Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
“That the Parish of St. Tammany shall be divided by a line running east and west, beginning at David Robertson’s on the Tangipahoa, thence a direct line to Daniel Edwards on the Tchifoncta, thence a direct lint to the Strawberry Bluffs on the Bogue Chitto, and from thence a direct line on east until it strikes the Pearl River.”
—Louisiana State Legislature, March 6th, 1819
“The natives say that no man may live in the ‘bald piney woods’, that territory where neither creek nor river can be seen. Even Spanish colonial law forbade settlement in this region. Yet, upon further inspection, this surveyor concludes that a mistranslation was made. Man may live in the bald piney woods. But no man may survive.”
—Excerpt from the Greensburg District Survey of 1848, which covered Washington Parish
“Even in the biggest operations we’d come to the end of the cut. I’ve seen the whole town pulled up by the roots and moved. Worse, I’ve seen it stand empty like a ghost town. So when I started building Bogalusa in 1906, I swore by the Lord this was going to be one sawmill town that would last.”
—Colonel William Henry Sullivan, founder, mayor, and sawmill boss of Bogalusa till 1929
“Bogalusa? Ah, yes, I do recall performing in a rather light opera in 1906 during which a criminal is confronted with the ‘difficult’ choice of whether to be beheaded or exiled to Bogalusa. Without hesitation, he placed his head on the block. It was refreshing to see some kine have standards.”
—Katherine Beaumont, erstwhile operatic prima donna and Toreador harpy of New Orleans
Even compared to its parent parish of St. Tammany, Washington Parish drew few pioneers to its dense pine forests, and the few that did come left even fewer footnotes in the annals of history. One exception was in 1814 when Andrew Jackson marched his mountaineer soldiers across the Pearl River and improvised a road through the forests, creating Ole Ben’s Fort at what almost a century later would become Bogalusa. Many locals reportedly joined “Old Hickory” and participated at the victorious Battle of New Orleans before returning to their isolated cabin homes across the lake–where both Ben’s Fort and the centuries old Road Militaire still remain.
In 1819, that isolation caused those inhabitants to successfully petition for St. Tammany Parish to be split, leading to the organization of Washington Parish. John W. Buckam donated thirty acres of land for the new parish seat: the town of Franklinton. It grew slowly but steadily after sawmills and cotton gins were added to its smatterings of agricultural farms. Nevertheless, the remote parish and its citizens continued to struggle. Shootings were common, and the usual abode was a single story farmhouse with a mud chimney and roof of hand-hewn cypress shingles. Early transportation to and from the parish seat was horseback or wagon and buggy, and the parish’s products sent to Covington went over rough roads while those sent on to New Orleans were subsequently taken by schooner. Cattle were driven to Slidell, and then forced to swim the Rigolet and Chef Menteur Rivers. One old hackline served as the communication line with the outside world.
Yet, a new era for the parish emerged with the arrival of the Great Southern Lumber Company and the creation of its host city: Bogalusa. Drawing its official name from the Choctaw words bogue lusa, which translates to “dark water” in English, Bogalusa swiftly became known by its nickname, the “Magic City of the Pinelands”, due to the uncanny speed and scope of its birth. In 1906, the wealthy Goodyears of Buffalo, New York, founded a giant lumber mill in the pine-rich woods of eastern Washington Parish. Pursuant to the above, the magnate brothers commissioned an extension of the NO&NE railroad, the New Orleans and Great Northern Line, in order to connect Bogalusa to Franklinton, Covington, New Orleans, Jackson, and the rest of the increasingly industrializing world. Funded by an enormous outpouring of fortunes, the world’s largest yellow pine sawmill was built and became operational in 1908. To support this enterprise, a small city was designed by New Orleanian architect, Rathbone DeBuys, and completed in only a few months. Equally miraculous, Bogalusa’s population soared almost overnight to over eight thousand residents. Both of these ‘magical’ accomplishments were overseen by the Goodyears’ proxy, Colonel William Henry Sullivan, who acted as mayor, town boss, and sawmill manager until he died in 1929.
During that time, Bogalusa’s founder ensured his creation would endure. He commissioned several hotels, a YMCA and YWCA, churches of all faiths, and houses for the workers and supervisors before incorporating in 1914. That same year, while the rest of the country was wracked by a depression, the Bogalusa mill ran continuously both day and night. At its peak, the sprawling sawmill produced up to a million board feet of lumber a day. When New Orleanian merchants feared to open a general store in Bogalusa because they thought the “Magic City” would never last, Sullivan and the Goodyears provided their own commissary and grossed $11,000,000 the first years of its operation. In 1918, the Great Southern Lumber Company expanded their operations by creating the Bogalusa Paper Company and as a subsidiary and built a plant to make better use of timber waste material that could not be sawn into lumber. Other mercantile expansions included the Bogalusa Turpentine Company, Bogalusa Tung Oil, and the Bogue Chitto Farm, which used cutover timberland for truck farming.
