DeSoto Parish Louisiana

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article from a scrapbook belonging to Annie DuBois Prather Deam
submitted by Judy Baugh

 (from The Shreveport Journal, Wednesday, April 3, 1957

After Dedication Ceremony
Ante-Bellum Homes Will Be Open at Mansfield Sunday

by Emily Campbell
Journal Correspondent

 MANSFIELD--Shades of "Men in Gray" who tramped these streets nearly a century ago, will pervade the atmosphere here Sunday afternoon as the doors of five gracious homes are thrown wide to visitors.

Immediately following the 2:30 p.m. dedication ceremonies of the Mansfield Battle Park Museum Building, the Garden Study Club is sponsoring a tour of homes that saw service during the War Between the States. The proceeds are intended to start a fund for the construction of a patio off the assembly room of the building. The landscaping of the grounds is also a project of the club and planting is now well under way. The movement is headed by Mrs. B.W. Goss, club civic projects chairman.

Picture an exhausted and, perhaps, wounded soldier on that April 8, 1864, returning up the old Natchitoches Road to Mansfield from the bloody battlefield where Gen. Dick Taylor's Confederate forces won such a decisive victory. The first house in the town where he might receive aid was a courier station (see map), now the home of Mrs. J[oseph] W[arren] DuBois. Oldsters recall that the front steps remained bloodstained for many years.

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Age Not Known
No one knows just how old the house is. Dr. Samuel P. DuBois, who served in the Crescent Regiment at the Battle of Mansfield, bought the property from Lewis Phillips in 1859, but the deed does not show the existence of a house. However, descendants of the DuBois family have heard their grandparents speak of the Phillips family who lived there before they did.

The Doctor's 80-year-old daughter-in-law, who calls herself a newcomer, says that through the years she has been the object of jokes about sleeping in the mule quarters because the stalls were converted into a step-down bedroom.

"I'm getting the last laugh now with the new trends in house design," she said, "I tell folks that my old place is in the latest fashion since it, too, is a split level."

 Standing second on the same historic road, now Gibbs Street, is the stately old James West home in which many wounded soldiers were nursed after the battle. Its occupant then was Dr. Jepp Walker, a son-in-law of the original builder and an attending physician at the Mansfield encounter.

Built early in 1856 and showing a definite Greek influence, the house has undergone no major repairs since slave labor hewed out the 44-foot long single timber that forms the front sill. The enclosed stairway and second-story floors are of solid black walnut. The rest of the woodwork is heart pine. The original chimneys, with the exception of one struck by lightning in recent years, are still in use as wood-burning fireplaces.

For the past half century the house has been known as the Roberts Place. Purchased from the Walker family in 1903 by Q .M. Roberts, it is now the home of his son, Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Roberts.

*       *     *

Historical Home
The present lady of the house says that authorities have told her that the structure is subject to registration with the Library of Congress because of its historical significance and remarkable state of preservation.

Mrs. Roberts points out a huge pine stump under the floor of the central hall from which she is sure the long front sill was cut. She said that it would appear they just "whacked" the enormous tree down and started building on the spot. One of the old black walnut trees which furnished flooring is still alive today.

 An added attraction at the Roberts showing will be a small museum, once a slave house behind the home. Relics such as Dr. Roberts' saddlebags, a Confederate uniform, powder horns and ammunition will be displayed here.

One block over and best known structure on the itinerary is the old Mansfield Female College now the home of former state Sen. and Mrs. Riemer Calhoun.

The school, first for young ladies west of the Mississippi, closed educational operations during the war to serve as a hospital for Confederate troops. It reopened in 1866 and functioned until June, 1930.

Calhoun bought the propery in 1945 and remodeled the place into a home, leaving the basic lower floor and painting the red brick walls white. The two top floors of the old building, constructed in 1856, were torn away. The original lobby became the entrance hall, living room and dining room of the residence. The library, even to the century-old woodwork and fireplace, was left intact and is now used for the same purpose.

Graduates of the school will see three of the same old chandeliers when they visit the home on Saturday. A familiar sight also will be the monument-type tombstone of the institution's first president, Dr. Henry Coleman Thweatt of Halifax, Virginia, that stands just off the grounds.

Adjoining the college campus to the north is the home now occupied by Miss Ruby Roach and thought by some to be the oldest in the town still standing on the original property. Situated on a high terrace, it faces Polk street, known in '64 as the Mansfield-Smithport Road.

Charmingly simple in design, the one-story dwelling was constructed by Dr. James William Fair probably in the latter part of 1855 and was sold to A.V. Roach, the present owner's father, in 1890.

A story of this house has it that at a portending raid, the family tied the silver in a sack and swung it down between the walls by means of a rope.

Many soldiers were fed here as Dr. Fair went about his errands of mercy.

Whitehall at 505 Texas Street was built in 1860 by Jacob Deckstater Wemple one of the founders of the old college, first called the Mansfield Academy.

Used as a bandage station during the war, one wonders how many southern women once climbed its lovely old circular stairway to perform their duties at what would be now Red Cross work.

The house has not been changed. Even the trap door in the floor of the second story, where the family concealed its valuables, will be open for inspection during the tour.

Mrs. J. W. Murrell, the present owner, has some bills of lading on materials which she intends to display. Some are from Baldwin and Cushman located on the corner of Texas and Spring Streets in Shreveport. The headings amusingly proclaim the firm to be "Dealers in American and Foreign Hardware in All Its Branches".

Shipment of the hardware was made by water into an area now accustomed to overland transportation for the short 40-mile jump to Shreveport. The firm notified the builder by letter that they were sending the supplies by the Steamboat DeSoto in care of Whitworth and Poag at Hare's Landing, then a thriving port. The route was down the navigable Red River, up Bayou Pierre and its system of lakes to Harrison Lake where the landing was located. In like manner the supplies for making paint were shipped from New Orleans on the steamboats Grand Duke and Starlight.

Mrs. Goss said that there are many more homes in and around Mansfield as old or older than those on the tour. But some of them, she said, are too isolated to be visited conveniently in the short time after the dedication. Others have been so drastically remodeled that they bear small resemblance to the places that stood in 1864. Old folks say that the oldest house in Mansfield is one that has been moved and now sits across from the Mansfield Cemetery.


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