Friday, August 8, 2008

"How Y'all Doin?"

Updated July 3, 2010

In these electronic pages you will find a rich history of a rural community where the cultures of Acadians, Creoles, and Midwesterners merged on the prairie of Southwestern Louisiana. This version of the history of Hathaway, Louisiana, is an accumulation of research from various print, web, and personal resources.

Much of what is written though is based on the research and writings of Esther Koll Reeves, who has her story of the History of Hathaway published in a display case in the front foyer of the current Hathaway High School. I was given her notes and drafts by her family to help me in my quest. I have recently redoubled my research efforts and renewed old childhood contacts and made several new contacts in the Hathaway community. All whom I've contacted have been so forthcoming with assistance and hospitality. I so appreciate your help. Many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Doucet and Mr. and Mrs. Miller for their enthusiastic support.

I chose to write on the history of Hathaway because I went to school there as a kid. I moved away in high school and years later began to reflect back on the school I attended but could not visit. It burned down after being hit by lightening. The community's fight to rebuild the school rather than consolidate into a nearby school system intrigued me. I wanted to save the memory of the old school building. To do this I needed to know where it came from. The rest is history...

It has been a tremendous journey so far. I look forward to sharing with you what I have learned and continue to learn. If you find any information on these posts to be inaccurate or would like to add information, please post a comment and edits will be made.

Because my research is ongoing, I often edit existing posts—either by rewrites or adding content. Because sifting through content to find new edits is not a preferred use of time, I have begun including a "Last Updated" line at the beginning of each post that I edit. I have also included a "Recent Updates" section below to steer returning readers to new content. I will keep update entries posted for three months. Enjoy!


December 2009

-After a long hiatus, I have returned with a new entry profiling Orville Phenice. Many thanks to Ms. Thurmon Strickland for giving me the opportunity to use the information she had written on her parents to build this profile of a farmer from Hathaway. I hope the time until my next post is not as long as the last.

-Renamed the previous Construction of Hathaway High School entry to Hathway High School (1939-1989) and added (1) a photo of Hathaway High School circa 1940, (2) information on the faculty and courses for 1940, (3) information on notable faculty from the 1940's and 1950's, and (4) the story behind the "Ag" building.

-Renamed the previous Hathaway High School (1939-1989) entry to Over Hathaway Over the Years to match the aerial photos and descriptions in the entry.

-Added a photo of Elton circa 1947 to the Elton post.

-Added comprehensive detail to the School Days of Old post.

-Added content for a comprehensive history of the early years in the Jennings post.

-Reposted the Federal Census of Hathaway for 1920 and 1930 through a document sharing site in the People of Hathaway post.

March 2010

-Added a detailed article to the China post on the W.H. Tupper farm in China from the year after he was named a "Master Farmer."

-Added greater detail to the faculty of Hathaway High School in the 1940's and 1950's to the Hathaway High School (1939-1989) post.

June 2010

--Added details on the course of the fire that destroyed the Hathaway High School building (1939-1989) and the firefighting efforts that fateful day to the Fire post.

July 2010

-Added content for a comprehensive history on farming rice to the Rice farming post.

"Where's Hathaway?"

If the question "Where's Hathaway?" is being asked outside of Southwestern Louisiana, the answer probably includes Jennings or Elton, and is probably never a one word answer. The question that follows might be: “Where’s Jennings?” To which the response might be: “Oh, it’s a little town on I-10 almost mid-way between Lake Charles and Lafayette.”

Hathaway is a rural community located at the intersection of Highway 26 (Elton Hwy, running north-south), which has a yellow-blinking light, and Highway 102 (Pine Island Hwy, running east-west), which has a red-blinking light. The people who call Hathaway home live in Ward 3 of Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, which is bordered by districts serving Jennings to the south, Roanoke to the southwest, Fenton to the west, Elton to the north, Basile to the northeast, and rural Acadia Parish to the east. Bayou Nezpique makes the entire eastern boundary of the Hathaway area and separates Hathaway from Acadia Parish.
More specifically, Hathaway is located at:

Longitude: 92° 40' 17'' West

Latitude: 30° 20' 45'' North


T8S R3W (all);
T8S R4W (sections 1-3, 10-15, 22-27, 34-36);
T9S R3W (sections 1-6).

Southwestern Louisiana

Updated: November 15, 2008

Many consider Bayou Nezpique the geographical division between Acadiana and Southwestern Louisiana. While this geographical division may be true today, before 1840, the Atchafalaya River was the eastern border of Southwestern Louisiana. The area covering then Southwestern Louisiana began as Appalousa Territory in the time before European settlers. Under French and Spanish Rule, the Appalousa Territory became the Opelousas County within Orleans Territory.

In 1774, the French community built St. Landry Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Landry, who was the Bishop of Paris from 650 to 656 A.D. The reach of the church parish equaled that of Opelousas County. In 1807, after Louisiana was sold to the United States, the Orleans territory was divided into 19 parishes. What was Opelousas County became St. Landry Parish. Opelousas was the county seat, and after St. Landry Parish was created, it remained the parish seat. In 1840, the largest parish in Louisiana was divided into two, creating Imperial Calcasieu, and then later both St. Landry and Calcasieu would be divided into four parishes: Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline, Jefferson Davis and Saint Landry.


The name “Opelousas” comes from the Appalousa tribe that won the territory of what would become Southwestern Louisiana in a fierce battle with the Attakapa. The story goes that in the early-16th Century, the Choctaws, the Alabamans, and the Appalousa tribes joined together to decimate eastern tribe of the warlike-Attakapa. In a pact between the victorious tribes, the Appalousa gained control of the western banks of the Atchafalaya River. In 1690, the first European to record trade with the Appalousa nation was French coureur de bois (trapper and hunter), Michel de Birotte. By 1699, France had named Louisiana as a territory and designated the territory of the Appalousa nation as the Opelousas territory. “Opelousas” means “blackleg.” The Appalousa tribe either wore black paint on their legs, or their legs were stained a dark color. One theory is that a stagnant lake nearby that the Appalousa used for hunting and fishing was filled with minerals and its bottom was covered in leaves, making the water a special kind of muddy and causing their legs to stain.

It would be some time though before the French government surveyed its territory. In 1720, Ensign Nicolas Chauvin de la Frénière and two others were sent to patrol the Opelousas territory. The next year the French government established a trading post called le Poste des Opelousas to supply the population it would encourage and to be a stopping point between its two other major settlements, Natchitoches and New Orleans. The French were mostly interested in populating their immediate area of their post and did not issue many land grants, except to soldiers as payment for their service. Louis Pellerin was the first to be issued a land grant for his service.

The French did bring people to Southwestern Louisiana, but it was not until the Louisiana territory was ceded to Spain in 1762 that the population began to bustle, even though the French were not aggressively promoting settlement of the Opelousas Territory. In 1764, the Spanish colonial government built their own outpost to protect its Caribbean holdings. By 1769 there were 100 families in the Opelousas area. In 1782, Don Alejandro O'Reilly, Spanish governor of Louisiana, began diligently encouraging settlement of Southwest Louisiana. An ordinance was issued to allow settlers to acquire land grants in the frontier of the Opelousas Territory. By that time, the Acadian migration west was well underway. Many had made their way from neighboring Attakapa territory to the south and when the lands of Opelousas opened, many took advantage of the new opportunity. These Acadians were French who had migrated from Nova Scotia in 1763, after expulsion by the English in the aftermath of the defeat of France in the French and Indian Wars.

Land grants from the Crown were not the order of business. Most seeking land had to petition officials in Opelousas to win concessions of land, sometimes orally and other times in writing.

It was said that during the Spanish regime, any man who desired to obtain a tract of land had only to secure the verbal permission of the authorities to occupy it and that the vague rights thus acquired might be transmitted by inheritance or even seized for debt. As a result clear titles could be shown to barely one fourth of the lands.

--Quaife, Milo M., Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association for the Year 1914-15, Vol. VIII

Many of the concessions of land to settlers were along waterways. The land was measured in arpents. An arpent front was a tract of one arpent upon the river bank extending backward for a total area of forty arpents. Concessions of land ranged in size from five to twenty five arpents front for larger holdings. The smaller holdings were two or three arpents front. The arpent measurement system allowed more people access to waterways and enough land for farming and livestock.

The Louisiana Purchase

In 1799, Napolean Bonaparte took control of France. After sending a scout to observe the offerings of Louisiana, Napolean asked Spain to retrocede the Louisiana colony back to France. Napolean soon fit Louisiana into his plan for establishing a Caribbean Empire and signed the Treaty of San Ildefonso, which transferred Louisiana to France in secrecy. The transfer was kept secret because war with Britain and an announcement of the transfer would allow Britain with its naval dominance to easily take the Louisiana colony as part of its war effort.

Apparently, the transfer was not entirely secret. Once Thomas Jefferson learned of the transfer to France, he grew nervous. Napolean, in control of the Louisiana territory, made Thomas Jefferson nervous for two reasons. First, Spain had temporarily withdrawn America’s duty-free “right of deposit” in 1798. With such power in Napolean’s hands and his plan to build a Caribbean Empire, American commerce west of the Appalachians would be immensely strained if Napolean had control of New Orleans. Second, such an Empire would seriously deflate Jefferson’s vision of the American people spanning the North American Continent by occupation not military force. So, Jefferson sent James Monroe and Robert Livingston to Paris to negotiate the purchase of Florida.

In the Caribbean, yellow fever and a rebellion in Santo Domingo thwarted Napolean’s conquest and forced him to re-focus his sights on protecting his European Empire. War with Britain seemed imminent and such a conflict would cost money. Monroe and Livingston had authorization from Congress to spend $2 million for New Orleans. Jefferson told them to go as high as $9 million to get Florida. When they were offered the entire Louisiana Territory, they negotiated a treaty for $15 million, of which nearly $4 million was to be paid to U.S. citizens to satisfy debt against France. The treaty was dated April 30, 1803. Napolean signed the treaty on May 2, and the United States Senate ratified the treaty on October 20, 1803. The United States took official control on December 20, 1803.

With over eight hundred thousand square miles, the United States subdivided the Louisiana territory to make governing easier. In 1804, the United States formed the Orleans territory with a northern border on the thirty-third parellel, the eastern border on the Mississippi River, the southern border on the Gulf of Mexico and the western border at the Sabine River. On April 10, 1805, the Orleans Territory was divided into 12 counties, including Opelousas County. Spain, however, claimed the lands within Opelousas Territory were still within its border and that its border with Louisiana was the Red River. The Treaty of San Ildefonso had neglected to draw a definite border.

On November 5, 1806, an agreement between Spanish Lieutenant Colonel Simon de Herrera and United States General James Wilkinson made the land between the Sabine River and the Calcasieu River neutral ground. Both agreed to withhold military installation and law enforcement in the region, which became known as the “Free State of Sabine.”

This attracted outlaws, who made travel dangerous and trade unprofitable. In 1810 and 1812, Spain and the United States sent troops to make travel and trade safe again in Southwestern Louisiana. The neutral ground remained so until February 22, 1819, when Spain and the United States signed the Adams-Onis Treaty. This treaty made the Sabine River the border between Spanish Texas and the state of Louisiana. However, lawlessness continued. It was not until 1822, when the United States built Fort Jesup, located near present-day Many and commanded by Zachary Taylor, that order was restored to the region.

On April 30, 1812, the Orleans territory gained statehood in the United States of America as Louisiana. The Louisiana legislature divided the state into parishes, from which the “Imperial St. Landry” was created. Its territory spanned from the Sabine River to the Atchafalaya River basin. Opelousas was chosen as the parish seat.

Lake Charles

Lake Charles was first settled in 1781. The first European settlers arrived in the Lake Charles area. They came from Bordeaux, France. The lake and river in Southwest Louisiana attracted Martin LeBleu and his wife, who settled about six miles from where Charles Sallier would settle shortly after. Sallier, who would eventually marry a daughter of the LeBleus, settled on the banks of the lake that became known as Charley’s Lake. When others joined LeBleu and Sallier, the settlement became known as Charleston.

The first settlers that came after LeBleu and Sallier settled along the Rio Hondo, now known as the Calcasieu River. Rio Hondo was the name given the river by the Spanish. Calcasieu is the English adaptation of Quelqueshue, an Indian chief named “Crying Eagle” for whom the Indians of the region named the river. The first to homestead between the Calcasieu and Sabine rivers was Jose Mora in 1797.

As population grew to two thousand in the western portion of the Imperial St. Landry (near the Calcasieu River), the idea to move local government closer grew into action. The community organized and petitioned the legislature to divide the Imperial St. Landry. On March 24, 1840, the Louisiana legislature divided the Imperial St. Landry into four parishes, from which the Imperial Calcasieu was born. Marion, now known as Old Town, was chosen as the parish seat.

