The year was 1929. This photo was published in The Sabine Index out of Sabine Parish, Louisiana, and a caption offered the following details:
After encountering engine trouble, This U. S. Army plane made a forced landing in a cotton farm (owned by Jesse McNeely) near current day Kites Landing on Toledo Bend. Shown standing by the plane is a Mrs. McNeely who is holding her daughter, June (later Alizzi). Standing by her is her son, Victor McNeely. The plane was from an Army base in San Antonio. This was big news when the plane landed here, and it stayed in the cotton patch for three weeks, when it was hauled away.
When the 186,000 acre Toledo Bend Reservoir was created by damming the Sabine River in the 1960s, a few communities were inundated and forever lost. I have heard tales of many communities lost in the name of progress as man-made lakes are created for purposes of water-creation, recreational opportunities, tourist attractions and hydro-electricity generation.
One such community that stands out to me is the Pine Flat Community, which was once upon a time a very close-knit community of mostly African Americans situated near the Sabine River in Southwest Sabine Parish, Louisiana. The population of the Pine Flat community numbered approximately 100 individuals and included about 50 homes.
Some information on Pine Flat was feature in a 2011 article appearing in the archives of Stephen F. Austin University. Historian Rolonda Teal wrote a bit about the Pine Flat community, along with closely neighboring Barlake and Richard Neck communities.
“Mrs. Alma Cross stated that while growing up in Pine Flat she, ‘didn’t know what black and white was,'” the article reads. Cross was further quoted, “We were all just family down there. We ate at the same table, slept in the same beds, and sometimes ate out of the same plate”.
“Pine Flat had distinct communities and surnames associated with them. For example there were the Bar Lake and Richard Neck communities whose surnames included: Gasaway, Grace, Neck, Cross, Sweet, Stallworth, Fobbs, and Hines.” The article continued, “Although these residents were mostly African American, other cultural groups also lived among them.
“Mrs. Cross described her own ancestry to illustrate the diversity of some bottom land residents. She stated that her Grandmother Lula Fobbs had Blackfoot, Choctaw, African, and Irish ancestry.
“These bottom communities were comprised of people who depended on one another for social and economic support without much regard to ethnic affiliation.”
Ponds and Lakes in the Pine Flat Community area included: Grocer Lake, Ferry Lake, Middle Lake, Spate Lake, Arthur’s Lake, Deer Lake, Tom Self Lake, Matt Fobbs Lake, McCartney Lake, Bar Lake, Green Lake, Oil Well Lake, Willow Pond and Gum Lake.
Churches were St. John’s Church, Macedonia Church, Saint Mary Church and St. James Church.
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.