NORTHEASTERN LOUISIANA - THE PARISH OF MADISON – ITS FARMING INTERESTS – RAILROAD TOWNS – BUSINESS MEN – BAYOUS – CROPS – IMPROVEMENTS AND PROSPECTS
From June 29, 1885 New Orleans Picayune
Madison Coordinator’s note: Many thanks to Sue Moore of Longview, Texas who found this article. The article was written by an unknown (HHH) New Orleans Picayune correspondent, who obviously was unfamiliar with Madison Parish. I have corrected his many misspellings of Tallulah (Tallula), Brushy (Breshy) Bayou and Roundaway (Rondaway) Bayou, but, except for names, most his other spellings remain as the original. More information about Madison Parish agriculture may be found by clicking on Agriculture, Landowners or Plantations. RPS April 2014.
Madison is one of the northeastern parishes of Louisiana, being only one parish removed from the extreme northeastern corner of the state and just opposite to Vicksburg, Miss. It has water boundaries on the eastern and western sides, being immediately on the west side of the Mississippi River and having a water frontage of about 60 miles, with as much water frontage on the west side on the Bayou Macon, which constitutes the confines of its western limits. The meandering of these water ways prevent the parish from having any regularity in size on its east and west, sometimes varying eight or ten miles in the sudden changes in the current of these streams, but the average width of the parish is about 35 or 40 miles. On the north it is bounded by East Carroll Parish; with an almost straight and exact dividing line, and on the south side, the parish of Tensas, with slight irregularity in the Bayou Vidal section, representing 40 to 45 miles in length, making it the largest parish in north Louisiana except Morehouse and Union, and considerably the largest on the Mississippi River. It is strictly a bottom or alluvial long parish, having no hills or soils other than black rich sandy and buckshot soils, which are equal to that of any section in the South for productions of cotton, corn, grasses of all kinds, fruits, vegetables and melons.
In addition to these prominent water lanes on its borders there are five or six good-sized bayous coursing through backward and forward – meandering one mile north, several west, then possibly in a direct opposite way, and so on until there is hardly any portion of the parish five miles distant from a considerable stream. The Tensas River is probably the most prominent of those streams, though Joe’s Bayou, Walnut Bayou, Brushy Bayou, Roundaway Bayou and Vidal Bayou constitute a chain or system of bayous that penetrate a large part of the parish, affording magnificent agricultural lands and abundant supply of water for stock.
These streams are all located on a ridgeway one to two feet higher than the lands two miles back, and are consequently the best for planting and greatly superior for home purposes, and will each receive more later on in this report.
The parish is crossed from east to west by the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad from Delta to Waverly, a distance of thirty-six miles.
On this route there is a fine, continuous agricultural interest from Delta to Lum’s Station and considerable interest of that kind dotted on the route beyond. There are located on this road in Madison Parish a number of stations and towns. The first one is Delta, on the Mississippi River, which is the transfer point from Vicksburg to Louisiana, and was before the high waters of a few years ago the seat of justice for the parish, during which time it was a flourishing little city of several hundred inhabitants with a dozen or two stores and other business interests.
To-day there only a few citizens and five stores, with many vacant houses, and some of these homes would be a credit to any section. The old courthouse and fire department, and town hall, are among the wrecks which mark the change from prosperity to ruin. In the suburbs, where town lots years ago were reserved for building the city on a larger scale, beautiful fields of cotton and corn are growing this year for the first time.
Seven miles west of Delta, Mounds, the next station, is located, and in and around this place there is a fine agricultural interest centered. Fishel & Lucas have a large country store here, and are building a telegraph line to their other store, eleven miles distant, in a southwesterly direction, on Roundaway Bayou. There is already built and in operation a line to Young's point on the Mississippi River, on Mr. Maxwell's place.
The next two places, California and Lum’s station, are small places with only station privileges. Then Tallulah, the present seat of justice, is the next place on the railroad, and it is also on the Brushy Bayou, which in time of high water is large enough to float boats to Tallulah.
The courthouse has not been located at this point but about two years and no public buildings have as yet been built, the people preferring to delay these buildings until a few good crops would better enable them to put up substantial structures. While speaking of the courthouse it will not be inappropriate to allude to the subject more in detail.