The Imperial Calcasieu was then drawn into ten wards on more than two million acres or 3,600 square miles between the Sabine River and Bayou Nezpique. From the ten wards, four parishes would be drawn, one of which would be Jefferson Davis Parish. Growth of Lake Charles was slow. In 1852, the parish seat of the Imperial Calcasieu was moved from Marion to Charleston, now known as Lake Charles. Settlement began to pick up in 1855 when Daniel Goos built a lumber mill and schooner dock to ship to the markets of Texas and Mexico via the Gulf of Mexico. In 1857, Charleston was incorporated. The population of Charleston and the surrounding area in 1860 was nearly 6,000 people. Charleston was incorporated as Lake Charles on March 16, 1867. By the turn of the 20th Century, parish population had grown to just over 30,000.

For more detail, see The History of Lake Charles, by Stewart Alfred Ferguson, available at:

For a detailed assessment of Imperial Calcasieu, see The Economic Development of Southwestern Louisiana, 1865-1900, by Donald J. Millet, Sr., is available at:

A detailed assessment of the current "Imperial Calcasieu", is available at:

Settlement of the Hathaway Prairies

Updated: November 28, 2008

Open Prairies

An early record describing the geography of Southwestern Louisiana, particularly the prairie on the west bank of Bayou Nezpique, was published by surveyor William Darby, who published his description in A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana (1816). At that time, the prairie of Hathaway was virtually untouched by human endeavor. He observed—

“The winds breathe over the pathless waste of savannah. The wild fowl is seen flitting or the deer skimming over the plain. The clouds of heaven close the picture on the south while fading in the horizon the far seen woods raise their blue tops between the prairie and the sky in every other direction. At any considerable distance from the woods the land is sterile and even near or adjacent woods. The Southwestern prairies are flat and have much of the character of the sea marsh. It is indeed difficult to point out where the line of demarcation between the land and marsh exists"
He did not see much potential for agriculture. He observed—“Those on the prairies’ sterile soil will compel the retention of cattle as support and staple.” He continued—

"It is no doubt however much more facile for new settlers to commence a pastoral than an agricultural establishment. The land suitable to the former being of much less value than that necessary for the latter. There are few persons whose capital puts it in their power but will prefer the certainty of agriculture to all other pursuits whatever. Perhaps some individuals could however be found in Opelousas who unite more than ever was done elsewhere the three natural stages of man's progress, hunting, tending their flocks, and ploughing the glebe"
Fifty years later, Eugene W. Hilgard, a leading geologist specializing in soil science, conducted a scientific recordation of the geography and chemistry of the soil in Louisiana. He published Supplementary & Final Report of a Geological Reconnoissance of the State of Louisiana, May and June, 1869. When studying the area, he observed—

"On [the Calcasieu] prairie we first observe in considerable numbers those singular rounded hillocks which dot so large a portion both of the prairies and the wood lands of Southwestern Louisiana. With a maximum elevation of about two feet above the general surface they have a diameter varying from a few feet to twenty or thirty their number defies calculation. They do not show in their internal structure any vestige of their mode of origin or rather being totally devoid of structure of any kind."

[W]e pass into the open prairie dotted here and there with clumps of pine which generally occupy some of the singular mounds before referred to. The pine prairie continues for about five miles and is unoccupied save by herds of cattle, the houses of the herdsmen or owners being in sight along the edge of the belts of timber, which skirt the water courses on either side.

"West of the Nezpique, the soil more whitish and as we advance westward they become almost a dead level and full of boggy patches with crawfish holes and aquatic plants among them. The soil is whitish and very poor fit only for pasture and perhaps rice culture."

When analyzed for moisture, the soil is not as poor as one as might have been expected, save as regards phosphates and magnesia in which it is very deficient. It is sadly in need of something to render it more retentive, i.e. clay or vegetable old, but if properly drained, might be susceptible of profitable improvement and cultivation by some green manuring and use of bone meal.

The First Settlers

Before the French and Spanish land grants along Bayou Nezpique, before the French and Acadians migrated from the east, and before the railroads brought settlers from the north, the Hathaway area was like most unsettled areas of America: populated by bands of natives, namely Attakapa, and was land en route to a trading post (between Texas and Opelousas). The population of peoples from European descent began settling west of Bayou Teche and Opelousas in 1760. Some made claims along waterways and others purchased land from the Attakapa who had been relegated to small villages a century before at defeat by enemy tribes.

In the Hathaway area, the first waterway settled by people of European descent was along was Bayou Nezpique in the 1780's. The tracts granted by the French and then Spanish governments ran across both banks of Bayou Nezpique. The owners of the land that ran along the west bank of Bayou Nezpique in the Hathaway area claimed what would become Sections 39 to 42 in Township 8 South, Range 2 (Acadia Parish) and Range 3 (Hathaway).

The United States conducted its first survey of the land in the Hathaway area in 1807 when Joseph Aborn surveyed the route of Bayou Nezpique. Sectional lines under the Americanized Public Land Survey System were first surveyed by William Jackson in 1808. He returned in 1810, and again in 1828 to survey claims (Sections 39-41, then 42 and 43 of Township 8S, Range 3W) along Bayou Nezpique.

In 1855, Noah Phelps resurveyed all lines of private claims and the public sections between the private claims along Bayou Nezpique and the eastern lines of the square-mile sections drawn by William Jackson, which would now be the two-mile stretch of Highway 102 between the s-curve and the turn to Hathaway.

In 1872 through 1875, John Parsons and Arthur Gascon resurveyed the Hathaway area with the exception of those lines surveyed by Noah Phelps. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave permissions to the Government Land Office to award applicants a quarter-section (approximately 160 acres) on the condition that certain improvements would be made and a small portion of land would be planted within 5 years. Some could double their holding with a tree claim, which meant an orchard had to be planted. The first Homesteaders in the Hathaway area arrived circa 1870's.

Below is the plat for Township 8, Range 3 West (top) and Township 9, Range 3 West in 1876 (bottom) -- (only Sections 39 and 3 through 6 of T9 R3 are in the Hathaway area). To get your bearings, Hathaway High School is located in Section 16 of the plat on top. (You can see the writing a little better if you "Zoom" your browser to 150%.)

Note the small lots that run vertically between the square sections and the swamp sections. When they were originally platted, these lots belonged to the government and were eventually sold one-by-one. When they drew the road, they used this route because of the public land and because there was a trail that led from Jennings that people and built homes along. This is the route that Highway 102 follows. Ever wonder why there was an S-curve on Highway 102? Look at the border of Section 41 (the last full swamp section on the top plat).

Section 38
Robert Rogers

Section 39
Joseph Francois Alexandre DeClouet who served both France and Spain in Louisiana for nearly 50 years

Section 40
Louis Chacere came from France via Natchez and Opelousas to escape the French Revolution.

Claim: Spanish grant, Feb. 21, 1785; U.S. claim, June 12, 1812.
Size of claim: The claim was 40 arpents (116 chains, 36 links) along the banks of Bayou Nezpique and on each side, making it 3500 square arpents or 2662 acres.
Geographical Description: Louis Chachere’s claim stretched across Bayou Nezpique. On the western side of Bayou Nezpique, the claim covered Section 40 of Township 8 South, Range 3 West, which today is most of Panchoville. The southern border on the western side of the claim angled south/southeast from where Ponderosa Road is today to Bayou Nezpique. The northern border runs slightly north of and parallel to Theo Road. The western border was along where Panchoville Road would be built.
The tree line was narrow on the south, expanding west/northwest toward the center of the eastern border (about where LeJeune Road intersects with Panchoville Road) to a point just east of the northwest point of the property, then forming a cove to the east, leaving a narrow line of trees along Bayou Nezpique.

Original markers for claim on the western side of Bayou Nezpique were – A) Post marked D & LC; B) Small Hickory marked D & LC; C) Water Oak tree marked LC & CL; D) Post marked LC & CL. Surveyed by William Jackson on October 24, 1810. Chain carriers were James Ashworth and Jefse (sp?) Ashworth.

Section 41
Celestin Lavergne was a wealthy man from France.

Claim: Spanish grant, __________; U.S. claim, June 24, 1812).
Size of claim: The claim was 40 arpents (116 chains, 36 links) along the banks of Bayou Nezpique and on each side, making it 3500 square arpents or 2761 acres.
Geographical Description: Celestine Lavergne’s claim covered Section 41 of Township 8 South, Range 3 West. In present terms as it relates to Hathaway, the claim covered the east side of Highway 102 from about Ponderosa Road on the northern border to where Highway 102 crosses over the gully at the southern end of the curve. The southern border then angles south/southeast toward Bayou Nezpique close to where Hines Road ends.

The tree line covered about one-third of the claim along both sides of Bayou Nezpique. Prairie covered the other two-thirds of the claim, mostly on the western side of Bayou Nezpique. The tree line formed no coves on the western side. A small creek branched off of Bayou Nezpique along the southern border of the claim meandering in a westerly direction.

Original markers on the western side of Bayou Nezpique were – A) Post marked D & LC; B) Spanish Oak tree marked LC & CL; C) Cypress Tree marked X; D) A post marked CL. Surveyed by William Jackson on October 25, 1810. Chain carriers were James Ashworth and Jefse (sp?) Ashworth.

Section 42
Chief Le Tortue, Attakapa Indian Chief

An Attakapa Chief and his son, Celestine and Le Tortue, lived in a village on the west bank of Bayou Nezpique as the late 18th Century. The village was named Nezpique after an Attakapa Indian with a scarred nose (“nez” means nose; “pique” means pricked or tatooed). Tatooing streaks down the face was customary among the Attakapa. Tatoos were applied by pricking the skin until it bled, then fine charcoal was applied. Mixing the fine substance with the blood stained the skin below the surface, but the needle work was gruesome to their appearance.

The Attakapa in the village at that time totaled less than one hundred. This was down from two thousand five hundred total in Southwestern Louisiana at their peak. They were called Attakapa, meaning “man-eater” by the Choctaw. They called themselves “Ishak,” meaning “peaceful.” Whether the bands of Attakapa that lived in the Hathaway area were cannibalistic is uncertain. Archeological evidence suggests that the Attakapa were primitive, nomadic, and cannibalistic for many years, but oral history indicates they were peaceful, settled, and bartering by the late-18th Century.

About the time the United States made the Louisiana purchase, the Attakapa were selling their land. In 1791, Le Tortue sold 2,733 acres on the prairie west of Bayou Nezpique to William Wikoff for ten cows and calfs.

William Wikoff

A Notice of Claim was filed by William Wikoff on February 24, 1806. The notice read--

William Wikoff of the County of Opelousas claims Two thousand, seven hundred, and thirty three acres and 5/100 of land, situate on the Bayou or River Nepica [sic] in the said County: by virtue of a concession made by sale, and a valuable consideration paid in full to the claimants (two Indian Chiefs) being their Village, allowed them by Government, and ancient usage. The Sale and payment made, approved, and confirmed, by Nicholas Forestall, Commondant civil, and military, and Commander in chief, in the service of his Catholic Majesty in the Post of Opelousas; bearing date April 27th 1791.

Which Land was settled immediately after purchased, and is settled at this time. The grant and plot of survey for the Land contained there in, accompany this Notice, and adduced in support thereof. Given under my hand this 24th Day of February 1806.

William Wikoff

In 1798, William Wikoff received his Spanish land patent. By 1805, the Attakapa population had dwindled to less than 50. In 1814, Wikoff made a claim as owner of that land with the United States government. William Darby called him “the wealthiest stockholder in the United States.” It was likely the success of Wikoff that called Darby to predict that the main hope for the region was pastoral and that agricultural success would be limited to rice culture.

Below is an aerial photo from the U.S. Geological Survey in 1971 of the Hathaway prairies completely settled. To get your bearings, click on the link below. Look for the Grand Canal that comes from Bayou Nezpique in the top right corner. The canal comes out past Highway 102, then turns north. The canal then makes the shape of a barn (after a windstorm). Following the canal, you will see the canal cut across the southeast corner of a section. This is Section 16 and the land inside that small triangle on the corner is the campus of Hathaway High School.

To view a larger version of this photo, click to:
then click on the image.

Trails through Hathaway

[[The Plats above for T8 R3 and T9 R3 show the trails that ran through Hathaway. To a certain degree, the descriptions of the trails below are accurate. Further research on different periods is needed to determine if some of the inaccuracies based on the plats is because the descriptions below are from a different period.]]

