Union Parish Louisiana
Until automobiles became common in rural South during the 1910s or 1920s, waterways provided the primary means of transportation of both people and goods between Union Parish Louisiana and the outside world. Thousands of settlers migrating west disembarked their vessels at Ouachita City or Alabama Landing on the Ouachita River and grew a crop or two on nearby farmland before heading further west. Farmers who lived in inland from the river used the navigable bayous and roads to move their bales of cotton to warehouses at Farmerville, Stein's Bluff near Shiloh, Ouachita City, Alabama Landing, or Port Union, where they were stored prior to shipment down the Ouachita River to the markets in New Orleans. As steamboats became common on the Louisiana rivers and bayous by the 1840s, merchants acquired the means to bring the latest available products to the Union Parish denizens. Steamboats also formed the prefered method of travel between Union Parish and the outside world during the wet months when the water level allowed the boats to run from Monroe up the Ouachita River and Bayou d'Arbonne to reach the landings at Farmerville and Shiloh. Even mail delivery to the parish depended upon steamboat access from Monroe.
The main waterways of Union Parish include:
- Ouachita River
- This major Louisiana river forms the eastern boundary of the parish. French trappers and traders began to routinely operate in the Ouachita Valley in the early 1700s, and they named many of Louisiana's rivers and streams. Europeans mostly ignored the Ouachita Valley until 1782, when the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, the Comte de Galvez, desiring a buffer zone between the independent American states and the Spanish Province of Louisiana, created the Poste d'Ouachita. Galvez named Jean-Baptist Filhiol as the commandant of the post. Europeans have lived in the region continually since Filhiol's arrival in the Ouachita country in April 1782. He frequently travelled up and down the Ouachita River between what is now Monroe and Camden, Arkansas, meaning that he passed along the eastern boundary of modern Union Parish. By the time that Filhiol arrived, most of the native Indians had moved away from Union Parish, only using the country for hunting grounds.
The Ouachita River played a vital role in the settlement of north Louisiana and southern Arkansas between the early 1800s and around 1900. The vast majority of settlers arrived in north Louisiana by travelling up the Ouachita River. During the 1795 – 1835 period, only a few families periodically chose to settle in what is now Union Parish, then virtually an isolated and untouched wilderness. However, in 1836, the United States Land Office offered vast tracts of land in modern Union Parish for sale to settlers, and this immediately brought migration into the parish. The first wave included a group from Butler and Lowndes Counties in Alabama, including Colonel Matthew Wood and his son-in-law, former Butler County Sheriff John Taylor. They likely travelled overland to Natchez, Mississippi, then to the Ouachita River and up towards north Louisiana. Hundreds more families from Georgia and Alabama followed in the 1840s and 1850s; the large number of settlers from Alabama led to the naming of the northernmost river port in Union Parish, Alabama Landing. The Ouachita provided a vital link to the outside world, allowing the Union Parish farmers to ship their cotton downriver to Monroe and then on to New Orleans. Warehouses at the river ports of Alabama Landing, Ouachita City, and Port Union held cotton until steamers carried it down the Ouachita to the markets of New Orleans. The Ouachita brought Yankee soldiers up to Union Parish from Monroe in 1864; they stopped at Ouachita City and burned several warehouses before returning to Monroe.
- Bayou d'Arbonne
- Ouachita Post Commandant Jean-Baptist Filhiol's 1784 reports to Spanish Governor Galvez mentioned Bayou d'Arbonne, named for Jean Baptiste Darban (d'Arbonne), a Canadian hunter who accompanied Louis Jucherneau St. Denis to the Red River in 1714. With its mouth on the Ouachita River just above Monroe, the d'Arbonne snakes across the southern portion of Union Parish. Deep enough in the wet months for steamboat navigation, Bayou d'Arbonne provided the parish seat of Farmerville with crucial water access to Monroe and New Orleans. In the wet months when the water level was sufficiently high, steamboats routinely brought goods to the Union Parish merchants, took cotton downstream to sell, and bought travelers to and from Monroe. Steamboats stopped at a number of landings south of Farmerville, including Rugg's Bluff and Moseley's Bluff, but the major stop in the parish was at the Farmerville Landing. Just beyond Farmerville, Bayou d'Arbonne forks, with Bayou d'Arbonne remaining the southern stream and Bayou Corney the northern one. After its split with the Corney, the "Darbonne" meanders westward before turning towards the south just west of Shiloh. Once it turns south, today Bayou d'Arbonne is in Lincoln Parish, but before Lincoln's creation in 1873, it was a part of Union Parish.
- Bayou D'Loutre
- Ouachita Post Commandant Jean-Baptist Filhiol's 1784 reports to Spanish Governor Galvez mentioned Bayou d'Loutre, named for the French word for an otter. With its mouth on the Ouachita River at the southeastern corner of the parish, the Loutre snakes diagonally across the parish towards the northwest and continues up into Union County Arkansas. It is one of the classic and beautiful cypress swamps of Louisiana. Its flood plain, called by locals as the Loutre Bottom, is a large swath of land on either side of the bayou well-known for its wildlife and rich farmland. By the 1830s, John Parker operated a landing at the mouth of Bayou d'Loutre. Several warehouses were built on the banks of the Ouachita River there, and the area soon acquired the name of Port Union. Although not an settlement of any size, by the 1860s many farmers in the eastern portion of the parish shipped their cotton to Port Union for transportation to the New Orleans markets.
- Bayou Corney
- Just past the Farmerville Landing, Bayou d'Arbonne forks, with the southern stream retaining the name. The northern stream is Bayou Corney. The Corney flows towards the northwest from Farmerville, running midway between Shiloh and Spearsville. A few miles southwest of Spearsville, it forks again into the Little Corney and the Corney. The Little Corney flows northward into Union County Arkansas a few miles east of Junction City, whereas after the fork, the Corney runs due west into Claiborne Parish. The earliest documented European settler on the Corney was Rev. Lawrence Scarborough. A native of North Carolina, Scarborough cleared land on the Corney in the 1820s.
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This page was last updated on 27 April 2008.
Copyright 1998 – 2008, by
T. D. Hudson