The original seat of justice for this parish was located at Richmond, which was a thriving little village before the war, situated on Roundaway Bayou, about two miles from Tallulah, which was totally destroyed by fire by Grant’s Army on their march through this parish and was never rebuilt. Splendid crops are now growing where formerly was located a rich and prosperous country village. After the war, the radicals(?) being in power, had an act passed by the legislature removing the courthouse from Richmond to Delta, without leaving it to a vote of the people, where it remained until two years hence, when the Democratic members of the legislature from this parish produced the passage of an act for the people to vote as to where the courthouse would be located, which resulted in favor of Tallulah, which makes it to-day the largest place in the parish and is doing a good mercantile and other business.
The mercantile business is conducted by McClellan Bro. and Coltharp, Carter and Ziegler, Beer and Fried and S. E. XXX. George Esily has a good work and repair shop there. There is also two hotels, and teams are to be hired out for trips to Milliken’s Bend, etc. The place ships about 4000 bales of cotton.
Having followed the interest in the parish situated on the railroad it will now be necessary to devote attention to the interest throughout the parish located on the water courses. Striking on the Mississippi River from Delta the first place reached is that of Richard K Boney, Esq., a prominent young attorney of the parish, who is also devoting himself to planting on a handsome place. He has a magnificent piece of property, having a fine river frontage near Delta and almost extending to the river on the side below Delta! He has 800 acres in cultivation this year, as fine a crop as can be found anywhere in the state. NOTE: Richard K. Boney’s diaries made during 1874-1880 while he was attending VMI. University of Virginia and University of Louisiana (now Tulane) law schools may be seen by clicking here.
Mr. Boney devotes the largest part of his place to cotton and corn, but also has planted for several years past large crops of Irish potatoes, which have been remunerative to him, finding ready sale and good prices in St. Louis and Chicago. He has also this year experimented in Clark flour-corn which was exhibited in New Orleans at the Exposition, which promises a fine yield, a hill containing 10 cars of corn. He also planted three acres on trial of Milo Maize. He is using Brown's cultivator this year and is very much pleased with it and thinks next year there will be a very general use of them in the parish. Mr. Boney is just starting livestock interest, including Jersey and Devon cows, Berkshire hogs, and at an area day devote a large portion of his place to the cattle interest, believing it has great promise for the South and those who engage in it.
Brown’s Cultivator 1877
Richard K. Boney and his (and Madison Parish’s) First Tractor
The first canal cut in this parish by Grant to get below Vicksburg was cut through Mr. Boney's place, and at its mouth, a small clear water lake has been made which gives Mr. Boney ample water facilities for his contemplated cattle interest. The rest of the canal has been nearly filled by the washings in high water seasons.
Duckport Canal - 1863
Just above Mr. Boney's are the places of A. D. Mattingly and Mrs. Crane, and though not so extensive as his are in a fine state of cultivation and well improved.
Adjoining these is F. L. Maxwell's place, "Young's Point," a Mississippi River landing where large shipping interest centers and where the short telegraph line of only two miles runs from Mounds, on the railroad. Mr. Maxwell is the second largest planter in the parish having in cultivation three places where he lives and three on Walnut Bayou just below the Mounds, making a total acreage of 2800 in cultivation, and will make about 2000 bales of cotton. He has about thirty acres in Irish potatoes and will ship about 700 barrels of these to St. Louis and Chicago, which will net him about $2 per barrel. The estate of Gabriel Utz, operated by Wm. Utz, just above Mr. Maxwell, has about 500 acres in high state of cultivation and a fine crop this year.
Duckport, with two stores and post office, is the next place. There are three mails a week to this point by the river route. The merchants are W. T. Jeffries and D. Mayer. Mr. Jeffries says this year's crop in his neighborhood is made much cheaper than any year since he has been on the river. He does the paying out of money for several plantations, and knows they have been operated with much less expense than usual. D. Mayer, the other merchant, does not live there, but his interest is so extensive that a brief reference to it will not be amiss.