Before Jennings was settled, a stage coach ran from Andrus Cove, near Lake Arthur, to China, near Elton. Andrus Cove, one of the first settlements on the Mermentau River, was a settlement established around a sawmill that processed lumber coming down Bayou Nezpique to the Mermentau River, on its way to the Gulf of Mexico from the forests north of Elton. Although the soggy terrain prevented wagons to move lumber easily overland, that did not stop stage coaches. From the 1870’s through the turn of the 20th Century, a stage coach run by Frozien Roy ran from Andrus Cove to Elton. There was also a stage coach from Welsh that crossed the trail to Elton on it’s way to Opelousas. The stage coaches ran across trails over the Grand Marais and converged on the Simeon Gary store, located on the Grand Marais near Live Oak Cemetery (now Doucet Cemetery). If you look on the plat for Township 9, Range 3 West, above, section 6 and Township 8, Range 3 West, above, section 31. you can see all the trails converging on Simeon Gary's store. In addition to a store and cemetery, the Grand Marais settlement also had school, a blacksmith, a dance hall, and a rice mill.

Trails through Hathaway—East-West

The main trail from Welsh was the first trail across the prairies of Hathaway. This east-west trail was made by Indians. Traders, travelers, and cattlemen used these same routes during the Spanish colonial period, to get to and from Opelousas to the Spanish missions in Texas. The main trail followed the same route Highway 90 and then Interstate 10 follow today. The main trail branched north at about where Lacassine is today, then north of Welsh, across a few miles farther north of Roanoke, then bending toward Raymond, crossing the Grand Marais bayou and curving hard just north of Raymond. A lone pine that towered high on the prairie served as a landmark for people headed east-northeast toward Bayou Nezpique in the direction of Panchoville at Vitterbeaux Crossing.

Trails through Hathaway—North-South

The first north-south trail (on land) through the Hathaway area went from Mermentau along nearly the same route Highway 102 runs today. At the spot where Highway 102 meets Panchoville Road today, the trail curved slowly westward to a point just north of Old Relift #16, close to Crochet and Ringuet roads are today and then toward Elton. Many homesteaders built their houses near the trail. There were also many smaller trails coming off the main trail. The trails headed east off the trail lead to Bayou Nezpique. The trails headed west off the trail lead to the homesteaders to the west and another north-south trail that ran from Jennings to Elton, traversing the Grand Marais. Much of that land was difficult to pass because it was swampy in many places. Farmers have since tamed the Grand Marais. Many of the trails became roads. The names of these roads, which became official in the 1990's for emergency services purposes, demonstrates the interesting mix of Acadians migrating from the East and Mid-Westerners migrating from the north.

Every road branching off of Panchoville Road mirrors the arpent system of land grants. Nearly every road has a name of French origin and is named for family that lived off the road: Bertrand Road, Duhon Road, Babineaux Road, Comeaux Road, Demary Road, Crochet Road, LeJuene Road. An arpent measures 192 feet. The arpent system allowed grantees eight arpents (1,536 feet) along a stream or river and forty arpents (7,680 feet) away from the stream or river. This allowed grantees easy access to riverfront property as well as enough property for livestock, cultivation, and habitation. This system is still evident when turning off of Panchoville Road toward Bayou Nezpique--bring a compass along and turn off of Panchoville Road onto Theo Road.

The lines drawn by the rectangular square-mile surveying system is evident beginning at Highway 102 moving westward. The names of the roads on the plains away from the bayou, which were drawn according to the Americanized Public Land Survey System, reflect the names of those arriving from the north. The main roads running east-west include Tupper Road (northern most), Bucklin Road, Litteral Road, Lantz Road, Bryan Road, and Koll Road (southern most). Roads running north-south include Edmund Walker Road (north of Highway 102) and Compton Road (south of Highway 102). Mixed in among the roads on the plains are roads with names of French origin, like Grand Marais, which runs parallel to Koll road a mile north; Dama Landry Road, which runs south of Highway 395 North; Ardoin Road, which runs east-west, parallel between Highway 102 and Bryan Road.


Updated December 27, 2009


It is not very often that a date can be pinpointed for when the settlement of an area begins. Jennings has such a date. On July 8, 1876, A.D. McFarlain, the first settler in Jennings, filed for a homestead of 124 acres at the Federal Land Office in New Orleans. Shortly after, McFarlain and family, along with 10 section men, sett up camp just off the freshly laid railroad bed on the prairie between Bayou Nezpique and the Grand Marais.

The track from New Orleans to Houston would not be operational for several more years, but the Southern Pacific Railroad had begun placing depots at five-mile intervals along the track from Texas to promote settlement. Some settlements caught on.

By 1883 Jennings was made a regular stop. In March 1883, Sylvester L. Cary, originally from New York via Iowa and Illinois, and railroad construction engineer Jennings McComb came to McFarlain’s settlement. Even though McFarlain was the first to settle the area, the right to name the settlement belonged to Southern Pacific. Company officials wanted to honor one of its contractors, Jennings McComb, for building many of its depots. To honor him they named one of its settlements Jennings and another McComb. Jennings flourished. McComb never made it. The five-mile increments are evident today from the exits when traveling westbound along Interstate 10 from Jennings. Roanoke is five miles from Jennings. Welsh is five miles from Roanoke, and so on. The track was operational March 26, 1880. By the end of 1880, the settlement numbered twenty-five and settlers had built homes, a store, and a livery.

Cary had come south to escape the frozen winter with a group headed for Central Texas. He decided not to stay there, but he was not in a hurry to get back. He decided to head east to investigate the possibilities of Louisiana. He had read a book about the agricultural possibilities in Louisiana. When his train stopped in Jennings, the first thing he noticed were the cattle grazing on winter grass. The second thing he noticed was that there was plenty of government land to homestead.

Almost immediately after his arrival, "Father Cary," as he was soon called, was on a train to New Orleans to make a land claim. In fact, Father Cary was on the front doorstep of the Federal Land Office when the clerk arrived the next morning. The story was later recounted that the clerk commented to Cary with a smile, “You need not hurry, my good friend, nobody wants that land but you.” But after all of Cary's raving about the prairies near Jennings, the clerk later came to see himself. Upon arrival back in New Orleans, he filed his own claim for land near Jennings. Father Cary was quite convincing in his promotion.

He soon became the station agent for Souther Pacific Railroad. Immediately, he began writing letters home to Iowa promoting settlement around Jennings. His efforts later won him the position of Northern Emigration Agent for Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886. His job took him back to Iowa to advertise the opportunities of Southwestern Louisiana. On his travels, he made quick friends with the immigration agent for Manchester, Illinois. For the next fourteen years, he made trips north. Each year he returned with groups of farmers from Iowa and Illinois.

One of his early ads read: “The stereotyped advice to young men to ‘Go West’ has been changed and now is ‘Go South.’ The South is now building up and is increasing in wealth and population as is no other portion of the United States. The young man just starting out in life should have the most favorable opportunities and advantages that he can secure, for these are half of the battle of success. Southern states afford these advantages and opportunities.”

In 1895, Cary wrote an ad that read “People from the North, principally from Iowa, had acquired a block of land 5x24 miles in the vicinity of Jennings, by homestead generally, and there was yet much land about here subject to entry besides a large amount of Spanish Grants that could be bought for $1.25 to $7 per acre.” Canals were beginning flow about this time and the land lining them was premium.

Marketing the open prairies and advantageous climate of Southwestern Louisiana, Cary produced a booklet titled Southwest Louisiana, and Southern Pacific distributed 30,000 copies throughout the country. A transcription of a pamphlet published in 1899, titled Southwest Louisiana Up to Date - Omaha Edition is available at: In his pamphlet, Father Cary points out that a farmer in Iowa could sell his land for $75 to $100 an acre and then buy better land near Jennings for $10 an acre (up to $50 for premium land).

The citizens of Jennings built the first schoolhouse in 1885 at E. Academy and Church. Father Cary was the first teacher. Parents paid a small tuition for their children to attend. In that same year, the citizens of Jennings built a multi-denominational church. Until that time, the town's train depot served as church and meeting place for its new settlers.

Jennings was incorporated in 1888 with a population of 300. In July of that same year, a reporter from New Orleans wrote a piece on Jennings for the Times-Picayune. This is an excerpt from that article:

And so, out of this prairie, so like in good things to Nebraska or Kansas or California, has been built of late years the little town of Jennings, the pioneer town of these modern Columbusses, who have discovered the true meaning of the new south. I can look out through my tiny windows of my room in the hotel and have a pretty fair view of all the place. It looks new, a little bleak and treeless, but throughly businesslike. I can see the big depot, where six years ago the first settlers camped until they could run up their temporary board shanty homes. Here and there is a big, handsome house, such as one might see in Minnesota, and rows of little gabled cottages set in large gardens..., new plank walks, again like Minnesota or Iowa, flanks of all the broad streets, and there is one saloon and several stores and two or three land offices, as if this were some new and more promising Denver of a mountainless state whose heart is gold. ...

Also in 1888, citizens of Jennings built a new school. It was a two-story building. Two teachers taught classes on the first floor and the second floor was a public meeting hall. this frame building stood until 1907 when a modern brick building was built.

In August 1888, Cary formed the Association of Northern Settlers in Jennings, which held a convention in New Orleans to encourage further immigration to Southwest Louisiana. Not long after its incorporation, city leaders outlawed gambling and liquor. Over the years, eight ordinances would be passed to outlaw gambling (from shooting craps to cockfighting). By 1890, there were 412 people living in Jennings, over 300 of them from Iowa. There was also now another church, several stores, a post-office, and a newspaper called The Jennings Reporter. The 1900 Census recorded 1,539 in Jennings.

Oil Boom

On September 21, 1901, Jennings became an instant success with the first well to strike oil in Louisiana. The surface conditions on Jules Clement's land near Evangeline were the same as those at the Spindletop strike in Beaumont earlier that year. Prospectors leased the 40-acre plot about four miles north of Jennings and contracted with the Heywood brothers to drill two wells at 1,000 feet. The second well was drilled in the hole of the first well and at a depth of 1832 feet, oil was struck. Thus began the Jennings oil boom. It would last a decade and then began to diminish, until it was gone completely in 1916.

These were wild years for Jennings. Many a speculator was drawn to Jennings during the oil boom, which meant that vice accompanied. Before the oil boom, Jennings had been dry for 12 years. In 1901, whiskey was allowed, but only under strict regulation. This lasted only a few months though and then Jennings was back to being dry. This was the beginning of a back-and-forth that lasted through Prohibition: From 1903 to 1908, Jennings was an "open town" again; from 1908 to 1914 it was dry, then "open" again from 1914 until 1919 (upon ratification of the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which brought Prohibition), and stayed that way until the 21st Amendment was ratified in 1933, ending Prohibition.

The Great Fire of 1901

For all the excitement of 1901, tragedy was around the corner. The boom had come so quick and people were building everywhere, and there was no regulation on who could build what and where. On the morning of November 4, 1901, a fire ignited in the restaurant of J.F. Dudley. The fire destroyed the building. Wind, the early hour, no organized fire department, and a poor water supply caused the fire to spread and eventually burn four blocks of the business district. Jennings had to start all over. Some of the good that came from this tragedy were a fire department, sewer and water system, and zoning.

Other Interesting Firsts

The first telephone lines were hung in 1892 for a system belonging to A.A. Peterson. The system had 62 phones when Southwestern Bell bought the system on June 14, 1901 for $1500. Blue laws in early-Jennings shut the telephone system down after 4 p.m. on Sundays and after 9 p.m. on weekdays. Crank-type phones were around until 1938 when a new switchboard was installed that only worked with rotary telephones. You can see a complete history of the telephone in a unique exhibit on telephone service in Jennings at The Louisiana Telephone Pioneer Museum located within the W.H. Tupper General Merchendise Museum (

The first bank in Jennings was opened in 1895 as Jennings Banking and Trust Company. The bank presently known as Calcasieu National Marine Bank began as the First National Bank in 1901, and later became Calcasieu Bank until 1934 when it acquired its present name. The Jeff Davis Bank was opened on March 12, 1947.

The first newspaper made its first print-run in 1889 and was called "The Jennings Reporter." Several other newspapers popped up in the last decade of the 19th Century, but it was not until 1900 that a newspaper with staying power was published. The Jennings Daily News started as the "Daily Times," then changed in 1901 to the "Times-Record" under new ownership. Again, under new ownership, the name changed to the "Jennings Semi-Weekly News in 1925. Franklin Hildebrand bought the paper in 1930, and a short time later would change the name of the paper to the "Jennings Daily News."

The first car in Jennings was driven in 1901 by a banker named Henry Huffman. The first speed limit in town was set in 1907 at 6 mph. To illustrate the transition from horse to car, a city ordinance in the early-days of the automobile required a car to stop if within 600 feet of an animal that had become frightened. The driver was to remain stopped until the animal was calm. This ordinance was repealed when cars were more prevalent, which was about 1912. In that year, the speed limit was raised to 10 mph in the business district and 15 mph elsewhere. Also, the minimum age for driving was set at 18 years old. It is interesting that roads in those days were built and maintained by cooperative labor, meaning an ordinance required men to work on roads for no pay or be fined. By 1922, there were ten miles of gravel streets in Jennings. The first cement streets were paved in 1929.

