with similar canals at three and a half mile intervals to form a gridiron. Cutting across these one thousand acre blocks at appropriate distances were much smaller drainage channels. The excavated muck was deposited along the banks of the main canals to form levees four feet high. (55) By the series of canals and enclosing levees, water could be pumped out in times of heavy rainfall and pumped in during droughts or sparse rainfall to lightly flood the fields growing rice. The canals also served as channels of transportation for machinery. (56)

All the processes of plowing, sowing, cultivating, and reaping were done from boats. Barges, facing each other in the canals half a mile apart and equipped with machinery, drew cables fixed to gang plows, cultivators, or reapers back and forth over the land. It was estimated that some seventy acres of land a day could be plowed by this means. (57) Intrusion of salt water from the Gulf during a dry season followed by a wet autumn with high water outside the protection levees, along with the use of primitive drainage pumps, led to the loss of the first crop. (58) This failure coupled with the success of mechanized rice-growing on the prairies, led Watkins to abandon the enterprise. According to Knapp, writing sometime later, plow boats in the cultivation process cost three times more than mules. (59)

Successful rice crops in the 1880’s had demonstrated the adaptability of southwest Louisiana to the growing of the cereal. As long as the rainfall was adequate during the growing season, the farmer had little doubt that his crop would be a success. However, in times of drought - such as the years 1889, 1893, and 1894 - the farmer faced a dilemma, especially if one drought season followed another, such as happened in 1893 and 1894. These two drought seasons demonstrated the impossibility of raising rice on a large scale without a dependable source of water. Progressive farmers were willing to reply on the unpredictability of rainfall. They learned that the few rice growers who had made provisions for such emergencies produced at least seventy-five per cent of the rice grown on the prairie. There was now an exodus of farmers to the irrigated lands. (60) The period from 1894 to the end of the century was one of experimentation in artificial irrigation. By 1900 a large portion of the rice belt had made provisions - with a great deal of success - for either purchasing water from canal companies or drilling wells to supply water when it was necessary for the crop.

The elevation of the prairies above the rivers and bayous of the region varies from six to thirty-eight feet with the major portion being from fifteen to twenty-five feet. (61) Farms located along the streams and lakes were the first to be irrigated; and, in time, large surface canals were built to take care of farms distantly located. (62) Credit is given to David Abbott, who arrived in Crowley from Michigan in 1888, for originating the system of upland irrigation by surface waters, pumps, and canals. Abbott reasoned that pumps could take water from a lower level to a higher one where his rice farm was located. Pumps, however, were expensive and Abbott was not wealthy. Being of an inventive turn of mind, Abbott utilized a quantity of logging chain he had brought with him from Michigan. With the aid of his brother, he constructed an endless chain of buckets attached at regular intervals revolving around an old threshing machine cylinder turned by a three and half horsepower engine that had formerly been used on a small steam launch. The odd-looking contraption worked. It lifted water into a flume which carried it to a canal. Success in greater yields of rice thus irrigated led the Abbott brothers to build larger and more complicated irrigation machines of themselves and for other farmers who were impressed by the performance of the devices. (63)

In 1894 the Abbott’s built a canal forty feet wide that ran fifteen miles and had ten additional miles of lateral canals. (64) Meanwhile, the Duson brothers, realizing that rice culture in the upland areas could not be successful without some form of irrigation, had begun to experiment. A Coleman centrifugal single-suction pump powered by a thirty-five horsepower engine proved partly successful. Undeterred, the brothers installed in the next year a Hoffer pump which proved satisfactory. Power now seemed the critical factor that barred complete success. (65)

The first important pump, installed in 1894 on Bayou Plaquemine in Acadia Parish, was a vacuum pump of the pattern used in the mining camps of the Northwest. Although it failed at a critical time and involved partial loss of a crop, it pointed the way toward better pumping methods. (66) In the next year a centrifugal pump was introduced that proved too small to meet the demands placed on it, and was succeeded in 1896 by a pump having a capacity of 5,000 gallons per minute. This pump proved a success and helped to open a new era in rice cultivation. (67) Larger pumps of the centrifugal and rotary types were thereafter introduced with discharge pipes ranging from twelve to sixty inches in diameter and raising twenty to one hundred cubic feet of water per second through a distance of several feet. (68) By the end of the century larger plants were constructed with batteries of several pumps operated by a single compound Corliss engine of 400 to 800 horsepower. (69)

Canal building grew apace after the technical difficulties had been solved. At the end of the century there were twenty-five irrigating canals in Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Vermilion parishes, with over 400 miles of mains "and probably twice the extent of laterals, built at a total cost of about $1,500,000." (70) Earlier canals, constructed as early as 1890, were shallow, poorly constructed, and badly engineered; (71) these, by contrast, were well constructed and easily operated and proved entirely successful, making rice production now a practical certainty over large sections of the prairie country. (72)

To coordinate the administration of the many canals being built and to adopt uniform practices of rents and methods of irrigation, rice farmers met in Crowley in 1897 and formed the Louisiana Irrigation Association, with C. A. McCoy as president. One newspaper, reporting the event, enthusiastically predicted that much would be accomplished by the association for the good of the rice industry. (73)

Surface waters did not always meet the requirements of the rice producer. A supplementary source had to be found. The answer was deep wells. Two factors prompted their use: (1) prohibitive cost of irrigation too far away from surface streams made rice-growing uneconomical; and (2) prolonged periods of droughts taxed streams to the point of lowering their levels below the Gulf, causing salt water intrusion that reduced crop yields. (74)

Jean Castex of Mermentau, who has been given the credit to be the first to use well water for irrigation purposes in the early 1890’s drilled a shallow well of two-inch bore and pumped water with a windmill. (75) Following soon thereafter was Theodore Flesh, a rice planter from Prairie Hayes and a member of the German colony of 1871, who drilled a four-inch well and used steam for power. (76) Such wells cost very little to drill - about three dollars a lineal foot for drilling and piping - and practically nothing to operate. Such a source of water proved a boon to the small farmer. (77) Shallow wells had their limitations; however, they could be used to irrigate only a small acreage. In about 1898, after canals had been accepted as a successful means of combating droughts, it was learned that there were "strate of gravel at 125 to 200 feet under the surface of the entire section containing an unlimited supply of water which would of its own pressure, come so near the surface that it could be readily pumped." (78) Further tests proved that "there is a bed of gravel nearly 50 feet in thickness underlying this section [southwest Louisiana] which carries a large amount of soft water …"(79) Such water had the advantages of having a constant temperature of about seventy degrees and was free from injurious seeds and minerals. (80) Knapp estimated that a two-inch pipe at a 200-foot depth "will furnish sufficient water to flood 10 acres of rice and a 6-inch pipe will flood 80 to 90 acres." (81) An irrigating plant for flooding two hundred acres would cost from $1,500 to $2,500. (82) To pump the water to the surface, the centrifugal pump which had become popular in raising water for canals, became equally popular with wells. The vertical submerged type was used most frequently. (83) Wells for rice irrigation tended to complement rather than supplant canals. In some cases, wells supplemented surface waters. Small rice farmers were no longer at the mercy of the large, monopolistic canal companies; they could now have their own deep wells. (84) The year 1899 saw fifty-five wells drilled in Acadia and from Lake Charles to Crowley and Gueydan there were "about 200 wells in operation," with predictions that the nest year would see six wells sunk for every one put down in 1899. (85)

Before the development of country rice mills which contributed so greatly to the rice industry of southwest Louisiana, all of the mills were located in the Mississippi River rice district, especially at New Orleans. (86) By 1870 they were concentrated in New Orleans, which had become the rice center of the country and the only market for the Louisiana rice crop. (87) Such a limited market worked a great hardship for the farmers who were compelled to send their rice crop to New Orleans, where it was milled on the custom milling or toll basis. According to the plan, a farmer had to sell his rice to any chance buyer after it was milled, either paying the milling company for having milled his rice or allowing the company to deduct as a toll the cost of the milling. Farmers much preferred the cash-at-the mill or merchant plan, which provided them with the market price of rice at the time they took their product to the mill. (88) Such a desired plan did not come about until Seaman A. Knapp helped organize the Rice Association of America in 1892. (89) Composed of rice farmers, this association was not only instrumental in securing for the farmer the benefit of cash demands for his rice but it also helped in the solution of other problems affecting rice growers. (90)

Until the 1890’s rice mills in southwest Louisiana were small, catering to a limited number of farmers. In Sugar Town in 1878, for instance, a small rice-cleaning mill was erected using the machinery of a steam sawmill for power and having a capacity of thirty-six bushels a day. (91) In the next year a mill built by Ryan and Sons began operations in Lake Charles, (92) and in 1880 a steam rice mill constructed by Delino Derouen offered its services in Lake Arthur. (93) Before the end of the decade mills had been established in Acadia (94) and Saint Landry. (95) These mills were entirely inadequate to handle the milling needs of an area which was now producing more than half of the rice grown in the State. The Lake Charles Echo reminded the rice farmers in the summer of 1892 that the mills in New Orleans had paid $4.75 for a barrel of rough rice the previous year, when clean rice of best grade was worth 6 ¼ cents a pound. How was it, the newspaper queried, "that this year, clean rice of the best grade at 5 ½ cents a pound, they are paying only $2.35 a barrel for best rough rice?" (96) The newspaper considered the differential in price too great; the millers in New Orleans were reaping too great a profit. It thereupon called for the location of a mill in Lake Charles, which was favorably located on a navigable river and had two railroads to supply the mill and ship out clean rice.(97) Knapp was commissioned by interested rice men in and around Lake Charles to go to New York to interest capitalists in the enterprise. Through acquaintances, Knapp was able to induce a group of men to build in Lake Charles the largest rice mill in the United States. The purchase of stocks by local persons gave New York capitalists confidence in the projected mill. (98) The mill was to pay cash for all rice offered. This policy "caused a complete change in market methods, not only for rice but for cattle and all farm products in the territory." As a result the rice milling business was transferred from New Orleans to southwest Louisiana. (99) Capitalized at $200,000, the mill started operation in 1893 with a capacity of from 1,200 to 2,400 barrels of rough rice daily. (100) New Orleans millers heaped ridicule on the idea of independent mills in southwest Louisiana and in an obvious effort to embarrass and hurt the local mill offered form twenty-five to fifty cents more per barrel over rice grown closer to the New Orleans market. (101)

Construction of rice mills in the region went on rapidly. Crowley forged ahead as the rice center of southwest Louisiana by 1900 with six mills having a combined capacity of 6,000 sacks of rice a day. (102) In the early part of the previous year, Crowley was receiving 271,226 sacks as compared with 566,910 for New Orleans. (103) Other milling centers in southwest Louisiana in 1900 were Lake Charles, with two mills having a capacity of 2,800 sacks; Jennings, with three mills handling 2,800 sacks; and Welsh, with two mills with a combined capacity of 1,500 sacks. Estherwood, Rayne, Gueydan, Abbeville, and Westlake each had a rice mill. (104) Rice milling in southwest Louisiana was greatly stimulated by the attempt of the New Orleans millers to form a trust in 1888. This effort on the part of the millers, who handled much, if not all of the milling and marketing in Louisiana, to dictate. Farmers withheld their product in warehouses in the hope that in such action they might break the trust. The planters finally united in "The Rice Planter and Receivers Associations" against the "Rice Millers Trust." (105) Both organizations were failures. According to the Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer in 1888, "both died before the year expired and few tears were shed at their funerals." (106) However, several years later, in February 1892, a gigantic trust including practically all of the New Orleans rice millers was formed by an unknown corporation. "Because hitherto they have not made much money," the Planter explained, "…now they think while competing with each other they pay too much for rough or sell clean [rice] too low." (107) Prices plummeted. Rough rice prior to the formation of the trust brought a price of $4.00; now it was reduced to $3.35, while the price of clean rice had increased from three to six cents a pound. (108) What was the cause of this sudden drop in the price for rough rice? The United States at this time was producing only one-fourth of its consumption. According to W.W. Duson, rice planter from Crowley, "there is a uniform consensus of opinion among rice merchants and rice consumers that this phenomenal and extraordinary condition of the rice market had not been brought about by any legitimate operation of the law of supply and demand, but it is solely and entirely to the existence of a Rice Trust in the city of New Orleans, but by closing all these mills, except, perhaps, three or four, has cut off all demand for rough rice except enough to supply these few mills, and thereby forced down, by artificial means, the price of this commodity." (109) Duson recommended invoking the newly-enacted Sherman Anti-Trust Act against the New Orleans millers. (110) As an answer to the trust, Crowley rice producers formed the Farmers’ Cooperative Rice Milling Company with a capitalization of $50,000. (111) In endorsing the organization, the Crowley Daily Signal wrote:

….there is every reason to impress our rice farmers to build a mill of their own and keep the profits of an enterprise which promises to pay so handsomely in the center of the rice industry of Acadia Parish. There is enough rice raised here to keep a large mill running throughout the year, when we consider the expense of freights in shipping to and from New Orleans, of the vast amount of feed that will be turned out at the mill and can be used and sold by the planter at home, we do not hesitate in saying that Crowley should be a better rice market than New Orleans. If a large plant is established here it will become a distributing center of clean rice, and buyers will come or send in their orders for the clean product just as they do at New Orleans at the present time.

Then let there be no delay in subscribing the capital stock of this grand enterprise and let the matter be pushed to success before the nest harvest season. This is the greatest opportunity of our rice planters to place themselves in an independent position against the trust and to make the rice industry an assured success in the future. (112)

The newspaper’s words were prophetic. Crowley rapidly became a distributing center for rice, having at the end of the century six rice mills that were processing approximately half of the New Orleans capacity. Planters living in other towns of southwest Louisiana followed Crowley’s leadership. Stock companies were formed in Jennings and Lake Charles for the purpose of building rice mills. (113) At the end of 1892 the New Orleans trust became known as the National Rice Milling Company of New Jersey.

Continued low prices of rice in the New Orleans market from 1893 through 1898 (114) prompted the Crowley Rice Milling Company to call millers of southwest Louisiana and Texas for a meeting Crowley. The invitation stated certain objectives:

Realizing the demoralized condition of the rice market and the uncertainty of maintaining prices by the present methods of handling and disposing of clean rice, it is evident to ourselves, as well as to all others interested in the milling and rice industry …. that something must be done to bring about unity between the mulls of Southwest Louisiana and try and establish and maintain uniform prices on the various grades of rice. (115)

From this and subsequent meetings was born the American Rice Grower’s Distribution Company in October 1900, (116) capitalized at $7,500,000 with Crowley as its domicile. It was hoped that the organization would "bring into the rice country the necessary capital to hold the product off the market when otherwise it would be flooded by farmers needing money, and by steadying the market and reducing the middlemen’s profit will bring an ample return on the investment." (117) According to Talmadge & Son, New York rice brokers, "the ruinous competition of the millers would thereby be eliminated; prices unified, and all grades [of rice] rated at their relative worth." (118) Cary believed that the New Orleans rice millers had been "beaten" by the building of rice mills in southwest Louisiana "where we have the largest and best mills in the world." "We beat the speculators," he said, "by compelling them to buy in our home markets and pay for the rice on delivery." (119)

Drought, a low market for rice, the discriminatory activities of the trust, and the Wilson-Gorman tariff of 1894 (which lowered the rates of head rice, the top quality grain most popular for table use, and brought domestic growers in competition with the Orient) all militated against the rice farmer of southwest Louisiana. The rice belt was then witnessing a decreased acreage and a general depression. (120) Knapp met this emergency by recommending the organization of the Rice Association of America in the winter of 1894-1895, with the following objectives: to find and develop markets for rice and rice products; to gather and distribute information relative to the rice industry; and to induce immigration and investments in all branches of the industry. (121)

When in 1896 McKinley defeated Bryan for the presidency and an upward revision of the tariff seemed certain, Knapp helped draft a petition to Congress setting forth reasons why the rice industry had "special and just claims for protective legislation." (122) The petition argued that the industry in time of prosperity made heavy purchases from the North, and because it was an infant industry, required time for adjustment to machine production. Heavy capital investments on machinery, levees, canals, and pumps placed a burden on the industry. Now, under the Wilson-Gorman tariff, the rice region found itself in competition with the lowest paid labor in the world, producing rice that could be shipped across the ocean to New York at prices lower than those paid by domestic producers for shipments within the United States. (123) Under the tariff, rice millers had begun to import unpolished rice but represented it as uncleaned, since such rice, called paddy, was much lower in tariff rates than the rates on unpolished rice and brought considerable profits to the millers. This imported rice could be prepared for the market for 1/32 or at least 1/8 of a cent a pound. (124)

Representing southwest Louisiana and the New Orleans Board of Trade and several other interested organizations, Knapp was sent to Washington to lobby for a more equitable tariff. (125) To rates on rice which Congress finally adopted and which had the expressed approval of Knapp provided for the following rates: two cents on cleaned rice, one and a quarter cents on unclean rice, and seventy-five cents on paddy per hundred pounds. This represented about half a cent a pound more than the previous rates, but was protective in that it prevented the stocking up of the country with foreign rice at the time when the domestic crop was being harvested. (126)

The introduction of Kiushu rice from Japan to Louisiana was significant contribution made by Knapp to the industry. The most popular varieties of rice grown in Louisiana prior to this were the Carolina, the Honduras, and the Japan. (127) During the crop season of 1894, the Japan variety was being planted on a large scale because on the successes obtained in the previous year. This variety required less water than the popular Honduras, had a larger yield, was believed to hull easier than other rice, and brought a higher price. (128) However, with the application of the new methods of culture, the common varieties did not stand the milling process satisfactorily - the grain showed a tendency to crack and break. While such breakage in no was impaired the food value of the rice, it did materially lower the market value by as much as two cents a pound. When this occurred in forty, sixty, or even ninety percent of the rice milled, the industry was imperiled. (129) Recognizing Knapp as an authority on rice, the Secretary of Agriculture sent him on a mission to Japan to seek out a variety of rice that could withstand modern milling. The Kiushu variety that Knapp brought back with him from Japan proved to be twenty-five per cent more productive than Honduras rice, and had superior milling qualities that reduced losses from twenty to forty per cent. (130) This represented a saving of approximately $1,500,000 to the rice growers of Louisiana. (131)

In 1900, J. G, Lee, Commissioner of Immigration, reviewed the status of the rice industry in southwest Louisiana:

There are now nearly 400 miles of canals already constructed, irrigating about 225,000 acres of rice, while there are some 300 artesian wells which will irrigate in the aggregate 25,000 acres. This gives us a prospective average of 250,000 sacks. The area in rice has multiplied until the output of the state is greater than that of Georgia and the Carolinas combined. Implements and machinery common to the wheat fields of the west, find use in the rice fields. (132)

The rice industry of southwest Louisiana developed in part by accident. The first arrivals from the Midwest in 1884, who settled on the upland prairie above the area of natural irrigation, had no intention of raising rice, but they soon learned that the natives managed to grow the cereal by trapping rain water in sloughs, planting rice below these, and gradually letting the water from the sloughs drain down over the rice. These newcomers copied the Cajuns’ methods of irrigation and found that their own mechanized farm equipment, with adjustments, was admirably adapted to rice cultivation. Population in the rice districts increased 57.4 per cent in the last decade of the century, (133) largely through the advertising efforts of S. L. Cary inducing Midwesterners to migrate to southwest Louisiana. To Seaman A. Knapp, although not the founder of the rice industry in the area, goes the greatest credit for its advance. After having helped to attract settlers to the prairies, Knapp had to find ways to make the land attractive to them. He did this through agricultural planning, experimentation, and demonstration work. His planning determined for the farmers what crops would be suitable for their land. His experimentation work involved acclimatizing and improving both seeds and cattle. His demonstration work included the development of a number of model farms which helped convince the new settlers that the land could be made productive, and he taught them better methods of farming. (134)



According to the Census of 1880, approximately eighteen per cent of Louisiana’s estimated 26,588 million board feet of merchantable longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) was found in the two southwest (Louisiana) parishes of Calcasieu and Saint Landry. The former, with a stand reckoned at 4,219 million board feet, was the largest in the State. Saint Landry’s stand approximated 579 million board feet. To the north of Calcasieu, Vernon Parish, with an approximate growth of 3,741 million board feet, was the second largest in Louisiana. (1) Vernon Parish supplied much timber to the sawmills of the area.

The pine timber of these three parishes was part of a vast forest that stretched west and southwest from the Red River Valley to the Sabine River and extended into eastern Texas. Southward for about one hundred miles the stand increased in width until it formed an irregular line from Lake Charles westward to the Sabine River. Portions of the parishes of Natchitoches and Rapides were included in the 4,500 square miles of this magnificent forest. (2)

The longleaf pine forest of these parishes was notably pure, having 80 percent or more of pine growth. (A stand is "pure" if 80 percent of the trees in the main crown canopy are of a single species.) (3) Yielding from twelve to thirty thousand board feet of lumber per acre over whole townships, (4) the trees from which such a production was possible were from 150 to 200 years old. (5) These giants of the forest had a mean height of 110 feet and averaged 20 inches in diameter. (6) Some of the larger trees, with as age of from 250 to 300 years, had trunks of thirty inches. (7)

The lumber from the stately longleaf pine is suited for many uses. Its attractive appearance, along with its heaviness, hardness, strength, and freedom from warping or checking, makes it useful for such dissimilar purposes as bridge timbers, ship and railroad-car construction, furniture, siding, and interior house furnishings. (8) This versatility created a demand for "Calcasieu pine" which, because of its superior quality, became a marketing hallmark.

It was no accident that Lake Charles became a center for the production and marketing of pine lumber in the period following the Civil War. Advantageously located on a lake from which the town gets its name and through which flows the Calcasieu River, with its many tributaries extending far into the pine belt and to the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Charles early developed into a sawmill focus. Logs were brought down the Calcasieu River and rafted in the lake preparatory to being converted into lumber. Here, too, operated tens of schooners taking lumber to Gulf ports and elsewhere. Calcasieu Parish, free from the fraud, violence, intimidation and other disturbances of the reconstruction period, (9) gained for its chief town the distinction of being the first great center of logging and lumber production in Louisiana by 1884. (10) By 1900 ten mills operated within a radius of three miles within the Lake Charles area. (11) Elsewhere in southwest Louisiana many small mills, mostly of the transient nature, supplied local markets.

Because of the great demand for lumber to rebuild the war-torn areas of the South following the Civil War and the industrial boom in the North at the same time, resulting high prices made it possible for mill owners to apply the latest developments in sawmill technology. Such improvements as the gang and circular saws greatly accelerated the manufacturing process and reduced production costs. Later, in 1889, the band saw was used for the first time. (12) Such other developments as the endless chain, operating along a ramp carrying logs from the water to the inside of the mill, the "kicker" which throws a log from the ramp to the log deck without stopping the chain, and the "nigger," a device armed with fangs of steel to turn the log on the carrier, were improvements made in the latter part of the nineteenth century. (13)

Southwest Louisiana presented no topographical breaks which might have posed real obstacles to logging. The highest elevations occur in southwestern Sabine and northern Vernon parishes, where they exceed 450 feet in some places. From these hills the terrain slopes southward to the twenty-five foot contour line roughly marking the southern limit of longleaf pine. In almost all portions of the district there is the appearance of low, gently rolling hills. According to one writer, "this region represents the easiest logging of any in the United States or Canada." (14)

Log transportation was a spring occupation along the southwestern streams. Calcasieu River could be counted on for at least one freshet a year, usually in June. Sometimes these floods could be disastrous. In 1885, a single high-water stage of that river carried between forty and fifty thousand logs southward. Although several booms were stretched across the stream, many of the logs could not be stopped and went all the way to the Gulf. (15) Cutting the timber in the early phase of lumbering took place only several hundred feet from the stream, the distance that could be satisfactorily covered by mules or ox teams. (16) As long as the supply of readily available timber was found along streams, this method sufficed. However, by the early 1880’s the problem of depletion along the waterways was becoming apparent. (17)

The problem was solved by building narrow gauge railroads into the forests. Only higher prices for lumber could justify this expense. Continued demand, however, caused prices to rise, making feasible the building of these expensive adjuncts to logging. Timber in vast quantities was available, but the problem had been one of getting the logs to the rivers. Some mill men favored canals; others would erect dams on the creeks to float logs from high points, while still others thought of tram roads operated by mule power. It was left to one of the pioneers of the industry, A. J. Perkins, of the firm of Moore, Perkins & Company, to build the Calcasieu and Vernon in 1882 - the first railroad built in the area to exploit the timber resources. (18) Starting from White Bluff on Hickory Branch Creek, a tributary of the Calcasieu River, the railroad eventually reached Leesville, parish seat of Vernon Parish. (19) By 1886 there were four narrow gauge railroads totaling thirty miles and penetrating the yellow pine forests in various directions. This development made logging an extensive operation in southwest Louisiana. (20) Experience had taught log men that it did not pay to "snake" in logs from a distance greater than 220 yards; therefore, removable switches that could be laid and taken up as the blocks of timber were cut out, were built every quarter mile or so. (21) Until 1895, all of the mills operating in Lake Charles and along the Calcasieu River drew their entire supply of timber within a radius of not more than thirty miles distance - a testimonial to the luxuriance of the Calcasieu forest. (22)

Lumbering, from the cutting of the tree to the stacking of the lumber, was an arduous but interesting process. First came the woodsman whose duty it was to saw the tree down and cut it into "sticks" of sixteen, eighteen, twenty, or twenty-four feet in length, ready to be hauled to the railway and loaded upon flatcars. Mule or ox teams hitched to huge high-wheeled carts equipped with heavy draw chains straddled the butt of the log, raised it clear from the ground, and moved on with the smaller end dragging behind. Railroad cars, loaded by means of cables and inclines with from sixteen to eighteen logs, took their burden to the water’s edge and unloaded. Logs attached together end to end by means of short ropes or chains secured to pegs encircled the free logs to form a raft. This raft was then towed down the river by a tugboat to the mills surrounding the lake. (23) Booms of 50,000 or more logs were a common sight in the waters of Lake Charles. (24)

Logging was an occupation apart from milling. In the mid-1880’s, only two sawmills of the area, the Calcasieu Lumber Company, and the Moore, Perkins &Company, were dependent solely upon their own timber lands to supply their needs. The other milling firms purchased their supply of logs from independent loggers, (25) who were generally not too careful where they obtained them. According to one writer, the waterways of Louisiana harbored some of the more unscrupulous lumbermen in the South. These men stole timber on government lands inland from Atchafalaya Bay and along the Calcasieu and Pearl rivers. (26) A report made by the Surveyor General of Louisiana in 1877 explained the method of operation of some of the spoilers of the forests. Many loggers affected to believe, he said, that after homestead entries had been made, with or without settlement, they were at liberty to cut and remove all the timber from the land. Calcasieu Parish was singled out as a case in point. Here, "hundreds of men mostly poor and ignorant make no concealment of the sales they have made and prices they have received for the privilege of cutting all valuable pine from their respective tracts." Obtaining 160-acre tracts, possible under both State and Federal law, the loggers, using their own or fictitious names - and certainly with no intention of retaining the land after the timber was removed - proceeded to get money advances from local mills to supply them with logs. (27) The practice had become so widespread that a special Federal agent, Murray A. Carter, was sent to the Calcasieu area in the spring of 1877, "to ascertain the facts…, and obtain all data necessary to enable the United States district attorney to institute proper proceedings to seize timber or lumber, to recover value of same, and to prosecute for fine and imprisonment" (28) The execution of this order precipitated what the local newspapers called the "Calcasieu Log War."

