Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shreveport in Place and Location: the Texas Trail and Coates Bluff settlement

As Americans headed West, says, some people sent their possessions ahead on steamboats up the Red River. The families traveled on horseback or in wagons, frequently traversing this area because it was higher ground. This was known as the Texas Trail numerous years before Shreveport was founded.

James Huntington Cane and William Smith Bennett opened a store in a one-room cabin about 1832 and called it “Cane’s & Bennett’s Bluff.”

Saloons, gambling houses, and dance halls appeared on Commerce Street, giving entertainment to those who had arrived here in the course of moving westward. 2

When the Caddo Indians sold their land to the United States in 1835, they gave a section of the land to their friend and interpreter, Larkin Edwards, who had arrived from Tennessee at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. 3

Edwards sold the land in that same year to Angus McNeill, who located a claim where Shreveport was built. McNeill along with Cane, Bennett, Thomas Taylor Williamson of Arkansas, Sturgis Sprague from Mississippi, Bushrod Jenkins from Natchitoches Parish, James Belton Pickett from South Carolina, and Henry Miller Shreve from Pennsylvania were the founders of the Shreve Town Company on May 27, 1836. 4 These seven investors established the town and invited Shreve to plat it (lay out officially measured sections).

Your teacher has pointed out that in fact they were land speculators; their investment was a gamble.

It was born “Shreve’s Town” and renamed “Shreveport” in 1839. 6 This was the second city in Louisiana, planned because of the fertility of the land and the location along the Red River after it was opened. 7 They formed a community measuring eight streets long and eight wide with the Public Square on Block 23.8 These streets now form present-day downtown Shreveport.

With Texas gaining its independence in 1836, Shreveport’s main street was named Texas Trail and renamed Texas Avenue after its extension. Caddo Street was named for the Caddo Indians, who first owned the land, and Cotton bears the name of the area’s staple crop. Hopeful names were given to Commerce and Market Streets, as the founders anticipated their development into prosperous business streets; the first market house also stood at the northwest intersection of Texas and Market Streets. Fannin, Travis, Milam, and Crockett Streets honor those who died at Goliad, the Alamo, and San Jacinto. Edwards Street remembers Caddo Indian interpreter Larkin Edwards, McNeill Street bears the name of the Shreve Town Company’s president. Spring Street called to mind the nearby springs,
which gave water to the cattle and pasture of the owner of a nearby pioneer boarding house. Lake Street was fittingly named, as it was interrupted by Silver Lake. 9

Shreveport had been challenged by another rising community, Coates Bluff, which had opened the first area post office on April 10, 1838. 10 The community, located on what is now Stoner Hill, had begun with a trading post owned by McLeod and Carr.

Using the Eradicator, Shreve dug a ditch across the forty-two-yard neck of the river circle that went around Coates Bluff, leaving the community dry. 11