(8th in a Series)
By the time Joseph Delhoste founded the community of Acme at the juncture of the Black and Red rivers in lower Concordia Parish in 1850, the location had long been a landmark for river travelers.
Head up the Red and or Black and you could ride the rivers to Oklahoma, Texas or Arkansas. You also could head downstream on the Red and reach the Mississippi 30 river miles away and once there, you could travel to the Gulf of Mexico and onward to most any place in the world.
In the early 1800s, up the Black River from Acme to just below the southern town limits of present day Jonesville, a man named John Tillman Faulk settled. His home place would later become the property of planter St. John Richardson Liddell, who named his plantation Llanada.
Born in North Carolina in 1784, Faulk had a terrible experience at the Black-Red juncture that he would never forget.
According to Black River planter Dr. Andrew Robert Kilpatrick in his 1852 study of Concordia and Catahoula parishes forDeBow’s Review, Faulk settled just below Jonesville in 1810 and “was soon after overflowed.” He then “undertook” the “manufacture of salt on some one of the saline streams emptying into Red River.”
Faulk “succeeded so well with the salt” that “he took a boat load” down the Black River and when arriving at its juncture with the Red “was stopped by a set of lawless desperadoes” who “demanded and exacted toll of him before they permitted him to pass with his cargo.”
Kilpatrick speculated that the outlaws were members of the Mason gang, a group of river and land pirates that robbed and murdered travelers during the early 1800s.
While Faulk felt lucky that he survived, he put his life on the line again during the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. Fighting under General Andrew Jackson, Faulk was wounded in the leg during an engagement. Someone picked up Faulk and safely removed him from the battlefield. Faulk never knew the name of his rescuer.
But in 1842, after he had moved from Catahoula to Ouachita Parish, Faulk was visited by a traveler, John Kitterlin, who was heading to the land-office in Monroe. That office served all of northeastern Louisiana at the time.
At Faulk’s home, the two strangers struck up a conversation and the topic turned to the Battle of New Orleans, of which both were veterans. In a few minutes, the two men realized that they knew one another: Kitterlin was the man who had scooped Faulk up from the battlefield in New Orleans. Both men, wrote Kilpatrick, immediately “clasped hands in lifelong friendship.”
Just as early Black River settlers like John Faulk turned to selling salt when a flood prevented his farming efforts, others would seize on opportunities when they could. In Catahoula Parish during the 1840s, Trinity was on its way to becoming the first town.
It still exists today but is now shadowed by the Town of Jonesville on the other side of Little River.
In the 1840s, a few steamboats ventured up Little River from Trinity to Catahoula Lake to collect pine knots, which were then sold for fuel to steamboats on the Mississippi River.
During the 1850 flood, according to Kilpatrick, “many persons moved from the swamp to the pine hills … and engaged in gathering, hauling and piling pine knots on the margin of Little River and Catahoula Lake, at every available point. They built temporary houses and shanties, and for some months this portion of the parish presented quite an animated and bustling scene … Many united their forces in partnerships.”
When plentiful, the pine knots were loaded on carts and wagons, but most of the time, the men chopped and split the wood while the “women and children piled and corded the knots, and split wood … Most of the strongest women used axes.
“The whole woods, in some places, presented the appearance of a large, ill-arranged woodyard, where hundreds of stacks and cords of wood and knots could be seen at once … The job of hauling was the most laborious and expensive. The wood was hauled to the yard and thrown down carelessly by the wagoner and his helper; after which, at odd times, other hands were employed in placing it in cord ranks.”
The steamboat captains paid in cash or traded for groceries and provisions.
“But in all of it, very little money was realized by the laborers. It is the general belief that the shippers of the pine-knots reap all of the profits, as they realize a large percentage from the boats on the Mississippi River.”
TRINITY, BLACK RIVER, LITTLE RIVER
The community of Trinity derives its name from its “position at the triple confluence of the Tensas, Ouachita and Little rivers and is situated between the two last-named streams” that all flow into the Black, Kilpatrick has written.
Major settlement along the Black River and the swift growth of Trinity began in 1836.
From Kilpatrick’s articles inDeBow’s Review, a timeline of growth can be established:
1804: William Dunbar of Natchez, during the exploration of the Ouachita River following the Louisiana Purchase, speculated that the peninsula that Trinity would be built on was a prime spot for a town due its location at the convergence of four rivers, including the Black.
