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The Streets of Minden Echo

The subject of today’s Echo of Our Past is street names in Minden. This subject was covered extremely well by my mother in one of her Cameos of Minden. However, I have recently had some readers request a column about street names, and in my first column I promised to discuss the origin of the name “Middle Landing.”  

Like most towns, many of Minden street’s names are self-explanatory. We have streets named after trees, such as: Oak, Ash, Hickory, etc. Other streets are named for where they lead: Shreveport Road, Lewisville Road, Homer Road. Of course, we have the traditional street names such as Main Street and Broadway. However, other local street names have a more interesting history. Many streets are named for the family name or family members of the builders of a particular subdivision such as Gloria, Mark, and Chrislo. In today’s and future columns, I will talk about some of the families involved in developing these subdivisions and those that these “name” streets were to honor. Today’s column will mainly be focused on some of the more obscure street names and several groups of streets that derive their names from similar sources.

Middle Landing Street in West Minden is, in reality, one of those streets named for where it led. Back during the steamboat days, there were three main commercial landings for Minden on Bayou Dorcheat, the Lower Landing at Overton, the Upper Landing, or Murrell’s Point, located in the area of Dorcheat Grill on the east bank of Dorcheat, and the Middle Landing. The Middle Landing was owned and operated by Josiah Wilson and was never used by steamboats, instead, it was the landing point for keelboats and other trading vessels. Middle Landing Street of today is the beginning of the route to Wilson’s Middle Landing on Bayou Dorcheat, which has today disappeared in the bar pits surrounding the Bayou.  Folks that grew up in that area in the years before the construction of the old plywood plant on today’s site of Fibrebond, remember following that road all the way to the old site of Overton in those years before the extensive gravel excavation and the construction of Interstate 20.

Another street with an interesting story is Pennsylvania Avenue. The home of Isaac Murrell, the first European child born north of Campti and west of the Ouachita River, was located on this, then unnamed, street. Many may remember the expanded version of this home as the Hough-Sandefur house, torn down in the 1970s to make room for a parking lot for the First Baptist Church. The rear portion of the home, which was built by Murrell, was moved to be part of the Dorcheat Museum along with the Drury Murrell Home. Unfortunately, both homes were destroyed by fire on their new site. According to a letter written in the 1940s by the last surviving daughter of Isaac Murrell, she and her siblings named Pennsylvania Avenue. When the street in front of their home was extended the children decided it needed an important name. They felt that since the President of the United States lived on Pennsylvania Avenue, there was no more important name for their street. City fathers agreed and thus the street acquired its name. Another interesting tidbit from that letter reveals that 1st Street was originally I Street. Apparently a mapmaker misread the markings and renamed the street. This explains how a street that was always in the middle of the town, could be called “1st,” when based on an alphabetical pattern it was apparently the 9th street running roughly north and south in downtown. This misnomer led to the parallel streets bearing the names 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Street.

Another near-by street is Murrell Street, which originally ended at the home of Drury Murrell, better known to many as the old Green-Kleinnegger Funeral Home. The home was moved from the end of the street to the side in the early 1900s. The interesting story about this street involves its pronunciation. It was named after the Drury Murrell family, that came to Minden from South Carolina around 1840. This family pronounced their name, Mur -rell´, with the accent on the second syllable. The common pronunciation has come to be Mur´- rell, with a first syllable accent, the pronunciation used by the Isaac Murrell family. Thus although the street was named for the family of Drury, we all deny his family the credit by pronouncing the name like that of his unrelated townsman.

Another interesting story about Minden streets is that four different streets are named for families or individuals that once lived in the home most recently known to us as the home of Frances Irving. The first family so honored was the McDonald family, McDonald Street that runs from the home to downtown Minden was named for this family. Pearl McDonald, a daughter of this family, married Walton Fort, and the street running in front of the home was named Fort Avenue. After Pearl’s death, Walton Fort moved to a new home off the Homer Road, and the street running to his home became Fort Street. The new owner of the home was W. R. Fogle, who has a street downtown named in his honor. Fogle Street runs near the site of the Ford dealership Fogle owned in the 1920s. The building later housed Andress Motors Company, and eventually J. C. Johnson Ford. It was demolished by the First Methodist Church just a few years ago and is today the site of a new medical office building. I guess if history truly repeats, the Irving family can look forward to having a street bear their name.

Minden also has its share of streets named for Presidents in all areas of town: Madison, Lincoln, Roosevelt. However, several streets in the neighborhood bounded by East and West, Elm, Lewisville Road and East Todd, bear Presidential names. As a small boy, I had a friend who lived on Buchanan Street. As a lover of history even then, I often wondered why we chose to name a street after one of the most unsuccessful Presidents in United States history. It was not until many years later that I learned that Buchanan was not a “Presidential street,” at least in the sense that it was not named for President James Buchanan. However, it was named for a president.  President William Buchanan of the L & A Railroad. Many of the office employees of the railroad lived in that neighborhood, and Buchanan Street intersects Ferguson Street, named after Buchanan’s brother-in-law, Joseph G. Ferguson, who built the home that is today the Stewart Center of the Webster Parish Library. Ferguson had moved to Minden in the early 1900s when Buchanan located another of his enterprises, the Minden Lumber Company in our community.  As the descendant of a family that moved to Minden with the L & A in 1923 and a student of local history, I was greatly embarrassed to learn this story only after I became an adult.

Two streets give us a little insight into the political attitudes of Minden residents of a half-century ago. Shortly after World War II, a new subdivision was developed in the area east of Victory Park. One of the main streets that neighborhood was named in honor of President Truman, then in office. Things were fine until April 1951, when Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur. Outraged Minden residents did not want to live on a street bearing the name of the President that had ended the military career of the man they considered an American hero. At the insistence of residents, the city changed the name of the street to Victory Drive, taking the name from the nearby park. Interestingly, even though most historians agree the Truman made the correct decision in this matter. he has never been given back a street in Minden. In addition, MacArthur Street in the Tillman addition has never been threatened with a name change.

Other streets in Minden bear the name of early citizens and families include Goode, Chandler, Leary, Talton, Goodwill, McIntyre, and Gladney, to mention just a few. A few streets, such as W. R. Reeder and Erwin Thompson, are named in honor of local leaders. Some streets, as the names appear on the map, are just mistakes. The most prominent example is a tiny street that runs along the northern edge of the Minden Cemetery. The current street name is shown as Rephart. However, the original name when the street was part of the living quarters for workers at the Minden Lumber Mill was Red Heart. Future columns will explore more of these streets named for family and individuals and a few more confusing or “misnamed” streets. 

Of course, quite a few streets tell you “where they go” – Bayou Avenue, Homer Road, Shreveport Road, Germantown Road are examples. We have “themed” subdivisions, such as the Justice Heights area in what was at that time called “West Minden” This area of town was developed by the Watkins family, who made their living in the legal professions. Thus we get street names such as Police, Justice, Clerk, Constable, Marshall and other names connected to law enforcement and government.  

Today’s column is just a taste of how another Echo of Our Past lives today in Minden through the names of the streets we travel each day.