History

Contributed by Charles Rimes

Bogalusa, Louisiana at one time was one of the fifth largest cities in Louisiana.  It has now dropped down to the twenty-ninth in population.  Founded in the early 1900’s by astute lumber barons from northern states who discovered that the largest growth of huge Yellow Pine trees in the United States was centered in southeast Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi.  This untapped Pine forest was seen through their eyes as money and riches just waiting for their business experience to exploit. In order to fulfill this tremendous undertaking of harvesting trees and making lumber they realized that bringing in laborers was the key to their success. Plans were drawn up to accomplish this monumental task and in order to have labor it was necessary to have a place for them to eat, sleep and to reside. After the first crews started coming in tents were erected next to a creek while a giant sawmill was being constructed. This early settlement was roughly weathering nature’s best as well as its worst, while encamped. Hygiene, dirt roads, rising water at times and hard work at the new sawmill was taking a toll on the newcomers.  Quickly, mill officials began sawing lumber into building materials and with plans drawn for avenues and streets houses for the workers were beginning to be completed.  Several entrepreneurs constructed hotels near train tracks which were laid in several areas of the new settlement.  It was discovered that the creek originally named by Indians was called Bogue Lusa (the name in their terminology meant “dark waters” and was derived of leaching from oak tree roots along the upper creek banks). The new settlement had to be named and the combined word Bogalusa was chosen.  This name was decided to be copyrighted to preserve stamping on the finest grain yellow pine lumber being produced by the million board feet monthly coming from the sawmill.  Hardwood trees were not in demand during those early years and much was wasted. Large business areas sprung up in several sections. A commissary, YMCA, YWCA, several schools, silent motion picture theaters, bridges, walkways all were quickly being built.  Everything was  happening almost at once and because new buildings were magically appearing, Bogalusa was nicknamed “The Magic City.”  The area soon became wild and almost uncontrollable. Bars flourished, drunks needed subduing, laborers were sometimes restless and, tensions between the masses caused for stricter law enforcement.  Sheriffs, police chiefs, lawmen took little humor from those causing trouble and jails stayed full.  Mill officials were doing their best trying to not only keep their business running smoothly, but daily planning whatever the public needed to be at peace.  Sidewalks were constructed all over, cemeteries were established, fire departments were built as was a post office.  Eventually most of the Yellow Pine trees were clear cut and forward planners began replanting new growth, though the fine grain yellow pine was not planted.  The newer pine seedling would grow faster, but grain was wider and not as good quality as in the older forests.  Another source of building materials was sought and from California trainloads of beautiful giant Redwoods were brought into the mill.  Many homes benefitted from this beautiful lumber.  Most all the houses built during Bogalusa’s early years are now decades old, some more than a hundred years and many sections of the city are showing decay and wear.  Streets back then were paved, sewage and drainage pipes were laid underground and these need constant repair.  The sawmill, because of wartime needs, converted to making paper board, boxes, bags, etc. New machines were brought in and many workers enjoyed a few years of full production.  Eventually more technology started reducing the work force and with neighborhoods shifting to not only other sections of the city but outside city limits, Bogalusa’s population started declining.  Population demographics started changing and from a high of more than twenty thousand residents inside city limits there are only slightly more than eleven thousand left. In years past Bogalusa has seen problems come and go.  High waters, racial tensions, hurricane after-effects, etc. gave the City an undeserved reputation.  However things have started to change and improve.  City finances have begun to stabilize. Many residents in crowded flood zone areas in south Louisiana have realized that our Washington Parish areas offer great opportunities for living and retirement.  Race relations have most completely subsided and now both main races are equal in number. Prices are fair, traffic is minimal, law enforcement is alert to problems and neighborhoods are beginning to renew and remove many deteriorating structures.  Several organizations have begun to construct new residences and apartments.  Bogalusa Rebirth has already built and are in the process of constructing other homes that are badly needed.  This City and surrounding areas are a great place to live.  People are friendly and maybe move at a slower pace than the rest of the world, but that’s an advantage many people are now seeking.

