Little Known Facts About Shreveport/Bossier And Northwest Louisiana
Being a native of North Shreveport and Blanchard, Louisiana, I feel a certain sense of obligation to spread the news about the greatness of our neck of the woods. I’ve been blessed to travel to many areas of the country and none can compare to Northwest Louisiana. From the cypress trees and fire ant mounds, the dairy cows and rodeo arenas, to the people themselves, nothing will fill your chest with pride like knowing that you are among the few chosen by the Good Lord himself, to be blessed to call this home. Yet, even those like me who’ve lived their entire lives in the area, might be surprised at some of the “Little Known Facts About Shreveport/Bossier and Northwest Louisiana”
According to the US Gen Web Archives, in 1803 the first known settler, Larkin Edwards moved here from Tennessee and settled near what is now Coates Bluff, named for James Coates another early pioneer. Edwards befriended the Native American Indians who gave him land, as he acted as their interpreter. Later, Edwards sold his land to Angus McNeil and the Shreve Town Company. Among those first land buyers were William Bennett and James Cane. These two opened a trading post overlooking the west side of the Red River called Cane's Bennett Bluff. This would later become known as Shreve Town. It wasn’t until March 20, 1839, that the town was incorporated as “Shreveport”. Originally, the town consisted of 64 city blocks, created by 8 streets running west from the Red River and 8 streets running south from Cross Bayou. You might recognize a couple of those original 16 streets are named for "Edwards" and "McNeil”.
Bennett and Cane also owned land on the east side of the Red River and established a plantation there known as Elysian Grove and a ferry landing called Cane's Landing. The settlement around the landing became known as Cane City and began to prosper around 1884. Because of the prosperity, a small village was laid out and was incorporated in 1907 as Bossier City; named in honor of Pierre Evariste John Baptiste Bossier, a former creole general and cotton farmer in Bossier Parish and is considered one of the first settlers in the area.
Shed Road got its name from being exactly that; a road under a shed. It was the first all-weather turnpike in the South and operated from 1874–1886. It extended for nine miles from Red Chute to the Red River. Vanceville, which was one of the stations on the Cotton Belt Railroad, was named for the Vance family who came from South Carolina and lived on a plantation named “Palmetto”, now the site of the Palmetto Country Club. On August 26, 1884, The Shreveport Times had the announcement “"On and after September 1st., Lawrence Station on the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad will be known as Haughton. (According to an article from the Bossier Press Tribune, the actual town name was originally “Lawrenceville”) Fillmore is considered by many historians as the oldest settlement in Bossier Parish and was named in honor of President Millard Fillmore
Legend holds that Caddo Lake was formed by a massive earthquake which is possible as a number of earthquakes have actually been felt in North Louisiana, the last of these being in 1957, but scientists surmise it was actually formed over a long period of time as opposed to a single seismic event. However Caddo Lake holds lots of history including the story of Swanson’s Landing. Founded by Peter Swanson and his wife, Swanson’s Landing was home to one of America’s worst ever boating accidents. On February 11, 1869, the steamer “Mittie Stephens” that regularly sailed from Swanson’s Landing burned and killed 69 passengers. In 1910 Gulf Refining Company paid $30,000 for the rights to drill for oil on Caddo Lake, which was also known as Ferry Lake. They set up the first oil drilling rigs on barges, after leasing twelve sections of underwater land, and in May of 1911 they completed Ferry Lake No. 1 Well. By the end of 1911 they had eight offshore wells drilled. Their success made it the first off-shore oil well in the nation.
Mansfield, Louisiana was home to the first woman's college west of the Mississippi River. Mansfield Female College was founded by the Methodist Church there in 1855. A two-year college, its first class graduated in 1856. Financial difficulties and the threat of the Civil War closed the college from 1860 to the end of the war in 1865. In 1930, Mansfield Female College merged with Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport and closed its doors permanently. Centenary College of Louisiana is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and dates back to 1825. Moving to Shreveport from Jackson, Louisiana in 1908, it enjoyed immediate success. In the 1920’s and 30’s the school saw unprecedented campus growth and prosperity and became a football powerhouse with wins over Louisiana State University, University of Texas at Austin and Notre Dame.
It’s hard to imagine another area of the United States contributing more of Nashville’s finest than the 60 miles centered on Shreveport. The list includes Kix Brooks, Trace Adkins, Hank Williams, Jr., Joe Stampley, Claude King, Faron Young, David Houston and Floyd Cramer. Shreveport’s also provided talent to other music formats in the likes of James Burton, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Concert Pianist, Van Cliburn. And when it comes to Sports, we’ve got some bragging rights. Years ago a major sports publication indicated that, per capita, Shreveport had contributed more quarterbacks to the NFL than any other city its size in America. That list includes Terry Bradshaw, Joe Ferguson, Stan Humphries, David Woodley, Brock Berlin, Craig Bradshaw and Don Mullins. Plus we’ve had a few other NFL Players you might recognize in Wendell Davis, Jacob Hester, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, Myron Baker, David Lee and Pat Tilley. Add to that list a number of other great athletes, Vida Blue, Freddie Spencer, Hal Sutton, David Toms, Albert Belle, Todd Walker and NBA Hall of Famer, Robert Parish and it’s easy to tell that we grow ‘em good around here. And we’ve had some other national contributors like Grits Gresham. Formerly the Sports Editor for the Shreveport Times, Grits was a nationally known outdoorsman and the father of radio talk show host Tom Gresham. Even in the area of law, Shreveport made a contribution to one of the most infamous trials in American history as the Defense Attorney for OJ Simpson was Shreveport’s own Johnnie Cochran.
The first ever Shriner's Hospital in the world was established in Shreveport on September 16, 1922. The famous log jam on the Red River cleared by Captain Henry Miller Shreve was 165 miles long and extended all the way from Loggy Bayou to Hurricane Bluffs and took 160 men a total of 4 years. Little known is that in later years, when the community Coates Bluff sprang up giving Shreve Town competition for its trade business, the Shreve Town Company hired Captain Shreve to slightly divert the river. He was successful in this, less than noble endeavor, and left Coates Bluff high and dry. This is one of the biggest reasons that some areas on the western bank of the Red River are actually in Bossier Parish and vice versa. In 1855, an election was held in Caddo Parish to determine the seat. Shreveport won the election by one vote over Greenwood. The Shreveport Courthouse was then built and was actually used as the State Capital of Louisiana during the Civil War from 1863 to 1865.