As we travel around through Natchitoches, Sabine, and Vernon Parishes it is hard to believe the lands in these parishes once were covered with large stands of virgin southern pine timber. The lands of West Central Louisiana had some of the finest of this vast timberland. But up until the very early 1900’s there was one major reason this timber had not been harvested.
The problem was lack of rail transportation to ship and haul both the raw and finished timber products. But around 1897 Kansas City Southern and other rail lines began construction of hundreds and hundreds of miles of railroads through the state. The opening of these railroads in this area brought the lumber companies to Louisiana’s virgin timberlands.
In southeast Sabine Parish in 1916, A.J. Peavy, a logger who had decided to become a lumberman, purchased a tract of land of over 40,000 acres. Mr. Peavy had enough financial backing that he could purchase this land, located in Ward 1, with a large cash payment with the balance to be paid in 88 promissory notes.
Additional lands were also acquired by Mr. Peavy. Knowing the logging industry, but not knowing the mill and lumber business, he partnered with R. J. Wilson who was an experienced mill manager. Peavy Wilson Lumber Company was now formed.
Together, they planned a large town and sawmill to be operated by their company. The site was chosen and in March 1917 the town and mill site was chosen. Thomas Wingate was in charge of the large land clearing and construction operation.
The town needed a name and from the combination of the two owners surnames, PEA from Peavy and SON from Wilson, the sawmill town of PEASON was named.
The town and mill were completed in 1918 and lumbering, logging, and mill operations began. And Peavy Wilson Lumber Company also completed their own rail line known as the Christie and Eastern Railroad. This rail line ran from Sandel, La. on the Kansas City Southern Line out 12 miles to the town and mill at Peason.
Later in the operation of the mill at Peason, this rail line was extended eastward and connected to the Red River and Gulf Line at Kurthwood, La. This old rail line now lies on present day Peason Ridge Military Reservation.
During the run of the Peavy Wilson Lumber Company, the years of full production runs were from 1918 to 1929. The Peason mill was known as the largest pine lumber operation west of the Mississippi River.
The monthly production was about 4 million board feet. During the mill run , there was from 200 to 450 workers with a population in the sawmill town of 1500 to 2000 inhabitants.
One thing that Mr. Peavey and Mr. Wilson were proud of was that during the Great Depression they never laid off any of their workers. Through skillful management practices all the employees were able to make their weekly amount of hours. There were white, black, and Hispanic workers both at the mill and in the log woods. They had many varied jobs from cutting the timber, skidding the logs, mill work, and even building tram roads, and there were many workers who took care of the hundreds of horses, mules, and oxen used by the company in its logging operations. Ancestors of these animals still reside on present day Peason Ridge Military Reservation.
Opportunities during the Depression were scarce but Peavy Wilson Lumber Company were known to take care of their employees and their families.
There was a commissary, drug store, ice house, theater, garage, church, high school, and company doctors who provided medical care to all in Peason. Many people received medical care from Dr. Alford or Dr. Franklin. And they delivered many many babies during the mill run. And Peason was so modern it had electricity, running water, and telephone service, plus company housing for all the workers.
The mill run ended in 1935. Usually when a mill ceased operation it went out of existence. But Peavy Wilson Lumber Company moved the mill from Peason to Holipaw, Florida where it ran until 1947. Many of the workers went to Florida but some of the people remained at Peason and I am the proud ancestor of these loggers and mill workers who so proudly worked for Peavy Wilson Lumber Company.
As you come to Peason on La. Hwy. 118, at the site of the old mill town, stop and visit the Peason Memorial Park. There are 2 historical markers located in the park, one to the sawmill town of Peason and the other to the Peason Ridge Heritage Families, along with 2 photo kiosk’s filled with photographs and memorabilia of the town and mill.
Stop and trace your family tree to the workers and their families who worked and lived at this site. Many memories remain, and for many people, when they hear the words,” Old Peason” and “Peavy Wilson Lumber Company”, it brings back floods of memories of this former booming sawmill town and the lumber company that built it.
The following article was written by Sabine Parish historian Rickey Robertson, for Stephen F. Austin University.
BY RICKEY ROBERTSON
As the U.S. Army began to hunt for a suitable training area to conduct large scale maneuvers, Lt. Colonel Mark Clark came to Louisiana and found an ideal location. On a Louisiana road map that he picked up at a service station, he mapped off an area that would become known as the Sabine area. On the map he used the Red River as the eastern boundary and the Sabine River as the western boundary. He used Shreveport as the northern boundary and Lake Charles as the southern boundary of the large maneuver area.
