Visions of Vernon: Vernon Parish Communities, Rabbit Island – Roberts

Published 2:18 pm Sunday, July 26, 2020

Rabbit Island (31.0623 N, -93.2309 W) is listed as an early Vernon Parish community, according to Louisiana History Network.  The island is located on Anacoco Lake which is a manmade lake built in 1951 ten miles west of Leesville on LA Hwy. 8.  The lake is on 5,379 acres of land owned by the Anacoco-Prairie State Game and Fish Preserve which was established in 1948.  The lake was built at the confluence of Caney, Sandy, Anacoco, and Prairie Creeks.

     The recognition of the community as an early Vernon Parish hamlet is a mystery.  The east-west trace between Huddleston (Billy Goat Hill) and Burr Ferry crossed below the mouth of Caney Creek where Anacoco Creek swamp was the narrowest.  Crossing one swamp and not four makes sense.  When traveling east Rabbit Island, at 208 feet above sea level, was eleven feet above the Anacoco Creek floodplain. 

     The Richardson family was the dominating family of the township with sixteen land grants totaling 920 acres. Thomas Richardson was Caney's first postmaster.  In 1910 the post office was moved 3/4 mile south to the north bank of Caney Creek.   

     The Richardsons were latecomers in the community in the 1880s.  The earliest families were Brack, Fowler, and Winfree in the 1840s.  In the 1860s the Kay and McGee families arrived.  In 1888 and 1890 carpetbagger Charles Hackley purchased 6,547 acres in the township.

     With 35 students, Pine Ridge School was the primary school in the community in 1871/79.  Students to the south went to Eaves School while students to the south went to Glenwood.  Over the years schools opened and closed.  By the early 1900s the schools were Eaves, Milford, and Sherwood.  Eventually, one school serviced the students in the Caney community, name not given.  In 1929 the only remaining school in Ward Three was Evans.

    Redmond (T1N, R7W, Secs. 19 & 13) was a hamlet on present-day Fort Polk.  Even though a post office was never established, it was planned for the community in 1906.  The plan was rescinded in 1907.  William Reason James was to be the post master.

     There's no record of William owning land.  His father, Amedee, received a land grant in 1890 for 160 acres on Whisky Chitto Creek.  Possibly, Amedee owned a water-powered mill and the site was to serve as a post office with his son as postmaster.

     Little is known about the Redmond community.  Settlers moved into the township in the 1850s.  Cornelius Smith was the first homesteader in 1852.  Some of the earliest settlers were the Bass, Brack, Hayman/Haymon, Johnson, and Lott families. The only carpetbagger was Nathaniel Fairbank(s) who purchased 11,527 acres in 1888 and 1,409.03 acres in 1890. 

     The community was somewhat secluded.  An 1885 map of Vernon Parish has a north-south Leesville to Sugartown trace running through the community.  On a 1930 map of Vernon Parish the hamlet of Six Mile was located in the same township in section Thirteen, about five miles northeast.  The only church and cemetery in the township was Mill Creek which was 2 1/2 miles north.

     The community of Redmond was on the west bank of Whisky Chitto Creek, which put the hamlet  in Ward Four.  In the 1870s students in the township went to Water Hole Branch and Whiskachitto Schools in Ward Four and Red Hill and Six Mile Schools in Ward Five.  By the end of the century Whiskachitto School in Ward Four and Six Mile School in Ward Five were the only remaining schools.  By 1922 all schools were consolidated and Pickering became the only Ward Four school.  Ward Five maintained three schools at Gravel Hill, Whiskachitto, and Pitkin.

     Whisky Chitto Creek flowed through the community of Redmond.  It is an 86.4 miles long creek that flows from Vernon to Beauregard and Allen Parishes.  The creek is spring fed, which gives it the clear water it is known for.  It is believed by some that the creek was preferred for moonshining, thus that's how the creek received its name.  Actually, the creek's name means "large cane" from the Choctaw Indian words uski/oski for cane and chito for large.  In 1846 French explorer La Tourette corrupted the name and called it Chiwkey Chitto Creek.  Over the years the spellings have been Uskichito, Oskichito, Ouiska Chitto, Chiwkey Chitto, Whiskachitto, Whiskey Chitto, and Whisky Chitto.  There were so many variations in spelling that in 1963 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names stepped in as an official arbiter and declared the official spelling as Whisky Chitto.  The creek is listed as one of Louisiana's most scenic creeks,  in some cases, a river.

     How did Redmond get its name?  No Redmond families lived in the area.  One possibility is found in Brent Kennedy's book, The Melungeons.  He listed 43 Melungeon family names that settled in Louisiana, especially in the southeast corner of Vernon Parish in Ward Five.  James is one of the 43 family names.  Locally known as "redbones", they possess dark skin and hair.  Often called tri-racial, their origin has been debated by scholars for years.

     Roberts (T1S, R6W, Sec. 26) was a railroad stop on the Santa Fe Railroad five miles east of Cravens and less than two miles west of Pitkin.  The rail stop was used by the Roberts Lumber Company from 1910 to 1912.

     Roberts Lumber Company's mill was built on Six Mile Creek in 1910 and relocated to Pinewood in 1912.  The company was owned by Benson H. Lyons, who also served as president with the assistance of James S. Roberts, who ran the mill and served as vice-president.

     Roberts was on the Jasper & Eastern Railroad which was built in 1904 and leased to the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad in 1906.  The railroad was 81 miles long from Kirbyville, Texas to Oakdale, Louisiana.

     In Pinewood the company employees used Roberts, LA as their previous address, even though the railroad stop never received a post office.  The railroad stop can be found on maps as late as 1947.

This article originally appeared on Leesville Daily Leader: Visions of Vernon: Vernon Parish Communities, Rabbit Island – Roberts