Although the Magic City still had its share of unsavory characters, saloons, gambling houses, and lawmen like Wylie Magee and Bob Carson who were as notorious as their criminal counterparts, the small city ran smoothly–or at least profitably. One notable incident to the contrary happened in 1919, when a work dispute with the company motivated black workers to unionize, which was supported by the existing white union. Armed company men were sent by Sullivan to quell the unrest. Shooting broke out between company supporters and union supporters, resulting in the death of four white union leaers and the wounding of one company man. To restore social order, the Louisiana Governor sent the National Guard to Bogalusa and placed it under temporary martial law. Nevertheless, Sullivan gained renown as a shrewd businessman and capable city manager. He also became known for his showmanship, such as his 1924 picnic where he reputedly fed over fifteen thousand guests with food measured in tonnage.
Following Sullivan’s death in 1929, another Colonel, one Daniel T. Cushing, succeeded him as boss of the both the mill and town. In contrast to the common twentieth century philosophy of “cut out and get out”, the Great Southern Lumber pioneered reforestation and established a tree nursery that grew slash pine seedlings for restocking their cutover lands of virgin longleaf pines. However, that effort did not begin soon enough to establish second-growth pines as a source of lumber to feed the giant mill before the virgin timber was exhausted. By the time the massive sawmill shut down in 1938, over 600,000 acres of virgin pine had been cut down, and all that remained of reforestation program was a twenty acre pond filled with sunken logs.
Yet, perhaps the most amazing ‘magic’ of Bogalusa’s history was its ability to continue to support itself and new industries after the lumber mill was closed, disassembled, and sold off in pieces. The city shifted to service its other manufacturing plants, particularly its paper mill and chemical plant run by Gaylord Chemical. Within two decades, the slash pine nurses provided a lucrative, cheap source of pulpwood for the paper mill–which also benefited from favorable tax legislation on reforestation, construction of hard-surface highways, and low-cost truck transportation. During the 1960s, the city reached its zenith, with over 21,000 residents, over two dozen manufacturing plants, and multiple banks and newspapers. Prolix and sometimes hostile corporate takeovers caused the ownership of Bogalusa’s plants to change hands repeatedly over the next decades, but such changes have been largely cosmetic to the plants’ workers and parish citizens at large.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the parish’s rural, relatively isolated nature, Washington Parish has no known Kindred currently within its territory–and historically, it has been spared vampiric praxis, save for one brief but notable decade.
He came in 1908, like a bloodhound following the scent of easy money and easier power as Bogalusa first started to bloom. He was Clarence Etheridge, a Ventrue from New York City whose connections to the Goodyears were ambiguous at best. Conspicuously, he had no covenant allegiances or connections, and even more surprisingly, he had no interest in settling in New Orleans. To the few Kindred that bothered to notice, he appeared suddenly in Bogalusa, discretely claimed the city as his domain, and just as notably disappeared eleven years later.
The true tale and tragedy of the ‘prince’ of Bogalusa remains a mystery, with few save the sindaco of St. Tammany knowing of Clarence’s existence, much less his end. Those rare personae who do possess said knowledge are aware that Clarence Etheridge was the childe of Douglas Callihan, a member of New York’s Sabbat who cared little for his sect’s brutal nature and his clan antitribu’s inferior position within the Sword of Caine. With few assets and allies of his own, Callihan kept his childe cloistered away from his sectmates and gave Clarence an incomplete education in Kindred existence, which naturally bred resentment in the fledgling Ventrue. The breaking point, however, occurred when Callihan tried to use his childe as a liaison to establish an alliance with Gotham’s Camarilla. Uninterested in playing the sacrificial or at least suicidal lamb, Clarence fled his sire, sect, and city.
Clarence’s self-imposed exile eventually led him to Bogalusa, where he quickly ghouled the nascent city’s leaders, including Colonel Sullivan. Other than the occasional itinerant vampire that crossed his domain, either to be slain or hidden from, Clarence remained alone and disconnected from Kindred society, save for the occasional, long-distance communication with his next nearest neighbor, Cletus Lee Boggs. That relative solitude was shattered when the still neonate Ventrue ‘accidentally’ embraced a childe. It happened around 1914 when Clarence overfed on one of his favored vessels, a Bogalusa native by the name of Helen Dillehay. Overcome with remorse as Helen was dying in his arms, Clarence fed her some of his own damned blood. The company did not improve Clarence’s mood. Paranoid and fearful of his own kind, and even more ill-prepared to raise a childe, he subjected her to a blood bond to ensure his control over her and his city.
