The original settlement of Natchitoches was made in 1691, by Canary Islanders, who came by way of Mexico. Consequently it is the oldest permanent settlement within the present State of Louisiana. The exact date of the Indian settlement, on its present site, is among the vanishing scenes of the dreamless past.
The significance of the name is an Indian word and means Paw Paw eaters, in contradistinction to that of Naccadoches, Persimmon eaters.
Subsequently the Canary Islanders were forced by the French to retire to the Spanish settlement of Los Adayes. The town of Natchitoches is situated in lattitude 31° 46′ (Darby) 31° 44′ (Sibley) longitude 14° West.
Bienville accompanied by St. Denys visited the Natchitoches and Yattasses Indians in March, 1700. He visited the Yattasses village that was situated about where Grappes Bluff now is. The lower village of the Yattasses was situated at the foot of Yattasses Lake, now corrupted to Nantaches. The old ancient village visited by Bienville and St. Denys is about two miles south of Aloha, at the junction of the Bayou de Fren and Bayou de Guepe in N. W. 1⁄4 of Sec. 23, T. 7 N. R. 4 West, Grant Parish, on the farm of Samuel Johnson, and the Jefferson Highway runs through a part of the site of the old village. The road bed runs through the ancient burying ground. Bienville was turned back at the upper village of the Yattasses by some Caddos who were visiting the Yattasses, and who informed him on account of high water, the route was impassable.
Bienville and St. Denys returned down Red River, in canoes, to the French settlement at Biloxi. They were the first white men borne upon the bosom of the Red River.
La Salle visited the Natchitoches Indians at the present site of the city of Natchitoches in 1687, and the last letters sent to civilization were from there. Tradition has it that the first settlement of the Natchitoches Indians was on Bayou Pierre, and afterwards removed to the spot where the white man found them.
After the death of De Soto the Spaniards under Louis de Moscoso, visited the Indians at Natchitoches, 1540, seeking a route to Mexico, but the Chickasaws, a fierce tribe, annoyed them so that they retraced their steps back to the Mississippi River. St. Denys commanded a small fort on the Mississippi near the mouth, he removed the Natchitoches Indians near him in 1705 for protection against hostile tribes. In 1712 he moved them back to their old home at Natchitoches. In 1707, St. Denys was sent to explore Red, or Natchitoches River, which he did for 1000 miles. In the same year he brought some Canadians to Natchitoches to found a settlement. He built Fort St. John the Baptist on the oval ridge where the American grave yard now is. This spot, at that time, was an island, the river on the south side, and a lake north west and north, a draw bridge for egress and ingress. I found evidences of a tunnel built to reach the water in the lake in case of a siege. What a sacred and romantic spot here, of a time that tried men’s souls!
La Mothe Cadillac was desirous of establishing a trade with Mexico, and selected Natchitoches as an entrepot. He sent St. Denys across the plains with twelve Canadians and some Indians with goods to the Presidio on the Rio Grande. The route he travelled was an old buffalo trail, made by the animals in their annual winter migrations from the plains and prairies of Texas and New Mexico to the Mississippi, and tributary bottoms; this among the heavy cane brakes and the forests.
Among their great rendezvous were the prairies of south Louisiana, the curious landmarks found there were known as buffalo wallows, or holes. There are plenty of them to be seen this day. They wallowed in the mud and the water to coat their bodies as a protection against mosquitoes. The buffalo wallows today are mute mementoes of their visits, though they have perished from the land. This animal migration to spend the winters, is a wonderful law of nature. Countless thousands of buffalo, elk, deer, and all the Carnivora that preyed upon them journeyed hence. Days and weeks were consumed in their passage on their migrations. They were never out of sight. Every blade of grass, shrub, all vestige of vegetation was destroyed, and the way was a bed of dust. St. Denys laid off this trail, and Captain Don Ramon travelled along this route and adopted it, making it a legal highway; it became known as the Carmino Real, or King’s highway, to become known latterly as San Antonio trail. In sections the earth is cut down several feet, and along this old route are found spurs, bridle bits, swords and other relics of bygone days. From East Pendleton on Sabine river it crosses Sabine Parish, by Fort Jessup, Natchitoches, St. Maurice on Red River, through the pine forests of Winn to the head of Catahoula on Little River, at the junction of the Dugdemonia and Caston, thence through La Salle, Catahoula to Harrisonburg on the Ouachita, across Sicily Island, through the Tensas and Mississippi bottom, across Mississippi to Natchez, from there to Mobile; this was the great Highway to and from Texas. Along this trail it was seldom, in the old days, that one was out of sight of some traveler on his way to Texas, often several wagons were to be seen together.
At St. Maurice Ferry on Red River, I saw emigrants, at one time camped as far as three miles back, waiting to cross, and it took three days to cross them, such was the packed mass. Ask the winds of the sighs, the heart aches, hopes and emotions of that people journeying to this land of Araby the blest. On Beech trees in Bear Creek swamp can be seen names cut as far back as 1820. Oh! the good old times, long since passed, how we sigh for them!
Now, when St. Denys arrived at the Presidio on the Rio Grande, he fell under the spell of the eyes of Donna Maria de Navarre. The inevitable woman again! She was the grand daughter of the Commandant, and a mutual attachment was formed immediately. The Commandant having informed St. Denys he had no authority to trade with him was directed to the Viceroy of Mexico. Arriving there, his mission was viewed with suspicion, and instead of securing the desired object, he was thrown into prison, and there languished for months. Eventually, the officer whose duty it was to inspect the prisons, finding St. Denys to be an old class mate of his, being in the service of the Spanish Government himself, he set about securing St. Denys’ release, at the same time seeking to induce St. Denys to enter the service of the Spanish Government. St. Denys proved loyal to France, and declined to do so. Finally he was given his liberty, a good horse and a purse of gold, like a Centaur he sped with the wind to his love, on the Rio Grande. The happy couple were married, and they crossed the plains to the Natchitoches Post.
In 1714, Bernard La Harpe arrived in Natchitoches to further the settlement of that place. He journeyed up the Red River, and established a trading post and settlement at 33° 50′ about 500 miles above Natchitoches on the River. Bernard La Harpe brought with him 250 emigrants, when he arrived at Natchitoches. He found the post on an island and in charge of Commandant Blondel, and with Father Manuel de Romaners as spiritual adviser. Near the Fort were 200 Natchitoches, Sousitonies and Yattasses Indians.
In 1718, the Brossart brothers brought out a colony from Lyons, France to settle at Natchitoches. The first to receive land grants and to settle among the Natchitoches Indians were Louis Latham, who settled near Las Tres Llonas, and Pierre and Julian Beson who settled at Grand Ecore. Athanase Poissat claimed land at the three cabins under title from the Indians.
In 1784, Gov. Miro granted lands to Francois Bossier, and to Francois and Alex Groppe. Other settlers were Prudehomme, Robiens, Laurents, La Cours, Cloutiers, Metoyers, Martins and Crows, the last named settled on the Sabine.
St. Denys was the Father of Natchitoches. He was born in Quebec, Canada, on Sept. 18, 1676, and died in Natchitoches 1744, aged about 68 years. He was buried near the Cathedral, on the spot now occupied by the Natchitoches Drug Co. building. He was a great diplomat, and his control over the Indians was wonderful. He used his influence to pacify them, and to settle their differences. He was a valiant warrior, however, when the exigencies of the case demanded it. He was a brother-in-law to Athanase de Mezeres, Lieut.-Governor and Commandant of the Fort at Natchitoches, appointed by Governor O’Reilly under Spanish regime.
After the death of St. Denys, his son was appointed Commandant of the Fort and continued in this office for many years. St. Denys’ daughter Marie, married a De Soto, and their descendants lived on the Saline Bayou in Winn Parish a few years ago. Jules De Soto was a fine Confederate soldier, in Hardy’s Co., 28th Louisiana Infantry. Two Firmans and John De Soto, his direct descendants, now live in Avoyelles Parish.
The Spanish, after the Canary Islanders retired from Natchitoches, formed a settlement at Los Adayes, three leagues west of Natchitoches. They claimed the Arroyo Hondo Deep Run and Grand Montana as the boundary between France and Spain. The Los Adayes is where the town of Robeline now stands, and is distinguished as being the first capital of Texas, 1731, and remained the capital for fifty years.
