Minden, Louisiana

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Coordinates: 32°37′0″N 93°17′0″W / 32.61667°N 93.28333°W / 32.61667; -93.28333
Minden, Louisiana
City
Revised copy, Minden, LA, City Hall and Civic Center IMG 0008.JPG
The combined Minden City Hall and Convention Center opened on Broadway Street in 1970.
Country United States
State Louisiana
Parish Webster
Elevation 253 ft (77.1 m)
Coordinates 32°37′0″N 93°17′0″W / 32.61667°N 93.28333°W / 32.61667; -93.28333
Area 12.0 sq mi (31.1 km2)
 - land 11.9 sq mi (31 km2)
 - water 0.1 sq mi (0 km2), 0.83%
Population 13,082 (2010)
Density 1,095.2 / sq mi (422.9 / km2)
Established 1836
Mayor Marvin Thomas "Tommy" Davis (R)

Police Chief - Steven Wayne Cropper (I)
Current City Council by district:
A - Wayne Edwards (D)
B - Fayrine Kennon-Gilbert (D)
C - Magaline Quarles (D)
D - Michael Scott Toland (R)
E - Lawson Benny Gray (I)

Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 71055
Area code 318
Location of Minden in Louisiana
Location of Louisiana in the United States
Website: http://www.mindenusa.com

Minden is a small city in and the parish seat of Webster Parish, Louisiana, United States.[1] is located twenty-eight miles east of Shreveport (in Caddo Parish). The population, which has been stable since 1960, was 13,082 at the 2010 census. The 2000 population had been 13,027; growth over the decade was hence .4 of 1 percent. Minden is 51.7 percent African American.[2]

Minden is the principal city of the Minden Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of the larger Shreveport-Bossier City-Minden Combined Statistical Area.

Minden has possessed a post office since 1839.[3] The current postal building at 111 South Monroe Street was completed in 1959.

The community has been served by a newspaper since the 1850s. The current publication, the Minden Press-Herald, is located in a building previously occupied by a supermarket on Gleason Street south of Broadway Street. The Press-Herald became a daily newspaper on July 18, 1966, but was earlier published as two weekly papers, the Minden Press on Mondays and the Minden Herald on Thursdays. For a time there was also the Webster Signal-Tribune.[4]

On October 15, 2012, an ordnance bunker at nearby Camp Minden exploded, but the blast was contained with minimal damage. Camp Minden is the site of the former Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant, once the major area employer.[5] In December 2012, police began the removal of 2,700 tons of explosives from Camp Minden, leading to evacuations in the nearby town of Doyline.[6]

History[edit]

Louisiana and Arkansas Railway depot in Minden, c. 1904
The Federal Building (constructed 1959) at 111 South Monroe Street in Minden houses the post office
The Minden Coca-Cola Bottling Plant is a distribution center at 412 Pine Street across from Minden Cemetery

Early settlement[edit]

Among the original settlers in the Minden area was Newitt Drew, a Welshman originally from Virginia, who built a gristmill and sawmill on Dorcheat Bayou in south Webster Parish in what became the since defunct Overton community. Minden itself was established in 1836 by Charles H. Veeder, a native of Schenectady, New York, who named it for the city of Minden in Germany.[7] Veeder left Minden during the California Gold Rush and spent the rest of his life practicing law in Bakersfield, California.[8]

A year before Veeder arrived, a group from Phillipsburg (now Monaca, Pennsylvania), led by the Countess Leon, settled seven miles (11 km) northeast of Minden in what was then Claiborne Parish. For nearly four decades, this Germantown Colony operated on a communal basis.[9] It was dispersed in 1871, when Webster Parish was severed from Claiborne Parish.[10] The "Countess" moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where she died in 1881.[9]

One of three Utopian Society settlements in this area, the Germantown Colony was the most successful and lasted the longest, having peaked at fifty to sixty pioneers but usually with fewer than forty followers. The settlement had been planned by the countess’ husband, Bernhard Müller, known as the Count von Leon. He died of yellow fever on August 29, 1834, at Grand Ecore, four miles (6 km) from Natchitoches, before he reached Webster Parish.[11] Leon and his followers attempted to build an earthly utopia, socialist in practice, while awaiting for the Second Coming of Christ. For his religious views, Leon had been exiled from Germany. He intended to plant the settlement in Webster Parish to coincide with the latitude of Jerusalem, 31 degrees, 47 minutes. The colonists worshiped under oak trees at the center of the colony. They supported themselves from farming, with a concentration on cotton.[9] The settlement is preserved at the Germantown Colony and Museum.

