Last Modified: Friday, December 21, 2012 5:34 PM
Editor’s Note: Today’s Informer re-presents the third installment of a four-part answer to a question on when the boundary of Calcasieu Parish was drawn and why it juts northward to include DeQuincy.
In the days before the Senate killed the 1906 parish division bill, the Lake Charles American reported that the divisionists, planning for loss despite their wishes, were already looking ahead to the next legislative session, in 1908. That year they proved even more formidable, gaining converts in DeRidder, DeQuincy, Oberlin and elsewhere.
The proliferation of support — and the surfeit of proposed parish maps — led the Lake Charles American on May 15, 1908, to muse sarcastically on the possibility of Calcasieu breaking with Louisiana altogether to form a new state.
One of the proposals advanced by divisionists called for placing DeQuincy several miles inside a DeRidder parish — an idea that incensed many in the town, including Mayor J. Lee Herford.
“We do not ... intend to stand quietly by and allow ourselves to be put to the inconvenience and expense of going to DeRidder to transact official business instead of to Lake Charles which is a much more convenient and larger place to do our trading. ...,” Herford told the Lake Charles American in late May.
“We are not pressing for a division of the parish; we are not sure that the time is opportune. ... If there is going to be a division, however, you can say that the people of Western Calcasieu are going to say something about how it shall be divided or will defeat any effort to divide it.”
DeQuincy residents called for creation of a separate parish of their own, encompassing land west of the Calcasieu River. Proposals offered by other groups suggested the formation of parishes named Pine, Rice and Sanders. Later plans suggested for the Jennings and DeRidder parishes the names Jefferson Davis and Beauregard, which had years earlier been advanced for a section of Catahoula Parish.
Still, despite the abundance of supporters and plans, parish division failed once again to receive lawmakers’ approval.
The drive for division began again two years later, and newspapers in New Orleans and Oakdale wondered why representatives of both sides couldn’t simply meet and resolve the matter without bitterness. The Lake Charles Daily American-Press had a ready answer.
“We cannot ‘get together in a spirit of friendly brotherhood and solve the problem,’ because our divisionist brethren insist always upon going off in a corner, cooking up a scheme that suits themselves and trying to ram it down the throats of those who oppose division,” read an editorial in the paper’s Jan. 28, 1910, edition.
“They have never shown the slightest desire to conciliate or consult the opponents of division. No one has known each year what plan of division would be presented until the proposers of the partition of Calcasieu appeared before the long-suffering legislature and insisted upon immediate action, sometimes without even allowing the taxpayers to vote on the question of division.”
Sen. H.C. Drew that May filed a bill to create a West Calcasieu Parish. But divisionists opposed it and persuaded another lawmaker to write a bill to carve three new parishes — Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and Sanders (later changed to Allen) — from Calcasieu.
The bill called for “simple creation by the legislature,” but Gov. Jared Sanders insisted that a referendum for all parish residents be included in the measure, according to a May 20 story in the Lake Charles Daily American-Press.
Eight days later, a delegation of western Calcasieu residents asked lawmakers to halve what would remain of Calcasieu to create the parish of Brimstone with Sulphur as its seat. But the proposal went nowhere.
In late June, Sanders signed laws to create, with the people’s approval, three new parishes, and that November voters in Calcasieu cast ballots on the issue.
The vote was 6,606 against and 4,281 for. The divisionists, upset with the results, turned to the courts.
Next: “A Sensible Plan At Last.”
The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email firstname.lastname@example.org