A mission and church were established at Los Adayes, and called the Mission of St. Miguel de Linares. The Natchez war took place subsequently; the massacre of Fort Rosalie took place on November 29, 1729. The Natchez forted on a mound, a natural fortification, at Trinity — the junction of the Ouachita, Tensas and Catahoula rivers. Governor Perrier attacked them there laying siege mounted cannon and prepared to open a cannonade on them. They agreed to surrender, a violent storm coming up, chief The Flour and about 150 warriors escaped, one of the great suns St. Combe sun returned with four hundred of the Natchez. Chief The Flour traveled up the Catahoula river, and around Catahoula Lake on the Natchitoches. They built a Cache to save their dried meats and provisions, on a hill north of Rocky Ford, two miles north of Colfax. This Cache is to be seen there today.. The Natchez sought to gain entrance into the Fort at Natchitoches, and by treachery slaughter the garrison. St. Denys, ever on the alert, refused to let them come in; only ten warriors unarmed. This caused the Natchez to lay siege to the fort, which lasted twenty-two days. St. Denys applied to Com. Bustillo at Los Adayes for help; he furnished nine soldiers, one of whom was killed during the siege. This and another circumstance show that their relation must have been amicable and cordial, as it is recounted that Francois Le Moyne, one of St. Denys’ soldiers married Juniata Victoria Garcia, a Spanish lady of Los Adayes. Friction over boundary lines evidently did not prevent Cupid from getting in his work.
The Natchez becoming exasperated at the stubborn resistance of St. Denys brought out a French woman captive, and burned her before the Fort! St. Denys was so incensed, and fairly wrought up to the highest pitch at this display of wanton cruelty, sallied forth with forty soldiers and one hundred Natchitoches and Yattasses Indians. They fought furiously, defeated the Natchez, and killed ninety-two warriors, among them four Chiefs, The Flour being one of them. They fled down the River and took refuge in a lake about three miles west of Cloutierville, where they were completely annihilated. Their bones could be seen there years afterwards. This lake was called Sang pour Sang, — Blood for Blood. This was in 1732.
Fifty years later some Natchez Indians visited the Post at Natchitoches. Christopher Miller, a reliable citizen, states that he saw (Indians) Natchez on a visit to Natchez fifty years after the fall of Fort Rosalie. He testified to their noble statue, and commanding form, eyes like those of the Gazelle, remarkable lofty and retreating foreheads, thus showing their instinctive love for the graves of their fathers. The ill treatment and cruelties put upon them by Chaport, the Commandant of Fort Rosalie, caused the terrible war and loss of life.
The friction over the boundary line between France and Spain became so acute that a mutual agreement secured a neutral strip, extending from Arroyo Hondo to Sabine, afterwards called “No Mans Land.” That terra incognito became the rendezvous of a non de script class; a class of criminals; outlaws, murderers, refugees from justice, from the United States and Mexico, as well as other countries. This strip consisted of all Sabine parish and a part of Natchitoches lying between Arroyo Hondo and Sabine river. An agreement made by General Herrera of the Spanish army and General Wilkinson of the United States forces in 1806 that this strip should remain neutral, continued till 1820 — 14 years. The inhabitants of this strip became so lawless and committed outrages so great that the United States troops went into that territory twice, and razed their habitations to the ground, but soon they gathered together again.
After the treaty between the United States and Spain, when Spain ceded Florida to the United States, Spain relinquished all claim to the territory east of the Sabine, then it was that the band of outlaws was broken up.
Quite an extensive trade was carried on during the latter part of the century and up to 1850, overland with Mexico, by caravans of mules. The traditional sixteen mule loads of silver thrown into Spanish Lake by Eli Carasco, to prevent its falling into the hands of the robbers, was lost and having sunk in the mud of the lake was never located. This is a fine chance for the fool with the mineral rod, as these times are not yet fool proof.
In 1769, effective possession was taken of Louisiana by Spain, under O’Reilly. Spain received Louisiana by Transfer in 1769, and Spanish rule continued till retransfer of Spain to France and the sale by France to the United States, April 30th, 1803, when delivery made was to Governor Claiborne, December 20th, 1803. The Spanish domination continued 34 years.
The sturdy North, the gallant South,
Thine to win by peaceful ways,
These hills of iron, these fields of maize.”
With patriot blood he stained her sod,
But to a land he never trod,
His pen gave more than saber won.”
At the incoming of Spanish domination, O’Reilly visited Natchitoches and appointed Athanase de Mezers Governor of the Natchitoches district. Mezers was the son-in-law of the elder St. Denys, a brother-in-law to the Duke of Orleans, and long a soldier in the service of France. His field of activity included the Red River valley, and adjacent parts of North Texas, now Oklahoma and Arkansas. Mezers served twelve years. He made many explorations and voyages among the Indians accompanied by such daring spirits as Laysard, Du Chesne, La Morthe and others. Mezers was sent from Louisiana to Texas to reside; he left Natchitoches in May 1779, to make a tour among the tribes of Indians residing in the prairies. He was appointed Governor of Texas, but died at San Antonio, November 1, 1779, before assuming the rights of office.
During 1762, the colony of Natchitoches was flourishing. They had enjoyed a splendid measure of peace and prosperity for 47 years. Many fine plantations were opened and good houses built; slaves under the Mississippi Co. had been brought there. In 1769 the inhabitants did not exceed 500 in numbers, though the population embraced many fine French and Spanish families whose descendants have rendered splendid services to their country, as citizens, soldiers and in public offices: A land of chivalrous men, and lovely women.
It is stated there was not a settlement on the Rigolette de Bon Dieu up to 1800. This is a mistake. There is (or was) a receipt in Henry Hyams office, Clerk of the Court, for supplies and provender furnished men and horses, a detachment of French soldiers, bearing date at Bon Dieu Falls, 1712. This place was called Bon Dieu Falls when the Rigolette de Bon Dieu fell over a large table rock.
In 1850, General Thomas S. Woodward bought the lands of Vallerie Le Moyne and laid off a town called Cerola, afterwards named Montgomery. Hosea Sos and Hosea Marie Ortiz lived there in 1800.
Louisiana having been sold by France to the United States, embraced an area of 924,279 square miles, for fifteen million dollars, about 21⁄2¢ an acre.
Lavoy Moore, the senator, many years ago from Livingston parish, used to say “old Jeff paid 40¢ a head for the dang creowls, and they wasn’t worth it.”
Natchitoches was one of the original parishes formed in 1807, embracing a territory of 10,600 square miles, nearly one fourth of Louisiana. It was the ecclesiastical parish of St. Francis, and was 70 by 120 miles, bounded on the north by Texas and Arkansas, on the east by the Ouachita and Catahoula rivers, on the south by Rapides and Opelousas, and on the west by the Sabine River. Out of this territory have created Sabine, part of Vernon, De Soto, Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Jackson, Lincoln, Red River, Bienville, Winn, part of Grant and La Salle: Veritably Natchitoches is the Mother of North Louisiana.
After the purchase of Louisiana by the United States, there was a great influx of Americans, many New Englanders, many from, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and others of that restless horde who came like a wave to the new land of promise. Many came for the love of adventure, and from the commercial spirit, the South was such a promising field. At this period came Dr. John Sibley, a native of Boston, Mass., a man of culture and refinement, and destined to play an important part in the affairs of Natchitoches. He became a man of great wealth and influence, acquiring valuable property. He was agent of the United States in Indian affairs, etc. His descendants today number many excellent people in North Louisiana. General Hiram H. Sibley and Major Sibley and others, are descendants of his. He came up Red River from the mouth in an open skiff, March, 1803, taking observations of the country, its physical features, quality of its soil, and its inhabitants. His observations on the Flora and Fauna were wonderful. At the request of the War Department he made a report to Henry Dearborn, Secretary of War, April 10th, 1805. This report is published in American Register, Volume 4, and is painstaking and reliable. What a wonderful man he was! What a wonderful mind he possessed!
Dr. Sibley explored Red River up to the Canadian. He obtained valuable information from Francois Grappe, who was born and lived 30 years among the Indians, on upper Red River, at a trading post 33°, 50′ North, 500 miles above Natchitoches. Grappe spoke several Indian languages, was a hunter, trader and interpreter. His father a French officer, was Commandant of the Post, and superintendent of Indian affairs. He was Dr. Sibley’s assistant and superintendent.
The Post on upper Red River was occupied before the cession of Louisiana to Spain by France. The time spent around the Post by Grappe as hunter, trader and interpreter was used to advantage. He possessed some educational qualifications and a retentive memory, acquired an accurate knowledge of the river as well as the language of the different tribes. He was interpreter for the Spanish government for many years, and was held in high esteem by the Indians and others. As a man of strict integrity, he held for many years a wonderful influence over them. After the purchase of Louisiana by the United States, Captain Turner was sent to Natchitoches, with a company of United States regulars. Colonel Freeman started on an exploring trip in 1805. He was agent for the President. Near the Caddo village he was halted and turned back by Spanish troops. Then there was a visit by three Americans, Shaw, Brewster, and Irvine, and a Spanish guard took them to San Antonio.
Captain Zebulon Montgomery Pike was sent on an exploring expedition to explore the Arkansas and Red Rivers. He passed through Colorado, and Pikes Peak is named for him. In his route he missed his way, and found himself on the Rio Grade. He went to Chihauhau on his return, was taken into custody, and sent to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Spaniards took all of his instruments, and his scientific papers, when he was turned back from there. He came to Red River where the bluffs are, where Shreveport now stands, and unfurled the United States flag. There he was taken by Spanish troops and escorted down the River, arriving at Natchitoches July 1, 1807.
