This is a very interesting write up about Ouachita Parish published in a New Orleans paper just before the Civil War would devastate the area.
The New Orleans Crescent (New Orleans, LA) August 20, 1860 Page 1
LOUISIANA IN SLICES.
The Parish of Ouachita.
Monroe a Beautiful Town – Its People and its Characteristics –
Charles Delery, Esq. – Political mention – Educational Institutions – The Register –
The Merchants and Manufactures of Monroe – Trenton – Its Business, etc. –
Churches, etc. – The Lands, Fruit, Crops, Planters, etc. – The Weather, Crops, River, etc.
From our Special Traveling Correspondent.]
MONROE, Ouachita parish,
Aug. 1, 1860.
Editor Crescent – The town I write from is as pretty and pleasant a place as I know of in the whole South, and it is as prosperous and flourishing a place withal as can be found in the whole commonwealth of Louisiana. Situated in the garden spot of the Ouachita valley, it is a central point of business, of resort, and of general interest to the surrounding country. Citizens of wealth and cultivation make it their home, and their costly and tasteful residences, embowered amid the affluent vegetation which the rich soil and genial climate of the locality cause to flourish with tropical luxuriance, present the most charming aspect of rural ease subserving refined tastes and abundant means. The town crowns the high and at this point never overflowed banks of the beautiful Ouachita, and by water is held to be about five hundred miles from New Orleans. The town is just now receiving a strongly stimulating “lick ahead” in the proximate completion to it of the Eastern section of the Vicksburg and Shreveport railroad, which will pause here some time before it gets across the Ouachita at this point. The distance from here to Vicksburg is ninety miles, and as the iron is all laid except for twenty-eight miles of the way, it is confidently predicted that the cars will come through to Monroe during the ensuing winter. Monroe will then be within about eighteen hours’ travel of New Orleans via the Jackson railroad. Much building is going on, and most of the erections in progress, either for residence or for business purposes, are very fine.
Monroe claims about eight hundred inhabitants, and that seems to me to be a minimum calculation. The Court-house grounds constitute a beautiful square, and the building is surrounded with magnificent trees; and, speaking of the “halls of justice,” or halls of the law, I might more appropriately say, perhaps I should mention that the legal profession is very strongly represented in Monroe, a number of the most noted lawyers of North Louisiana having here their residence. There are two churches – a Catholic and a “Union” church, open to the use of all denominations. The Protestant Episcopal congregation here are about to erect a church edifice. A land office is located here, and Charles Delery, Esq., is at this time acting Receiver. To this courteous, talented and estimable gentleman the correspondent is greatly indebted for much kindness and attention, as he is also to Mr. Rogers, the present gentlemanly incumbent of the Sheriff’s office, to secure which he had to beat the straight-out Democracy at the last election. He did it dashingly. I might as well say right here that the friends of Bell and Everett are determined to carry Ouchita [sic] They have organized a club, and are to have a grand barbecue on the first Saturday in September, at which time they hope to experience the pleasure and profit of hearing an address from Hon. Randell Hunt, of New Orleans.
There are three admirably conducted and very prosperous educational Institutes in Monroe – all occupying commodious and properly adapted buildings. These are “The Ouachita Female Institute,” by M’me. Delery; “The Ouachita Female Academy” and “The Monroe Male Academy,” of both of which latter Col. F.A. Hall is Principal. “The Register,” Dr. Samuel Bard editor and proprietor, a paper well known throughout the State, is published at Monroe. It supports Breckinridge and Lane with great enthusiasm. The leading merchants of the town are Messrs. G. & H. King, H. Gerson & Co., S. Weil & Co., Byrne & Shields, and G.W. McFee & Co., druggists.