City Architectural/Urban Planning Design notes contributed by Teddy Drummond

After deciding on the site to build what would become the world’s largest sawmill, our founding fathers and businessmen of The Great Southern Lumber Company, had the forethought to go to Tulane University and hire an up and coming architect graduate by the name of Rathorne DeBuys to lay out the “new planned city”. The man hired to lay out the City of Bogalusa also drew plans for many of its buildings, such as City Hall, which was dedicated in 1918 as well as Annunciation Catholic Church which was dedicated in 1927, coincidentally both were built in “cruciform” style. 

Since its early years, Bogalusa has used the railroads track as an east/west dividing line and the Bogue Lusa Creek as the North/South dividing line dividing the city into four quadrants NW/SW/NE/SE. In years past, public works would concentrate their efforts on one quadrant at a time and the next period of time, they’d switch quadrants.  The Little League sports was based on the four quadrants as well.  The Catholic Church members would fix bereavement meals for the family of the deceased, members of the church would call the members who lived in the SE quadrant to fix something for the family in mourning.

A little-known fact that many may not be aware of is that every street that crosses the railroad tracks or the creek changes names when it’s crossed. Also, the block numbers start out low and get higher as you move away from the tracks and the creek. Streets in the NE quadrant that ran north and south were named after other cities, those running east and west were named after other states and the NW sections, the streets were named after lakes. In the SW and SE, avenues were east and west avenues according and grew by the alphabet.

The original plans of 1911 separated neighborhoods by dividing areas for commercial and residential. The residential layout plans segregated homes by class of mill operatives and colored and foreign persons.

In closing, our forefathers had the foresight to see to it that Bogalusa wasn’t just another ‘cut and run sawmill‘ operation, and it is our prayer that Bogalusa will continue to not only sustain but to flourish for future generations.

An interesting article regarding the architect DeBuy and city planning:

http://southeasternarchitecture.blogspot.com/2013/03/segregation-forms.html

An archive of Debuys records may be found at Tulane University Libraries, Special Collections.

Address

Inside the U. S. Post Office

305 Ave B, Ste 111

Bogalusa, LA 70427

Office Hours

Mon-Tue:  9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Thur-Fri:  9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Wed, Sat and Sun:  Closed

Contact Us

BogalusaRebirth@att.net

(985) 735-7283

History

Contributed by Charles Rimes

Bogalusa, Louisiana at one time was one of the fifth largest cities in Louisiana.  It has now dropped down to the twenty-ninth in population.  Founded in the early 1900’s by astute lumber barons from northern states who discovered that the largest growth of huge Yellow Pine trees in the United States was centered in southeast Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi.  This untapped Pine forest was seen through their eyes as money and riches just waiting for their business experience to exploit. In order to fulfill this tremendous undertaking of harvesting trees and making lumber they realized that bringing in laborers was the key to their success. Plans were drawn up to accomplish this monumental task and in order to have labor it was necessary to have a place for them to eat, sleep and to reside. After the first crews started coming in tents were erected next to a creek while a giant sawmill was being constructed. This early settlement was roughly weathering nature’s best as well as its worst, while encamped. Hygiene, dirt roads, rising water at times and hard work at the new sawmill was taking a toll on the newcomers.  Quickly, mill officials began sawing lumber into building materials and with plans drawn for avenues and streets houses for the workers were beginning to be completed.  Several entrepreneurs constructed hotels near train tracks which were laid in several areas of the new settlement.  It was discovered that the creek originally named by Indians was called Bogue Lusa (the name in their terminology meant “dark waters” and was derived of leaching from oak tree roots along the upper creek banks). The new settlement had to be named and the combined word Bogalusa was chosen.  This name was decided to be copyrighted to preserve stamping on the finest grain yellow pine lumber being produced by the million board feet monthly coming from the sawmill.  Hardwood trees were not in demand during those early years and much was wasted. Large business areas sprung up in several sections. A commissary, YMCA, YWCA, several schools, silent motion picture theaters, bridges, walkways all were quickly being built.  Everything was  happening almost at once and because new buildings were magically appearing, Bogalusa was nicknamed “The Magic City.”  The area soon became wild and almost uncontrollable. Bars flourished, drunks needed subduing, laborers were sometimes restless and, tensions between the masses caused for stricter law enforcement.  Sheriffs, police chiefs, lawmen took little humor from those causing trouble and jails stayed full.  Mill officials were doing their best trying to not only keep their business running smoothly, but daily planning whatever the public needed to be at peace.  Sidewalks were constructed all over, cemeteries were established, fire departments were built as was a post office.  Eventually most of the Yellow Pine trees were clear cut and forward planners began replanting new growth, though the fine grain yellow pine was not planted.  The newer pine seedling would grow faster, but grain was wider and not as good quality as in the older forests.  Another source of building materials was sought and from California trainloads of beautiful giant Redwoods were brought into the mill.  Many homes benefitted from this beautiful lumber.  Most all the houses built during Bogalusa’s early years are now decades old, some more than a hundred years and many sections of the city are showing decay and wear.  Streets back then were paved, sewage and drainage pipes were laid underground and these need constant repair.  The sawmill, because of wartime needs, converted to making paper board, boxes, bags, etc. New machines were brought in and many workers enjoyed a few years of full production.  Eventually more technology started reducing the work force and with neighborhoods shifting to not only other sections of the city but outside city limits, Bogalusa’s population started declining.  Population demographics started changing and from a high of more than twenty thousand residents inside city limits there are only slightly more than eleven thousand left. In years past Bogalusa has seen problems come and go.  High waters, racial tensions, hurricane after-effects, etc. gave the City an undeserved reputation.  However things have started to change and improve.  City finances have begun to stabilize. Many residents in crowded flood zone areas in south Louisiana have realized that our Washington Parish areas offer great opportunities for living and retirement.  Race relations have most completely subsided and now both main races are equal in number. Prices are fair, traffic is minimal, law enforcement is alert to problems and neighborhoods are beginning to renew and remove many deteriorating structures.  Several organizations have begun to construct new residences and apartments.  Bogalusa Rebirth has already built and are in the process of constructing other homes that are badly needed.  This City and surrounding areas are a great place to live.  People are friendly and maybe move at a slower pace than the rest of the world, but that’s an advantage many people are now seeking.

