Towns that make up Sabine Parish
Converse, Ebarb, Fisher, Florien, Many, Negreet, Noble, Pleasant Hill, and Zwolle.
Sabine Parish Covers nine hundred and ninety-nine square miles. The Parish lies in the valley of the Sabine River for which it is named. It was originally a part of the Natchitoches Territory and is bounded on the north by DeSoto Parish, on the east by Natchitoches Parish, on the south by Vernon Parish, and on the west by the Sabine River (Toledo Bend Reservoir), which separates it from Texas. Sabine Parish has a long and interesting history influenced by many cultures, among them the Indians, Spanish, French, and English. The history of the parish is filled with foreign intrigue, romantic adventure and a nihilistic strip of land. The area, inhabited first by the Adais (Brushwood) Indians of the Caddo Confederacy, was first under Spanish rule, then French, English, Spanish again, and French when Napoleon sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Boundary disputes followed the purchase. The United States claimed the Sabine River as the border and Spain claimed a line farther east in Louisiana along Arroyo Hondo, a tributary of the Red River. The Neutral Ground Treaty was affected in 1806, declaring the area “Sabine Free State”, a demilitarized zone, which became the neutral strip for outlaws, desperadoes, criminals and filibusters. The strip extended, roughly, from Sabine River east to the Calcasieu River, Bayous Kisatchie and Don Manuel, Lac Terre Noir and the Arroyo Hondo. In 1819 Spain abandoned all claims to land east of the Sabine River, and the United States moved in to establish law ans order. Fort Jesup was founded in 1832 by Zachary Taylor and was an important frontier post until the annexation of Texas in 1845 and the focal point of the American expansionist movement.
In the years that followed, small settlements began to make their appearance throughout the parish. Possibly the earliest of these was Negreet, founded in 1822, in the southern part the parish where Christopher Anthony located Bayou Negreet. Other settlements were Toro, in the extreme south, in 1827 and Noble, in the north portion, dating back to the 1830s.
The clearing of the Red River “raft” in 1838 by Henry Miller Shreve which opened the Red River to steamboat traffic, gave impetus to the colonization of the section. The influx of settlers reached its zenith just prior to the Civil War. Steamboats began running on the Sabine River in 1830, and by 1850 heavy traffic was carried on the Sabine. Popular landing points were Columbus, East Pendleton, and Carter’s Ferry.
Sabine Parish was one of the five parishes created in as many weeks by the state legislature in 1843 during the administration of Gov. Alexander Mouton. The parish was created from Natchitoches Parish on March 7, 1843. Since Texas was an independent republic, the Sabine River constituted an international border. Less than one month later the parish was given several additional townships when legislators defined lines of its northern neighbor, DeSoto Parish. One half township from Natchitoches, originally intended to be part of Sabine was added in 1854. In 1871 a considerable portion of the southern half of Sabine Parish was removed with the establishment of Vernon Parish. Since then the parish boundaries have remained unchanged.
Act 46 creating the parish specified that the seat of government should be named Many in honor of Col. John B. Many, commandant at Fort Jesup, then the most important settlement in the parish. Many was on the Natchitoches San Antonio road, known as El Camino Road, which carried traffic into Texas.
On May 17, 1843, Judge W.R.D. Speight, who was parish judge, I.W. Eason and G. W. Thompson purchased and gave to Sabine Parish 40 acres of land. Immediately some 30 citizens petitioned the police jury to lay out the town on the land, sell lots and make arrangements for the election of public buildings. The police jury planned a courthouse and jail, raising the construction money with the sale of the lots.
The first house was erected by John Baldwin, who operated a store and used his home as a tavern. He was also the first postmaster of Many. The first settler was Williams Mains, who came to the area in 1830. The first cotton gin was built in the early 1850s and the first census showed Sabine had a population of 3,347 whites and 1,168 slaves.
During the Civil War Sabine Parish sent five companies to Virginia and was the scene of the last major engagement on Louisiana soil, which was fought April 9, 1861, at the old Pleasant Hill and along the Sabine-DeSoto Parish line. The battle took place one day after the Confederate victory at Mansfield. The action forced the withdrawal of federal troops along the Shreveport-Natchitoches road which cut across the northeast section of the parish. This series of clashes was regarded as vitally important, for the war, they frustrated the attempt by Union forces to capture Shreveport and split Texas from the rest of the Confederacy.
Following the war, the steamboat gave way to the railroad. The Texas-Pacific, which was completed between Shreveport and New Orleans, traversed the northern part of the parish and Pleasant Hill, two miles away in DeSoto Parish, moved to the railroad. The construction of the Kansas City Southern Railroad through the parish in 1896 led to the establishment of the towns of Zwolle, Florien, Fisher, and Converse. The area was mainly agricultural until the railroad brought lumbermen, who set up sawmills to convert the trees that blanketed the state into lumber to satisfy the worldwide demand for long-leaf virgin pine.
Three decades later the forest acres were barren and a great many sawmills moved out. However, reforestation was innovated in the early 1940s and pulp and paper mills bought the thinnings. The payoff was the development of Southern Pine Plywood and the opening of the first plywood mill (Vancouver) in Louisiana at Florien. Reforestation lagniappe was the creation of Hodges Gardens in the 1950s, which opened up a brand new industry – tourism, which was augmented with the completion of Toledo Bend Reservoir in 1968.