By Joe Taylor
Here is a bit of Red River parish history about the ferry system. It used to run before the Akey Perry bridge was built in 1932. [Note the bridge was replaced by the current bridge which had it’s official opening in late 1990.]
First we have to learn what brought the ferry to Coushatta.
A hundred years ago Red River parish had its first oil boom. Several villages were involved. On the West Bank of the Red River were Harmon and Grand Bayou. The east bank had Lenzburg, Crichton and East Point. This area compromised what would later be called the Bull Bayou oil field.
Never heard of Lenzburg or Crichton? Let me assure you they were very much towns and contained thousands of people with hotels, banks, cafes merchandise stores, etc. I have pictures of them. Crichton was on Hwy 71 and the railroad about 3 miles from East Point. Lenzburg was a mile away on the river. Highway 71 going through East Point? Yes it did. When Huey Long started his big highway program he bypassed East Point and took 71 through the hills because the Marston family lived in East Point and they were anti-Long. If you drive today on the East Point road, before you get to Loggy Bayou and after you cross the railroad tracks you may notice a concrete bridge on the left in the middle of a cow pasture. A bridge in the middle of a pasture? Yes, a remnant of Hwy 71.
With the oil boom taking place an urgent need was for moving men and equipment back and forth across the river between the oil fields. Enter James (Jimmy) Florane. A New Orleans native and a boat designer. He designed and built the needed ferry and was soon in business.
Alas the oil boom had played out (as it always does) by 1920. So, Jimmy (father of James, TV and Lloyd, house mover) applied for the ferry franchise in Coushatta and got it. He modified the boat so it would haul over 10 cars and ran it for a dozen years until the bridge was built. In the library there is a nice picture of the ferry about to take its load across the river with the soon to be finished bridge in the background. Jimmy has his family and his workers on board. I know the picture is there because Ardis Almond and I hung it and a dozens more of old Coushatta.
To finish with Mr. Florane. After the ferry service stopped, he opened a Chrysler-Desoto dealership just down Carroll Street from the river. The building still stands right across from the old Walter Mangham house. He also had the first radio shop in town. Crowds would gather to listen to big boxing matches. His son James would take over the business and add TVs to it when they came out.
Thanks to Joe Taylor for recalling the story of the Coushatta Ferry.