St. Joseph, Louisiana

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Town of Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph, LA entrance sign (2013) IMG 7488 1.jpg
Country United States
State Louisiana
Parish Tensas
Elevation 75 ft (23 m)
Coordinates 31°55′07″N 91°14′18″W / 31.91861°N 91.23833°W / 31.91861; -91.23833Coordinates: 31°55′07″N 91°14′18″W / 31.91861°N 91.23833°W / 31.91861; -91.23833
Area 0.9 sq mi (2.3 km2)
 - land 0.9 sq mi (2 km2)
 - water 0.0 sq mi (0 km2), 0%
Population 1,058 (2015)
Density 11,460.0/sq mi (4,424.7/km2)
Mayor Elvadus Fields, Jr. (D)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 71366
Area code 318
Tensas Parish Louisiana incorporated and unincorporated areas St. Joseph highlighted.svg
Location in Tensas Parish and the state of Louisiana.
Louisiana in United States (US48).svg
Location of Louisiana in the United States
The Tensas Parish Library at 135 Plank Road in St. Joseph is housed on the ground floor of this former residence, built c. 1858 by a local merchant and partially restored in 1964. The upstairs contains the Plantation Museum.[1]
Plank Road is the "main street" of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph Town Hall at 125 Plank Road
Consolidated Tensas High School in St. Joseph
Tensas Academy at 418 Louisiana State Highway 128 opened in 1970 in St. Joseph.
Sanctuary of First United Methodist Church of St. Joseph at 440 Newton Road. Businessman Robert J. Lancaster was a charter member of the church and served on its administrative board.
St. Joseph Baptist Church is a Southern Baptist congregation located at 711 Plank Road across from Tensas High School in St. Joseph.
St. Joseph is the entry point to popular Lake Bruin State Park.
A fashionable gated house of the Baur family on Lake Bruin east of St. Joseph
Gazebo at the end of Plank Road in St. Joseph

St. Joseph, often called St. Joe, is a town in and the parish seat of Tensas Parish in northeastern Louisiana, United States.[2] The population was 1,340 at the 2000 census, but it declined by 12.2 percent to 1,176 in 2010. The African American majority increased from 69 percent in 2000 to 77.4 percent in 2010.[3]


Unique for the Deep South, St. Joseph was planned and constructed in 1843 along a New England-style village green. The downtown along Plank Road is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]

Near the conclusion of the Civil War, when Louisiana became part of the Trans-Mississippi Department, St. Joseph served as the chief route across the Mississippi River. According to the historian John D. Winters in his The Civil War in Louisiana, "Such a strong force of Confederate cavalry occupied the Mississippi side opposite St. Joseph that all Federal attempts to close the transit in January [1865] ended in failure."[5]

In 1879, the Jesse James gang robbed two stores in far western Mississippi, at Washington in Adams County and Fayette in Jefferson County. The gang absconded with $2,000 cash in the second robbery and took shelter in abandoned cabins on the Kemp Plantation south of St. Joseph. The posse attacked and killed two of the outlaws but failed to capture the entire gang. Among the deputies was Jefferson B. Snyder, later a long-serving district attorney in northeastern Louisiana. Jesse James would live another three years until his demise in, coincidentally, another St. Joseph in northwestern Missouri.[6]

St. Joseph is the entry community to Lake Bruin State Park located on Lake Bruin, a relatively clear oxbow lake of the nearby Mississippi River.

Bank hostage case[edit]

Fuaed Abdo Ahmed was a 20-year-old man who, on August 13, 2013, took two women and a man hostage at the St. Joseph branch of Tensas State Bank. He killed two of the hostages after releasing the third. He was an Arab of Yemeni descent and indicated an interest in Islam. A subsequent police investigation concluded that Ahmed acted alone and was not involved in terrorism against the United States.[7]


