A family scrap book on display in the museum for reform Gov. Sam Jones. (Michelle Higginbotham / Special to the American Press)
The actual burial spot of Leather Britches Smith, erected in the Merryville Cemetery. (Michelle Higginbotham / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 6:37 PM
MERRYVILLE — Heritage and history will be celebrated during the Merryville Centennial Celebration in this western Beauregard Parish town Friday and Saturday.
Merryville, which grew up as a lumber town, is just off U.S. 190 about 10 minutes from Bon Wier, Texas. Its Main Street is La. 110. The town of Merryville and the parish seat, the city of DeRidder, are the only incorporated municipalities in the parish.
A highlight of the celebration will be the dedication of a marker in memory of Sam Houston Jones, who was governor of Louisiana from 1940 to 1944. The Lake Charles resident and district attorney of the 14th Judicial District was noted for interrupting a 12-year reign of the Long political faction in the Capitol by defeating Earl K. Long for governor. He was recognized as a reform governor who established a civil service system and a competitive bidding process for awarding state contracts.
The dedication ceremony will be at 11:30 p.m. Friday in the Merryville High School auditorium. It will be followed by lunch in the school cafeteria. The memorial marker is across La. 110 from the school, where Jones grew up.
A block party is scheduled in downtown Merryville 6-10 p.m. Friday, said Mayor Larry Carroll. Music will be by Jason Miller.
A pet parade and show will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by the Merryville Centennial Parade at 11 a.m.
“Most of the music from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday will be by local groups,” Carroll said. Entertainment will be at the centennial pavilion in downtown.
Performers will include Beauregard Courtesy of DeRidder, the Bebop’s of Sulphur, the Merryville High School flag line, Clarence Hudson, Mickey and the Boys, Signed Sealed and Delivered and Thomas and Theresa gospel groups and Austin Hebert.
“Fireworks at 10 p.m. will be the climax of the celebration,” Carroll said.
Festival goers will be reminded of Merryville natives who went on to prominence on the state and national scenes. In addition to Gov. Jones, notable products of Merryville include Lt. Gov. Lether Frazar, dean and first president of McNeese State College, now a university; state Sen. Jesse Knowles, a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March of World War II, and Christian Keener “Red” Cagle, quarterback at Southwest Louisiana Institute, now University of Louisiana at Lafayette, three-time All-American halfback at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and New York Giants player.
The grave marker for Charles “Leather Britches” Smith is still readable in Merryville. Smith lived in the Sabine River bottom and was always seen in his tanned leather pants with two Colt .45s strapped to his legs. He joined up with striking sawmillers who took part in the Grabow riot which left 30 men dead or wounded.
Smith was tracked down and shot by law enforcement officers after he fled from Grabow.
The Grabow Riot was the subject of two books, “Always for the Underdog: Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War,” by Keagan LeJeune of McNeese State University and “Crimson Stained the Bayou Pines: A Novel of Political Struggle in the Deep South,” by Dr. Brian Harrell, a Lake Charles physician.
Also well known as a Merryville resident is the late Gussie Loftin Townsley, Merryville’s “Grandma Moses.” She produced primitive paintings depicting life in rural Louisiana.
The Merryville Historical Society’s museum, at 628 N. Railroad Ave., displays a number of pictures and relics relating to the community’s past, including an humble memento of the massive Louisiana Maneuvers which encompassed much of southwest and central Louisiana during World War II. It is a bucket used to draw well water Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower used to freshen up with after his troops cross the Sabine River.
Posted By: Ruth Coffman Crunk, Lake Charles, LA On: 7/18/2012
Title: Memories of Merryville
I was in school in Merryville when Lether Frazier was principal there. My grandfather, James Carroll Meadows, was mayor at one time. He was the sweetest, kindest man I have ever known. I remember going with him to meetings of the city council. My father, J. B. Coffman, owned a small drug store there for a while, sold it, and we moved to Woodville, Texas, where he built his plant for bottling Dr. Pepper. Then came the depression - Dr. Pepper was a luxury not many could afford..