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Following Louisiana's & Mississippi's Historic Railroads

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Finding the Lumber Mill Railroads

Monday, July 18, 2016

The West Feliciana, Argue North to Woodville

The West Feliciana Railroad.
This "ride report" is built around a group of track pictures squirreled away in the Library of Congress.
They covered that part of the railroad colored in red.
I have tried to find more and I have not been successful yet.
Mark and I may have to ride it. 

Below are comments from that L of C site.

From this point on represents stuff  I assembled between three o'clock and  eight o'clock.
That sounded like a line from "24".
So be it.
The loose disarrangement of some of the material probably
reflects my out of state mind.

I thought of stuff I had and augmented it with what I found.
The line ran from Woodville, its home to Bayou Sara, the first terminus.
Later it would be expanded east to Slaughter.
Starting in Woodville:
From the Woodville Civic Club 

The building which houses the museum was erected in 1834 as the office of the West Feliciana Railroad Company and is located on the southeast corner of the Courthouse Square in the Woodville Historic District.

The West Feliciana Railroad was the third oldest railroad in America and was constructed by Judge Edward McGehee with the help of other Woodville financiers. Built to transport cotton from the county seat of Woodville to the river boats on the Mississippi at Bayou Sara, Louisiana, it was the first railroad to use standard gauge track and the first to adopt the use of the cattle guard. This railroad, which made its first run in 1842, was the first to issue and print freight tariff bills, and its home office in Woodville is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the nation.

It was used by the railroad, latter the Illinois Central until 1919, when the government acquired the property for use as the United States Post Office. Interestingly, in those early days the postmaster and his family lived in the apartment with rooms upstairs, a gorgeous winding staircase in the north east corner, a large room to the rear of the first floor, and a kitchen in the dependency building...just as the bank presidents had done so in the early years of the railroad.

Picture and Info below from HERE.
Mississippi Circa 1836: The Office and Banking-House of the West Feliciana Railroad Company was built in Woodville around 1836, although the company had received baking privileges from the State in 1831.  The West Feliciana Railroad ran through the Louisiana parish of the same name from St. Francisville on the Mississippi River to Woodville, a distance of some 20 miles.  The first railroad to operate in the Mississippi Valley, the West Feliciana was a joint venture of Mississippi and Louisiana planters seeking a more efficient means of transporting their cotton to the Mississippi River.  In 1848, the West Feliciana charged 50 cents per hundred pounds for freight and 75 cents, or 3.1 cents per mile, for passengers.  This was the fifth railroad to begin operation in the United States and was the first to use standard gauge track

My picture from 2009.

At the other end of the original rails, Bayou Sara to Woodville was Bayou Sara, obviously.
I'll throw in just a little of what I've collected on this ghost town.

This is what is left of the old station in Bayou Sara.

Note the mileage from Slaughter. That places the Bayou Sara Station at MP16.4.
The Woodville Station would be at MP 41.5

Not exactly. Totally wrong.
There's lots of railroad to be seen if you can sacrifice a little.

This is from some historic book*. 
* typical site blib

The depot below does not quite match the present day one.
A keen eye would detect that .
Note: Above it says that the depot was moved.
If you move the depot you move the tracks or the patrons have a walk.
I would think the two story version was pre move.
The one story is post move.

Two story, on bottom floor there are three windows on left, door on right, with balcony.
Door on left, windows on right with attic window.  2009, two windows on end, no door, no attic window..
Could the schedule sign seen in these two pictures be the same as the one on the building today?
Two windows and door on side where schedule is seem to match the new latest version.
The window frames are the same in the two old versions as well as the present day.
Possibly this was the flood that moved the depot.
The mention of the MV RR is a mystery.

And, where would you stay in Bayou Sara?

Of course that just scratched the surface on Bayou Sara and  Woodville.

The real importance of these following  pictures that are saved in the Library of Congress is 
that a good bit of where these rails ran is now covered by four lane US 61, no trace,  no nothing.

First, while trying to pump up the information. I came across Wakefield. 
Wakefield was a plantation.
This are is the Antebellum Deep South on steroids.
Good or Bad, it is thick here.