In 1752, Francis Hervy moved to the ancient Caddo village, where he was joined by Sergeant Beson and some soldiers. They built a fort and called it Fort Cardoletta, and this is the first recorded history of Shreveport.
The Spanish, government, manifesting great displeasure at the occupancy of the newly acquired territory by the Americans, became so aggressive that Colonel Cushing with three companies of artillery was sent to Natchitoches.
In 1806, General Herrera stationed on the Sabine, advanced from Texas with 1200 Spanish troops, and took up his position on Bayou Pierre, in the vicinity of Natchitoches, claiming the Arroyo Hondo as the Eastern boundary of Texas, having occupied this position during the summer, not withstanding the remonstrance of Governor Claiborne against intrusion.
General Wilkinson had been ordered to take up his position at Natchitoches with United States troops, preparatory to the advance of the regular army. General Wilkinson made a requisition upon the Governors of the territories of Orleans and Mississippi for a detachment of militia, for co-operation with the regular army on the Spanish frontier.
On September 6, 1806, General Wilkinson was in the County of Adams, conferring with the Governor relative to the requisition. He issued orders for the Commandant at Fort Stoddard to hold himself in readiness to invest Mobile with his command supported by 200 militia from Washington County, under Colonel James Caller who was then in active preparation to capture Mobile. About the last of September, the volunteers from Mississippi advanced towards Natchitoches. Two fine cavalry troops under Captain Hines and Captain Farrier proceeded from Natchez to Natchitoches. Soon after Major F. L. Claiborne, at the head of a battalion of militia from Adams County, consisting of 250 men besides the “Mississippi Blues” under command of Captain Poindexter advanced to Alexandria. This company was organized at the town of Washington with the expectation of a conflict with the Spaniards. Late in October, they were met at Alexandria by an order from the Commander in Chief directing them to return to Natchez. The Spaniards on the Sabine and Bayou Pierre having agreed to peacably retire to Nacogdaches, the volunteer companies under Captains Hines and Farrier, were ordered to join the troops on the Sabine, where they remained until the American army retired late in November, 1806.
In 1807, the population of Natchitoches was 3,000. Colonel Gushing was ordered to take possession of the fort at Natchitoches. Fort Claiborne at Natchitoches was built by United States troops, after the occupancy of that place by the United States army. It occupied the first hill near the river and was about two acres in extent, and was 30 or 40 feet above the river bank. It was one street from the river, and a ditch was cut around it at the base. The Fort and barracks occupied the entire hill. The cemetery was in the northeast corner, and the last burial there, was, according to the date on the Iron cross, in 1827.
In 1808 the parish was organized, and Natchitoches chosen as the Court House site. Judge Jostah S. Johnson opened the first Court held there, July 19, 1813.
In 1811, one Manchac, a Creole Captain, organized a company of 200 riflemen, and in connection with Lieut. Augustus McGee, ex-United States army, crossed the Sabine, invaded Texas, and captured Nacogdoches. The expedition was ill-fated. Commander Correro of the Spanish forces made an effort to attack Fort Claiborne at Natchitoches, and preparations were made to meet and repel him. A deserter from his forces was the informant. This threat caused some anxiety.
Dr. Sibley states a village of Biloxi Indians was located at the mouth of Cane river, at the junction with the Rigoletti de Bon Dieu. The Natchitoches island so called by the Indians, was formed by Cane river on the west and Rigoletti de Bon Dieu on the East, 50 miles long by 3 or 4 broad. A smaller island lies between the Ataho or Little river and Rigoletti de Bon Dieu, called Cordosche, meaning a lair for wild animals, as it was a thick mass of cane.
Major Stoddard states that the Indians gave these islands their names. Dr. Sibley states that in traveling up Cane river he found a settlement near 24 Mile Ferry, of about 40 families. This was situated at the junction of Old river and Cane river. Old river, which in years gone by, was the main channel of Red Riyer, probably about the year 1765 cut through the Cane, and the waters flowed down that stream. A levee was put at the head of Old river about the Normal School to divert the waters down Cane river. This levee broke during high water of 1849 and a man named Hines took contract and rebuilt. This Old river is the western boundary and Cane river on the eastern boundary of another island called Use Brerelle after a reputable man who first settled this island. This island is subdivided by a Bayou called Use Brerelle, which flows from Old river to Cane river. The Ataho river called Little river, named for the Ataho Indians a branch of the Caddo tribe, is the middle channel mentioned by old writers, as the ancient bed of the Saline that falls into Rigolette de Bon Dieu, at St. Maurice. A continuance of this old stream in ages past is what is known as Corne Fin, Fine Horn that runs through Lake La Croix island in Grant parish. Aloha stands on the bank of it.
Dr. Sibley mentions the fact that the Ataho was thickly settled, ancient Indian settlements, before the advent of the white man. Signs of this are found on Melrose plantation, where there are some mounds, this place having been the home of the Ataho Indians. One of these mounds was used as a burying ground, as there is a layer of bones — such as leg bones — over the surface, and are covered with ashes and charcoal — a continuation. On the outside of the mounds, a layer of skulls, was placed.
Natchitoches, at the time of the arrival of Dr. Sibley, was according to his accounts, a meanly built village, with the exception of a few (5 or 6) houses. The streets were 30 feet wide. The oak and pine forests at this time approached within 300 yards of the river. In the village were about 40 or 50 families, and twelve or fifteen merchants or traders, mostly French.
Near Natchitoches are two large lakes, Spanish lake and Ferre Noir or Sibley’s lake. The Spanish lake is about six miles to its nearest point, and is said to be 50 or 60 miles in circumference. This lake has been drained, and contains mossy fine farms in its body. The Sibley lake is about one mile from town, and said to be 30 or 40 miles in circumference.
Natchitoches had been settled one hundred years before a plow was used, or a flat boat to cross the river, and they were introduced by an Irish-Pennsylvanian with a regular Copernican protest.
Dr. Sibley states that it was almost incredible the amount of fish and fowls these lakes supplied. It was not uncommon for one man to kill from 200 to 400 hundred fowls, ducks, geese, brant and swan. In summer the quantity of fish was in proportion. One Indian with a bow and arrow could kill these fish faster than another with two horses could carry them to town. Some of them weighed 30 or 40 lbs.
The Natchitoches Indians worked the salt works on the Saline, and made salt to barter to other tribes; this was before the advent of the white man. Old man Postlewaithe made salt there in 1805. Two old men with the help of two boys made upon an average of six bushels a day. Captain Burnett who came from Mississippi and journeyed by the way of the Ouachita, purchased the outfit of one of these men, and with keel boats, brought sugar kettles and negroes there, and under charge of his son, made 30 or 40 bushels a day. Postlewaithe and Burnett used keel boats and sold to Rapides, Opelousas, Pointe Coupee and Natchez settlements. The advent of the steam-boat caused the trade to decline. Drake salt works are famous. During the war between the States, Drake, Prices, Raburns, Weeks and others made salt on the Saline, and furnished this commodity to the people cut off by the blockade.
Benjamin Drake was a native of Georgia, who came to Louisiana at an early date and established a salt works on the Saline. In order to get a greater quantity of water, he contracted with an Irishman to drill an artesian well. The well when finished, failed to supply the quantity of water sufficient. Drake prevailed upon the Irishman to drill another well, agreeing to pay him for both wells. The first well cost $2,900. The second well proved all right, but Drake then refused to pay for but one well. The driller went to the blacksmith’s shop, took a steel crowbar, worked all night, and made an oval shaped end, just to fit the pipe of the well, and tempered it so hard that no drill could take it, and at daylight went to the well, and dropped it in. He ruined the well, then went his way.
Drake cut a roadway through the Saline lake, and boated lumber out to Red river.
The Grand Ecore are great perpendicular cliffs on the Red river, about four miles from Natchitoches, and that was the sight of an old settlement. After the river cut through the Rigolette de Bon Dieu in 1832, it became a great shipping point, supplying the surrounding country and Texas. A Fort was built on the bluffs during the war between the States. This Fort was at the Sibley-De Rusez old house. This fort was built by the 8th Louisiana dismounted cavalry of Confederates. The earth works thrown up about 100 yards west, towards Bayou Pierre, were built by the Federals, after the defeat of General Banks by General Dick Taylor, at Mansfield and during their retreat down the river. The battle of Mansfield was fought against orders by General Dick Taylor and General E. Kirby-Smith deserves no credit for the victory. He interferred with General Taylor every way, took Churchill’s and Walker’s divisions away from him, and ordered them to Arkansas. Taylor would have captured Bank’s entire army. General Smith’s plan was to surrender all of Louisiana and Texas to the Federals.