This maneuver area was made up of over 3400 square miles making this a massive training area. One thing he noted was the majority of this area was very rural and had a very poor rural network. Both roads and bridges were in very poor condition and most would not hold up under heavy use. This area would have over 470,000 troops and over 60,000 vehicles, from motorcycles, heavy trucks, scout cars, half-tracks, and tanks moving continuously .
With the movement of all these vehicles, all the roads and bridges would be damaged severely. Just weeks before the maneuvers army engineer units began to work on the road and bridge network in an attempt to strengthen them.
On Peason Ridge near the farms of Jim and Coleman Owers army engineers installed culverts and cut ditches for the water to run off. Remains of these old culverts and their concrete abutments are still located in the old roadbed. The engineers even put the numbers of their units and the date of 1941 in the wet concrete.
As the maneuvers began a tropical depression hit Louisiana and the roads became mud bogs. The Yankee soldiers from up north called the thick heavy mud “Louisiana Maple Syrup”. Civilian travel came to a standstill due to the conditions of the roads. The only hard surfaced roads were around the small towns in the area.
U.S. Hwy. 171 was only partially hard surfaced through and around the small towns in the area. As the Battle of Mount Carmel was being fought, only armored and tracked vehicles were able to move. A lady at Peason went into labor and her husband loaded her up in their vehicle and attempted to get to Many, La. to the hospital. They got stuck and they were loaded into the back of a half-track used by medics, and guess what? Between Peason and Mount Carmel she delivered a big bouncing baby boy !
As the armored units and their tanks would advance and retreat, they always were in a hurry. Mrs. Joanne Pickett told me in an interview that her brother, Willard Hopkins, liked to go watch the tanks cross the small bridge over a spring branch near their farm in the Middle Creek Community. All went well till the bridge collapsed under a fast moving tank, with the tank commander being killed in the accident.
And another time the bridge over Lockwood Creek near Many, La. collapsed and a tank fell into the creek with none of the crew being injured. On Sandy Creek between Peason and Kisatchie near the Billy and Houston Dowden homesteads, the army had built a narrow wooden bridge over the creek and during a blackout movement a tank ran off the side of the bridge and fell into the deep creek. 3 tank crewmen were killed in this accident.
Due to the large deep ruts in all the roads, many vehicles actually overturned and had to be up-righted. During a fast movement as heavy trucks retreated from Kurthwood towards Bellwood and Provencal, one large cargo truck slid off the road and ended up overturned on its side. With the enemy moving fast, all the men in the truck could do was cover the truck up with brush and limbs and try to hide it.
They did a good job because the next day they pushed the enemy back southward and there was their truck, still hidden ! They added oil and gas and the truck cranked up and they headed out in the advance. And at Mount Carmel, just past the cemetery, heading towards Peason, a half-track turned over in the small creek located there and 3 crewmen were killed in that accident.
There were country stores scattered all through the rural areas of the maneuver area and they had to be supplied. In Many, La. there was the Many Nehi Bottling Company where soda pop of many flavors was bottled. My grandfather had a country store for many years at Peason and sold cases and cases of Nehi drinks to the soldiers.
Army trucks would pull up and the soldiers would jump out with only minutes to try and get an RC Cola or Nehi drink and some snacks. They were always in a rush, with sergeants shouting “hurry up, hurry up “! They were in such a hurry that Granddaddy had a wash tub at the end of his counter and the soldiers would throw their money into the tub and would quickly load onto the trucks and they would move out fast. And Granddaddy always said none of the soldiers ever beat him or owed him money for anything they had gotten.
And at Peason the roads were filled with deep ruts that were level full of water. Livestock could not even cross the road and owners of stock could not move their animals from one field to the other across the road.
My Dad was asked by Mr. Sam McCollough to help him move a large flock of sheep from one field to the other. The road was so bad that the sheep would try and cross but would get stuck and would flounder in the deep ruts and mud. My Dad got on his horse and got across the road and he would rope one sheep at a time and would drag them through the mud into the field. While doing this it came a thunder and lightning storm.
Soldiers were marching in the ditches and near the fencerows as they advanced toward Mount Camel and the battles being fought there. While moving the sheep, lightning stuck the barbed wire fence near my Dad. He saw a soldier slip in the mud and grab the fence.
The lightning struck the fence and the soldier was killed. Pine Grove Baptist Church and churches throughout had to cancel services due to the damaged roads until the maneuvers ended. Church folks would conduct cottage prayer meetings at the homes of their neighbors that were easiest to get to.
Schools throughout the area had to have classes cancelled for the month of September 1941. Both students and teachers could not get to the schools due to the damage to the roads and the lack of dependable buses and automobiles.
At Pisgah High School in Ward 2 of Sabine Parish the army camped on the school grounds and around the school campus as they prepared to attack northward. And any vehicle on the roads was subject to being “flour bombed” by low flying aircraft. At the very start of the maneuvers Plainview School was able to conduct classes for a week.
