About Ouachita Parish

Robin Miller  |  12/20/2017 7:47:47 PM

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Ouachita Parish is located in Northeast Louisiana with a total land area of 632 square miles, of which 610 square miles are land and 21 square miles are water. Ouachita Parish has an estimated population of 156,761. The parish seat is Monroe. Ouachita Parish was formed in 1807 and is part of the Monroe, Louisiana, Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Cities located within the parish are Monroe and West Monroe, while Richwood and Sterlington are towns. Other census-designated places include Bawcomville, Brownsville, Calhoun, Claiborne, Lakeshore and Swartz.

Ouachita Parish currently has more than 36,000 acres in crop production. The latest statistical data shows the following crops are grown in Ouachita Parish, in order of most acres: soybeans, corn, rice, cotton, wheat and grain sorghum. One of the LSU AgCenter’s main goals has been and will continue to be to educate the public on agriculture and its role in their lives. The Ag Expo is a valuable outlet in this education and demonstrates to our clientele our involvement to the community. There are 85 cattle and forage producers in Ouachita Parish, the majority of whom are members of the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association. These producers meet quarterly during the year, and the LSU AgCenter conducts educational programs on soil testing, cattle nutrition, and marketing. LSU AgCenter county agents provide research-based information on plant, wildlife, aquaculture and animal enterprises to Ouachita Parish clientele.

History of Ouachita Parish

Ouachita Parish was the home to many succeeding Native American groups in the thousands of years before European settlements began. Peoples of the Marksville culture, Troyville culture, Coles Creek culture and Plaquemine culture built villages and mound sites throughout the area. Notable examples include the Filhiol Mound Site, located on a natural levee of the Ouachita River.

The parish bears the same name as the Ouachita River, which flows through southern Arkansas and northeastern Louisiana. In 1783, Don Juan Filhiol was among Frenchmen who worked for the Spanish colonial government in Louisiana after it had taken control. He was assigned that year to establish the first European outpost in the area of the Ouachita River Valley, called Poste d'Ouachita. His small party made the slow, arduous journey by keelboat up the Mississippi, Red, Black and Ouachita rivers to reach this area.

Originally based in Arkansas, Filhiol surveyed his grant and settled in 1785 at Prairie des Canots (in current Monroe). He gradually organized settlers, including trying to train some military skills. He built Fort Miro on his land to provide protection for settlers from the Indians. At the same time, he worked to establish trade with the Chickasaw people and others of the area. He was tasked with organizing the settlers in the Ouachita River Valley and establishing good relations with the Native Americans. Filhiol served as commandant of Poste d'Ouachita until 1800, when he retired. He continued to live on his plantation here.

Other settlers and merchants were attracted to the trading post, which became known as Fort Miro, with a town developing by 1805, two years after the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase from France. The US took over the vast former French territory west of the Mississippi and outside the Southwest and California, which were still Spanish territory. In 1819 the Americans renamed Fort Miro as the Ouachita Post. A year or so later, they changed the town's name to Monroe, after the first steamboat to reach it in travel up the Ouachita River. The arrival of the powered paddle wheeler was a landmark event, as it connected the town to much easier travel to and from other markets and stimulated its growth.

On March 31, 1807, the Territory of Orleans was divided into 19 sub-districts. The very large Ouachita Parish was one of these original 19; later it was broken up into eight other parishes (Morehouse, Caldwell, Union, Franklin, Tensas, Madison, East Carroll, and West Carroll), as settlers entered the area and developed towns and plantations.

In 1883, the first railroad bridge across the Ouachita River was built, improving connections for the town with other markets.

In 1916, the Monroe natural gas field was discovered. The field stretched over 500 square miles and was estimated to have 6.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in it. This is what caused the city of Monroe to be known for a time as the natural gas capital of the world. The new industry generated many jobs. And from 1920 to 1930, the population of Ouachita Parish increased by more than 79 percent, to 54,000 people as migrants arrived for work.

The town of Sterlington was incorporated in August 1961, and in 1974 the town of Richwood was incorporated. Ouachita Parish's boundaries have changed 23 times during its history, mostly due to the formation of other parishes.