Dr. Sibley bought Grand Ecore, and 500 acres of land opposite, built a fine Southern Manor on the bluffs, showing his love of the beautiful in nature by this point for his home that commanded the splendid view up and down the river. This property was afterwards sold to Colonel Louis G. De Rusey.
Campti is the oldest town on Red river, is a fine old town, and is named after an old Indian chief “Campte.” It was in remote days, a great outfitting place for North Louisiana and Arkansas territory. The great Raft reached as far down as Campti at the coming of the white men, making Natchitoches the head of navigation. The Indian traditions have it that the Raft originally reached as low down as the Falls at Alexandria.
The Confederate forces fired on Federal transports at Campti, and the Federals shelled the place, burning it up, during the war between the States. At a bridge on a Bayou above Campti, the Confederates from Louisiana and Texas cavalry, cut the underpinnings of a bridge, and decoyed the Federals upon the bridge, when it fell in, the fire ensuing killed 150 Federals. The Benefit, a Federal transport was landed about Campti. The crew were out killing stock, and catching poultry. The Confederates surprised and attacked them, and killed 85 men in ten minutes, and wounded as many more.
General Tom Greene, the valiant commander of the Texas cavalry, one of the ablest cavalry commanders in Trans-Mississippi Department, led an attack on Porters fleet at Blair’s Landing, and was killed by a shell that struck his horse and exploded. He aided General Taylor greatly in the battle of Mansfield, and Pleasant Hill. He was a noted frontiersman, and one of the Mier prisoners, belonging to that ill-fated expedition.
The Bon Dieu mission was established by the Catholics at the junction of the Carencrow, a branch, and Yattasses, now corrupted to Nantoches. It is where the Ebeneezer Camp Ground is now, and near Montgomery. The houses are built over an Indian grave yard. Victor Rachal, nick-named “Gautto” kept a store there and it was the rendezvous for early settlers and Indians.
After Red river cut through the Rigolette de Bon Dieu, the Church was moved to Creola Bluffs, now Montgomery. Nomite Rachal lived at this place, and a man who acted suspiciously was put off a steamboat, made his way out there and asked for lodging. He was put in a room with a man Nomite had working for him. In the night the man was heard screaming and crying out that the stranger was killing him. Nomite Rachal ran in to see about the trouble, when the crazy man stabbed him with a Bowie knife, ran into the next room, and killed Rachal’s wife and two daughters. One daughter escaped by hiding in the chimney. The fireplace was very large, and she stood up in it to escape from the crazy man. She ran then into the woods, and remained hidden a day and a night. Afterwards she became the wife of Whit Curry, and has descendants here today. The crazy man crossed the river, and was caught by Jose Lestache, and Belair Rachal, brought to O. K. Landing, and while crossing the river disemboweled himself with a bowie knife.
The settlement extended from Natchitoches down to Twenty-four Mile Ferry in 1812. An Indian trail extended from Natchitoches across Rigolette de Bon Dieu, at Petit Ecore, thence across the country to Natchez. This old trail passed by Choctaw Springs, south-east of Montgomery, two very large springs on the site of Frazier’s old saw mill. This was the camping place for soldiers, French and Spanish.
Petit Ecore was one time the main village of the Pascagoula Indians, their camps extending down into the C. C. Dunn plantation. Louis Charles De Blanc, a white man, was their chief.
Captain Travis Wright began boating with keel boats, in upper Red river in 1820. He went by way of Bayou Pierre around the raft. Captain Isaac Wright began steamboating from Natchitoches to Natchez in 1824. In 1826 Captains Guerney and Wright went down to Rigolette de Bon Dieu in a skiff. The bayou was about 30 feet wide, and very swift.
During the high water of 1832 the waters of Red river cut through and flowed down the new channel. Captain Jackson of the John B. Laclede, coming to the mouth ordered the pilot to go through. The pilot hesitated, but Captain Jackson was well up in his cups, and ordered him to go on. The Pioneer was right behind, and followed. A steady rain was falling, but no mishap occurred.
Captain Henry Miller Shreve brought the first steamboat into Red river, the Enterprise, in April, 1815. The next trip he made to Natchitoches, the head of navigation in Red river. The Enterprise was built at Bridgeport on the Monongahela in 1814, and was of 45 tons burden. Her first cargo down the Mississippi was arms, ammunition and supplies for General Jackson at New Orleans. In steamboat days this will be referred to again.
In 1836, a gay party was in Natchitoches, David Crockett came down the river from Arkansas, on a steamboat, on his way to join the revolutionary forces in Texas. At Natchitoches he was joined by a party consisting of John H. Featherstone, Doc Vennett, Ephraim Tally, Matt Despalie and “Happy” Johnson, the singing Bee Hunter, who parted with his sweetheart Katie, at Nacogdoches. They joined the immortal band of patriot heroes who perished at the Alamo, on March 6, 1836. That is all except Matt Despalier, who came back and was killed by Governor J. Madison Wells, in Alexandria. They travelled through the beautiful prairies of Texas, then in their pristine glory. The first news to civilization of the fall of the Alamo was received at Natchitoches. Mr. Briscoe sent a letter by pony express, and it was published in the Red River Herald, B. P. Despalie’s paper. Mr. Briscoe lived near the scene of the massacre. The despatch is here given:
“To the Editor of Red River Herald:
“Sir: — Bexar has fallen! Its garrison, only 187 strong, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Wm. B. Travis, after withstanding repeated attacks, for two weeks, and an almost constant cannonade and bombarding during that time. The last attack was made on the morning of the 6th instant, by upwards of 2,000 men under the command of Santa Anna, in person. They carried the place about sunrise, with the loss of 520 killed and about as many wounded. After about an hour’s fighting the whole garrison was put to death, save the sick and wounded and 7 who asked for quarter. All fought desperately until entirely cut down. The rest were coolly murdered. The brave and gallant Travis, in order to save himself from falling into the hands of the enemy shot himself. Not an individual escaped, and the news is only known to us by a citizen of Bexar, who came to our army at Gonzales, but the cessation of Travis’ signal guns, there is no doubt of the truth.
“Colonel James Bowie and David Crockett were among the slain, the first was murdered in his bed in which he had been confined by sickness. The latter fell fighting like a tiger. The Mexican army is estimated at 8,000 men, it may be more or less.
A copy of this paper was carried to New Orleans by steamboat “Levant” and was the first news New Orleans had of the fall. The schooner “Comanche” arrived next day and confirmed the news. It took the news six weeks to reach New York, by sailing vessel, and was published in Horace Greely’s paper “The New Yorker.”
Forts: There is a fort on an old unused road below Monette’s Ferry. This old road shows to have been much used, and runs through the woods some distance from Cane river. Standing in the middle of the road and across it is an old fort, with breast-works 30 or 40 feet in circumference. It is supposed to have been built long before the old stage road was laid off, the one that crosses Cane river at Monette’s Ferry. The Ferry was established and kept by Louis Monette, a Spaniard, for many years. The iron cross on his grave states that he was buried in 1804. This old route will be referred to again, in old routes and trails.
A fort was also erected on Sabine river by the French, 150 miles above Natchitoches. So states Major Stoddard.
The Spaniards built a fort at Cooche Brake, which is now in Winn Parish, before 1800.
Fort Selden on Bayou Pierre, above Grand Ecore, was established in November, 1820, by companies of the 7th Infantry from Arkansas. They were Arkansas troops, commanded by Lieut .Colonel Zachary Taylor. The 7th Infantry was withdrawn from that position to a new site, subsequently known as Fort Jessup, between May and July, 1822.
Fort Selden was named after Judge Joseph Selden, who was an officer in the Revolutionary war and afterwards an officer in the regular army from 1812 to 1820, when he was appointed territorial Judge of Arkansas Territory. The following letter gives the location of Fort Jessup:
“Head Orders-Western Department,
Fort Selden, Red River,
March 31, 1822.
“After making due inquiry and examination of the country between this and the Sabine river, through Lieut.-Col. Taylor, as well as by personal observation, I have selected a site for cantoning the troops in quarters, which promises the advantages of health, combined with the conveniences of position, for the protection of the settlements upon the frontier. The site selected is about 25 miles south, south-west, from this place, upon a ridge of Red river, and near the road leading to the principal settlements in Texas; and not more than 18 miles from the Sabine river. Having a constant spring of running water (a thing but seldom found in this country) with a dry and airy ridge and sufficient space for public land, with excellent timber for every purpose of building, and fuel for an army of twenty thousand men. I have the honor to be with respect and esteem,
Col. James Gadsen,
EDMUND P. GAINES,
Adjutant U.S. Army. Maj. Genl. Brg. Rivet. Comr.
The old stage road was marked out sometime in the year 1700, the exact date being unknwon. It leads from the mouth of Red river by Evergreen, Cheneyville, Alexandria, left Bayou Rapides at Red Store, and passed through the pineries to Monette’s Ferry on Cane river through the quaint, though excellent town of Cloutierville, across Cane river at 24 Mile Ferry, on to Natchitoches, Marthaville, Mansfield and Shreveport.