On August 13, 2013, Ahmed entered the St. Joseph branch of Tensas State Bank, armed with both a handgun and an assault rifle. His duffel bag was packed with items that he planned to use to torture his hostages.[8] He held three people hostage: Charles Henry "Jay" Warbington, Jr. (1964-2013) of Wisner in Catahoula Parish,[9] Patricia White, and Tamara LaDean Hopkins McDaniel (1955-2013),[10] all employees of the bank for more than twenty years. During negotiations, state police superintendent, Colonel Mike Edmonson located a friend of Ahmed's in Alaska, who talked Ahmed into releasing one of the hostages, Patricia White. According to Edmondson, Ahmed was "mad at people that he said were mean to him. He had voices in his head."[11] Authorities said that Ahmed believed that the family of his ex-girlfriend in Lake Providence had caused their breakup and had placed a "microphone device" of some kind in his head.[12][7]

Eventually, Ahmed shot the remaining two hostages, killing Charles Warbington and critically wounding LaDean McDaniel, who died two days later at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria.[12] In the standoff, the Louisiana State Police broke into the bank and fatally shot Ahmed.[8][11] It did not appear that Ahmed knew the hostages,[8]but the hostages recognized him.[7]

The perpetrator[edit]

Ahmed's family owned a Trak service station located across the street from the bank. His parents (the father was deceased), were from Yemen, but Ahmed stated on Facebook that he was born in Fresno, California, and was a "fan" of comedian Jerry Seinfeld and rapper Eminem, and Islam.[11]

Ahmed had been a football player at the private Briarfield Academy in Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish in far northeastern Louisiana. His coach, Ben Durham, said that Ahmed had 2,700 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns in his senior year. Durham described Ahmed as never displaying aggressive behavior when playing football, "He was a normal good kid. It's not like he ever had any fits of rage. Ever." Sometime later, Durham said that he had a Facebook conversation with Ahmed and noticed the emergence of paranoid tendencies in the young man.[13]


Some three hundred St. Joseph residents came together on the evening of August 20 to reflect on the week-long tragedy. Ronny McDaniel, whose wife died of gunshot wounds two days after the attack, told the gathering that he is relying on his faith: I know in my heart it was meant to be. It was God's will to take them home. If they could come back right now, they wouldn't come back. I just believe they're in a better place."[14] Robby White, husband of Patricia White, the hostage who was released, explained the loss to the community:

This tragedy wasn't on the scale of 9/11, but it had the same effect on this community. There's no way to describe the feelings that each of us felt when we discovered the situation had turned so very wrong. We became stunned, shocked and so damn angry.[14]

Colonel Edmonson addressed the gathering and announced a thorough investigation would be undertaken to determine why Ahmed attacked the bank and its employees. Edmonson said that a final report since released would attempt to reveal Ahmed's state of mind to help perhaps prevent future attacks of this kind.[14] On August 23, 2013, it was disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had interviewed Ahmed in April while he was visiting in Yemen; his family reported him missing or possibly kidnapped.

Ahmed told the agents that he had not been kidnapped and was hearing voices in his head and at times felt suicidal but claimed he would not injure others. Ahmed was also interviewed in June by the Department of Homeland Security in Los Angeles, when he returned to the United States from Yemen. Agents asked him about a Facebook photo posted of himself holding an AK-47 rifle in Yemen. During this interview, DHS said that Ahmed denied any criminal activity or inclination toward terrorism. Authorities in Los Angeles conducted their own evaluation of Ahmed and placed him a medical facility for several days of mental evaluation.[15]

On March 12, 2014, state police confirmed after a months-long investigation that Ahmed had been treated at a California hospital several weeks prior to the deadly rampage for paranoid schizophrenia. His brother, Yasser, told police that Ahmed had employed yoga for six hours a day in a vain attempt to "cure himself", rather than taking medication prescribed by doctors.[16] Police found in Ahmed's room a bottle of Risperidone, a drug used to treat schizophrenia; only three of the sixty pills were missing.[7] Yasser confirmed too that Ahmed had used narcotics and bath salts before he left Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he had been a short-term student. A four-member SWAT team fired twelve shots and struck Ahmed eight times. The investigation found the police actions justifiable. In a letter in the vehicle that he drove to the bank, Ahmed claimed to have ended ties to Islam, his family, and Middle Eastern culture and heritage. Instead he extoleld his American citizenship and said that he had become a "born again Christian."[16]Even with those claims, Ahmed contradicted himself when he wrote in the letter, seen by officials as a last will and testament, that neither whites nor non-Muslims could attend his funeral.[7]