Acting with vigor, Carter seized over 100,000 logs allegedly cut on government-owned land and brought upon himself threats against his life. (29) Fearing the possibility of violence, the Federal authorities in New Orleans dispatched the revenue cutter Dix with eighty soldiers to the Calcasieu area. (30) The loggers, protesting their innocence of government charges, claimed that nine-tenths of the logs seized were cut on privately-owned lands. They were indignant over the chain boom stretched across the west fork of Calcasieu River intended to intercept government-owned logs. Such a blockade of the river, they maintained, was not only illegal but it also prevented legitimately-cut logs from being floated to the mills. Such government action, they further mainlined, caused great suffering to them and their families. (31) H. C. Gill, who had the support of his fellow mill men, sized up the log situation thusly: "The whole business of our district is now stopped," he said, "not a wheel is turning nor a mill going, and all labor is idle. The parish is stagnant, and merchants cannot pay their bills under this condition of things." Gill castigated the Federal authorities for penalizing honest loggers by filing information in the courts against parties who never were in the log business. (32)

The log imbroglio continued on into 1878. Confiscated logs were sold at a profit by the government, (33) and log men and mill men remained indignant. They maintained that the government had acted in an oppressive and arbitrary manner toward the citizens of Calcasieu, had disregarded their right, and had been misled by false representations by agents. (34) They further questioned the legality of the blockade of rivers within the State by Federal agents. (35) A petition embodying the controversial issues was sent to Congressman J. H. Acklen, who represented the people of southwest Louisiana. Congress, acting upon a resolution submitted by Acklen, ordered an investigation of the whole problem. (36) Excerpted portions of the resulting report submitted to Congress and appearing in a Lake Charles newspaper exonerated the Federal agents from all charges preferred against them by citizens of Calcasieu. (37) On the contrary, the agents were highly commended for recovering property unlawfully taken from the public domain, but an apology was made to the unwitting sufferers of the affair. Blame was place on employers who supposedly encouraged the poor people of Calcasieu to cut government-owned timber at low prices and then compelled then to receive payment in supplies at exorbitant prices. The report defended the agents against the charges of illegally blockading navigable streams in intrastate commerce. "It does not appear that vessels were at any time prevented from going up or down any of the navigable streams in Calcasieu parish," the report emphasized. (38) Though the people of the area were dissatisfied with the report, and resentments continued to smolder, the so-called log war had come to an end.

Notwithstanding the fact that mills continued to depend upon independent loggers for their supply of logs, a gradual shift to mill-owned timberlands became apparent in the 1880’s and thereafter. This shift came about when northern lumbermen began to invade the virgin forests of the South. For many years the growing population of the United States had made increasingly heavy demands on the northern forest areas from the New England coast westward to the Lake States. Imminent exhaustion compelled the industry to move southward. This movement ushered in the middle phase of lumbering in Louisiana. (39) Large scale operations, now the order of the day, required constant supplies of logs which could effectively be met by purchasing timbered lands on a massive scale. Experienced and wealthy northern lumber barons moved in and began to invest in yellow pine lands - either as speculative ventures or as a means of producing lumber for an expanding market. (40) Among these land speculators was Isaac Stephenson, Jr., one of the first capitalists to come to the southwest Louisiana area, who purchased over 300,000 acres of pine land for a million dollars in the southern part of Rapides and the northern part of Calcasieu parishes. (41) At about the same time J. D. Lacey & Company from Michigan acquired 160,000 acres of timbered lands in Calcasieu, Vernon, and Rapides. (42) A third purchase of 19,283 acres of longleaf pine lands in the same general area was made by the Wright Blodgett Company of Saginaw, Michigan, for $120,523.94. (43) Other Calcasieu firms and independent mill men - some of whom were natives of long standing - who acquired vast acreages in the 1880’s and 1890’s were the Bradley-Ramsey Lumber Company; Lock, Moore & Company; M. T. Jones & Company; H. C. Drew; W. B. Morris; and J. G. Powell. (44)

Lumbermen generally paid fair wages. Independent loggers received $5.50 to six dollars a day for a thousand feet of logs, while choppers were paid twenty cents for each tree cut down and usually earned from $2.50 to $3.50 a day; raftsmen, two dollars a day; and teamsters, the lowest paid of the lot, $1.50 a day. (45) Wages rose somewhat toward the end of the century. (46)

The cluster of mills around Lake Charles made an ever increasing demand upon the loggers. The market for lumber following the Civil War created a boom. Calcasieu early felt the impact of the boom. Although only one mill, that of Jacob Ryan and James Hodges, located on the east bank of Lake Charles, was in operation in the parish in 1866, (47) a significant development followed within a decade. If any one man is to be singled out as the "father" of the Calcasieu lumber industry, that man would have to be Daniel J. Goos, a German immigrant from Schleswig-Holstein, who, in a roundabout way, came to Lake Charles in 1855 to explore the possibilities of establishing a mill. Impressed with the giant stands of timber in the area, along with the easy means of access to the Gulf for marketing purposes, Goos dismantled his mill in Ocean Springs, loaded it aboard three schooners, and made his way to the Calcasieu country. Within a short time he had established one of the first significant sawmills west of New Orleans. (48) This mill was located in an area north of Lake Charles which was in time called Goosport in his honor. By the end of the 1860’s, the Goos mill was producing more than 300,000 board feet of lumber monthly. (49) Following closely behind were other enterprising and far-visioned men, who, like Goos, saw possibilities in the opening phase of the industry. Among these were George Lock and W. H. Norris (both schooner captions), A. J. Perkins, and L. C. Dees. (50) By 1869, reported monthly production of these lumbermen approximated 1,217,000 board feet of lumber shipped principally to Gulf ports in 128 schooners. (51)

Except for the panic of 1873, which affected the whole country, and the log controversy with the Federal government in 1877-1878, the decade of the 1870’s witnessed yearly increases, as the following statistics indicate: (52)

Year Logs Cut Board Feet of Lumber Produced
1871 26,000 7,800,000
1872 35,000 10,500,000
1873 12,500 3,750,000
1874 30,000 9,000,000
1875 43,000 13,050,000
1876 36,000 10,800,000
1877 ------  2,500,000
1878 16,500 4,950,000
1879 55,000  16,500,000
1880 67,000 20,100,000
1881(six months) 44,000 13,200,000

Although the above figures seem impressive, Charles Mohr, a specialist in forestry who visited the area in the early 1880’s, was of the opinion that the timber resources of southwest Louisiana had scarcely been touched. (53) It was in this decade of the 1880’s, however, that northern lumbermen began to eye with interest the vast possibilities of southern forests. Rapid depletion of the white pine forests in the Great Lakes area, the ever-growing demand for lumber, and the rapid extension of railroads in the South, made tempting bait for northern capital. Many of the capitalists, referred to as "Michigan men" by the local inhabitants, had exhausted the timber resources of Michigan, last of the Lake States to be exploited, and, as has already been seen, began to move into southwest Louisiana. Among these men were R. H. Nason, William E. Ramsay, C. W. Penoyer, and N. B. Bradley. (54) These capitalists ushered in what might be termed the middle period in the lumber industry in Calcasieu.

The impact of northern initiative began to be felt in the early 1890’s. Most of the operating mills in 1884 were largely owned and operated by those who had earlier inaugurated the industry. A list of mill owners, with their daily production, reveals the extent of the industry in that year: (55)

Mill Owners Daily Production in Board Feet
Perkins & Miller 30,000
Lock, More & Company 45,000
W. B. Norris 35,000
H. C. Drew  20,000
W. L. Hutchins 25,000
R. J. Cessford 25,000
Burleson Brothers 25,000
Calcasieu Lumber Company 45,000
A. H. Moss 40,000
Hampton & Miller 20,000
Total 330,000

 Assuming a five-day week (this was not entirely so, as some sawmills operated on Saturdays and Sundays), yearly production for 1884 would approximate 79,200,000 board feet, or a two-thirds increase over the production of 1881. Too, at the end of 1884, 501,593 acres of longleaf pine lands had passed mostly in the hands of northern and eastern investors. (56)

The lumber industry in southwest Louisiana received its first great impetus for larger and better mills and a more extended market when R. H. Nason and his associates acquired for $23,000 the Goos mill property in 1883, and formed the Calcasieu Lumber Company. (57) Capitalized at $250,000 within two years the company was producing at a rate of 45,000 board feet of lumber a day. (58) Later, in 1886, the company was reorganized as the Bradley-Ramsay Lumber Company composed of "some of the largest lumber manufacturers of Michigan." William E. Ramsay was made president of the company and N. B. Bradley became vice-president. The company, with a capitalization of $500,000 in time had two mills - the Michigan Mill and the Mt. Hope Mill - in operation on the site of the former Goos mill. The mills had a combined yearly capacity of 50,000,000 board feet of lumber which could be increased to 75,000,000 by night runs. (59) Equipped with the latest improved machinery, the Michigan Mill was powered by a 350-horsepower steam engine operating one band and two circular saws. Such other devices as edgers, trimmers, slashers, and "line rollers" that could carry lumber to all parts of the mill were all used in the mill. Steel tramways reaching to all points of the large lumberyards carried the finished product directly from the saws to the waiting railway cars or to the river front to be loaded on schooners. The Mt. Hope Mill, though less extensive than its sister mill, was as complete. (60) It is significant that the Bradley-Ramsay mills had in 1895 a yearly potential almost equal to that of all the other mills operating in the Calcasieu area in 1884. The mills employed some five hundred workers by 1895. (61)

The J. A. Bel Lumber Company, located on the northeast shore of Lake Charles, developed into the second largest mill in southwest Louisiana before the end of the century. Only the Bradley-Ramsay Company exceeded it in size. The story of this company is closely interwoven with the personality and business genius of its founder, J. A. Bel. A native of New Orleans, Bel came to the Calcasieu country at the age of fifteen, became an employee of George Lock, the successful pioneer lumberman, and thus received his apprenticeship in the lumber business. In 1885, at the age of twenty-eight, he became the manager of the A. H. Moss mill. According to the terms of the contract, Bel was to receive a salary of $125.00 a month plus one-third of the net profits of the business. Several years later in 1888, Moss sold his interest in the business to M. T. Jones of Houston and Charles Bunker of Boston. These two men became associated with Bel under the firm name of M. T. Jones & Company. (62) When Bel assumed management, production averaged 25,000 board feet a day. By modernizing the plant with new machinery, Bel made daily production soar to 55,000 board feet within four years. (63) In 1894 the plant was again reorganized under a new name, Bel-Bunker Lumber Company, and operated as such for two years, after which time it finally became the J. A. Bel Lumber Company. When Jones sold his interests to Bel in 1899, the firm came under Bel’s sole ownership. (64) The company, making a specialty of long timbers, boasted of sawing logs measuring seventy feet in length - a record for the area. In 1895 production had increased to a daily capacity of 85,000 board feet; and on one occasion the mill set another record by sawing 192,000 feet in ten hours and forty minutes. This was enough lumber to fill twenty-five railroad cars. Such results were obtained by the use of a circular saw powered by a 400-horsepower Corliss engine. (65) The normal employment of the company was about three hundred laborers. (66)

A smaller mill located on the western shore (now Westlake) of Lake Charles was the Perkins & Miller Lumber Company. Established in 1870 by A. J. Perkins, the mill, equipped with the latest machinery, had a capacity of 60,000 board feet by 1888. A planer with a capacity of 45,000 feet of lumber a day could dress timbers 6 x 18 on all four sides in one operation. (67) Another small mill worthy of mention was the Drew Mill, founded by H. C. Drew in 1878, and located on the south shore of the lake. J.G. Powell, who operated the mill for Drew under contract, later became an associate of Drew under the firm name of Drew & Powell. When Drew sold his interest to Powell in the latter part of the 1890’s, the mill assumed the name of its sole owner: Powell Lumber Company. The capacity of the mill, which in 1888 was 30,000 board feet a day, almost doubled by the end of the century. (68)

Statistics for 1895 showed a total annual production of 140,000,000 board feet of lumber produced by nine mills in and around Lake Charles. These mills had a combined employment of 1,300 workers receiving $540,800 a year. (69) By the end of the century, ten mills were in operation. (70) Labor presented no real problem to the mill operators. Northern lumbermen brought with them most of the skilled workers and supervisory personnel. However, the majority of the workers, both white and Negro, were recruited from among the local inhabitants. Some Swedes brought in from the Lake States were found scattered in lumber camps in both Texas and western Louisiana. (71) Mexicans were occasionally employed, but they proved unreliable for the most part. For the poor hill farmers, the choice between eking out an existence on the poor soil of southwest Louisiana or accepting a cash wage of $1.50 for an eleven-hour work day was not a difficult one. Jobs were always available in the timber camps and the sawmills. (72) Skilled workers commanded higher wages. Sawyers, for instance, received three dollars a day; lumber markers, two dollars; planers, seventy-five to one hundred dollars a month; and planer feeders, two dollars a day. (73) Harmony usually characterized working conditions in the mills despite the rough types attracted to this industry. The sole exception to this harmony was in the spring of 1879, when a strike was called in demand of a ten-hour day. Although the strike lasted only two days with nothing apparently gained, six mills out of seven were forced to temporarily cease operations. (74)

Prior to 1880, when the Southern Pacific Railroad was extended through southwest Louisiana, all lumber exports were made by water. (75) In this period, an extensive coastwise trade from the New Orleans to Tampico developed. (76) Galveston became a distributing point for the bulk of Calcasieu lumber. In 1878, the Galveston News reported that 20,000,000 board feet of Calcasieu longleaf pine had been purchased by Galveston distributors paying $18.00 a thousand for first quality pine, and $16.00 for the second quality. The same report announced that shipping rates had been reduced from $7.50 a thousand to $3.50. (77) A few years earlier, the keeper of the lighthouse at Calcasieu Pass had counted ninety-eight vessels carrying 1,257,000 board feet of lumber through the Pass in January 1869. These vessels were usually limited to capacities from ten to sixty thousand board feet because of the necessity of clearing the shallow bars near the mouth of the Calcasieu River. (78)

In 1874 French capitalists attempted to open direct communications with the Calcasieu lumber trade by sending a vessel to Lake Charles for a sample cargo. (79) So impressed were they with the high quality of the lumber that they started a movement for making Lake Charles a port of entry. As stated in an earlier chapter, it was the custom for ships consigned to the Calcasieu country to proceed first to New Orleans to pick up a pilot familiar with the Gulf coast shoals, then proceed to Morgan City to get clearance papers, pay duties if any, and then come to Lake Charles. Such a procedure was expensive and scarcely made such a trade venture profitable. It was this impasse that led lumbermen to petition Congress for making Lake Charles a port of entry in the late 1870’s. (80) In 1875 a shipment of lumber to Liverpool had "proved highly remunerative to both consigners and consignees." And, according to the Lake Charles newspaper announcing the event, "we are reliably informed that before next summer a heavy and permanent lumber trade from Calcasieu to England will be inaugurated." (81) This optimism proved a bit premature.

The completion of the railroad through southwest Louisiana in 1880 gave a vast impetus to the lumber industry by opening markets in the hinterland. This event came at a time when northern lumbermen began moving southward and at a time when the industry was establishing yearly production records. In the period following 1880, rail transportation supplemented rather than supplanted water transportation. For in 1881 large quantities of lumber were being shipped to the Mexican ports of Tampico and Tuxpan, and Calcasieu lumbermen were thinking of opening trade with the five Central American republics. These countries were receiving their lumber supplies from Alabama and Florida. To divert this trade to Calcasieu became the ardent ambition of Lake Charles lumbermen. (82)

Rail transportation proved to be more expensive than water transportation. As long as the differential in freight rates continued, schooner captains felt a little competition. However, when the railroads began to make concessions to the lumbermen of Calcasieu, the captains vigorously petitioned the Federal government to dredge a deeper channel through the shallow passes of the Calcasieu River so as to allow larger vessels to operate. (83) Larger vessels would cut overhead expenses and permit better rates to shippers. With the lowering of railroad freight rates, new markets were opened. Shipments to England by way of New Orleans in 1886 accounted for 150 carloads of Calcasieu lumber. (84)

Western Texas, now in a stage of rapid development, began to use large quantities of the area’s products, and by the end of the century, this area had become the lumbermen’s greatest market. (85) Increased use of rail transportation was bound to affect water transportation; but in 1895 the Bel-Bunker Company could boast of owning its own tug and barge line to Galveston and other points along the Texas coast. In that year the company shipped to the Texas market sixteen barges with capacities of from 200,000 to 250,000 board feet of lumber. Although Texas supplied the largest market for the Bel-Bunker mill, the company found purchasers for its product in the northwestern states. (86) Demand for lumber had become so great that mill men were complaining in the fall of 1895 that the railroads were unable to supply them with the necessary cars to fill their orders. (87)

By the end of the century, after the shallow passes had been deepened by the Federal authority, cargoes of lumber were being shipped to ports as far away as South Africa, (88) Europe, (89) and other ports. (90) Too, the national boom period beginning in 1897 was being felt in the lumber industry of Calcasieu.

Significant, though falling far below the longleaf pine industry in economic importance, was the milling of cypress lumber. (91) This lumber in southwest Louisiana was used principally for manufacturing shingles and cisterns. (92)

In the early days of the industry, cypress (Taxodium distichum) was cut in anticipation of the June spring-tide. A swamp product, cypress logging differed somewhat from that of pine which grows in the uplands. Through the dark winter days and the bleak days of spring, drenched by cold rains or chilled by icy winds, loggers toiled in the swamps, felling lumber in anticipation of the yearly floods. Then the work of floating logs out through the creeks or specially-dug canals to the main stream commenced. Should the floods fail to come, as sometimes happened, mills had to shut down for months at a time, entailing heavy losses to both loggers and mill men. (93)

The advance of technology toward the end of the century relieved the cypress mills from the inconstancy of the weather. For now the timber was hauled out to the river by means of pull-boats anchored along the streams. Engines aboard these boats alternately turned two drums. The larger drum carried an inch cable which "snaked" logs from the swamps. At the same time it unwound a light rope which had previously been passed through a pulley where the logs were being cut. When the log splashed into the water, the main drum was ungeared and the smaller one, now in motion, towed the large cable back to the scene where more logs were waiting their turn. (94) Also used by lumbermen was the flat-bottomed boat with windlass in the foreground used to raise cypress logs which had sunk to the bottom of the river. (95)

Although some cypress was produced on the Mermentau River and marketed locally, it was in Lake Charles that the industry assumed its largest proportions. Among the cypress mills operating in Lake Charles was the W. B. Norris Mill, which, departing from the usual production of shingles, milled over a million board feet of lumber a month. Most of its product, consisting of bridge material and crossties, was sold almost entirely to the Southern Pacific Company. It was the only mill in southwest Louisiana producing this type of product. Mills owned by Thomas Hanson and William Meyer produced shingles exclusively. The Hanson mill, somewhat smaller, had a capacity of 35,000. Both mills were located on the east shore of the lake. A third mill, belonging to H. A. Mims and located on the Calcasieu River, had a daily production of 35,000 shingles. (96) Eight million shingles were shipped out of Lake Charles in 1886. (97) Nine years later, this figure had increased to 64,500,000 shingles produced from 5,180,000 feet of logs floated down the Calcasieu River. (98)

The Poe Shingle Mill, built in the early 1890’s became the largest in southwest Louisiana. Located on the Calcasieu River at the foot of the main Lake Charles thoroughfare, the mill produced 20,000,000 shingles annually and found markets in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. It owned extensive cypress lands and was equipped with its own facilities to get the logs to the mill. (99)

The demands for southern yellow pine increased with the demand for lumber. By the end of the century thirty-seven percent of the softwood cut in the United States was yellow pine. (100) Southwest Louisiana undoubtedly produced a significant part of this amount. Yet according to one student of the area, the longleaf pine district had scarcely been touched by loggers. (101) The greatest development in the industry was to come in the early part of the twentieth century - the later phase of Calcasieu lumbering. (102)



As compared with some other parts of Louisiana, the transition from a war economy to a peace economy in southwest Louisiana in 1865 and the years following was a relatively easy one. Primitive conditions described by Frederick Law Olmsted in his journey through the area in the 1850’s (1) continued to exist long after the war. This was especially true in the sparsely-populated, self-sufficient Parish of Calcasieu, where a natural economy (as distinguished from a money economy) existed. The better developed parishes of Saint Landry, Lafayette, and Vermilion found the transition a bit more difficult. Here the devastations wrought by the Civil War had to be repaired; and trade in cotton, sugar, and livestock, fairly well developed in the years preceding the conflict, had to be re-established.

In the absence of capital and currency, the people had to depend on a rather crude system of barter to meet their simplest needs. Payments were usually made in kind. Since no banks existed in the area until the late 1880’s, farmers obtained credit for goods at the country stores or secured supplies from the commission merchants who handled their crops. High interest and service charges cut deep into their profits even in the best of times, and in bad times they were left in debt. (2) The ubiquitous country stores could be found at every "landing" down the Calcasieu River from Lake Charles and along every navigable river and bayou in the area. The store owners usually operated sawmills, gristmills, and syrup mills, as well as a schooner or two from their wharves. Settlers from miles around came by ox teams to trade their logs and cowhides, and, perhaps, a bale or two of cotton for calico, coffee, shoes, farm implements, patented medicines, and other necessities. (3) Other small communities, called "settlements" usually had their stores. Such settlements as Choupique, Vincent, Sabine, Bayou D’Inde, Big Woods, Bear Head, Sugartown, History Flat, and Derouen, to name but a few, were among the small communities scattered throughout Calcasieu Parish. (4) In some cases, a barter was made by two persons on the spot. However, in most cases the store owner gave credit or "carried" a farmer or stockmen on his books for six months, a year, or until the later time when payment could be made - either in money or in kind. Usually debt settlements came in the spring or fall, the only time farmers saw money, and only then if they had sold a few yearlings and a bale or two of cotton. (5) Sometime the store owner became impatient for debt payment, as is revealed in an advertisement appearing in an Opelousas newspaper in the spring of 1865: (6)

We earnestly request our debtors to pay immediately if not all at least a portion of what they owe us, so that we may ourselves pay those from whom we draw our subsistence. We do not intend to board up what we get, but merely subsist and become indebted to nobody, in the uncertain times in which we live. Those who cannot pay otherwise are notified that we accept with pleasure all kinds of provisions, such as corn, meal, meat, and also materials for clothing.

Some years later, in 1869, a soap and candle manufacturer informed the public that he would accept tallow in exchange for merchandise. (7)

By 1886, Sugartown, located in the upper part of Calcasieu Parish, had become the agricultural center of the parish. According to one estimate, in this year about 1, 500 bales of cotton were shipped from the point by J. W. Moore, J. M. Dear & Company, and G. W. Richardson & Company. In the same year, these merchants handled 15,000 pounds of wool, and bought and sold such items as hide, corn, and rice in addition to cotton and wool. The editor of the Lake Charles Echo estimated this trade at about $100,000 a year. (8)

Merchants from Calcasieu and Cameron (after 1870) were supplied mostly from Galveston. The grocery houses of F. A. Glass and Leon & H. Blum from this Texas city periodically sent their agents to the area to investigate the extent to which credit could safely be given. In 1879, schooners were discharging approximately 250 barrels of freight weekly from Galveston to merchants in Calcasieu. Accounts were usually balanced in Galveston by receipts of Calcasieu lumber, cotton, and livestock. (9)

Merchants and others with surplus funds made a business of lending money at rates of interest beginning at ten percent and increasing in ratio to the risk involved and the amount the lender could extort from the borrower. (10) Lastie Dupre from Saint Landry Parish had developed a reputation as a money lender. Owning a private vault to safeguard his funds, Dupre permitted his friends to deposit their money with him. These funds along with personal funds enabled him to carry on a private system of banking. (11) Leopold Kaufman, owner of the largest mercantile establishment in southwest Louisiana after 1880, similarly took in money for safekeeping and made loans. (12) In many cases, a person’s promise was all that a merchant or money lender needed. Farmers from far and near made purchases on credit and settled their obligations once or twice a year, usually after the year’s harvest had been marketed. (13)

Liens or mortgages were sometimes taken out as collateral. (14) An examination of the mortgage records of Saint Landry for the period 1865 through March 22, 1881 reveals a fairly large number of mortgages secured mostly by land. (15) As land had little value at this time, no large amounts could be borrowed with this type of security. One veteran cattleman remembers that his much older colleagues borrowed from one another. Money, groceries, feed, mechanical equipment, and other supplies were lent out. A few liens, he said, were actually taken out as security. A borrower could ill afford to renege on his obligations. If he did, he could not longer be trusted for further loans. (16)

Debts were sometimes traded. If a person needed a wagon valued at two mules or two oxen, he could give an oral promise to the seller to pay the agreed number of animals at a specified time. If, in the meantime, a third party desired something owned by the first party equal in value to the wagon, he could make a verbal agreement to assume the original obligation to the second party. (17) In such an economy, there is no doubt that endless arrangements were made for the payment of debts.

Most of the sawmills operating the Lake Charles area owned commissaries or company stores from which they supplied their employees. Logs purchased from log men were usually paid for by credit in the company store. Some of the companies used paper instruments that could be cashed at a discount. Cardboard tokens in the shape and denomination of regular coins were also used at the stores. (18)

The parishes of Saint Landry, Lafayette, and Vermilion had about eighty percent of the population in southwest Louisiana in the 1860’s and 1870’s, with a ratio gradually diminishing in the last two decades of the century. (19) Predominantly agrarian, with cotton as the chief crop, these parishes perforce developed a credit system based on crop liens. Slaves, of course, could no longer be used as security for loans, as had been the custom in the antebellum period. The land itself was worth so little that factors or commission merchants accepted it as a pledge of repayment of loans only when crops and personal property proved insufficient guarantees. So called "lien laws" were enacted permitting planters to pledge their growing or unplanted prospective crops to factors or other persons advancing supplies, who then had the first claim on the harvested crops. (20)

A New Orleans factor, establishing himself in the port town of Washington on Courtableau Bayou in the latter part of 1867, advertised in an Opelousas newspaper: (21)

….I have entered into arrangements with the house of Messrs. P. Maspero & Company of New Orleans, which will enable me to advance you the aritcles and provisions indispensable to the success of your crop. In a word, I offer you every thing necessary to make a crop, and when that crop will be gathered, ginned and baled, you will have the choice either to consign it to Messrs. P. Maspero & Co. in New Orleans or sell it to me at Washington. This decision will be left entirely to your good judgement. My offices will be in Washington at the Warehouse of Messrs. Pitre and Carriere, and at New Orleans at No. 35 Bienville Street, the office of Messrs. P. Maspero & Co.

My proposition, as you see, leaves you perfectly independent. You become, as it were, your own merchant having the privilege of disposing of your own crop in the manner you deem the best. Whenever you will need anything, you will have to come to me inWashington and order directly through me, thus saving you the trouble of corresponding and doing away with delays of all kinds. (Signed) A. Desmare

This advertisement is typical of the operations of factors in Saint Landry and Lafayette, and perhaps, to a lesser extent, in the other parishes of southwest Louisiana in the years following the Civil War.

In the absence of adequate records of the business done by these men in the area, it is not possible to generalize on their activities. However, according to the editor of the Opelousas Journal in 1869, this business could not have been too extensive. To him, the failure of the crops of 1866 and 1867 taught the people to observe the strictest economy. "They now, in the majority of cases, get along without the aid of commission merchants; and when the crop is gathered, instead of sending it to New Orleans for sale, they… find a ready market in our sister village [of] Washington, which is rapidly becoming a cotton mart." (22) In the same article, the editor predicted that the crop of 1869 in Saint Landry would be worth $2,500,000, and would go far "towards effacing the ravages and devastation of the war, and will do more towards the reconstruction of the country, and the restoration of law, order and feeling, than all the legislators in the land could do in a generation." (23) From this editorial comment, it can be assumed that a money economy was gradually returning to Saint Landry, and somewhat sooner than it was to the other parishes of southwest Louisiana.

The optimism brought about by high cotton prices in the months following Appomattox proved short lived. Quotations of 83.38 cents in 1865 declined drastically thereafter, so that toward the end of the century, with intervening fluctuations, the market was down to 7.72 cents. (24) This price decline proved ruinous both to the large planters and to the factors who had risked their capital in prospects of higher prices. Smaller farms averaging not more than 150 acres in southwest Louisiana (25) were forced to use members of the family to cultivate the land. Hired laborers, now becoming tenant farmers, divided the produce from their small holdings with the landowner, who, in turn, made himself responsible for the maintenance and direction of his tenants. Under these circumstances, a change in the credit system became necessary. Marketing of cotton was now taken out of the hands of the factor in port cities and given to merchants of the small towns and settlements. The merchant-storekeeper now assumed the business of making loans or advances on the growing crops. These entrepreneurs knew better than anyone else to what extent the croppers could be trusted. Usually advances were made in the "form of articles of food, especially corn and bacon, in wearing apparel, furniture, crockery, agricultural implements, -- in short everything purchased by the farmer which the merchant had to sell." (26) Although the mortgage records of Saint Landry, where the tenant system was best developed in the 1870’s show an increase over the previous decade, (27) it can be assumed that many storekeepers relied on the honor of their customers for repayment when crops were harvested.

