The following article ran in the centennial edition of the Richland Beacon News, on January 11, 1969. It was reprinted in1992. The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 13 Aug 1992, Thu • Page 4The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 13 Aug 1992, Thu • Page 4
Alto Cultural Club History Inseparable From That Of Alto
by Mrs. Daniel Ryan Sartor, Assisted by Mrs. Earl Thomason
The history of Alto Cultural Club is intertwined with that of the picturesque and historical village it serves. One of northeast Louisiana’s first known pioneer communities. Alto is located near the center of Richland Parish and situated on the high east side of a beautiful curve in Boeuf River. It is in the intersection of Louisiana Route 15, going northwest to southeast between Monroe and Natchez, MS and Louisiana Route 135 which leads north to Rayville and south to Charlieville and Columbia.
Descendants of the earliest settlers of Alto were among the most substantial citizens living in this locality at the turn of the century. Names of influential families within a radius of several miles included Varner, Vickers, McCoy, Thomas, Hemler, Sartor, Ashby, Lindow, Brown, Mulhern, Hatch, Noble, Lyles, Washington, Boies, Ivev, Alexander, Chennault, Gwill, Mhoon, Duke and Clement.
Always considered to be a fine Christian and cultural community, Alto has derived its principal income through the years from farming, cotton ginning, cattle raising, and several mercantile establishments. A bank once was organized there, and functioned for a while. The community also was the home of two early doctors w ho practiced over a large area of the surrounding countryside. When a gas field was discovered at Alto in 1927, it became evident that Alto must have a new school building, and this need was met in 1930. During the period just before the discovery of gas the need for a local service club also was realized. Alto Cultural Club, which had its original purpose working with the teachers of Alto school, was organized under the name “Alto Community Club” on October 31, 1922.
Mrs. W. E. McCoy, then a teacher in Alto school, introduced the idea of organizing such a club, and invited parents and local citizens to work with her to do so. Citizens interested in the advancement of Alto school who attended the organizational meeting of the community group were Mrs. McCoy, Mrs. Claude Stroud, Mrs. C. G. Pardue, Miss Louise Coleman (a teacher), Miss Annie B. McAdams (a teacher), Miss Rubie Beane, Mrs. F. B. Sartor, Mrs. C. D. Stuart, Mrs. Paul Lindow, Mrs. J. A. Hale, and Mrs. H. Lindow, Sr. First officers of the club were Mrs. Hale, president; Mrs. Sartor, vice president; Mrs. Pardue, secretary; and Mrs. McCoy, treasurer. (By 1925 enrollment had increased from 11 to 30 members.
On the club rolls that year were the four original officers, and Miss Beane, the Mesdames Lindow, Mrs. Pardue, Mrs. Stuart, charter members: and Mrs. R. H. Alexander, Mrs. J. A. Ball, Mrs. E. E. Ballard, Mrs. A. H. Brown, Miss Irma Brown, Mrs. Henry Brown, Mrs. H. A. Galloway, Mrs. W. H. Hicks, Mrs. J. A. McCoy, Mrs. M. E. McCoy, Miss Gladys Mulhern, Mrs. J. B Polk, Mrs. D. R. Sartor, Jr., Mrs. W. T. Sartor, Sr., Mrs.’ E. E. Thomason, Mrs. M. D. Thomason, Sr., Mrs. W. P. Washington, Mrs. Stanley Thomason, Miss Cleo Rushing, Mrs. Douglas Duff, Miss Clara Nettie Hemler, and Mrs. Martin Hemler. The club was federated on June 18, 1924, and became a member of the Louisiana Federation of Women’s Clubs.
During its first 10 years, Alto Cultural Club devoted itself to such activities as converting two rooms into a much-needed auditorium at the school, adding an outside porch to the stage area of the auditorium to provide dressing room areas and lunchroom space for the use of the school children on rainy days; buying pageant costumes for the school; building a bridge across a slough so that teachers and pupils could get to school during rainy seasons; screening the windows and doors at the school, and buying a piano, curtains and rods; purchasing lights from Alto Baptist Church for the school; and making cash contributions to the parish library and a scholarship fund. These projects were financed with the proceeds from a concession stand at the parish fair, and by box suppers, oyster suppers, carnivals, and sales of cakes, pies, candies and sandwiches.
In 1928 the club voted to award medals to honor students at Alto Grammar School and those attending Mangham High School from Alto. Weeds and tall grass were cut along the highway through Alto through the efforts of the club in 1929 by the club, which was federated into G. F. W. C. on May 2nd of that year. Work toward improving the school and beautifying it were continued. In 1937 the club voted to change its name from Alto Community Club to Alto Cultural Club. Honors were awarded the club on many occasions, and it became known as one of the outstanding clubs of Louisiana. Two club presidents, Mrs. C. Noble Hatch and Mrs. John C. Kenton, were elected to the fifth District presidency. Mrs. Hatch also has held state offices.
Among the more spectacular projects attempted by the club was a cotton pageant, written and supervised by Miss Pearl LeFevre, a member who was then parish home demonstration agent. Mrs. E. E. Thomason, who narrated the pageant, also served as general chairman. The organization also has compiled and published a cookbook, and cooperated in the staging of a folk school pageant in Rayville.