Political matters[edit]

When Tensas Parish was incorporated in 1901 the planter and businessman William Mackenzie Davidson became the first mayor and held the position until his accidental death in January 1930.[17] Davidson was a founder and the general manager of the powerful Panola Company, an agricultural entity in St. Joseph which controlled at one point ten thousand acres of valuable farmland. He sat on the board of the Bank of St. Joseph, of which he later became the president. He worked to bring the USDA Agricultural Experiment Station to St. Joseph and lobbied for construction of the Mississippi River bridge at Natchez, Mississippi.[18]

Edward L. Brown, Sr. was born in October 20, 1952 to son of Leon and Beatrice Brown. He graduated from Grambling State University and is married to Betty S. Brown; the couple has four children. Edward L. Brown, Sr. was the first African American mayor of St. Joseph, unseating the long-term white incumbent, Whitfield Jones (February 18, 1929 - August 11, 2013) in the nonpartisan blanket primary on October 7, 2000. Brown polled 447 votes (64.9 percent) to Jones' 242 (35.1 percent).[19] In the November 6, 2012 election, Brown secured his fourth term with 384 votes (57.7 percent) over Leslie Dandridge Durham, a fellow Democrat who polled 282 votes (42.3 percent).[20] Jones was a native of Baskin in Franklin Parish, a graduate of Louisiana State University, a fighter pilot with the United States Air Force, and the owner of Casey's Department Store in St. Joseph.[21]

Prior to 1968, each parish regardless of population had at least one member sitting in the Louisiana House of Representatives. The last member to represent only Tensas Parish was Democrat S. S. DeWitt of Newellton and later St. Joseph. DeWitt represented Tensas Parish from 1964 to 1968, and then from 1968 to 1972, he and Lantz Womack of Winnsboro together represented Franklin, Tensas, and Madison parishes. Womack defeated DeWitt in the 1971 primary; DeWitt later switched to Republican affiliation.

Aging water system[edit]

In December 2012, St. Joseph residents were placed under an advisory to boil their drinking water because of problems with the aging water system in the municipality. A mechanical failure at the town treatment plant caused a sudden drop in the water supply; then in March 2013, a water main cracked. There are also leaks at the base of the city water tower. State Senator Francis C. Thompson, whose district includes Tensas Parish, sought emergency funding for repairs to the system, which serves about seven hundred customers.[22] The town has so far failed to obtain an approved town audit for the financial year ending 2015 to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office to enable progress on the funds. In 2015, it received $553,000 in grants towards the issue, and is over $6 million is available once the town's audit is approved by the Auditor's Office.[23]

In December 2016, Governor John Bel Edwards vowed to replace the entire St. Joseph water system. Engineer Bryant Hammett, a Democratic former state representative who performed similar work in his native Ferriday, predicted the project, estimated at $9 million, could be finished by September 2017. In the meantime, residents are urged not to drink the water or use it in cooking, but they can use it for bathing or washing clothing. The Governor's Office of Homeland Security currently provides bottled drinking water for St. Joseph residents.[24]


Tensas High School, a consolidation of three former schools, Joseph Moore Davidson High School in St. Joseph, Newellton High School in Newellton, and Waterproof High School in Waterproof, began operating in the fall of 2006 on the Davidson campus. The Tensas Parish School Board has attempted to improve educational quality by focusing on one high school for the entire parish, the smallest in population in Louisiana. Troubles broke out at the school on November 2, 2006, and fourteen students were arrested by the sheriff's department.[25] Overt tensions thereafter subsided.

