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City of Shreveport



             As Americans headed West, some sent their possessions on steamboats up the Red River and traveled on horseback or in wagons, frequently traveling through the 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 and called it “Cane’s & Bennett’s Bluff.”  When they actually arrived is in question, but one piece of history records their names with the date 1832.  It was illegal for whites to settle in this area because it had been designated as Indian territory, but settlers came anyway, noting the area’s potential importance. Groups traveling West often stayed in the area for a year to farm before continuing their journey; however, many of them never headed West, choosing to stay on the land. 1 Saloons, gambling houses, and dance halls appeared on Commerce Street, giving entertainment to those who had boarded up their houses and moved West. 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. 5

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: Colonel J. W. Fannin; twenty-seven-year-old Colonel William Barrett Travis; Ben Milam of Kentucky; and David Crockett, who died at the Alamo. Edwards Street remembers Caddo Indian interpreter Larkin Edwards, McNeill Street bears the name of the Shreve Town Company’s president, and Marshall Street was named for Colonel Henry Marshall, who
settled in Gloster, Louisiana. 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.

            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 The post office was moved to Shreveport on May 15, 1838, and former Corps of Engineers officer Captain Charles A. Sewall was named postmaster. 12

Shreveport was also designated Caddo Parish’s seat of justice. In 1843 an argument began over moving the parish seat to Greenwood. Shreveport lacked a strong judicial system, but in 1839 the city fathers passed the first ordinances in the city. These ordinances included the removal the trees and stumps along Commerce Street and the creation of Cross Bayou. 13

            In 1840 the parish’s population had risen to 5,282. 14  Merchants and brokers were abundant, serving as middlemen in the cotton economy. Business expanded during the 1840s. 15 The police jury recorded its first minutes in 1840, and the first Citizens Bank of Louisiana opened a branch in Shreveport in 1842.  The first volunteer fire department was also organized in 1847. With the outbreak of the Mexican War, a company of volunteers organized to serve under Lawrence P. Crain and William Flournoy. 16

            By 1850 Shreveport had a population of 3,634 whites, 5,208 slaves, and forty-two free people of color, as well as a bad reputation; the community was filled with one Methodist church, one Baptist church, a jail, a courthouse, several hotels, a number of saloons, gambling houses, and at least two brothels. 17 Albert Harris Leonard’s family first came to Shreveport on a steamboat in 1849. He recalled that as a boy, watching from the gallery of the Palmetto Hotel, an attacker stabbed another man to death in the street. 18

             It was not until 1860, with the Public Square being too far from the Red River, that Block 23 was used for the Courthouse. 19 By the beginning of the 1860s, Shreveport’s population made it the seventh largest city in Louisiana.  The total population equaled 3,500 with 2,200 of them being free.  Shreveport contained the only notable shipyard in the upper Red River region. 20



Whigs, nationalists supporting harmony and trust, supported a strong national financial system, protectionism, and internal improvements. They were popular with area businessmen and planters, and in the 1844 and 1852 elections for Henry Clay and General Winfield Scott, Shreveport threw its support to the Whig party. The party collapsed with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.  The former Whigs then joined the Know Nothing party; in 1856 Shreveport supported the Know Nothing candidate, Millard Fillmore. The community supported John Bell and the Constitutional Union party in 1860, but the rural areas in Caddo Parish supported Democrat John Breckinridge. 21



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Parish of Caddo 2004©

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