A second museum in Minden, the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum, named for Dorcheat Bayou, is located downtown at 116 Pearl Street near the post office. It preserves the cultural history of the city and parish from the 19th century.

Civil War[edit]

Statue of a Confederate soldier at the western end of Jacqueline Park in Minden near the point where Main and Broadway streets turn into the Shreveport Road.

During the American Civil War, a large Confederate encampment, which housed some 15,000 soldiers was located east of Minden. At the time Minden was a supply depot for the troops. Some thirty Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Mansfield and another engagement at Pleasant Hill are buried in the historic Minden Cemetery located at Pine and Goodwill streets and Bayou Avenue. A modern cemetery, Gardens of Memory, opened in 1957 off the Lewisville Road north of Minden.

In 1862, Confederate General Richard Taylor, son of Zachary Taylor, issued orders to round up deserters. According to the historian John D. Winters of Louisiana Tech University, near Minden were seen "many robust-looking men claiming to be 'discharged soldiers.'" General Taylor reported that a "'large number of persons liable to military service . . . , deserters, enrolled conscripts who have failed to report, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, are to be found throughout the state.' He ordered militia officers and parish sheriffs to arrest all men who could not prove legal exemption or absence from military service because of furlough or parole. Liberal rewards were offered for the apprehension of such men."[12]

Governor Henry Watkins Allen tried to make the state self-sufficient during the war. A factory for the manufacture of cotton and wool cards was erected at Minden and in full operation by the end of the war.[13] In 1864-1865, divisions of General Camille Armand Jules Marie, Prince de Polignac, hero at Mansfield, and Maj. Gen. John H. Forney established winter quarters near Minden.[14]

Coldest state temperature[edit]

On February 13, 1890, Minden recorded the state's all-time coldest temperature, −16 °F (−27 °C) degrees during the height of the Great Blizzard. Another −16 °F (−27 °C) reading was recorded in Minden on February 2, 1899.[15] The humid subtropical climate, however, is usually mild in winter and mostly hot in summer.

Will Life[edit]

William L. "Will" Life (June 23, 1887 – October 1972) was from 1925 until his death the owner of the large Webb Hardware store in downtown Minden. A former member of the Minden City Council, who was defeated in 1938,[16] Life was sometimes known as the "father of modern Minden" because of his civic leadership.[17]

Life attended the former Minden Male Academy, which was located at what is now Academy Park. He graduated from Minden High School in 1905 and was a member of the 1904 basketball team. He resided in Minden his entire eighty-five years except during World War I, when he served for three years in the United States Army Signal Corps. On June 23, 1972, four months before Life's death, Mayor Tom Colten proclaimed "Will Life Day" in Minden. Life is interred at Minden Cemetery.[17]

1933 tornado[edit]

1933 Disastrous year at Dorcheat Historical Association Museum in Minden

During the Great Depression, one of the two Minden banks failed. Five banks now exist, Minden Building and Loan, Capital One, Regions, Citizens, and Richland State. On May 1, 1933, a tornado destroyed some 20 percent of the residences in Minden. Thereafter a fire destroyed much of the business district and many homes. During the national bank holiday in 1933, the funds of both Minden citizens and businesses were frozen, making recovery from the tornado and the fire more difficult. Later, a summer flood destroyed a third of the crops in the area. Because of these quadruple tragedies, 1933 has been called the "Year of Disaster" in Minden.[18][19]

Ben F. Turner, Sr. (1883–1934), was the Louisiana and Arkansas Railway express agent in Minden and the volunteer fire chief. During the 1933 fire, he sustained a heart attack and hence died the next year of cardiac failure. Oddly, Ben Turner's grandfather had died in 1835 while fighting a fire at a brush arbor meeting in Georgia. Ben Turner's son, Harold Martin "Happy" Turner (1911–1988), was a well-known boarding house, restaurant owner, and civic booster in Minden.[20]

George N. Turner[edit]