This old Monette’s Ferry, on the stage road was the crossing place of many men and women of fine mould, who formed the character of the Southwest, and also of the vulgar insatiate mass who flood the stage of life on their way to oblivion.
Harriet Beecher Stowe traveled up this old stage route, when she was a young woman. The river was low and there was no navigation. She came to the home of the McAlpin, a northern man who was related to her. Ostensibly she was in search of health, but in reality in search of materials on which to found her notes and lay the plot of the book, famous as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” This was in the hot bed of slavery, and McAlpin, as all northern men, was noted for his cruelty. Her book was published in 1851, and with “The Helper,” by a North Carolina man roused the North, and set their minds against slavery. The Dred Scott decision was rendered, and in 8 years the slaves were free. When the war between the States came, and the bloodshed was so terrible, she expressed regret that she had ever written the book.
Events crowded in fast the last few years before the war, to bring about the conflict. How full of pathos and tragedy is the fact that in 10 years the forces of the North and the South should meet on this identical ground in combat.
The battle of Monette’s Ferry was fought on April 23, 1864, by the forces of Generals Taylor and Banks.
Another book that agitated the minds relative to this great question was Daniel S. Corley’s “Visit to Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” on the McAlpin plantation in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, which was published in 1892.
Nolan’s trail that led out from Alexandria, across Bayou Rapides, through the pineries, across the Comrade and Calcasieu through western Natchitoches Parish, afterwards known as Fairchilds cattle trail, was a well beaten route, worn several feet wide into the earth, by countless thousands of animals.
Carroll Jones kept a stand for travelers on this road, and the old house, with its bullet marked walls, shows the fierceness of the man who journeyed this route, in those days.
Natchitoches was long the gathering place of people on their way to Texas, Arkansas and Southwestern Territories. All roads led to Natchitoches, and many therefrom.
Natchitoches has been the scene of many famous duels in the past. In 1836 a duel took place between W. L. McMillan and George Williams, resulting in the death of McMillan. This duel was fought in January. David Burnett was the friend of McMillan and Adolph Sompyrac the friend of Williams. Dr. F. Johnson was the surgeon.
The celebrated duel between Bossier and Gainnie took place on September 18, 1839. General Pierre E. Bossier through his friends Sylvester Bossier, Victor Sompyrac and P. A. Morse (Democrats) challenged Francois Gainnie of Cloutierville, to fight a duel. The latter’s friends, Louis G. De Rusey, F. B. Sherburne, and J. G. Campbell (Whigs) accepted, and chose rifles, as weapons. On the 18th of September previously named, with Dr. F. Johnson and Dr. Dingles, surgeons, and with T. E. Tanziu, Phanor Prudehomme and John F. Cortez present, at the “Savannah” in the rear of Emile Sompyrac’s plantation, on Cane river, Gainnie delivered his fire ineffectually, and Bossier shot Gainnie through the heart, killing him instantly. The duel was the result of an affront offered to General Bossier at the residence of Sylvester Rachel, below Cloutierville. General Bossier did not wish to fight but Gainnie posted him as a coward. In connection with the Gainnie-Bossier duel eleven persons lost their lives. Sylvester Rachal killed M. Busey, Dr. Normand’s clerk at Cloutierville. Brevelle Perot killed Gainnie’s overseer, and was killed himself on Le Comptes race track. It is said that the wives of the duelists moulded the bullets used in the rifles.
Col. Prickett, U. S. Army officer was killed in a duel by a civilian named Matthews early in the forties. Colonel Prickett’s grave on the lonely shores of Sibley’s lake, three miles from town, marks the final resting place of all that is mortal of a meritorious army officer, killed one bright spring morning, within a few yards of his tomb. He desired to be buried where he fell, and kind hands placed him there. A few bricks scattered around and a memorial slab mark the final resting place which was not yielded to the mutations of time, even after the lapse of 90 years. In these sombre woods sleeps the soldier of handsome face and noble bearing. He was a noted duelist, and was killed by a pistol shot!
Tanzier challenged one of the officers at Fort Jessup, and the meeting took place. John F. Cortez was Tanzier’s second. Capt. Chas. A. May, the wild officer of Fort Jessup used to ride over to Natchitoches daily. His duels were many. This is the Captain May who became famous for his charge with the United States Dragoons at the battle of Resaca de la Palma, with General Taylor’s army. He charged the Mexican battery which killed and wounded all of his Dragoons but six. With desperate valor and with drawn sabers they charged the battery again, cutting down all the gunners and captured the battery. At Buena Vista, for distinguished bravery in cavalry charge he was promoted to Colonel.
Juan L. Alamonte the servitor and friend of Santa Anna, passed his early life and young manhood in Natchitoches, where he received his education, and at Campti, where he was in the mercantile business, before he sought fortune and fame in Mexico. He was the natural son of the patriot priest General Morales, sometimes President of the struggling Republic of Mexico. His patriotism cost him his frock, and finally his life. Alamonte was captured by the Royalist forces and sent to the United States in charge of the notorious Ellis P. Bean, and remained in New Orleans for a while. In Campti he was employed with the noted Bernardo Guiterez, a celebrated and rather notorious character, and when liberty was assured he returned to his people, and with the exception of Santa Anna, no Mexican ever met with a greater variety of adventures. Alamonte was a genuine Castilian. He possessed a charm over all with whom he came in contact; his influence over men and women was remarkable. He joined the Mexican army under Santa Anna and was made prisoner at San Jacinto, and it was due to his pleasing magnetic manner that Santa Anna was saved, when captured by Houston’s forces. Bernardo Guiterez in conjunction with Dr. Long made an expedition that was ill fated. The last that was heard of Guiterez was that he kept a saddle shop in Matamoras.
A history of Natchitoches would be incomplete without a reference to the immortal Timothy Flint and the renowned Judge Henry A. Bullard, a native of Fitchburg, Mass. The latter who had seen service in Mexico as a soldier of fortune, who settled in Alexandria first, afterwards in Natchitoches, presided as District Judge there and was the first President of the Louisiana Historical Society in 1836, and Secretary of State in 1838. Flint was a native of North Reading, Mass., ever reliable, and such an addition to Louisiana, a man whose influence for good was unbounded. He came to Alexandria on the steamboat “Spartan” in 1824, and enriched the life and literature of the South beyond measure. He made a trip to Natchitoches in company with Judge Bullard in 1825, and while there witnessed a very sad spectacle. A French surgeon by the name of Dr. Prevost who had been educated in his profession in France, and who came to Natchitoches at the age of 36 years, was treated with unwarranted indignity through prejudice and bigotry. He was arrested and brought to town for commitment to jail, was liberated on a writ of habeus corpus, and conceived a deep seated hatred against a Northern man, the District Attorney named Mills, who had been instrumental in his persecution, and who called him a liar in the course of an altercation. Prevost challenged Mills, offering him the choice of weapons. Mills declined to fight, whereupon Prevost plunged a dagger into his heart. Mills died in a few minutes, and Dr. Prevost gave himself up, was convicted on trial and sentenced to be hanged. Three days before the execution Dr. Flint called on Prevost and offered his services as a minister. On the day of execution a cart with a coffin in it was driven to the gibbet. The poor wretch had been confined for months in prison, and was very weak and much emaciated. He had a fine countenance. He was supposed to be under the influence of Arsenic, with which he had tried to poison himself the night before. The scenery of the woods was beautiful, he gazed long at the enchanting prospect before him. The scene of his execution was pitiful, merciless in the extreme, where justice should have been tempered with mercy!
Dr. Flint visited Fort Jessup. Colonel Many who commanded the Fort had two companies of United States troops under him. The town of Many, Sabine parish, is named after him.
During the Mexican war, 1846, Governor Johnson called for volunteers and Natchitoches was among the first to respond. S. M. Hyams raised a company for the 5th Louisiana Volunteers, and was commissioned as Captain. The Mexican war veterans held a meeting in April, 1879. The commission of E. Vallery De Blieux, as Lieut, of Co. B, Peyson’s Com. National Guard was read. Among resident settlers who were veterans of the Mexican war were Theodore Hertzoc, Samuel Parsons, W. P. Morrow, E. J. Cockfield, J. J. A. Martin, James Allen, M. C. Brossett, E. Lavasseur, Emile Vienne, Captain Samuel M. Hyams, William Airhart, Dr. R. C. Richardson, Louis Duplex, Josiah C. Scarboro, John Rockwood near Many, and Ben Prevost of Mansfield.