The inferior quality of the cotton crop of 1877, caused by caterpillars, storms, and excessive rains, brought an unusually low price in Saint Landry. Farmers were unable to meet their obligations to the storekeepers. This condition prompted a planter to exclaim: "We are living extravagantly. We deal too much on credit… (We should) cease buying on credit; live close; live within (our) means as we used to do during the war when experience taught us we could dispense with all the luxuries of life…." He recommended home production of all the milk, corn, meat, butter, and vegetables needed by the family. (28) The editor of a St. Landry newspaper looked upon the credit system as a curse. "It has induced habits of extravagance," he said, "which if not checked and checked will soon lead to a transfer of ownership of the country." He continued, "There is nothing so insidious, so undermining, so destructive to… thrift and economy as our present credit system. It leads men unwillingly to contract debt…beyond their ability to pay…(and) in time develops into a judgment; the judgment is followed by a seizure and sheriff’s sale." (29) No relief came to the farmer. Cotton prices continued to decline, and his problem remained with him throughout the period of this study.

A credit system dependent upon banks was one of the great needs of southwest Louisiana. Although a bank had existed in Opelousas prior to the Civil War, it ceased to operate in 1862. (30) No state bank of deposit and discount was established until 1892, when the Calcasieu Bank was chartered in Lake Charles. (31) Because of the difficulty in complying with the Louisiana banking laws, and because of the distrust of banks still held by many who felt that banks existed only for the rich, (32) the transition from the credit system built up after 1865, as described above, to one based on banks, was very slow. The editor of a Lake Charles newspaper in the early 1880’s argued that a bank in the lake city would go a long way toward solving the problem of supply and demand in the lumber industry. "As it now stands," he said, "our log-men, those who are working independent of the mills, are often put to great inconvenience to dispose of their logs, for the simple reason that consumers are not always in a position to pay them cash down." Although collateral and resources existed, he continued, "It sometimes occurs that our mills are compelled to shut down on account of the supply of logs on hand having been exhausted." The editor maintained that "this would never be the case were the producers satisfied (that) they could not overstock the market, or that the money was right here in Lake Charles to pay them spot cash for every log they could bring to market…." (33) In 1885 a private bank, the Watkins Loan and Mortgage, came into existence in Lake Charles, but its activities were devoted mostly to the enterprise of the North American Land Company." (34)

Under the Louisiana banking law passed in 1853, and rewritten without change in substance in 1855, any one of more persons were permitted "to transact the business of banking in the State," and to establish offices of discount, deposit, and circulation. Five or more persons could incorporate a bank, the capital of which was to be at least $100,000; the terms of the charter were not to exceed twenty years. (35) No banks were established in the area under this law simply because the required capitalization was too high. Later, in 1882, the legislature attempted to remedy the situation by amending the law so as to allow the organization of small banks over the State. A law passed in this year reduced the capital requirements so that cities of not more than 2,000 population could have a bank. Minimum capital requirements were reduced to $10,000. (36)

Ten years after the passage of Louisiana’s basic banking law, the Federal government passed the National Banking Act. This act of 1863, together with an amending act of 1864, provided for the organization of national banking associations. Each association was required to buy federal bonds to the extent of one-third of its capital (the minimum capital was fixed at $50,000 for places under 6,000 population) and to deposit them with the Treasurer of the United States as security for circulating banknotes that it might issue up to ninety per cent of the market value of the bonds owned. Interest on the bonds was to be paid to the banking association depositing them, and the government guaranteed the ultimate redemption of the banknotes. Provision was also made for national supervision of the entire system. (37)

Despite the liberal character of both Federal and State law, no banks were established in southwest Louisiana until 1889. According to the New Orleans Times-Democrat, the State was still suffering from a "universal distrust," which had not "merely affected the credit and honor of the commonwealth, but…. to a great extent, affected injuriously individual credit, prevented investment of foreign capital, and excluded immigration." (38) The editor of the Opelousas Courier in 1883 could not understand why a bank had not been established in Opelousas. We have a population of over 4,000, he said, whose aggregate wealth amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. The cotton alone will average 20,000 bales per annum, and sugar production will approximate several thousand hogsheads. "We have a rapidly increasing rice production, and a large money value of our extensive resources. At present we have not monies correspondence or facilities of commerce except by postal orders and express." (39)

Wealth was indeed on the increase in southwest Louisiana. The extension of the railroad in the early 1880’s gave an impetus to general trade, and stimulated the emerging rice industry, increased the shipments of cotton, lumber, and other products, and encouraged the migration of Midwesterners. These developments pointed to the need of a banking system based on deposits, discounts, and loans.

It was not until the early 1890’s, however, that a response was made to the palpable need. In 1892, a group of enterprising business leaders of the Vinton Colony, in association with local entrepreneurs, established the Calcasieu Bank. (40) At this time, Calcasieu Parish was forging ahead as a center of one of the largest sawmilling activities in the State. This activity, along with the costly technology incident to the cultivation of rice, made easily-available credits a necessity. The bank was capitalized at $125,000 with the privilege of increasing the capital to $500,000. In 1899, the bank was reorganized as the Calcasieu National Bank. (41) By the end of the century, eleven state banks had been established in southwest Louisiana. These banks, with an aggregate capitalization of $373,400 had loans approximating $1,077,748.12. The following list gives the names of the banks, their locations, and their capitalization, and the loans outstanding in 1900: (42)

Bank Capital Loans
Bank of Abbeville $40,000 $115,192.78
Bank of Vermilion $25,000 $41,136.83
Crowley State Bank $50,000 $312,369.92
Bank of Acadia $45,000 $150,465.00
Citizens’ Bank of Jennings $20,000 $73,270.12
Jennings Banking and Trust Company $50,000 $76,216.12
People’s State Bank of Opelousas $16,700 $62,935.55
St. Landry State Bank $50,000 $132,453.42
Rayne State Bank $15,000 $31,885.42
Washington State Bank $41,700 $42,666.22
Total $373,400 $1,077,748.22

   National banks, too, were slow to develop in southwest Louisiana. This was by no means unique for the area, as banking all over the country developed slowly in the period following the Civil War. The cause for this tardiness was inherent in the law. As no provision had been made in the Federal statute for opening national bank branches, few communities could afford the high capital requirements for establishing banks. (43) The high prosperity of the 1880’s shared in by southwest Louisiana made national banks feasible. Not to be overlooked is that fact that in the period from 1885 to 1890 loans of national banks increased forty-five per cent; and clearings throughout the country increased to about fifty per cent. Too, the vast expansion of railways in the 1880’s caused a like expansion in the output of coal, iron, and steel. Coupled with these developments was the opening up of the new lands by the extension of railroads, which greatly increased agricultural production. (44) This expansion created a greater demand for the forest, agricultural, and animal resources of southwest Louisiana.

Older methods of financing business enterprise in the area no longer sufficed. This was especially true in the lumber industry of Lake Charles, whose banking business was carried on in Galveston. The need for easily available credits prompted a group of Lake Charles businessmen, headed by A. J. Perkins, J. L. Williams, Leopold Kaufman, C. A. Turney, and A. U. Thomas, to organize the First National Bank of Lake Charles in November of 1889 - the first banking institution in southwest Louisiana since the Civil War. (45) Capitalized at $50,000, the bank had loans and discounts amounting to $125,852.93 within a year of its establishment. (46) Not long afterwards, the First National Bank of Opelousas was organized with a capital of $40,000. (47) According to William H. Perrin, the bank benefited the town and parish, "and has given them financial advances by securing the people and the planters against the extortions of the professional money lenders." (48) This institution, however, did not last long as a national bank. The board of directors felt that the restrictions placed upon national banks prevented them from being as useful as they could be in the absence of restrictions. Too, "the carrying of United States bonds to secure circulation instead of proving a benefit to the banks as is the popular impression, it really causes…a yearly loss of several hundred dollars" to the bank. Active capital that could be used for local business, the board maintained, was drained off in the purchase of government bonds required by law. (49) The bank was reorganized as the St. Landry Bank in 1894. (50) Other national banks organized between 1895 and the end of the century were: the National Bank of Lafayette, capitalized at $50,000; (51) the Calcasieu National Bank, organized from the Calcasieu Bank and capitalized at $100,000; (52) and the First National Bank of Crowley, capitalized at $25,000. (53) The four national banks in existence in southwest Louisiana in 1900 had a total capitalization of $225,000, and were carrying loans and discounts aggregating $924,239.20.(54)

The more important towns of southwest Louisiana had established building and loan associations to facilitate home ownership, and, according to one newspaper advertisement, "to encourage thrift, by offering a safe investment and a liberal profit to those who will….save their earnings." (55) The first of these, the Lake Charles Homestead and Loan Association, charted in 1886, had a capitalization of $500,000 divided into 2,500 shares. (56) Following soon thereafter was the St. Landry Homestead and Loan Association, chartered in 1888, with a capitalization of $500,000. (57) Some other institutions of this nature chartered in the 1890’s were: the Abbeville Building and Loan Association, Ltd., established in 1890, with a capitalization of $150,000; (58) the Acme Saving Association, with a capital stock of $500,000, divided into 5,000 shares; (59) and the Lafayette Building and Loan Association, founded in 1900, with an authorized capital of $1,000,000. (60)

The Census reports for 1870 through 1900 show a steady development in business activity in southwest Louisiana. The greatest advances came in the decade of the 1890’s. Calcasieu, the least developed of all southwest Louisiana parishes in 1870, became the highest developed by 1890. Total investments for Calcasieu in 1900 more than doubled the combined investments of other parishes in the area. The following statistics give a graphic picture of the investments in each parish in the ten-year intervals beginning with 1870 and ending in 1900: (61)

Parish 1870 1880 1890 1900
Acadia ---- ---- $37,970 $721,671
Calcasieu $90,000 $122,800 $1,302,961 $2,613,836
Cameron ---- ---- ---- ----
lafayette $31,800 $78,950 $91,100 $682,759
St. Landry $85,500 $65,200 $75,949 $505,610
Vermillion  $43,200 $5,100 $162,450 $204,225
Total  $250,500 $272,050 $1,670,430  $4,728,101

Business establishments, numbering sixty-five in 1870, almost doubled to 120 within a decade. (62) The 1880’s saw a reduction of these establishments to eighty-two, but capitalization increased five times over. (63) It can be assumed that smaller units gave way to larger ones in this period. The 1890’s was a decade of unprecedented activity in almost all lines of economic activity, for in 1900, there were 495 establishments, employing 2,032 laborers, with an aggregate annual payroll of $710,903. (64) Southwest Louisiana, like the rest of the State and nation, was enjoying the prosperity that followed the depression years in the earlier 1890’s.

Commerce and trade in the area were reduced to insignificant proportions in the economic stagnation that came with the Civil War and the years immediately following. Circulation of money never completely ceased, but it became so minimal that one can describe the existing economy as a natural one in which practically all wealth was land, and wherein most of the people lived in self-sufficient agrarian communities. Commission merchants and factors made their appearances in the better-developed parishes of Saint Landry and Lafayette. Not too successful, they found themselves in competition with the more popular merchant-storekeepers who now became suppliers of goods and services to the emerging sharecropping and tenant farming systems. Developments in the lumber, cattle, rice, and other industries in the last two decades of the century called into existence a more efficient credit system. Banks, both State and Federal, made their appearances in the late 1880’s and 1890’s to supply the demand for credit; and building and loan associations made it easier for the inhabitants to own their own homes. Business activity made rapid strides in the last fifteen or more years of the century. This activity was in keeping with the general strides being made in the State and nation in the same period.



Eugene W. Hilgard, Special Agent of the Department of the Interior, in his Report of Cotton Production in the United States, Part I, for the Tenth Census in 1884, looked upon the Attakapas Region as the future "garden of Louisiana." He defined this region as embracing "the middle portion of Iberia (not included in this study), all of Lafayette, northern Vermilion, all the upland portion of St. Landry lying south of the heads of Bayou Nezpique, all of Calcasieu parish lying east of the Calcasieu river (same the extreme northeast corner), and most of the region south of the west fork of Calcasieu and west of the main river." The parish of Cameron and portions of the above-named parishes of southwest Louisiana constitute the area observed in this study. This area with its balmy climate tempered by the sea-breeze and the fertility of its soil gave Hilgard a vision of great agricultural potentialities. (1)

Hilgard’s Report identified three distinctive soil types within the area, each identified with particular crops. Sugar cane was the predominate crop of the black prairie soil, embracing an area of about 1,280 square miles, and extending along the northern border of the sea marsh. However, corn and cotton did well in the area from Iberia to Lake Charles. Cotton was by far the most prominent crop of the brown loam prairie, covering an area estimated at about 1,100 square miles in the higher and more northerly portions of the prairies east of Bayou Cannes and north of the black-prairie belt. Here in the Cote Gelee, Vermilion, Grand Coteau, and Opelousas prairies where the cotton crop produced from one thousand to twelve hundred pounds of seed-cotton to the acre, it rated as only fair middling. Here, too, corn, produced mainly for home consumption, yielded from thirty to forty bushels to the acre. The third soil type, the gray silt, or pine prairie, found extensively in Calcasieu Parish, east of the river of the same name and covering an estimated area of about 1,075 square miles, included tracts found east of the Nezpique and Mermentau rivers as well as portions of the Mamou prairie. Except for some rice of an excellent quality grown in the marshy heads of water courses, the productivity of the poor soil supported only herds of cattle. (2)

In the years following the Civil War, cotton was the predominate money crop not only in southwest Louisiana but throughout the State. Statistics for cotton production in 1900 show increases in each decade. The year 1900 recorded the largest increase, production trebling from 22,809 bales in 1870 to 68,529 at the end of the century. The following statistics from the United States Census show the production (in 475-lb. bales) of each parish from the year before the outbreak of hostilities in 1900: (3)

Parish 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900
Acadia ---- ---- ---- 1,827 4,060
Calcasieu 640 605 514 1,152 1,464
Cameron ---- 696 636 1,292 2,393
Lafayette 476 6,234 3,489 10,495 12,811
St. Landry 4,717 14,305  23,148 28,507 42,036
Vermilion 2,735  969 537 2,905 5,765
Total 8,568 22,809 28,334 46,178 68,529

       Hilgard’s Report estimated cotton acreage at 64,474 out of the total 4,346 square miles constituting the Attakapas Region with average yields of 0.46 bales to the acre. Production for the area was approximately 5.8 percent of the cotton grown in the State in 1880. (4) Saint Landry, by far the largest producing parish of the area, ranked seventh in the cotton producing parishes in the State. Although cane, wherever it was grown, was a more lucrative crop than either corn or cotton, the fact that cane required a deep, moist soil, and deeper culture than cotton, explains why cotton and corn were the preferred crops in the more fertile portions of the Attakapas prairies of Saint Landry and Lafayette. (5)

High prices of cotton in both the European and American markets were the one ray of hope which seemed left to the planters of the cotton belt on the road back to a peaceful agricultural economy after 1865. (6) The attempt to resume agriculture of a large-scale basis, however, proved impossible in the face of heavy taxes, lack of operating capital, and an uncertain labor supply. (7) The first question facing the planter was how to secure laborers for the cultivation of his estate. Relying on members of his family alone was, in most cases, impossible. The Baton Rouge Advocate reported in the early part of 1866 that planters from nearly all the adjoining parishes were attempting to employ laborers. High wages, interest in the crop, and other inducements for making contracts were offered, "yet the streets are black with loafing, ragged Negroes, and the planters return home vowing a determination to exhaust every effort to procure white laborers rather than depend upon Cuffy." (8)

Where Negroes were persuaded to work for annual wages, their indisposition to work steadily was the most serious drawback to the wage system. For once the Negro had obtained his pay; nothing could induce him to return to the cotton fields until he had spent every cent of his earnings. (9) Yet despite the difficulties of obtaining laborers, the blighted crop of 1866, the crop failure of the next year, and the exactions of the Freedman’s Bureau, the Opelousas Courier optimistically reported in 1868 that the crops were excellent. Farm hands who had not been paid in the two previous years because of crop failures were not discouraged. When possible, wages were generally paid. (10) However, the most frequent complaint heard from farmers was their inability to get the desired number of cotton pickers during the harvest season. (11)

The decades beginning with the 1870’s and continuing through the 1890s’s witnessed a change in the system of land cultivation. The threefold problem of heavy taxes, lack of operating capital, and an uncertain labor supply convinced planters that their only alternative was the "share system," more commonly known as the "cropping system." They had tried the wage system after the war; failing in this effort, they resorted to the tenant system. The various forms under which this system appeared makes it difficult to give a general picture which could apply to all localities. The planter, however, found it necessary to devise some means of making the Negro laborer responsible for at least a part of the losses caused by his ineptitude and idleness. Under the wage system, the planter had furnished his colored laborers with their subsistence for the year, and sometimes advanced them a part of their wages. Frequently these laborers deserted, leaving the crop unpicked and the planter no returns for his expenses. (12)

Under the share system, the laborer was given a share of the crop which he raised for the planter. The tenant who furnished his own tools, seed, and mules usually received from two-thirds to three-fourths of the crop. Not often was the tenant able to furnish the capital. When, however, he supplied his own food and had a house and garden and all the implements and work animals for cultivating the land furnished him, he seldom received more than one-half of the crop. (13)

Out of a total of 18,926 farmers in southwest Louisiana in 1900, 9,551 were sharecroppers. It is possible that of the 5,750 Negro farmers accounted for in the Census of this year, a major percentage of them were sharecroppers. Saint Landry, the largest cotton-producing parish in the area, had 4,235 sharecroppers out of a farm population of 7,549. Lafayette came second with 1,533 out of a total of 3,088, and Acadia third with 1,032 out of a total of 2,481. The average size farm in the six-parish area in 1900 was 141.2 acres. (14)

Undoubtedly a large number of farmers cultivated much smaller acreages than the average for the area. Lauren C. Post, who interviewed cotton-growing farmers of southwest Louisiana in the 1930’s, found that the small farmer "was really a small farmer, from the modern point of view." One old-timer said that "a crop of two bales of cotton was too small; a crop of four bales of cotton was too much work; a crop of three bales was ‘just right.’" (15) Uneconomical methods of production and bad farm management probably accounted for small yields in some sections. Hilgard found small yields averaging 0.23 bales to the acre in Vermilion Parish, which he ascribed to imperfect culture by the Creole population rather than to the infertility of the soil. (16)

As acreage and production increased, cotton prices declined. The early post-bellum high prices already mentioned here and in an earlier chapter, greatly stimulated cotton growing. By 1878, however, the price had dropped to eleven cents a pound, and in the next twenty years the trend generally was downward. (17) One area editor in 1871 lamented: "It would really be consoling to see the many wagon loads of cotton daily passing our town on their way to the steamboat landing if the price of that staple was the same as at this season last year, but unfortunately it is not, for it now scarcely brings one-half the price it did this time last year." (18) Editorial opinion in the last two decades of the century suggested diversification as a possible remedy for low prices. Some editors even suggested that farmers agree among themselves to cut down the production of the fleecy staple. An editor reported in 1879 that the farmers in southwest Louisiana "are preparing to plant a greater variety of crops then ever before…when our farmers all grow cotton, corn, Kaffif corn, as well as rice and sugar cane, the prosperity of Southwest Louisiana will be assured." (19) Another editor, reminding his readers that the soil of Vermilion was quite adaptable to many crops, recommended trying tobacco and castor beans. (20)

Conservatism usually dominated the thinking of farmers in the area. Only an occasional newspaper reference revealed some progressiveness among them. Advertisements appearing in these newspapers attempted to show the benefits of mechanization and the use of natural and chemical fertilizers. In a letter to the editor in 1881, a farmer indicated that he and some of his friends would attempt to test the values of commercial fertilizers, especially cotton-seed meal. (21) An advertisement appearing in 1897 suggested careful rotation of crops and liberal fertilization as a means of improving cotton production. The application of a proper fertilizer containing sufficient potash, the advertisement continued, made the difference between a profitable crop and a failure. (22) Little evidence exists to show that many farmers heeded the advice given to them. Most of the farmers depended on the natural fertility of the soil. One newspaper reported: "The amount of fertilizer used per acre is ridiculously low and the results are such as cannot be gotten outside the rich alluvial lands of the Yazoo-Mississippi delta." (23) An observer traveling through southwest Louisiana in the early 1890’s emphasized that labor-saving machinery was the great want of the farmers of the area. (24)

Declining markets, lack of progressiveness among the farmers, and the loss of land sold for delinquent taxes were not the only drawbacks faced by the southwest Louisiana farmer. Floods, droughts, early frosts, worms, and insects plagued him year after year. If it was not one of these, it was the other. A cotton worm, identified by a contemporary writer as the Noctua xylena, made its appearance in large numbers in July of 1865, and again the following year in June, each time doing little or no damage to the crop. (25) The Opelousas Courier reported in 1877 that "except where worm destroyers were used the crop is nearly a loss."(26) The 1889 cotton crop in Saint Landry was reduced at least twenty-five percent by this pest. (27) A decade later, in 1898, an Abbeville newspaper complained: "Two principal curses are pauperizing the farmers of St. Landry - caterpillars and sharks. The caterpillars have been devouring the cotton plant for three weeks or more, and now the sharks have fairly gone to work devouring the farmers themselves, not bodily however, but by allowing them the princely sum of 4 ½ cents a pound for their cotton." (28) Yet, despite the many ills besetting the cotton farmer, the crop of 1900 amounted to 68,529 bales or a 48.4 percent increase over the previous decade, and a 200.4 percent increase since 1870. (29) At the end of the century, Saint Landry, one of the largest cotton-producing parishes in the State, was accounting for almost two-thirds of the staple grown in southwest Louisiana. In Acadia Parish in the early 1890’s, rice cultivation was gradually encroaching upon King Cotton’s domain. Commenting on this fact, an editor estimated the Acadia cotton crop of 1892 at less than five hundred bales out of a crop formerly reaching ten thousand bales. (30) Decline in cotton growing, however, did not continue. The uplands not adapted to rice growing were still being used for cotton production in ever-increasing quantities after 1892.

Cotton ginning was an enterprise handled locally. From newspaper accounts, every community of consequence centered in cotton-growing areas had its gin. Cameron Parish, for example, with a yearly production of from 450 to 500 bales of cotton, had three steam-operated gins in 1883. (31) Many such gins were operated in conjunction with gristmills, sawmills, and rice mills.

Coincident with the ginning of cotton was the problem of the seed. This by-product was viewed variously as trash in 1860, fertilizer in 1870, cattle feed in 1880, and table food in 1890. (32) To utilize this by-product and cut down on the over-all cost of producing the fleecy staple, an Opelousas newspaper reported in 1881 the possibility of a cotton seed factory to be in operation in August of that year. (33) Nothing seems to have developed from this project. Later, in 1894, the St. Landry Cotton Oil Company was established with the stated purpose of manufacturing "oil, oilcake, meal, fertilizers, soaps and any and all articles or commodities of an oleaginous nature." (34) Two years later, the People’s Oil Company, Ltd., was established in Lafayette for the same general purpose. (35) These companies were buying cotton seed at the rate of from five to nine dollars a ton. (36)

Two compress companies were established in Opelousas in the decade of the 1890’s. The Compress Company, Ltd., was chartered in 1892, (37) and was followed by the Opelousas Compress Company the next year. (38) In the words of the editor of the Opelousas Courier in 1893: "The planters are now becoming acquainted with the advantages accruing to them, by being able to sell their cotton themselves, and at home. The compresses rightly patronized, are a source of great benefit to the people of the town as well as to the planters." (39) The Carencro Union Ginnery, Ltd., established in 1891 with a capital stock of $7,000, had as its objective "the ginning and baling of cotton seed, and all other acts appertaining to a general ginning and milling business for profit." (40)

Yielding to the spirit of the times that called for the establishment of cotton mills near the source of supply, newspapers of southwest Louisiana took up the cry. The editor of an Opelousas newspaper pointed out that "everybody who handles cotton except the farmer makes a fortune." The farmer’s "lands are worthless. His fields are worn. His labor is discouraged. Heart-rending failure is written all over the cotton fields and the cotton farmers are doomed to be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ for the rest of the world." As a solution to the problem, he recommended the building of factories near the cotton supply. "This will solve the problem," he said. "It will divide the fortunes of the middlemen among the farmers." (41) In response to this suggestion as well as to other pleas made by editors of the area, the St. Landry Cotton Factory was launched in 1899 with a capitalization of $100,000 at ten dollars a share, subscribed to on a co-operative plan beginning with one dollar payable on January 1, 1900 and monthly installments of twenty-five cents thereafter. (42) The project failed to get the requisite capital.

A large portion of the cultivated land of southwest Louisiana in the period from 1865 to 1900 was used for the production of cotton and sugar cane as commercial crops and corn as a subsistence crop. Cotton and corn growing fitted well together in their cultivation, as the farmer did not have to decide ahead of time which crop he would choose in a particular patch until the day of actual planting. Both staples required the same soil preparation. The seeds in each case are planted in rows which, in Louisiana, correspond to ridges. These rows are from five to five and a half feet apart. Estimated yields of corn during the period were about thirty-five bushels to the acre. (43) Statistics shown below reveal a decline in production for the 1860’s (caused by the Civil War and its aftermath) with substantial increases in all parishes of the area in the decades following, largest yields since the war being obtained in 1900. (44)


1860 (Bushels)

1870 (Bushels)

1880 (Bushels)

1890 (Bushels)

1900 (Bushels)

























St. Landy


















The sugar region of Louisiana in the years following 1865 extended from Plaquemines Parish on the Gulf coast northward up the Mississippi and Red rivers to a latitude of 31° 31’in Rapids Parish and westward from the Mississippi to Bayou Vermilion. (45) The parishes of Saint Landry, Lafayette, and Vermilion were peripheral to this sugar-growing region and never produced in the same quantities as the eastward parishes bordering. Portions of these parishes lay both in the recent alluvial lands and the prairies. It was in the recent alluvial area along the Teche, Courtableau, and Boeuf bayous that cane reached its greatest cultivation in southwest Louisiana. Lauren C. Post ascribed several reasons for the decrease in cane production westward from the Teche: lack of initiative of the part of the inhabitants (largely Acadian), who preferred raising cattle as an easier enterprise; lack of wood in the prairies, thereby depriving possible cane growers of necessary fuel for the making of sugar and syrup; and decrease in the fertility of the soil necessary for cane growing. (46)

J. Carlyle Sitterson, who made an extensive study of the sugar industry, credited the parishes of southwest Louisiana with a modest industry in the antebellum period. He states that the rolling prairies of the Attakapas country, still largely unsettled when the United States acquired Louisiana, were not long in attracting would-be settlers. "It was here, with land at $4 to $5 an arpent that a man of limited means might reasonably hope to make his fortune and where one with capital could readily invest with profit." (47) From here, quantities of sugar and molasses entered into the trade with the consuming and shipping centers eastward. The Civil War, however, cut very deeply into this production. A study of the area made in the closing year of the conflict revealed that "the large and costly structures erected for the manufacture of sugar…. (were) found in every stage of decay, dilapidation and ruin, owing, either to the absence of the proprietor, or the destroying hand of the enemy." (48) The same source described the destruction of ex-Governor Alexander Mouton’s sugarhouse along with the property of other planters of the Vermilion River. The wood from the destroyed structures was used for watch-fires on the bank of the river, though fuel for such a purpose could be obtained from a nearby forest. Machinery was thrown into the river. (49) Post-war recovery was made almost impossible by this wanton destruction of the necessary means of producing sugar.

Even six years after the war, recovery had made only a meager beginning. The following statistics for the three sugar-producing parishes within the area of this study show the number of sugar establishments in 1871, along with comparative figures for the year before the Civil War and eleven years after: (50)

Parish Sugarhouses Hhds. 1860-1861 Hhds. 1870-1871
Lafayette Steam 5 1,348 486
Horse 23
Saint Landry Steam 19 7,982 2,272
Horse 22
Vermilion Steam 1 907 398
Horse 12
Total   10,237 3,156

These figures show that production in 1871 was less than a third of its pre-war level.

