Richland Parish: A Rural Farming Community Rich in Tradition

R. Keith Collins  |  8/19/2009 11:04:10 PM

Richland Parish Map

Richland Parish

While Richland Parish offers all of the business amenities and services that appeal to commercial establishments, it also affords its residents a high quality of life with good schools, low crime rates and abundant recreational opportunities.

Richland Parish was founded in 1868 and is a rural farming community with people who give special attention to their youth and to their elderly. Its history reflects a population that has overcome great odds in taming wild canebrakes and swamps and converting the rich soil underneath into the most productive farmland in an agricultural state. Now these resources are being used to bring new businesses and jobs to the area so future generations can continue to enjoy Richland Parish as a great place to call home.

Geography

Richland Parish is located in northeast Louisiana in the area known as the North Louisiana Delta County. It lies in the center of a circle of seven parishes with similar geographic characteristics. Starting with Morehouse to the north, and proceeding clockwise, the parishes are West Carroll, East Carroll, Madison, Franklin, and Caldwell, ending with Ouachita Parish to the west. The parish is covered by a network of slow meandering rivers, creeks and bayous. The parish comprises 576 square miles including 362,640 acres of land and 6,000 acres of water.

The western half of the parish is part of the Ouachita and Boeuf Rivers floodplain, which varies from 60 to 75 feet above mean sea level. The eastern half of the parish lives on the Macon Ridge, which rises about 30 feet above the plain. The reddish soils of the flood plain are mainly deposits of alluvium that the Arkansas River carried down through the Boeuf River and are very fine sandy loams. Waxy clay soils predominate along Bayou Lafourche. The Terrace soils of the Macon Ridge in the eastern half of the parish are mainly silt loams, yellowish to buff in color.

History of Richland Parish

1729

Richland Parish was originally part of the Ouachita County, which roughly defined the area between the Red and Mississippi Rivers north to the Missouri River. The name Ouachita, pronounced Wash-i-taw, is derived from a tribe of Native Americans who inhabited that area when it was first explored by the French. European settlement of the area began about the same time as the founding of New Orleans, but the massacre of settlers at Natchez in 1729 induced the Ouachita settlers to move closer to the protection of more established communities down river.

1785

Don Juan Filhoil, a Frenchman in the Spanish military, was given command of the Ouachita and told to establish settlements in the area, which had become Spanish territory in 1769. He reported that no sign of the previous settlements existed and set out to build Fort Miro at the present site of the city of Monroe. About the same time, the Spanish governor struck a deal with the Baron de Bastrop. If he would help populate the area he would be given a grant of over a million square acres of land. The Baron hired a man from Kentucky named Abraham Morehouse to encourage immigration to the Ouachita County. Settlers were promised title to 400 acres of land if they remained for three years. Although part of Richland was included in this grant, settlement of the parish was slower due to the unusually thick vegetation.

1805

When the Territory of Orleans is divided into counties, the present-day Richland Parish was to be part of Ouachita County.

1836, September 29

The Ray family had moved into Ouachita Parish from Missouri about 1836. John was convinced he should join the volunteers in an expedition to free Texas from Mexico. He got as far as Natchitoches when he learned that he had missed death and immortality at the Alamo. John Ray returned to Monroe, established a law practice and was instrumental in establishing the first road and railroad that traversed Richland Parish.

During the Civil War, Ray served in the Confederate Army, but maintained that the state should not have seceded. After the war he became involved in Republican politics, became a state senator and introduced a bill to form the new parish. Although it passed easily, Democrats opposed the creation of new parishes during this period because it was used to spread the influence of the “carpetbagger” government.

1840

Settlement mostly occurred on small prairies near navigable streams. The prairies allowed the pioneers, mostly from the southeastern United States, to plant crops without clearing the land of trees. About 1840 a road was built through the vast canebrake and swamp area between the Boeuf River and Bayou Macon. This road had to be continuously cleared because of the encroaching vegetation. Most of the transportation in the area was by steamboats, which supplied settlements to the north along the Boeuf River and Bayou Macon.

1844

Due to the population increase, Morehouse Parish is created from the parent parish of Ouachita by an act of the Louisiana Legislature in 1844, and at the time it included within its boundaries part of what is now Richland Parish.

1854

In 1854, railroad construction began to reach into northern Louisiana, and by 1861, the first line to Monroe had crossed Richland Parish. Settlement and development of the parish was halted, however, by the Civil War. Commerce in the area disappeared and thousands of acres of land that had been cleared for cotton production were abandoned and reverted to forest growth.