The United Confederate Veterans association of Central Louisiana, was organized in 1887, with Major H. Van McCain of Grant, as President, R. C. Jones of Winn, Colonel David Pierson of Natchitoches, J. F. Smith of Sabine and C. C. Nash of Grant as Vice-Presidents. J. Matt McCain of Winn was Secretary, W. E. Russell of Natchitoches as Treasurer. G. L. Trichel and T. Haller Natchitoches, J. F. Kelly and Will A. Strong of Winn, W. W. McNeely and D. W. Self of Sabine, J. T. Pierson and J. W. Sandiford of Red River as executive committee.
Captain Isaac Wright commenced steamboating from Natchitoches to Natchez in 1824. Boats running to Natchitoches in 1844 were the “Cote Joyeuse,” Captain Peter Dalman; “Beeswing,” Captain Hiram Wilson; “Frontier,” Captain Joseph H. Sands; “Planter,” Captain M. Ludwick “DeSoto,” Captain P. F. Kimball; “Nathan Hale,” Captain A. Benoist; (1859): “Peerless,” Captain Jno. C. Dowty; “Rapides,” Captain C. J. Barstow; “Piota No. 1,” Captain E. Parker; “Piota No. 2,” Captain E. Parker; “John Linton,” Captain P. F. Kimball; “D. R. Carroll,” Captain William Kimball; “Leona,” Captain R. B. Roberts.
The Piota, “Parker is obliged to all” the name carved, was the finest boat ever built for Red river, and was burned on her second trip. Captain E. Parker built another “Piota,” but the loss of the first broke his heart, and he soon died after. The steamboats to ply in the Grand Ecore trade were the “Hexla,” “Cora,” “De Soto,” “P. F. Kimball,” “Peter Dalman,” “Sidonia,” “Joseph Holden.”
They were large side wheel boats, with engine cylinders, 24 to 26 inches in diameter. Captain John Smoker ran in the Grand Ecore trade, but left the Red river after the war and went on the Mississippi, and ran the “Governor Allen” and several other boats.
Captain Justin J. Campere ran the “Bride” in the Grand Ecore trade but it exploded a boiler at Monette’s Ferry, and was carried to New Orleans for repairs. An incident happened in 1848 which promised to result seriously. The “Belvedere,” bound for Texas, under Captain John Ludwick, in December, 1848, took on board 150 emigrants from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The night after leaving cholera broke out among the passengers, and many of them died. Arriving at Grand Ecore, the Captain decided to put the balance off and let them make their way through the pines to Texas. In putting them ashore the mate made a great mistake, and put off a corpse with the freight. The Captain knew nothing about this. The boat continued on its way to Shreveport, and on the return trip landed at Campti, and was informed by Mr. Hart, their agent, that there was a large body of men at Grand Ecore, armed, waiting for the “Belvedere,” vowing vengeance, and intending to shoot the mate and the Captain, for putting off a corpse of a person who had died of cholera. The boat went down the river slowly, and waited till dark, screened the fire doors, extinguished the lights in the cabin, and passed down on the farther side of the river, thus escaping the angry mob. Captain Ludwick did not make the next trip on the boat to Shreveport, but engaged Captain Levin W. Cooper to make the trip for him; in fact he left the river altogether.
Just about the opening of the war between the States the “Sidonia” put off on one trip between the mouth of Cane river and Guerney’s Landing 262 casks of wine. Oh! The Good Old Times!
The boats that ran in the Grand Ecore trade would go up Cane river and come down the Rigolette de Bon Dieu. At the outbreak of the war the boats that were running in the Grand Ecore trade were the “Comet,” “W. Burton” “St. Nicholas,” “Peerless,” and “Rapides.” After the war the “Alabama,” “National,” “Frolic,” “B. L. Hodge” “Sabine,” “St. Mary,” “Rapides,” and the “Jesse K. Bell.” Captains John Hines, Richard Sinnott, John Mitchell, and others ran them for years.
One of the most terrible disasters occurred on May 19, 1833, when the “Lioness,” a large side wheel boat was blown up, on or near what is now known as the Lioness Bar, one mile below the mouth of Cane river, and in the bend below where the town of Colfax now stands and at a point in the river known in olden times as Cuney’s Point. The catastrophe happened at an early hour on a beautiful Sabbath morning. Hon. Josiah S. Johnson, U. S. Senator from Louisiana, was killed. The boat was commanded by Captain William L. Cockrell, and was bound for Natchitoches. The mate, it is said, was drunk, and being severely reprimanded by the Captain went down in the hull, and fired some crates which contained straw. Several barrels of powder were stored in the hole for the Texas Revolutionists. Three distinct explosions were heard. The boat had powerful machinery, and was running very rapidly. All the upper decks were blown off, and fell in the river partially intact. The explosion played havoc, many were killed and wounded. Judge Michael Boyce of Alexandria was killed, and Henry Boyce was wounded. The hull, from the force with which the boat was running, continued moving, and was carried by its own force across the river, where it struck the opposite bank, turned over and sank. Part of the hurricane deck and ladies’ cabin remained intact, floating. Judge Edward D. White was struggling in the water, badly wounded, close to the ladies’ cabin. A lady drew off her night robe and threw it to him, and pulled him aboard the wreck. He was saved, and the wreck floated to upper Falls before they were rescued. The noble woman, who saved Judge White’s life, has many descendants in Rapides parish today. The boat’s bell was blown across the Darro, 3 miles from the river. The chamber-maid was blown across the lake, southeast of Colfax, where the Iatt Mills now stand. She had both thighs broken, and succumbed. The wounded from Natchitoches were Michael Coglan, J. V. Bossier, and M. Dupen. Captain Isaac Wight, the pilot was hurt.
The “De Soto,” Capt. P. F. Kimball, running in the Natchitoches trade in 1845, collided with a Ouachita packet, the “Buckeye,” in the night, in Old river, at Turnbull’s Island, and 85 people were lost on the Buckeye. The Natchitoches was a Red river packet, and the Cloutierville sank in Cane river. The Natchez hurricane, on May 6, 1840, swept over the Southern part of Natchitoches Parish, coming from the Southwest, originating in the Gulf of Mexico. The day following, May 7th, another followed, in the identical path of the other. Unparallelled was the destruction of this hurricane. For miles the view was unobstructed, the timber was all destroyed, and at Pierre La Butte Bluffs the top soil was all blown off in places for several feet. The matter in the soil that supplied the arborescent fibre was blown away or destroyed, and the timber to this day, is a stunted diminutive growth, although it.has been 80 years since the storm occurred. The violence of the storm passed about half a mile below the mouth of Cane river, and its path crossed Red river. Eli Du Bois and Landry Carasco were blown across river, and lodged in a thorn tree, unhurt. A cart and yoke of oxen were blown across the river, and were unhurt. The track of this destructive hurricane, crossed Iatt Lake and Suoffords Creek, and the effects of it are visible today. At Natchez the destruction was awful. Several steamboats were destroyed. The “Hines” was blown out into the river, and capsized, and the crew and all the passengers were lost, except four. The wreck of the “Hints” was afterwards found at Baton Rouge, with 51 dead bodies on board, 48 males, and 3 females. Among the latter was a little girl of three years. The “Prairie” just arrived from St. Louis, the whole upper deck was blown off, all passengers and crew were blown into the river, and drowned, among the number four ladies. The wharf boat and two hundred flat boats sank, and many lives were lost. Four hundred people were known to have been killed.
Some of the most prominent men both civil and military, have been stationed and identified with Natchitoches. Among the first commanders of the post at Natchitoches under American regime, were Captain Turner, Colonel Cushing, Major Woolstencroft, Colonel Freeman, the explorer; General Wilkinson who commanded the United States forces under the Spanish aggressions; General Herrera, who commanded the Spanish forces. He was a refugee from Mexico during the Revolutionary days of 1824, and spent some time at Prudehomme, on Cane river. General Zachary Taylor, who afterwards was President of the United States, came from the people, and the ranks. The English regarded Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor as the truest type of soldier that America produced. The “red tape crowd” at Washington hated Taylor, and threw every obstacle in his way, after his repeated successes in Mexico, hoping to hinder him. His veterans were taken and given to Scott, with the hope of crippling him, and ruining him. He fought 5 to 1, and then 2 to 1. With his troops who possessed that indomitable American spirit he conquered all. The people made him President. At Buena Vista he made an address to his troops. “Go in my boys, and win,” were his last words. He stood by with tears streaming down his furrowed cheeks and saw his men reap the victory.