To many observers it appeared that the great sugar estates were breaking up into small farms during the years immediately following the Civil War, but actually such did not happen on a large scale, for the plantation system did survive the impact of war and emancipation. (51) Too, where the tenant system developed among cotton planters, as pointed out earlier, high-priced machinery and other equipment needed for the processing of sugar cane deterred the development of the small-farm economy. (52) A subsistence type of cane cultivation, though, continued producing quantities of sugar and molasses for household use in most of southwest Louisiana. (53)

Although the sugar estates generally remained intact, ownership shifted greatly during the post-war era. Much capital was needed to heal the wounds sustained by the industry, and most of the original landowners lacked the finances required to get back into operation. As a result, cane lands depreciated greatly in value. Mortgages foreclosed daily, and by 1867 land values had dropped to less than one-fourth of their former worth. Estates that in normal times would have brought $150,000 sold for scarcely more than $30,000. (54)

Evaluating the agricultural economic picture in 1869, one newspaper editor commented: "The great staple of the country is sugar. Every man is ambitious to become a sugar planter." Thus, many minor and equally necessary branches of farming were neglected. (55) The great obstacle to recovery however, was the lack of sugar-making machinery. Such machinery was costly and well beyond the financial reach of most would-be sugar manufacturers. Sitterson estimated the cost of a moderate-sized sugar establishment at 1887 prices capable of processing 340 tons of sugar cane a day at about $200,000. (56) A Lafayette newspaper predicted at about this time the improved sugar machinery "will soon revolutionize the business, enabling the poorest farmer to make as much per acre from his little place as now does the rich farmer." The newspaper informed its readers that land - both improved and unimproved - was available throughout the Attakapas country, selling from three to ten dollars an acre on the prairie, and at fifteen to fifty dollars an acre on the bayou. Such land, it said, was capable of producing per acre from one to two hogsheads of sugar worth at least $150 a hogshead. (57)

In the late 1860’s and early 1870’s sugar cane cultivation was gradually taking the place of cotton production. "This," said the editor of an Opelousas newspaper, "is owing to the disastrous results met with in the culture of the latter and the greater certainty and surer profits arising out of cane culture and the manufacture of sugar." He believed that this staple was the most remunerative in which the planter of southwest Louisiana could engage. Citing experiments made by such area planters as Eugene B. Oliver, Etienne Meynard, Henri Ronsonnet, and others, he expressed belief that such experiments demonstrated the profitableness of small scale production with use of inexpensive, recently developed machinery. (58) Also an encouraging sign of the time, reported another editor in 1881, was the increasing use of steam power. (59)

Vermilion Parish was forging ahead as a sugar-producing area in the middle 1880’s. Commenting on the prospects of the parish, a local newspaper reported in 1886 that an agricultural revolution was afoot, since thousands of previously uncultivated acres were now going into production. Sugar cane properly cultivated, continued the newspaper, would average from two to two and a half and possibly four hogsheads to the acre. (60)

Such optimism, however, proved premature. The Opelousas Courier reported in the fall of 1886: "Oakland Plantation, near Washington, belonging to Dr. V. Boagni, has finished grinding its remunerative crop, and we understand that no cane has been reserved for seed, it being the intention of its proprietor to abandon the culture of that product." Camp Hamilton Plantation, near Opelousas, managed by A. H. Generes, and Poplar Grove Plantation, under the supervision of C. Hebert, similarly pronounced their crops unsatisfactory. (61)

Poor crops were only part of the problem. The price of sugar had fallen. A Lafayette newspaper reported in 1889 that in the period from 1884 through 1886, nearly half of the Louisiana planters obtained only about one hundred pounds of sugar to the ton of sugar cane and commanded a price of only 3.5 cent a pound. If the planters could survive under these conditions, asked the editor of the same newspaper, is it not possible under the present modern processes for the planters to reap enormous profits in the industry? Such processes continued the newspaper, had doubled sugar production for each ton of cane; and now with the increase of sugar prices by over a hundred percent the future seemed bright indeed. (62)

Aided by friendly tariff acts, high prices, and technical improvements - such as narrow gauge railroads extended into the cane fields to ease transportation and central sugar refineries - sugar production increased from 8,541,034 in the early 1890’s to 22,373,451 pounds at the end of the century. By 1900 Lafayette Parish, with the production of 15,776,515 pounds, was accounting for about seventy percent of the sugar produced in southwest Louisiana. (63) It was claims [claimed] that this parish had a cane yield of from fifteen to twenty-five tons to the acre in 1893. With cane selling at $4.25 a ton and with fuel obtained for practically nothing, said an observer, any industrious planter could put money in the bank. (64) Lafayette Parish, with an acreage estimated at only three thousand acres planted in sugar cane in 1893, increased seventy-five percent in the next year, (65) and continued thereafter to increase year after year to the end of the century.

By 1900, Calcasieu Parish, a relative newcomer in sugar cane cultivation, was producing over a million and a half pounds of sugar annually. (66) In the opinion of W. C. Stubbs, Director of the Sugar Experiment Station in New Orleans, Calcasieu was adapted to the growing of sugar cane. "If your lands be well drained, and your soils thoroughly broken, thrown into ridges, quarter drains and ditches properly established, and planted in cane," he wrote to S. L. Cary in the 1890’s, "it is doubtful whether any portion of this State can exceed yours in the profitable growing of this crop." (67) Cary recommended plowing under cowpeas or coarse manures, hay, straw, or green fertilizers as a means of increasing the yield of cane equal to that of the alluvial lands to the east and to increase the sucrose content fifty percent above these lands. (68)

According to Sitterson, in the years from 1877 to 1910, the sugar industry underwent a revolution in organization and methods of production. Among the major factors he cited causing the transformation from the antebellum period and the years immediately following the Civil War to the modern one was the introduction of the central factory system by which the functions of cane cultivation and sugar manufacture were separated. (69) One observer noted that under the old system a large capital outlay was necessary. "There was a vast body of land to buy, a sugar house costing from $40,000 to $100,000 to build, quarters for the Negroes, etc. Then would come the cost of planting, cultivation and manufacture, all of which had to be borne by the planter, without a cent of returns until he marketed his crop." A bad year could mean financial ruin; a good one meant that the planter could pay for his plantation if he bought it on credit. Risks taken were great. While under the central factory system, wrote Sitterson, "A man or a company puts up a sugar house in some convenient center and buys the cane brought to him." This enabled the planter to produce on any scale that he desired. (70) Of advantage also under the new system was the possibility of insolvency or death. Under the old system, forced sale of property usually brought low prices simply because few persons could be found willing and able to buy such large establishments. But under the new corporate form, only individual stock ownership could be sold and the whole estate need not be sacrificed. Pride of ownership, however, restrained many planters from incorporating in the 1890’s; those who did usually formed family corporations. (71)

One of the first central factories to operate in the southwest Louisiana was the Rose Hill Co., which started operation in Vermilion in 1878. By extending a tramway track through a rich portion of the parish, small farmers were encouraged to grow cane to sell to the factory. The company also had a steamboat plying Vermilion River to tap the cane supplies of farmers on both banks up to the town of Lafayette. (72)

Later, in 1891, a charter was issued to the Calcasieu Sugar Co., Ltd. capitalized at $500,000 the stated purpose of the charter being "to erect, establish, own, operate, conduct, manage and control, sugar manufactories and refineries in the parish of Calcasieu, and in other parishes…, to buy sugar cane, and other sugar producing plants and crops, syrup and molasses."(73) The refinery operated at a loss until 1899, when the property was sold to satisfy a judgment against it. (74)

The Carencro Sugar Refinery Co., Ltd. came into existence in 1894 with a capitalization of $57,000. Sugar cane farmers within the area of the refinery whose properties approximated two thousand acres committed themselves to supply the company with cane. (75) Four years later, the Lafayette Sugar Refinery was chartered. In addition to the usual purposes stated in central refinery charters, the Lafayette refinery proposed "… to purchase, own and cultivate, own and operate tramways or railways or pick up lines or other methods of transportation, to help bring cane or cane juice to its refinery." (76) And by the end of the century, there were excellent prospects of a central refinery being erected in the vicinity of Abbeville in Vermilion Parish. (77) Sugar statistician L. Bouchereau listed eight refineries for the sugar-producing parishes of southwest Louisiana for the year 1900-1901. (78) It might be assumed that many of the twenty-eight small, privately-owned establishments recorded by Bouchereau in 1890-1891 (79) gave way to the fewer but larger incorporated central refineries. Seaman A. Knapp, writing in 1894, prophesied: "In the next five years, by the inevitable force of events, we shall see many of the old plantations broken up into small farms and most of the sugar cane of Louisiana produced by independent farmers, selling the cane either to the large central factory or manufacturing it upon the home place with the same labor that produced it." (80) Such a prophecy came to pass in southwest Louisiana.

The tariff was a factor greatly affecting sugar production in Louisiana during the period of this study. Sugar rates, high during the Civil War, remained at three cents a pound in the early post-war years. In 1870 they were reduced to one and three fourths cents, but were increased twenty-five percent in 1875, making a maximum duty of 2.1815 cents which remained until 1883. (81) In that year the tariff rates on raw sugar were reduced to about two cents a pound. (82) No changes were made until the Republican Party gained a majority in Congress and passed the McKinley tariff in 1890. Although highly productive for most industries, this tariff retained a one-half cent duty on refined sugar and placed raw sugar on the free list. To compensate the domestic producers of raw sugar for possible losses through foreign competition, the tariff included a unique feature: a bounty of two cents a pound for domestic production. (83) Commenting on the bounty features of the tariff, one area observer wrote: "Sugar is pushing up all over southwest Louisiana…Millions of acres of sugar can and will be raised around Lake Charles." (84) It was, no doubt, the bounty that led to the organization of the Calcasieu Sugar Co., Ltd. in 1891. One southwest Louisiana newspaper editor in 1890 advised the farmers who were planting small cane acreages "to grind up on shares for their own supply (and) plant a little larger patch next year … to reap the benefit conferred by the bounty." (85)

Evaluating the influence of the bounty in 1893, an observer said: "The effect of the bounty law has undoubtedly been to stimulate the production of Louisiana sugar. It has increased the average in cane, and it has increased the yield and quality of sugar by compelling the farmers to use improved machinery. The low grade sugar, that falling under 20 percent of saccharine, today is less than 5 percent of the total; half a dozen years ago it would have been compelled to improve their methods or lose the bounty, and all who could afford to do so made the necessary improvement." (86)

Although the McKinley act stated the intention of the Federal government to continue the bounty from 1890-1905, actually it was paid on but four crops, 1891-1894 - and on the last of these the planters secured payment only after a lengthy legal battle. (87)

The Wilson-Gorman Tariff, passed in 1894, supplanted the McKinley tariff. It levied a forty percent ad valorem duty on raw sugar and retained a half cent differential duty on refined sugar. (88) "Is the Louisiana planter satisfied with this?" sarcastically asked a Lake Charles newspaper. "Not much," was the reply. "They (sic) must have more; nothing less than two cents per pound bounty." "And now," continued the newspaper, "because these gentlemen are not singled out to be recipients of this munificent gift, paid directly out of the United States treasury, they propose to bolt - to turn the state over to the Republican Party. Do the raisers of 5-cent cotton get a bounty? No. Does rice? No.…The gall of the sugar planter in unprecedented." (89) "Now, suppose in the course of time, these renegade sugar planters should succeed in assisting the Republican Party to gain control of the government, what would be the result?" queried a Lafayette newspaper. The answer was: "Inevitably, a force bill and negro and scalawag rule, and the destruction of our civilization and prosperity …. Would these sugar planters revive the dark methods of reconstruction, in the sole and selfish expectation of making a little more money?" (90) These expressions of newspaper opinion concerning the tariff act were rather typical in southwest Louisiana. The sugar issue had been thrust into the arena of state politics.

Again in control in 1897, the Republican Party pushed for higher tariffs. The Louisiana sugar industry joined in the effort. The Dingley tariff act, passed in July, levied duties of 0.95 cents per pound on foreign sugars not exceeding 75° test and 1.685 cents for raw sugar (96° test). (91) This tariff remained in effect until the Democrats revised it in 1914.

In conclusion it may be said that the Civil War almost destroyed a sugar industry in southwest Louisiana as it came near doing in the rest of the State. Lack of capital and the scarcity of labor seriously retarded recovery. However, the industry staged a slow come-back, and in the early 1890’s, when the annual production had again attained pre-war levels, the cultivation of the cane and the manufacture of sugar were both managed under a more scientific basis than heretofore.

Second only to corn as a subsistence crop, according to a Lake Charles newspaper in 1875, was the cultivation of Irish and sweet potatoes. Though not completely adapted to southwest Louisiana soil and climate, the Irish potato, when it was grown and sold, became the most remunerative of all annually planted crops in proportion to area planted. The seed was planted in December, and the crop was harvested the following April - in time for the planting of corn, cotton and sweet potatoes in the same soil. Yields of from twenty to sixty barrels per acre, depending on variety planted, were obtained. (92) The Census of 1860 reported a total of 25,696 bushels for southwest Louisiana. This figure was not surpassed until 1900, when the Census for that year gave the total yield at 46,153 bushels. (93)

The sweet potato or yam had a much greater yield than the Irish potato. Experimentation undertaken with a variety introduced into Louisiana after the Civil War produced a large and very early yam. Referred to variously by the inhabitants as the six weeks yam, the Honduras yam, and the hog yam, this variety abounded in starch and water, and it had very little taste especially immediately after harvest. According to one contemporary source, it was the poorest of table food. The yield, however, was prodigious - from eight hundred to a thousand bushels to the acre. Planting of the old, yellow-veined yam (considered a favorite with southern people) alongside this insipid variety produced a hybrid possessing the eating qualities of the older species and the approximate yield of the new. This hybrid also had excellent keeping qualities. "This is now become again a favorite crop," reported a Lake Charles newspaper in 1875. Besides being used for human consumption, it was also used to feed horses, hogs, oxen, and cattle, thereby taking the place of oats, which did not do well in southwest Louisiana. (94)

Sweet potato yields in the area in 1860 amounted to 132,014 bushels. By the end of the century, this quantity had increased to 417, 040 bushels. Calcasieu Parish, with an annual production of 163,996 bushels in 1900, led the parishes of southwest Louisiana. Saint Landry was second with 102,667 bushels. (95) Contemporary newspapers and other records reported an abundance of vegetables cultivated in all parts of the area.

An Iowa visitor to southwest Louisiana in 1884 believed that next to raising of cattle, fruit cultivation was the most natural occupation of the area. He was particularly impressed with the quantities of peaches and figs he saw growing in almost all parts that he visited. (96) Other fruits that did well in this part of the State were pears, grapes, blackberries, oranges, and pomegranates. At the end of the century, Seaman A. Knapp returned from Japan with several varieties of Japanese persimmons, plums, oranges, and other fruit-bearing trees which he introduced to southwest Louisiana. (97)

The orange, however, was the first fruit most relied on by many inhabitants of the area. Particularly did Calcasieu and Cameron parishes appear to be adapted to the growing of citrus fruits. According to Daniel Dennett, the orange tree was extensively cultivated in these two parishes. Dennett mentioned visiting two groves each producing over 100,000 oranges yearly. The orange trees, some of which he described as being a foot in diameter and over twenty-five feet in height, produced yearly from three hundred to five hundred oranges at harvest time. Most of the crop was marketed in Galveston, the oranges bring from twelve to fifteen dollars a thousand. (98) Unfortunately for the promising industry, the fruit was attacked first by insects, then by a blight which tended to destroy the orange before it reached maturity. (99) Too, several severe winters, such as those of 1886-1887 and 1894-1895, almost destroyed the groves and discouraged many from continuing in the citrus industry. (100) What seemed to be a very promising commercial enterprise in the 1870’s almost came to an end at the turn of the century.

A northern visitor to southwest Louisiana in 1886 found the Acadians’ custom of marketing their orange crop so quaint that he wrote in his home newspaper: "The ‘Cajuns’ are great orange growers. They have a funny way ….of selling their crop. A buyer comes out when the trees are in bloom, and after a half dozen or more whittling matches, a bargain is struck for the prospective crop, the ‘Cajun’ always demanding and getting half the agreed price in advance. When this business is settled there is nothing more to do but to wait for nature to prepare another harvest." (101)

Cotton and sugar cane grown in moderate quantities in the antebellum period were greatly affected by the Civil War. Cotton, requiring little in the way of expensive machinery for its production, harvesting, and processing, made a more rapid recovery in the post-war period than sugar. The cultivation and processing of sugar cane, on the other hand, required expensive machinery. Since most of the sugar establishments of the pre-war period had been either destroyed or allowed to deteriorate during and after the conflict, recovery did not take place until the early 1890’s, when production equaled and then surpassed pre-war levels. Corn, grown mostly for subsistence, was not too greatly affected. It could be grown in almost all parts of southwest Louisiana, and, at times, was substituted for cotton and sugar cane - preparation of the soil being the same. Such other agricultural products grown in the area and consumed where grown were sweet and Irish potatoes, plentiful supplies of vegetables and some fruit, especially oranges, which appeared to be a staple crop until insects, blight, and several killing freezes discouraged, if not destroyed the orange industry.



Had Frederick Olmsted, who came through southwest Louisiana in the 1850’s, revisited the area in the early part of 1880, he would not have found many changes in the physical and the cultural landscapes. Means of travel were still the same. Journeying overland, he would have found the roads somewhat more numerous but still incredibly poor and quite hazardous to the wayfarer. Occasionally rickety bridges crossed streams, and sometimes a privately-owned cable ferry. Water ways were still the chief means for travel and the transportation of goods. M. B. Hillyard, staff member of the New Orleans Times-Democrat, in one of his trips through the area in 1886, observed that most of the inhabitants lived along the streams "leaving the open prairie to the cattle and the newcomer." "These people," he said, "build no towns. The railroad is the town-builder …. The ‘Cajiens’ love the streams, and a man might have ridden along the railroad a little while ago and thought there were no people in the country (except where the road skirts a stream, and thus reveals their home), when in truth, the woods are full of people. And there is a large population in the prairies of Louisiana, which no inexperienced traveler suspects, but is generally unseen." (1)

In 1865, Lake Charles, Lafayette (Vermilionville until 1884) and Opelousas, the most important communities, were scarcely more than villages, Opelousas being the largest of the three. By 1880, however, Lake Charles, described by Olmsted a few years before as "an insignificant village, upon the bank of a pleasant, clear lakelet, several miles in extent," (2) clearly displayed the greatest vitality.

This year, 1880, was a pivotal one for southwest Louisiana. In the spring of 1880, the long-awaited Louisiana Western Railroad (later to become part of the Southern Pacific system) was extended through the area to Lake Charles to connect with the Texas and New Orleans Railroad built from the lake town to Orange to give access to such large urban centers as Houston and the Crescent City. An observer, in 1865, commenting on the effect of this event, said: "This entire region was until the opening of the Louisiana Western Railroad, a terra incognita to the outside world …. The building of the railroad brought men with capital, brains and energy, to all of Southwestern Louisiana." (3) Hillyard believed that the founding of most of the towns in the area after 1880 was a direct result of the railroad. (4) Certainly such communities as Sulphur, Welsh, Jennings, Crowley, Rayne, and a number of others along the railway, developed after 1880.

Without minimizing the influence of the railroad as a town builder in southwest Louisiana, it is safe to say that the railroad alone could not have brought in settlers. Industrialization was bringing about profound changes in American life in the decades following the Civil War. In the 1880’s urbanization for the first time became a decisive factor in national life. Just as the plantation was the typical product of the pre-war Southern system and the small farm of the Northern agricultural order, so the city was the greatest achievement of the new industrialism. (5) Cotton compresses and oil mills, rice-processing mills, central sugar refineries, sawmills, and other enterprises, either originating after 1880 or reaching a relatively high point of development after that year, were all town-centered.

Not to be underestimated as a factor in the development of towns was favorable legislation. By easing the laws of incorporation and by defining municipal corporations, the State encouraged the growth of towns and cities. In 1882, the Louisiana General Assembly provided for the incorporation of villages into political bodies. This law eliminated the need for a special act of the General Assembly for each community incorporated. The only requirement set forth by the act was that the village applying must have two hundred or more inhabitants. (6) In 1898 the General Assembly, by Act. No.136 divided municipal corporations into three classes, viz: cities, towns, and villages. "Those having five thousand inhabitants or more, are cities, those having less than five thousand and more than one thousand inhabitants, are towns and those having less than one thousand and more than one hundred and fifty inhabitants, are villages." No municipal corporation could be created with fewer the 150 inhabitants. (7)

The older towns, or those originating before 1880, in southwest Louisiana, show evidence of little planning. This is especially true in the original sections where the streets are narrow and crooked. Cases in point are Lafayette and Opelousas and, to a lesser extent, Lake Charles. Towns built after 1880, in general, have wide streets laid out as a draftsman or engineer would have them. They are more in the style of the Midwestern villages and towns, many of which were laid out before they were occupied.

Of the old towns, Lafayette has the most irregular layout of its streets, most of them being short, narrow, and crooked. Originally the town was a very small village built on the rectangular plan, but the additions or new subdivisions which were added from time to time to the original section created anomalies. As these additions were derived from land grants fronting the Vermilion River, and because this river bends in the area of these land grants, irregularity may well be said to be the distinguishing feature of the plan of Lafayette. Many of the streets, like those of the old towns and cities of Louisiana, are narrow. (8)

Opelousas, having its origin as a military post in 1765, is an older community than Lafayette, but it has none of the irregularities found in the latter. The orientation of the town is a few degrees off the cardinal points, and practically the whole town is laid out on the rectangular plan. Whatever discrepancies exit in orientation are not easily discernable. (9) In each of these towns, the courthouse was usually the most conspicuous building, being in the approximate center of the town.

Towns built after 1880 were laid out on the rectangular pattern. Cases in point are the towns of Acadia Parish. Although rectangular, these communities show three distinct bases of orientation. Church Point and Estherwood are skewed according to the old property lines on bayou-front holdings. Crowley, Mermentau, Iota, and Frey are skewed because they were laid out along railroads cutting diagonally across the sections. Rayne, Branch, Midland, Morse, Egan, and Maxie are squared with both railroads and section lines. These towns and villages are typical of the towns and villages of southwest Louisiana. In turn, some of them are in accord with the town plans of the prairies of the Midwest. Broad and straight streets show definite foresight on the part of the builders of these urban units. (10) By 1900, the largest towns of southwest Louisiana were the parish seats of government. Like the older towns, the town-centered courthouses are the dominant and most conspicuous structures.

Population concentration in small areas presented new difficulties of transit, lighting, sewage, fire protection and sanitation. In the last two decades of the century such communities as Lake Charles, Opelousas, Lafayette, Crowley, and Jennings were well on their way toward solving these problems. Lake Charles usually led the way in these advances. As an instance of this, the lake city was the only one to establish a horse-drawn rail-car system in the early 1890’s, and followed several years later with an electric traction system. (11) All the towns had developed or were seriously thinking of developing telegraphic and telephonic communications, electric lighting, running water, ice supplies, and fire protection. Sewerage and other forms of sanitation had to await the twentieth century.

Street building and repair, subjects of countless editorials by area newspapers, lagged in all of the communities. Commenting on the sidewalks of Lake Charles, the editor of the Lake Charles Echo in 1892 sarcastically wrote: "From one end of Ryan Street to the other is a beautiful promenade, somewhat dangerous however. We will start at the U. S. hotel with a very fair plank walk in front, from which we step out into a mud hole provided there has been a recent rain; then come a few shells then a broken board walk, another mud hole, a 12" plank for some distance, then a few more shells, more mud, at last a good brick pavement for 100 feet," followed by the same sequence to the end of the street. Such a condition, the editor concluded, was typical of the other streets of the town. (12) Another Lake Charles editor described the town’s streets at the end of the century thusly: "The hill approaching the Pithon coulee from the north is an excellent hog wallow. The clay is a beautiful variegated mess. It would not take a poor driver to get in up to the hubs….In Kirkman street on the way to the S. P. station is a hole large enough to bury a horse in." The editor then warned: "Some one will get killed or badly hurt in some of these holes in the street. No one except an experienced driver is safe in venturing out after the sun goes down." (13) Such street conditions were characteristic of all communities in southwest Louisiana in the period of this study. The problem of street building and maintenance had to await the twentieth century for a solution. Lake Charles city Engineer Frank Shutts, in 1899, recommended to the City Council the use of heavy oil as a means of improving the streets. (14) By a city ordinance, in 1894, Lake Charles property owners were required to build and maintain sidewalks on that part of their premises facing the street. (15)

Hardly less urgent than the need for better sidewalks and streets was the need for readier communication. As early as 1875, the State incorporated the Louisiana Telegraph Company and empowered it to build a telegraph line from New Orleans to Shreveport by way of Opelousas over all lands, highways, or navigable waters owned by the State. (16) By 1877, the Washington and Opelousas Telegraph line connected with the main line and had communications with Lafayette. (17) Lines were extended to Lake Charles in the following year. (18) Before the end of the century the most important towns of southwest Louisiana had telegraphic communications.

In 1878, the recently invented telephone was hardly more than a scientific toy. In order to use it a person was required to briskly turn a crank and then scream into a crude mouthpiece. One could faintly hear the return message only if the titanic screeching and groaning of the static permitted. Ten years after the invention, William Myers acquired from the patentees the exclusive privilege of using the devise in all parts of Calcasieu Parish. (19) In 1894, Elly H. Dees established a telephone company in Lake Charles. (20) This company was chartered for four years after which the Great Southern Telephone Company was given the right to operate in Lake Charles. (21) The Teche and Vermilion line, chartered in 1893 by the Lafayette Police Jury, promised telephonic communications with the towns of Lafayette, New Iberia, Breaux Bridge, St. Martinville, Loreauville, Arnaudville, Jeanerette, Olivier, Sunset, Opelousas, Washington, Grand Coteau, and others. (22) Crowley established a telephone system in 1896 (23) and Jennings in 1898. (24) Many of these companies were later absorbed by the Southern Bell Telephone Company.

Improved lighting was almost as great a necessity as improved communication, for the conditions of community life required something better than the dim rays shed by gas lamp-posts on the street and the yellow glow of kerosene lamps or open-flame gas jets indoors. Usually when contracts were let for the supplying of electric lights, additional services such as water, ice, and telephone were included in the same contract. Lake Charles, the first community in southwest Louisiana to have electricity, awarded a contract to the J. A. Landry Company in 1891, to furnish electricity for lights and power, build a system of waterworks, provide for a telephone system, and manufacture ice. (25) Opelousas, after five or more years of newspaper pleadings, contracted in 1897 to build a water works and an electric power plant. The cost to the community, according to an Opelousas newspaper, was $22,000 for the waterworks, and $7,850 for the electric power plant. The water tower, proudly said the editor, would be eighty-five feet tall and would hold a tank twenty-five feet in diameter. The power plant would furnish electricity for forty arc lights and to quite a number of incandescent lights. (26) Lafayette in the same year approved a bond issue for $30,000 to install a water works and an electric light plant. (27) By the end of the century, Crowley had an electric power plant and a water works, (28) and Jennings had installed an electric power plant. (29)

The building of municipal water plants was in part the result of the increased fire risks incident to the crowding together of buildings and the extensive use of electric wiring. The shallow wells and cisterns used by most people of the area were wholly inadequate to cope with fire hazards. Tragic fire losses suffered by a number of communities in the 1890’s were eloquent reminders of the need for more modern water supplies and fire-fighting organizations. At the end of the century, such towns as Lake Charles, Lafayette, Opelousas, and Jennings had provided for volunteer systems of combating fires.

Civic consciousness was slow to develop in the towns of the area. It was only in the 1880’s that organizations for town improvement were established. Lake Charles again took the lead. Seaman A. Knapp, addressing a group of businessmen in the early part of 1892, recommended a system of co-operation in all lines of trade. By grouping together for common ends, Knapp told the gathering, merchants of Lake Charles could supply the small stores in the outlying sections of the parish in much the same way as merchants from Galveston and New Orleans were doing for the whole area. He called for a deep-water channel to the Gulf so that the town might develop its full potential. Such a project had not come to pass, Knapp said, "simply because we did not try." From this meeting emerged the Lake Charles Board of Trade whose purpose it was to assist "in the development of our agricultural, manufacturing and commercial resources." (30) In 1899, a group of civic-minded men of Lafayette organized the Lafayette Improvement Association with the objective of improving the town. (31)

To better understand developments within the principal towns of southwest Louisiana, individual descriptions will give additional insights into town development. Towns will be described in the order of relative importance and rapidity of growth.

Lake Charles

Lake Charles, in 1865, gave little promise of becoming the largest city in southwest Louisiana, and one of the six largest in the State by the middle of the Twentieth century. Because of its advantageous location on a lake from which the community derived its name, and through flows which the navigable Calcasieu River on its way to the Gulf, Lake Charles was destined to become a port city.