Five years later, all Kindred communication from Bogalusa ceased. Given the distance and communication difficulties of the age, weeks of silence were not atypical between Clarence and Cletus; however, when weeks turned to months, St. Tammany’s sindaco sent one of his most skilled ghouls, Levi Ironhorse, and a few Boggs boys to investigate. After a thorough investigation, utilizing both mundane and magical resources, Levi and his entourage found Clarence’s haven–or at least one of them–hidden in the city’s enormous sawmill. What they found there, and later gave to Cletus, was inexplicable as it was disturbing: a dozen wooden planks each bearing the same seemingly natural anomaly of grain patterning that eerily and uncannily resembled Clarence’s screaming face. The stacked lumber was found in Clarence’s bed with the covers tucked up as if he retired to sleep. Despite searching the rest of the city, Cletus’ investigators found no other trace of the Ventrue.
Helen Dillehay’s fate was different, but no less troubling. The Chickasaw shaman-ghoul discovered that Helen went insane when her regnant’s blood bond broke forcibly after her sire’s Final Death, torpor, or otherwise uncertain doom. Tracking down the mad neonate to her own haven, Levi found that Helen had half-painted, half-carved her room’s walls with dozens of etchings of hers and Clarence’s faces, using nothing but her own nails and blood. She had painted every inch of her bedroom, from ceiling to walls to floor, until she had run out of room. She had then left her room, only to continue to paint the halls and other chambers of the house. When she had exhausted her own ‘paint’, she slaughtered the handful of present house servants to use their blood to support her psychosis. She had kept painting throughout the night, until the sun rose. Too obsessed with her mad artistry, she failed to register the sunlight streaming through the downstairs’ parted curtains. Helen was mere ash when Levi found her and her sanguine-scrawled haven. He gathered up the former into an urn, then burned down the latter to preserve the Masquerade.
Thus ended the short and all but unknown reign of Washington Parish’s sole ‘prince’.
Geography, Industry, & Demographics
The extreme eastern and northern parish of the Florida parishes, Washington Parish is bound on the north by the state of Mississippi (specifically Pike, Walthall, and Marion Counties), on the east by the Pearl River (and the eponymously named Pearl River County beyond), on the south by the St. Tammany Parish, and on the west by Tangipahoa Parish. In total, Washington Parish covers approximately 666 square miles (of which, 99 percent of the parish territory is land, with 28 percent of that in turn owned by Gaylord Corporation). About one half of its land is used for agricultural purposes, with 214,000 farms and 86,000 acres devoted to crops. The parish’s remaining land is largely devoted to timber and cutover land used for grazing for the parish’s 700 dairies. The parish’s gently rolling land has two important drainage features: flood plains are the site of hardwood timber growths and pine timber grows elsewhere. Cotton and corn are the parish’s principal crops, with rattlesnake watermelons, potatoes, cucumbers, sorghum, pears, figs, salsumas, and tung nuts as secondary products.
The parish lacks large scale commercial hunting, trapping, or fishing. Local farmers occasionally trap minks during slack winter months, and commercial fishing is limited to the fresh water of the Pearl River. Upland game species are fairly plentiful with quail, dove, rabbit, squirrel, deer, and turkey, and hunting remains a common recreation as well as lucrative parish industry. Other notable recreation includes the Parish Fair, a four day fair dating back to 1910. Held in Franklinton, the fair continues to be the largest parish fair in all of Louisiana, with approximately 150,000 attendees.
Unlike its more populous and burgeoning southern peers, Washington Parish’s sparse population has vacillated between stagnation and decline for the past half century. Currently, its population hovers around 47,000 permanent residents, with nearly half of its citizens living in Bogalusa. Compared to the ‘white as grits’ St. Tammany Parish, Washington Parish’s population is one-third African-American (and in certain areas like Bogalusa, the color line is split straight down the middle between white and black residents). Currently, the region has the inglorious achievement of being the second poorest parish in all of Louisiana, with only Orleans Parish having greater poverty. Notwithstanding, Washington Parish, and specifically the Magic City of Bogalusa, has been the operational headquarters for a billion-dollar multinational corporation whose name and subsidiaries have evolved with confusing frequency over the past century. In other words, money–and a lot of it–continues to be made in Washington Parish, but few or its residents ever see it.
Washington Parish has few communities, with the most notable being the micropolis of Bogalusa and its dependent villages along Highway 21, the parish capital of Franklinton and its adjacent town of Enon, and the spread-out community of Mt. Hermon. The remaining handful of isolated communities are simply so small and remote that not even the federal census bothers to count them.