My Grandfather, Ora Robertson, drove a poor ragged bus to Plainview School. Gene Alford, a youngster riding this bus, told me one day dive bombers attacked the bus in a big sand bed near the school. All the kids had to get off the bus and take cover during this “air raid”. Exciting for the kids but they then had to push and get the bus out of that sand bed !
The U.S. Army continued to conduct maneuvers all the way through 1944. In between the phases of the maneuvers army engineers would work on the roads and bridges. They hauled dirt, rock, and gravel and also installed new culverts and repaired bridges. But with the heavy traffic flow of military vehicles the roads were soon demolished. And during the 1944 maneuvers a hard winter storm hit this area with snow and ice building up on the trees, breaking them down and blocking roads everywhere in the area.
Military equipment of all types froze and were damaged. Then, when the thaw set in, the roads were turned into swamps. Infantry units had to bog through deep mud as they advanced along the roads. But the army overcame these obstacles of the weather and the mud and this training helped the army to be prepared for every type of situation like this on the many battlefields throughout the world where they would be fighting.
The army learned the art of moving large convoys of military vehicles in all types of weather and terrain here in Louisiana. Yes, even the roads and bad weather here in Louisiana helped to train the most powerful army in the world during World War II. Yes, Louisiana was the training ground that led our armies to victory in World War II.
“A DESPERATE AFFRAY”
A Hand-to-Hand Duel in the Streets of Zwolle
A Nervy Officer Kills his Assaillant After Being Mortally Wounded
“From passengers who reached this city yesterday morning from Zwolle on the K. C. S. road, 62 miles south of this city. comes the particulars of the most desperate affray which occurred in that town Saturday afternoon between 5 and 6.
“A man by the name of Nick Suppicado who lived not far from Zwolle, a Mexican of a quarrelsome disposition, raised a disturbance in Zwolle.
“Johnnie McComic, the town marshal, attempted to arrest Nick. He re-sisted the officer, pulling a pistol at close range and fired on the constable, shooting him in the stomach.
“After falling mortally wounded, Mr. McComic pulled his pistol and lying on the ground, fired three shots into his assailant, one penetrating his heart and the other two his body, killing him instantly.
“Mr. McComic was conscious until 3 o’clock Sunday morning and died at 10 o’clock that morning. Mr. McComic married a Miss Bessie Parrott and leaves a most beautiful young wife and two small children to mourn his untimely death.”
In Zwolle, Louisiana on today’s U. S. 171 bypass, there is a Dairy Queen Restaurant. Where this Dairy Queen stands once stood a grand-ish hotel for the day and the place… The Arlington Hotel was built in 1910 and owned by the Gaul family of Zwolle.
The Arlington Hotel was listed at the time as “the leading hostelry (of the area), conducted by Mrs. Gaul. It is most pleasantly located, affords fine accommodations and is very popular with the traveling public.”
What became the Village of Fisher, Louisiana was built between 1899 and 1901 by the Louisiana Long Leaf Lumber Company, or 4L, as it was also known. Fisher remained a company-owned sawmill town until it was sold to Boise Cascade Corporation in 1966.
Fisher is located in Central Sabine Parish, between the Village of Florien and Town of Many, on Hwy. 171. This panorama photograph was taken of the 4L mill in the early 1900s. The subsequent photos here are closeups of sections of the larger pano photograph.
The following article was carried by the Associated Press on Oct. 9, 1930.
CONVERSE BANK FUNDS TAKEN BY THREE BANDITS
Hold Up Men Armed With Pistols Make Way with $3,000 Cash
Two men arrested near Myrick’s Ferry on the Sabine River ten miles west of here after an exchange a shots with their captors were identified as the robbers of the Bank of Converse who a little earlier stole between $2,500 and $3,000. The captives at first refused to give their names.
The men were overtaken by E. N. Nolan of Benson and Goodwin Harris, of Mansfield, members of a sheriff’s posse tailing the bandits. They were identified by R. D. Darnell, cashier of the bank, and C. W. Worsham, a pedestrian who saw the robbers flee.
The money had not been recovered.
Converse, La, (A) — Three bandits today robbed the bank of Converse of Between $2,500 and $3,000 in cash, after having forced Cashier R. D. Darnell, and his wife, into the bank’s vault.
There were no customers in the bank at the time of the robbery. The cashier and his wife were taken by surprise when confronted by the holdup men, armed with pistols. They were in the vault only a short time as the bandits tailed in their efforts to lock the combination.
After getting all the money in sight. the bandits left in an automobile.
Converse is in Sabina Parish 18 miles south a Mansfield.
