Minden Press-Herald

Tuesday
Sep 30th

Minden from the Picayune

This week's Echo will in some ways be a hybrid of the last two published Echoes.

Two weeks ago I published some descriptions of Minden written by visiting journalists. Last week I wrote about a new collection of digitized newspapers I had begun using and included some true crime stories from Minden in the 1880s I found in those papers.

This week I'm returning to those "new" digitized images with two more descriptions of Minden from outsiders. Both of these accounts were written by C. H. Carson, Jr., for the New Orleans Picayune.

The first story appeared in the January 22, 1905 edition of the Picayune.

I will caution you before hand that some of Mr. Carson's history is "skewed", but nevertheless it is fascinating to see his accounts of our town more than a century ago.

The text of that first article is as follows:

"Minden, LA.

" A Beautiful City in North Louisiana

"Oldest Town in Hill Country

"Educational Facilities Excellent – New System of Water Works – New Courthouse to Cost $60,000

"Minden, the parish seat of Webster Parish is probably the oldest town in the hill country of north Louisiana.

More than three-score years ago there was a settlement, not far from the present site of Minden, called Overton.

This place was near the Bayou Dorcheat, and it was not long before the people discovered that their settlement was subject to overflows from the bayou.

This, in connection with the fact that the neighborhood was unhealthy, led to a movement which resulted in the founding of Minden.

The new town was named by Mr. Charles Veeder, a Prussian, after the Minden of his fatherland.

At this time, and for many years afterward, Indians inhabited this section. Some of Minden's present citizens can recall their redskin neighbors of bygone years.

A reminder of those days, an ax head fashioned of stone by Indians, was recently picked out of the gravel used in building the new Courthouse under the eyes of your correspondent.

"The chief natural attraction of Minden, aside from the natural attractiveness of its citizens, lies in the beautiful trees and shrubbery possible on to a town of Minden's age.

Stately trees line the picturesque streets, or, grouped into grove, form a most pleasing feature of the landscape.

The park extending through the main business street has no counterpart in this section of the State.

With this esthetic environment one would expect the businessmen of Minden to be free from some of the objectionable characteristics which mar the businessmen of some other places not so favored, and so it is.

"Around educational centers the people are always noted for their culture and refinement; the older the center, the more noteworthy is this fact.

Minden enjoys unquestioned pre-eminence in this respect. Knowing its citizens, one might infer that the town has been blessed with excellent school facilities for several generations.

Or studying the history of the town, one might expect to find its citizens endowed with just such traits as they are known to possess.

The old college facilities afforded an intellectual armamentarium from which hundreds of Minden's young women and many others, took their equipment for the activities of life: many communities besides Minden owe most of what is best in them to the influence of this honored institution.

"The Minden High School, which is a successor to the old College, under the management of Professor Dudley and his efficient Faculty is doing a splendid work.

"The student body at present consists of about four hundred pupils. With improved facilities in the way of buildings and equipment, of which the School is very much in need, and of which it is eminently worthy, there would be scarcely any limit to its usefulness.

"May the enviable prestige which Minden has won as an educational center be amply sustained by the erection of school buildings commensurate with that prestige, with the needs of the children and with the dignity of the students.

"Minden is putting in a system of water works to cost $40,000. It has electric lights. The drainage of the town is good. An oil mill, a cotton compress, an ice factory, a brickyard, a sawmill, a handle factory, etc. are some of the industries that flourish in the town.

"The sawmill of the Minden Lumber Company has drawn many people to the town; in the immediate vicinity of the mill a populous community has formed.

The handle factory operated by the Minden Hardwood Factory, of which Mr. T.W. Brooks is Manager, does a large business. It turns out handles for axes, adzes, hoes, hammers, hatchets, cant hooks, etc., and has a capacity of 100 dozen a day.

The product is shipped to New Orleans and various points in this State, and much of it finds its way to neighboring States.

The situation of Minden on the Louisiana and Arkansas Railroad, at a distance of only six miles from the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad is especially favorable for the shipment of all products into adjacent and remote territory.

"An elegant new courthouse is in process of building. It is expected to cost about $60,000, and will be a thing of beauty, as well as utility.

A new Methodist Church is in contemplation, the energetic Pastor of the Methodist congregation, Rev. T. J. Warlick, having perfected plans whereby the success of the enterprise is assured.

Several new residences have recently been finished or are almost finished. Among these may be mentioned the beautiful homes of Dr. Harrell and Messrs. John McDonald, T. Crichton and others.

"The Bank of Webster is doing a thriving business and the general condition of the commercial interests of town and parish is all that could be desired.

"Minden is the home of the Webb Press Company, whose compresses are used almost universally throughout the South.

The officers of this company are: S. J. Webb, President; J. Y. Webb, Vice President; Robert D. Webb, Secretary and Treasurer.

"In conversation with the last-named gentleman, your correspondent has learned that the company has recently perfected an attachment for their regular steam lever compress by means of which a greater density than the ordinary bale is turned out.

"IN the thirty-six-foot car 100 of these square bales may be packed, where twenty-five of the ordinary ones are usually placed. This gives a clear idea of the difference in density between the new and the old bales and is an indication that within a very short time the square bale will be adopted as the standard."