The first utility company that supplied power to the town began in March of 1901. George B. Zigler started Southern Heat and Light Company, which was taken over by Gulf States Utility in 1925. The Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative, which was responsible for bringing electricity to rural areas, opened in 1941.

The first movies in Jennings were shown in a building at 229 Main Street in 1909. Ten years later, the first Strand Theater was built. For many of these years, Blue Laws closed the theater on Sundays. But right around the time "Talkies" came around in 1932, public outcry forced city officials to allow the theatre to open. The Strand Theater that stands today was built in 1938.

Growth Continues

By 1910, the population of Jennings was 3,925. Land values spiked during WWI and prices shot up to $70 to $80 an acre. Of course, like everything else, the bottom fell out in The Great Depression with land values dropping to $20 an acre. In 1915, Jennings sponsored an ad in back of the Jennings High School annual. The ad gave the following detailed description of the benefits of the town:

Jennings has a population of 4500, decidedly wideawake, prosperous, and is indeed a city of home gardens. Orange, Fig, and Plum trees bear abundantly, and Strawberries, Blackberries, and nearly all kinds of garden truck are grown profitably by our people.

Our Educational facilities are as good as can be found in any city our size; we invite comparison as to Structure, Equipment or Corps of Teachers. Our Churches are of varied faiths, both Protestant and Catholic. Civic League, Ladies Clubs and Fraternal Orders are well represented. We have a Pulic Library, a Federal Building of $50,000 Variety [Post Office], an Auditorium with 800 seating capacity [built in 1907 by the Women's Christian Temperance Union; it later became the Masonic Lodge but was demolished in 1970], Ice Plant, Creamery, Canning Factory, 2 Modern Hotels, Elks Home and 2 Strong Banks; a Gas and Electric Plant with three units for development of power, giving 24 hours continuous service; we have an Elevator, Rice Mill, Machine Shops, Garages, Printing Offices, etc. Jennings owns her own Water Works and Sewer System, and has 26 Miles of Cement Sidewalks, also Curbing and Cement Crossings. Jennings has recently voted $75,000 for Street Paving [with gravel; cement paving would not start until 1929].
For a more complete history of early-Jennings, visit:


Updated: November 15, 2008

Panchoville was settled as a crossing on Bayou Nezpique, a tributary of the Mermentau River. The name Panchoville, comes from the word "paincourtville." In French, "paincourt" means "short bread." Oral history has it that down the road from the crossing was an old woman who made the most fantastic bread that was short in size and loved by all. The name Panchoville is likely a transliteration by a Spanish surveyor, who heard Paincourtville and wrote the name on the map as he heard it.

The trail between Opelouses and Texas had come to this spot on Bayou Nezpique because an underwater bridge made the bayou passable at that spot. This was before the bayou had been dredged and its banks and path tamed. This crossing was used at one time or another by natives, travelers, troops, outlaws, cattlemen, and eventually, settlers. The bayou was once used by loggers in the forests to the north to run their timber to the Gulf. With all the passing lumber, it was only natural for sawmills to pop up along Bayou Nezpique. For a time, the crossing at Panchoville also had a sawmill on its west bank.

When Bayou Nezpique was settled on the east bank, it was known as Vitterbo Crossing. Mr. Vitterbo built a general store, which had a postal stop up from Millerville in Acadia Parish, and a ferry crossing at the spot. The store was later owned by Leon Hebert.

As with most waterways in Southwest Louisiana, Panchoville also has its own Lefitte-lore. Oral history tells that pirate Jean LeFitte, sensing danger of being caught, decided to take to the land at Vitterbo Crossing and buried his contraband on the banks of Bayou Nezpique in Panchoville. Since, there have been many excavations with no luck.

Three hundred years ago, native-Indians lived on the banks of Bayou Nezpique. The banks of Bayou Nezpique are said to be where Acadians first built sod homes along the tree lines in the Hathaway area. They raised cattle and harvested Providence rice. Panchoville is also said to be where the first dance hall in Hathaway was located. In the first-half of the 20th Century, many dance halls were opened for a unique Cajun-style entertainment for area residents to enjoy. Presently, the dance halls are long gone and Panchoville is a close-knit rural community on the prairie adjoined to the west bank of Bayou Nezpique and part of a community in the Hathaway area.

Before area one-room school houses were consolidated into Hathaway, Panchoville was served by two schools: Nubbin Ridge school and Crochet school. Bertrand Cemetary is located in Panchoville.

Below is the 1899 right-of-way for Crochet Road and Theo Road.


Updated March 11, 2010

China, in its original location, was a postal stop just west/northwest of Elton on a trail running from Jennings to Raymond through China. It was named when a postal inspector misunderstood the British-speaking postmaster, William Jackson, who called the place “cheneau,” meaning “young oaks.” Its origins date back to 1881.

The post office was closed in 1906 when the railroad bypassed China in favor of Elton. In 1910, a post office was again running out of a general merhandise store (1910-1949) located four miles south of Elton on the road from Raymond to Elton. Several years later it was moved again about six miles south of Elton on the road from Raymond to Elton. The store was opened by W.H. Tupper to serve the the many working for him as well as others passing across the countryside. Mr. Tupper was a prominent farmer of China for the first half of the 20th Century. His descendents still farm the same land.

In the September 1931, The Rice Journal published an article entitled

Livestock and Home Ground Feed
Are Big Factors on Tupper Rice Plantation
Near Elton, Louisiana

W.H. Tupper, Owner, Has the
Honor of Being One of the "Master Farmers" of Louisiana.

The Tupper rice plantation, five miles south of Elton, is an interesting and an everyday demonstration of successful diversified farming. Instead, however, of diversifying exclusively by raising truck crops and vegetables, the Tupper family raises poultry and livestock and puts up sufficient home grown feedstuff each year to operate a model farm dairy, to fatten meat for all farm needs and to keep the workstock in excellent condition during winter and work seasons of the year.

Mr. W.H. Tupper, owner of the Tupper plantation and one of the many successful rice growers of Louisiana, has the distinction of being a "Master Farmer." To those who know the requirements and rules governing the selection of master farmers in the several states fostering agriculture, the statement that Mr. Tupper was so designated in December, 1930, is sufficient to give them a general idea of what he has accomplished and what he is doing year after year on his rice farm but doubtless there are many to whom such a statement is not adequate for creating a desire to emulate the good example he has set among rice farmers.

In the Tupper home there are five other farmers — Mrs. Tupper, two sons, John Tupper and Charles Tupper, and two daughters, Misses Agnes Tupper and Celia Tupper. They have never been designated officially as "masters," but they nevertheless, have helped Mr. Tupper wonderfully to achieve his distinction and any story of the Tupper farm which does not give them proper credit for what has been done would be very incomplete.

Pastures and Orchards

The Tupper farm, as a rice plantation is not large. It contains 1,400 acres of which much is devoted to pasturage purposes, woods, land, and orchards. Everybody works and everybody is happy. There are no mortgages, no debts of any kind and every season of the year some form of money crop is marketed to add to the total annual income of the family. Mrs. Tupper has charge of the general store which serves the home, the tenant families on the plantation and many neighbor families in the immediate and surrounding communities. The two daughters manage the household affairs and dairy operations. They market the vegetable, fruit and truck crops and raise the hogs and poultry. The sons keep up the machinery of the farm and raise the crops of rice, cotton, and corn. They harvest and store the farm feedstuffs.

Among the outbuildings around the Tupper home there are blacksmith and machine shops, store building and cottages for field hands, power and light plant building, wagons, scales for weighing livestock, stock shed, 160 feet in length, with feed racks and dipping vat; dairy barn, 32 by 50 feet, erected from plans prepared by the Louisiana Extension Department and poultry house and two garages.

All buildings have electric lights and running water and are kept in good condition by timely repairs and new coats of paint when needed. Rice crops are irrigated with water from a well which Mr. Tupper, himself, put down many years ago.

On the farm are many fine fruit trees. From the orchard each year an abundance of pears, figs, peaches, plums and oranges supply seasonal needs and fruit for canning purposes.

Flocks of poultry include ducks, geese, chicken, guinea, and turkeys. These all do well in the barn yards, pastures and rice fields and are the source of a large income on the farm.

Livestock Appreciated

The Tupper rice plantation differs from many rice farms chiefly in the appreciation and use of livestock for dairy purposes, for keeping up the productiveness of the soil and for farming operations. It differs also from many other farms in the use that is made of low grade rice for feedstuff. The 150 head of purebred cattle of which 25 are dairy cows, not only produce a profitable calf crop annually, it supplies milk and butter for the farm and for sale in local markets. Large silos are filled each year. The low grade rices are ground with whole ear-corn and mixed with molasses for a grain feed.

Rejected lots of rice thus ground, supply dairy cows and livestock with all the rice bran, rice polish, and broken rice food contents of rice by-products at a minimum of cost. It is ground at home and can be fed when fresh and very palatable.

Mr. and Mrs. Tupper have two married sons, Jos. L. Tupper and George Tupper. Joseph owns a farm adjoining the lands of his father. George cultivates a part of the Tupper plantation. The two daughters are graduates of business colleges. Miss Agnes, the elder, keeps the books of the store and for the plantation. Mr. Tupper was recently appointed police juror (county commissioner) by Governor Long, for the Elton ward (district). He was born in Seboygan County, Wisconsin in 1869. Mrs. Tupper was born in Knox County, Missouri in 1879. They came to Louisiana shortly after their marriage and rented a part of the land which they now own. The large pine trees shown in the view of their home, were set out by them shortly after they began to build their home place.

The general store's contents was discovered nearly 50 years after it closed. Now, those contents are on display in The W.H. Tupper General Store Museum at 311 North Main Street, Jennings, Louisiana. (visit for more information).

A map indicating postal locations, puts a post office named "Killinger" about a mile east, northeast of the final location of China. The post office was located in a general store that specialized in staple products like flour and cornmeal, which were ground on-site. John Reeves remembers going there as a boy with his mother and everytime they approached the store, there was Mrs. Killinger sitting on the front porch in her rocking chair. He also remembers they served lemonade in a black kettle with a spout that kept cool in the steel.


In 1906, the New Orleans, Texas & Mexican Railroad laid rail parellel to the track that passed through Jennings, except 20 miles to the north. The railroad enabled the logging industry away from Bayou Nezpique to flourish in the early years. In later years, the railroad was key infrastructure for the rice industry. Elton was incorporated in 1911, but settlers had already been in the area for about fifty years; among them, settlers with surnames of Buller, Henderson, and Marcentel were among the first.

Probably the oldest was the Thomas Buller family, that came from St. Landry Parish around 1840 to settle among a grove of great oaks north of the present Missouri Pacific Railroad. The Bullers were descendants of Joseph Buller Sr., born in 1781 in Opelousas. He was the son of John Buhler, who was born in Germany. The name had been changed to Buller by the time Thomas reached adulthood. Thomas was born in 1808 in Opelousas and married there in 1831 to Emilie Brignac.

Emile Buller, brother of Thomas, also moved to the Elton area some years later. He served in the Civil War and moved from Washington (La.) after the war, settling at a spot about a mile north of the town. He was married to Elizabeth Johnson.

J. M. Henderson came from Des Moines, Iowa, in 1888 and started a store where he established the Elton post office about 1891. The wife of pioneer settler J. M. Henderson is said to have chosen the name Elton for her home town from a book in which she read of an English town named Elton. That was probably the town on the north-west coast of England in Durham County near Middlesbrough.

According to an old recollection, "There were three post offices on the route. Raymond was 10 miles north of Jennings; China was 15 miles north of Jennings; and Elton was 20 miles north of Jennings. The mail was carried on horseback twice a week. Later, the carrier used a two-wheeled gig and carried a passenger at one dollar when he could get one."

The Marcantel family was also at Elton early on. The first of them in Louisiana was Joseph Vuillemont Marcanteli, who came from Italy. He'd settled near Washington in St. Landry Parish at least by 1770, when he was listed as a militiamen. His descendants came to Elton prior to the Civil War.

-Excerpted from “Elton named for town in Middlesbrough, England,” Lafayette Daily Advertiser, by Jim Bradshaw

At one time, the town boasted of having a college, a textile plant, five sawmills, two hotels, four major oil companies with producing wells, a concrete tile plants, and a patent medicine company. In the early-Twentieth Century, a railroad was proposed for construction to link Elton and Jennings. But because of land acquisition, this construction never materialized.

Farmers in the Elton area have as rich of a history in farming rice as the rest of Jefferson Davis Parish. There are many important farming families around Elton, including the Bullers and Marcantels. In the early-1920's, though, there was an interesting newcomer in this lumber and farming community. "Hippies" were in Elton, fifty years before there was such a thing. A social experiment started by Job Harriman, a Socialist from California, along with his utopian followers, settled in New Llano, Louisiana, outside Leesville around 1918 and survived until the late 1930's. It was the longest surviving utopian community in U.S. history. Although their principal colony was in New Llano, the colony operated a "Rice Ranch" just outside Elton.