In August 1970, Tensas Academy, a still functioning private school, opened in St. Joseph during the first semester of school desegregation. Civic leader Robert J. Lancaster was also a charter member of the Tensas Academy board.[citation needed]


St. Joseph is located at 31°55′7″N 91°14′18″W / 31.91861°N 91.23833°W / 31.91861; -91.23833 (31.918513, -91.238284).[26]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.9 square mile (2.3 km²), all land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 486
1890 473 −2.7%
1900 717 51.6%
1910 740 3.2%
1920 734 −0.8%
1930 864 17.7%
1940 1,096 26.9%
1950 1,218 11.1%
1960 1,653 35.7%
1970 1,864 12.8%
1980 1,687 −9.5%
1990 1,517 −10.1%
2000 1,340 −11.7%
2010 1,176 −12.2%
Est. 2016 1,029 [27] −12.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[28]

As of the census[29] of 2000, there were 1,340 people, 500 households, and 337 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,505.2 people per square mile (581.3/km²). There were 607 housing units at an average density of 681.9 per square mile (263.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 68.58% African American, 29.78% White, 0.22% Asian, 1.04% from two or more races, 00.07% Native American, and 0.30% from other races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.75% of the population.

There were 500 households out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.2% were married couples living together, 25.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% were non-families. 29.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.29.

In the town, the population was spread out with 30.5% under the age of 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 83.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.4 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $19,539, and the median income for a family was $22,935. Males had a median income of $22,321 versus $15,288 for females. The per capita income for the town was $9,049. About 33.0% of families and 37.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 47.5% of those under age 18 and 33.3% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "Tensas Parish Library". Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ "Population of the City of St. Joseph, Louisiana". Retrieved July 5, 2012. 
  4. ^ Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, St. Joseph, historical marker, St. Joseph, Louisiana, 1982
  5. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, pp. 413
  6. ^ "Jefferson B. Snyder". New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 15, 1938. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Jim Mustian (March 12, 2014). "Man who killed hostages in north Louisiana bank had mental illness". Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c "Cole Avery, St. Joseph mourns tragedy in bank, August 14, 2013". Monroe News-Star. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Charles "Jay" Warbington". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Tamara LaDean "Deannie" McDaniel". Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c "Police kill St. Joseph bank hostage taker; 1 hostage dies, Surviving hostage being treated at Alexandria hospital". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Tensas bank hostage dies at Alexandria hospital, August 15, 2013". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Tensas bank suspect blamed ex-girlfriend's family, wanted to leave country, August 15, 2013". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c "Cole Avery, Joseph community gathers to remember slain bank employees, August 20, 2013". Monroe News-Star. Retrieved August 21, 2013. 
  15. ^ "FBI questioned St. Joseph bank gunman in April". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Gunman in Tensas Parish bank standoff was treated for mental illness". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  17. ^ William M. Davidson obituary, Tensas Gazette, January 24, 1930
  18. ^ James Matthew Reonas, Once Proud Princes: Planters and Plantation Culture in Louisiana's Northeast Delta, From the First World War Through the Great Depression, pp. 245-248 (PDF). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Ph.D. dissertation, December 2006. Retrieved July 20, 2013. 
  19. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State, Primary election Returns, October 7, 2000
  20. ^ "Louisiana election returns, November 6, 2012". Retrieved November 11, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Whitfield Jones obituary". Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Funds sought to fix St. Joseph's water system, May 10, 2013". Monroe News-Star. Retrieved May 11, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Water woes plague St. Joseph". The News Star. Retrieved February 8, 2016. 
  24. ^ Greg Hilburn (December 19, 2016). "Governor to St. Joe residents: 'We're in this with you'". The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved December 20, 2016. 
  25. ^ Monroe News-Star, November 3, 2006
  26. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  27. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  29. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  30. ^ Matthew Reonas, Once Proud Princes: Planters and Plantation Culture in Louisiana's Northeast Delta, From the First World War Through the Great Depression, pp. 262-263 (PDF). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Ph.D. dissertation, December 2006. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  31. ^ Henry E. Chambers, History of Louisiana, Vol. 2 (Chicago and New York City: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1925, p. 71)
  32. ^ "Membership of the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2012: Tensas Parish" (PDF). Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana State Senate, 1880-2012" (PDF). Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  34. ^ Tensas Gazette, November 24, 1916
  35. ^ "James E. Paxton". Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  36. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2012" (PDF). Retrieved December 29, 2010. 

External links[edit]