Ouachita Parish Today

Two giant names of American business are deeply ingrained in the history of Monroe and its neighbor across the Ouachita River, West Monroe:

Delta Airlines got its start here in 1926 as a crop dusting service, and Coca-Cola opened its first bottling plant here. Today, those legacies provide unique attractions for visitors. Biedenharn Home and Gardens, the estate of that first Coke bottler, is open to the public as a museum and sculpture garden. The Chennault Aviation and Military Museum of Louisiana has exhibits on Delta Airlines, the local World War II flight school at Selman Field and the volunteer combat unit called the Flying Tigers commanded by one-time Monroe resident, General Chennault. The 1,800-acre, cypress-studded waters and trails of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge puts sportsmen's paradise at Monroe's doorstep, while a trip to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo offers up-close encounters with animals from around the world.

University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM)

Located in Monroe, Ouachita Parish Junior College, which was operated as part of the Ouachita Parish School System, opened its first session in Brown Hall in September 1931. In 1934, Louisiana State University received authority from the State Legislature to operate the facilities of the University as Northeast Center of Louisiana State University.

The name of the institution was changed to Northeast Junior College of Louisiana State University in 1939. The following year, the State Legislature authorized the transfer of all lands connected with Northeast Junior College to Louisiana State University.

The 1950 Legislature approved the expansion of Northeast Junior College to a senior college granting academic degrees. The name of the institution was changed to Northeast Louisiana State College, and its control was transferred from the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors to the State Board of Education. The School of Pharmacy was established in 1956.

The 1969-70 academic year was a milestone for ULM; in addition to awarding the first doctoral degrees, the name was changed to Northeast Louisiana University by the 1970 Legislature. The Graduate School was established in 1961 to offer master's degrees. In fall 1967 the Education Specialist degree was first offered, and in 1983 the Specialist in School Psychology degree was added. The Graduate School established the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Pharmacy in December 1967.

In 1994, Northeast Louisiana University, in cooperation with Louisiana Tech University and Grambling State University, formed the Louisiana Education Consortium, a unique and timely effort to offer the Doctor of Education degree at each campus. In fall 1996, the Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy admitted the first class of students.

On August 27, 1999, the university officially changed its name to The University of Louisiana at Monroe, and on June 26, 2006, ULM officially changed its athletic mascot from "Indians" to "Warhawks."

Louisiana Delta Community College

Louisiana Delta Community College was created by the Louisiana Legislature through Act 1369 of the 1997 Regular Session and Act 151 of the 1998 First Extraordinary Session in the area of the Monroe Regional Planning and Economic Development District, an area in northeast Louisiana covering the Mississippi Delta. The institution is managed by the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS). LDCC held its inaugural semester of classes in Fall 2001.

Since it began offering classes in 2001, Louisiana Delta Community College has consistently ranked among the best in the nation in student satisfaction. Summer 2009, Louisiana Delta Community College was accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees.

The year 2010 marks a growth spurt and expansion for the college. In June, the construction for Louisiana Delta Community College’s new home was complete. Sitting just under 70 acres of land, the main building, the Louisiana Purchase Building stands complete with 128,000 sq. ft. When determining the potential name of the building, the thought was to have it reflect the history and tradition of the state. Unbeknownst to anyone, was that the problems the state faced in purchasing the land would lead them all the way back to the Louisiana Purchase in 1804. It took 4-5 months to get the issue resolved and the pertinent document needed to do so, was found in the National Archives in Washington, DC. It was said jokingly, that the building should be named “The Louisiana Purchase Building” because of the difficulty surrounding the purchase, but after the laughter subsided, it was deemed the perfect idea. The Advanced Technology Center proudly resides beside it with 28,000 sq. ft.

July 2010 witnessed the first consolidation Louisiana Delta Community College would see. LDCC merged with Louisiana Technical College at Tallulah and Louisiana Technical College at Lake Providence. The second round of consolidations would come later in July 2012. At that time, LDCC merged with the five campuses (Bastrop, Farmerville, Ruston, West Monroe, and Winnsboro) of Northeast Louisiana Technical College and LiteracyLINC, the adult education program. The college’s name remained Louisiana Delta Community College with the city indicating specific campuses. LiteracyLINC came under the Workforce Development program and its name became "DeltaLINC". Together, these campuses and DeltaLINC form a powerhouse of offerings for neighboring students and businesses.

