History: Uncle Pap recalls history

1944

An article in the June 11, 1925 issue of the Bossier Banner related some bits of the early history of Bossier Parish as gleaned from an elderly Negro man named Charlie Davis.  The following is an abbreviated version of the article.

“Through our friend, Mr. J. D. Gleason, who resides just outside the town limits of Plain Dealing, we have gathered a bit of history of the early life and customs of the first settlers of Bossier Parish.  Nearby Mr. Gleason lives an aged Negro man, Charlie Davis, better known to his friends as “Uncle Pap,” ninety-eight winters and gray, and time has left him hard of hearing so much so that one has to be accustomed to conversing with him to be able to make themselves heard by him.  For these reasons we are indebted to Mr. Gleason, who during the years he has known “Uncle Pap” has gathered colorful bits of history which should be of interest to our readers.”

“In 1843 possibly the first settler of Rocky Mount community came from Memphis, Tenn., according to Charlie Davis, and the newcomer was Mr. Jack Davis, grandfather of Mr. Clyde Davis and Mrs. Tom Crawford, of Plain Dealing.  Mr. Davis left Tennessee, his wife having died about the time of his departure and the trip was mad necessarily over land.  By means of a slide, made by taking a forked tree, drilling holes around the outer edge, flooring the forked part and erecting a kind of tent [that] was pulled by milk cows.  Several slides composed the caravan by which this pioneer moved, and twelve months were consumed in the journey from Memphis!  Think of our system of travel now, with a twelve hour service to Memphis by rail [that] can be correspondingly quicker made over land by means of high powered automobiles which speed over splendid highways.  “Uncle Pap,” who in the year 1843, in company with Jack Davis, came to this parish, was a youth then about sixteen years of age, and recalls many hardships of the trip.  Upon arriving, log houses were built near old Rocky Mount, and, because of the wolves, bears and other troublesome wild animals, when a baby calf arrived a large bonfire would be built in the cow pen, because the [wild] animals were afraid of fire light.  This bonfire would prevent them eating the young calf.”

“For seventeen years there was no school, and the first teacher of this community was Mr. Ben Looney, who taught in a log shack in 1860.  The first physician was Dr. Barnum who made his calls with his medicine case thrown across his shoulders.  The first two preachers to come to this community, says “Uncle Pap,” were Mr. Winham and Mr. Bob Martin.”

“Our informant dwells upon the customs of that day.  A newcomer was welcomed by all the men of the community helping him build a dwelling house, giving him all the seed he needed, and he was never charged for this aid.  Neighbors freely gave such a thing and selling vegetables was unheard of and the stranger within their gate was welcomed.”

“Mr. Jack Davis married later a widow whose name was Haynes, and we are told of the time a bald eagle flew across their home with a red-haired baby boy in its clutches.  This eagle was killed by Mr. Davis but the identity of the baby was never known.”

“Uncle Pap” remembered that romance and adventure abounded in early Bossier Parish.”

Preserving the history of Bossier Parish is what the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center is about, so add us to your bucket list of places to visit, especially now that school is out.

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