In 1891, by an act of the General Assembly, the small settlement east of the lake was incorporated as the town of Charleston. Six years later, in 1867, another charter was issued by the legislature restoring the original name of Lake Charles to the community. (32) George H. Wells, state representative from Calcasieu Parish, who drew up the articles of incorporation, and from whom some of the information in this sketch is taken, settled in the community in 1866 to practice law. At that time, according to Wells, there was only one store in the town, and it contained less than one hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise. The population did not exceed four hundred. There was no newspaper, no railroad, and no telegraph line. (33)

The decade of the 1870’s showed some progress mainly in the sawmilling industry which was gradually making the community a focus for the logging, milling, and shipping of considerable quantities of lumber to Gulf ports. The railroad, completed through the area in 1880 and connecting this small community by rail with the rest of the country marked the first notable advance in the population and business of Lake Charles. (34)

Wells, writing in 1896, summarized the growth of the town. Lake Charles, he said, "has nine church edifices….two railroads - the Louisiana Western Railroad, division of the Southern Pacific Company, and the Kansas City, Watkins and Gulf Railroad - the later completed to Alexandria,….three bank buildings:…the Watkins Banking Company, the First National Bank, and the Calcasieu Bank; one telegraph line…and two telephone lines; two street car lines; combined electric, ice manufacturing and water works establishment; a fire department composed of five companies; six printing offices….publishing the Lake Charles Echo, the Lake Charles Commercial, the American, the National Republican, and the Calcasieu Blade, all weeklies, and the Lake Charles Press, daily and weekly; one college building, the Lake Charles College; two public schools and several private schools… five sawmills and two steam shingle mills; one foundry establishment; several wood-working manufactories." Wells estimated the population of Lake Charles in 1896 at about 7,500. (35)

If it can be said that the railroad marked the first notable advance in the development of Lake Charles, then the appointment of a deputy collector of customs at Calcasieu Pass in the late 1880’s can be considered the second notable advance. This event, long wished for, made Lake Charles a port town. (36) Vessels of foreign registry were now able to handle cargoes without first having to make calls at Morgan City, former port entry for all vessels bound for Lake Charles. This had entailed considerable loss of time and cost to shippers. Potential cargoes, in many cases, had been diverted to other ports.

Perrin, in 1891, believed that Lake Charles had the "best of facilities for becoming a manufacturing town." It "has already pretty good water transportation, and when Calcasieu Pass improved and deepened as designed, it will have the advantages of both railroad and water transportation. These advantages," Perrin continued, "must result in great benefit and wealth to the town if her people continue to exert themselves as they are now doing, and ‘keep the ark moving.’ With her vast lumber interests, now aggregating millions of dollars annually, and to which should be added rice mils, sugar refineries, cotton gins and presses, oil mills and other factories that will necessarily follow, then will the hum of industry echo and re-echo across your beautiful lake." (37)

Knapp, writing at the end of the century, described Lake Charles as "the metropolis of Southwestern Louisiana …. destined to be the greatest central city between New Orleans and Houston …." He believed the city on the lake had the "best location in the South" for the manufacture of furniture, wagons, chairs, agricultural implements, cotton and woolen goods, iron products along with special advantages for investments, and a winter resort for northern visitors. Citing outside influence on the development of the community, Knapp concluded that Lake Charles was "essentially a northern city, wide awake, progressive and modern." (38)


"I would not wish to offend the self regard of Vermilionville. But - what a place in which to seek enlargement of life." Such was the view of novelist George W. Cable when he visited the town in the early 1880’s. (39) Incorporated as the town of Vermilionville in 1836, the boundaries were extended and the government changed by a new charter was amended in 1869. A few years later, in 1884, the charter was amended to change the name from Vermilionville to Lafayette. (40)

Like Lake Charles, Lafayette made her greatest strides after 1880 when the railroad was extended through southwest Louisiana. (41) Shortly thereafter, the town was connected with Alexandria through Opelousas by means of a feeder line of the Southern Pacific System called the "Alexandria Tap" which joined the Texas Pacific Railroad at Cheneyville. Lafayette had now become a railroad center having an extensive railroad yard, a roundhouse, a workshop, and a freight depot. Its future seemed assured. (42)

According to historian Harry Lewis Griffin, whose study embraces the history of Lafayette Parish, Vermilionville was a much more prosperous town in the antebellum period than it was during the 1870’s, for it was entered in an area with cattle ranches and sugar and cotton plantations. Land and slave buying were active pursuits of the planters. Then came the Civil War and its aftermath of hard times. With their slaves freed and their plantations ravaged, the planters knew not where to turn. Land values were greatly reduced and there were no laborers to work the soil. (43)

Added to the dislocation brought on by the war was the breakdown of law and order in the years following. Fifteen years after Appomattox a newspaper editor was able to report, "Vermilion (ville) is slowly but surely redeeming her character and is now one of the most peaceful, law-abiding communities of the State. For years past, it is true she was under a cloud, stigmatized as the Paradise of thieves and assassins her very name was synonym of disrepute." (44)

Within a year after the railroad was extended through Lafayette, the editor of the town’s newspaper, commenting on the developments in that period, wrote:

It is not long since we, that is, the old residents of the town, used to wait each recurring day with a patience akin to that of ancient Job, for the rattle of the U. S. mail stage, not unfrequently a half a day behind; not a great many moons have waxed and waned since people quit asking "how is the road to New Iberia?" and yet something of a change has taken place in our town since then. "A change has come over the spirit of our dreams" and Vermilionville is growing.

The Morgan Railroad Company - the first to wake the quiet and peace-loving people of our town with the shrill shriek of their locomotives - in conjunction with the La. Western Company have worked a signal change in the scenery of the north-eastern portion of our town. Trucks and switches and spurs cover the ground in a confusion of net-work; one of the other of the above-named companies, or perhaps the two together, constructed a handsome and commodious freight depot which has been in use for some time, and is, we believe, one of the largest on the line. The freight business through this depot has no doubt been satisfactory; it has also been used up to a few days ago as passenger headquarters. Another structure, of which mention has been made by us, is the Round-house; it is the third on the line from New Orleans, and here the iron horse, after the run from the Sabine river, or Morgan City, is taken for shelter and cleaning up, at which, quite a number of employees are constantly engaged; there are twelve stalls which are occupied by an unequal number of engines of the line, so that quite a force is required to do the scouring and oiling. (45)

Progress continued at an accelerated pace. In 1889, a visitor from Abbeville found Lafayette fast assuming city shape and sirs for "many fine large and substantial business buildings, besides private residences, are in course of erection, and organizations of different kinds, to advance the interest and future greatness of the flourishing town, are in successful order. Machine shops and factories of different kinds dot the town here and there, and are in successful operation, giving labor to mechanics and laborers, thus establishing a permanent and lucrative local trade there that could not otherwise exist." (46)

Among the shipments made by rail from Lafayette in the period from September 1, 1886 to August 31, 1887 were: 2,411 bales of cotton, sixty-six car loads of seed cotton, ten car loads of cotton seed, 40,300 pounds of hides, three car loads of corn, twenty-three car loads of brick, 108,710 dozen eggs, 29,392 dozen poultry, 42,655 pounds of scrap iron, as well as smaller amounts of honey, tallow, potatoes, moss, wool, pecans, etc. Among the shipments received were: 316 carloads of lumber, 3,517 head of livestock, 2,043,404 pounds of seed cotton. (47) These figures are not too impressive, but they do betoken progress. As the population grew, the demand for goods expanded, and accelerated shipments reflected this advance.

Charles Debaillon, Lafayette census-taker in 1900, estimated the population of the town at 3,314. According to Debaillon, Lafayette could boast of having "many clothing and general merchandise stores, livery stables, hotels, saloons, a volunteer fire brigade, blacksmith shops, an opera house, and drug stores." The town had become the commercial hub of the area. (48)


Opelousas has the distinction of being the oldest town in southwest Louisiana. Selected as a town site as early as 1765, because "the ground is far above sea level and very fertile," Opelousas was incorporated in 1821. (49) Although relatively small, the town from the time of Louisiana statehood had governmental - both State and federal - departments located there. The Supreme Court of Louisiana sat at Opelousas until 1898. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit of Louisiana held its sessions there, and it was the home of the Federal District Court for the western district of Louisiana. (50) This factor alone gave to Opelousas a dynamic quality.

For a short time during the Civil War, Opelousas was a center of Federal activity where "valuable products of the country" were collected. According to a contemporary source, everything of value to the invaders including rolling stock, horses, cattle, food, such products as cotton, sugar and molasses, hides, jewelry, silver plate, etc. were taken from the town and its environs. (51) Recovery from these depredations was slow.

As Opelousas was an inland town some miles from the nearest waterway, it had to depend upon neighboring Washington and to a lesser extent upon Port Barre, as its shipping center. It appeared for a time that these port towns would develop at the expense of Opelousas. It was therefore a great triumph for the town, according to Perrin, when the railroad was completed through Opelousas from Lafayette in the early 1880’s. The community now had direct communications with the city of New Orleans from which most of its trade emanated. (52) When the event took place, the town had a population of about two thousand. (53)

Describing the economy of Opelousas in the early 1890’s, Perrin said: "There are no extensive manufacturing establishments in the town, and the business is confined principally to mercantile (activities), and the buying of the products of the farms and the selling of farm machinery to the planters, which annually amounts to from $50,000 to $100,000." (54) Opelousas, in the last decade of the century, had added a cotton oil factory and two cotton compress companies to its industries. (55) The town had become a supply center for the extensive agricultural area which embraced all of Saint Landry and portions of adjacent parishes.

Commenting on the slow economic progress of Opelousas, an editor in 1898 said of the town:

….notwithstanding all its natural advantages of health, and despite the fertility of the surrounding country and the variety of its productions, it has stood for three quarters of a century, like some deserted village. Within the last ten years new life had been gradually infused, improvements have been made, streets have been opened out and extended, commerce has increased. And yet all is not done that might and should have been done. Those who had capital, sought to promote their personal interests in a way that benefited no others.

As before said, within the last ten years changes have been wrought, but still not all that might and should have been done. Capitalists hesitate to make investments, and thereby cause stagnancy to the value of realty. But with all that has been neglected, lots have increased in value fully 100 to 200 percent, and the commerce of Opelousas has increased largely, many new buildings have been erected, and some of them of more modern style than formerly stood there.

The spirit of improvement is steadily growing, but we still see evidence of doubt, which causes hesitation in large improvements. (56)

Doubt evidently existed. Opelousas, the largest and most populous town in southwest Louisiana in 1865, was now fourth, being exceeded by Lake Charles, Crowley, and Lafayette (see population statistics below). Location may have been a primary factor in the slower growth of Opelousas. These more populous towns were on the main railroad line from New Orleans to Houston where trade was then booming. Although Opelousas was located on a railroad line, this line was a mere feeder of the Southern Pacific System and was not nearly as important as the trunk line.


Crowley, the city that the twentieth century was destined to dub the "Rice City of America," was founded in 1886 by the enterprising Duson brothers, C. C. and W. W. Duson. (57) As agents of the Southwest Louisiana Land Company headquartered in Opelousas, the Duson’s purchase a 174-acre tract of land in 1886 in the newly-created parish of Acadia. This tract of land became the nucleus of the town of Crowley. Pat Crowley, a foreman of Irish extraction, after whom the town was named, was persuaded, as a condition of so naming the community, to use his influence in having the railroad line run through the limits of the tract. (58) This accomplished, the company proceeded to plot out the town and advertise it by means of a circular, entitled, "The Prairie Region of Southwest Louisiana," setting forth the advantages of the area. The circular also announced an auction sale of lots to take place on February 10, 11, and 12 of 1887, and arranged for special railroad rates for prospective purchasers. (59)

Buyers from nearby towns and from such disparate points as New Orleans, Mobile, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Galveston, Louisville, and from several of the northwestern states were present for the auction. A holiday atmosphere pervaded the occasion. Along with business transactions, the people were entertained with roulette, chuck-a-luck, a miniature lottery, and a free barbeque. (60) The Opelousas Courier reported the sale of 617 lots or something less than one-fifth of the land owned by the company. The newspaper prophesized: "In five years this town plot will yield the company $150,000." And then added "Very good for a cow pasture." (61)

Within three years of its establishment, Crowley could boast of 400 inhabitants, a brick courthouse and jail, a college building, a Methodist church, a public school house with sixty pupils, a number of well-constructed stores, "very elegant modern style residences, and numerous others of more modest architecture, but all new, bright and cheerful looking." The town also had a newspaper, the Signal, a real estate agency, two drugstores, two hotels, two butcher shops, a blacksmith shop, two large warehouses, lumber yards, and various other buildings. (62) M. B. Hillyard, writing in 1892, observed: "I see nobody discontented here. What some people might have considered a boom …. is gone….There is nothing feverish in the spirit of appreciation of Crowley by her citizens. There is no noisy boastfulness, but you will find that people seem to take it as a matter of course that their town lots and prices of land contiguous seem high. They say it is value, not prices. Anyhow, I see nobody anxious to sell while I have heard a number of offers refused, which, I confess, surprised me." (63)

Successful rice experiments in the years paralleling the founding and development of Crowley made the town the center of the booming industry. By 1900, the community had six rice mills (more than any other town of southwest Louisiana) with a combined capacity of 6,000 sacks of processed rice a day. (64) Here, too, was the home of the American Rice Growers’ Distribution Company, and organization designed to stabilize the rice industry. (65) At the end of the century, Crowley was receiving 271,226 sacks of rice a season for processing as compared with 566,910 for New Orleans. (66) In somewhat less than fourteen years, Crowley had developed into a town doing only slightly less than half of the rice business once monopolized by the Crescent City.

As Crowley could now meet the requirements of the act of 1898 regarding the incorporations of towns, a charter was issued in 1899. (67) At this time, the community had a population of 4,214 - an average of about 370 inhabitants a year for the past ten years. (68)


Named for Jennings McComb, contractor for the Southern Pacific Railroad and president of the Louisiana Western Railroad company, (69) Jennings was settled by Midwestern farmers in 1883, thus becoming a "Yankee" settlement deep in the "Cajun" country of southwest Louisiana. (70) A. D. McFarlain, the first settler who came to the area in 1881, was the community’s first rice grower, first merchant, first postmaster, first brick maker, and first builder, and later became one of the towns most prominent businessmen and civic leaders. (71) However, the greatest benefactor was Sylvester L. Cary, better known to the local inhabitants as "Father" Cary, who came to Jennings from Iowa on February 7, 1883. According to Cary, the town "then consisted of four buildings, depot, section house, one dwelling house and store owned….by McFarlain." The prairie around in all directions was either United States or State land. The station business amounted to from $250 to $400 a month. (72)

Obtaining the position of station agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad several months after his arrival, Cary proceeded to use his spare time "in advertising this country by sending letters, circulars, and books to his Northern friends." So successful was he in this endeavor that the railroad company promoted him in 1887 to the position of Northern Immigration Agent with headquarters in Manchester, Iowa. With increased enthusiasm, Cary redoubled his efforts in making known to his fellow Iowans and other Midwesterners the advantages of settling in southwest Louisiana. Since most of the settlers were from Iowa, the Jennings settlement was named the "Iowa Colony" with Cary as president. (73) Population increased rapidly. In 1886, there were 150 inhabitants; by 1890 it was 412; and by 1900, 1,539. (74) Most of the people came by rail, but a few made the long trek by covered wagon. (75)

In a Fourth of July address delivered in 1891, Cary said of Jennings:

There were but a few buildings in sight and they were of a very primitive kind (i.e., when Cary came to Jennings in 1883), generally along the Mermentau and Nezpique rivers, and but one farm having as many as 25 acres of land improved. Jennings was not platted and scarcely a tree or improvement for miles around.

Over 400 acres are platted now as Jennings; 12 stores; 5 hotels; 2 liveries; 1 school house of graceful proportion to seat 250 scholars; three churches rear their lofty spires heavenward, a new depot, coupon ticket office, with freight and passenger business of $4,000 monthly; two large warehouses or track capable of handling $5,000 worth of rice daily; and a firm that handles $100,000 worth of agricultural machinery. (76)

M. B. Hillyard, writing in 1901, sought an explanation for the rapid development of Jennings. He arrived at the conclusion that the town was merely growing up with the country (with the reservation that Jennings was the starting point of the immigration movement in Louisiana headed by Cary.) Not completely satisfied with this explanation, Hillyard probed deeper. Certainly, all the people who came to Jennings were poor. Almost all received homesteads. Money was needed to fence, to build houses, to buy stock and agricultural implements. "They owed no money on mortgages (they could not have borrowed on land if they would), they had farms worth more money, as dividend payers, than lands in Ohio, Illinois and elsewhere worth $1.25 per acre." Then the answer came to him: "They got into rice raising, and it paid immensely. What should they do with their money? Put it in homes in Jennings, stores, rice mills, canals, etc. This, I think, explains largely the progress of Jennings." Hillyard continues:

The parents have left the boys on the farm to raise rice, and have built and moved into Jennings. Hence Jennings is peculiarly homemade; not built up with foreign capital. Many an elder comer can show his homestead of fifteen to twenty years ago against the Western farmer who comes to-day and has to put up $30 to $50 per acre to buy like land. More than that, the early comer can show assets rising from rice culture for several years at the rate of $20 or more per acre, net. It is a great thing. (77)

In 1894, the town hoped to ship 1,000 carloads of rice (of 20,000 pounds each) at the end of the harvest. In the same year, Jennings had a bank with $40,000 capital, another bank organizing, a newspaper, a graded high school, three churches, two sawmills, a planing and two shingle mills, a feed mill, a livery stable, two drugstores, two shoe stores, a restaurant, a millinery establishment, three groceries, three general stores, five hotels, and over 300 buildings of all kinds. (78) And at the end of the century, the town could boast of having a book agent, a dentist, a doctor, a furniture store, two hardware stores, a rice mill, and an undertaking establishment. (79) Reviewing the progress of Jennings at this time, Cary said: the town "has more fine houses than any Southern city of it size. It is located on the largest prairie in the State and has more actual settlers in the tributary country than any other part of Southwest Louisiana." (80)

Jennings was chartered as a town in 1888, (81) and as a municipality in 1898. (82)

Abbeville, Breaux Bridge, Eunice, Rayne, and Welsh were all communities in southwest Louisiana showing promise of future development before the end of the century. Other towns showed clear signs of decline. A case in point was Washington. Once a thriving port on the Courtableau serving a large area prior to 1880 when the railroad robbed it of its prestige as a shipping point, Washington declined gradually. Population of the town increased only by 133 in the ten-year period from 1890-1900 (see below).

Towns: 1890-1900 (83)













Breaux Bridge









Church Point












Grand Coteau












Lake Charles









Ville Platte









Of the 154,024 population of the parishes within the compass of this study, only a relatively small percentage lived in towns and municipalities as the above statistics indicate. Southwest Louisiana at the turn of the century was still very much a rural section of the State.

In this study, town development in southwest Louisiana is divided into two periods: 1865-1880 and 1880-1900. The earlier period was characterized by slow development caused by the readjustments incident to the Civil War and the lack of adequate transportation facilities. The later period was characterized by rapid development caused primarily by the extension of the railroad through the area and the general population movements in the last two decades of the century. Lake Charles, Opelousas, and Lafayette, towns developing with little concern for planning and no more than villages in 1865, were the most important communities in the early period.

The railroad ushered in the second period after 1880. The old towns developed into municipalities with all the problems that come with urbanization. New towns were built along the line of the railroad. Such communities as Crowley and Jennings, non-existent before 1880, developed rapidly in the following two decades paralleling the revolution in the rice industry started by thousands of Midwesterners who began to move into southwest Louisiana primarily through the activities of promoter J. B. Watkins, immigration agent S. L. Cary, and the real estate activities of the Duson brothers.



Since agriculture was the predominate economic activity of southwest Louisiana throughout the period of this study, it is readily understandable that the inhabitants, mostly farmers, were interested in such national issues as tariffs, inflation and deflation of the currency, land legislation, and freight rates. In this period, politicians increasingly responded to the demands of business and largely ignored those of the farmer. The decline in the farmer’s political strength represented far more than a loss of prestige, for the government in aiding the businessmen often injured the farmer. Repeated tariff increases raised the prices of goods that the farmer had to purchase and reduced the ability of foreign countries to pay for American farm products. The government’s post-war monetary policy forced farmers who has [had] contracted debts during inflation to repay with dearer money. State and Federal governments failed to carry out an effective program to regulate transportation, marketing and finance.

Alone, the farmer was unable to solve his political and economic problems. He decided therefore to co-operate with his fellow farmers to improve their collective lot. The first important farmers’ organization established after the Civil War was the National Grange or the Patrons of Husbandry. Formed in 1867 by Oliver Hudson Kelley and some other clerks in the Bureau of Agriculture, the Grange was conceived by its founders as primarily a social organization that would relieve the drudgery and boredom of American rural life. It would also offer members an opportunity to discuss their common problems and to receive reliable information on improved agricultural methods. The onset of the depression of 1873 greatly increased the number of Granges in the country. (1)

Louisiana, like the rest of the South in the years following the Civil War, was caught in the throes of Reconstruction. Added to the political unsettlement of the times were the low market prices for the staple agricultural commodities of sugar and cotton. The burden of the farmer was increased by an adequate supply of available labor. Technically, political Reconstruction ended in 1877 with the withdrawal of Federal troops from the State and the inauguration of the redemptive Francis Tillou Nicholls administration. In the long run this change from Carpetbag government to a bona fide native government dominated by conservative politicians was to most farmers only a change of masters. Agricultural discontent continued. Agrarianism in the years after 1877 was not one concerted movement, according to William Ivy Hair, who made a study of agrarian discontent from the end of Reconstruction to 1900, but rather an amalgam of attempts by dissident out-groups to wrest control of local and State government away from the Bourbon oligarchy, which dominated the economy as well as the politics of the State. Those reformers who wished to capture political control came essentially from three groups: the producer-minded, middle class white landowners: the more radical-minded rural whites, most of whom owned small farms or worked as tenants; and the mass of Negro tenant farmers and rural wage earners, whose plight was the worst of the three. The first group, although active in the Grange and Farmers’ Alliance, generally refused to give comfort to third party talk and would side with the great plantation owners on problems affecting race or the Democratic Party. The second group also active in the Grange and Alliance provided the major support for the Populist Party of the 1890’s; through that party they came to advocate a united front with urban labor elements as well as with the Negroes. The Negroes, as it seemed, appeared anxious to join with the radical white agrarians whenever opportunity afforded. (2)

Reform movements require organization and unified opinion. The reform movement in Louisiana lacked this cohesion. In addition to the Negro-white division common to all southern states, the ethnic, religious, and the language barriers between the poor elements of the northern and southern parishes prresented formidable obstacles to any statewide organization of protest. (3)

In Louisiana the Grange progresses slowly and met with much opposition. By 1872, there were only three local Granges in the State. (4) The Opelousas Grange, the first to be established in southwest Louisiana, was organized in the spring of 1874. Daniel Dennett, writer on agricultural subjects and State Deputy of the Grange, helped in organizing and installing the officials. Composed of Democrats, Republicans, reformers, conservatives, and others with varying shades of political opinion, the Grange, departing from the earlier social and educational objectives of the organization, proposed to save the farmer from his plight and to point the way to his final success and independence. Further, it proposed to harm no mane , party, or clan. The local organization, known as the Pomona Grange and Co-Operative Association, hoped to break down as much of the antagonism that had caused the State and parish to suffer. It favored the restoration of law and order, establishment of more schools, cultivation of more intimate social relation among the families, and, in general, promoting the interests of Saint Landry Parish. (5)

Local Granges developed rapidly in the latter part of 1874 and the year following. By the summer of 1875, there were eleven Granges in Saint Landry, (6) two in Calcasieu, (7) and one in Lafayette. (8) The growth of the Grange in southwest Louisiana was probably abetted by a ruling of the Catholic Church. Heretofore, many Catholic farmers had refused to join the Grange ostensibly because of it secret nature, but now all good Catholics were encouraged to join the organization and give it their loyal support. (9) Noting the increase in membership of the Grange in Saint Landry, the editor of an Opelousas newspaper believed that the growth could be even greater such as it was in other parts of the State were it not for the language barrier. Since a large percentage of the people in southwest Louisiana spoke French and knew little or no English, the ritual of the Order could not be understood. The editor proposed a French translation as a means of increasing membership in the parish and rest of the area. (10) It is doubtful that such an expedient would have attracted a much larger number, since few French-speaking people could actually read their language.

Commenting on the effects of the Grange in Saint Landry, the editor continued: "So far," he said, "the Grange movement in Saint Landry had been productive of much good, both in social and financial point of view. In this respect it has a broad field to operate upon, and its work therein can be productive of naught but good."

The Order is not inimical to any legitimate branch of business, nor does it strive to break down any such; but it seeks to protect the farming interest against the aggressions of all men, rings, cliques and combinations of men who are not content with the legitimate gains of their pursuits, but seek extortionate charges and other unfair means to enrich themselves at the expense of the farmer.


The Order seeks to inculcate in the minds of the farmer lessons of economy, frugality and industry in the management of his domestic affairs. It teaches above all things honesty and fair dealing with all men, whether they may be members of the Order or not. And a patron who practices fraud and unfairness in his dealings with other men is guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the Order and is a violation of one of the fundamental rules. (11)

Some success came to the Opelousas Grange. By 1877, it had succeeded in inducing several steamboats in the New Orleans-Opelousas trade to reduce their passenger and freight rates. (12) None of the "Grange Boats," so called, appeared to have been cooperative enterprises. (13) Elsewhere in Saint Landry cooperative stores - at Washington and Big Cane - were established. (14)

The Granger movement in Louisiana reached its maximum growth toward the end of 1875 and then began a steady decline. Undesirable members did much to bring about ill repute and lack of interest in the membership. Moreover, misguided members, unfamiliar with the purpose of the Grange, felt that its raison d’etre was to wage unrelenting war against the merchants and small tradesmen, who were under the assumption that the Grange wished to abolish private ownership in banks, railroads, and other enterprises. Disappointed, they failed to co-operate with legitimate ends and finally withdrew from the Order. (15)

The State Grange, with delegates from the southwest Louisiana organization in attendance, met in New Orleans, December 20, 1877. The delegates resolved to use all Granges to further the development of the agricultural college at Baton Rouge and agreed that education was to be encouraged; the Granges in all parishes of the State pledged themselves to do all that they could for the cause of Louisiana. A petition was approved requesting the legislature to encourage immigration, to encourage the introduction of better breeds of livestock and better grades of seed cane in Louisiana, and to hold a State fair under the auspices of the State Grange. (16)

After 1878, the Grange became relatively inactive, and, after 1879, the organization almost ceased to exist. (17) A few Granges continued to exist in other parts of the State. This writer, however, could find none in southwest Louisiana after this time.

Curley D. Willis, who made a study of the State Grange, believed that the movement enlivened interest in the cause of education. It is probable that the stimulus given to the teaching of agriculture in the public schools came from the Granger movement. (18) Dissatisfaction with public facilities prompted the creation of "Grange schools" for white children in Lafayette. (19)

Meanwhile, the hard times of the 1880’s had caused a resurgence of agrarian unrest and the rise of a welter of farmers’ organizations, this time frankly aimed at political action, though they did not neglect social and co-operative activities of the Grange pattern. Within time these organizations banded together in the Farmers’ Alliance. Having its inception in Texas in 1879, the Alliance, by 1889, had attained widespread importance in the South. For a time the organization served primarily as a social organization. However, conditions were ripe for more extreme demands such as taxing of railroads, new issues of paper money, the sub-treasury plan, and laws for the regulation of interstate commerce. The Farmers’ Union of Louisiana, in cooperation with other Southern farm groups, was consolidated into the National Farmers’ Alliance and Co-operative Union of America, known as the Farmers’ Alliance. (20)

Between 1889 and 1891, Calcasieu, Lafayette, Saint Landry, and Vermilion had organized local farmers’ groups affiliated with the State and national organizations. Their diverse activities included social functions, establishing co-operative buying and selling of farm products and supplies, hearing lectures, adopting resolutions, and endorsing candidates in local, state, and national elections, while at the same time advocating the defeat of candidates who did not co-operate with them. In 1890, the chief issue before the local organizations seemed to be the defeat of the Louisiana Lottery Company, which was seeking re-incorporation. One orator, delivering an address at a picnic on the banks of Vermilion River, told members of the local organization: "A few years ago … I became a citizen of the United States ….The first vote I shall cast will be directed against the monster that sucks our blood, and is ruining us at home and abroad - the infamous La. Lottery Company." (21)

The editor of a Lafayette newspaper in 1890, in this writer’s opinion, best summed up the purpose of the local farmers’ organizations:

The object of the Farmers’ Alliance, expressed in a word is education, the word used in its best, purest, and broadest sense; education that will reach from the cradle to the court, and will give us better homes, better schools, better politics, better legislation, and better administration of the laws; education that will give us better markets in the home, on the farm, in the storeroom, in the market places; education that will do away with every species of gambling in the products of labor, that will give the fullest freedom for trade consistent with the general welfare; that will secure reasonable compensation for labor and fair profits on its productions; education that will give the farmer an even chance with his fellow citizens in every department of life and work, that will aid him in his farm work, in his business affairs. (22)

At a meeting of the St. Landry’s Farmers’ Alliance in 1893, a resolution was adopted recommending the defeat of Senators Edward Douglas White and Denelson Caffery "for having voted against the Hatch Act." This act, it will be remembered, provided for the establishment of agricultural experiment stations subsidized by the Federal Government. At the same meeting another resolution was approved petitioning the State legislature to "push into law some proper measure to force …. (The New Orleans Cotton) Exchange to abolish …. (the) system of gambling (in cotton futures) under pain of forfeiture of its charter." (23)

Negroes, now approaching almost complete disfranchisement, met in Bellevue, Saint Landry Parish, in the summer of 1891, and organized the Colored Farmers’ Alliance, adopting the following resolution:

This organization is for the purpose of trying to elevate our race, to make better citizens, better husbands, better father and sons, to educate ourselves so that we may be able to vote more intelligently on questions that are of vital importance to our people …. We ask all good alliance men both white and colored, to give us all the assistance that they can in our young administration, and especially the white alliance. (24)

The large Negro population in southwest Louisiana may account for the fact that the Alliances of the area did not bolt the Democratic Party in the election of 1892 to join the Populists.