General Many, stationed at Fort Jessup, General Edmund P. Gaines, were among the officers at Fort Jessup, and accompanied General Taylor to Mexico, rendering valuable service, becoming famous in military circles. There were also Generals Twiggs, Worth, Wm. O. Butler, Captain Braxton Bragg, whose battery won the day at Buena Vista, and who became Major-General in the Confederate army. Major Ringgold, artillerist, killed at Palo Alto, Colonel John Coffee Hays, renowned Jack Hays, commander of famous Texas Rangers, Jefferson Davis, Colonel Mississippi regiment, Senator from Mississippi and President of the Confederate States, General Dick Taylor who defeated Banks, at Mansfield during the Red river campaign, General Albert Sidney Johnston, whose untimely death at Shiloh lost that battle to the Confederacy, General Grant, commander in chief of Federal armies, Sheridan and Sherman, who made war on defenseless women and children, who acting like vandals, burned houses over their heads, General Robert E. Lee, commander in chief of Confederate armies, Longstreet, Loring, Beauregard, Pillow, Nicholls, Blanchard, Percival F. Smith, all Generals. Let us add Sam Houston, one of the ablest statesmen and soldiers that America has produced, Dangerfield, Austin, Joseph H. Hawkins, colonist to Texas, General Tom Green, commander of Texas Cavalry, General Camile Polignac (French) in command Confederate troops in Trans-Mississippi Department, General John G. Walker, commanding Walker’s Division Trans-Miss. Depart., General Parsons, Brent, the former in command of Texas troops, the latter artillerist, and cavalry commander Trans-Miss., Dept. General Ben McCulloch, famous ranger and Indian fighter, in command of a brigade of Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana troops, under Price, in Missouri, and who won the battle of Oak Hills.
The Federal General, Lyons, boasted he would sleep in McCulloch’s tent, at Oak Hill. He did, but he was dead! McCulloch was killed at Elk Horn tavern, Missouri. Mcintosh was also killed at Elk Horn. General James Shields, Mexican war veteran and Federal General in the war between the States, was shot through the lungs in Mexico with a copper bullet, which was handsomely polished, and driven out of Shenandoah Valley, by Stonewall Jackson. Marcy and McLellan, who started from Natchitoches to explore Red river to its source, missed it, stopped in Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, when the fact is it heads at Red River Springs, near Taos mountains. 121 miles from the Sante Fe, New Mexico. Marcy became Secretary of Stale, and McLellan, Major General in Federal Army. Governor Henry Watkins Allen and a host of others would swell the list to a great length.
At the mouth of Cane river, lived Madame Boulard, the strong woman, who kept a store there. She was possessed of prodigious strength, and it is related of her that she could catch a whisky barrel by the chimes, place her knees against it, and put it up on the counter. No ordinary man could withstand her strength.
Meredith Calhoun who had a sugar plantation on the opposite bank of the river, accused her of selling whiskey to his hands, and buying surreptitiously sugar and molasses from them. He sent his overseer to her with a number of his negroes, stripped her naked, and turned her loose in a flat-boat. It took nine negroes to do this. She sued him, got judgment against him, and it cost his heirs Smithfield plantation, 1,000 acres of land, to satisfy the judgment.
The great floods, overflows and droughts, in 1782, 1797, 1811, 1815, 1817, 1823, 1828, were extraordinary and long continued, the greatest ever known, and built up all the high lands in Red River Valley, as in Cane, Red, Rapides, and the Island. Apalachie Island, that on which Colfax stands, was made by this overflow. Then came 1832,1836 with very low water in 1837 and 1838, flood in 1840, 1844, and 1849 very high. 1866, 1867, 1884, 1900, 1902 and 1908, very high. The ten months drought came in 1855. Lakes, bayous and springs dried up. Corn sold in Natchitoches at $5.00 a bushel in gold.
March 22, 1844, a cold wave came, killing timber trees that had sprouted, and calves and fowls died from the cold.
The second edition of the flood from which Noah was saved, descended June 16, 1886, when 28.58 inches of water fell in 24 hours. Nearly two and a half feet of water fell at that time, and the river rose 27 feet and 10 inches, and ran up stream to Grande Ecore. There are many ox bows, or cut offs, old ancient beds of Red river, that form a very interesting study. In Marcellan Ferrier’s field at the mouth of Cane river, is an ancient bed of Red river, made there ages ago. In Gasparite La Cour’s old place, now owned by Dr. Wise, that lies below Monette’s Ferry, are two old beds, silent mementoes of the past. They hold a great body of still water, with Cypress trees hundreds of years old growing in the bed. Old Red river, cut through Cane river, and ’eft Old river about 1765. No exact information can be had on the date. Scopine’s Cut Off is ancient. Two cuts are below St. Maurice, one, age not known, the other in 1884, in Johnson’s bend. Fausse river is about Rukey Island and Bayou Brule, and the old bed of Red river is not known. These changes in alluvial land rivers are frequently made. (As stated previously, Red river cut through Rigolette de Bon Dieu in 1832.)
The first newspaper printed in Natchitoches was in French and Spanish. In 1860 The Natchitoches Union was published in French and English by Ernest le Gendre. At his death in 1862, Louis Duplex took charge as editor. The Federals took possession in 1864, and issued the paper after Bank’s defeat and retreat. Louis Duplex took charge and ran it till 1872. On April 5, 1864, The Daily Union was issued from the Government Office. After 1872 Duplex discontinued the paper, James H. Cosgrove bought the press and type and in 1877 sold them to “The Winnsboro Sun.” The Natchitoches “Speculator” was issued by John H. Hewett, in 1867, and discontinued in 1868. Mr. Cromie bought the press and issued the “Red River News.” L. H. Burdick became owner in 1870, and continued till 1874. “The Record” was issued later and Dan W. Hubley published the “Republicans.”
“The Peoples Vindicator” was issued by James H. Cosgrove on June 12, 1874. This was the fighting paper for white supremacy, and was a power in the land, fearless and well edited. Cosgrove was the Ajax Telamon of the Democrats. He was well fitted by experience, training, and special adaptation. His association with characters on the frontier of Texas, his being an omniverous reader, close observer, and of an analytical mind, enabled him to imbibe the spirit of the times. His editorials were terse and florid. He had been a Texas Ranger, and afterwards a member of the 4th Texas Infantry, Hood’s Immortal Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia.
In 1881 the office of the “Vindicator” was sold to Phanor Breazeale, and on March 29,1884, it was sold to Charles V. Porter. “The Natchitoches Register,” June, 1880, was issued by John E. Hewett. “The Democratic Review,” established May 13, 1833, by Charles V. Porter, in 1887. Thos. J. Flanner was editor. In 1888 James H. Cosgrove became editor, and proprietor, and in 1883 wrote the “Race Problem,” which was one of the most powerful essays on this subject that was ever written; a classic on this burning question of the present time, which disturbs the equanimity of the nation. Cosgrove brought the “Review” to the front rank of Louisiana journalism. “The Enterprise” was issued in 1888 by H. P. Breazeale. “The Natchitoches Times” established by Milton Cunningham, succeeded a paper published in former times by C. J. Puckette. “The Robeline Reporter,” was established in 1883, “Martha’s Bulletin” at Marksville in 1888. “The Red River Herald” was published by B. P. Despalier in 1836, and “The Red River Gazette” published in 1837.
Now comes the terrible period of the war between the States, in which so many valuable lives were lost, a test of the military spirit of the United States! The valor of all the races of the earth was tried in this melting pot. The North American Republic is a powerful warlike nation. Would that we could draw the veil over this dark period that spread over our fair and beloved land! We do not get behind the spirit of hate, and neither is ours the joy of fear, which is that of a coward. The glory of our Southern arms can never be forgotten, and we fought to exhaustion to uphold State Rights. As General Gordon said “we fought to a frazzle.” Different causes have been assigned for the war. Differences in construction placed upon the Constitution, elemental rage, State Rights, Slavery, an economic and social factor on the integral part of our lives in the South. There was agitation North and South, and we were drawn into the terrible maelstrom of strife. It is not the province of an historian to be partial. For every tear shed by the colored man, a toll of a drop of blood was taken from the white man of the North and the South. The halls of Valhalla are ours, yet we drink not of the waters of Lethe!
But speaking from death’s frost,
ike fiery tongues of Pentecost!”
Thousands of mystic voices out of the past, whose graves are made sacred to us by the sacrifices they made, call out to us to remember. On the beautiful Confederate monument in the Court House square in Alexandria is an inscription which reads, “Beside each Southern soldier walked a woman, unseen.” Nothing can be more inspiring and patriotic than this one sentence.