Sheriff Williams of DeSoto Parish, it Mansfield, Was immediately notified and almost succeeded in heading off the at Benson but later the was lost as that hold up car headed west for the Sabine river.
Cashier Darnell said the men apparently entered the front door of the bank but were at the cashier’s windows before he was aware of their presence as he was busy on an adding machine. His wife was reading a newspaper in the office.
While one of the bandits covered them, the other slipped around to the door and entered the cashier’s office. They compelled the cashier to take all the money in the safe and drop it in a bag they carried. Only asmall amount of silver was overlooked.
During the robbery, Mrs. Darnell fainted but the bandits made Darnell drag the limp form of the woman into the vault and they closed the door but tripped the combination and it did not lock. Darnell within a few moments had pried the door open and took his wife into the open air where she was quickly revived.
Meanwhile the bandits left by the front door, firing one shot as they left. This alarmed several bystanders on the street. The bystanders helped Darnell get the vault door open.
Seeing the gravesite of Moses Rose, tucked away in Logansport, Lousiana, was truly fascinating. The legend of Moses Rose is full of intrigue, mystery, and rushes to judgment. Often called the Coward of the Alamo, to know his story is to know this title could well be both unfitting and unfair.
It is he who tells the story of William Travis drawing the line in the sand at The Alamo for anyone who wanted to cross and thereby declare their intentions to enter battle… to fight a fight which pretty much promised the fate of death to all who took him up on his challenge. Rose did not cross the sand and because of that… And he lived to tell about it. He simply wanted to live… That was his admitted reason for not staying and fighting to his certain death.
The true story of Lt. Louis “Moses” Rose remains a bit of a mystery. Different accounts tell different things, and which are tales and which are the truth have yet to be completely sorted.
Rose got the nickname, “Moses”, supposedly because of his age when fighting at the Alamo (he was one of the oldest warriors there, at 50).
While some accounts refer to Rose as a coward who fled the Alamo when the going got tough, others say he simply chose not to die what he determined to be a losing cause.
There are even stories that Rose, who some say was a Frenchman, was an officer in Napoleon’s army.
Whatever the case, it does seem he had lived a pretty much heroic life before the Alamo. By 1827, he had settled in Nacogdoches, Texas. When the Texas Revolution began, he dedicated himself to the cause. He sold or mortgaged all his possessions to fight in the Fredonian Rebellion and the Battle of Nacogdoches. He fought in the siege of Bexar and he followed his friend Jim Bowie to the Alamo.
After quietly escaping the nightmarish situation in San Antonio, Moses Rose lived out his last years in East Texas and along the Sabine River. Such an interesting character.
Rose’s reputation as a coward remained with him for the rest of his lifetime, and continues up to the present day. To those who accept the popular account, it matters little what Rose’s motives were; more important is the fact that he left, by choice.
According to legend, when asked many years later why he did not cross the line and remain, he replied simply, “By God, I wasn’t going to die!” This alleged statement did not help his reputation, especially in Texas.
During the period just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S., the Rose legend gained new currency when France opposed the invasion. Anti-French sentiment in the United States increased and Rose’s legend was often invoked as an historical example of ostensibly French cowardice in the face of war, despite the unverified status of the popular account.
The traditional account of Rose at the Alamo suggests as follows:
In March 1836, the Alamo was surrounded by the Mexican Army, which raised a “no quarter” flag, promising death to all defenders. Travis, the Texan commander, drew a line in the sand with his sword. He asked the defenders to cross over it, and thereby pledge to fight (and presumably die) in the Alamo. Rose is the only one who did not cross, but instead fled the Alamo the night of March 5, evading Mexican forces, and made his way to Grimes County, Texas where he found rest and shelter at the home of William P. Zuber. Rose made no attempt at hiding the true story of his journey, attributing his decision to a love for his family (including his children) and desire to fight another day rather than face a slaughter like those he had seen in previous failed battles. But Rose did not fight another day, and instead merely faded away from the revolution, later settling in Logansport, Louisiana.
Some historians have said that the story of the line in the sand was first told by Rose himself. Whether there ever was an actual line drawn in the sand is disputed, but the evidence does suggest that all Alamo defenders were at one point given a choice to stay or to go.
Rose is reported to have stated “I came to America to live, not to die.” Col. Travis gave Rose the opportunity to leave, and so he left.
According to the website for Logansport, Louisiana, Rose’s “long and fateful journey took him through large cactus beds, prickly pear thorns became embedded in his legs which became very sore and painful. As the thorns worked their way deeper into his flesh, it became so painful that he was unable to even bear the pain of removing them.”