Pine Island

Located about 10 miles west of Hathaway on Highway 102 at Highway 99 in the center of Jefferson Davis Parish, this farm community was settled in the middle of a prairie around a hill thick with pine and oak trees (in the distance, right).
Pine Island became the home to many in the late-1920's after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The many people that lost their homes and livelihoods moved west and settled in Pine Island. When they arrived, they likely found work at Houssiere headquarters, operated by Henry Houssierre, who located his family's farming headquarters there in the mid-1920's.

The Houssiere family arrived in Southwestern Louisiana from France in 1883. Henry Houssiere was raised by his aunt Ismarie and her husband Arthur Latreille, who was the business partner of Henry’s father, Eugene. The Houssiere’s made their money when they struck oil in the Evangeline area and invested wisely in many ventures throughout Jeff Davis Parish, including hotels in Jennings and a motor company in Welsh.

The Houssiere’s also invested in real estate. Henry Houssiere and his younger brother Charles ran the Houssiere estates. They were inseparable but they had quite different personalities. Henry was the manager of the farms, cattle and crops, while Charlie's drive was for business and bargaining.

Henry Houssiere is remembered as the man who built the first sweet potato dry kiln in Jeff Davis Parish. He also built one of the first cotton gins at Jennings and Pine Island. He was overseer of the drilling of at least 10 irrigation wells which helped change the Pine Island area from a cotton culture to one of rice.

The cattle tick also got Henry's attention, and he worked hard to eliminate it. At the peak of his operations, Henry managed over 1,000 head of cattle as well as supervising over 7,000 acres of land, at least 3,500 in rice and 700 in corn, plus other highland crops.

-Excerpted from “Houssiere 1883 Family History” in the Lake Charles American Press, July 21, 1991, by Nola Mae Ross

Pine Island also had a general store, a Catholic church, and a big dance hall where the Hackberry Ramblers often played in the late 1930’s. In a documentary seen on PBS on the program Independent Lens, Make 'Em Dance,, Edwin Duhon remembered playing in the dance hall in Pine Island where they first used an amplifier. They powered the amplifier from the car running outside, blasting music in the back of the hall while they played in the front. The joint was jumpin’.

More information on the Great Mississippi Flood fo 1927 is available at:

People of Hathaway

The first people to settle in the Hathaway area were Acadians who for several generations had been migrating east starting from New Orleans, and finally settling along the Nez Pique in the mid-1800's. After the railroads were complete in the 1880's, settlers from the farmlands of the Midwest were recruited to the farmlands of Southwestern Louisiana. The successes of people around Jennings attracted more folks from the Midwest. Many chose the prairies north of Jennings to settle. By the 1890's there were quite a few farms enjoying success in the Hathaway area. The farming successes of the praries around Jennings continued to attract more settlers through the turn of the century, when the influx of migrants seems to have levelled off. A majority of the younger generations listed in the Censuses of 1910, 1920, and 1930 list Louisiana as the state in which they were born.

The 1920 Census of the United States for Hathaway was enumerated by Oscar Landry, Jr. on January 14 through February 10, 1920.

The total population was 1,270 with 252 households (126 listed as farms). There were 270 children that were recorded as attending school. The majority of people were born in Louisiana; however, there were people from 23 states and 6 countries that were new to Hathaway.

Hathway Census - The Census for 1920 and 1930 are available in a searchable PDF format through the links below. Click the "Download" button, wait through a short countdown on an advertisement page, then click "Open" on the pop-up box.



For a listing of Hathaway High School Alumni, visit:

Recollections of Mr. Earl Walker

By Mrs. Esther Koll Reeves
(summary of interview with Mr. Walker)

Mr. Earl C. Walker was born about 1894 in Louisiana. He married his wife, Luciellle, who was originally from Illinois, in 1916 at the age of 21. She was 20 years old. Their first daughter, Earline, was born in 1920. By the 1930 Census they would have three more sons: Edmond in 1923, Howard in 1925, and Richard in 1927.

This interview was probably conducted in the late-1970’s. This is not a transcript but a summary of the recorded interview between Mrs. Reeves and Mr. Walker. With some imagination, we can place ourselves back at the table where these two were talking about days long passed. As we read, the shifts between topics can be abrupt with no connection. Others are natural shifts. I left these shifts in tact to keep the "interview response feel" of the conversation. I did, however, edit for context and continuity within paragraphs.

The shifts between topics shows a man reflecting, digging for memories and reporting them as they come to him in a stream of consciousness, and a historian listening to the tape and writing what she hears in her own words. Her objective was to get him talking and later draw on her notes to create her story. What we have here are her notes of a man of his time describing how he and others lived in the beginning of the 20th Century in Hathaway, Louisiana.

Mr. Walker moved to Hathaway when he was a child because his father was employed to manage the U.S. Phillips Plantation (Section 16 –where Hathaway High School is located--U.S. Phillips owned stock in the same company as George Hathaway--research is needed to determine if Phillips sold the Section 16 land to George Hathaway). Initially they lived in the Guy Havenar home. After the first year though, they moved into a boarding house. Living in the boarding house got to be pretty costly, so they traded land they owned in Jennings for 80 acres at Hathaway.

The boarding house was used for the workers whose job it was to make the canals and run the engines at the pumping plants. There was a large barn and corral to house the mules. Oil had to be hauled for the engines. The first plants were built entirely of wood and used what were called box pumps. The first engines were also fired with wood. Steam engines with oil burners were put in about 1904. Mr. Walker’s father also worked on the railroad bed.

Mr. Walker’s father and Jim Sol bought 96 acres of woodland and Edgar Fruge sawed the lumber for half. Each of the men built a barn and a warehouse. Other sawmills were in the woods north of Hathaway. Mr. Walker recalls Beeman sawmill bought by Brooks in 1907. Mr. Walker recalls hauling lumber from the mill when he was just big enough to drive a team. He knows the sawmill had been there for a long time before. Edgar Fruge sawed lumber at different places in the woods before moving the mill out to the road (near the intersection of Highway 102 and Panchoville Road).

Mr. Walker recalls that Miss Kathy Eckle, a teacher at Nubbin Ridge School rode a small grey pony side-saddle. She was able to stand beside her pony and with one jump sit in the saddle. The school was named Nubbin Ridge because the corn planted there produced only nubbins (small or imperfect ears of corn).

Boniface Frederic also taught at Nubbin Ridge. His pupils were known for their penmanship. Later in life, Mr. Walker often worked the voting polls and could tell by the way some people wrote that Mr. Frederic had taught them to sign their names.

John Simon homesteaded just north of where Mr. Walker now lives (across from the northeast corner of Hathaway High School). Telesphare Gary homesteaded up on the corner. Camille Gary (then at the time of the interview—Lonnie Hicks) homesteaded that and across the road (on Joe B. Landry’s side—then at the time of the interview—Fultons) his wife had a tree claim. The Gary’s had come from Midland or Esterwood.

A ferry crossing called Viterbeaux was where the bridge across Nezpique is now (at Theo Road). Mr. Hebert had a store across the bayou.

Mr. Walker recalls the first log cabin he saw. His father had some land south of Roanoke and in traveling there one day, the horse pulling the buggy became frightened and ran off when a stick his father used for a whip caught in the buggy wheels making a most unusual noise. In looking for the runaway horse the next day they came to a log cabin that was owned by a Mr. Bageaux. He said the one room cabin had a bed in each corner with the whitest beds he’s ever seen! The cabin also had a dirt fireplace where coffee was made and served. The dirt floor was as smooth and clean as a floor in a modern home.

In traveling from Roanoke to Hathaway, the trails crossed the open prairie and often darkness overtook them before they reached home. Often a quart jar was filled with lighting bugs and carried by a man leading the oxen over the best path.

The dance hall at Panchoville was run by Charles Fruge and at one time he also had a hall on the southeastern corner of Highway 102 and Panchoville Road. This was where Mr. Walker’s parent lived at that time. One morning his father woke them and said the dance hall on the opposite corner was on fire. Evidently there were living quarters in the hall and when the door was pulled open the building literally exploded, knocking Mr. Walker down At that time of year, rice had been stored there and for the extent of the fire very little rice was lost. The owners were not at home.

In the years when he was the owner of the first car in Hathaway it became his lot to go for and return the priest to town when any wedding in the community was held. So he witnessed a great many of the marriages.

He tells of the priest, Father Pitre, offering him wine from three different bottles before he found one he could even swallow and afterward the priest always remembered him with that type wine. Mass was held at Camille Gary’s home.

Mention was made of the Raymond baseball team when Mr. Walker was trying to recall some names of former residents.

In the early days the roads were trails. The main trail through Hathaway came from the corner where Highway 102 and Panchoville Road is now across to the relift and across to Nubbin Ridge, following the highest land to reach their destination. Most people walked.

When asked what he knew of the Carter family, he recalled marking sacks at harvest time. Mr. Walker worked for the canal to check the farmers water rent from the crops by setting aside bags of rice at an agreed number to pay the rent. This elderly Mr. Carter was an artist with the marking brush—some sort of lamp black mixture used for marking). Mr. Walker says he learned to make the Grand Canal Co. mark without lifting the brush and in very precise letters, so that it was easily recognized that those sacks of rice had been his marking.

The letters GCCO with the line swing back under to provide a place for the numbers on the water contracts for the farmers had signed, provided a record to check payment and define ownership. Most farmers marked their own rice sacks with their intials.

When asked why he supposed a map shown to him had a field marked in sections, he said it was the custom to fence a small area to plant rice on. The rice was sown by hand and to insure a good stand cattle were driven into and around until the rice was mixed with the soil. The field was in a low place so that some water could be on the field to grow the rice. This was called providence rice.

The prairie had a number of cattle that were existing on their own by grazing. There may have been a few branded herds. Those people who needed fresh meat though would ride out on the prairie at night, kill and butcher the animal. Of course there was always the possibility the killed animal might be claimed by some cattleman. The herds were bedded down at night and did not have to be chased. Often part of the meat was sold in town and the fresh meat was ready to peddle door to door very early in the morning. Otherwise the meat would have had to been kept overnight and with no way to keep it fresh.

Profile of a Past Family: Koll

Article from the Jennings Daily News

Tuesday, February 21, 1950

Koll Family In Reunion To Mark 50 Years in Jeff Davis
By Harvey Laing

It was a beautiful day when Mr. and Mrs. Henry Koll, Sr., brought their family of six boys and one girl down from the unproductive, razorback ridden, Arkansas country some 30 miles east of Little Rock where they had stopped off for four years after leaving Iowa. They came with meager belongings and $25. Then with “plenty of hard work and savings,” increased their holdings to 2,120 acres by 1950.

The air sparkled and glistened with sunlight as the train chugged into the Southern Pacific Station that afternoon of February 18, 1900. Jennings, with its more than a thousand inhabitants, was all aglow. It was a beautiful sight for that family who had lost almost everything they had in that four year stint at Carlysle, Arkansas.

Chimney smoke arched and danced under a sky like a blue diamond. Out beyond the city lay fields of dimmed gold hue streaked with sea-green. It was a most exciting day for the Kolls.

The father had made a trip to Jennings several months previous to visit two old Arkansas neighbors who had pioneered a year before, and came back with all kinds of beautiful pictures of the area. He brought back with him oranges and other fruit, and the children thought there could not be any place like this one.

But father did not tell the whole story. For instance, how he had to take a boat to cross flood burdened Bayou Chene to arrive at the home of the Bruchhauses and the Groths who had settled at the same location of the present Niblett farms. The mother, the daughter, and the smaller children who arrived on the passenger train, took their belongings and registered at the McFarlain Hotel. It wasn’t long before the rest of the family came in on the freight train with the family possessions. They had been four days and four nights on the train and were tired. But it was good to be in Jennings!

The family moved into a home off what is now North Cutting road and settled down to the raising of rice. They had tried it in Arkansas, but the Razorback hogs uprooted the plants and tore down the wooden fences, so the only money crop they had was hay.

They had very little when they arrived—a hay bailer, binder, drill, a cow, horse and a few household items.

Their beds in this one-room home just north of Jennings consisted of sacks filled with rice straw, since the family did not have adequate funds to purchase beds.

A dollar was hard to get, and a loan was almost an impossibity unless one had plenty of collateral.

But with everyone doing his job in the best manner possible the Kolls made a successful rice crop that first year—harvested 15 barrels to the acre.

And they branched out to a farm of their own—160 acre tract where the Bill Koll farm is now located four miles north of town [Koll Road]. This was the beginning that saw the industrious family increase their holdings with the coming years.

About the same time the Kolls moved into the 16-by-16 frame block house, another member was added to the family circle—a girl this time.

