I have been researching my Louisiana line for sometime now, although my ancestors were born in GA, they migrated to LA for some reason. My next thought was to study the area. My ancestors by 1880 was living in Webster Parish, but in 1871 there were a split from Bossier Parish, but my ancestors when on arrival to LA were at some point living in Bossier Parish. Here is what I found out about the Parish:
Bossier Parish was formed February 24, 1843 when Act 33 of the Louisiana Legislature was signed into law by Governor Alexandre Mouton. Bossier was apparently named by the Louisiana House of Represenatives after their friend of ten years, the much revered Creole General Pierre Evariste Jean Baptiste Bossier(1797-1844).
During the fall of 1845 there might have been seen a little village called Haynesville, in Houston County Georgia, a large crowd of movers-old Georgians who gathered at that place to bid farewell to loved ones, old homes, dear friends, and relatives to make a start for Louisiana. Yes it was a last farewell for they never expected to see them again.
The whites of the party were David Hamiter, John Hamiter, James Engraham, Allen Winham and their families and a young man John Kemp. Thirty six in all. Besides these, there were a large crowd of Negros, perhaps 200 or more. I must believe that if my ancestores were not in this group, then they were soon to follow.
The settlers left in November and travled all the way by land. They crossed the Chattaoochcee River at Coffeyville and the Mississippi River at Natchez. They were then in Louisiana.
They Reached Minden on Christmas day to the surprise of the older members of the party. Mr John Chaffee the leading merchant of Minden at that time and who married a Georgia girl, came out and gave the settlers an invitation to his home for dinner.
They camped a few miles west of Minden that night and the next day came on to Bossier Parish and camped on a large hill near the Hanks old dwelling place, known as Sugar Hill. That was the settlers stopping place and there they disbanded. Everyone going to his own place, not home for they had not been built.
Bossier Parish was one of the first communities in the south to declare war on the North. At a meeting held at the W.J. Hughes home in Rocky Mount war was declared November 26, 1860.
The main argument found other than those already well known was given by the owners of the Slaves in Bossier Parish. It didn’t anger these men so much that the North was going to force the South to give up their Slaves, but that these very Slaves had been purchased from the North. When the North outlawed Slavery, they had released all the Slaves they owned, they brought some of them to the South and sold them to Plantation owners here. Now they were telling these plantation owners they had to release these Slaves. Bossier Parish also felt it didn’t have representation in Washington. Not one vote had been cast for Lincoln in the Parish elections.
It is evident that the situation was also one of economy. In Bossier Parish all the lands censused in 1860 were valued at just over one million dollars, but the Slaves were valued at four million. Slaves were worth four times as much as land. A full 80% of a farm cost was about to be taken away from these plantations owners, not to mention the tax revenue that would be lost by their release, so on January 26, 1861 T.J. Caldwell and H McFarland signed the secession agreement declaring Louisiana no longer part of the United States of America.
On November 22, 1862 Bossier with Bienville, Caddo, Winn and Harrison County Tex committee representation to Shreveport after the fall of New Orleans. The committee decided action had to be taken to stop the Union. Fortifications and Obstructions to block the Red River $80,000.00 was raised. The committee Delegates appealed to planters to hire their Slaves to build defenese works. Owners would provide workers, clothing, bedding, and tools for $25.00 a month per man. Thus Slaves were forced to perform the very work that would delay their release and could have caused them to remain Slaves. On March 3, 1863, the Bossier Guards were organized.
In 1859 Slaves owned by Bossier Parish farmers were valued at $3,940,100.00 which generated $6,566. 78 in tax dollars.
In 1869 there were 195,364 acres of uncultivated; 20,363 cultivated in cotten; 17,915 in corn. From that acreage 7,162 bushels of corn were made, 19,902 bushels of potatos(my weakness), 7,162 bales of cotton. There were 799 farms with a total acreage of 235,308 acres of this number 70,503 acres were improved and 164,805 unimproved. The valueof all farm products that year were estimated at $1,409,147.00. Part of the acreage was reduced when Webster Parish was formed in 1871 and took the eastern 1/3 of Bossier Parish.