The info on the website continues, “He very likely crossed into Louisiana on the Logan’s Ferry, where he was befriended by Aaron Ferguson, a farmer who lived north of Logansport (then Logan’s Ferry) about six and one-half miles from town, on Castor Creek. Rose spent the remaining years of his life as an invalid on the Ferguson Farm. Rose died in 1850 and was then buried in the Ferguson Cemetery.
I found Rose’s gravesite in remote DeSoto Parish. When I saw remote, I mean remote, as in it took us quite a while to find it, and it was pretty close to Panola County, I think. There is little fanfare marking his site, what you see is what is there, though he did get a nice new granite marker somewhat recently.
Originally when I came across this photograph of a house in Natchitoches, Louisiana in the 1920s, the only details accompanying it were the following:
This is the Home of the woman who refused to marry Ulysses S. Grant, located in Natchitoches Louisiana.
Curious, I searched for more information. I found more details in a typewritten paper prepared in 1933. (Author not listed in the paper itself.). This paper is located in the Louisiana digital library, oddly in the Louisiana Works Progress Administration (WPA) files. The paper is simply titled, “The Home of the Woman Who Refused to Marry Ulysses S. Grant.”
It is told that this woman, Mary Elizabeth Campbell, was “quite the beautiful sensation at a fancy ball she attended in Natchitoches when she met Grant, who was then a Lieutenant stationed at Camp Salubrity near Natchitoches.”
“Grant was immediately enamored with the beautiful young bell and soon asked her to marry him,” the paper continued.
Campbell refused his proposal, it was said this was at least in part because she did not gain the approval of her legal guardians (Miss Campbell had been orphaned as a young child in Richmond, Virginia.)
She later married Mr. J.C. Sullivan of Baltimore, Maryland and they had three children. The children were at least in their early teens by the time the Sullivans moved to the house in this photo, which is according to the description in the paper located at “New Second Street.”
Specifically, it was located “Opposite the corner of Cypress End and New Second.”
The house became known as the Sullivan House. Whether or not it is still called that, I am not certain.
I posted this photo and information a little over a year ago, and there were some who thought this Sullivan House is still standing today, and is now the Kappa Alpha Fraternity house.
This article was referred to us by an All Things Sabine reader, who said he recalled a hypnotist helping search for some buried treasure of John Murrell and his clan of bandits who roamed the today areas of Natchitoches, Sabine and Vernon parishes back in the 19th century. Murrell was a notorious thief who it has been long believed that had buried or otherwise hidden much of his contraband in rural Natchitoches, Sabine and Vernon parishes.
The article was published in The Shreveport Times, entitled, “Hypnotic search for gold,” written by John Merrill, and dated March 18, 1956. It follows:
Searching for buried treasure is fascinating in itself but when it is mixed with hypnotism, it’s almost more than one can stand.
Down at Natchitoches where the “treasure bug” has been biting folks for decades, the search is on again, but a new method is being used: hypnotic projection.
Several months ago a Natchitoches hypnotist, Vallery Clark, decided he would tie his hypnotism into the search for buried loot, which has long been reputed to be hidden beneath the earth in the “treasure area” near Grand Ecore.
Clark had been extremely interested in what he terms “projection” during the past few years, and he would use this as a means of “locating” the buried treasure. So with two subjects, who had been working with him in other experiments, he began what is probably one of the most fantastic treasure hunts ever conducted.
“I don’t pretend to know how this subconscious mental projection works,” states Clark, “but I do know that it does work and I feel certain that treasure or anything else can be found through its use.”
Briefly, here is the way this “projection” operates when geared to the treasure search: the subject is put into a trance, whereupon he is told to “go” to the treasure site. Then he is told to “go” beneath the ground in the general area, find the treasure cache, and describe what he sees.
When I first heard of Clark’s “search” for the treasure, I went to him for the story and this is how the strange tale unfolded:
“After deciding to try to find the treasure,” Clark recalled. “I knew my projection experiments would fit nicely into the plan. I got in touch with Bobby Cox (18-year-old Natchitoches high school student) who had been helping me with some other experiments and with ‘John Doe’ (this is not the real name of the other subject, atruck driver who asked that is real name not be used). Then we got down to work. First I put John into a trance and told him he was out near Grand Ecore standing over the treasure. Then I told him to go down beneath the ground and look around at about four or five feet.
“He said he couldn’t see anything. I told him to go to about eight feet. There he said he saw a stone vault and described it as looking similar to a ‘cistern’ about 6 feet across the top and about 6 to 8 feet high. He said there were railroad cross-ties across the top.
“I told him to remove a timber from the top and go in. He said he couldn’t because his hands slipped right through the timber. Then I told him to go down and remove a stone from the side. His hands slipped through the stones too. Then I simply told him he was inside. and asked him what he saw. He replied that he couldn’t see anything—that it was too dark.