Centurylink

Centurylink began in 1930 when William Clarke and Marie Williams purchased the Oak Ridge Telephone Company for $500 from F.E. Hogan Sr. There were 75 paid subscribers. The switchboard was relocated to the Williams’ front parlor so the family could man the board 24-hours a day. The exception was between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sundays, when the office closed for church and dinner. Marie wrote out the bills by hand, and eight-year-old son Clarke McRae Williams delivered them on his bicycle.

CenturyLink, Inc. today is an American telecommunications company, headquartered in Monroe, Louisiana, that provides communications and data services to residential, business, governmental and wholesale customers in 37 states. A member of the S&P 500 index, the company operates as a local exchange carrier and Internet access provider in U.S. markets and is the third-largest telecommunications company in the United States in terms of lines served, behind AT&T and Verizon. It also provides long distance service.

Duck Dynasty

Duck Dynasty is an American reality television series on A&E that portrays the lives of the Robertson family, who became successful from their family-operated business, Duck Commander. The West Monroe, Louisiana, business makes products for duck hunters, primarily a duck call called Duck Commander. The Robertson men—brothers Phil and Si, and Phil's sons Jase, Willie and Jep—are known for their long beards and their Christian views.

The show has broken several ratings records on A&E and cable television as a whole. The fourth-season premiere drew 11.8 million viewers; the most-watched nonfiction cable series in history.

The show earned $80 million in advertising sales for the first nine months of 2013, and merchandise has generated another $400 million in revenue. The series ended on March 29, 2017, with the hour-long finale "End of an Era."

Pecanland Mall

Pecanland Mall is an enclosed shopping mall located in Monroe, Louisiana. The land on which the mall is located was formerly a pecan farm, thus giving the mall its name.

Pecanland Mall attracts customers from northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas, covering a radius of 100 miles. Pecanland Mall is 936,000 square feet. The center is located on Interstate 20 near U.S. Highway 165, the two major highways in the area.

Pecanland Mall features five major anchors and over 100 specialty shops, such as American Eagle Outfitters, Forever 21, The Buckle, Charlotte Russe, Express, Rue 21, Torrid, Victoria's Secret, Pink, Charming Charlie, Hot Topic, Footlocker, Bath and Body Works, and Sunglass Hut. The mall also features a 450-seat food court and 10-screen cinema. H&M opened a 27,000-square-foot store on August 24, 2017.

Monroe Civic Center

The Monroe Civic Center is the largest multi-purpose facility in northeast Louisiana. The Civic Center Arena is the main complex of the Civic Center. The arena provides 44,000 square feet of exhibit space along with 5,600 seats. The arena may have larger capacities up to 7,200 seats. The arena houses such events as banquets, circuses, music concerts and rodeos. Notably, Elvis Presley played five sell-out shows there between March 1974 and May 1975.

Other facilities located on the property are B.D. Robinson Conference Hall, Monroe Convention Center, Jack Howard Theatre and the Equestrian Pavilion. It is conveniently located off of Interstate 20 and is a short drive from area hotels, restaurants and the Monroe Regional Airport. The civic center was built in 1965 and has the ability to seat 7,600 people.

The Ike Hamilton Expo Center

The Ike Hamilton Expo Center, or "the Ike," as it has come to be called, was designed with comfort and convenience of sports competitors in mind. Perfect for western equestrian events like team roping, cutting and barrel racing, The Ike is also just right for everything from concerts to remote control car races. Conveniently located just off Interstate 20 in West Monroe, the Ike is surrounded by amenities. The facility boasts 7 acres under one roof, with a climate controlled main arena with handicap accessible seating for 2,900; over 500 stalls with electricity; 180 fully-functioning RV slots, pens, warm-up areas, wash racks; and an additional outdoor arena.

AG EXPO, produced annually since 1982 by the North Louisiana Agri-Business Council, is held at the Ike each year in January. AG EXPO is a combination of several events, which assures wide appeal. There is an educational “Ag Alley” including a mini-farm that targets youth but is enjoyed by all ages. Additionally, a junior livestock show, stock dog trials, a trade show and an Agricultural Awards & Legislative Appreciation Luncheon, which recognizes regional agricultural leaders and legislators complete the event.

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