Mr. Carson's next article appeared almost two months later, in the Picayune of March 19, 1905. The occasion was the laying of the cornerstone for the new Webster Parish Courthouse. The top quarter of the page displayed an artist's conception of the finished structure accompanied by the following article below the image.

"Minden, LA.

"Cornerstone Laying of New Courthouse Conducted by Masons

"Town Entering Upon New Period of Prosperity – Water Works Approaching Completion – Immigrants Settling in Webster Parish.

"The cornerstone laying at the new courthouse was an event in Minden's history which has not been equaled in interest and significance for a long time.

"Practically all business was suspended, and the citizens of every calling and occupation assembled about the foundations of the new temple of justice to do honor to the occasion.

"The ceremonies were conducted by the Masons, the Grand Lodge of Louisiana being represented by Deputy Grand Master L. C. Allen and Grand Senior Warden L. E. Thomas, of Shreveport. Deputy Grand Master Allen acted as Grand Master. Grand Senior Warden Thomas occupied his proper position.

"The actin grand officers form the occasion were as follows: Deputy Grand Master, J. M. Sikes; Grand Junior Warden, R. C. Drew; Grand Senior Deacon, E. E. Fitzgerald; Grand Junior Deacon, W. J. Reams; Grand Treasurer, J. H. Pollitt; Grand Secretary, W.W. McCoy; Grand Chaplain, E. Goodwill; Grand Stewards, C. J. Gray and T. Oakley; Grand Tyler, J. W. Reagan.

"The procession started at the Masonic Hall, the excellent Citizen's Band and the city school children, with their teachers preceding the body of Masons.

"Many of the school children carried American flags, which, with the beautiful regalia of the Masonic officers gave brilliancy to the scene that was decidedly striking. At intervals the band rendered appropriate selections that were greatly enjoyed.

"Arriving at the platform erected for the occasion, where the cornerstone, a beautiful white marble stone, was suspended from a derrick. Acting Grand Master Allen began the impressive ceremonies with a brief address, after which the stone was lowered into position with the proper grand honors.

"The proper officers then tested the work with square, level and plumb and reported to the Acting Grand Master that the craftsmen had done their work well.

"The stone having been found to be 'well-formed, true and trusty,' the elements of consecration, corn, wine and oil, were placed upon it.

"After the prayer of consecration, three raps upon the stone with the gavel and the public grand honors, the Acting Grand Master presented to Mr. Lewman, the contractor, the implements of Masonry.

"This terminated the exercise proper, but Grand Senior Warden Thomas followed with a splendid address, setting forth the beauties and advantages of Masonry. "The place was well adapted to speaking and the address and ceremonies were consequently appreciated to the fullest extent.

"The courthouse is to be a beautiful structure: from the foundation already laid and other work already done one may see the general design of the ground floor.

"What the building will look like when completed may be understood from the accompanying picture, showing all the elevations in perspective.

"The house will be of the popular gray pressed brick, with brown stone trimmings, and every detail will be carefully looked after.

"Webster Parish is to be congratulated on the excellent taste of the Building Committee and Police Jury as shown in the design for this courthouse which they selected.

"Minden has entered upon a new period of prosperity and promise. The elaborate system of water works is approaching completion. A cotton factory is in contemplation, $50,000 having been already subscribed for this purpose.

"Among the established enterprises of Minden may be mentioned a foundry, bottling works, oil mill and ice factory, a hardwood factory and a brickyard, all set in operation by local capital.

"Two railroads are talked of, one from Pensacola, Fla. to Indian Territory, and another from Shreveport to Memphis, both to pass through Minden.

"The Louisiana Land and Immigration Company, Limited, is doing much for the parish. The company is officered as follows: F. H. Drake, President; J. W. Martin, Vice President; E. L. Stewart, Esq., Secretary and General Manager; R. H. Miller, Treasurer. These gentlemen, together with Messrs. J. G. Ferguson and T. Crichton constitute the Board of Directors.

"Within a year 300 immigrants have settled in Webster Parish through the efforts of this Company and it is thought the labor problem has been solved.

"Many of the newcomers are so thrifty that they are able to buy land for themselves within one year after their arrival.

"The inducements held out to settlers may be summarized as follows:

"This is the best country for a man of moderate means. A rich soil awaits the settler. Anything can be grown here. Profitable returns are certain. The opportunities for diversified farming are better here than anywhere else.

"There is no better fruit country in the South. Truck farming succeeds admirably; early products find ready sale. The country is unsurpassed for healthfulness. The communities are orderly and the citizens are openhearted. School and church facilities furnish all that is needed on those lines.

"Webster Parish and Minden have gone in to win and they will do it for they possess every element of success and, what is more, they deserve to succeed."

This courthouse is of course the 2nd Webster Parish Courthouse, which was the seat of Webster Parish Government from 1905 until 1953. It then served as Minden's City Hall until it was torn down in 1970 at the time the present City Hall/Civic Center Complex was completed. The signature Arizona Ash that remains downtown sat just to the west side of the old building. By the way, the beautiful cornerstone mentioned in this article has a new home Today it may be seen in the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum on Pearl Street, little more than a block from the site where it was originally installed. It remains a tangible Echo of our Past.

John Agan is a local historian, an instructor at Bossier Parish Community College and a published author. His column appears Fridays in the Minden Press-Herald.

 

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