A few weeks since a special from Vicksburg to the Picayune, with reference to the crop prospect, spoke of Mr. Mayer, as next to Col. Richardson, the largest planter in the South. Hence your correspondent, having an opportunity to learn something of the next largest planter in the South, ascertained that he lived at Mayersvilie, Issaquena county, Miss. and had a number of stores at different points and one body of land in Issaquena county of 5000 acres in cultivation, and 4000 in another body and several smaller places, making a total of 12,000 acres in cultivation by Mr. Mayer.
Just above Duckport is the place of Col. G. L. Boney (obituary), father of R. K. Boney, Esq., who is planting about 1200 acres this year, the bulk of which is in cotton, though he has fine crops of corn, with potatoes and grain. He has shipped 1000 barrels of Irish potatoes from his place and will ship a good quantity this year.
Mr. Boney has some Jersey cows and Berkshire hogs and a dozen fine home-raised young mules, with a number of splendid young horses of his own raising. He never expects to buy another horse or mule, without some accident befalls his present start, as he is devoting some attention to this matter and meeting with good results. Adjoining Mr. Boney's place is one of D. Mayer's places, which contains about 900 acres in cultivation constituting that much of his total cultivated acreage of 12,000 acres.
Mrs. Sarah Marshall's place is about the only one above this point, immediately on the river, of any magnitude. There are 1800 acres in high state of cultivation on her place. Returning down the river to Duckport and taking up Walnut. Bayou, which is connected with the Mississippi River by another one of Grant's canals two miles long, a very fine planting interest, continuous for miles and across that portion of the parish back to the Mississippi River at Milliken's Bend, which is a beautiful stretch of country and blooming with a promising crop.
Along this route are situated some fine places and extensive interests, among which may be mentioned the places of T. W. Mason, Mrs. Jackson, Jim P. Parker, (1000 acres), well improved and in a high state of cultivation; also the Humphrey's estate, "Dalkeith" place, with 800 acres in cultivation, and G. A. Richardson, a member of the Police Jury, has 800 acres in fine crops of corn, cotton and fruit. He is regarded as one of the best planters in the parish.
Next to Richardson is Major George C. Waddill’s place, which is a mile from Milliken's Bend. Major Waddill is the largest planter and land owner in the parish. He has 3000 acres in cultivation at this point in four plantations, and nearly 2000 elsewhere in the parish on the Tensas River and Joe's Bayou, with nearly a total of 5000 acres planted. His landed interest in the parish is about 57,000 acres. His crop is said to be the best since the war. He has a large store on his property near Milliken's Bend, where W. R. Hudson is general agent. Mr. Moseley is his superintendent. Their labor is reported as in better condition than generally, and one-third more land is being cultivated this year with the same labor as last year. There are 20 convicts on the place who are kept busy in clearing off and opening up new lands.
Milliken's Bend, which is a mile beyond Major Waddill's place, is a good business point, with a hundred or more inhabitants, with a number of good merchants who draw a fine trade from the tributary country. Those merchants are H. Deis, Coltharp, McClelland & Bros., Joe Witherow, N. Kahn, Mr. McCain, Marx Rothchilds, Dr. W. P. Yerger and A. B. Maxwell. They have a nice lodge of Knights of Pythias at Milliken's Bond with good membership. This place has experienced unusual adverse fortunes from the whimsical currents of the Mississippi River, as the town has had to be moved three times on account of the caving banks. Its present location is three-quarters of a mile from the river; the original site of Milliken's Bend is more than half way in the river, if not on the opposite --on the Mississippi soil.
It is seven miles from Milliken's Bend to Tallulah, to which point there is a daily mail service and telegraphic communication. En route to Tallulah along the banks of Brushy Bayou, many good places with universal fine crops are to be seen. Just across the bayou from Tallulah, T. B. Adams, for McClelland Bros. and Coltharp, planted cotton last year between the 5th and 10th of June, after the fall of the high waters, which yielded considerably over a bale to the acre. This firm plants about 2500 acres, and are among the successful men of the parish, owning large interest in landed and planting properties, besides the leading stores in Tallulah and Milliken's Bend.
Leaving Tallulah down Brushy Bayou a mile or two where it intercepts Roundaway Bayou is where old Richmond was formerly located.