The red line is the very rough trace of the RR.
US 61 covers it.
From this book on place names. 
This shows one facet of the importance of  the railroad.


I will assume that US 61 and "11" are the same.

But this tracking the tracks ride does not start at Wakefield.
It starts at Argue.
You will not find "Argue, Louisiana" on the map or on the web.
The closest named place is Hardwood.
Hardwood is where the West Feliciana crossed US 61.
This is where the pictures pick up.

Mile Post mileage starts at Slaughter on La.19.
By the time the rails ran through Bayou Sara, turned north, and arrived at Argue, 
19 miles had been run.

Argue (Hardwood) MP19.0  North view. (from now on I'll just mark N or S for the view.
I do think there is a La. Visitor Welcome Center there now.

The switch was for this spur.

Argue, MP 19.11 N.View This picture had to be reversed. The rails from the spur enter the 
main right before the rails crossed US 61.
One writer says that from here on up a ways the new highway covered it all.

MP 20.5  Bains, La. (Not "Barns" as the Library has it) N. View.
Bains is at the intersection of La.66 and US 61. It is the road to Angola Prison and the route you take 
if you wanted to follow the ROW of the Louisiana Rail and Navigation Co. RR./ Louisiana & Ark. RR  and the Feliciana RR which was associated with the La. Midland and South Shore RRs.
It really isn't that easy, ask Mark.
US 61 is now on the left (west).

MP 22.2 Catalpa Plantation Crossing. N. View.

My old topo map shows the rails all the way from Slaughter to Woodville.
The red line is used only to measure the route.

From a brochure on Catalpa Plantation:

This charming Victorian cottage was built by William J. Fort in 1885 to replace the  original house, which was destroyed by fire. William Fort came to the Feliciana country from the Carolinas with skilled servants to erect the first Catalpa. The Forts raised both cotton and sugar. They were successful planters and shared their good fortune with family and friends, almost constantly giving parties and providing entertainment at their home.
The house was elegantly furnished, but the true beauty of this estate was its grounds. A park like atmosphere was created using exotic plants, flowers, and fruit trees that were developed and nurtured in a large hot house. The extensive garden included a pool, a deer park, shady sitting areas, peacocks, pigeons, and other exotic animals.
Invasion by Union troops during the Civil War destroyed the original house and its grounds. Almost everything edible was foraged by the hungry army. Fort died during this time, but his widow, Sally, held on to the property; she determinedly rebuilt the house almost immediately after it burned. Fortunately much of the furnishings were saved and are still in use today. Other fine pieces were acquired from Rosedown Plantation when it sold in 1956. Sally Bowman Fort was the daughter of Sarah Turnbull of neighboring Rosedown, and James Pirrie Bowman, of nearby Oakley.
{The Turnball name will be mentioned later}
Two notable features of this estate are the unusual elliptical alley of moss-draped oaks, a beautiful corridor to the house, and the steadfast ownership (the property remained in the same family since first built). I visited Catalpa in 1985. It was then occupied by Mamie Fort Thompson and Sadie Fort, both great-granddaughters of William J. Fort.
The thirty-acre gardens have been returned to their park like beauty, with plantings of hydrangeas, azaleas, camellias, and a large variety of trees and plants natural to the area. Though this restructure is not strictly antebellum, Catalpa is one of the most charming of the Louisiana planters’ homes open to visitors. It is about three miles out of St. Francisville and is open daily for tours.

Also, on the map above you can see the "Cottage Plantation"
From the B& B's History Page.


The Cottage Plantation is located on U. S. Highway 61, six miles north of St. Francisville, Louisiana on the east side of the road. It stands complete as it did in antebellum days, having in addition to the plantation home the old school house, out side kitchen, milk house, carriage house, barn, slave houses, and other out buildings. The house is furnished with much of the original furniture.

