May 3, 2014

Jonesville ~ Community Life in the Early Years

From the June 8, 1952 edition of the Monroe Morning World, written by Ethel McIntyre:


Louisiana---Its Community Life
By Ethel McIntyre


In the spring of the year 1542, DeSoto and a small band of followers landed at the city Anilco, the capital of the Indian province Anilco, which historians have agreed was located where the present town of Jonesville now stands. The Indians then living in the district were far superior to those that lived in the north and east of what is now the United States.  Failing in an attempt to make friends with the inhabitants of Anilco, DeSoto and his men attacked the city and won the battle that followed.  The temple was pillaged and many of the natives, both men and women slain.  A short time later, DeSoto died at a smaller village some miles north of the city he had practically destroyed. Soon afterwards, his men traveled on towards the Gulf of Mexico, and many years passed before other white men visited the district.

From DeSoto's time forward, I dare to say, that there is not another town, large or small, in Louisiana or the United States, that can boast of a more colorful history than does Jonesville.  It is located in the southern part of Catahoula parish on the banks of Black river, where Little river, Tensas and Ouachita river empty their contents into it.  Beyond the glimmering waters of the river that flows past the town, stretches a wonderful region that might well be called "a sportsman's Paradise."

In the year 1794, a pioneer, by the name of David Jones, settled on Little river near Catahoula lake.  He raised stock, operated a ferry and managed a public house.  His settlement was surrounded by a maze of unbroken wilderness, a virgin forest, that stretched from Natchez, Miss., to Alexandria. There were no roads then, not even an established trail through the district. Travelers passing through the area near the Jones settlement, depended on the Indians and hunters to guide them safely through the jungle-like growth, which presented a formidable barrier to anyone, unlearned in the woodsman's art of holding a course through unchartered swampland.  In order to assure himself of the trade that would make his business a thriving success, Mr. Jones, in about 1800, blazed a trail from Alexandria to his ferry; from there to Catahoula Prairie, through the Elm bayou swamp, and along the northern bank of Little river, to Hebrard's ferry on Black river.  This road was still in use up to the present century.

The townsite of Jonesville was laid out in 1871 by a Mrs. Jones and named in her honor.  The first store in the town was built and operated by Richard Yancy.  Situated in the very heart of an untamed wilderness, natures own law of "the survival of the fittest" became the law of the inhabitants of the town. For the next hundred and more years they fought their way, with undaunted courage, through any obstacle that reared it's head.  At times, the community fought as a body against the encroaching interests of outsiders. Frequently, battles raged, with family against family, and many times man versus man.  Like the stories of the west, many of the feuds of Jonesville were settled with a six-gun.

A short time ago, a genial "old timer" who has lived his three-score and ten years, while sitting in his favorite spot on the sidewalk, entertained a group of visitors with hair-raising tales of life as it was lived in the town in his young days.  He ended his recital by telling of a free-for-all fight where everybody seemed intent on killing everybody else.  At the height of the battle, he had decided it would be more healthy on the opposite side of the river.  Once this decision was reached, he lost no time in getting there.  Later a friend inquired as to how he had managed to cross Black river so quickly. At the laugh of derision that followed his statement, that he had walked across on a footlog, he retraced his steps to the bank of the river and found that in his fright he had really walked across the river on the shadow of a tall sycamore tree standing near the edge of the water.

Many motor vehicles pass through the town, which is said to contain more modern service stations than does any other town of its size in the south. Many beautiful homes nestle in the sun in this town "Down in Dixie" and the waters of the rivers here whisper stories of the excitement of by-gone days.

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