Gift of the Ouachita: A Film about the History of Ouachita Parish

Did you know that there is a film on the history of Monroe and the surrounding area? Back in 1955 or so, Dr. George Brian, a theater professor at Northeast College, decided on a huge project. He was going to create, with the help of his students and local actors, a thorough documentary of the history of Monroe. The film took six years to put together. It premiered at the Monroe Country Club January 12, 1961 at a meeting of the Ouachita Parish Medical Auxiliary. Soon Dr. Brian was showing it to local clubs and civic groups. It was a big hit.

Last week I found out that our Special Collections Department of the Ouachita Parish Public Library had a copy on DVD and I had a chance to watch the thirty minute production. It starts with the Native Americans and goes right on through De Soto, Filhiol, Maison Rouge, de Bastrop, the arrival of the James Monroe, the railroad, the Civil War, right on up to the 1958 flood, which the narrator stated to be the largest Monroe had experienced. I must say there are some inaccuracies. For instance, the founding of Fort Miro was not a the behest of Governor Estaban Miro. Filhiol did that all on his own when he got tired of waiting for permission! Costuming was what the 1950’s thought the 1700’s were like. The portrayal of the Marquis de Maison Rouge was hysterical! Still, it was an enjoyable viewing!

As an interesting side note, in the May 4, 1972 News-Star, Dr. Brian states that the scene showing the railroad coming to Monroe has a very historial artifact appearance. When filming the movie, Dr. Brian learned that the real Civil War locomotive “The General” that the Buster Keaton movie of the same name was based on, would be on display in New Orleans for a Civil War celebration, he got permission from Dr. T. Harry Williams, a professor of history at LSU, to use it in his movie. Dr. Brian stated Buster Keaton couldn’t get it for his movie and even Walt Disney couldn’t use it for his movie, “The Great Locomotive Chase”, but he did!

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