• Angie (pop. 240, 1,372 including inmates; 56 miles N of Slidell, 82 miles N from New Orleans). Tucked into the northeastern corner of Washington Parish, the small town of Angie was named for Angeline Bate McMillan, an elderly member of the family who originally owned the town. Today, the town’s de facto owner is the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, which operates the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center directly south of Angie along Highway 21. Built in 1981 and originally named the Washington Correctional Institute, the thousand-plus capacity, all men prison was renamed in 2006 after the famous, Bogalusa-native Louisiana state senator, B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn. The prison ‘serves’ much of the Florida Parishes, including both St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, and is home to a prominent chapter of the Aryan Brotherhood.
• Bogalusa (pop. 11,933; 44 miles N of Slidell, 70 miles N from New Orleans) The Magic City of the Pinelands survives–but no longer thrives–as the parish’s manufacturing heart and largest urban center. Although the paper mill and other minor plants remain operational, Gaylord Chemical has gone the way of the sawmill. Shortly after a 1985 hostile takeover of Crown Zellerbach by Gaylord Corporation (which in turn had been acquired by Crown Zellerbach in 1955), the company opened and expanded offices in Slidell, and by 2007, the multi-million dollar corporation made Slidell its official corporate headquarters. More saliently and devastatingly to Bogalusa’s residents, Gaylord relocated its production plant from Bogalusa to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2010. Some suggest the writing on the wall truly began in 1995, when a railroad tank car imploded at Gaylord Chemical Corporation, releasing nitrogen tetroxide and forcing the evacuation of roughly three thousand people within a one-mile radius. The chemical leak reportedly turned the sky orange and flooded emergency rooms with over four thousand people suffering from burning eyes, skin, and lungs. Dozens of lawsuits were filed against Gaylord Chemical, who settled a decade later by issuing compensation checks to more than twenty thousand purported victims. Apart from its magical and sometimes tragic industrial background, Bogalusa has been home to several music legends, including James Crutchfield, the legless barrelhouse blues piano player; Snoozer Quinn, the jazz guitar pioneer; and Henry Roeland Byrd (aka Professor Longhair), the rhumba-rhythmed blues and jazz piano player of New Orleans fame. The city, and parish as a whole, have also been home to the KKK, which in turn prompted the Deacons of Defense and Justice to settle in Bogalusa during the 1960s, leading to numerous, bloody clashes that still echo along Bogalusa’s color lines today. More quotidian qualities include Bogalusa’s two banks, the locally based parish-wide newspaper The Daily News (which is ironically only published three times per week), the century-old Pine Tree Inn, Bogalusa High School (with its traveling Timberwolves athletic teams), and the Sullivan campus of Northshore Technical Community College (which has sister sites in Slidell, Hammond, and Greensburg). With its slowly sinking population and dwindling economic opportunities, it remains to be seen if Bogalusa will pull off another ‘magical’ recovery.
• Franklinton (pop. 3,791; 4,574 with Enon; 55 miles NW of Slidell, 70 miles N from New Orleans). Founded in 1819 right next to the surviving village of Enon, the parish capital was originally named Franklin, but was forced by to change its name in 1826 due to another Franklin already existing in St. Mary Parish. Much like the rest of Washington Parish, Franklinton’s economy is based heavily on agriculture, forestry, and some commercial industry; however, dwindling local jobs and relatively booming employment opportunities down south have led many residents to commute south into St. Tammany Parish for work. Beyond the yearly (and once segregated) Washington Parish Fair, Franklinton hosts the Louisiana Castle; an English Norman Keep Castle replica that hosts weddings, high school proms, and other parties; as well as The Era-Leader, the oldest newspaper in Washington Parish, which competes with the Bogalusa-printed Daily News by concentrating on news from and about the parish’s western half. Beyond its ‘riveting’ name change, Franklinton’s other footnote in history was the several month social and criminal firestorm following the murder of Deputy Sheriff Delos C. Woods in 1934. His alleged killer, a thirty-year old black man by the name of Jerome Wilson, was tried, convicted, and sentenced within ten days of his arrest–which prompted the Louisiana Supreme Court to grant him a new trial. During the next five days, mobs tried to break into the jail two times to lynch Jerome before finally a small group of white men forced their way into Franklinton’s parish jail, shot and beat to death Jerome, dragged his body to a waiting car, and finally dumped his body three miles from town. Despite over seventy years passing, race relations in Franklinton still remain poor.
• Mount Hermon (pop. 3,708; 68 miles NW of Slidell, 81 miles N from New Orleans) An unincorporated community in the parish’s northwestern corner, Mount Hermon is a thinly populated region whose few, if still marginally, noteworthy aspects include its extant pioneer-built one room schoolhouse, the Yellow Jackets football team of Mount Hermon High School, and its atypically high rates of rape and other sexual crimes.