Up Roundaway for twenty-five to thirty miles many fine places and some beautiful homes are to be seen. The first prominent place is that of A. W. Crandle, who is one of the leading spirits of this parish in everything which tends to the betterment of the community in which he lives and the parish generally. Mr. Crandle has a fine interest and plants over 1200 acres, which give unusual promise this year. He uses the Brown cultivator considerably and thinks next year their use will be much more general in the parish, as two mules and one man can do the work of four mules and four men. Mr. Crandle has a splendid home and is at public-spirited citizen whom any community may well appreciate.
Some twenty or thirty minutes after the arrival of the Picayune’s correspondent at Mr. Crandle’s, a nice, gentle and steady rain, which was much needed, began to fall. Mr. Crandle, in manifesting his hospitality to the representative and showing his appreciation for the shower, said: "There now, the Picayune always brings me something good."
Further up the bayou 7 miles from Tallulah, State Senator George Montgomery has a nice place of 1000 acres, which is in good cultivation.
On beyond Senator Montgomery, Major Hugh P. Lucas has two large places, "Waterford" and "Good Hope," and he also has a fine interest on Walnut Bayou, six miles from the Mounds, and adjoins Maxwell's Walnut Bayou places. His planting interest in about 2500 to 2600 acres in cultivation, On "Good Hope" is located Fishel & Lucas' store, which has the post office "Pace," and to which their telegraph line is being built.
The Cholula plantation, cultivated by Bedford & King (Congressman King), has 1000 acres in fine state of cultivation.
Mr. Eb Smith the oldest native citizen of the parish, being 62 years of age, has a fine planting interest in Madison and Tensas parishes the line cutting across his property. His total planting interest is about 1500 acres. He is hale and hearty and does not show breaking in his physical or mental condition. His place is at the junction of Roundaway and Vidal bayous, up which two boats run six months in the year to Cholula and Hapaka.
Araby, on Vidal, is a fine place, property of V. & A. Meyers, of New Orleans, Richland Plantation, on Vidal, under the management of Francis S. Shields, the newly appointed Internal Revenue Collector, is another large interest. "Hapaka," the property of Judge Perkins, once a distinguished member of Congress before the war from our State and during the war a member of the Confederate Congress from his State, is also on Vidal Bayou. Judge Perkins is quite old and blind though he spends his winters on his place.
Returning down Roundaway to Fishel & Lucas' store, the bayou was left and the trip made across to Walnut Bayou, where is located the places of Major Lucas, Mr. Maxwell, Mr. McDowell, Mrs. Amis, J. T. Cochron, Mrs. Lacey, W. B. King, Mrs. Jones, and N. Hackett and there to the Mounds, thence to Delta.
But little has been said about Tensas River and Joe's Bayou as, but little interest is there as compared with former years. Before the war there was a continuous planting interest all along those two streams but overflows and the war left them to grow up into weeds and bushes. In 1870 Mason, and later Loyd bought cattle from other parts of the country and carried them to those bayou places for pasturage, wherein a few years they made large sums of money. This was in the neighborhood of Quebec, which before the war was a flourishing little city, shipping 7090 bales of cotton. It was at the junction of the Tensas River and the railroad. It is now a waste place and to pass there on the railroad you would never know that a town had been there.
These lands did not belong to Mason or Loyd, and they had to leave. This year this section is coming out considerably, and Col. Ed Richardson and Major Waddill are planting several places there and opening up others. Col. Richardson owns six or seven plantations, containing 7000 to 10,000 acres on Joe's Bayou, and has three in cultivation and two others are being improved for next year. Major Waddill has very large Interest in this section, and in devoting much time and attention to its cultivation. Altogether, the soil and location of the parish is peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of corn, cotton, sorghum, grain, grasses and fruits.
The public school interest is in a very, good condition, having about six white schools, with average attendance of fifteen each, and eight negro schools, with average attendance of ninety each; school term is eight months, and teachers get cash without any difficulty for their pay. Last report of the parish treasurer there was $8800 cash on hand; assessed valuation of property is $2,000,000; tax rate, six mills for State, ten for parish and five for levee tax. The population is 15,000, a large portion of which is colored.
This correspondent begs to return thanks to many, but especially to R. K. and G. L. Boney, A. W. Crandle and Mrs. Eb Smith for courtesy and hospitality. H. H. H.