Areal view of Cottage Plantation taken in 80s The Cottage Plantation is located on land secured by John Allen and Patrick Holland by Spanish land grant in 1795, and acquired by Judge Thomas Butler about 1810.
Low, rambling, with an exceptionally long front gallery, the main house is composed of a series of buildings joined together erected from 1795 to 1859, with the core, or original structure, from the Spanish colonial era.
The house consists of two buildings in the form of an L with the original house as part of the foot of the L. The original house was about 42 feet in length, and it was extended to 85 feet in the very early 1800's. The extension copied the architecture of the original building so that it appears to be one structure. The roof at the rear of the house was raised in the early 1800's to provide a gallery running the length of the house and it copied the front of the house.
The last section of the house to be built was the great wing, or the side of the L, 65 feet long, whose front gallery adjoins the back gallery of the original building. A unique feature in its construction is that the whole length of the cornice is pierced by a series of louvers, serving the double purpose of ventilating and keeping the glare off the gallery.
The Cottage is completely built of virgin cypress except for the massive sills which were made of various woods from the plantation.. All of the pillars on the galleries are hand wrought, as is the exterior and interior woodwork. There are twelve square rooms in the main house and four in the wing. The rooms in the main section of the house open onto the gallery through door-windows with stationary shutters. Every room is furnished with a handcarved fireplace mantle, some of extreme simplicity and others elaborate with fluted Doric columns and panels in a sunburst design.
The roof of cypress weatherboarding is broken by second floor dormer windows.
The dependencies are all of wood construction, generally cypress and wherever located in the yard have shingled roofs.
School house: 14 ft. by 26 ft. with 8 ft. overhanging roof on west side, 6 ft. gallery on north side, 2 rooms each with fireplace. In the days when the building was used as a school, one room was used as a school room and the other the tutor' s bedroom.
Milk House: 12 ft. 3 in. square, in this building milk from the plantation dairy was processed into milk, cream, butter, etc.
Kitchen: 30 ft. 3 in x 18 ft. 6 in., contains two rooms, one the kitchen, the other the laundry. Massive fireplaces rear extending 7 ft. 8 in. from the building.
Greenhouses: 2 in number, of brick construction, 12 ft. 8 in. wide and 20 ft. in length.
Cistern Sheds: 2 in number, roof supported by corner posts and are 10 feet square.
Carriage Barn: 20 ft. 4 in. wide, 30 ft. long with overhanging shed on east side extending 18 ft.
Horse Barn: 2 ft. 6 in. wide, 32 ft. 6 in. long with overhanging sheds on east and west sides each extending 10 ft. 8 in. (recently destroyed)
Slave Cabins: 2 in number, each containing 2 rooms, fireplace in each room, 32 ft. 6 in. long.
Cemetery: Walled, 40 ft. x 55 ft.
Smokehouse: 15 ft. 3 in. wide by 15 ft. 2 in. in length.
Utility House: 20 ft. 3 inches square, contains four rooms, as follows: Saddle or tack room, Commissary for plantation workers, room for storage of dishes and items for thee dining room, Lumber room for storage of trunks, suitcases and traveling equipment.
The Cottage Plantation has practically all of the original outbuildings or dependencies remaining in good condition, therefore, constitutes a complete working plantation just as it was in the early 1800's.
The plantation contains the main house; the School House, which was at one time the law office for Judge Thomas Butler, the first Criminal Court judge of the Florida Parishes and a member of Congress; the outside kitchen; a smoke house; and the utility house containing saddle and harness room, commissary, china storage room, and lumber room. Also on the grounds are two green houses, a carriage barn, a horse barn and three slave cabins.
The Felicianas of Louisiana - Miriam G. Reeve, Baton Rouge, La. Claitor's Bookstore 1967.
A Treasure of Louisiana Plantation Homes - J. Wesley Cooper Philadelphia, Penn. Edward Stern
and Co., Inc., 1961.
Beau Sejour - Ben Earl Looney, Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishing Division 1972.
Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1927 U. S. Government Printing Office,

Mile Post 23.0  N. View.
Road on left.

MP 24.0

Needs reversing  but not now.
MP 24.8

MP 27. N. View
What would be the difference?

MP 29.2 N.View
I wonder if they had to move.