Unrelated to Ben or Happy Turner, George N. Turner (1919-2013) of Minden won two Bronze Star medals and the Oak Leaf Cluster as a member of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. One of the Bronze Stars was for "bravery above and beyond the call of duty".[21] Turner was engaged in combat during World War II at Omaha Beach and the siege of Bastogne. He received a battlefield commission from General Maxwell D. Taylor and was discharged with the rank of captain. After his military service, Turner was the long-term office manager of the Minden branch of the Louisiana Department of Labor Workforce Commission, usually called "the employment office." Upon retirement from state civil service, Turner, a widely knownm figure in the community, completed at the age of sixty-five his college degree from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. For sixty-two years, he was a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Minden.[22]

1946 lynching case[edit]

A racially-tinged beating and lynching case in 1946 led to a parish-wide cover-up involving Minden police, the Webster Parish Sheriff's Department, the coroner's office, and several well-known individuals in the community. The crime was the only lynching in Louisiana that year. J. Edgar Hoover himself is quoted in FBI documents as having said: "We had incontrovertible evidence of a multiple-agency cover-up." [23] John Cecil Jones was an honorably-discharged veteran of World War II and a cousin of Albert Harris, Jr. A woman in rural Webster Parish was the catalyst of a trespassing investigation that involved both Jones and Harris, who was questioned by a sheriff's deputy and subsequent sheriff, O.H. Haynes, Jr., about the alleged crime. Harris was released to a mob in nearby Dixie Inn, taken to a rural area and bound, covered, and beaten by several other men. Albert Harris, Sr., feared for his son's life and sent him out of the state. Deputy Sheriff Haynes went to retrieve Harris from his house. When he arrived and discovered that Harris, Sr., had sent the son away, Haynes broke the senior Harris' jaw. Harris, Jr., was eventually delivered to Haynes' custody. John Cecil Jones, the cousin, was picked up at his workplace in Cotton Valley. Both were jailed, tortured, and beaten multiple times by Haynes and another deputy, Charles Edwards. On August 8, 1946, Haynes released both men to a mob in front of the old jail. The two were driven south of Minden. Jones received the brunt of the beatings and torture. Both were left for dead.[23]

This is an excerpt from the report of Webster Parish Coroner Dr. Thomas A. Richardson on the death of Jones:

Head shows numerous bruises, face is blackened from trauma, laceration on right side of head between right ear and occiput (back of head), eyes were degenerated, face and neck show numerous bruises, left shoulder was burned, arms were darkened from being bound, severe blow on right-side back and shoulder, numerous bruises on the back, chest and ribs were thrashed and beaten and caved in to the point where the skin had been sheared off, they slashed his scrotum, knees and legs were badly bruised, calves and arms were darkened, hands and feet had sand on them as if they had been in water, green fluid exudes from the mouth when pressure is applied to the abdomen; body found on [Minden businessman] Frank Treat's pond."[23]

According to R. Harmon Drew, later a state representative but then the assistant district attorney for Bossier and Webster parishes, jail records had been manipulated. According to the FBI, Dr. Richardson tampered with and concealed evidence taken from the crime scene, including a mechanical pencil and a wristwatch.[23]

Whitfield Jack of Shreveport (brother of State Representative Wellborn Jack), Barry Booth, A. S. Drew, and Harmon Caldwell Drew were defense attorneys for Haynes, Edwards, and the other defendants. R. Harmon Drew was defense counsel for the then Minden Police Chief Benjamin Geary Gantt, who was ultimately not indicted, although multiple witnesses' testimony stated that various city police officers had escorted the mob vehicles to the Minden city limits. Newspaper writer Paul Corvin likened city police at the time to the Gestapo but did not write such accordingly out of fear for his life.[23]

Eugene H. Lowe, Jr., the American Legion post vice-commander, likened local law enforcement personnel to outlaws. His sentiments echoed those of the reporter Paul Corvin.[23] Eventually, Harris, Jr., fled Louisiana, and the NAACP and the FBI became involved in the case. Federal indictments were handed down and deputies Haynes and Edwards and four others were arrested and tried for violating the civil rights of Jones and Harris, Jr. Ultimately, an all-white jury did not convict any of the six defendants.[23]

Hank Williams married in Minden[edit]

Country singer Hank Williams, Sr., married Billie Jean Jones Eshliman in Minden on October 18, 1952. The next day, the couple repeated the vows in two separate public ceremonies. Less than three months later, Williams was dead. A judge ruled that the wedding was not legal because Billie Jean's divorce did not become final until eleven days after she had married Williams. Thereafter, Billie Jean married another singing giant, Johnny Horton. Horton died in 1960 and is interred at Hillcrest Cemetery in Haughton in Bossier Parish.[24]

Geography[edit]

Minden has an elevation of 253 feet (77.1 m).[25] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.0 square miles (31 km2), of which, 11.9 square miles (31 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (0.75%) is water.

