Waterproof, Louisiana

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Town of Waterproof
Waterproof, LA, water tower IMG 1239.JPG
Waterproof, Louisiana, Water Tower
Motto: A Place You Can Call Home
Country United States
State Louisiana
Parish Tensas
Elevation 69 ft (21.0 m)
Coordinates 31°48′25″N 91°23′07″W / 31.80694°N 91.38528°W / 31.80694; -91.38528Coordinates: 31°48′25″N 91°23′07″W / 31.80694°N 91.38528°W / 31.80694; -91.38528
Area 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km2)
 - land 0.7 sq mi (2 km2)
 - water 0.0 sq mi (0 km2), 0%
Population 688 (2010)
Density 988.2/sq mi (381.5/km2)
Mayor Caldwell A. Flood, Jr.
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Area code 318
Tensas Parish Louisiana incorporated and unincorporated areas Waterproof highlighted.svg
Location in Tensas Parish and the state of Louisiana.
Louisiana in United States (US48).svg
Location of Louisiana in the United States
Many businesses in downtown Waterproof have closed
Waterproof Town Hall
First Baptist Church of Waterproof
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
Abandoned buildings in Waterproof reflect recent economic decline
In contrast to the abandoned buildings, numerous attractive homes exist as well

Waterproof is a town in Tensas Parish in northeastern Louisiana, United States with a population of 834 as of the 2000 census. However, the population declined in the 2010 census by 17.5 percent to 688. The town in 2010 was 91.7 percent African American. Some 24 percent of Waterproof residents in 2010 were aged sixty or above.[1]

Waterproof is approximately 17 mi (27 km) north of Ferriday, one of the two principal communities of Concordia Parish. The town is named for its relative safety from flooding prior to construction of the Mississippi River levee system.[2]

Poverty abounds in Waterproof, a town dependent on farming. Cotton is the most common crop, but corn and soybeans are also important. In 2008, drought destroyed much of the corn crop.

The former Hunter's Brothers Store, once a mainstay of Waterproof, is featured in an article in the first volume of the publication North Louisiana History.[3]


Civil War[edit]

During the American Civil War, a garrison of three hundred African American troops based in Waterproof was attacked on February 13, 1864, by eight hundred Confederates under Captain Eli Bowman. The Federal gunboat Forest Rose opened fire from the Mississippi River and drove back Bowman's men. The next day Bowman resumed the attack, but the Forest Rose again shelled the Confederates, who again fell back in confusion. Joining Bowman was the cavalry commanded by Isaac F. Harrison. On February 15, Harrison, in command, tried to storm Waterproof but was again checked by the Forest Rose. Harrison was compelled to call off the attack and retreated westward toward Harrisonburg, the seat of Catahoula Parish. "The Confederates' unreasonable fear of gunboats had been insurmountable, and Waterproof remained in Federal hands," explained historian John D. Winters in his The Civil War in Louisiana (1963).[4]

Recent history[edit]

Three young Waterproof men died in action in the Vietnam War: Carl Raymond Goodfellow, a Navy ensign; Robert Lee Ross, an Army private, and Douglas Mac Washington, an Army sergeant.[5]

Bobby D. Higginbotham, an African American former mayor of Waterproof, twice run against fellow Democrat, Sheriff Rickey A. Jones, who is white. On July 24, 2007, Jones arrested Higginbotham on counts of impersonating a police officer, criminal trespass, and felony criminal damage to property. Higginbotham claimed that Jones arrested him as a way to keep Higginbotham from running for sheriff again in the October 20, 2007, non-partisan blanket primary. Jones said he incurred $7,500 in legal fees before he ever took office as sheriff because Higginbotham sued him over allegations of a "rigged" election.[6] In the 2007 primary, Jones defeated Higginbotham, 2,188 votes (77.6 percent) to 631 votes (22.4 percent).[7] Jones and District Attorney James E. Paxton of the Louisiana 6th Judicial District, recognized Caldwell A. Flood, Jr., as the bona fide mayor of Waterproof.[8]

Lydia Marie Testa McManus (1923-2015), a businesswoman, was the first woman to serve on the town council. An active Roman Catholic and Waterproof native, she was included in Who's Who Among American Women, was a past president of the board of Tensas Academy in St. Joseph, and worked to organize the Waterproof centennial celebration.[9]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 316
1900 298
1910 445 49.3%
1920 340 −23.6%
1930 420 23.5%
1940 592 41.0%
1950 1,180 99.3%
1960 1,412 19.7%
1970 1,438 1.8%
1980 1,339 −6.9%
1990 1,080 −19.3%
2000 834 −22.8%
2010 688 −17.5%
Est. 2016 591 [10] −14.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]

As of the census [12] of 2000, there were 834 people, 353 households, and 194 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,197.9 people per square mile (460.0/km²). There were 427 housing units at an average density of 613.3 per square mile (235.5/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 87.41% African American, 11.87% White, and 0.72% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.96% of the population.

