R. David Neal | 7/28/2005 7:54:02 PM
The name "Catahoula" is believed to be derived from the Choctaw Indian word "Okkattahoula," which means "beautiful clear water." Some think it refers to what is known as Catahoula Lake, and others believe it was given to this area because of the many beautiful clear creeks that traverse the hill section.
The parish of Catahoula was created in 1808, four years before the Louisiana was admitted into the Union, by Act of the Legislative Council and House of Represenatives of the Territory of Orleans.
Catahoula Parish was created from the parish of Rapides. Act 48 of 1838 created the parish of Caldwell from territory of Catahoula and Ouachita. The parish of Winn was established by Act 50 of 1852. A large area from the west side of Catahoula Parish was incorporated into Winn, and the common boundary between the two parishes, as fixed by this act, remained unchanged until the creation of LaSalle from the western half of Catahoula Parish.
The Legislature of 1890 created from Catahoula Parish the Parish of Troy and designated Jonesville as the seat of government. The line severing the old parish and creating the new one placed practically all the alluvial land, including the Sicily Island area, in the new parish. The Ouachita River, from the Caldwell Parish line to Bayou Bushley, two miles south of Harrisonburg, formed part of the common line between the two parishes; and, from the confluence of the Bushley and the river, the line ran southwesterly, in a general way, to the west line of the old parish, so as to include Catahoula Lake in the new one. This act, however, never became effective, because it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The effort to incorporate into a new parish the alluvial section of the old one was largely because the greater part of all parish taxes, as well as state, was then paid by property owners within the bounds of the new one. At that time the large area of primeval pine timber that would have constituted 95% of the area of the remaining old Parish had very small value, and, in addition, a large part of it belonged to the public domain and was not taxable.
But slowly the economic situation changed. With the building of a north and south railway line through the western part of the parish in the early 1900s, new communities sprang up and sawmills to convert the pine timber into lumber were erected on the line. In 1903 the Louisiana and Arkansas Railway was extended into Jena, then near the heart of the immense virgin pine forest of the Parish.
Concurrently with this progress and these developments, the cry arose for the creation of a new parish from the western part of the old one. The people of the alluvial section were strongly opposed to the proposed division, but, after much controversy, LaSalle Parish was brought into life, subject to referendum. The new parish went into effect on January 1, 1910. No effort has been made to disturb the status of the old parish. The people of Jonesville tried to save the seat that had been transferred there, but efforts in this direction failed. With the building of the new courthouse in Harrisonburg, this issue appears to have been settled.