• • •
“I told him he had a light and could see. and then he described what he saw: piles of what looked like bricks covered with a fungus-like growth, a box or chest and two leather bags—one black and white and one reddish brown and white.
“He said one contained gold coins. When I asked him what was in the chest, he replied ‘many things’ but would not say just what. He refused to go to the other end of the vault, saying something was there that might harm him: he felt ‘uneasy’.
“He broke out in a sweat and began shivering at this point so I brought him out of the trance.
“All this time Bobby (the other subject) had been outside. I brought him in and performed the same experiment with him. He told virtually the same story except that he insisted there were two chests in the vault.
“The next day John, Bobby and I went out to the place near Grand Ecore that had been found by the boys under hypnosis. Using an auger, we drilled down and hit timber at about eight feet and we hit it over an area of about 10 square feet. We have no doubts but that we found a cache containing a tremendous amount of treasure, and hope to get permission soon from the owner of the land allowing us to dig it up. We definitely want to do it legally. We don’t want to try to slip it out even if we thought we could.”
• • •
Here Hypnotist Clark stopped his story. I asked him to tell me where the vault was located. He told me very specifically (not so specifically, however, that I would he able to find it) but said that it was not for publication since he didn’t want people out there digging all over the place.
It was certainly a fantastic story, to say the least, and since I was a skeptic, I wanted further information. So we found people who would swear to such amazing things as Clark’s success through hypnosis at seeing a certain picture and story that would be on the front page of The Shreveport Times the following morning, the visualization of what was going on in a certain restaurant at a certain time although the experimentation was being carried on several blocks away. I told Clark I would like to see one of the boys (Doe or Cox) who had seen the vault while under hypnosis. We could not find Doe, but found young Cox at home. He corroborated the whole story I had heard. Cox agreed to undergo the experiment again, right there in his living room with his father and mother and myself looking on. Clark put him in a trance and here is what happened:
• • •
Clark: I’m going to project you out to where the treasure is buried. You’ve been there before. You know where it is. Look around under the ground at about eight feet. Is our vault still there?
Bobby: I can’t get down.
Clark: What seems to be stopping you? Try again. Go on down . . . down . . . Are you down there now?
Clark: Tell us what you see.
Bobby: Box.. .
Clark: What’s in the box?
Bobby: I don’t know . . . it’s locked.
Clark: You have X-ray eyes. Look through the top. What’s in it?
Bobby: All kinds of stuff.
Clark: Well. describe it.
Bobby: I can’t . . . too much . . . too many things. .
Clark: Tell us what else you see down there.
Bobby: Bags . . just like they were before.
Clark: What else?
Clark asked Bobby what else he saw, and Bobby insisted he saw another box in the vault too, which was just like the other one. He also described little cones of dirt on the floor of the vault. When asked to go to the other end of the vault, he broke out in sweat and frowned and shivered. He just shook his head. Then Clark brought him out of the trance, to my relief and I’m sure to his mother’s relief, for she had been watching him intently and nervously.
• • •
Before bringing Bobby out of the trance, Clark told him that he would remember exactly what he had seen. When Bobby was “back with us,” he said he had a very hard time getting down under the ground, describing the sensation as “like somebody was pulling me back although I wanted to go down there.”
I asked Bobby to draw me a rough sketch of the vault, which he did. The sketch contained the objects he had “seen.”
What was at the other end of the vault that had so obviously frightened Bobby? He didn’t know. but described it like this: “It felt like when you are fixing to walk into a dark alley and you get that kind of weak feeling . . . you can’t really describe this feeling of fear.”
• • •
So there it was. I had heard the fantastic story twice and had heard it again from Bobby Cox while he was in a trance. I had sat some five feet away and watched this respected Young man in his community “go under” and describe this strange vault. I still don’t know what to think about it. However, I have a promise from Hynotist Clark that when they get ready to dig up the vault that I will be notified.
I’m not from Missouri, but I’ve got to see it before I believe it.
To date, 2,758 people have added their names to a petition created by All Things Sabine which aims to show support for Hodges Gardens State Park. Our goal is plain and simple: to convince the State of Louisiana that Hodges Gardens is worth keeping open and that the State should fund the park as is needed to keep it open.
The petition is still active and interested persons are encouraged to add their names. Remember, strength often comes from numbers, so the more signatures, the better. To sign the petition, follow this link:
A bit of abbreviated backstory on Hodges Gardens State Park: Hodges Gardens was created in the 1950s by area businessman A. J. Hodges (an oilman, if you will) and his wife, Nona Triggs Hodges (an all-around lover of nature and avid horticulturist), as a way of giving back to their community and of preserving almost 5,000 thousand acres of land, and to create a unique arboretum attraction.