In 1920 census gave Bossier Parish 4,227 farms, 944 operated by whites, 3,283 colored. 3,148 were operated by tenats. It is not known to me at this point if my ancestor Ben Robertson is a part of these numbers considering that the family was in Webster Parish.
Buried Treasure stories are in every community and Bossier Parish is no exception.
Happening in the early war years, Mr Nicholas Marks one of the wealthiest planters of the area getting word of a Yankee invasion reportedly buried gold somewhere on the Dutch John Plantation, possibly on the banks of Dutch Bayou. Acciording to the memory of Dan “Buddy” Logan who was born and raised in the area, the old man Marks died with out revealing the site of his buried treasure chest.
The single clue was provided by two of Mr. Marks Ex-Slaves, who swore that they helped the “old massa” hide the gold. Seems like they knew where it was, but didn’t and “claiming that their owner had awakened them in the middle of the night for some choreing”, they soon found themselves blindfolded and carrying a heavy chest into the night. Stopping and changing directions a dozen times, Marks led the two sweating Slaves on what the later reports to be a two hour trek before he found the spot he had previously chosen. Removing their blindfolds, he held the latern and told them to dig.
Questioning their master as to the necessity for the two additional holes, the Slaves were told they’re your graves. I don’t want anyone to know where the gold is buried. Pleading the Slaves promised that nothing short of death would wrest the hiding place from them and besides they had been blindfolded and actually didn’t know where they were-wether still were on the Master’s and or perhaps even on the adjoining Egypt Plantation of the Graves Family?
With the two on their knees swearing their silence, afraid to be put in the additional holes and Mr Marks knowing he had made his point had them lower the chest into the ground. Keeping their word the two Slaves never uttered a word about their midnight trip until many years after the masters death. They like the rest of the Slaves recieved a house and 80 acres upon Mr. Marks death leaving little doubt that he had never meant to bury them with the gold.
What Happened to the Gold?
Well a popular conception is held by most of the Natives is one that Cal Strayham, whose descendents still live in the area, found the buried gold. How else could anyone account for the sudden wealth of the Strayam Family shortly after Cal had made one of his numerous trips into the Bayou. Hmm!!
One of the more interesting stories that I read was:
On October 1, 1871 Nancy Robertson a freed slave was found dead at her home in South Bossier Point. Mysteriously the house was locked from the inside. Neighbors could see her lying dead on the bed through the window and called the Bossier Coroner. Earlier another freed slave had collasped while plowing a field. From what whites Drs diagnosed as fluid on the brain, brought on by the heat of the summer, but fellow freedmen were not covinced by the Drs diagnoses and remembered the summer before this, Nancy had fell out with the man and had made vague threats against his life. The freedmen decided Nancy had bewitched the man with a curse. The man lingered for a few days and died.
The local freedmen quickly arrested Nancy Robertson and sent for Charlie Steele, a freedman and celebrated witch Dr. They wanted Charlie to have her tested for being a witch. Charlie Steele gained fame earlier for invoing a “miracl cure” upon another colored women. While on their way to get the infamous witch Dr they came across a fellow white neighbor who warned them that they might face consequences for taking the law into their own hands. The white man told the freedmen to have a post mortem examination to see if the man was poisoned. When physicians examined the man, they announced that the poison had nothing to do with the death(they believed it had been caused by fluid on the brain). Apparently the freedmen were not happy, with this explanation and still presumed the death to have been caused by Nancy Robertson and her bewitching.
When the coroner arrived with his jury and physicians, the mystery of the locked house murder was solved. They broke into the house and quickly deduced that the women had been shot through a crack in the wall with a sotgun. Indeed several of her neighbors had heard the shot, but failed to investigate. Three of the pellets penetrated he heart and killed her instantly. An arrest warrant was soon issued for Anthony Williams for the murder of Nancy Robertson.
Could Nancy be one of my ancestors? Hmm!! Glad I read this book. Have some very useful information and If I didn’t know now, I know why Ben and Mandy were bought to LA. Now by who and when leads to more investigation. Thanks for listening!!
DISCLOSURE: The information gathered in this post came from Bossier Parish History, The First 150 Years 1843-1993. I mostly concentrated on information before 1871. This book was written by:
CLIFTON D CARDIN