In 2010, the African American population had increased to 91.7 percent.[1]

In 2000, there were 353 households out of which 24.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 23.2% were married couples living together, 28.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.8% were non-families. 40.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 21.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.30.

In the town, the population was spread out with 28.8% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 19.5% from 25 to 44, 25.2% from 45 to 64, and 18.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 75.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 66.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $10,250, and the median income for a family was $15,179. Males had a median income of $21,250 versus $14,792 for females. The per capita income for the town was $9,523. About 44.5% of families and 51.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 57.8% of those under age 18 and 57.6% of those age 65 or over.

The former Waterproof High School is one four sites in Waterproof listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The former Lisbon Elementary School in Waterproof


In 1935 and 1936, under coach and later Superintendent Statham Crosby, Waterproof High School lost the state Class B football championship to Vinton.[13]

Waterproof High School and Lisbon Elementary School have both closed under Tensas Parish consolidation procedures due to declining enrollment. Students now attend school in St. Joseph.

There are two private schools in the parish, Tensas Academy in St. Joseph and Newellton Christian Academy.

In popular culture[edit]

On March 4, 2000, Waterproof was featured on the National Public Radio talk show Whad'ya Know. The following is a partial transcription:

Back in the 1830s, one of the most popular spots for covered wagons crossing the Mississippi River was just north of present-day Natchez. As many as 50 wagons a day would cross, carrying settlers bound for Texas. Many of them tired of the journey, and simply stopped on the Louisiana side and made that spot home.

Often this area was under water, and on one such occasion, Abner Smalley, one of the early settlers, stood high dry on a small strip of land waiting for a steamboat to make its usual landing for a refill of cordwood. The captain cried out to Mr. Smalley, "Well Abner, I see you're waterproof," and that's how the name of this town was born. Present-day Waterproof is two and a half miles from its original location, having moved three times to escape flood waters. This led to the construction of a huge levee which snakes around the town, upon which you can walk and drive for a close view of the river.

Waterproof...is located in Tensas Parish. A variety of edible products is shipped from here including pecans, candies, pepper jellies and hams...along with the hunters' favorite 20-foot high deer hunting stands.[citation needed]

"Y.T.", leader and singer of the soul and funk band "Captain Waterproof's Party Service" visited Waterproof twice in 2007. He deplored the fact that the town's only discothèque was open only once a week but found comfort in the chicken dishes served at the gas station. He expressed a plan to present the band's second album, "Fresh Pie", within Waterproof's city limits.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b 2010 U.S. census figures
  2. ^ Hay, Jerry M. (2013). Mississippi River-Historic Sites & Interesting Places. Inland Waterways. 
  3. ^ W. Thomas Stewart, "Hunter's Brothers' Store: A Waterproof La. Landmark," North Louisiana History, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Summer 1970), pp. 20-24
  4. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, pp. 323-324
  5. ^ http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/la/tensas/military/milit005.txt
  6. ^ The News Star - www.thenewsstar.com - Monroe, LA
  7. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State-Parish Elections Inquiry
  8. ^ "Jordan Flaherty, "Did a Racist Coup in a Northern Louisiana Town Overthrow Its Black Mayor and Police Chief?", March 26, 2010". dissidentvoice.org. Retrieved June 12, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Lydia Marie Testa McManus". The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved July 25, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  13. ^ "LHSAA Class B (1928-1969) Louisiana Football Championships". 222.14-0productions.com. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  14. ^ Tensas Gazette, November 24, 1916
  15. ^ Frederick W. Williamson and George T. Goodman, eds. Eastern Louisiana: A History of the Watershed of the Ouachita River and the Florida Parishes, 3 vols. (Monroe: Historical Record Association, 1939, pp. 982-983)
  16. ^ Richard Goldstein (June 5, 2011). "John Henry Johnson Dies at 81; Inspired Fear on the Field". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ Obituary of Samuel Winter Martien, Tensas Gazette, June 7, 1946, p. 6

External links[edit]