That rich quarter-section of land was ready for the planting by two horses and two 14-inch “walking plows.” Practically all the land could be harvested in those days just past the turn of the century. It was all virgin soil, and the farmers could harvest a rice crop off the same location year after year without even using any fertilizer.

There were few neighbors out there in the prairie land and it was a somewhat lonely spot.
The school was three miles to the west by way of a dirt road.

On clear nights the lights of the town, seen in the distance twinkled like a hundred stars and the moaning whistle of the trains came in on the waves of the wind.

There was only a trail leading across the fields of tall sage grass to the curve on the present Jennings-Elton highway, some three miles north of Jennings. And that was the route the family would take when they went to town.

Almost with the passing of each year, the Kolls would expand—“by hard work and savings.”

In 1908, the family bought 320 acres at Raymond and to that has since been added a similar amount.

It was about this time that the last child was born—another girl.

For the past half-century the Kolls have been writing a great epic on the Jeff Davis scene—and chapters are still incomplete.

Here is the group that helped to pioneer in the development of this area: John Koll, Mrs. R.T. Compton, Bill, Pete W., Fred, Henry, and Ed Koll, Mrs. Clarence Britt and Miss Hulda Koll.

The family group celebrated its 50 years in Louisiana with a big dinner last Sunday.
And the memories of the past crept into the minds of the children of Henry Koll, Sr. as they pondered the happenings of the decades that have slipped away since 1900.

The family group that attended the 50th year celebration included: Mr. and Mrs. John Koll and daughter, Marie; Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Whittington and children, Ada May, Effie Ann, and John; Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Bucklin and daughter, Louise; Mr. and Mrs. H.E. Jester and children, Lela and Richard; Mr. and Mrs. Herman Talley and son, Roy; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Compton and children, Robert, Geneive, and Cecil; Mr. and Mrs. John Compton; Mr. and Mrs. P.W. Koll; Mr.s and Mrs. William Koll; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Koll and children, Robert and Betty Jo; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Koll and daughter, Lou; Mr. and Mrs. Ed Koll; Mr. and Mrs. Hilton Watson; Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Britt and children, Joyce, Eugene, William, Norma Jean, and Shirlene; Mr. and Mrs. Wilber Meche; Mrs. R.T. Meche; Miss Hulda Koll; Harvey Laing; Mr. and Mrs. John Reeves, Jr. and children, John W. Jr., David, and Dolores; Charlene, Deborah, and Charles Curet; Norma Lee Young, and Wayne Patterson.

Rice farming

Updated July 3, 2010

One of the first surveyors of the Hathaway prairies, William Darby, predicted that agricultural pursuits might eventually be attempted, but the sterile land was good only for grazing cattle. Fifty years later, geologist Eugene W. Hilgard conducted a scientific survey of the Calcasieu prairies and found nearly the same results as Mr. Darby; however, Mr. Hilgard speculated the soil was suitable for rice farming, and he was right.

Rice farming on the prairies of Hathaway is a story that came from the backs of men, to the power of the equine, to the combustion of an engine. The industrialization of rice arose from plowing with a team of the four-legged to the four-wheeled tractor; from the scattering of seeds, then to the drill, and on to the airplane; from the reliance on rainfall, to the steady supply of water from the canal, to the reliability of the deep well; from cutting with the sickle and the cradle, to the thresher, to the combine; from curing in the “shock” to the more reliable drier; from collecting the harvest in burlap sacks to rice carts; from the stacks in warehouses to wooden, then steel cylinder bins; from hauling with a wagon, to the train, to the truck. Since farmers on the Hathaway prairies and others in Southwestern Louisiana have entered the competitive food supply market, they have constantly embraced new technology and processes to improve their endeavor and this innovative spirit continues today.

Providence Rice

Growing rice on a commercial scale in the United States began in South Carolina in 1685. Twenty-five years later, South Carolina was producing 1.5 million pounds of rice, and a decade after that, more than 20 million pounds. Although innovative techinques were introduced by African slave labor, the upsurge in production came from the increase of the number in bondage, not from innovations in planting (with the exception of flooding land using gates to catch fresh water pushed upriver by Atlantic tides) or the mechanization of the harvest. Because the processes for producing rice in South Carolina remained labor-intensive, the door opened for Louisiana when the workforce was emancipated. The open land and the completed railroad in South Louisiana allowed the experienced, progressive wheat farmers from Iowa and Illinois to grow a farming empire in Louisiana that has brought prosperity to the Rice Belt of the Bayou State for over a century.

The rice industry in Louisiana began shortly before the Civil War on the Mississippi Delta in the southeastern parishes of St. Charles, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and Lafourche parishes. The farmers there took advantage of new steam technology to pump water from the Mississippi River over the levees to their fields. But after the Civil War, as in South Carolina, rice production declined rapidly. Only a few areas in the Mississippi Delta continued to flourish.

About the same time, Acadians were continuing their migration across the prairies into Southwestern Louisiana. The first Acadians out of New Orleans moved to the prairies to raise cattle. Some Acadians became cattle men and grew their holdings, but most were farmers who were content to grow their families. Acadian migration was mostly for the subsistence of their close family in small, quite, patriarchal settlements. When family settlements grew large, segments of that family would move westward on the prairie to form a new settlement.

For their new settlement, Acadians generally chose to live along the treelines of rivers, bayous, and gullies that ran in a southwesterly direction on the Pleistocene plain from the Mississippi River. They chose the treeline because the thick vegetation indicated that land was fertile. They grew small patch crops like rice, sweet potatoes, cotton, and corn. Farming was not an enterprise for Acadians; it was a survival skill. They toiled for their families and neighbors. Another purpose for their toil was for bartering and trade. Much of their economy depended on bartering. Acadians did not come from a society based on money.

Before 1880, the first Acadians moved to the prairies of Hathaway and lived along Bayou Nezpique and the Grand Marais. Some did venture away from the thicket of woods to farm where they found low-lying areas along a gulley or marais. (Keep in mind that the landscape of the Hathaway prairies was much different before 1900: dredging of the bayous and draining of the marshes and gullies did not start until the early-1900's and land-levelling was not a common practice until the 1940's.) When a farmer found the right lay-of-land, he built a split rail cedar fence around a small plot (usually 5-acres or less), and planted rice. After the seed was sown, they waited. If rice grew, it was harvested. If not, there was always next year. Dependence upon the providence of nature, and not a man-made irrigation system, gave this method of rice culture the name, “Providence rice.”

When farmers planted rice on the small plots, they sowed the seed by broadcast (scattering seed by hand on the surface). After the seed was sown, farmers ran cattle or horses into the small fenced area to trample the seed into the mud. Another method of growing rice was to dig trenches about three feet apart and keep them filled with water. But this method was labor intensive and the yield was low (at about 6 barrels per acre) because the water supply depended on seasonal moisture.

To increase the amount of water for their small fenced plots, farmers began to build levees in gullies to block run-off and flood low-lying areas. Farmers also dug ditches from those reservoirs to get the water to other nearby low-lying fields. The levees had limited success because the reservoirs were shallow and the small amounts of water that were collected often evaporated off quickly. Flooded crops from these conditions made about 10 barrels per acre.

The early farmers in Hathaway harvested rice with their hands and their backs bent using a sickle. As plots went to several acres, farmers switched to a “grain cradle.” The cradle had several blades that swept down on the grain and laid the stalks down in a row for easier collection. Another advantage of the cradle was that it could be swung while standing straight. Once the stalks were cut and gathered, they were tied into bundles, also known as “sheaves.” The sheaves of rice were stacked in a cluster called the "shock." The stacks were left in the field for two weeks (12 to 14 days) to dry, also known as curing.

To cure properly, the bundles had to be stacked in a tight cluster with the heads together. The stacks were about three feet high. Then a bundle with it’s bottom spread was laid over the top to cover the grain with its own grain facing north. Stacking the bundles in this certain fashion gave the harvested rice maximum protection from the sun and rain. Nonetheless, up to 30 per cent of the crop could be lost to improper shocking or mildew. A rainy harvest season could spell doom for the crop. Farmers determined the shock was ready for threshing “by ear,” using their judgment, and even their neighbors’ judgment on the condition of the stalks and the heads.

After the rice had dried, it had to be thrashed, which means the grain had to be removed from the stalks. Before mechanized threshers, farmers removed the rice from the stalks under the hooves of oxen or horses or they flailed a double-handful of stalks over an open barrel until all the seeds were beaten off the straw. Then the chaff was removed from the rice kernel. The job for removing the chaff usually fell to the younger boys; although this process was used by housewives who prepared smaller quantities for individual meals.

To remove the chaff from the rice kernel, the process first involved a hollow stone or piece of wood where a mortar was used to crack the chaff and grind it from the rice kernel. For larger quantities, the stone and the wood became too small for the job, so a larger pestle was made by standing a short log on its end and hollowing out the other end into the shape of a bowl. For the larger pestle, the mortar was increased to the size of a wooden bat that had two oversized, elongated bulbs at each end. For both the stone pestle and the log pestle, the mortar was pushed against the bottom of the hole or bowl to loosen the chaff. To clean the chaff from the rice, the contents of the hole or bowl were emptied into a basket. Then with great skill, the rice was winnowed, which involved tossing the rice kernels into the air, letting the chaff blow away in the wind, and the clean rice fell back into the basket.

After rice production was industrialized, the quantities continued to surge and manual labor could not keep up; then came the home mill, which mechanized the pestle using a heavy wooden pounder instead of a slim pestle. The pounder was tied to the end of an eight-foot beam which sat on a fulcrum four feet from the pounder. By stepping on the other end of the beam and quickly releasing the foot, the pounder delivered a heavy blow. Then the foot stepping on the beam was replaced by rigging the beam to an “over shot wheel.” In Roman times and in other rice cultures, the over shot wheel involved a moving stream to power the wheel from above. This wheel was powered by horses tethered to a drive wheel around a vertical axel that turned a gear system that powered the over shot wheel.

The Birth of the Rice Industry in Southwestern Louisiana

The story of the industrialization of rice in Southwestern Louisiana, and on the Hathaway prairies, began when the Northerners arrived. They found a different kind of farmer than from where they had come. The Acadian farmers were not wired for industry, or to look for ways to improve the certainty of their crop, or to increase the efficiency or volume of the harvest. The Acadians had no experience with a cash crop. They came to the prairies of Hathaway with the vast experience of self-preservation. They did not seek to make their work easier to increase productivity. They were a quite society that lived off the land and sustained their lifestyle by living in close proximity to other family members, spending much of their time with family, and toiling for the needs of their family. The Northerners' knowledge was a result of years of experience. Once the knowledge of the cash crop was shared with the Acadians, many joined in its pursuit.

The Northerners came to the prairies of Hathaway with the experience of harvesting wheat as a cash crop. They applied their knowledge to make the prairies of Southwestern Louisiana more productive than the prairies they left in the Midwest. The Northerner's knowledge depended on a scientific method: When crops came in, data was collected, and if something was not quite right, they conjured a theory to know why, and what they could be done to improve their crop the next season.

An article in the October 10, 1895 edition of the Jennings newspaper exemplifies the kind of thinking that Northerners applied to their crop to figure out the root cause of a less than stellar rice crop.

Some of the rice is very light and chalky--little more than chaff; while other crops have suffered from the ravages of insects. The light and chalky rice is believed by some to be the result of the unusually hot weather during the heading season, and conditions seem to support this theory, as very poor rice is reported where an ample water supply was had throughout the season.

With this knowledge and experience, farmers could not control the temperature during heading season. But this experience would help them better predict what the hot weather would do to their crop. With this knowledge, they could find a way to improve the possibilities of a better crop in those same conditions. The most important asset for increasing production is knowledge of what hinders production, and finding ways to combat those hinderances. Some ways were successful, some were dreadful, but the experience was valuable and could be used to make better crops in the future.

One of the most important Northerners to arrive was Sylvester L. Cary in 1883. He is important to the industrialization of rice because he took it upon himself to recruit other experienced "cash crop" farmers on the possibilities of Southwestern Louisiana. After he arrived, he conducted several crop experiments to find that rice culture was the best pursuit. Land companies also brought their own agricultural experts down to survey the land. Dr. Seaman K. Knapp, who settled in Sherman, now Iowa, recommended rice. The clay "hardpan" soil on the Calcasieu prairies was retentive of moisture, making the prairies perfect for flooding, which is perfect for growing rice.

