Sugartown, Louisiana

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Coordinates: 30°50′24″N 93°0′54″W / 30.84000°N 93.01500°W / 30.84000; -93.01500
Sugartown, Louisiana
Census-designated place
Country United States
State Louisiana
Parish Beauregard
Elevation 104 ft (31.7 m)
Coordinates 30°50′24″N 93°0′54″W / 30.84000°N 93.01500°W / 30.84000; -93.01500
Area 5.1 km2 (2 sq mi)
 - land 5.1 km2 (2 sq mi)
 - water 0 km2 (0 sq mi)
Population 54 (2010)
Density 10.6 / km2 (27.5 / sq mi)
Settled circa 1816
Government Beauregard Parish Police Jury
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 70662
Area code 337
Location of Sugartown in Louisiana
Location of Louisiana in the United States

Sugartown is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Beauregard Parish, Louisiana, United States, approximately 16 miles (26 km) east of DeRidder. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 54.[1] The geographical center of Sugartown today is posted as the intersection of LA 112 and LA 113. The original community would have been much larger.

Governing body[edit]

The governing body for Sugartown is the Beauregard Parish Police Jury with DeRidder as the parish seat. Law enforcement is provided by the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office, and the Louisiana State Police patrol the state highways.

Sugartown melons[edit]

The Sugartown area is famous in Louisiana for its watermelons. The sandy soil is good for growing watermelons as well as sugarcane which is used to make cane syrup. The watermelon variety grown in Sugartown is the "Crimson Sweet". The parentage of the Crimson Sweet watermelon is the Miles/Peacock and Charleston Gray. Most watermelons in the U.S. have some Charleston Gray in them. The Charlee is touted to have better flavor than that of Charleston Gray, Crimson Sweet and Jubilee, but fans of the Crimson Sweet would argue this. Hybrid versions are the Crisby, Crimson Tide, and Crimson Trio. Other varieties are the Johnson, Jubilie, and the hybrid Jubilation.[2]

The Crimson Sweet watermelon is light green with dark stripes, averages 12 to 25 pounds (5.4 to 11.3 kg) with very red flesh, and is very sweet, with 12% sugar content, while the average watermelon has approximately 6%.[3]

Timber industry[edit]

Many acres are planted with trees which contributes to the parish economy because of the timber industry. From the early 19th century to the 1920s timber companies owned large tracts of land and would clear-cut the huge virgin pines. When the pines were cut out, the sawmills would move and the towns would dry up. Pine stumps, and those referred to as rich lighter, are still harvested today.[4] With replanting of trees the timber industry is still thriving with harvested wood delivered to sawmills and the Boise Cascade paper mill in DeRidder[5]

History[edit]

Although some individual families had come into the lower Calcasieu region earlier, the first permanent settlement in Southwest Louisiana was at Sugartown, when several families arrived more or less simultaneously between 1816 and 1818. They built the first home on scattered farm sites around what was a natural location for the town of Sugartown. Sugartown was located in the area known as the Neutral Strip from 1806 until 1821.

At the turn of the 20th century there existed in Sugartown a Masonic Lodge, school, churches, racetrack, saloons and boarding houses, as well as several stores, supply houses and the doctor's office. Although never legally incorporated, Sugartown was the center of organized community life, the recognized trade, business and economic center of the area, and its people set the pace in establishing social customs, educational facilities and leadership in bringing law and order on the frontier.

Sugartown was one of the earliest settlements in the area. The home of the first state legislator authorized for the district, the first cotton gin west of the Calcasieu River operated more than 40 years, the first school, the earliest cemetery, and the earliest church are among a list of things that were "first" in the area.

First school[edit]

The most important achievement was the establishment of the Sugartown Male and Female Academy in 1870. This school, it is felt by many, marked the beginning of the educational system of Southwest Louisiana. W.H. Baldwin, a graduate of Columbia University, was its first professor. Pupils came to him from nine to ten parishes in Louisiana and from several counties in East Texas. Graduates of the academy became leaders in medicine, ministry, education, government and business. Their influence is still felt today in many fields of public service.

Township[edit]

The Sugartown township was first surveyed in 1807, after the Louisiana Purchase. The village was first a way-station and overnight camping stop for travellers, because Sugar Creek is easy to ford at this point.

Sugartown eventually became the major stopping point on the well-travelled and direct route from Lake Charles to Alexandria. Large cattle drives were made along this route from the holding point near what is now the DeRidder airport to the rail shipping point at Lecompte.

Community name[edit]

There are a few stories as to how Sugartown got its name. The first is that a wagon overturned while crossing the creek, spilling its expensive and delicious cargo into the creek and giving birth to both the name of the creek and the town. The second story is that during a cook-off an unwatched pot cooked too long, turning the boiling syrup into sugar.

Early life[edit]

The early settlers were almost entirely self-sufficient. Until after the American Civil War everything that was used for food, clothing, farming and other tasks was made at home. Every farm house had a spinning wheel and a loom for weaving cloth. All cooking was done on an open fireplace, and pine knots and tallow candles provided light.

Mail[edit]

From about 1820 to 1840, mail had to be picked up at Belgrade, Texas, at the Sabine River boat landing below Merryville. But in 1841 a post office was established at Sugartown with weekly deliveries by horseback from Lake Charles via Petersburg. The Pony Express ran out of Lake Charles and served the area for a period of time.

Old cemetery[edit]

The early settlers are buried in the "Old Campground Cemetery", one of the oldest cemeteries in the parish and what was once called "Old Imperial" Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. It is situated near the site of an ancient ford crossing of Sugar Creek and a way station where the pioneers of the early 19th century camped and rested before resuming their journeys to the West.

End of the Queen City[edit]

The population of Sugartown began to dwindle and businesses moved away when the railroads were laid to serve the busy sawmill towns of Bon Ami, Ludington, Fullerton and DeRidder. Had any of these mills or rail lines been built at Sugartown, it probably would have retained its prominent role as the leader and "Queen City of the Frontier".[6]

Notable people[edit]

Sugartown today[edit]

The community of Sugartown today is little more than a crossroads. There is one building, and a cemetery along with a few residences, in what was Sugartown proper. Buildings on both sides of the highway (through the community) have now burned down.

The watermelons, still grown in the area, referred to as "Sugartown Melons", are now mostly hybrids bred to endure shipping. There are some growers that still stick with the origin melon. Most people do not know that the original Sugartown melon is a "Crimson Sweet". As long as a melon is relatively sweet most that grow them call them Sugartown melons, regardless of being raised in Pitkin (Vernon Parish) or Elizabeth (Allen Parish).

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Sugartown CDP, Louisiana". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved November 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ http://cuke.hort.ncsu.edu/cucurbit/wmelon/wmcultdg.html
  3. ^ http://www.botanicalinterests.com/store/search_results_detail.php?seedtype=V&seedid=544
  4. ^ HCHSonline.org – timber and turpentine industries
  5. ^ http://www.library.beau.org/bus/boise.html. -Boise
  6. ^ information provided, in part, from the Beauregard Parish History