This week’s Echo will take us back more than a century and a quarter as we examine some of the interesting events in our community 136 years ago this month, as reflected in the pages of the Webster Tribune of February 1883.
The beginning of the month saw a change in the pastorate at the Minden Methodist Church. Former minister the Rev. J. M. Brown and his family left Minden for their new post at Washington in St. Landry Parish. The family traveled from our town on the riverboat “Alexandria” down Bayou Dorcheat into Lake Bistineau and then on to the Red River. The eldest Brown child, daughter Minnie, remained in Minden to complete her studies at the Minden Female College. The new minister, the Rev. J. A. Parker, arrived two days later. Parker was reported to be “one of the most pious and eloquent preachers in the State.”
That same paper of February 1, 1883, contained the minutes of the most recent meeting of the Minden Town Council held on January 28, 1883. Council members present at that meeting were: Mayor P. W. Paul, T. B. Neal, William Life, W. A. Crawford and W. J. Reams. The highlight of that meeting was the adoption of the following ordinance: “Be it enacted by the Board of Mayor and selectmen of the town of Minden that all dealers in spirituous liquors of any class, circus, menageries, peddlers, concert troupes or traveling shows of any character at which an admission fee is charged , shall pay a license tax of one hundred per cent upon the amount of license tax levied upon the same by the State, and all other trades, professions or occupations not enumerated in the above, and upon which the State levies a license tax, shall pay fifty per cent upon the amount of license tax levied by the State.”
The next week’s paper carried the following article from the Tribune’s correspondent, Editor Walton Fort, from aboard the steamer “Alexandria.” The story had been sent when the steamer was docked at the mouth of Loggy Bayou, south of Coushatta, where the passengers would transfer to the larger Red River boat, the “Danube.” Fort reported:
“The steamer left the Minden Lower Landing on Tuesday morning at 1 o’clock, passed down the Bayou and entered the lake about daylight. The trip down was slow on account of low water. We arrived at Port Bolivar in the evening and there took on two passengers, both young men. We arrived at Pine Bluff Landing about dark and tied up there for the night. The two passengers on board, finding our trip bid fair to be an unusually slow one, concluded they could make better time by walking to Shreveport. So they both started off on foot for that city in the evening. We have fifteen passengers on board and had quite a pleasant time coming down the Lake and Bayou. The Captain and all the oilers are pleasant and accommodating gentlemen and spare no pains to make their passengers have a good time.
“We arrived at the mouth of Loggy Bayou late Wednesday evening and there tied up for the night to wait for the ‘Danube’, where the cotton taken on at Minden and other points on the Lake will be reshipped, and the ‘Alexandria’ will return to Minden.
“Rev. J. M. Brown, who is on board the boat on his way to Washington where he will preach for the present year, delivered an elegant sermon in Dr. Williams’ parlor, at his solicitation. All passengers on the boat attended and were much pleased with the sermon.
“Mr. Dougal Stewart is on board accompanied by his son, Webster, and Dr. S. Y. Webb. He is on his way to New Orleans to have the tumor on his leg cut off. He is suffering very much but is receiving the best attention and is getting along as well as could be expected under the circumstances.
“We leave for New Orleans this evening on the ‘Danube.’ She has quite a large crowd of young ladies and gentlemen. The Long Springs’ band is on board and will furnish music for us on our way down which will make us think of old times.”
Later, the Tribune on February 22 would carry the result of Dougal Stewart’s trip to New Orleans. The paper reported that: “Mr. Dougal Stewart, who has been suffering with a tumor on the leg, went down to New Orleans for the purpose of having it taken off. On consulting physicians there, they decided that to save his life, his leg would have to be amputated. He returned immediately home and sent for Dr. Egan of Shreveport to perform the operation, which as safely accomplished last Tuesday. Dr. Egan was assisted by his son, who is also a practicing physician, and Doctors Hamilton and Webb. We are glad to state that Mr. Stewart is doing as well as could be expected, and we hope that before too long he will be entirely recovered.”
