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Catahoula History
Submitted by Cindy Mearns


CATAHOULA PARISH

When the Territory of Orleans was divided into counties by the Territorial Legislature on April 10, 1805, the present-day Catahoula Parish was a part of Rapides County. According to census data, the parish has no metropolitan areas, but Jonesville is the largest town in Catahoula Parish.

Jonesville is located on the site of Ancient Anilco, an Indian village landscaped with mounds. Jonesville was once called Troy.

Harrisonburg, Louisiana is located (pop 655) on Louisiana Highway 8, is the parish seat of Catahoula Parish.

This progressive town is situated on the banks of the beautiful Ouachita River with Old Fort Beauregard in the hills above. Catahoula is rich in history, with Harrisonburg being the oldest historic town in the state.

Indians, early explorers, the Civil War and modern progress have left their mark upon this unique little village.

In 1818, John Harrison acquired this tract of land, had it surveyed and plotted the township into lots. The name, Harrisonburg, was given this area which was incorporated into a village in 1872; however, records show that the site was selected as the parish seat in 1808.

Early settlers began coming in and moving on to the rolling hills of the longleaf yellow pine forest to build their homes. Harrisonburg served the area for 50 miles around as a trading center.

Steamboats, the only means of transportation brought goods and carried away the home grown products for sale, thus giving Catahoula an early opportunity to grow and expand into a parish where education, religion and culture made it appealing to newcomers and old settlers alike.

The Masonic Lodge No. 110 in Harrisonburg, chartered in 1852, is the oldest continuously active institution of any kind in the parish and one of the oldest in the state.

By 1858, schools were well established and “Catahoula Academy” was in operation as a local and boarding school. In 1895, the present school system was organized and named the Harrisonburg High School.

Catahoula is rich in colorful history. In 1825, Jim Bowie lived on a plantation a few miles west of Harrisonburg. In 1827, Bowie made the Bowie hunting knife famous in a duel on the sandbar at Vidalia, Louisiana. After this duel, he moved on to fame in Texas.

Another colorful happening in Harrisonburg was the ending of the Jones-Liddell feud on February 27, 1870. The feud started on a plantation south of Jonesville and took the lives of at least five prominent citizens. The feud started in 1852 and lasted 20 years.

Harrisonburg was slow in recovering from the effects of the Civil War. Fort Beauregard, located on the high hills west of Harrisonburg, was built by Confederate soldiers in 1863 to prevent the Federal gunboats from going up the Ouachita River.

On May 10, 1863, Federal boats anchored in sight of the town and fort and demanded the fort to surrender, giving one hour for the women and children to be moved out of town. The Federal gunboats shelled the town, doing very little damage. One house was burned. The shots fell short of their target. There are a few old buildings still standing with bullet holes in them.
The old Radford House, the old Bethard House and Methodist Church have bullet holes in them.

On September 5, 1863, Col. George W. Logan evacuated Fort Beauregard at 3:00 a.m., having only 40 men left in the fort. Working at night, the garrison destroyed the supplies and larger guns and withdrew with the horses, mules and wagons. The Federals entered Fort Beauregard and finished the destruction.

Today, Fort Beauregard is a memorial park to veterans of all wars. An amphitheater and picnic facilities serve the parish as a recreation area. In this Veteran’s Memorial Park hundreds of Master Masons gather the last Sunday in June for a district meeting.  In and around old Fort Beauregard and the Indian mounds, numerous Indian artifacts can be found.

Through the years, school children have found minnie balls, grape shot and fragments of cannon balls as a result of this shelling.

Not all of Catahoula Parish is historic, for in 1958 oil was discovered bringing prosperity to many of the old families. There are more than 50 producing oil wells in the area. This change brought new homes, churches and businesses to town.

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