This number of houses does not indicate the amount of the heavy business done at this locality on the Ouachita, for at Trenton, a little place only two miles above Monroe, on the opposite side of the river, are the large establishments of Messrs. Oliver & Drake, J.P. Crosley, A.F. Flournoy & Co., Terry & Madden, and J. Thatcher. It is thought that the building of the railroad will cause the transfer of the business of Trenton to a location directly opposite Monroe, where the railroad bridge will cross the river. Then the two towns will amount, in fact, to one place, and a very considerable place, indeed, it will be. There are two hotels in Trenton and two in Monroe. In the latter place carriage manufacturing is carried on extensively, and some of the work done I have never seen surpassed by any. Carriages, buggies and wagons are built outright, and in the most finished and handsome style. At Hamilton postoffice, twenty miles north of Monroe, James Caldwell keeps a store, but there are no stores at Forksville, twelve miles west, nor at Indian Village, twenty miles west, nor at Prevost, sixteen miles southwest. The mercantile business of the parish is thus concentrated at Monroe and Trenton. Methodist, Baptist and “Union” churches are plentifully distributed throughout the parish, and the cause of religion seems to thrive. A great camp meeting was held last week ten miles from Monroe, on the Bastrop road, and the enthusiasm was transferred to the town, where a protracted meeting has been going on day and night for several days. Some of the bar-rooms close when the church-bell rings in the evening, that the barkeepers may follow their customers to the place of meeting. There are a number of preachers here, and the excitement is very considerable.
There is as fine soil in Ouachita as any in Louisiana, and the forest growth of the bottoms is magnificent. Everything grows vigorously, furiously. Fruit trees flourish exceedingly. I have never seen such peaches, pears and apples, as are raised in and about Monroe in the most profuse abundance. Next summer, when the railroad will be finished, New Orleans will be a market for these delicious commodities. I have been into an orchard which apparently, would almost supply alone the New Orleans demand for fine peaches. The Ouachita and bayous Bartholomew, De Siard and Boeuf river, secure to the parish a vast extent of bottom lands of the most fertile description, and such is their valuation that they may be averaged altogether, at about $30 per acre, though many tracts, if they could be bought at all would be sold at twice or three times that price. There are plenty of pretty good uplands which may be had for five or six dollars, or perhaps less.
In territorial extent Ouachita is considerably below the average of the parishes, and but little land is in cultivation. Its territorial area comprises about a hundred and fifty-one thousand acres, of which some twenty thousand are in cotton and some twelve or thirteen thousand in corn. The small farmers are comparatively few, and most of the cotton is made by large planters, prominent among whom are Judge J.N.T. Richardson, W.J.Q. Baker, Dr. McGuire, Col. Isaiah Garrett, C.W. Phillips, T.L. McGee, Judge R.W. Richardson, David Faulk, the Pargoud estate, the estate of D.G. Fluker, estate of J.W. Mason, Mrs. W.J. Willson, J.T. Mason, the betin estate, R. Dortch, E.W. Harris, John Liles, J.K. Lacy, D.Y. Grayson, estate of S.W. Douns [sic Downs], Mrs. Canington, Mrs. N. Bry, H.H. Slaughter, J.H. Stevens, Mrs. J.T. Stirling, Moses H. Butter, Judge L.F. Lamy, W.F. Goodrich, W.H. Youngue, Col. J.M. Crook, H.N. Bry, col. Burt, Joel Tatum, Jr., Col. J.P. Crosley, R.J. Wilson, H. Faulk, A. Lazar, G. Filiol. The population of the parish is about eight thousand, of whom about half are slaves. The voters number near eight hundred.
CROPS, WEATHER AND RIVER.
The cotton is very promising for the season, and a fair average crop is calculated on. The corn crop is estimated at from a third to a half what it should have been. The weather is exceedingly warm and rain is very much needed. The Ouachita runs unusually low this season and particularly at this time. It is little more than a creek winding through the lowest port of its broad and nearly empty bed. Boats cannot get nearer Monroe than about one hundred and sixty miles.
I purpose addressing my next “slice” from Bastrop, in the adjoining parish of Morehouse.