That same paper carries a story of an armed robbery at what was left of the Germantown Colony, the first mention of that settlement in the extant newspapers of out town. The Tribune uses the name Dutch Town, which was the common label for the colony around our area until well into the twentieth century. The following account describes the event:
“A dastardly and bold robbery was attempted at Dutch Town on last Monday evening. Three men entered the house of Mr. Hahner and asked for something to eat. Mr. Hahner was in Minden at the time. Mr. Stakowsky, an old and highly respected gentleman who is living with Mr. Hahner, was at home, but the men seized him and tied his hands behind his back, then tied Mrs. Hahner’s hands. They also overpowered Mr. Krebs, another old gentlemen whose house is in the same yard. They then went through Mr. Hahner’s house, but did not find anything of value. They then entered Mr. Krebs’ house and while they were pilfering it, Mr. Hahner rode up. His wife informed him in German what was taking place and as he started for the house of Mr. Krebs, the robbers took flight and ran off. We believe they only secured a few dollars and some other articles of small value.
“These people were originally from Germany and came to America with Count Leon, who settled on Red River many years ago. The Count died there and also many other members of his band. They then moved to what is now known as Dutch Town, about eight miles north of Minden, and for a long time were quite a thriving people. The war came on and broke them up. the original numbers with a few exceptions have all died and the balance scattered over the Parish and are now considered our most successful farmers. Mr. Stakowsky holds the remnants of relics left by the Count and it is supposed the robbers thought a large amount of money. they were mistaken in this. The relics are only valuable as mementos and have no commercial value, but are highly esteemed by these old people. As yet the robbers have not been overtaken, though everything is being done by Sheriff Reagan to capture them.”
However, the biggest story of the month was the final settlement of the locally celebrated court case, “Town of Minden vs. Joe and Tom Fuller.” These were the facts of the case. Joe and Tom Fuller owned the property at Lot 126A of the town of Minden (property that remained in the family for many years and was familiar to long-time residents as the old Fuller’s Garage on the corner of Main and Murrell.) Using a map prepared after the Civil War by Parish Engineer E.E. Bright, the Fullers determined that North Broadway street legally began at a point 91 1/2 feet east of their property. Based on this assumption, they erected a fence at the eastern end of their property and later after receiving legal advice, determined that as owners of the lot they also had property rights on the additional space between their property line and the start of the street. The Fullers, relying on that advice, erected additional fences and some storage buildings on that property. At that point, the town government took action. Basing their opinion on the Williamson Jones map of 1849, the town claimed North Broadway began at the eastern property line of Lot 126A. They contended that the original fence was actually on a public street and that the later buildings were clearly obstructing a public street. The city moved forward with a court order and at the cost of $8.25, had the fences and buildings removed. While not accepting the city’s opinion, the Fullers took no action, legal or otherwise, in response to the town’s efforts. It had seemed that the matter was at an end.
The situation changed when the town started the process to remove obstructions in other town streets. Attorneys advised the town that in order to set a precedent, they needed a court opinion to both validate the Williamson Jones map and to legitimize the town’s actions on removing the Fuller’s structures. To further this cause, the town sued the Fullers, asking for the actual cost of $8.25 and additional damages of $250. The District Court ruled in the town’s favor, but the Fullers appealed to the Court of Appeal. Most of the debates centered on the issue of which map was the legal authority, the Bright map or the Williamson Jones map. The court heard testimony from several local residents but the decisive information came from W. A. Drake. Mr. Drake was one of the original owners of all of the subdivided lots in that section of Minden and a nephew of the original owner of the undivided property on which the town stood. Drake testified that all the lots sold from the original property had been sold based on property descriptions drawn from the Williamson Jones map. That point made the case in the eyes of the Judge. He did not render an opinion as to which map was correct, but instead stated that since the sale of the lot was under the terms of the Williamson Jones map, it was clear that those terms would be in effect for those that made such purchases. He found that North Broadway began at the eastern end of Lot 126A, and that the town was within its authority to remove the obstructions from the public street and bill those who erected such impediments. The city was awarded a judgment of $8.25.
The judge was not completely on the town’s side in the matter. He stated that is was ridiculous for the local government to expect any amount in damages, much less the $250 requested. He also chastised the town and the Fullers for allowing this dispute to drag out and to become such a matter of contention. The Tribune agreed, stating that the local population had been unnecessarily stirred up by the controversy. They hoped that in the future cooler heads would prevail.
These are a few of the Echoes of Our Past from 136 years ago this month. While these happenings might seem mundane, they do effect us today. If you had ever noticed or wondered, the decision of the court back in 1883 still holds today. Even after the renaming of streets for the conversion to the 911 system, the eastern line of Lot 126A is still the beginning of North Broadway. Today it marks the transition from Main Street to North Broadway, a living Echo of our Past.
Webster Parish Historian John Agan’s column appears Tuesdays in the Minden Press-Herald.