Basically, and I think I am safe to say this, the Hodges’ were true conservationists before the dawning of the age of conservation. They wanted this land protected, beautiful and available for the enjoyment of the public, and they clearly wanted this for their time and for the future long after they were gone.
The Hodges’ set up a legal Foundation under which the land would be operated and protected, even after their deaths. I don’t really know much about the Foundation or how it works or any of the legalities of it, but as I understand, the Foundation members are descendants of the Hodges… children, grandchildren, etc.
Ten years ago, the Foundation entered into a cooperative agreement with the State of Louisiana whereby the State was granted use of the prime 770 acres of the 4,800-acre Hodges Gardens property. By prime acreage, I am referring to the gardens themselves, the 225-acre man-made lake which is in the center of the property, the hiking trails, some of the equestrian trails, and the land used for cabins, camping, and RV sites.
Through this agreement, the State would operate this acreage as Hodges Gardens State Park and would maintain the grounds.
By the time this agreement was inked between the Hodges Foundation and the State, Hodges Gardens itself had become a bit of a wreck, in part due to storm and wind damage from two huge hurricanes which ascended this way from the Gulf (Rita in ’05 and Ike in ’07) and in part because of neglect of maintenance of the grounds.
When the State took over the park, hundreds of thousands of dollars were initially invested to bring the grounds back up to par. Hodges Gardens did not reach the magnificence of its prime times, in the 1960s and 70s, but I think it’s fair to say that most people realized that it would be difficult to ever achieve what the Hodges’ had again without some miraculous and tremendous source of funding.
What Hodges Gardens did become under the State, however, was a very nice park different from other state parks in that it was an arboretum featuring flora of all kinds. It had unique beauty, features and a unique feel and appeal to the public… locals and visitors alike.
Eventually, the State repaired deteriorated roads inside the park, maintained the grounds nicely, fixed up the cabins, added some cabins, added railings for safety around the rock features, removed an old group cabin which had fallen into disrepair and added in its place a new $300,000 “state-of-the-art” (if you will) group cabin at which groups of individuals can stay for various purposes (youth organizations, church groups, wedding groups, private parties, etc). In all, the State invested millions into Hodges Gardens over the past 10 years.
Supplementing the State’s investment, a private non-profit group named “Friends of Hodges Gardens” has through the years collected donations to fund various projects at Hodges. These projects included but were hardly limited to funding needed for improvements themselves, such as repairs on water fountains and other water features thereby going a long way in making the park beautiful and unique… not to mention the single best place to take portrait photographs in Sabine Parish and beyond (I have on occasion met photographers from Lake Charles, Vernon Parish, DeSoto Parish, Sabine County, and Newton County, even as far as Orange, Texas to the south and Longview, Texas to the north who chose Hodges as a setting for their portrait photographs including dance groups, high school senior pictures, and bridal photographs). Furthermore, Friends of Hodges has secured much needed volunteer help, from volunteers offering a hodge podge of miscellaneous services such as planting and weeding and general beautification to volunteers who are professionals in various fields like irrigation, plumbing and construction.
The jeopardy of Hodges Gardens today is two-fold.
First, the State of Louisiana is suffering a budget deficit and for whatever reasons, several parks are being considered dispensable by the State in the midst of these financial strains. Hodges Gardens is one of these parks.
Second, the property of Hodges Gardens remains under private ownership… as explained, the Hodges Foundation owns the land and the State operates it as a park. Complicating things for Hodges Gardens at this time is that the Hodges Foundation earlier this year initiated a process of apparently attempting to reclaim the property, or rather kicking the State out (that is the best way I can describe it) and attempting to take back full rights to the property. The Foundation’s legal argument behind their quest to take the property back is that it is their contention that the State is in breach of its contract with the Foundation in that Hodges Gardens is not sufficently funded by the State, meaning it is their belief that the State does not intend to fully fund the needed maintenance to keep the park in the condition in which the State received the Gardens’ property.
That contention by the Foundation, however, is disputed not so much by the State, which has remained a bit mum on the legalities surrounding the Gardens, but by members of Friends of Hodges Gardens as well as at least one legal expert, Sabine District Attorney Don Burkett. In a recent public forum regarding Hodges Gardens, Burkett expressed his conviction that the State was in fact not out of compliance with the contract between it and the Hodges Foundation. Burkett explained that he was not speaking in any official capacity, but rather as a supporter of Hodges Gardens offering his legal opinion.
“I read the contract and it is my considered opinion that we are not in default,” Burkett said. “I don’t care what they say, we are not in default. Now if they appropriate no money and things start going south real fast after July 1, yes, maybe we’ll be in default at some point. But as we sit here today, we are not in default.”