MP 30.1 Laurel Hill

More about Laurel Hill:

Laurel Hill WFP Historical Society

Contributed from the 1980 Audubon Pilgrimage Booklet
by the WFP Historical Society

The mellow farm house that presides over the rolling acres of Laurel Hill Plantation grew from a core house that makes a significant statement about the settlement of West Feliciana.
The western half of Laurel Hill is a small, one room deep, story and a half cottage with a single story gallery across the front and a one-story shed across the back. This house type is called a Carolina-I; I because it is typical of the houses found in the mid-western states beginning with the letter I, and Carolina because this particular version was found in that area and brought to the Felicianas by settlers during the years between 1790 and 1830.
In 1830, the small house became the property of Edward McGehee, whose determined astuteness led to the West Feliciana Rail Road, as well as the acquisition of over 2,200 acres in the Laurel Hill neighborhood. A few years later, McGehee have the house to his daughter, Cynthia Ann, as a wedding present. When she died the following year, Laurel Hill was given to her sister, Caroline, who was only a child. During the Civil War, Caroline, then the wife of Duncan Stewart, brought her young family to live in the house. In 1873, using the same carpenter who built St. John's, the Stewart's added an imposingly austere two-story addition, softening it with a continuation of the single-story gallery of the Carolina-I cottage.
Duncan Stewart devoted his attentions to innovative agriculture, and was among the first to raise Brahman cattle. One such bull, fond of head-on confrontations, regularity held up passage of the train of the West Feliciana Rail Road.
Several generations of Stewarts lived at Laurel Hill, the last of the line was Miss Louise, to whom her kinsman Stark Young dedicated his novel, "So Red the Rose," based upon the trials of the McGehee family during the Civil War in the plantation country along the Louisiana - Mississippi border.
In 1955, Laurel Hill became the property of Mr. and Mrs. John F.P. Farrar, then living at adjoining Woodlawn Plantation, former home of Caroline Stewart's brother, J. Burruss McGehee. When the house at Woodlawn burned in 1962, the Farrars moved to Laurel Hill, and now have an extensive cattle operation on both plantations.
Gracefully adapted to 20th century living while still maintaining its architectural integrity thanks to thoughtful renovations by the Farrars, Laurel Hill is filled with fine English antiques. Heppiewhite chairs of museum quality and a fine Sheraton cross-banded mahogany dining room table are noteworthy. Splendid examples of Oriental art were collected by Mrs. Farrar's father on an 1890 Grand Tour. These are enhanced by Mrs. Farrar's own art work, small scale compositions and wire sculptures of Dicken characters, and a delightfully illustrated map of West Felicianas. Mrs. Farrar's talent is also evident in the museum of the West Feliciana Historical Society, for which she has been director.
Thanks to the West Feliciana Parish Historical Society for this write-up.

MP 32.8 N. View
Bridge built 1919.

MP 33.9 N.View
Bridge built 1956.

MP 35.5 near Turnbull, MS. N.View.
References to the Turnball Family can be read HERE.
Nothing much is there.

Turnbull Crossing.

MP 37.8  Bridge built in 1929.
2.5 miles from the previous picture.
This can only be a small stream contributing to the West Branch of Thompson Cr.

MP 39.9.
Built 1942
4.4 miles from Turnbull

Ashwood Road

The Surget Family Plantations
from Here ... Amazing wealth and range of property.

  1. Plantations of Francis Surget, Jr.
    1. Ashwood Plantation, Wilkinson County, Mississippi (125 slaves in 1860).Originally owned by George Poindexter; plantation, together with 140 slaves, stock, utensils, etc., was purchased on October 2, 1833, by Francis Surget, Sr., from Archibald Dunbar and Thomas O. Enos for $125,000; passed to Francis Surget, Jr., upon death of his father in 1856; contained 2,453 acres and was valued at $130,385.93 at that time; cotton crop was 514 bales in 1858, 430 bales in 1859; overseer was W. J. White from 1858 to 1865; willed to daughters of Catharine Surget Shields in 1903.

MP 40.0 Cattle Guard

MP 41.1
Woodville South.
South View. US 61 in background.

MP 41.6 Woodville
Station grounds.
South View

MP 41.6 Woodville Station.

That's it. I'm out of gas. Maybe more later but I doubt it.

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