Demographics[edit]

As of the census[26] of 2000, there were 13,027 people, 5,166 households, and 3,430 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,095.2 people per square mile (423.0/km²). There were 5,795 housing units at an average density of 487.2 per square mile (188.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 46.34% White, 52.17% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.21% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.61% of the population.

There were 5,166 households, out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.6% were married couples living together, 22.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.6% were non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city of Minden, the population was spread out with 27.0% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years, higher than the state median age of 34.0 years. For every 100 females there were 84.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,175, and the median income for a family was $31,477. Males had a median income of $28,401 versus $19,199 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,114. About 21.0% of families and 26.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.3% of those under age 18 and 20.1% of those age 65 or over.

Economy[edit]

Minden has a large number of businesses and an active Chamber of Commerce, which maintains offices near the intersection of Broadway and the Sibley Road. Two former executive directors of the chamber were elected mayor, Tom Colten in 1966 and Paul A. Brown in 1989.

The Webster Parish Courthouse, completed in 1953, is located just west of its former location, which in the early 1970s became a parking lot for the Minden City Hall/Civic Center.

In February 2014, the Fibrebond Corporation, which builds concrete shelters, announced a $2.5 million capital expansion project which will revive an inactive container mill adjacent to the company's existing manufacturing site in Minden. The expansion will create 225 jobs, which will pay $3,000 gross per month. Some twenty-five additional jobs will also become available temporarily for the pending construction work at the site.[27]

Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Minden[edit]

Larry B. Hunter (1896–1971) and his wife, the former Gladys Powell (1899–1973), a native of Sibley, for over fifty years operated the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Minden, at 412 Pine Street in Minden, Louisiana. The company was founded by Larry Hunter's father, William S. Hunter, a native of New Orleans, as North Louisiana Bottling Works in 1901. The company did not acquire a franchise to bottle Coca-Cola until 1905. When William S. Hunter died in 1919, Larry Hunter, at the age of twenty-three, became head of the company.[28]

While soft drinks were bottled at the facility into the early 1980s, the former bottling plant is now only a distribution center. The present brick building, constructed in 1926, is the third building to serve as home to the company. It is located across from the Minden Cemetery.

The Hunters subsidized the Minden Redbirds, a semi-professional baseball team, and also built a regulation sized baseball field for the team; built Hunter's Playground, which included Minden's first public swimming pool and Hunter's Playhouse that hosted weekly dances for area teens. These were the first public recreational facilities in Minden for young people. The playground and playhouse operated from 1940 to 1965. A memorial statue in commemoration of Larry and Gladys Hunter's gifts to the city of Minden is located at the corner of Pine and Goodwill streets in Minden.

In 1950, Gladys Hunter became the first woman ever to be elected to the Webster Parish School Board, on which she served for two six-year terms. In honor of her legacy the company funds a scholarship to be awarded each year to a deserving graduate of Minden High School.

A collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia is on display at the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum at 116 Pearl Street in Minden.

Theaters[edit]

In the mid-20th century, Minden had two film theaters and a third drive-in facility. To promote the film industry, in 1951, theater owners Edgar Beach Hands, Jr. (1905–1972), and Ruth Cobb Cheshire Lowe (1906-1991) hosted several film stars in a visit to the city. One was a future U.S. senator from California, George Murphy. Another was Robert Stack of the later ABC television series The Untouchables. Jesse White, best known for Maytag commercials, also visited.[29] By the late 1970s, Minden had no theaters. Its last was the West Plaza Twin Cinema, a building still standing off the Homer Road. In the 21st century, several motion pictures have been filmed in the city and the surrounding areas of Webster Parish. Numerous cities and towns smaller than Minden still have maintained demand for a theater.

