August 19, 2014

Harrisonburg in the Spotlight, 1927

The following article appeared in the February 18, 1927 edition of the Monroe News Star:



Gas Discovery Likely to Rejuvenate Quiet Village
Special to The News-Star

HARRISONBURG, Feb 18.--This little town of perhaps 300 people, located in the fastness of sparsely settled Catahoula parish of which it is the capital, awoke to new life when late Wednesday, news came of the blowing in of a gasser located midway between this town and Jonesville.

The interest was all the more pronounced due to the fact that thrills and front page news stories come seldom to this section of the state, which is among the more inaccessible of all the parish seats of Louisiana.  This is due to the fact that the railroad, when built in northeast Louisiana, failed to come nearer than Sicily Island, which is 12 miles away and where the mail, goods and merchandise for Harrisonburg are handled.

The only direct way to reach Harrisonburg, aside from the highways, is by means of the Ouachita river, where boats now and then make their trips up and down stream. Once this was a most active business but, as the years have passed, the boat service has been much curtailed.

The little town is in almost Arcadian simplicity, despite the march of time and progress outside of Catahoula.  The population has remained almost stationary for many years.  One unkind critic states that "Harrisonburg was complete forty-three years ago and that since, there has not been driven a single nail."  This is not true, however, for there has been some construction work the past few years.

When a telephone is sought, there is one located in a store building on Main street, and there the populace wends its way when there is need for a telephone call from the outside world.

The little town looks up upon on bluff that towers 230 feet above the town.  On the top of this bluff, years ago, was a fortress that protected the place from invasion. This need has long since past and only the ruins of the once important fort remain.

The leading building in the town, in matter of importance, is the little old red brick court house.  It was built in 1843 and for eighty-four years, accordingly, has meted out justice through its confines.  The building is about the size of a double garage and one can almost touch the low-hanging ceiling with his fingers when within.

When court is in session, the farmers for miles around drive in to attend.  To be sure, they do not come always in late model automobiles, for the horse and buggy is still popular in many cases.  Nor do they wear "boiled" shirts, so frequently, but they represent the good, old-fashioned, hard-working honest farmers of the section.

Presiding at court, is Honorable Monroe Taliaferro, judge of the district court.  It is no unusual sight to see an offender, from the remote spots of Catahoula, plead his own case, with frankness and often success, in the absence of the advice of an attorney.

Judge Taliaferro looms as the leading citizen for many miles in the Catahoula country. His wisdom, his kindness, his general all-around helpfulness and well balanced make-up, have a strong appeal to all.

They consult him on all sorts of matters.  It may be as to how to plant their onions, how to cure a disease that threatens a child, or, and recently as that modern apparatus the radio has entered Catahoula, they are wont to go to the Judge to get information as to radio operation.

The court house is a two-room affair.  In its archives are some most interesting documents and the penmanship of the years before the Civil War, is said to be remarkably fine, a penman of rare skill then keeping the records.  These records show for later generations, the kindliness of southern bartering.  For example, a man is shown to have sold his place and with it he gave "10 milk cows, 10 young stock and a red male [mare?]," all as gratis, just to show that he was generously good in his dealings.

Better roads have come to Catahoula of late and the automobile is becoming more popular.  There is a gravel road that is partly completed to Jena, 20 miles west, and the gravel road is completed to Jonesville and Sicily Island, but to cross the river, the broad Ouachita, the ferryman has to be paid.  He has capacity business, charging from 60 cents up for vehicles such as Ford cars and more for larger cars.

Crime is little known in Catahoula, and it was a decided shock, that was occasioned last week, when O. C. Stribling slew Fred Goins and made his escape at Enterprise.  A manhunt ended in the capture of Stribling who is incarcerated in the jail at Harrisonburg, awaiting action by the grand jury.

The news of the gasser not many miles distant from Harrisonburg, was greeted with unusual interest.

Oldtimers state that 30 years ago, there was a very similar gas blow-out near Sicily Island and that it also sanded up and was abandoned.

Unusual numbers of people from Monroe, Natchez and other parts of the state are pouring in here today as a result of the well blowing in Wednesday in Section 26-9-6e, of the Lochagnar Oil Company.

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