Judge Paul Stephens was born in Coushatta in 1900 and he served on the bench here from 1924 until he retired in 1966. In his later years he wrote a series of articles for Gordon Nelson, then publisher of the Coushatta Citizen, recording the history of our town.
The Journal thanks Joe Taylor for supplying some of those articles and pictures of a time that some will remember as “yesterday” but others only think of as “long, long ago.” In this article, Stephens describes Coushatta when he was a little boy.
The town lay mostly along the riverfront, having been built there because the river, at that time, furnished the only outlet to the world. Front Street was perhaps three-quarters of a mile long with Lisson’s warehouse and store on the southern end and present Carroll Street about the middle. I (Stephens) was born about 250 yards north of the bridge. Our house was on the west side of Front Street and faced it. Back of us toward the river some hundred yards or more was Coushatta, then a strip of Old Stella Plantation, then the River. Until 1908 the confluence of Coushatta Bayou and Red River formed a deeper than usual boat landing that helped to make Coushatta the site for supplies from the boat traffic on the river to many who had settled in neighboring parishes to the east.
On December 17, 1943 I wrote the following poem which describes pretty much what happened:
I cannot remember the day I was born
A December day on a cold frosty morn
I scarcely remember the place or the spot
It caved in the River when I was a tot.
Red River flowed near the back of our home
The soil all around was a rich sandy loam
The street out in front once led to the town
But the River came up and gulped it all down.
The people who lived out in this part of town
Had to move very quickly and tear homes down
All will remember the summer they fled
And scattered them so – unless they are dead.
The Thorntons and Howells – the Bosleys and Teers
Left in a hurry – so great were their fears.
The Wilkinsons, Lissos, and Stephens’ too
All moved in a jiffy – to just name a few.
The railroad came to Coushatta about 1898 and of course that spelled the doom of the steamboat. I can remember as a little boy going to Shreveport with my mother to visit my grandmother. I particularly remember one rainy morning before daylight. Leaving our home on the river with all of our paraphernalia in Mr. Jim Huckabay’s covered wagon, that we called a bus, to go to the depot to catch the train. I have a vivid recollection of this iron monster belching and roaring into the depot, with the great bell ringing and literally shaking the earth, that small wonder that teams of horses and little boys were scared out of their wits.
I remember the calaboose that was located on the sand bar in front of the “Brick Store” and the dedication of the new post office in 1917 by the brilliant Ed Carter. I remember old horse drawn hearse and the wooden caskets of yesteryear.
The Journal will publish the conclusion of Judge Paul Stephen’s recollections of his childhood in the Friday edition.