Communities of Richland Parish

There are three incorporated communities in Richland Parish: Delhi, Mangham and Rayville. Unincorporated areas of interest in the parish include Alto, Archibald, Bardel, Bee Bayou, Buckner, Charlieville, Crew Lake, Dunn, Girard, Goff, Holly Ridge, Jonesburg, New Light, Producers Spur, Rhymes, Start, Sun Spur and Warden.

Forests, Parks and Preserves

Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area

Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area is located in Ouachita and Richland parishes, approximately 7 miles east of Monroe and 10 miles west of Rayville. Access is provided by U.S. Highway 80 and Interstate 20, which bisect the area. Interior all-weather roads are maintained, as well.

Russell Sage is 16,829 acres in size and is owned by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Located within the Bayou LaFourche flood plain, this wildlife management area is flat and poorly drained. Elevations range from 58 feet to 63 feet above mean sea level. Numerous sloughs and shallow bayous meander throughout, and backwater flooding occurs annually.

There are two major timber types on the wildlife management area. The predominant type is overcup oak-bitter pecan (water hickory) and the other is oak-elm-ash. Much smaller acreage of other types are also present, including willow-cypress-ash and oak-gum. Timber overstory species include Nuttall oak, hackberry, overcup oak, bitter pecan, bald cypress, rock elm, green ash, honey locust, red maple, Tupelo gum, and American elm. Cottonwood, water oak, and other higher ground species are located on canal spoil banks throughout the management area.

Understory species present include deciduous holly, roughleaf dogwood, dewberry, peppervine, greenbrier, poison ivy, rattan, swamp privet, persimmon, buttonbush, climbing dogbane, and palmetto.

There are two greentree waterfowl impoundments on Russell Sage totaling 2,400 acres. Excellent hunting is provided for mallards and wood ducks along with several other species. Wading birds and other non-game species utilize the impoundments.

Hunting is available for deer, squirrel, rabbit, and woodcock. Russell Sage is a consistent producer of quality deer. Squirrel hunting is particularly popular on the WMA and hunters experience good success.

Trapping is permitted for raccoon, beaver, coyote, nutria, mink, bobcat, fox, and opossum. The river otter and American alligator are present, but taking of these species is not allowed.

A primitive camping area is provided north of U.S. Highway 80.

Additional information may be obtained from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 368 CenturyTel Drive, Monroe, Louisiana 71203. Phone 318-343-4044.

http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/wmas/wmas/list.cfm?wmaid=40

Poverty Point State Park and Historic Area

The 3,000-acre manmade lake that is the center piece for Poverty Point Reservoir State Park offers visitors an outlet for fishing, a variety of water sport activities and a championship golf course named "Black Bear." Located on the grounds are a new state-of-the-art recreational vehicle park complete with 54 pads and 50-amp service as well as 12 two-bedroom lodges, some set above the water. The golf course takes its name from the Louisiana black bear, and bears are often sighted on or near the reservoir.

The Poverty Point site is named for the nearby Native American National Historic Landmark Area. Dubbed the Poverty Point culture, its people settled on the banks of Bayou Macon, near what is now the community of Epps, between 1,400 and 700 B.C. Park guests are only 20 minutes away from Poverty Point State Historic Site for day trips to what has become a focal point for archaeological research since the mid 20th century.

Learn more about lodging rates, marina facilities and state park info at http://www.stateparks.com/poverty_point.html

Waterways

Boeuf River;  Lafourche Bayou; Bayou Macon; Big Creek

Additional Local  Attractions

•Chemin-A-Haut State Park (East of US 425, 10 miles north of Bastrop)

•Lake D'Arbonne State Park (5 miles west of Farmerville on LA 2)

•Jimmy Davis State Park @ Caney Lake (off LA 4 southwest of Chatham, on        Lakeshore Drive and State Road 1209)

•The Cotton Museum (Highway 65 north, Lake Providence)

•Panola Pepper Company (1414 Holland Delta Road, Lake Providence, LA 71254)

•Tensas National Wildlife Refuge (off 1-20 via US 65, Tallulah Exit, or off I-20, Waverly Exit)

•Handy Brake National Wildlife Refuge (6 miles north of Bastrop on Cooper Lake Road)

•Bayou Macon and Georgia Pacific Wildlife Management Areas

Climate

Richland Parish enjoys a complete seasonal cycle with pleasant spring and fall seasons.  Winter months usually are mild with cold spells of short duration.  Snowfall is less than 2 inches per year.  The summer months are quite warm, with an average daily maximum temperature in July and August of 93 degrees.

For additional information, please visit:
http://enlou.com/parishes/richland-parish.htm     

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