Home Life Echoes Of Our Past One of the earliest accounts of Minden history is from 1850

One of the earliest accounts of Minden history is from 1850

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W. Jasper Blackburn

Today’s Echo is one of the earliest accounts of Minden I have found. It was written from Minden on February 18, 1850, and addressed to the editor of the New Orleans Weekly Delta, the correspondent signs his letter “Itinerant” Here is the account, followed by a few explanatory notes.

Country Correspondence of the Delta

“Dear Delta: Believing that you are ever ready to let your valuable sheet speak of the business and improvements of the ages, and as correspondence from this, one of the dark corners, are not very numerous, I venture to intrude a short article upon your notice and that of your readers.

Minden is a place of some five hundred inhabitants; it is located about two miles and a half from the steamboat landing, on Bayou Dorchutte, a small stream that empties into Lake Bistineau. The town appears to be in a flourishing condition; the ladies display great taste in the cultivation of shrubbery, etc., etc. Business men of every description appear to be well patronized; the place is supplied with the usual number of mechanics, with the exception of a shoemaker, who would receive a liberal share of patronage. This is a very respectable sheet published here – the Minden Banner – by A. K. Craig, edited by K. A. Greene, a portion of which is devoted to the cause of temperance. While on this subject, I will just state that there is a Division of the Sons of Temperance in this place, of some sixty or seventy members, and am prepared to say, from ocular demonstration, that they are ALIVE to the cause. It is also gratifying to my feelings to inform you that the Minden Lodge No. 51 is in a most flourishing condition in every respect; his course is onward – increasing generally in strength as she advances; the Brethren are strongly and ardently attached to each other; harmony and brotherly love are the prevailing characteristics of the members generally; they seem to vie with each other in carrying out the principles of our beloved institution.

“In respect to public houses, we have two; the one in which I have the honor to be housed temporarily is under the direction of Bill Fuller, during the temporary absence of Mr. Day, the proprietor. My room would be quite comfortable with the thermometer at about 70, but as the weather is pretty cold. It is not very agreeable to be compelled to make my bed before retiring and roll it up after rising. However, we have no great cause to complain, as no pains are spared to make us comfortable; the table almost groans under the weight of pork and poultry, and “Ned” is ever ready to wait upon the hungry.

“A pleasant ramble to the cemetery a few evenings since, under the direction of friend “Nattin” increased the good opinion I had previously formed of the citizens. The character of the people, I think, may be read from a visit to the cemetery; there is more taste displayed and more respect paid the departed here, that at any other place in Louisiana, New Orleans excepted. The cemetery in Shreveport is in perfect keeping with the reckless character of its citizens.

“Friend Blackburn, the former editor of the Minden Iris, is about to commence the publication of a paper here, to be called the Minden Herald. Whether this portion of the state can support two papers, and that in one parish, remains to be seen. It is to be hoped that the exalted opinion entertained by the editors and publishers of the Banner and Herald of the citizens of this portion of the State, will be more than realized.

“In regard to schools, there are three – two male and one female, in which there are some two hundred students.
“As there has been something said in favor of Minden as the location of the State Seminary, and as I conceive injustice to have been done to this place – for instance the editor of a rival town had the presumption to say that it would require a forty-foot pole to find Minden during the high waters. Now, I consider this slander wholly rejected by the following “plain unvarnished tale” of my arrival in the “garden spot of Louisiana.” Captain Wilson, of the fine steamer Creole, on arriving at a cotton shed, informed his passengers that this was the landing for Minden. After some preliminaries, we succeeded in getting a skiff. After pulling, paddling and sculling some four hundred yards, we succeeded in getting to the shore – after which our baggage was transferred to an ox-cart. We took it afoot to Minden, passing the ruins of the city of Overton. Walking two and one-half miles, we arrived at Minden, and found it not only high and dry, but at least forty feet above the level of the stream over which we had just passed. As a shipping point, I am informed by my friend, G. W. N., that from fifteen to twenty thousand bales of cotton are annually shipped from this point. The fine steamer Creole, under the immediate superintendence of Captain Wilson, plies regularly between this place and New Orleans; and those who have business with the clerk, Mr. G. Keener, will find in him a gentleman of the first class.

“The gentleman who relieves the wants of those who practice at the bar of this village, is a gentleman of very general information, really at all times, under all circumstances, to extend the hand of friendship to the stranger. Being a “Son” I am not able to say anything more in this line. And last, though not least, the musical department of New Orleans has been represented here in the person of two “German girls,” provided with excellent instruments, organ and tambourine. They being something of a novelty here, have consequently been very liberally patronized. It has also been intimated that some additions will be made to the company, should they remain long, as a portion of our youngsters have been magnetized by their charms and sweet strains.”

The odd spelling of “Dorchutte” is one I have never before seen, the most common used in those years was Dauchite.
It is also interesting to know that there was such a large chapter of the Sons of Temperance at that point in our history. Minden from its founding, until 1894 was a “wet” community with many saloons, yet it seems the battle with the “drys” was with us from the start.

Today, 168 years later, Minden Masonic Lodge #51 is still functioning and thriving, it has been my privilege to bring a program at their meeting on a few occasions.

The reference to the well-kept cemetery is also of note. The Minden Cemetery was in its infancy at that point in history, less than five years old, and in future years the well-kept nature of the cemetery would get to be a problem.

On at least two occasions the Town of Minden had to have public work days and fund-raising events to clean up the cemetery and eventually, during the twentieth century, the town would largely pass of responsibility for the burial ground to the Minden Cemetery Association.

As for “Friend” Jasper Blackburn and the Minden Herald, they were a success. Blackburn used his renown to serve two terms as Mayor of Minden in the mid-1850s and become a power in local and regional politics, as a strong supporter of preserving the Union.

After leaving Minden during the Civil War he moved to Homer, where he published a newspaper often critical of his old home of Minden. He served as a delegate to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1868 and served as a Scalawag Republican Congressman from the 5th District of Louisiana from 1868 – 1869.

The Minden Herald he founded in 1850 lasted until the 1870s and then decades later a successor paper came into being in the 1930s bearing that name. That incarnation still persists today as the Herald part of the Press-Herald.

As for the mention of the “German girls”, that is a puzzling reference in some ways of which I am doing further research. Still, I found this Echo of our distant past an interesting glimpse in to Minden in the antebellum years.

Minden Historian John Agan’s column appears Tuesdays in the Minden Press-Herald.

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