Twelve companies left Natchitoches parish and joined the Confederate army. The assignment of the commands of 11 are known, but of the 12th no record can be found. The Le Compte Guards were organized in April, 1861, with William M. Levy as Captain, later he became Colonel. Ross E. Burke, 1st Lieutenant, became Colonel, J. F. Scarboro, 2nd Lieutenant, S. B. Robertson as 3rd Lieutenant. This company left on the “Rapides” April 22, 1861, and was mustered into the 2nd Louisiana Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia. Only 17 men were left to be mustered out. They went in 107 strong. The sergeants were T. P. Chaplin, G. P. Rains, L. D. Johnson and Geo. W. Kearney. The Corporals were W. A. Holdon, E. J. Miles, S. J. Kearney, A. W. Hamilton, and Smith Noel was standard bearer. C. Hamilton was surgeon. Captain Levy at the time of his enlistment was editor of the “Chronicle.” Co. D, Pelican Rangers No. 1, organized in Natchitoches parish and mustered into service May 17, 1861, in the 3rd La. Infantry. J. D. Blair, as Captain resigned his captaincy in 1861. S. D. Russell, 1st Lieutenant was promoted to Captain. W. E. Russell, 2nd Leiut. promoted to Colonel. S. M. Hyams, Jr. 2nd Lieut., elected Lieut., Colonel of a Cavalry Regiment. B.P. Morse,. 1st Sergeant, chosen 2nd Lieut. in May, 1862. B.P. Walmsley, 2nd Sergeant, Fred W. Airy, 3rd Sergeant, afterwards Captain in another regiment. J. H. Peters, 4th Sergeant. This company suffered severely at Vicksburg. T. Cobb, H. V. C. Edmonson, W. W. Gandy and R. C. Hammett, killed. O. La Plante, died of wounds at Iuka and J. Williamson was killed at Oak Hill. Co. G, Pelican Rangers No. 2. These two companies were originally one company, too large and at Camp Moore, was divided. This company also was mustered into service in the 3rd Louisiana Infantry. Hebert’s Regiment, Captain David Pierson of the Winn Rifles was afterwards Colonel of the 3rd Louisiana. W. W. Brazeale was Captain of Pelican Rangers No. 2, until September 24, 1861. W. O. Brazeale, 1st Lieut., G. W. Hollaway, 2nd Lieut. Both resigned before the close of October, 1861. L. Caspari, 2nd Jr. Lieut, promoted to 1st Lieut., and to Captain in February, 1862. W. B. Butler, 1st Sergeant was promoted to Captain May 2, 1862, and P. L. Prudehomme, 2nd Lieut, and J. C. Trichel, 3rd Lieut., J. A. Dearbonne, 4th Corporal and F. Charles, 5th Sergeant. The latter died at Maysville, Ark., September 14, 1862. B. B. Brazeale, 5th Sergeant, Frank Gaiennie, 1st Lieut, James W. Morse, 2nd Lieut., and K. Esby, assistant Surgeon. The list of the deaths as given by Tunnard in his report is as follows:
Placide Bossier, killed at Oak Hills; V. Bordinare, Castilian Springs. October 3, 1862: C. H. F. Shroeder and B. F. Warner, Elk Horn, and John M. Tauzin at Iuka.
The Natchitoches Rebels organized at Cloutierville with soldiers from all over the parish, September 9,1861. Capt. John D. Woods, W. P. Owens, 1st Lieut.; Theodule Laltier, 2nd Lieut.; Emile Cloutier, 2nd Jr. Lieut.; Samuel B. Shackleford, 1st Sergeant; T. J. Foster, Felix Sers, J. C. H. Nemitts, and Ed. B. Roper, Sergeants; Joseph Gallion, A. B. Cunningham, J. A. Clark and L. P. Fontenot, Corporals, and W. A. Jenkins, musician. Among the privates were L. L. Lynch, Chas. J. Bertrand, P. Rabelais, M. Vickers, C. Vercher, three of the Hertzoc family, and six of the Rachal family. Captain John D. Woods was the Dr. Woods of Cloutierville, a native of Virginia, and he was killed at Shiloh. The 16th, 17th, 18th Crescent and Orleans Guards commanded by Leon Querrouzes, composed a brigade. In a fight with Federal gunboats on the Tennessee river seven or eight of the men were killed. At Shiloh the company went into the battle with 42 men, and 26 were killed and wounded. Emile Hertzoc, John Kile, two Reids from Maryland, John Ray, B. Procelle, Adolph Sers, JustinSers. A*3iong the wounded were A. Anti, Ben Rachal and others. Among deaths in camp were Felix Sers at Pollard, Ala., Ed. B. Roper, Corinth, Miss.’, Valecy La Gaze, Corinth, Louis Auti, Tupelo, Miss., Chas.-Galtien,- Arnault. This regiment with the Crescent was transferred to Trans-Mississippi Department, and became Mouton’s Brigade, and participated in all the battles on this side of the river.
Prudhomme Guards, 5th Company, 26th Louisiana Infantry, Hall’s Regiment. Octave V. Metoyer, Captain; G. W. Cobb, 1st Lieut.; Seneca Pace, 2nd Lieut.; L. A. Bossier, 2nd Jr. Lieut.; Francis M. Evans, 1st Sergeant, died in camp. Alex. E. Lemee, 2nd Sergeant; J. M. Durrett, 3rd Sergeant; R. S. Nash, 4th Sergeant.
Sixth Company. — 27th Louisiana Infantry, L. L. McLauren, Captain, promoted to Colonel, killed at Vicksburg; Sam Rains, 1st Lieut. No further record of this company.
Seventh Company. — 2nd Louisiana Cavalry, W. G. Vincent, Colonel, called this regiment His Hell Roarers.
Brazeale’s Partisan Rangers, Battalion:
First Company. — W. W. Brazeale, Major; J. Alphonse Prudhomme, Lieut, and Adjutant; J. D. Blair, Captain; B. F. Chapman, 1st Lieut.; W. F. Caphart, 2nd Lieut.; F. L. Grappe, 2nd Jr. Lieut.
Second Company. — W. W. Brazeale, Captain; Listan Langlois, 1st Lieut.; W. P. Gallion, 2nd Lieut.; J. J. Bossier, 2nd Jr. Lieut.; W. D. Hawkins, 1st Sergeant; A. F. Armand, 2nd Sergeant; P. F. Rachal, 3rd Sergeant; F. P. Lattier, 4th Sergeant.
Third Company. — F. A. Prudhomme, Captain; Will B. ChampIain, 1st Lieut.; E. St. Ann Prudhomme, 2nd Lieut.; C. F. Drauguet, 2nd Lieut. Jr.; Daniel S. O. Quinn, 1st Sergeant; Norbert Rachal, 2nd Sergeant; J. F. St. Aman, 3rd Sergeant; St. Denis De Blanc, 4th Sergeant.
Fourth Company F. — A. O. P. Pickens, Captain; C. Noles, 1st Lieut.; E. Boatright, 2nd Lieut.; —— Ezel, 2nd Jr. Lieut.; D. M. Simmons, 1st Sergeant.
Fifth Company E,. — S. C. Furman, Captain; J. F. Scarborough, 1st Lieut.; J. W. Scarborough, 2nd Lieut.; A. V. Carter, 2nd Jr. Lieut;. J. C. Sibley, 1st Sergeant; W. R. Foster, 2nd Sergeant; J. C. Martin, 3rd Sergeant; L. H. Wordham, 4th Sergeant.
The 12th Company, no record of some men from Natchitoches, who were in the 12th Louisiana Regiment, Scott’s Regiment and some in Gray’s Regiment in 28th Louisiana Infantry.
Natchitoches had five companies in 2nd Louisiana Cavalry. J. A. McWaters, Lieut.-Col.; W. G. Vincent, Colonel; W. W. Brazeale and J. Alphonse Prudhomme, Adjutant.
After the conflict when the soldiers returned home, it seemed that gloom had settled over the land, but it was not for long. The adjustment to changed conditions however, was not easy. W. J. Robbins, (Joe) kept a saloon in Natchitoches. He had been a staff officer of General Henry Gray, 28th Louisiana Infantry. He was a chivalrous gentleman in every sense of the word. In his back room gathered the veterans of Texas and Louisiana troops, and drank the stirrup cup, standing, to the illustrious prisoner at Fortress Monroe, Jefferson Davis. The glasses were shattered afterward that they should not be used to a less worthy toast. Not one is left of that sacred band.
It required many years to rebuild, after the war, what damage had been done by the vandals, Smith’s Brigade, Federal troops loaned Eanks by Sherman, who had burned all the residences on Cane river, except a few. They had also burned Alexandria. The beautiful alluvial lands of our valleys are in a high state of cultivation, and present lovely scenes of sylvan nature, disfigured only by miserable cabins, which dot the way. Our uplands are fine and settled . by a thrifty independent people. There are fine springs and creeks of limpid water flowing over the land. In early days an interminable forest of fine timber, and cane brakes covered the land. Numerous lakes and bayous, magnificent rivers flow through our borders, on their way to the Gulf. With regard to the state of social condition that formerly prevailed, we had a refined state of society founded upon education, blood and property, an aristocracy that when property is destroyed or lost through adversity, the mark of good breeding and refinement is ever present. The aristocracy, Parvenue aristocracy, that is founded on property alone, depends upon bars, bolts and sheriff, and when property is lost quickly sinks to the level of the vulgar.
February 17, 1920.
Text prepared by:
- Bruce R. Magee
- Logan Maville
- Leland Smith
Dunn, Milton. “History of Natchitoches.” The Louisiana Historical Quarterly 3.1 (1920): 26-56. Google Books. Web. 14 Feb. 2017. <https:// books. google.com/ books?id= 8FoTAAAAYAAJ&hl=en>.