Some of Cary’s early recruits came in 1884, and the path toward mechanized rice production was begun. Maurice Bryan, a farmer from Iowa, moved to the area with a twine binder that he had used in farming wheat. Maurice Bryan was born in Westbury, Sommersetshire, England on April 30, 1854, when Napolean III was Emperor of France. When he was 16 (in 1870), he moved with his family to New York. He married Lillian Simmons of Skaneatles, New York in 1877 at the age of 23 (the same year of General Custer’s Last Stand). The next year, Bryan and his wife moved to Iowa to give farming wheat a start. Within a few years he had joined a farmer’s association that followed the promotions of S.L. Cary and moved to Southwestern Louisiana. They formed an Iowa colony in Raymond on homestead land. He lived in Jennings for a short time, and then moved to his five-acre farm in the Raymond area to begin his new venture in farming.

Mr. Bryan had tried to use the binder in the rice fields but soon encountered too many problems in the mud. He then set out to conquer the problem of bogging and a slipping drive wheel. First, he bolted lugs made out of two-by-fours to the flat steel drive-wheel to dig into the mud. Second, he added spades to the wheels to dig into the mud when the wheel hit the ground. These additions gave the sickle, reel, and canvasses more consistent power. One other interesting note about Maurice Bryan was that he was one of the first to bring Holstein cattle to the area.

The binder was a machine fronted by a reel that spun several long, horizontal bars between two spindles outward from the top and back inward at the bottom. The spindle was turned by a pulley system attached to a drive wheel. As the spindle turned, the bars leaned the stalks of rice into a cutting sheer. The cutting sheer had two pieces. The bottom piece had pronged teeth that corralled the straw and the top piece was a blade that moved back and forth across the prongs slicing the stalks. Because the reel was coming inward toward the machine, the stalks were leaning back when they were cut and they fell onto a canvass that was rotating around two pulleys that delivered the stalks up to a blocking device that gathered the stalks as they were cut and tied them up with twine when enough was gathered. As each bundle was tied, it was lifted into a storage shoot then released when the bundles numbered from 9 to 13. These were released to field hands that arranged them into the proper “shock” arrangement.

When the William Deering Co. shipped 300 of the modified binders to Lake Charles in 1886 at a retail price of $265, large scale rice farming was born. The 6-foot wide cutting device harvested 8 acres in a day, doing the work of 16 men. Four years later, farmers from Southwestern Louisiana ordered six hundred rice harvesters. By 1900, there were 4500 twine binders in use in Southwest Louisiana. In 1917, a small engine was added to the binder to drive the sickle and binding apparatus. Then all the team had to do was pull the binder, not generate torque for the sickle. The binder remained unchanged until it was phased out in the 1940’s when the combine was introduced.

With the capacity to cut more rice, farmers soon needed more efficient plowing and planting mechanisms, as well as water to increase their yield. First were the implements. Larger plow configurations were needed to increase the amount of land that could be planted. By 1890, the wheel gang plow was being used to cut land 22-27 inches wide. These plows could break two-and-a-half acres a day. The land was stirred with a square-tooth harrow before and after seeding. The theory was to plow deep, level and crush lumps, then pack the soil. Then in the first decade of the Twentieth Century came the two and three furrow gang plow, the riding gang plow (i.e., the four horse plow).

From the 1890's to the 1940's Louisiana was the highest rice producing state and was ranked either third or fourth through the 1980's. In 1890, it was estimated that more than four hundred car loads of rice were shipped out of Jennings. To demonstrate the contributions that Hathaway and the surrounding prairies made, by the late 1980's, Jeff Davis Parish accounted for 16% of Louisiana rice production.

William Henry Perrin provided a glimpse of the rice industry in 1891, when he authored Southwest Louisiana—Biographical & Historical. In it he wrote:

The editor of the Jennings Reporter gives some figures on the acreage of rice planted in that part of the parish. He estimates that between Lake Arthur on the south to China post-office north of Jennings, and between the Mermentau River, the Nezpique and Grand Marais, there will be about nine thousand acres planted in rice, which, at ten barrels per acre, will give 90,000 barrels of rice, and of this amount he expects 60,000 barrels at least or about four hundred car loads to be shipped from Jennings. Two years ago only twenty-six car loads were shipped from Jennings; last year one hundred car loads. All this rice, should Jennings not get a rice mill, would eventually find its way to Lake Charles and shipped northward on the Kansas City, Watkins & Gulf Railway. This is only a small portion of the rice acreage of this parish, and every bushel raised in the parish should be hulled on mills here instead of being shipped to the New Orleans mills.

Says the [Lake Charles] American on the same subject: There is, perhaps, no section of country better adapted to rice culture than the lands of Calcasieu. Rice culture is now attracting more attention than any other field crop. This cultivation is simple, consisting principally of planting and flooding, and the profits are large. Had we the space, we could give numerous instances of persons making enormous profits.

Mr. R. Hall, of Cherokee, Iowa, purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land for $800. Paid out for improvements about $450. Total cost of land and improvements, $1250. He rented the land for one-third, which was planted in rice, and realized for his third of rice $1500.

J.W. Rosteet reports on twenty-one acres of land planted in rice. He gives the expense of ditching, levees, fencing, planting and harvesting at $457.68. He sold his rice for $860, leaving a balance of $462.32.

In the early 1890’s, a mechanism was developed to move away from broadcasting seed by hand. The seeder distributed seed more consistently over the field by dropping seed onto a flat, spinning wheel that threw the seed out in even patches. The wheel was powered by a chain-drive that was geared to the back axel of a wagon. The seeder could seed 25 acres-a-day, using about one sack of seed every three acres.

There’s an old farmer’s saying that “a silk purse cannot be made from a sow’s ear,” in other words, good rice must come from good seed. Good seed was free from weed seed. Honduras rice was the first type of rice planted by farmers. Then, agriculturalist, Seamann K. Knapp brought seed back from Japan. Seed from Japan could better withstand the milling process. Up until World War II, the process was to save the seed from the better looking lots that entered the warehouse.

Now with the capacity of the binder to cut more rice, and the ability to spread more seed, there was a need for a more reliable water source. The Providence method could produce a large crop, but this was too speculative for the large-scale farming envisioned by the settlers from the Midwest because rainfall amounts varied from year to year. Farmers needed a consistent source of water that provided enough to cover the growing acreage that the mechanization of rice farming had brought.

Opening the Flood Gates

There was plenty of water in Bayou Nezpique. A.D. McFarlain, a founding settler of Jennings, built a small canal to irrigate his farm. The idea caught on and canal companies began to organize, secure the right-of-ways, and build levees. The first canal operation in the area was Riverside Canal Company in 1895. Soon construction of the Grand Canal and the Tip Top canal were under way in the Hathaway area. By 1899, there were 25 irrigating canals in Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Vermillion; nearly 400 miles of main canals, plus as much in lateral canals. Canals were built 40-60 feet wide, 4-5 feet high. The first canals were built from the outside with plows and graders; after the turn of the 20th Century, canals were built from the inside, which prevented grass and weed growth in the canal during the off-season.

A field is flooded when rice grows to six to eight inches high. The field is flooded to three to six inches and kept there until the rice matures. Levees are used to equalize water levels. An outer levee surrounds the field with inner levees making smaller fields within the larger field. The flooding process filled the field next to the pump first, then cut the levee to have as much going to the next field as being pumped into the first filed, and so on.

Levees were built, first, with a shovel. Then farmers were using a ditcher (gang plow), then a grader, by 1915. The grader was made of two 8-foot long beams in a V-shape pulled by oxen, and later a tractor. Early planters built levees at right angles to the slope of the land. They built higher levees in low areas and vice versa. This would result in water a foot deep on the low side and a few inches on the high side. This resulted in different maturity and lower yields. In time, crooked levees were built to follow the contours of the land to hold water at an even depth over the entire field.

Land-leveling came in the late-1940’s. Before fields were leveled, farmers had to deal with low knolls that dotted Southwest Louisiana. These lumps of land were about 30 feet in diameter and as high as three feet. To flatten these knolls, farmers began by taking a tractor with a dozer blade to the lumps, then running a 60-foot land plane over the field about four times. Level-land moved farmers from 5-7 barrels per acre to 20 barrels. Leveling also made water distribution, amounts of water, and levee building much more efficient.

The first canals were powered by gravity moving water with about a half-foot per mile excavation. Main canals were built on high ridges of farms. Canals had gates that opened to lateral canals on the high side of farms. Then the steam engine came along, which was capable of raising 90,000 gallons of water per minute from the bayous. The first rigging for moving water from a bayou to the fields was done near Crowley on Plaquemine Bayou by the Father of Artificial Rice Flooding, Myron Abbott. Steam pumps fueled by wood were common until the 1920’s. These steam pumps required high maintenance and were dangerous. A vigilent attendant had to monitor the pump around the clock to insure the proper water level was maintained to prevent the engine from exploding. In the 1920’s, pumps powered by “crude oil” were installed. These engines required vigilance to keep them running, but they would not take lives if mistakes were made.


Faced with better planted seed producing more matured rice and the capacity to cut and shock that rice more efficiently, farmers needed more than a pestle and mortar to prepare rice for the mill. Farmers again looked to the William Deering & Son concern for a mechanical device that would remove the rice from the stalk. Mechanized thrashing, also called threshing, was not new to harvesting grain. Wheat threshers had been used by farmers in the Midwest for decades. In 1889, with a few modifications, Deering built and shipped twenty-two railcars to Lake Charles loaded with threshing machines.

Because threshing machines were expensive, individual farmers would leave the threshing to a custom operation that travelled from farm to farm. Farmers contracted with the threshing operation, usually paying with a percentage of the crop and a crew was organized. Many were free labor by men who worked in exchange for free labor when the threshing crew came to their fields. The host farmer was responsible for hospitality, and that farmer's wife usually had help from the wives of several other farmers on the crew. The first threshing machine to serve the area arrived in Lake Arthur and belonged to Mr. St. Germaine and Mr. Gauthier. In the early-1900’s, the farmers in the Hathaway area had two threshing operations, both family run, the Havenars and the Fruges. When moving from farm to farm, these crews resembled a train because of how one machine was hitched to another.

The thresher was a large contraption that separated the grain from the stalks and chaff, then bagged the rice for shipment to the mill. The machine was parked in a field and farmers from the area brought their shocked rice to the machine for separation. A driver would pull his wagon, and later his truck, up alongside the machine. From the wagon, he pitched the stalks up on top of the machine. Atop the machine was a canvass that rolled into the machine. As the stalks fell off the canvass on to an iron grate inside the machine, a drum pounded the stalks into a grate. The straw continuing off the canvass on to the grate pushed the beaten straw onto a canvass that fell into a shoot. In that same shoot was debris and bits of straw that fell through the grate with the rice. It fell past a stream of air, which blew the debris horizontally and the rice fell on through. This process served the same function as the winnowing basket. The shoot emptied the straw and debris from a spout about six feet above the machine. The air in the shoot came out with enough force to shoot the straw and debris into a haystack about 20 to 30 feet from the machine.

To be threshed, the bundles had to be dry, otherwise the machine would get clogged, which would cause the belt to come off the pulley, causing further delay. Threshing usually began mid-morning after the fog had lifted. Rain usually caused a delay of several days. If the bottom of the bundle was too soggy, then that part of the bundle was cut off before fed into the machine. Another tactic for keeping the stalks dry and the machine from getting clogged was to move the shocks to higher ground.

On the threshing machine, sacks hung on a rail at the spout where separated rice flowed. When full, the sack was unhooked and a new one placed in front of the spout; then the full sack had to be sewn quickly by a skilled sewer with a six-inch needle usually sewn and marked while the next bag filled. The mark was usually a number that was used to divide at market among the shares in the crop held by the threshing crew, the canal company, and the landlord (if the farmer rented the land). By the 1920’s, 200 to 500 sacks (ranging from 160-200 lbs) per day could be threshed. Although, rice was stored in burlap sacks, farmers measured their crop in "barrels." This standard of measure was first adopted in South Carolina rice production in 1714. Farmers still use the term today.

The entire binding and threshing operation usually required 25-30 men: (1) The binder required two men—one to drive the team or tractor and one to operate the binder; (2) Three or four men followed the machine to prepare the shock; (3) Nine to twelve wagons were used (each with a driver) to move the shock from the fields to the stationary threshing machine. The threshing machine had an engine man, a separator man, two sack draggers, one sack sewer, and an extra man or two.

Planting Innovations

With a more dependable water source and mechanized reapers and threshers, farmers could increase the acreage they planted. For this increased acreage, farmers also wanted to increase their yield per acre. To improve their yield, a more consistent rate of growth in the stand and maturity of the grain was necessary. Broadcasting seed left a lot of seed on the surface or in hoof marks, which caused variances in growth and maturity at harvest time. The need to cover more acreage and for a way to plant seeds more consistently led more farmers to use the disc drill.

The drill had been in use for centuries by Chinese farmers and made its way to Europe in the 1700's. In 1841, a practical seed drill for grain was patented. Over fifty years later, farmers planting rice in Southwestern Louisiana began using them to plant rice. But the inconsistency of stalk growth was not solved until the drill was equipped with a roller to follow the disc drill and flatten the earth over the seed.

