The Bossier Banner’s November 21, 1940 issue reported that old files of the newspaper revealed the powerful influence that railroads had on the growth of Bossier Parish.

“The railroads and their influence on the destiny of the neighborhoods through which they pass from year to year, the neighborhoods they leave, the new ones they make and the old ones they keep is very interesting.”

“Looking back over the files of the Bossier Banner, we find that the coming of the Cotton Belt Railroad, then known as the Shreveport and Arkansas Railroad, resulted in many changes in this parish, especially in the northern part.”

“In an issue of the Banner, dated February 9, 1888, a news article reads as follows: ‘We learn from R. E. Wyche, who has just returned from the upper portion of the parish, that the construction train on the Shreveport and Arkansas R. R. is now running within a few miles of Plain Dealing, and was expected to reach here [Benton] last night. The track is being laid at the rate of about a mile a day. It is said the road will be completed and ready for business by the last of April.’”

“We understand that Major R. E. Wyche, father of R. E. Wyche, who now resides in Shreveport, was the main instigator in getting the road through Bossier Parish and in September, 1889, he passed away. There were only two people who were paid for the right-of-way, and those were George Paysinger, a Negro, whose cotton gin was in the direct path of the road, and Will Odom, white, whose 40 acre tract was cut in half by the road. The first steel laid was 56 pounds in weight.”

“In an issue of the Banner of April 12, 1888, we find—‘The Shreveport and Arkansas Railway has been completed from Lewisville, Ark., to Shreveport. Last Friday the last (and golden) spike was driven, and the first construction train arrived in Shreveport. This road is 61 miles long. There are 39 miles in Louisiana and 22 in Arkansas.’”

“We also learn that Mrs. Julia Rule, then of 207 Herndon Avenue, in Shreveport, one of Shreveport’s most popular women and ablest writers, known as ‘Pansy,’ was given the honor of driving the last spike on the completion of the Cotton Belt railroad into Bossier City over 39 years ago. Mrs. Rule still had, at her death, several years ago, the golden spike among her treasured possessions.”

“On May 31m 1888, we find—‘The telegraph line over the Shreveport and Arkansas Railway is completed. Offices have been opened at Vanceville, Benton, Alden Bridge and Gernsheim, in this parish.’”

“Since that time Gernsheim has been changed to Plain Dealing, Roberta to Leila and Martin Dale to Bolinger.”

The recorded history of railroads in Bossier Parish doesn’t end here, however. Be sure to read next week’s article for more about how the railroads continued to impact progress in the parish.

More than railroad history is available at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center, so pay us a visit to learn more.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or amiddlet@state.lib.la.us