Though it has no theater, Minden is the city of license for CW affiliate KPXJ, Channel 21.

Education[edit]

Main building at new Northwest Louisiana Technical College campus off the Interstate 20 service road; groundbreaking was held on September 6, 2013, with Governor Bobby Jindal, among others, cutting the ribbon.[30]
Renovated Minden High School (2007) on College Street

The Webster Parish School Board maintains administrative offices at 1442 Sheppard Street. Minden High School, located just north of the downtown, completed major renovation in 2007. The original Minden High School located adjacent to the current campus dates to the turn of the 20th century.

Northwest Louisiana Technical College, a vocational technical institution, was formerly located on Constable Street near the Webster Parish fairgrounds and Griffith Stadium, a baseball field, where the former Minden Redbirds semi-professional team played. Governor Earl Kemp Long had included a trade school for Webster Parish in his 1948 platform, and State Senator Drayton R. Boucher and State Representative C.W. Thompson set about getting the initial $175,000 in funding through the legislature.[31]

In the summer of 2013, Northwest Technical College was relocated to a new and expanded site on the Interstate 20 service road. State Senator Robert Adley, who represents Webster and Bossier parishes, successfully sponsored SB 204, which will provide $251.6 million in financing and construction for twenty-nine projects at various technical college campuses across the state, including the new Minden facility.[32]

Elementary schools in Minden include E. S. Richardson, J. L. Jones, and J. E. Harper schools. In a cost-cutting move, the board in 2011 closed William G. Stewart Elementary School (built 1949), and the structure was quickly razed thereafter, leaving behind only a vacant field on Middle Landing Street.

The middle school, Webster Junior High School, is located on East Union Street at the site of the former historically black Webster High School, which closed in 1975, with desegregation into Minden High School. The previous junior high school, Theresa M. Lowe Junior High School located at 109 Clerk Street near the fairgrounds, was closed after desegregation and converted into an alternative school. Theresa Lowe (1907-1959), namesake of the former junior high school, graduated from Rayville High School in Rayville in Richland Parish in northeastern Louisiana and received her Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. She taught seventh grade at the former Minden Junior High School and was a leader in the Louisiana Teachers Association, since renamed Louisiana Association of Educators. Two of her brothers practiced law together in Springhill. Charles McConnell was also the mayor of Springhill from 1954 to 1958, and Nathaniel Julius McConnell, Sr., was the city judge there from 1956 until 1986.[33][34]

The private academy known as the Glenbrook School, located on Country Club Circle off the Lewisville Road, began in 1970 within the First Baptist Church of Minden.

The Louisiana Missionary Baptist Institute and Seminary, which offers bachelor's, master's, and doctor of theology degrees, is located off the Homer Road in east Minden. The theologically conservative institution was opened in 1952 by the then pastor L. L. Clover of Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, which is located adjacent to the seminary.

The main branch of the Webster Parish Library is located on East and West Street in Minden in a newer structure which opened in 1996. The $3 million library project, which included renovation of the previous plant to the right of the new structure, was funded through a 20-year bond issue. In a 17 percent turnout in a special election held in October 1993, voters approved the bond issue, 2,600 to 957.[35]

Notable people[edit]

Politics[edit]

Fred Thomas "Tony" Elzen, Sr. (1921-2012), a member of the Minden City Council from 1958 to 1962 and from 1966 to 1974, is pictured here as the grand marshal of the Minden Christmas parade, 2007. An annual golf tournament named for Elzen is held each summer in Minden.[54]

Sports[edit]

Turner's Pond off the Lewisville Road as photographed from Lakeview United Methodist Church
Plaques of the ten military personnel from Minden who died in the Vietnam War are displayed at the Veterans Memorial on Turner's Pond
Veterans Day parade, 2013, in downtown Minden
Griffith Memorial Stadium on Constable Street is named for B. F. Griffith, Sr. (1867-1960), the Webster Parish sheriff from 1900 to 1908 who is considered the father of the Webster Parish Fair. The stadium hosts baseball games.[85]
The Minden Recreation Center off Interstate 20

Others[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

On January 9, 2012, MTV premiered the reality television show Caged, about mixed martial artists fighting to gain the means to leave Minden.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

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