A report on the rice planting season in the June 4, 1894 edition of the Jennings newspaper exemplifies the challenge for rice farmers of the 1890's on the prairies:

Planting will continue up to July 1, but there will not be the acreage planted now that there would have been had the spring been favorable for early planting. The rice in many fields will make a very uneven stand owing to some of the rice coming up early, while the remainder is just sprouting. The finest and most even stand of rice is seen where the fields were rolled. It came up very even, made a steady growth through the dry spell, and since the late rains is the most encouraging looking rice on the prairie.

The first drills for rice had 6 spouts arranged behind an axel that supported a trough to hold the seed. Two horses pulled the drill implement. For each drill, two discs were set in a V-shape to a desired depth with a spout laid between the discs to drop the seed into the crease cut by the discs. Later models had rollers that followed the drill to cover the seed after it was planted. By World War I, 12 spouts were common, and some drills had as many as 16 spouts.

To Market

When night fell, a farmer came in, put on a clean shirt and drove the team and a string of wagons to sit in long lines at the warehouse. Here the bags of rice were unloaded by a crew and stacked in a slot rented to the farmer away from the chances of rain waiting to be milled. In the 1920’s, when trucks became common place, Model-T flat bed trucks could carry 18-20 sacks of rice. Then the Model-A trucks arrived, which could carry 40 sacks, depending on the condition of the ground.

In the 1860’s, several rice mills were built in New Orleans to accommodate the harvest coming in from the southeastern Louisiana coastal parishes. With the opening of the railroad in 1880 across the southern prairies of Louisiana and the ensuing surge in rice production, many rice mills were built to accommodate the incoming rice. By 1888, thirteen new rice mills had been built in New Orleans, and near the same number had been built across southern Louisiana on rivers with access to the Gulf, including a mill in Lake Charles on the Calcasieu River.

At the mill, rice was fed onto a rotating canvass that was gritty enough to rub the soft covering of the kernel into a fine dust, thus giving the rice a polished finish. Rice mills were built. The first mills were built in Lake Charles. Crowley also had a mill. In 1899, the first and only mill was built in Jennings by George Hathaway & Associates, which was almost immediately sold to the Louisiana State Rice Milling Company. This mill was called “The Northern Mill” by the owners and the public, alike.

Some of the larger farming operations built a home mill. Others who had held back a few bags of rice used a miller who set up shop to mill a few bags of rice at a time in exchange for a portion of the rice, which then became merchandise sold to the general public. People did not pick up their rice at a store in a plastic bag. Instead they stopped by the mill shop.

As with most industry, buyers and sellers began jockeying for the best price. Rice millers were the buyers and they soon joined forces to dictate the price paid for a crop of rice. Farmers were the sellers and they would counter the millers’ squeeze by holding their crops in the warehouses until the price was acceptable. The same types of battles continue today. Some years, the price had nothing to do the miller's trust. The season was a major determinant as well.

In the October 10, 1895 issue of the Jennings newspaper, and article entitled "The Crop Will Be Short," ran advising farmers on their best strategy:

The rice crop of Southwest Louisiana will be quite large, but it will not exceed, and we doubt if it approximates that of the 1892, which is from a quarter to a half million bags short of what it has been estimated at during the season. In view of these facts it will be well for the farmers to guard against rushing their crops to New Orleans and over-crowding that market. The domestic crop will fall far short of the amount required for domestic consumption and there is no reason why the planters should not realize the price equal to the cost of importing the foreign article. Past experience teaches that planters will never realize this much in New Orleans or any other market if shipments are such as to glut that market. If you ship to the city and your rice goes in store there are heavy expenses for sotrange insurance, etc., that must be met. You not only save this by keeping your rice at home but you are in a position to take advantage of the other markets that are reaching out in this direction for trade. Let our shipment be gradual. Don't glut the market; it don't pay.

Irrigation—Deep & Grand

Once a few canals were up and pumping, it became apparent that there was much more farm land than could be reached by canal. Many acres of farmland had to be supplied by another source. Irrigation wells were common in the Midwest to water crops, but those crops did not require the volume needed to flood rice. The Chicot aquifer was discovered about 125 to 200 feet below the surface and, in 1898, Jean Castex, Dr. Remage, S.L. Cary, and Maurice Bryan were among the first in the Jennings area to dig deep wells. In only five years time, thousands of acres that would have remained grazing land outside the reach of canals became cultivated land because of the deep well. Early wells sank 150-175 feet with four clustered four-inch pipe wells that united at the top and pumped to flood 500 acre fields. Deep wells were still not altogether reliable.

The first canal company in Hathaway was the Grand Marais Canal Company. It was later bought by the Jennings Irrigation Company, which later changed it’s name to the Grand Canal Company, which then became Louisiana Irrigation and Canal Company. When the canal was being built, the engineer and laborers made their headquarters at the location of Relift Sixteen, which is less than a mile north of Hathaway. The abandoned remnants of the pumping station still stand today along Highway 26. Here the company operated a rooming house for its workers and other help and a barn for the horses and mules that helped pull the graders that lifted the levees into place. There was also a general store and a saloon here too. The Grand Canal was built from Bayou Nezpique, beginning with a huge inlet that met a huge dual-pump station that pushed water into the canal onto the prairie westward for about two miles, then curved in a north-northwest direction for about a mile, bending westward again toward Relift Sixteen. At the relift, the canal made a ninety-degree turn that headed in a south-southwest direction for another mile, then bending straight south. In 1927, a westward extension from Relift #16 was built.

By 1901, over 500 wells had been drilled, and the next year wells were then being drilled to depths of 230-260 feet with a single, 10-12 inch pipe to irrigate 250-450 acres. Deep wells were not without problems. Sand clogged pipes and caused long delays. Different configurations were tried to keep the pipes from clogging, but after a year or two, those wells were stopped-up with sand. Then came the Getty screen and sand was no longer an issue. Fred I. Getty’s invention made deep wells successful. He was a pipe outfitter and driller who expanded his oil field drilling operation into a first-rate water drilling operation.

Deep wells had a substantial up-front cost and pump maintenance was ongoing, but the deep well proved well worth the investment in the long run. The process of pumping water and delivering enough water to flood hundreds of acres was a costly venture, and the companies that brought the water to the fields had to turn a profit. Until 1906, all profits from canals went into expanding the canal system. But, for more than 10 years, investors were not seeing a return on their investment. Much of the business was conducted by handshake agreements, but too many people were defaulting on their agreed shares for the canal companies. In 1906, those canals companies gave notice that written contracts would be required for delivery of water. The terms of the contract required a flat-rate from the farmer to turn over two bags of rough rice per-acre-watered. Even though the farmers were getting the same water, the price of that water did not hit the farmers equally. For example, a farmer with a bumper crop paid less than a farmer with a low yield per acre. In 1910, canal companies then moved to the 1/5 share of the total crop.

Canals had their risks as well. In 1902, 1904, 1931, and 1951, canals also had several instances of salt water inundation from the Gulf that reached as high as the Grand Canal. Many crops were ruined. Finally, in 1951, the locks were built to make the marshland fresh water and the salt water problem was solved. Rice farming enjoyed a great balance between water supplied by canal or by well: But many farmers would soon realize that in the long run, the expense of digging a deep well was the smarter business decision. For Southwest Louisiana in 1902, 48,600 acres were supplied by well, 323,000 by streams, and 16,000 by both. But by 1946, there were 250,000 acres supplied by well, 245,000 by stream, and 30,000 by both. More and more farmers began to break from the canal company and drilled their own deep wells. By the early-1960’s, the pump at Grand Canal was shut down and Relift #16 was abandoned.

Tractor Pull

In 1916 came the first fuel (kerosene) tractor. It was the Moline-Universal one-man tractor to be used for plowing, harrowing, planting, cultivation, and harvesting. A binder pulled by a tractor could harvest 20 to 30 acres a day. Soon the Fordson and the Waterloo Boy arrived. These tractors cost $885 in 1917 and could plow over 400 acres, averaging 8 acres-a-day, pulling a 3-bottom, 26” disc plow. Tractors were rated by horsepower at the drawbar and at the belt. In 1918, a tractor could run 12 horsepower at the drawbar and 25 at the belt. The tractor engine could run the belt in a stationary position, which could power equipment like a threshing machine. By this time, tractors were common-place in Southwestern Louisiana. From that point, harrow and plow design improved exponentially to meet the capabilities of the horsepower pulling them. In 1927, an extension shaft was added to the tractor to retire the small engine that powered the sickle in the binder.

In the 1930’s, tractors and plows improved to make twenty to thirty acres-a-day possible. The peg-tooth harrow, and four to six foot disc plows were the norm. All implements had iron wheels and rims. The back wheels were larger than the front wheels like the tractors today, but instead of rubber tires, the wheels had different-shaped lugs attached to them for traction in the mud. These tractors were tearing up the newly paved roads. Rubber tires did not come until 1945, after the war. Goodyear made a rubber tractor tire suitable for the muddy rice field, and although the transition was gradual, the asphalt roads were soon saved.

Modern Rice Farming Begins

In 1945, scarce labor and steepening wages created new opportunities for innovation. Interestingly, part of the farm labor shortage during World War II was supplemented by German prisoners of war in 1943 and 1944. Camps set up throughout Southwest Louisiana parishes, including Jeff Davis Parish. Camps varied in size from 150 to 500 prisoners. Work was voluntary. 15-20 worked for small wages under military guard. The soldiers worked surprisingly better and faster than normal labor. Most of the German soldiers in Jeff Davis Parish were from General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps (Jeff Davis News, Oct. 12, 1943).

The major innovations that helped farmers find help in the fields were the combine to cut rice and the airplane to plant seeds. Using combines to harvest rice was more efficient than the binder and it removed the need for a thresher. Planting by air only required four people—the pilot, the seed loader, and two flag men at each end of the field.

Combines had been in use in California since the mid-1930’s. The first combine in Southwestern Louisiana was purchased by Joe Pettijean in 1939. The detractors of the combine did not like that the machine left no haystack for shelter and forage for cattle. But the lift of rationing on manufacturing materials lifted after World War II and the high demand for labor, the combine made some headway. In August 1943, 8 combines were sold in Jeff Davis Parish for one thousand dollars.

The first combines were tractor drawn with a 6-foot blade. They required a loop around the field be cut to start. By 1945, combines were now self-propelled, costing about four thousand dollars with a 12-foot blade. By 1947, 60 % of the harvest was done by combine in Jeff Davis Parish. By 1950, the entire industry was converted. Design improved to prevent bogging and for the maneuvering of levees.

Combines harvested rice “green” with no need to shock the rice. Instead, rice driers were built. When binders cut rice, the moisture level of rice was 20-30% and shocked dried the rest in two weeks. Combines allowed no curing period. Cut rice at 20% moisture. Rice was prone to spoilage with so much moisture. The rice had to be dried down to 12%. Rice driers on large scale and individually owned driers dot the area. Bins are common for storage to wait out the best price for rice. Warehouses were replaced by wooden, then concrete, then steel bins. 1948 was the peak-year for conversion. At the drier, rice sifted through screens to remove chaff, then moved to an elevator by a turn table and fell into small bins that were rotated in intervals over air to not burn or check grain. Then rice was moved back to the bin, aerated, cooled, sampled, and sold.

Horse teams and rail were the old way. Now trucks do it all. When combines and rice carts began harvesting rice, beds of trucks were walled up with a 6-inch trap door at the back for unloading at the drier. A hoist attached to the front end of the truck lifted the truck to unload the truck bed. By the 1960’s, trucks had hydraulic lifts and could hold 100 barrels. About 1945, the rice cart, which was pulled by tractor, joined the combine. Early on, a 32-barrel cart with a 9-inch conveyor emptied in two minutes. By 1969, carts held 45-65 barrels, had adjustable augers, a clutch, reversible treat tires, and heavy drive shafts.

In 1945, the age of planting seed by airplane was born. The practice was not widespread, but it had begun. By 1950, 5% of farms were seeded by air; by the 1960’s, only 5% of farmers did not. Planes flew down to 15 to 20 feet above the ground at about 80 miles per hour and dropped seed in 60-feet strips in one pass. The plane could plant 20-40 acres of seed in an hour. The seeds were dropped into a prepared bed. By the time seeding was done by the air, seed had begun getting chemical treatment and Honduras and Japanese seed had been retired. By 1950, growers began to specialize in growing certified seed rice, which took special care at all phases and examined by a state seed analyst. Seed development became a part of the industry looking to increase its yield. Seeds were dropped on dry and wet fields, trying to develop the best methods. Now, planes drop sprouting seeds on wet fields.

While rice has been the staple crop for farmers in Jeff Davis Parish for a long time, other crops have been grown for profit too. Other crops include hay, sugar cane, cotton, Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes, oats, corn, and soybeans.