Also, Friends of Hodges’ President Chris Nolen asserted that the Gardens’ property has been and continues to be in better condition now than it was when the agreement between the State and the Foundation was reached. That particular condition, under which the State accepted the Gardens 10 years ago, seems to be a critical point of the agreement between the Foundation and the State.
So let’s say that the property is in equal or better condition now than it was in 2007 when the State took over the Gardens… (and I very much believe it is in at the very minimum slightly better condition now than it was 10 years ago), then the State is in fact holding up to its end of the agreement.
However, and this is paramount to Hodges’ future, the State must allocate funding needed to maintain the Hodges Gardens for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1. State legislators are currently in Legislative Session and this is where our petition comes in.
The petition, for us, was just another means to show State officials that there is public support for Hodges Gardens. There have been letter-writing campaigns, a well-attended public meeting, and other efforts to convince the State to allocate funding for Hodges and ultimately save the Gardens. Our petition is just another means of trying to show support for Hodges Gardens.
The way I see it, if the State doesn’t fund Hodges, then the property does go back to the Hodges Foundation. Unless the Hodges Foundation intends on operating the property as a park, and there is absolutely no indication that they do or do not plan on this, this could spell the end for Hodges Gardens forever.
A couple of weeks ago, I sent the results of our petition to area State Legislators as well as to the Office of Governor John Bel Edwards and the Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser (bearing in mind that all State Parks are operated under the Office of the Lieutenant Governor). At that time, the petition had a few more than 2,500 electronic signatures.
I explained to the State officials to whom I forwarded the petition results that All Things Sabine is a not-for-profit three-year-old Facebook community and website which posts photos and stories and videos of all sorts related to our geographic area along the Sabine River and beyond.
I further explained that I had observed through All Things Sabine a huge amount of interest on Hodges Gardens State Park particularly related to strong desires that the State fund the park this coming fiscal year in order to keep it open and operating as a public park
“Because of this, and because of my own passion for Hodges Gardens,” I wrote, “My husband and I created a petition to gather signatures of some supporters of Hodges Gardens who want Hodges to remain open for us all to continue to enjoy. The petition has been posted for a little less than three weeks now.”
My letter to legislators and the Governor and Lt. Governor stated, in part, “This petition is but just one single effort… grass roots through and through… and by no means is a complete or exhaustive show of support for Hodges Gardens. I believe this petition shows a wide variety of support for Hodges, but doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the support that exists for this gem of a park in West Central Louisiana.
“The petition remains posted, and as I write this new signatures are still being added each day.”
Gov. Edwards responded to this in a very brief statement, stating that correspondence related to State Parks should be directed to the Office of the Lt. Governor.
Lt. Governor Nungesser responded with the following letter, explaining where his office currently stands on Hodges Gardens:
“Thank you for taking time to write to me regarding Hodges Garden State Park. First and foremost, I want you to know that we are looking at all of our options to keep this valuable asset in the state park system open. It has never been my intent to defund or close this facility; however; on March 12, 2017, my office was served a letter from the Hodges Gardens Foundation requesting that the property be given back to its original owners.
“My legal team is currently working with the Commissioner of Administration as well as the Attorney General’s Office to review all options.
“Because of the years of maintenance that has been deferred and the current budget situation, it may be an uphill battle. In addition, I am currently looking for an outside donor(s) to possibly raise enough money to fund some of the deferred maintenance and repairs from the past few years.
“If we were able to raise a substantial amount of money as an initial amount to start that process, we may have a leg to stand on. We are looking at all options and I am always open to any recommendations that anyone may have to help with this matter.
“The Office of State Parks is looking at a potential $6 Million cut, which would be devastating to not only Hodges Gardens but to other state parks across our state. It’s an additional cut that we cannot sustain. The Lieutenant Governor’s budget has been cut 50% over the last 10 years and we continue to struggle with deferred maintenance in many locations.
“I realize the beauty and importance of this facility and the hard work that the volunteer organization has put into this facility over the last 10 years. Rest assure, I will make every effort that I can and look at all options before I turn this facility back over to the foundation as they have requested.”
This is all of the information I have at this time. Based on what the Lt. Governor said, the situation certainly looks worrisome for Hodges Gardens, but not yet of a entirely dooming nature in that he offered possible solutions to the problem involving corporate investment into Hodges Gardens. I certainly believe there are corporations, groups, even individuals who would be interested in contributing to saving Hodges Gardens and interested in the personal satisfaction and/or positive exposure they would receive from such noble investments (not to mention tax incentives, I suppose). Maybe this can happen.
Of course, the State and the Foundation would have to be committed to keeping Hodges Gardens open. Otherwise, there would be understandable hesitation from anyone to financially invest in Hodges Gardens if there is any real fear that the park could still close even after an influx of outside investment.