City Architectural/Urban Planning Design notes contributed by Teddy Drummond

After deciding on the site to build what would become the world’s largest sawmill, our founding fathers and businessmen of The Great Southern Lumber Company, had the forethought to go to Tulane University and hire an up and coming architect graduate by the name of Rathorne DeBuys to lay out the “new planned city”. The man hired to lay out the City of Bogalusa also drew plans for many of its buildings, such as City Hall, which was dedicated in 1918 as well as Annunciation Catholic Church which was dedicated in 1927, coincidentally both were built in “cruciform” style. 

Since its early years, Bogalusa has used the railroads track as an east/west dividing line and the Bogue Lusa Creek as the North/South dividing line dividing the city into four quadrants NW/SW/NE/SE. In years past, public works would concentrate their efforts on one quadrant at a time and the next period of time, they’d switch quadrants.  The Little League sports was based on the four quadrants as well.  The Catholic Church members would fix bereavement meals for the family of the deceased, members of the church would call the members who lived in the SE quadrant to fix something for the family in mourning.

A little-known fact that many may not be aware of is that every street that crosses the railroad tracks or the creek changes names when it’s crossed. Also, the block numbers start out low and get higher as you move away from the tracks and the creek. Streets in the NE quadrant that ran north and south were named after other cities, those running east and west were named after other states and the NW sections, the streets were named after lakes. In the SW and SE, avenues were east and west avenues according and grew by the alphabet.

The original plans of 1911 separated neighborhoods by dividing areas for commercial and residential. The residential layout plans segregated homes by class of mill operatives and colored and foreign persons.

In closing, our forefathers had the foresight to see to it that Bogalusa wasn’t just another ‘cut and run sawmill‘ operation, and it is our prayer that Bogalusa will continue to not only sustain but to flourish for future generations.

An interesting article regarding the architect DeBuy and city planning:

http://southeasternarchitecture.blogspot.com/2013/03/segregation-forms.html

An archive of Debuys records may be found at Tulane University Libraries, Special Collections.

Address

Inside the U. S. Post Office

305 Ave B, Ste 111

Bogalusa, LA 70427

Office Hours

Mon-Tue:  9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Thur-Fri:  9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Wed, Sat and Sun:  Closed

Contact Us

BogalusaRebirth@att.net

(985) 735-7283