Claiborne Parish, Louisiana

Harris, D. W. The history of Claiborne Parish, Louisiana : from its incorporation in 1828 to the close of the year 1885 : with sketches of pioneer life in north Louisiana, the early settlements in the parish and its rapid progress in wealth to 1861 : also the muster and death rolls of her sons in the late bloody war, the rise and progress of her different religious orders, her mineral wealth and future prospects

New Orleans: Press of W.B. Stansbury & Co., 1886


The parish having been thus incorporated, the paraphernalia of law and justice was put in motion by the election and appointment of all necessary officers. The first District Court, in all its majesty, embodied in the person of Judge Wilson,  of Monroe, supported by Isaac McMahan as Sheriff, and Robert Cockran as Clerk, wasconvened iu the house of John  Murrell, whose house for years was the center of all public business for the new parish.   Here law and justice were dispensed until the police jury, in its wisdom, selected a seat of justice.   The place selected was on the premises of  Samuel Russell, and was named Russellville, in honor of Mr. Russell who had offered liberal inducements to the jury for  the benefit of the parish, and because this locality had become more central to the widely diffused population.   When the  District Court convened at this new domicile, Judge Overton was the presiding officer, Wm. McMahan was Clerk, and Isaac McMahan was yet Sheriff.


Russellville remained the parish site until 1836, when, the population having tended westward, the seat of justice was removed to Overton, on Bayou Dorcheat, near the place now known as Minden Lower Landing. This place being at the head of navigation, it was believed that the location would be permanent and a thriving commercial town would build up.  But Overton proving to be unhealthy and subjected to overflows, and the population having become preponderant in the eastern portion of the parish, in 1846 the seat of justice was removed to Athens, where it remained until the court-house, with all the records of the parish, was destroyed by fire - believed to have been the work of an incendiary.  Then the policy jury -- for by this time the rapidly increasing population had disseminated itself about equally over all the parish - determined to locate the court-house centrally and permanently.  After due investigation and proper consideration of all claims as to locality as well as the main interests involved, the site where Homer now stands was selected.  These lands had been entered and were owned by Allen Harris and Tillinghast Vaughn, both of whom made liberal concessions to the parish for the public buildings, and to the people for schools and churches.  Frank Baughn, son of Tillinghast Vaughn, had the honor of naming the new parish town.  The first District Court was held here in September, 1849, in a cheap board shanty erected for the purpose.  Litigants and visitors encamped around in the woods, and when court was in session would stand at the windows and peep through the cracks to watch the proceedings of the august [sic] tribunal within, until fatigue or hunger or thirst would drive them to their camps for rest, or to the grocery for refreshments.  Roland Jones was then district Judge, Allen Harris, Sheriff and W. C. Copes, Clerk.


But Claiborne Parish being prosperous and her people increasing rapidly in numbers every year, it was determined to  erect a suitable building in which justice should preside, and to execute this laudable intent, the necessary tax was levied, and in due time a commodius brick budding, with all the proper offices, was erected. Jrdge Jones, supported oy Sherift  Allen Harris and Clerk W. C. Copes, in 1850, held the first District term in this new court-house, then the finest structure in all North Louisiana.


Followiug the incorporation of Claiborne Parish was a marked increase of emigration—particularly about1835 —when steamboats, navigating Ouachita aud Red Rivers, made access to the country less difficult. But, from 1840 to 1860,  Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky aud Tennessee sent in their sons aud daughters aud slaves by hundreds and by thousands. In a few years roads, farms, villages, churches and school-houses were to be found all over the parish. Every trade and industry was represented; bountiful crops rewarded the farmer's toil without stint, and peace anil prosperity blessed all the people.


This remarkable influx of populaion almost yearly demanded the formation of new  parishes: consequently, out of the  immense original Claiborne was formed, in their order of dates, the following parishes; Bossier, in 1843; Jackson, in 1845; Bienville, in 1848; Webster, in 1871, and Lincoln, in 1873 -- thus reducing this once great parish to its present metes and bouncs, to-wit: Union Parish on the east, Arkansas on the north, Webster Parish on the west, and Lincoln on the south, leaving her a total area o 778 square miles, embraced in five townships and subdivided into eight wards; Ward 1 has an area of 120 square miles; ward 2, 110; ward 4, 72; ward 5, 72; ward 6, 83; ward 7, 104, and ward 8, 107.  And yet old Claiborne, although so reduced from the grandeur of her original area, has not been shorn of all her glory; she yet proudly maintains her position as the banner parish of North Louisiana, and so she will remain, for her foundation is of iron, and she can and will conqure all adversity.

Submitted by: Karen Seeman



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