With the possible stimulus given to education, the Alliance movement had little effect on southwest Louisiana. Lack of unified opinion among the members served to vitiate its political effects. A case in point was the meeting of the organization in Opelousas in 1892 to select a slate of local, state, and national candidates. Divergence of opinion was so great that adjournment came without accomplishing anything. The conclave could not even agree on the principles set forth in the famous Ocala Platform of the national organization. (25) In the 1894 campaign for Congress, according to Hair, "the picture was quite dark in southwest Louisiana. Seemingly, almost no impression had been made upon the French Catholic voters; Lafayette and St. Martin Parishes, for example, reported not one Populist ballot …." The fact that most Peoples party men were Baptist in religion was a serious drawback to the third party cause among Acadians. (26) Farmers’ movements were never prominent in southern Louisiana. According to historian C. Vann Woodward, these movements were concentrated in the hill parishes of northwestern Louisiana and never gained much of a foothold in the cotton parishes of the delta or in the sugar parishes. (27)

As early as 1868 a leader of Saint Landry advocated agricultural and industrial fairs as a means "of bringing out the great resources of the whole country," and to bring about "a large amount of money in circulation." Such a fair, he wrote, would create a market for the people "who will sell and buy, swap and exchange," and "give life and animation to every trade and profession" in Opelousas. (28) In the following year, The Industrial and Stock Fair Association of the South Western District of Louisiana was organized as a private corporation with 1,000 shares at five dollars a share. The charter specified that industrial and stock fairs were to be held annually in the district with the first to be held at or near Opelousas. (29) This organization evidently failed as is suggested by an article appearing in an Opelousas newspaper the following year. "It is deeply to be regretted that (in) a parish like ours," wrote the editor concerning the fair, "so little emulation is manifested, (and) so few enterprising men are to be found when the development of the resources of the country is concerned." (30)

Some years later, in 1873, the St. Landry Agricultural and Industrial Fair Association was launched. The stated purpose of the association was "to encourage agriculture in all its various branches, as well as all mechanical and industrial pursuits." The fair intended to exhibit agricultural products, livestock, and articles of domestic manufacture. (31) As nothing more was heard of this ambitious program, it might be assumed that this organization, like its predecessor, failed.

A Lake Charles newspaper in 1881 mentioned that a fair embracing the parishes of Calcasieu, Cameron, and Vernon was being considered by the leaders of the area. (32) Nothing was actually done until 1885, when the Southwest Louisiana Horticultural Society sponsored the first fair in the town of Jennings. Opening on August 8, the lounge of the railroad depot was used as the exhibit room. The people from the town and countryside came in large numbers buying coffee and doughnuts from the local ladies and viewing prize-winning exhibits of peaches, figs, grapes, pears, and plums. (33) The success of the first fair encouraged yearly fairs thereafter. The fair held in 1894 prompted from the New Orleans Times-Democrat the following observation: "Agricultural Hall is packed with a varied collection of products from farm and garden. Here are cane, cotton, oats, vegetables, fruits, and many other products that speak well for the country." Among those exhibiting products were the Wilkins Furniture Factory of Jennings, The State Experiment stations, the New Iberia salt mines, the Acadia rice mill of Rayne, and W. W. Duson & Brother of Crowley. The Art Hall was described by the newspaper as "a perfect bowery of pretty things, the exhibit of paintings alone being magnificent. Of needle work, pantry stores, there are a multitude." (34) An outstanding feature of the fair was an address delivered by Dr. W. C. Stubbs, director of Louisiana experiment stations. Dr. Stubbs, emphasizing the practical side of farming, appealed for diversity, counseled closer study of farming, and recommended "the application of the same sort of energy and study that is expected of the man in any other profession who aspires to success." (35) The Southwest Louisiana Fair Association founded in 1897 is a testimonial of the success of the Jennings fairs. (36)

Calcasieu farmers’ organizations sent an exhibit to the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, held in New Orleans in late 1884 and early 1885. Among the products exhibited were: "eight half gallon jars of fruit, put up in alcohol, fifteen quarts of fruit, put up in alcohol; twenty-two quart jars of acorns and seed of wild trees …; one package oats, one package rice, two packages oranges, one package tobacco, two packages corn, ten sugar canes, one box brick; one box mussel shells, one box sweet potatoes, one package Chinese persimmons, eight glass jars medicinal herbs, one set buck horns, one hogshead green moss, one barrel pine burrs." (37) All of these products were grown, processed, packed and manufactured in the area.

Interest in horticulture was shown by the establishment of two societies in the second half of the 1880’s. Both societies were founded by Midwesterners, thus revealing the influence of these people on the agricultural development of southwest Louisiana. The first of these, the Southwest Louisiana Horticultural Society, was established in 1885 in Jennings under the leadership of E. R. Shankland, a horticulturist from Iowa. (38) The second, the Agricultural, Horticultural and Stock Association, was organized in 1888, with Seaman A. Knapp, also from Iowa, as the leading spirit. This organization had a twofold purpose; first, "the collection and diffusion of knowledge in regard to the soil, capacity for production … of Calcasieu parish. Secondly, the encouragement of better tillage and a wider range of products, the planting of fruit trees and the improvement of our livestock by importing and breeding the best." (39)

The State Department of Agriculture did much in encouraging agricultural pursuits. In the middle 1890’s the Department inaugurated and conducted farmers’ institutes in the State. At these institutes, experts in agriculture came in personal contact with the farmers; they delivered lectures, asked and answered questions, exchanged ideas, and proffered advice. (40)

Taking advantage of the opportunities presented, farmers of Calcasieu Parish in 1896 formed the Agricultural Society of Southwest Louisiana domiciled in Jennings. (41) Its well-attended first meeting embraced many questions and excited interested discussions. Meetings were held yearly thereafter during the summer months in Lake Charles, Jennings, and Opelousas. (42) The Fruit Growers’ Association founded in 1897 in Calcasieu was an outgrowth of the farmer institute movement. (43)

Toward the end of the century, Saint Landry leaders formed a number of organizations. Prominent among these was the St. Landry Farmers’ Club founded in 1898 to further the interests of the numbers in farming and industrial pursuits. (44) The Opelousas Progressive League, founded the same year, attempted to induce industries to locate in Opelousas. A project sponsored by the League was the establishment of a sugar refinery in the town to be financed by Northern capital. (45) Also, in the same year, citizens of Bellevue organized The Farmers’ Protective Association to safeguard members’ against employees and tenants who violated labor contracts or abandoned work without just cause. (46)

By 1888, rice growers in southwest Louisiana had become conscious of the value of collective action against hostile legislation, unjust custom house discrimination, the rice trust, price discrimination, high freight charges, and other problems affecting the industry. They formed several organizations. One of them, the Louisiana Rice Planter’s Association, founded in New Orleans in 1888, was made up of members from the nine rice-growing parishes of the State. The Association’s objectives were the prevention of importation of partially unbroken rice that passed customs under the head of rice meal and rice flour, and the revision of the rice schedule in the Mills Bill. (47) In 1900, the Rice Millers’ Association came into existence to establish uniform prices for all grades of rice purchased by the mills. This, in effect was intended to prevent cutthroat competition among the millers while bidding for the farmers’ unthreshed rice. (48) The same year saw the chartering of the American Rice Growers’ Distribution Co. Ltd., domiciled in Crowley, organized to stabilize the industry. (49)

Towns in southwest Louisiana were selected for meetings of State and national organizations. Lake Charles, for instance, hosted the interstate Agricultural Convention meeting in 1887, (50) while Opelousas was the scene of the meeting of the State Agricultural Society in 1894. (51)

Post-war problems were probably more keenly felt by the farming population of the nation than by any other group. While the national government sponsored legislation favorable to the industrial interests, nothing was done to solve agrarian problems. Taking matters into their own hands, the farmers joined the National Grange or Patrons of Husbandry in large numbers in an effort to solve their problems. Gradually the Granger movement was extended into southwest Louisiana, reaching its highest development in 1875. Thereafter, decline marked its activities. Although intended originally as a social organization for farmers, the Grangers in the area, like those elsewhere, took up the manifold agrarian problems. Succeeding in lowering freight and passenger transportation in the New Orleans-Opelousas steamboat trade, the Grange was probably more successful in stimulating education in the rural areas.

Agrarian problems were fanned to white heat in the 1880’s and 1890’s. From the decline to the ultimate demise of the Granger movement in the late 1870’s to the end of the century, Louisiana, like the rest of the South, was dominated by Bourbon politicians who thought only in terms of their own interests and neglected those of the farmer. As a means of ameliorating or possibly solving their problems, farmers banded together to form the Alliance movement. The Farmers’ Alliance of the 1880’s, similar to the Grange of the previous decade, had a number of affiliated organizations in southwest Louisiana. Like the national organization, local alliances were more interested in politics than in solving economic problems. The movement was much more prominent in northwestern Louisiana than it was in other parts of the State. Except for its educational value in building up a consciousness of agrarian problems, the movement produced little of a tangible nature in the area.

Agricultural and industrial fairs, although given much attention in the local press by community leaders, were not generally successful until the Jennings fair was held in 1885. The movement gained momentum after that date. Interest was also shown in the last decade of the century in the establishment of farm organizations. Farmer institutes, originating in the middle part of the 1890’s, evoked a great deal of interest among the people engaged in agricultural pursuits.



The area embracing southwest Louisiana as defined in this study was well endowed by nature to play a leading role in the economic development of the State. It possessed adequate rainfall, a bland climate seldom becoming extreme, soils capable of producing a variety of crops, grasses able to support a vast livestock industry, and waterways sufficient to supply transportation in its formative years. It also had a variety of fish and wildlife that helped to support early inhabitants. Added to this was a vast longleaf pine forest that, in time, made the area one of the centers of a substantial lumber industry.

Such natural advantages attracted many peoples of diverse backgrounds and varied interests. The first were the Indians. Apart from the names they gave to rivers, bayous, towns, land areas, and one parish, these aborigines had little effect on the development of southwest Louisiana. They are of interest mainly to the anthropologist. Being among the first to own Vacherie, they seem to have traded rather extensively with the Acadians - the first permanent white settlers in the area.

The Acadians, of French-Canadian ancestry, made their appearance in southwest Louisiana in about 1765 when, driven from their ancestral home in Nova Scotia, they came to Louisiana to be among their compatriots. A large number of them finally settled in the Attakapas-Opelousas area. Genial and hospitable to strangers, the Acadians came to constitute the predominate ethnic element in southwest Louisiana - a superiority which they maintained throughout the nineteenth century. They were one of three French elements to populate the area. The other two were the Creoles, born in the colonies of European elements, and the Cadets, refugees of noble lineage fleeing from the French Revolution and the Santo Domingo uprisings in the late eighteenth century. The majority of these French-speaking people were herders and farmers. Travelers visiting the prairies in the nineteenth century were not too deeply impressed with their industriousness. They looked upon the Acadians as being rather apathetic and dull, interested only in matters of the moment. Few, however, can question the unique culture they developed in southwest Lousiana.

Americans of a predominately Anglo-Saxon strain began to trickle into the area in the third decade of the nineteenth century. The western portion of old "Imperial Saint Landry" (later to become Calcasieu Parish in 1840) was selected as a place of settlement. Although predominantly farmers at first, these people were later to be numbered among the most prominent businessmen, founders of towns, and political leaders in southwest Lousiana.

Islenos, arriving somewhat earlier than the Americans, but ethnically less numerous than other elements of the population, were of Spanish origin coming from Malaga and the Canary Islands. They made their appearance in Louisiana in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Some of them settled in the contiguous area that became Iberia Parish. They slowly infiltrated southwest Louisiana. Among the most successful owners of Vacherie, they were credited by one writer as being a people who made a contribution equal to, if not greater than that of the Acadians in the development of southwest Louisiana.

A small number of Germans came to the area in the few years prior to and immediately after the Civil War. The largest number, however, came in two groups: one in the early 1870’s, and the other ten years later. The first group led by Joseph Fabacher, a man of German ancestry who lived in New Orleans, settled in the Faquetaique Prairie area. The other group, under the leadership of Peter Thevis, a Catholic priest of German origin, settled in Prairie Robert. Building substantial homes, these people were first to grow rice for commerce.

The last great population movement into southwest Louisiana came in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Under the leadership of such men as Jabez B. Watkins, financier and land promoter, and Sylvester L. Cary, immigration agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad, myriads of Midwesterners were induced to seek their fortunes in the prairies of southwest Louisiana. Industrious and vigorous, these people introduced scientific ideas in cattle breeding, fruit growing, and agriculture in general.

Negroes, concentrated mostly in the alluvial lands of Saint Landry and Lafayette, where they cultivated cotton and sugar cane in the antebellum period, constituted approximately half the population in the area in 1860, thereafter dwindling to about a third at the end of the century. These people, as tenant and sharecroppers, were engaged mostly in the cultivation of the staples in the years following the Civil War although many of them moved westward across the prairies to engage in the sawmilling industry in the period following 1870.

An area that was largely frontier before the Civil War, southwest Louisiana was retarded in its development after the conflict. Lack of other means of transportation made water-ways the most important arteries of commerce. The parishes of Saint Landry, Lafayette, and Vermilion were mostly served through the waterways connecting them with New Orleans, their commercial center; the parishes of Calcasieu and Cameron (after 1870) relied chiefly on Galveston by means of the Gulf and the Calcasieu River. As few roads existed to bind together the parishes along the eastern fringe of the area with those of the west, two regions actually developed. It was not until 1880, when the railroad was extended through southwest Louisiana, that both regions were bound together into one region.

The heyday of the schooner and the steamboat was between 1865 and 1880. Thereafter, the railroad slowly encroached upon water transportation, so that, by 1900, only the lumbering activities of Calcasieu were still partially dependent on water transportation. But here, too, the railroad was being used more to supply the domestic demand for lumber.

Southwest Louisiana had long been known by the inhabitants as the "cow country" because of the tens of thousands of cattle seen grazing there. The area had also been the scene of extensive cattle drives before and after the Civil War. Known variously as the "beef trail" or "Opelousas trail," cattle were driven from Texas across the prairies to shipping points on the Teche and Courtableau bayous on their way to the New Orleans market. Sometimes they were driven all the way to the Crescent City. As a cattle-raising country, southwest Louisiana was unique. Few places in the United States afforded the natural advantages found there. An abundance of nutritious grasses, favorable weather, and adequate supply of fresh water, and lack of predatory animals were among the features that made possible the grazing of not only cattle, but also horses, sheep, and other livestock.

Although greatly affected by the Civil War, the cattle industry had completely recovered by the end of the 1870’s. The haphazard method of cattle raising, though, produced beef of little marketable worth. It was not until the 1880’s that some efforts were made to improve the stock through the introduction of blooded animals. Credit in this endeavor is due the Midwesterners who helped introduce Durhams, Herefords, Jerseys, Brahma, and other breeds to the area. Natives had long believed that any stock introduced into southwest Louisiana invariably died off shortly thereafter. There was some truth to this belief. However, after cattlemen learned the proper methods of acclimatization, imported stock throve. A new era was thus opened in the industry. One writer calls it the new cattle industry. In the 1880’s, too, cattlemen had learned of the advantages of winter grazing in the marshes of Cameron and Vermilion where the warm breezes of the Gulf moderated the cold weather and kept the grasses green.

Occasional droughts, lack of shelter, bogging down in the marshes, several seasons of extreme climactic conditions, insects, diseases, periodic floods, wind tides in the lowlands along the Gulf, and overgrazing remained to plague cattlemen. Cattle rustling, not too prevalent in the area, was minimized by the existence of vigilantes and cattlemen’s protective associations. A boon to the owners of Vacherie, however, was the railroad. After 1880, when the railroad made its appearance, markets were greatly extended.

Other livestock, such as horses, sheep, and hogs, did well in southwest Louisiana. Horses were generally small and not too greatly adaptable to the saddle and harness. Percherons, Clydes and other all-purpose breeds were introduced in the 1890’s. Sheep, at first found mostly in Saint Landry, were later introduced into Calcasieu giving that parish a supremacy in southwest Louisiana by the last decade of the century. Although Merinos were not introduced until the 1890’s, the quality of the wool was above average and commanded premium prices in the market. Cold weather was the greatest hazard to the sheep men. In the freeze of 1895, it was estimated that over fifty percent of the stock died. Hogs abounded in all parts of southwest Louisiana, but Saint Landry could claim the greatest number. Until the 1890’s little had been done to improve the native breeds described as "rail splitters" or "razorbacks." In that decade, however, such breeds as Chester Whites, Berkshires, and Poland Chinas were introduced.

Quantities of poultry and eggs were shipped to the New Orleans market from Saint Landry after 1865. To a much lesser extent, the Galveston market was supplied with these products from Calcasieu and Cameron. Other fowl, such as turkeys and domestic ducks, were raised.

In explaining the rise of the modern rice industry in southwest Louisiana, it is difficult to overestimate the contributions of Jabez B. Watkins and Seaman A. Knapp. As has already been seen, Watkins was a promoter and financier; Knapp, an educator and agriculturist. Midwesterners played their part to be sure, but these two men were principally responsible for the changing of a veritable wasteland into one of the richest agricultural regions in the South. Watkins was the originator of the enterprise. Purchasing from the United States government and the State of Louisiana about 1,500,000 acres of land stretching from the Sabine River to White Lake in Vermilion Parish and penetrating inland from thirty to sixty miles, Watkins proceeded to attract settlers and to devise agricultural plans that would be profitable to them. Sylvester L. Cary, although not associated with this project, also helped to bring in settlers as agent for the Southern Pacific Company.

"Providence rice" was the name given to the cereal grown before Knapp and his fellow Midwesterners, aided by local inhabitants of an inventive turn of mind, brought about a revolution in rice growing. The newcomers soon learned that the machines which they had used in the cultivation of wheat in their native home could, with minor adjustments, be used in the cultivation of rice. The experiments of Knapp, combined with the introduction of machinery, the development of the centrifugal pump, and the employment of deep wells for irrigation, made southwest Louisiana one of the largest rice growing areas in the United States.

While the rice industry was developing, Lake Charles was rapidly becoming one of the largest sawmilling centers in the South. This was made possible by the fact that Calcasieu, along with Saint Landry, had about eighteen percent of the marketable longleaf pine forests of the State. Advantageously located on a lake, through which ran the Calcasieu River stretching far out into the forests from which logs were floated, Lake Charles became the focus of the industry. Daniel Goos, who can be considered the "father" of the industry, established in 1855 the first significant lumber mill west of New Orleans. Enterprising lumbermen, attracted by the post-war demands for lumber, followed. High resulting prices made possible the employment of the latest sawmill technology. Temporarily impeded by the "Calcasieu Log War" of 1877-1878, the industry continued to expand throughout the 1870’s. The following decade of the 1880’s was marked by the arrival of "Michigan Men," who, after exhausting the forests of the Lake States, moved southward. Lumber production on a mass scale followed, thus inaugurating what has been called the middle period of the sawmill industry. The largest of the area producers was the Bradley-Ramsay Lumber Company, owned and operated by northern capitalists. By the end of the century, ten mills within the Lake Charles area had shipped or were shipping by rail to such areas as western Texas, now in a stage of rapid development, and such foreign places as the Caribbean Islands, Europe, and Africa. The cypress industry, though significant, fell far below the longleaf pine industry in economic importance. Used primarily in the manufacture of cisterns and shingles, the lumber was produced in three mills all located in Lake Charles. Smaller mills produced cypress lumber in the Mermentau River area. Cypress, a swamp product, developed a logging technology somewhat different from that of the longleaf pine, an upland forest growth.

An unhappy result of the Civil War was the inadequate credit system in the region. Lack of money and credit facilities led to a primitive system of barter exchange. The commission-merchant system, attempting to fill the credit gap almost immediately after the war, though proving unsatisfactory, gave rise to the country store based on crop liens as a means of securing credit. The storekeeper, in turn, if he lived in Opelousas or Lafayette, received credits from New Orleans jobbers; if he lived in Lake Charles, his credit came from Galveston. Such a system, while not entirely satisfactory sufficed as long as trade consisted of staple commodities. However, when industries began to develop, the system proved inadequate. The sawmill operators of Lake Charles, the developing cotton compress and oil companies in Opelousas, and the central sugarhouses in Lafayette and Lake Charles all required funds that only well-developed banking institutions could provide. This situation led to the establishment of banks in southwest Louisiana beginning in the late 1880’s. The first bank was organized in 1889, followed thereafter by number of others in the important towns. By 1900, there were four national and eleven state banks providing discounts and credits to the area. Also providing convenient credits were the building and loan associations, beginning in the 1880’s.

The staple crops of southwest Louisiana in the post-war period were, as they had been in the antebellum period, cotton, sugar cane, and corn. Cotton, while grown in all of the parishes of the area, had its greatest yields in Saint Landry where the brown loam prairie soils predominated. Sugar cane flourished at best in the black prairie soil of Saint Landry, Lafayette, and Vermilion. Corn, a more versatile crop, was found in most of the area. It was used primarily for home consumption. High prices following the cessation of hostilities helped the planter recover his disrupted markets. Heavy taxes, lack of operating capital, and an uncertain labor supply, however, largely vitiated high prices. Decline in prices caused by overproduction in the years following 1870, along with the droughts, early frosts, worms, and insects further hampered the planter. Despite these retarding effects, however, cotton production at the end of the century reached an all-time high. Coming to the help of the industry in the last two decades was the establishment of local gin, compress, and cotton oil companies.

The sugar industry, unlike cotton, required a heavy capital investment for expensive machinery and other equipment destroyed in the war. Unable to secure the needed capital, the industry languished until the 1890’s when central refineries helped to solve the problem. The agricultural end of the business was thus separated rom the manufacturing part. Favorable tariffs throughout the period beginning in 1865 proved decisive to recovery.

Among other important agricultural developments in the post-war era was the successful cultivation of Irish and sweet potatoes - the latter being especially well adapted to the area. Vegetables and fruit cultivation gave promise of greater further production. The high hopes entertained in the developing orange industry were frustrated by several killing colds and frosts toward the end of the century.

Paralleling agricultural development in the period was the growth of towns. Opelousas, Lafayette, and Lake Charles, the most significant communities before 1880, grew at an accelerated pace thereafter. Other communities, nonexistent prior to 1880, were Sulphur, Welsh, Jennings, Crowley, Rayne, and a number of less significant ones. These towns were built mostly as a result of the extension of the railroad through the area in 1880. Like urbanization elsewhere, the towns of southwest Louisiana were faced with the problems of planning, transit, lighting, sewerage, fire protection, and sanitation. By the end of the century some of these problems had either been solved or were in the process of solution.

Growing communities were a manifestation of an expanding economy. An expanding economy, in turn, brought about the necessity for collective action in solving local, state, and national problems. Tarriffs, the currency, land legislation, freight rates, and low prices were some of these. To solve them, citizens of the area joined such national organizations as the National Grange or Patrons of Husbandry which had become prominent in Louisiana in the early 1870’s, and the National Alliances of the late 1880’s. Also claiming attention were such other organizations as agricultural and industrial fairs, horticultural societies, and farmers’ institutes inaugurated in the 1890’s by the State Department of Agriculture. Rice growers established associations to act collectively in furthering the interest of the industry.

Southwest Louisiana in 1865, the date from which this study stems, bore all characteristics of a primeval wilderness. This was especially true in the western part of Saint Landry and of Calcasieu. The virtually uninhabited prairies divided the better developed and more populous eastern part from the western. Lacking roads and east-west flowing rivers, the two sections developed almost independently from each other. The extension of the railroad through southwest Louisiana in 1880 finally united the two areas into one region. The railroad hastened economic development, for the sawmilling interests of Calcasieu were moving into high gear, the rice industry was going through a revolution, and advances were being made in the production of cotton and sugar cane. The haphazard cattle industry went through a revolutionary development characterized by the importation of blooded stock to improve native herds and also by the use of more scientific grazing techniques. Other livestock similarly benefited. Agriculture and cattle raising were the two occupations that dominated economic activity throughout southwest Louisiana by 1900. In that year, the region was ready to enter the twentieth century to continue playing an important role in the economic development of the State.



1.  William Darby, A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana… (Philadelphia, 1816), 160. "Opelousas" was then all of southwest Louisiana.

2.  Paul H. Jones, et al. Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Southwestern Louisiana, Department of Conservation, Geological Bulletin No. 30 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1954), 17.

3.  Ibid.

4.  Ibid.

5.  Ibid., 18.

6.  Ibid.

7.  Ibid.

8.  Ibid., 19.

9.  Ibid., 20.

10. W. C. Holland, et. al., The Geology of Allen and Beauregard Parishes, Louisiana Department of Conservation, Geological Bulletin 27 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1952), 50.

11. Jones et. at. Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Southwestern Louisiana, 22.

12. Ibid., 24.

13. Ibid., 25.

14. Ibid., 17.

15. Ibid., 25.

16. Ibid., 26 .

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid., 27.

19. R. J. Russell and H. V. Howe, "Cheniers of Southwestern Louisiana," The Geographical Review, XXV (1935), 458-61.

20. Ibid., 459.

21. H. V. Howe, et al., Report of the Geology of Cameron and Vermillion Parishes, Louisiana Department of Conservation, Geological Bulletin 6 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1935), 12.

22. Jones, et al., Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Southwestern Louisiana, 28.

23. Russell and Howe, "Cheniers of Southwestern Louisiana," 454-59.

24. Ibid., 460.

25. Ibid., 454; Jones, et. al., Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Southwestern Louisiana, 30-31.

26. Arthur C. Veatch, The Shreveport Area, Geological Survey of Louisiana, Report for 1899 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1899), 17.

27. Lauren C. Post, "Cultural Geography of the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana" (unpublished Doctor’s dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1936), 16. Cited hereafter as "Cultural Geography."

28. Ibid., 5.

29. Ibid.

30. Roger Baudier, Sr., The Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Church Point, La. (Published by the (Abbeville) Meridional, in pamphlet form, 1954), 38.

31. Samuel H. Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is: A Geographical and Topographical Description of the State …" n. p. (Original copy in the Tulane University Library. Microfilm copies in the writer’s possession and in the Library of the Louisiana State University.) Cited hereafter as "Louisiana At It Is."

32. Jones, et al., Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Southwestern Louisiana, 23.

33. Ibid.

34. Darby, A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana … 151.

35. Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, 3 pts., pt. 1 (Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office, 1910), 506.

36. Darby, A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana …., 147.

37. Ibid., 143-44.

38.(Abbeville) Meridional, February 8, 1879.

39. Darby, A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana. …., 142.

40. Ibid., 132-37.

41. United States Weather Bureau, Climatological Data for the Unites States by Sections: The Mississippi Valley, 1921-1926 (Washington, D. C. 1932), XIX, 50-52.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. Lauren C. Post, "The Landscape in Its Annual Cycle on the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana," Journal of Geography, XXXVIII (1939) 269-70.

45. Post, "Cultural Geography," 35.

46. Post, "The Landscape in Its Annual Cycle on the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana," 271.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Ibid.

50. Ibid.

51. Ibid.

51. Timothy Flint, History and Geography of the Mississippi Valley, 2 vols. (Cincinnati, Ohio, 1832), I, 254.

52. Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 90.

53. B. W. Allred and Homer C. Mitchell, Major Plant Types of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, United States Department of Agricultural Soil Conservation Service (Fort Worth, Texas, 1954), 1.

54. Post, "Cultural Geography," 37.

55. Ibid.; Allred and Mitchell, Mayor Plant Types of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma and Texas, 5.

