If one were to wonder what Richland Parish was like when its roots began to take shape, a good place to start might be 1821. Only forty-five years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, James Monroe has just been sworn in for his second term as President of the United States. Louisiana had become a state only nine years earlier, and the Civil War wouldn’t happen for another forty years.
If you drive across the Parish today, you might see cypress trees, pecan and oak trees, heavy thickets scattered about, along with a lot of flat land. In 1812, Richland Parish was not much different. Though the thickets were certainly much thicker; and there were really no roads or buildings to speak of, much of the landscape was very similar to what you see today. In 1812, there were a handful of Native Americans still here (mostly Cherokee), and one could likely wander upon an occasional trapper.
Along the Boeuf River, which still flows through the heart of our parish, one might happen upon an occasional clearing where a pioneering cotton planter had just begun to appreciate the fertile, rich lands that followed the rivers and streams of Richland Parish. But if you reflect on the vast amounts of unexplored land that existed in the United States, what made settlers choose to place their roots here? Other than the farmers that had made this their home, there wasn’t much to separate Richland from the rest of the country.
Before railroads and highways, the main asset of our parish was Boeuf River. It was here that Girard was established, in what became Richland Parish’s first settlement. The parish would not see much expansion at all, until the Railroad, completed in 1868, connecting Richland’s East to its West, and its North to its South.