Ferry Place Plantation
Ferry Place Plantation is set on some of the highest ground in the Sicily Island area. It overlooks Lake Louis from the north shore and consists of a plantation house, a small scattering of surviving outbuildings, and a significant deposit of pre-historic archaeological remains.
John H. Lovelace, Sr.: Builder
One of the earliest plantations in the Sicily Island area, a plantation
settled by the Lovelace family, who were among the first settlers of Catahoula
Parish. It is also significant in the area of APolitics/Government" as
the home of W. S. Peck, Jr. (1873-1946), a prominent local politician and businessman
during the first half of the twentieth century.
The Lovelace family were among the earliest white settlers in Catahoula Parish. According to an article in DeBow's Review, "The family of Lovelaces settled on the Sicily Island in 1802, coming from Red River, a short distance below Alexandria, where they had been living several years." Another work states that Richard Lovelace obtained a grant of land in Catahoula Parish from Governor Gayoso "as early as 1796, and John Lovelace, Sr., received one about the same time or soon afterwards.''
It was John Lovelace (1740-1816) who first established the Lovelace family at Ferry Place. His claim to the Ferry Place tract is documented by a "confirmative act" of 1811 which cites a "Riquette of the Claimant approved and signed by Valentine Layssard then Commandant of the Post of Rapides on the 30th March 1796 with settlement and cultivation on and previous to the 20th day of December 1803. " Thus, John Lovelace was living on the Ferry Place tract by 1803.2 His descendants own and reside on the land down to the present day. John Lovelace is listed in the 1810 census as head of a household consisting of seven whites and eleven slaves.
John Lovelace died in 1816, and Ferry Place passed to his sons Richard Lovelace and John Lovelace, Jr. Richard L. Lovelace (1787-1826) is listed in the 1820 census as head of a household consisting of six whites and seventeen slaves. Apparently John Lovelace, Sr.'s wife Ann Hughson Lovelace (1792-1821) continued to live at Ferry Place until her death in 1821. John Lovelace, Jr. died unmarried in 1825, leaving Richard Lovelace the sole owner of Ferry PIace as of that year.
But Richard Lovelace and his wife both died in 1826. They had four small children who were placed in the care of Richard's brother George Lovelace. Of these four, only two survived past 1845. One of these was John H. Lovelace (1821-1891), who inherited Ferry Place.5 In the 1830 census .there is an entry entitled AEstate of R. L. Lovelace," which consisted of a household of five whites and twenty slaves.
According to family tradition, the house at Ferry Place was vacant much of the time for about three decades after the death of Richard Lovelace in 1826. During this period John Lovelace grew up, and then, once he had reached his majority, he built a ''Steamboat Gothic" style mansion about a mile from ferry Place. (This mansion burned in 1912.) Throughout this period the home at Ferry Place was maintained by the Lovelace family, especially by John Lovelace after he had grown up. Then from the mid-1850's it was his second home, and since it remained the center of his plantation, he resided there much of the time.
According to the 1860 census, "J. H. Lovelace" owned a thousand acres of land, of which 500 acres were improved. The cash value of his farm was $50,000, of his farm implements and machinery $1,500, and of his livestock $4,000. In the previous year his plantation had yielded 220 bales of cotton and 4,000 bushels of corn. Unfortunately, no figure could be found concerning the number of slaves he owned.
Ferry Place apparently remained in the hands of John H. Lovelace until about 1876, when it was seized by the sheriff due to Lovelace's failure to pay taxes on it. Ferry Place was then purchased by FIorence J. Peck (1845-1881), the daughter of John Lovelace and wife of W. S. Peck (1842-1910). They had been married at Ferry Place in 1868.9 The agriculture census of 1880 reveals something about the farming operations at Ferry Place as of that year. In 1880, W. S. Peck owned a thousand acres, of which a hundred were improved. The value of his farm was listed as $5,000 and of his livestock $350. The estimated value of all his farm production for the previous year was $900.
With the death of W. S. Peck in 1910, Ferry Place passed to W. S. Peck, Jr. (1873-1946), who through his business and agricultural skills expanded its operations greatly. He also became a prominent business and political leader in this section of the state. A biographical sketch from the 1930's calls him ''one of the outstanding personalities in the agricultural, commercial, educational and civic development of the parish." As of that time, the sketch stated, "Mr. Peck is the largest diversified farmer in his section, producing more different kinds of crops than any other planter in the parish. He is the only large planter that raises all his stock feed, and all meat consumed on his plantation is home grown. He employs between 130 and 140 families, and cultivates approximately 4,000 acres of land, owning 6,500 acres. On his property are four gins, one store, a complete saw mill and oat binder, a large grist mill, two churches and scores of other buildings. At last 150 head of work stock are kept in use through the crop season, and three tractors are used.”
The sketch also stated that Peck had been president of Sicily Island State Bank since 1918 and had served in the State legislature from 1920 to 1928. From 1913 to 1920 he had been a member of the Tensas Basin Levee Commission. He was also president of the Sicily Island Gas Company. Peck had served as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention of 1920 and was chosen as one of nine master farmers in Louisiana in 1930.
ln 1946, W. S. Peck, Jr. died, leaving a substantial estate. The home at Ferry Place was then passed to two of his children.