1804-1805: First cotton gin in the parish was built in 1804-05 for John Henry at the mouth of Little River on the Jonesville side, about 400 yards up from the juncture of the Little and Black rivers. It was “small and light, requiring only one small horse to burn it.” The gin was often broken down and finally abandoned.
1811, 1813, 1815: Flooding “caused many of the first Black River settlers to leave the country.”
1818: Eliphalet Plowden moved from down Black River to Trinity and settled on an Indian mound on the bank of the Ouachita. He opened a tavern and inn and later traded a yoke of oxen and a rifle to a Dutchman named Shammit in exchange for Shammit’s wife. According Kilpatrick, Plowden and Shammit’s wife lived happily ever after.
1819: The first steamboat to run up the Ouachita from Trinity was the “James Monroe.” The steamer “was a rough piece of work, and had mast and sails.” She ran from New Orleans to Harrisonburg in 12 days and “great was the wonder of the people at her astonishing speed.” When the steamer ran up to the Post of Ouachita, “her advent there created such great excitement, that the whole population made a general grand jubilee; and, as commemorative of the great event, and expressive of their joy on the occasion, they changed the name of their town … to that of ‘Monroe.’”
1831: John Brown bought the land comprising the point of the Trinity peninsula.
1834: John McBride hired McClennon and Cornwell to build a cotton gin on Little River.
1836: Felix Robb operated a store on the bank of the Ouachita on the upper limits of Trinity.
1836-37: John Daughters bought John Brown’s property and purchased adjoining property on the Ouachita. Brown then hired John Daniels to “lay off the land into town lots” and a map was made.
1837: First gin on Black River built by Ferrill and McCamish for P.D. Mason four miles below Trinity.
Captain James Manning and the steamer “Romeo” made the first trip up Little River from Trinity.
A.S. Barr and Anderson opened a store.
1839: First steam engine sawmill on Black River put up by R.C. Martin and Henry Shiver.
1840: The steamboat “Rock River” was the first to travel into Catahoula Lake.
1841: R.C. Martin and Henry Shiver moved their sawmill from Black River to Trinity. It had “two saws and a set of millstones” and “cut 30,000 feet per week, without any serious drawback; and the stones could grind 250 bushels per day.” The mill was worth $12,000, required 12 hands and one yoke of oxen. The mill would be destroyed during the Civil War.
1848: Remaining 81 lots in Trinity were sold for $10 each by lottery. First church was built.
1850: Levees were built along Black and Little Rivers, led by Major John Liddell, while the Trinity Town Council “laid and collected a tax” to finance levee work.
At the same time, cholera and a high water resulted in the reduction of Trinity’s population to approximately 200.
Dr. J.J. Dearing opened the first drug store.
A.S. Barr built the first brick house at a cost of $3,000.
Trinity had four stores, four groceries, and establishments featuring “two billiard tables and two ten-pin alleys, with aggregate capital of $35,000.”
There were “two tailor shops, one tavern, and one smith shop.”
Also, in operation were “three ferries kept at this point which, owing to the immense amount of western emigration, are very profitable.”
Kilpatrick wrote: “There are few places in the South possessed of more advantages than Trinity, for an outlay of capital in manufacturing establishments. The communication with New Orleans is always open year round; the Little River affords a short and easy intercourse with the pine hills for at least four months of the year, which any amount of pine and other timber can be easily and cheaply obtained, while the Ouachita and Tensas bring down immense rafts of cypress and ash every winter and spring.”
In the years to follow, a plantation owned by Charles and Laura Jones known as Troy was laid off in lots. The plantation was part of a 1,000-acre Spanish land grant given to Caddy Hebrard in 1786. Caddy named his plantation, “Troy.” He also operated the first ferry on Black River.
In time this land became known as Jonesville, named after the Jones’ family. By late 1800s, Jonesville surpassed Trinity in population.
During the year 1852, an electrifying event would occur when two men – Samuel Glenn and Moses Wiggins – were gunned down after leaving Trinity. They were traveling in a carriage along the public road up Little River, part of which paralleled the fence line of Major St. John Richardson Liddell’s Llanada Plantation. Liddell’s property stretched from the Black River to the Little River.
This shooting would turn a five-year feud into 18 years of violence involving Liddell and Charles Jones. The first blood was drawn by a woman who shot Jones in the face. Afterward, blood would be spilled from Little River to Black River to the Ouachita River at Harrisonburg. The feud – also known as the Black River War -- would include a sensational murder trial in 1854 that captivated the populace.
(Next Week: The Killing of Samuel Glenn and Moses Wiggins.)