56. Ibid.

57. Charles S. Sargent, Report of the Forests of North America (Exclusive of Mexico), Tenth Census (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office), 538.

58. Ibid., 537.

59. Allred and Mitchell, Mayor Plant Types of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, 5.

60. William Henry Perrin (ed.) Southwest Louisiana, Biographical and Historical (New Orleans, 1891), 232. Cited hereafter as Southwest Louisiana.

61. The (Iowa) Farmer, September 30, 1886. A newspaper clipping in Sylvester L. Cary’s "Scrapbook," in the possession of his grandson, Howard N. Cary, Sulphur, Louisiana. Cited hereafter as Cary’s Scrapbook.

62. New Orleans Times-Democrat, October 18, 1887.

63. Post, "Cultural Geography," 38.

64. Ibid.

65. (Abbeville) Meridional, February 6, 1886.

66. Daniel Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is - Its Topography and Material Recourses …." (New Orleans, 1876, 116.

67. (Abbeville) Meridional, February 6, 1886.

All technical data contained in this section is obtained from S. A. Lytle and M. B. Sturgis, "General Soil Areas and Associated Soil Series Groups of Louisiana," Louisiana Association of Agronomists Proceedings, III (1962), 1-17. (Mimeographed.)

Chapter II

1.  Official Report Relative to the Conduct of Federal Troops in Western Louisiana, During the Invasion of 1863 and 1864, Compiled Form Sworn Testimony, Under Direction of Governor Henry W. Allen. (Shreveport, Louisiana, 1865, reprinted by Otto Claitor, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1939), 11. Cited hereafter as Official Report.

2.  Ibid., 42.

3.  Ibid., 50-51, 53.

4.  See population statistics, 24.

5.  Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 22.

6.  See population statistics, 24.

7.  Alcee Fortier, Louisiana Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form. 3 vols. (Atlanta, Georgia, Century Historical Association, 1814), I, 450. Cited hereafter as Louisiana.

8.  Henry Lewis Griffen, The Attakapas Country: A History of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. (New Orleans, Pelican Publishing Co., 1959), 21. Cited hereafter as The Attakapas Country.

9.  Fortier, Louisiana, II, 21; Griffen, The Attakapas Country. 12.

10. Fortier, Louisiana, II, 21.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid., 9.

13. John S. Kyser, "The Evolution of Louisiana Parishes in Relation to Population Growth and Movements" (unpublished Doctor’s dissertation, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1938), 14.

14. Ibid., 15.

15. Newton Thorpe, American Charters, Constitutions, and Organic Laws, 1492-1908. 7 vols. (Washington, D. C. III, 1359-64. Of considerable value to the student is Country-Parish Boundaries in Louisiana. (Prepared by the Historical Records Survey, Division of Professional Service Projects, Works progress administration, New Orleans, Louisiana.) The Department of Archives, Louisiana State University, October. 1939.

16. Orleans Territorial Acts, 1805, 144.

17. Charles Gayarre, History of Louisiana. 4 vols. (New Orleans, Louisiana, 1885), IV, 122.

18. Orleans Territorial Acts, 1807, 2.

19. Ibid., 1811, 104.

20. Kyser, "The Evolution of Louisiana Parishes in Relations to Population Growth and Movement," 14.

21. Ibid.

22. La. Acts of 1817, 1st. S. of 3rd L., 66.

23. La. Acts of 1823, 1st. S. of S. of 6th L., 6.

24. La. Acts of 1840, 2nd S. 14L., 72.

25. La. Acts of 1844, 2nd S. of 16th L., 45.

26. La. Acts of 1870, 3rd S. of 1st. L., 168.

27. La. Acts of 1886, Reg. S., 48. Evangeline Parish was created from the northwestern section of Saint Landry in 1910.

28. John Sibley, Historical Sketches of the Several Indian Tribes in Louisiana South of the Arkansas River and Between the Mississippi and River Grand….Annuals of Congress, 9th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington, D. C., 1816), 1076-88.

29. John R. Swanton, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and the Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology, bulletin 43 (Washington D. C., 1911), 360-64.

30. Lauren C. Post, "Some Notes on the Attakapas Indians of Southwest Louisiana," Louisiana History, III, No3 (Summer, 1962), 221-42.

31. Fred Kniffen, "Southwest Louisiana’s Indians," The McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana) IV (1951), 81-87.

32. American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United Stats, Public Lands, 8 vols. (Washington, D. C. Gales and Seaton, 1832-1861), passim.

33. Kniffen, "Southwest Louisiana’s Indians," 82.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid., 85.

36. Ibid.

37. Post, "Cultural Geography," 41.

38. Frederick Law Olmsted, Journeys and Explorations in the Cotton Kingdom, 3 vols. (London, 1861), II, 37. Cited hereafter as Cotton Kingdom.

39. Kniffen, "Southwest Louisiana’s Indians," 86.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid.

42. Swanton, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley …., 45.

43. Kniffen, "Southwest Louisiana’s Indians,’ 87.

44. Ibid.

45. Charles Sealsfield, The Cabin Book of Sketches of Life in the Southwest (New York, 1844), 252. Also see George W. Cable, Bonaventure: A Prose Pastoral of Acadian Louisiana (New York, Charles Scribner’s son, 1893).

46. Fortier, Louisiana, II, 21.

47. Dudley J. LeBlanc, The True Story of the Acadians (Privately printed, 1937), 21.

48. Session Papers, 1775-1760, Council, Colonial Office Nova Scotia (Sam Jones Collection, Lake Charles, Louisiana).

49. LeBlanc, The True Story of the Acadians, 153.

50. V. L. Hair, "History of Crowley," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXVII (1944), 1119.

51. Francois-Xavier Martin, The History of Louisiana (New Orleans, Louisiana, 1882), 206.

52. Ibid.

53. Post "Cultural Geography," 77. Also see by the same author Cajun Sketches From the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press), 1-7.

54. Post, "Cultural Geography," 77.

55. DeBow’s Review, XXI (1856), 203.

56. George Lewis Prentiss, A Memoir of S. S. Prentiss, 2vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1881), I, 95.

57. Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is," 23; Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 18.

58. Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is," 23.

59. Olmsted, Cotton Kingdom, II, 40.

60. Ibid., 38; Cable Bonaventure, 6.

61. Olmsted, Cotton Kingdom, 38.

62. Ibid., 38-39.

63. Ibid., 42.

64. Ibid., 44.

65. Ibid., 44-45.

66. Ibid., 45.

67. Ibid.

68. (Lake Charles) American, February 3, 1892.

69. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 193.

70. Post, Cajun Sketches From the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana, 107-12.

71. Ibid., 11.

72. Quoted in Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 193, form the New Orleans Picayune.

73. Post, Cajun Sketches From the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana, 102-103; Joseph J. Vincent, Streak O’ Lean and A Streak O’ Fat (Tampa, Florida: Southern Historical Associates, 1953), 26-27.

74. Dolive Benoit, "French Influence in Calcasieu," The McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), III (1950), 70.

75. Ibid., 71.

76. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 19.

77. Ibid.

78. Gilbert L. Dupre, "Imperial St. Landry: The Mother of Parishes," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, VIII (1925), 420.

79. V. M. Scromuzza, "Galveztown: A Spanish Settlement of Colonial Louisiana," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XIII (1930), 566.

80. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 16.

81. Registry of Cattle Brands for Attakapas, 3 vols. 1760-1880. (Louisiana Room, Dupre Library, University of Southwestern Louisiana).

82. The True Story of the Acadians, 77.

83. Post, "Cultural Geography," 88.

84. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 123-24.

85. 1860 Census Population Schedules, Louisiana, Dec. F 1, Roll 12, C. 2, microfilm copy No. T7, Roll No. 85. (Microfilm Room, Library, Louisiana State University); Mrs. Lether E. Frazar, "Early Annuals of Beauregard Parish" (unpublished Master’s thesis, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1933), 18.

86. Mary Cole Doran (ed.) "Excerpts from a History of Beauregard Parish by Robert Jones," The McNeese Review (Lake Charles Louisiana, VII (1950), 110. See also 1860 Census Population Schedules, Louisiana, passim.

87. Robert Jones, "Sketch of History of Early Settlers of Original Parish of Calcasieu," Lake Charles American Press, November 4, 1931.

88. Frazer, "Early Annuals of Beauregard Parish," 21; 1860 Census Population Schedules, Louisiana, passim.

89. Lake Charles Daily Press, Special Edition, 1895.

90. (Lake Charles) American, July 8, 1891.

91. Vincent, Streak O’ Lean and A Streak O’ Fat, 87.

92. Post, "Cultural Geography," 146.

93. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Louisiana, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1892), I, 219.

94. Fortier, Louisiana, I, 19.

95. [Missing.]

96. William H. Harris, Louisiana Products, Resources and Attractions with a Sketch of the Parishes (New Orleans, 1881) 43. Cited hereafter as Louisiana Products.

97. William Iglinsky, "Robert’s Cove," The McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), VIII (1956), 28.

98. Ibid., 29.

99. The Opelousas Courier, January 7, 1882.

100. Lauren C. Post, "The Rice Country of Southwestern Louisiana," The Geographical Review, XXX (1940) 590.

101. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, January 13, 1872.

102. Ibid.

103. Lake Charles Echo, May 3, 1884.

104. Ibid.

105. Ibid.

106. A. A. Taylor, "The movement of Negroes from the East to the Gulf States from 1830 to 1860," Journal of Negro History, VII (1923), 369, 375, 381.

107. David K. Bjork (ed.) "Documents Relating to Alexandro O’Reilly and an Expedition sent out by him from New Orleans to Natchitoches, 1760-1770," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, VII (1924), 38.

108. See population statistics, 24.

109. Official Report, 50-53.

110. Quoted in the Opelousas Courier, February 17, 1866, from the Franklin Planters Banner.

111. Opelousas Courier, December 7, 1867.

112. Twelfth Census of the United States: 1900. Population, Vol. V, 88.

113. Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," Chapter V.

114. Fortier, Louisiana, I, 554.

115. Ibid.

116. Ibid.

117. Opelousas Courier, December 13, 1890.

118. Ibid., November 26, 1881.

119. Ibid., August 6, 1881.

120. (Abbeville) Meridional, February 9, 1878.

121. Opelousas Courier, March 4, 1893.

122. Grace Ulmer, "Economic and Social Development of Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, 1840-1912," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXXII (1949), 570.

123. New Orleans Daily States, January 28, 1880.

124. Acts and Resolutions of the Second Session of the Thirtieth Congress of the United States, (Washington, D.C., 1849), 41-42.

125. Acts and Resolutions of the First Session of the Thirty-First Congress of the United States (Washington, D. C. 1850), 141.

126. William O. Scroggs, "Federal Swamp Land Grants of 1849-50," Louisiana State University Quarterly, VI (1911), 164.

127. Acts of the State of Louisiana, 1871, 244. For the effects of this act, see Lee Joseph Melton, "The Swamp Land Act of 1849 as Applied to Louisiana" (unpublished Master’s thesis, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 18 1948).

128. S. A. Knapp, "The History of the Calcasieu Bank," The McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana) III (1950), 2. Over two hundred patents were issued by the State Land Office in the name of Jabez B. Watkins in southwest Louisiana between May 24, and May 30, 1883, and recorded in one book, the Watkins Patent Book, in the State Capital, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

129. Lake Charles’ Commercial and Industrial Advantages (Lake Charles, 1910), 6.

130. Knapp, "The History of the Calcasieu Bank," 2.

131. Ibid.

132. Ibid.

133. Opelousas Courier, April 9, 1887.

134. Lake Charles Daily Press, Special Edition, 1895.

135. Post, "The Rice Country of Southwestern Louisiana," 582.

136. Quoted in the Lake Charles Echo, April 3, 1886 form the New Orleans Times-Democrat.

137. Ibid., n.d., newspaper clipping in Cary’s Scrapbook.

138. Ibid.

139. Ibid.

140. The certificates of appointment is found in Cary’s Scrapbook.

141. New Orleans States, n.d., Cary’s Scrapbook.

142. New Orleans Times Democrat, March 26, 1886.

143. Ibid.

144. Ibid., March 28, 1982.

145. Ibid.

146. (Abbeville) Meridional, July 8, 1899.

147. (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, May 28, 1892.

148. Ibid.

149. (Lake Charles) American, July 8, 1891.

150. Ibid.

151. Quoted in the Lake Charles Daily American, August 11, 1900, from the New Orleans Picayune.

152. Quoted in the Lake Charles American Press, August 4, 1915, from the ( New Orleans) Times-Picayune.

153. Roger W. Shugg, Origins of Class Struggle in Louisiana: A Social History of White Farmers and Laborers During Slave4ry and After, 1840-1875 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1939), 16.

154. Post, "Some Notes on the Attakapas Indians of Southwest Louisiana," 234-35. Also see Post, "Cultural Geography," 89-90.

155. Quoted in Ibid., 16, from a paper presented before the Southwestern Agricultural Outlook Conference, Texarkana, December 10, 1934.

156. Post, "Cultural Geography," 166.

157. Ibid.

158. Ibid.

159. Spanish Surveys of Louisiana, Books E-J (about 10 volumes), various dates.

160. The (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, May 14, 1886.

161. Post, "Cultural Geography," 103.

162. Olmsted, Cotton Kingdom, II, 46.

163. Thomas Maitland Marshall, A History of the Western Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase (Berkeley, California, 1914), 1-63, passim. See also J. Villasana Haggard, "The Neutral Ground Between Louisiana and Texas, 1806-1921." Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXVIII (19450), 1001-1128, passim.

164. Annals of Congress, 17th Cong., 2nd Sess. (1822-1823).

165. Haggard, "The Neutral Ground Between Louisiana and Texas," 1052.

166. The (New Iberia) Louisiana Cotton Boll, April 23, 1873.

167. Section 1958 to 2966, Revised Laws of Louisiana, 1870, 465-68.

168. Ibid., 466-67.


1.  Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 18; Post, "Cultural Geography," 64.

2.  Ibid., 64-65; Some History of St. Landry Parish Form the 1690’s. Published as a special supplement of the Opelousas Daily World, November 3. 1955.

3.  Unpublished Police Jury Minutes of St. Mary Parish, Book I (1884-1900), 74-76. The log jam prevented flooding during high water stages.

4.  William Darby, The Emigrant’s Guide to the Western and Southwestern States and Territories…. (New York, 1818), 42.

5.  Opelousas Courier, May 17, 1879.

6.  Ibid.

7.  J. A. Robertson, Louisiana Under the Rule of Spain, France and the United States, 1785-1807, 5 vols. (Cleveland, Ohio, 1911) I, 227; An Account of Louisiana Being an Abstract of the Documents in the Offices of the Department of State, and the Treasury (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1803), 50.

8.  Post, "Cultural Geography," 74.

9.  Index to the Reports of the Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army (Including the Reports of the Isthmian Canal Commission, 1899-1914), 2 vols. (1866-1912), passim.

10. Digest of the Laws of Louisiana, 2 vols. (18280, I, 249-51.

11. Ibid., 267-69.

12. Ibid., 249-51.

13. Ibid., 167-69.

14. Opelousas Journal, July 15, 1871.

15. Opelousas Courier, September 2, 1865.

16. Ibid., October, 28, 1865.

17. Ibid., December 23, 1865.

18. Ibid., November 10, 1865.

19. Ibid., February 27, 1866.

20. Opelousas Journal, November 25, 1871.

21. Ibid.

22. Opelousas Courier, March 9, 1878.

23. Unpublished Police Jury Minutes of St. Mary Parish, Book I (1884-1900), 77. (St. Mary Parish Court House, Franklin, Louisiana.)

24. Opelousas Courier, October 11, 1873.

25. (Abbeville) Meridional, February 8, 1879.

26. Ibid.

27. Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is," 85.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid.

30. (Abbeville) Meridional, January 30, 1883.

31. Ibid., April 21, 1888. The name of Vermilionville was changed to Lafayette in 1884.

32. Ibid., April 26, 1890.

33. Index to the Reports of the Chief of Engineers, I, 711.

34. Ibid.; The Opelousas Courier, August 14, 1880.

35. Index to the Reports of the Chief Engineer, I, 711.

36. J. J. Vincent, "Calcasieu Cargo," The McNeese Review, (Lake Charles, Louisiana), VIII (Spring, 1956), 98.

37. Ibid. This writer was allowed to examine an account book of the late 1860’s owned by Vincent, which shows the products traded.

38. Walter Prichard (ed.), "A Forgotten Louisiana Engineer: G.W. Bayley and his ‘History of the Railroads of Louisiana,’’ Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXX (1947), 1155. Cited hereafter as "A Forgotten Louisiana Engineer."

39. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, April 29, 1869.

40. Ibid., February 8, 1879.

41. Ibid., November 21, 1874.

42. Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, 3 pts., I, 506.

43. Ibid.

44. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, December 5, 1874.

45. Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, pt, 1, 506-508.

46. House Reports, 46th Cong., 1st and 2nd Sess., I (1879-1880), Rpt. No. 10, 3.

47. Ibid.

48. Cong. Record, 46th Cong., 2nd Sess., XX, pt. 2, 1230 (1880).

49. Quoted in The (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, June 14, 1889, from the New Orleans Daily States.

50. House Docs., 57th Cong., 1st Sess. (1901-1902), 140-41.

51. Opelousas Journal, June 11, 1870.

52. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, October 12, 1878.

53. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 166.

54. Ibid.

55. Opelousas Journal, February 19, 1875.

56. Ibid.

57. Ibid, May, 1877.

58. Quoted in The Lafayette Advertiser, January 14, 1882, from The (Abbeville) Meridional.

59. Ibid., February 11, 1993.

60. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, October 7, 1875.

61. Vincent, "Calcasieu Cargo," 99.

62. Arthur C. Veatch, Shreveport Area: The Great Raft, Geological Survey of Louisiana. Report of 1899. Sec. III, Special Report No. 2 (Baton Rouge, 1899), 170-72. The Great Raft consisted of logs and other debris, which became lodged and fastened together, and as this collection had been going on for years, the raft was nearly a solid mass.

63. Post, "Cultural Geography," 75.

64. Olmsted, The Cotton Kingdom, II, 30.

65. Ibid., 31.

66. Ibid.

67. Ibid.

68. Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 81.

69. Ibid, 5.

70. Ulmer, "Economic and Social Development of Calcasieu Parish," 1840-1912," 539.

71. Doran (ed.), "Excerpts from a History of Beauregard Parish," 422.

72. Ibid.

73. Dupre, "Imperial St. Landry, the Mother of Parishes," 113.

74. Doran (ed.), "Excerpts from a History of Beauregard Parish," 113.

75. Benjamin W. Dart (ed. and ann.), Constitutions of the State of Louisiana and Selected Federal Laws (Indianapolis, Indiana: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Publishers, 1932), 600. Cited hereafter as Constitution of the State of Louisiana.

76. Ibid., 653.

77. Ibid.

78. Ibid.

79. Ibid.

80. Revised Laws of Louisiana, 1870, 525.

81. Ibid.

82. Ibid., 526.

83. Historical Records Survey, Transcriptions of Parish Records of Louisiana, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury Minutes, Vol. IV, Book "O" (1881-1898), 44-45. (Handwritten copy in the Department of Archives, Louisiana State University.) For editorial comment on the ordinance, see The (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, November 4, 1871.

84. Opelousas Courier, February 19, 1876.

85. Parish of Saint Landry v. John Toley, No. 1621 Criminal Docket, District, Court, Parish of Saint Landry, Opelousas, Louisiana.

86. Lake Charles Echo, December 21, 1878.

87. Opelousas Courier, November 19, 1881.

88. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, February 11. 1882.

89. Ibid., September 2, 1882.

90. (Abbeville) Meridional, January 3, 1883.

91. Opelousas Courier, March 3, 1883.

92. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, June 16, 1883.

93. Historical Records Survey, Transcriptions if Parish Records of Louisiana, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury Minutes, Vol. V, Book "C" (1881-1898), 216ff. (Handwritten copy in the Department of Archives, Louisiana State University).

94. Ibid., 258.

95. Ibid., 266.

96. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, June 19, 1886.

97. Opelousas Courier, April 6, 1889.

98. (Lake Charles) American, April 1, 1891.

99. Lafayette Advertiser, February 28, 1891.

100. (Abbeville) Meridional, June 11, 1892.

101. Quoted in the Opelousas Courier, October 22, 1892, from the Lake Arthur Herald.

102. Lafayette Advertiser, May 17, 1893.

103. Ibid., June 24, 1893.

104. Ibid., April 4, 1891.

105. Crowley Signal, July 1893.

106. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, August 31, 1894.

107. Lake Charles Commercial, August 17, 1895.

108. Quoted in Ibid., February 13, 1897 from the Crowley Signal.

109. Opelousas Courier, June 27, 1896.

110. Ibid., March 26, 1898.

111. Dart, Constitution of the State of Louisiana, 654.

112. (Abbeville) Meridional, July 16, 1898.

113. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 41.

114. Post, Cajun Sketches From the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana, 105.

115. Quoted in Ibid.

116. Ibid.

117. Letter written by Sylvester L. Cary for The (Iowa) Farmer, n. d., in Cary’s Scrapbook.

118. E. E. Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana …. United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary, Department Rpt. 35, 5.

119. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, January 24, 1878.

120. Louisiana Acts, 1853, 115-16. Approved April 22, 1853.

121. Louisiana Acts, 1853, 115-16. Act No. 149. Approved April 22, 1853.

122. Ibid., 1854, 69-72. Act. No. 108. Approved March 15, 1854.

123. Prichard, "A Forgotten Louisiana Engineer: G. W. R. Bayley," 1155.

124. Ibid.

125. U.S. Statutes at Large, 34th -35th Cong., 1855-1859, 18-19.

126. U.S. Statutes at Large, 34th -35th Cong., 1855-1859, 18-19.

127. Ibid., 1156.

128. Ibid., 1166.

129. Petition From the People of Louisiana to Congress for the Relief of the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad Company…. (Washington, D. C., 1868), 10.

130. U. S. Statutes at Large, 41st Cong., 1869-1871, 277.

131. Prichard, "A Forgotten Louisiana Engineer: G. W. R. Bayley," XXX, 1166.

132. Ibid.

133. Ibid., 1167-68.

134. Ibid., 1169

135. Ibid.

136. Ibid., 1170.

137. Ibid., 1170-71.

138. Ibid., 1171.

139. Ibid., 1172.

140. Ibid., 1173.

141. Ibid.

142. Ibid.

143. Ibid., 1173-75.

144. Ibid., 1175.

145 Ibid.

146. Ibid.

147. Ibid., 1176.

148. Ibid.

149. Opelousas Courier, February 24, 1872.

150. Henry V. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1873-74. New York: Poor’s Publishing Co., 1874), 660.

151. Ibid., 1880, 571.

152. Quoted in the Opelousas Courier, June 14, 1873, from the New Orleans Picayune.

153. Quoted in the Lafayette Advertiser, August 23, 1873, from the New Orleans Herald.

154. Ibid.

155. Acts of Louisiana, 1877, 37-48. Act No. 37. Approved March 8, 1877. To avoid confusion in terms, the name of Brashear City was changed to Morgan City in 1875, in honor of Charles Morgan, then chief owner of the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad and the steamship line connecting that city with Texas ports. (Louisiana Acts, 1876, 20-24. Act No. 7. Approved February 8, 1876.)

156. Ibid., Act. No. 37. Approved March 8, 1877.

157. Ibid., Act. No. 37. Approved March 8, 1877.

158. Ibid., 258-68. Act. No. 21. Approved March 30, 1878.

159. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States 1880, 914.

160. Lake Charles Echo, April 5, 1879.

161. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States 1880, 914.

162. Opelousas Courier, December 27, 1879.

163. Ibid., January 10, 1880.

164. Opelousas Courier, April 9, 1879.

165. Quoted in the Lake Charles Echo, April 3, 1880, from the Houston Telegram.

166. Lake Charles Echo, August 28, 1880.

167. St. Landry Democrat, October 23, 1880.

168. Lake Charles Echo, March 27, 1880.

169. Ibid., October 9, 1880.

170. Ibid., March 12, 1881.

171. Opelousas Courier, November 13, 1886.

172. Lake Charles Echo, March 26, 1887.

173. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1885, 901.

174. Ibid., 1881, 443.

175. Ibid., 1882, 841.

176. A photo static copy of the charter obtained from the Secretary of State, State of Kansas, Topeka, Kansas, is owned by the writer.

177. Lake Charles Echo, July 16, 1887.

178. Ibid., August 20, 1887.

179. Ibid., September 28, 1888.

180. Quoted in Ibid., April 26, 1889, from the New Orleans Times-Democrat.

181. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1892, 310.

182. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 144.

183. Opelousas Courier, July 30, 1892.

184. Lake Charles Daily American, May 25, 1899.

185. Ibid., December 15, 18998.

186. Ibid.

187. Ibid., June 2, 1900.

188. Ibid.

189. Hair, "The History of Crowley, Louisiana," 1129.

190. Southwest Louisiana on the Line of Southern Pacific 4th ed. (Published by the Southern Pacific Railroad, 1894) 71-72.

191. Lake Charles Commercial, April 6, 1895.

192. Southwest Louisiana on the Line of the Southern Pacific, 71-72.

193. (Abbeville) Meridional, August 24, 1895.

194. Ibid.

195. Ibid.

196. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States 1893, 1183.

197. (Abbeville) Meridional, April 25, 1891.

198. Quoted in Ibid., February 20, 1892, from the New Iberia Democrat.

199. (Abbeville) Meridional, December 3, 1892.

200. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1895, 819.

201. (Abbeville) Meridional, December 10, 1898.

202. T. J. Ratliff, "Straight as the Crow Flies," The McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), XI (1951-1960), 77.

203. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1901, 667.

204. Ratliff, "Straight as the Crow Flies," 79.

205. Ibid.

206. Ibid.

207. Ibid.

208. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1899, 556.

209. Lake Charles Daily American, December 14, 1898.

210. Ibid., August 24, 1900.


1.  Clarence Edwin Carter (comp. and ed.) The Territorial Papers of the United States (Washington D. C., Government Printing Office, 1940), IX,    678; DeBow’s Review, VIII, 148; XXXIX, 347; Lewis Cecil Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C., The Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1933), I, 149; Harris, Louisiana Products, 40; Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 131. Harry G. Chalkley, President, Sweet Lake Land and Oil Company and veteran cattlemen and descendant of a cattleman, believes that southwest Louisiana had a cattle population greater than any comparable area in the United States in the period following the Civil War.

2.  Darby, A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana, 106; John Dimitry, History and Geography of Louisiana (New Orleans, 1877), 78; Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 186; Lauren C. Post, " The Cattle Industry of Southwest Louisiana," The McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), Ix (1957), 46: Some History of St. Landry Parish from the 1690’s (Published as a special supplement of the Opelousas Daily World, November 3, 1955), 30.

3.  Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 249; Southwest Louisiana, 182; Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 5, 29; Post, "Cultural Geography," 115; Post, "The Old Cattle Industry of Southwest Louisiana," 44; Post, "Revolution of the Beef-Cattle Industry in the South," The McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), XI (1959-1960), 67.

4.  American State Papers, Public Lands, IV (1859), 89, 496; Griffin, History of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, 15; Hair, "History of Crowley, Louisiana," 1119; Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 141; Post, "Cultural Geography," 92; Shugg, Origins of Class Struggle in Louisiana, 101; The Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

5.  Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 69, 141; Olmsted, The Cotton Kingdom, II, 41.

6 Edwin Knapp, "Southwest Louisiana’s Thriving Cattle Industry," Gulf Coast Cattleman, XVIII (October, 1952), 9.

7.  Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 141; Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 249.

8. W. T. Cobb, "Cattle Contribute to Wealth of Area," Lake Charles American Press, March 27, 1946; Richard J. Morrisey, "The Northward Expansion of Cattle Ranching in New Spain, 1550-1660," Agriculture History, XXV (July, 1951), 115-21; Sealsfield, The Cabin Book of Sketches in the Southwest, 253.

9.  Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 8.

10. Post, "The Old Cattle Industry of Southwest Louisiana," 45.

11. Ibid., Sealsfield, The Cabin Book of Sketches of Life in the Southwest, 153.

12. Thomas D. Clark, The Emerging South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1961), 79.

13. Official Report, 41.

14. Joseph G. McCoy, Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest (Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1941), 231; New Iberia Louisiana Sugar Bowl, June 1, 1871.

15. Eighth (1860), Ninth (1870), and Tenth (1880) Censuses of the United States, Agriculture (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), passim. Cf Edwin Adams Davis, Louisiana: A Narrative History (Baton Rouge: Claitor’s Book Store, 1961), 205.

16. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, May 28, 1870.

17. Opelousas Courier, March 9, 1878.

18. (Abbeville) Meridional, February 6, 1886.

19. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, passim.

20. Opelousas Journal, July 15, 1871.

21. Interview with Edward D. Sweeney, Deputy Clerk of Court of Cameron Parish 1914-1919 and Clerk of Court of Cameron Parish 1919-1928, Lake Charles, Louisiana, May 26, 1962.

22. Lake Charles Echo, January 10, 1885.

23. Ibid.

24. [Missing.]

25. Ibid.

26. Lake Charles Echo, November 25, 1887.

27. Letter written by Cary to a northern newspaper, date and name of newspaper missing, in Cary’s Scrapbook.

28. Untitled article by Cary and D.C. Calkins in the Lake Charles Echo, July 5, 1884.

29. Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 71.

30. Lauren C. Post, "The Rice Country of Southwest Louisiana," The Geographical Review, XXX (1940), 575.

31. T. Lynn Smith and Lauren C. Post, "The Country Butchery: A Co-operative Institution," Rural Sociology, II No. 3 (September, 1937), 335-37..

32. Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 6.

33. Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is," 32.

34. Lake Charles Daily American, October 10, 1800; Overman, The Land Beyond the Hills, 141-42.

35. "Aladin Vincent," Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895. An interview with Aladin Vincent appeared in the Beaumont Enterprise, April 9, 1931.

36. Lake Charles Echo, September 14, 1888.

37. Interview with Edward D. Sweeney, May 26, 1962.

38. Ibid.

39. Vincent, Streak O’Lean and a Streak O’Fat, 63.

40. Ibid.

41. (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, May 28, 1892; Brand Book for the Districts of Opelousas and Attakapas, 1760-1888; Lauren C. Post, "Cattle Branding in Southwest Louisiana," McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), X (1958), 107.

42. (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, May 28, 1892.

43. Vincent, Streak O’ Lean and a Streak O’ Fat, 55, 57; Lake Charles American Press, May 5, 1936.

44. Interview with Harry G. Chalkley, June 22, 1962.

45. Ibid.

46. Lake Charles Echo, April 9, 1887.

47. Quoted in Ibid., July 1884, from the Manchester (Iowa) Press.

48. Historical Records Survey, Transcriptions of Parish Records of Louisiana, Saint Landry Parish Police Jury Minutes, Vol. VIII, 1868-1881, 59. (Handwritten copy in the Department of Archives, Louisiana State University, of original in Saint Landry Parish Court House, Opelousas, Louisiana.)

49. Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 8; Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 249; Olmsted.

50. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 298.

51. Ibid., 244.

52. Ibid., 210.

53. Quoted in Lake Charles Echo, February 26, 1881, from the St. Martinville Observer.

54. Lake Charles Echo, December 2, 1882.

55. (Abbeville) Meridional, July 22, 1882.

56. (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 24, 1886.

57. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 264.

58. Quoted in Opelousas Courier, May 8, 1886, from (New Orleans) Times-Democrat.

59. (New Orleans) Times Democrat, May 14, 1886.

60. Lake Charles Daily American, March 26, 1900.

61. (Abbeville) Meridional, December 9, 1899.

62. (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, May 28, 1892.

63. Lake Charles Echo, August 21, 1886.

64. Quoted in Ibid., March 7, 1885, from the Sugar-Bowl and Farm Journal.

65. Ibid.

66. Quoted in Lake Charles Echo, April 24, 1886, from the (New Orleans) Times-Democrat.

67. Ibid.

68. Ibid.

69. Ibid.

70. Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 6.

71. Ibid.

72. Harris, Louisiana Products, 15.

73. Lake Charles Daily American, December 4, 1899.

74. Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is," 114.

75. Louisiana Range Book, United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service (Alexandria, Louisiana 1959), 11.

76. Vermilion Banner, Abbeville, January 13, 1877.

77. (Abbeville) Meridional, April 6, 1878.

78. Lake Charles Echo, February 12, 1881.

79. Ibid., January 27, 1883; March 17, 1883; April 14, 1883.

80. Lake Charles Commercial, March 16, 1895.

81. Ibid.

82. Post, "The Old Cattle Industry of Southwest Louisiana," 51-52. Also see Olmsted, Cotton Kingdom, II, 40.

83. Letter to the editor written by a Cameron resident, the (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, April 15, 1875.

84. Ibid.

85. Ibid.

86. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, May 11, 1876.

87. Opelousas Courier, April 8, 1882.

88. Olmsted, Cotton Kingdom, II, 40.

89. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, April, 15, 1875.

90. Charles D. Warner, "The Acadian Land," Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, LXXIV (1887), 351.

91. Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 8.

92.  (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, April 15, 1875.

93.  Lake Charles Echo, September 19, 1885. This writer consulted Dr. B. M. Jolly, Lake Charles veterinarian, to check the accuracy of Dr. Kirkman’s diagnosis. Dr. Jolly upheld the diagnosis, but he felt that nutritional deficiencies were of greater importance in causing diseases than the in-breeding of cattle. He added that parasites called "liver flukes" were also a cause of mortality among cattle, men. These parasites, according to Dr. Jolly, caused a stilted gait in the cattle infested with them. French-speaking cattleman called this condition the "creeps."

94. Ibid. July 24, 1886.

95. Lake Charles Daily American, June 12, 1899.

96. Overman, The Land Beyond the Hills, 91. As a boy in the 1890’s Overman, lived with his parents on a farm a few miles outside of Crowley.

97. Interview with Dr. Steven O. Carter, Creole, Louisiana, June 21, 1962. Dr. Carter is a retired nonagenarian. He remembered treating thirty patients within a single month in the 1890’s for charbon.

98. Overman, The Land Beyond the Hills, 91.

99. Lake Charles Weekly Echo, June 4, 1870.

100. Opelousas Journal, November 21, 1873.

101. Ibid.

102. Lake Charles Weekly Echo, May 23, 1874.

103. Ibid.

104. Letter to Dr. J. E. Hawkins, Bayou Chicot, Louisiana, from J. W. Crawford, August 26, 1884, J. E. Hawkins Papers, Department of Archives , Louisiana State University.

105. Lake Charles Commercial, August 4, 1894.

106. Interview with Dr. Steven O. Carter, June 21, 1962.

107. Interview with Edward D. Sweeney, May 28, 1962.

108. New Orleans Times-Picayune and Sunday States, day and month missing, 1937. Miss Maude Reid Scrapbook.

109. Ulmer, "Economic and Social Development of Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana," 593. See also Maude Reid, "Origin of Some Place Names in Southwest Louisiana," McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), VI (1954), 116.

110. Lake Charles American Press, March 26, 1942; Post, "The Old Cattle Industry of Southwest Louisiana" 50-51.

111. Ibid.

112. Interview with James Baker, Westlake, Louisiana, May 26, 1962.

113. Opelousas Courier, March 9, 1978.

114. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, May 28, 1870.

115. Lake Charles Echo, August 3, 1876.

116. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, January 30, 1875.

117. Interview with Harry G. Chalkley, June 27, 1962.

118. Ibid.

119. Interview with Edward D. Sweeney, May 19, 1962.

120. Ibid. For an interesting account of beef-buying in the period, see Vincent, Streak O’ Lean and a Streak O’ Fat, 67.

121. Lake Charles Echo, March 27, 1886.

122. Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 6; Lake Charles American, January 29, 1891.

123. Lake Charles Echo, June 1, 1894.

124. Lake Charles Commercial, August 17, 1895.

125. (Lake Charles) American, January 20, 1897.

126. Lake Charles Commercial, February 13, 1897.

127. Lake Charles Daily American, September 25, 1897.

128. Ibid.

129. Ibid.

130. Ibid.

131. (Lake Charles) American, December 8, 1897.

132. Ibid.

133. Lake Charles Daily American, April 19, 1899.

134. Ibid., May 11, 1899.

135. Ibid., May 9, 1899.

136. Eleventh Census of the United States, 1890. Agriculture, I, 290.

137. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Agriculture, VI, 444-45.

138. Lake Charles Echo, August 1, 1885; Opelousas Courier, October 31, 1885; Post, "The Old Cattle Industry of Southwest Louisiana," 53.

139. Tenth Census (1880) and Twelfth Census (1900) of the United States, Agriculture, passim.

140. Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 69.

141. Ibid., 249.

142. Opelousas Journal, March 9, 1872.

143. Ibid.

144. Darby, A Geographical Description of Louisiana, 106.

145. Lake Charles Echo, July 5, 1884.

146. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 186.

147. Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 17.

148. Lake Charles Echo, April 14, 1883.

149. Ibid.

150. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 298.

151. (Lake Charles) American, December 11, 1895.

152. Eleventh Census, (1890) and Twelfth Census (1900) of the United States, Agriculture, passim.

153. Harris, Louisiana Products, 167; Eleventh Census (1890) and Twelfth Census (1900) of the United States, Agriculture, passim.

154. Lockett, "Louisiana As It Is," 154.

155. Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is," 23.

156. Lake Charles Echo September 9, 1882.

157. Ibid., January 10, 1885.

158. (Lake Charles) American, July 9, 1890.

159. Ibid., July 23, 1890.

160. Ibid.

161. Lake Charles Echo, September 14, 1888.

162. Quoted in (Abbeville) Meridional, December 16, 1893, from (Lake Charles) American.

163. Telephone interview with H. G. Chalkley, July 6, 1962.

164. Lake Charles Commercial, March 16, 1895.

165. Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, Agriculture, III, 167.

166. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Agriculture, V, pt. 1, 444-45.

167. Opelousas Journal, April 4, 1868; Rapley, "The Soils and Products of Southwestern Louisiana," 33.

168. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 186.

169. Ibid.

170. Lake Charles American, December 11, 1895.

171. Lake Charles Commercial, May 2, 1896.

172. Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is," 50.

173. Ibid., 115.

174. Ibid.

175. Lake Charles Daily American, December 4. 1899.

176. Dennett, "Louisiana As It Is," 55.


1.  Quoted in the Opelousas Courier, October 25, 1873, from the New Orleans Picayune.

2.  Ibid. Also see Seaman A. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States (Washington, D. C., 1899), 17. One of the first and still among the best accounts of the development of the rice industry in this country.

3.  Olmsted, Cotton Kingdom, II, 30.

4.  Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 32.

5.  Ibid., 32.

6.  Ibid.

7.  Ibid. Howard W. Odum, Southern Regions of the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1936) 574.

8. Quoted from an untitled article by Cary in The (Lake Charles) American, April 28, 1897, from the Jennings Record.

9. Ibid.

10. Myron Leslie Fuller, "Rice Irrigation in Southern Louisiana," U. S. Geological Survey. Water-Supply and Irrigation Paper 101, 1904, 82; Joseph Cannon Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp: Schoolmaster of American Agriculture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945), 112; Vincent, Streak O’ Lean and a Streak O’ Fat.

11. Opelousas Courier, October 23, 1886; Vincent, Streak O’ Lean and a Streak O’ Fat, 73, 75, 77; Henry LeRoy Riser, "The History of Jennings, La." (Unpublished Master’s thesis, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1948), 48; Robert Gahn, "Economic Development of Evangeline Parish from its Early Beginning to 1940," McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), X (1958), 35.

12. U. B. Phillips, Life and Labor in the Old South (Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1929), 115-18, 2255-67.

13. Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through the Seaboard Slave States in the Years 1853-1854 …. 2 vols. (New York, 1856), 11, 673.

14. Ninth Census of the United States, 1870. Agriculture, III, 168-69.

15. Tenth Census of the Unites States, 1880. Agriculture, III, 282-283; Lake Charles Daily American, March 13, 1900. Of the estimated Louisiana crop of 64,848,380 pounds of clean rice produced in 1900, Calcasieu produced 25,715,040 pounds, or approximately forty per cent. Acadia produced 8,556,080 pounds and Saint Landry 644,832. Calcasieu had 53,573 acres in rice cultivation, Acadia, 22,516, and Saint Landry, 19,187.

16. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 231.

17. Opelousas Courier, September 18, 1875.

18. St. Landry Democrat, December 4, 1880; Opelousas Courier, September 18, 1880.

19. S. L. Cary, Southwest Louisiana: Up to Date, 20.

20. Letter from a subscriber in the Lake Charles Echo, March 29, 1884.

21. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 9.

22. Lake Charles Echo, March 12, 1881.

23. (Abbeville) Meridional, July 18, 1885; Cary, Southwest Louisiana: Up to Date, 19.

24. Southwest Louisiana on the Line of the Southern Pacific Company (fourth edition; Cincinnati, Ohio, 1894), 27.

25. Ibid., 28.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, pt. 2, 148.

29. Obituary notice in the New Orleans Time-Democrat, January 22, 1915. Cary is here given recognition as "father" of the rice industry in southwest Louisiana. Also see Lauren C. Post, "The Rice Country of Southwestern Louisiana," Geographical Review, XXX (1940), 581.

30. Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp: Schoolmaster of American Agriculture.

31. Rodney Cline, The Life and Work of Seaman A. Knapp (Nashville, Tennessee, George Peabody College for Teachers, Contribution to Education No. 183, 1936), 33. See also Edward Hake Phillips, "The Gulf Coast Rice Industry," Agricultural History, XXV (1951) 92.

32. Post, "The Rice Country of Southwestern Louisiana," 581. Also see Lake Charles Daily American Press: Special Edition, June 26, 1911.

33. T. W. Poole, Some Late Words About Louisiana (New Orleans, 1891), 15.

34. Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp, Schoolmaster of American Agriculture, 120.

35. Ibid. 120-21; Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 22; Lake Charles Commercial, August 25, 1894, from an article in the New Orleans Picayune, April 27, 1895.

36. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 22.

37. Riser, "The History of Jennings, Louisiana," 49-50; Jennings, Jeff Davis Parish News, October 30, 1934.

38. Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

39. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 139-40.

40. Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp: Schoolmaster of American Agriculture, 121.

41. "Rice," Department of Agriculture, Yearbook, 1922 (Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1923), 515-18. Cited hereafter as Yearbook.

42. Lake Charles Commercial, January 19, 1895.

43. Odum, Southern Regions of the United States, 574.

44. Day Allan Willey, "The New Rice-Farming in the South," American Review of Reviews, XVI (August, 1902), 180; Knapp, The Present Status of Rice in the United States, 22.

45. Lake Charles Echo, January 3, 1890.

46. Letter, S. L. Cary to the Traffic Manager of the Southern Pacific Railroad, September 1, 1894, in Cary’s Scrapbook.

47. Fuller, "Rice Irrigation in Southern Louisiana," 82; Lake Charles Commercial, January 19, 1895; Jennings Times, December 7, 1893.

48. The (Abbeville) Meridional, May 16, 1896.

49. Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, X. (March 25, 1893), 188; Crowley Signal, March 11, 1893; Mildred Kelly Ginn, "A History of Rice Production in Louisiana to 1896," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXIII (1940), 570.

50. Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, X (March 25, 1893), 188.

51. Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp: Schoolmaster of American Agriculture, 112-23.

52. [Missing.]

53. Ibid.

54. E. Shutts, "Rice Irrigation in Louisiana," American Society of Civil Engineers, Transactions, Paper No. 2565.

55. Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp; Schoolmaster of American Agriculture, 114.

56. William A. Stubbs, A Handbook of Louisiana, (New Orleans, Louisiana, 1895), 1-3.

57. Ibid., Shutts, "Rice Irrigation in Louisiana," 873.

58. Ibid.

59. Quoted in Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp: Schoolmaster of American Agriculture, 123.

60. J. F. Wellington, "A Model Plantation," in Cary, Southwest Louisiana: Up to Date, 30.

61. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 23.

62. Ibid.

63. Crowley Signal, January 30, 1904. Also see Hair, "The History of Crowley, Louisiana," 1157.

64. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 23.

65. Crowley Signal, April 7, 1898.

66. Fuller, "Rice Irrigation in Southern Louisiana," 83.

67. Ibid.

68. Ibid.

69. Ibid.

70. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 23.

71. Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp: Schoolmaster of American Agriculture, 128.

72. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 23.

73. Article reprinted in (Lake Charles) American, December 15, 1897, from the Lake Charles Daily American.

74. Frank Bond, "Rice Irrigation in Louisiana and Texas," United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Experiment Stations Bulletin 133, Report of Irrigations for 1902 (1903), 186; Fuller, "Rice Irrigation in Southern Louisiana," 569-70.

75. The Pioneer Rice Man of Louisiana, 2. This is a brief biography of S. L. Cary in letter form, in possession of the Southern Pacific Company. Quoted in Ginn, "A History of Rice Production in Louisiana to 1896," 569-70.

76. Ibid.

77. Crowley Signal, April 4, 1891.

78. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 24.

79. Ibid.

80. Ibid.

81. Ibid.

82. Ibid., 25.

83. Bond, "Rice Irrigation in Louisiana and Texas," 187.

84. Gueydan News, 6. 1899. Cary Scrapbook.

85. Ibid.

86. (Abbeville) Meridional, March 26, 1881: Crowley Signal, April 5, 1898; Hair, "The History of Crowley, Louisiana," 1164.

87. Cline, The Life and Work of Seaman A. Knapp, 38.

88. Ibid.

89. Ibid., 39.

90. Ibid.

91. Lake Charles Echo, October 5, 1878.

92. Ibid., June 14, 1879.

93. Ibid., March 20, 1880.

94. (Abbeville) Meridional, June 18, 1887.

95. Opelousas Courier, April 16, 1887.

96. Lake Charles Echo, August 5, 1892.

97. Ibid.

98. S. A. Knapp, "The History of the Calcasieu Bank," McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), III (1950), 4.

99. Ibid.

100. Quoted in (Abbeville) Meridional, June 3, 1893, from Lake Charles Echo.

101. Ibid. May 25, 1894. Crowley Signal, January 30, 1904.

102. Lake Charles Daily American, June 5, 1900.

103. (Abbeville) Meridional, January 28, 1899.

104. Lake Charles Daily American, June 5, 1900. Statistics reprinted from the Annual Report of Orleans Board of Trade.

105. Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, I (August 18, 1888), 69.

106. Ibid., III (August 31, 1889); Ginn, "A History of Rice Production in Louisiana to 1896," 563.

107. Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, VIII (February 27, 1892), 158.

108. Ibid.

109. Opelousas Courier, April 9, 1892.

110. Ibid.

111. Crowley Daily Signal, October 4, 1937; Hair, "The History of Crowley, Louisiana," 1164.

112. Ibid.

113. Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, VII (August 29, 1891), 62.

114. Lake Charles Daily American, June 21, 1899. Figures reprinted from the Crowley Signal.

                       1893-94 …………………$2.48 per 162-lb Sack

                       1894-95 …………………. 2.65 per 162-lb Sack

                       1895-96 …………………..1.68 per l62-lb Sack

                       1896-97 …………………..2.63 per 162-lb Sack

                       1897-98 …………………..3.25 per 162-lb Sack

115. Lake Charles Daily American, October 24, 1899.

116. Ibid., October 15, 190.

117. Ibid.

118. [Missing.]

119. Taken from a paper on rice production read by S. L. Cary at the Farmers' Institute held at Jennings, Louisiana, March 21, 1899. The paper is given in full in Cary, Southwest Louisiana: Up to Date, 17.

120. Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 9, 22.

121. Knapp, "Statements," Hearings, House Committee on Agriculture (59th Cong., 1st Sess., January 24, 1906), 248; John Norman Efferson, The Production and Marketing of Rice (New Orleans, Louisiana: Simmons Press 1952), 512.

122. "The Rice Industry," Congressional Record, Senate 55th Cong., 1st Sess., May 18, 1124 (sic) [probably 1897].

123. Ibid. Lake Charles Commercial, July 24, 1898.

124. Crowley Signal, January 27, 1894; Ginn, "A History of Rice Production in Louisiana to 1896," 573-74.

125. (Lake Charles) American, June 30, 1897; Bailey, Seaman A. Knapp: Schoolmaster of American Agriculture, 127.

126. "The Tariff Bill," Congressional Record, Senate, 55th Cong., 1st Sess., June 9, 1897, 1594.

127. Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, I (July 7, 1888), 2.

128. Ibid. XIII (November 24, 1894), 326; VI (May 25, 1895), 328; Scientific American, LXXIV (May 9, 1896), 295.

129. Cline, The Life and Work of Seaman A. Knapp, 42; Knapp, The Present Status of Rice Culture in the United States, 3.

130. Cline, The Life and Work of Seaman A. Knapp, 46; Seaman A. Knapp, Rice Culture in the U. S., United States Department of Agriculture, Farmer’s Bulletin No. 110 (Washington, D. C., 1900). In letter of transmittal by F. V. Coville.

131. Ibid.

132. Article reprinted in the Lake Charles Daily American, September 4, 1900, from the New Orleans States.

133. T. Lynn Smith, The Growth of Population in Louisiana, 1890 to 1900 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin 264, 1935), 42.

134. Phillips, "The Gulf Coast Rice Industry," 93.


1.  Charles S. Sergeant, Report on the Forests of North America (Exclusive of Mexico), 10th Census (Washington D. C., Government Printing Office, 1884), 536.

2.  Ibid., 538; Clair A. Brown, Louisiana Trees and Shrubs (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Louisiana Forestry Commission No. 1, 1945), 6; George Alvin Stokes, "Lumbering in Southwest Louisiana: A Study of the Industry as a Culture-Geographic Factor" (unpublished Doctor's dissertation, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1954), 20. Cited hereafter as "Lumbering in Southwest Louisiana."

3.  Society of American Foresters, Forest Terminology: A Glossary of Technical Terms Used in Forestry (Washington D. C., Society of American Foresters, 1958), 81.

4.  I. F. Eldredge, "Southern Forests Then and Now," Journal of Forestry, L (1952), 183.

5.  J. H. Foster, "Forest Conditions in Louisiana," Forest Service Bulletin 114 (Washington, D. C., United States Department of Agriculture, 1912), 6.

6.  W. G. Wahlenburg, Longleaf Pine (Washington, D. C., Charles Lathrop Pack Forestry Foundation, 181946) 215.

7.  J. B. Berry, Southern Woodland Trees (Chicago: World Book Co., 1924), 32.

8.  Stokes, "Lumbering in Louisiana," 17; Elmer E. Shutts, "Industrial History of Southwest Louisiana," McNeese Review (Lake Charles, Louisiana), VI (1954) 93.

9.  Ella Lonn, Reconstruction in Louisiana After 1868 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1918). See map opposite Page 532.

10. Sargent, Report on the Forests of North America, 537.

11. Lake Charles Daily American, March 30, 1900.

12. John E. Defebaugh, History of the Lumber Industry in North America (2 vols. St. Louis, Missouri, Published by the American Lumberman, 1907), II, 53.

13. The Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

14. G. B. Hortman, "The Calcasieu Pine District of Louisiana," The Ames Forester, X (1922), 65.

15. James Boyd, "Fifty Years in the Southern Pine Industry," Southern Lumberman, CXLV (1931), 27; (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, April 25, 1874.

16. F. V. Emerson, "The Southern Longleaf Pine Belt," Geographical Review, VII (1919), 82.

17. Lake Charles Echo, September 2, 1882.

18. Ibid., May 20, 1882.

19. Ibid., November 11, 1882.

20. Ibid., December 25, 1886.

21. William L. Bradley, "Logs and Lumber in Calcasieu: New Methods Compared with the Old," Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.; Overman, The Land Beyond the Hills, 77. Overman had come to southwest Louisiana in the early 1890’s as a boy and witnessed the process of cutting and hauling timber.

24. Lake Charles Echo, June 14, 1884.

25. Ibid., December 27, 1884.

26. R. G. Lillard, The Great Forest (New York: A. A. Knopf, 181947), 171.

27. House Docs., 45th Cong., 2nd Sess., 22 vols. VIII (1877-1878), 220.

28. Senate Docs., 45th Cong., 1st & 2nd Sess., 4 vols. I (1877-1878), 64.

29. Ibid., 20, 124.

30. Ibid.; Lake Charles Echo, May 31, 1877.

31. Opelousas Courier, May 26, 1877.

32. Lake Charles Echo, June 21, 1877.

33. Senate Docs. 45th Cong., 1st & 2nd Sess., I, 124.

34. Lake Charles Echo, February 7, 1878.

35. Ibid., March 24, 1878.

36. Congressional Record, 46th Cong. 1st Sess., IX (June 9, 1879), 1870.

37. Lake Charles Echo, November 30, 1878.

38. Ibid.

39. Sargent, Report on the Forests of North America, 536; S. F. Horn, This Fascinating Lumber Business (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1951), 104.

40. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 141.

41. Unpublished Conveyance Record of Calcasieu Parish, Book "W" (1891), 576. (Original copy in the possession of the Levingston Title Co., Lake Charles, Louisiana); Lake Charles Daily American, February 25, 1899.

42. Unpublished Conveyance Record of Calcasieu Parish, Book 30 (1900-1901), 490, passim, (Original copy in possession of the Levingston Title Co., Inc. Lake Charles, Louisiana.)

43. Ibid., Book 25 (1899), 528.

44. Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

45. Lake Charles Echo November 8, 1879.

46. Sargent, Report on the Forests of North America, 537; Stewart A. Ferguson, "History of Lake Charles, Louisiana" (Unpublished Master’s thesis, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1931), 44.

47. George H. Wells, "The Early Days of Calcasieu," Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895. Wells, and attorney, came to Lake Charles in 1866 to practice his profession.

48. (Lake Charles) Daily American: Souvenir Edition, June, 1905, 11. George Lock and J. A. Bel, prominent lumbermen during this period, were sons-in-law of Goos. Smaller mills, such as the Sittig Mill, the John Hagar and Anselm Sallier Mill, and the Martin Ryan Mill in operation before the Civil War, continued for some time after.

49. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, May 13, 1869; April 6, 1871; April 20, 1871.

50. Ibid., April 6, 1871.

51. Ibid., May 13, 1869.

52. Lake Charles Echo, August 20, 1881.

53. Charles Mohr, "Timber Pines of the Southwestern United States,"  Division of Forestry Bulletin 13 (Washington, D. C., United States Department of Agriculture, 1897), 44.

54. Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

55. Lake Charles Echo, December 27, 1884.

56. Ibid.

57. Ibid., March 3, 1883.

58. Ibid., March 7, 1885.

59. Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid.

62. (Lake Charles) American Press: December 30, 1918.

63. Ibid.

64. Ibid.

65. Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

66. (Lake Charles) Daily American: Souvenir Edition, June 1905, 27.

67. Lake Charles Echo, September 14, 1888.

68. Ibid., (Lake Charles) Daily American: Souvenir Edition, June, 1905, 51, 61.

69. Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

70. Lake Charles Daily American, March 11, 1900.

71. W. W. Davis, "The Yellow-pine Lumber in the South," Review of Reviews, XXIX (1904), 55; Stokes, "Lumbering in Southwest Louisiana," 41.

72. H. Foster, "Forest Conditions in Louisiana," Forest Service Bulletin 114 (Washington, D. C. United States Department of Agriculture, 1912), 1.

73. Lake Charles Echo, March 12, 1881.

74. Ibid., May 3, 1879.

75. Lake Charles Daily American: Souvenir Edition, June 1905, 11; Edward Kerr, History of Forestry in Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Louisiana Forestry Commission, 1958), 1. (Mimeographed.)

76. Lake Charles Echo, October 19, 1878.

77. Articles reprinted in Ibid. from the Galveston News.

78. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, May 13, 1869.

79. Ibid., November 21, 1874.

80. House Rpts. 46th Cong., 1st and 2nd Sess., I (1879-1880), Rpt. No. 10, 3; Lake Charles Echo, October 5, 1878.

81. (Lake Charles) Weekly Echo, December 23, 1875.

82. Lake Charles Echo May 17, 1879.

83. New Orleans Times-Democrat, September 4, 1885.

84. Lake Charles Echo, July 10, 1885.

85. Ibid., December 25, 1886.

86. Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

87. (Lake Charles) American, October 23, 1895.

88. Lake Charles Commercial, September 5, 1895-1896.

89. Lake Charles Daily American, May 13, 1900.

90. Ibid.

91. Rachael Edna Norgress, "The History of the Cypress Lumber Industry in Louisiana." Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXX (1947), 1021.

92. Perrin, Southwest Louisiana, 141.

93. Lake Charles Daily Press: Special Edition, 1895.

94. Ibid.

95. Vincent, Streak O’ Lean and a Streak O’ Fat, 83.

96. Extract of a letter written by c. Bunker of Orange, Texas, to R. L. Querouse,