The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana
27 Jul 1963, Sat • Page 4
The Alexander Place, in “By the Boeuf with Beth” weekly column
….On Highway No. 135, about halfway between Nelson Bend and the Alto junction, there’s an inviting country road that beckons you west toward Boeuf River. This meandering road leads you to a place with a colorful history. High on the river bank at the end of the road, you’ll find a rambling, white cottage nestled in shrubbery and surrounded by trees.
A low fence encloses the yard and a giant pecan tree with boughs bending near the ground stands guard at the gate to the well-kept Alexander place. Bolivar Alexander was the first to come in the early 1870s, migrating from Mississippi. Later, his brother, R. S. (Dick) Alexander, joined him and bought the present farm from a Mr. Collins in 1876. Since then, four generations have lived here and the family continues to hold deep sentiment for their home pecal beside the Boeuf.
Mrs. N. J. McConnell (formerly Mrs. R. H. Alexander) told me exciting stories of this beautiful place . . . suspense stories of mystery and intrigue, stories of religious life with the baptizing of people in Boeuf River, gay, happy stories when children gathered here to play. The road from Girard to Alto crossed the river at the Alexander I place. During high water season, you crossed by ferry and when the! water was low, you could ford the stream.
Harrison Hymes, a colored man, operated the flat ferry. You could signal him with the clanking of a plow point suspended from the branch of a nearby tree. Or, you might call, “Whoo-pee! Whoo-pee! Harrison, bring the flat!”
According to legend, the notorious James brothers traveled this trail. And these ‘ famous bandits may have been the answer, Mrs. McConnell surmised, to the mysterious holes dug deep into the riverbank on their farm. Treasure hunters came here, seeking and searching for the James brothers’ buried loot.
“They’d come at night,” Mrs, McConnell said, ” and dig holes along the bank down in the pasture. Sometimes there’d be a hole as big as an elephant.”
With the discovery of the Richland gas field in 1926, two major pipelines were laid through the Alexander property. In the process of excavation, Mrs. McConnell said two skeletons were unearthed on the high bank in front of the house. At this time, she also observed fragments of pottery, masses of mussel shells, animal bones, and walnuts that crumbled to pieces on examination.
Historians tell us that Indians inhabited Louisiana 2,000 years ago. These nomadic people follow ed the numerous rivers and streams in our section of the country. Here in northeast Louisiana, east of the Ouachita River and into Mississippi, and north of Harrisonburg into Arkansas, lived the Tunica Indians. The Koroa, Grigra, Tioux, Yazoo, and perhaps other small tribes were in the Tunica family. Indian artifacts found at the Alexander place establish it as a historical site that possibly goes back for centuries.
“Summertime brought revivals,” Mrs. McConnell said. “And there’d be many people baptized here in Boeuf River. White people were baptized in the river near the house and used our house for dressing. Large crowds came for colored baptizings and they went through the pasture to the river.”
Summertime also brought many community children here for.-swimming, fishing and picnicking. Down through the years, this has been a popular place for children. Ryan Sartor of Alto came here to swim when he was a boy. And Mrs. Dupree O’Neal, of another generation, mentioned her delightful days here.
“My grandchildren love the place,” Mrs. McConnell said. “It’s the first place they want to go when they come here to see me.….The Richland Beacon-News
27 Jul 1963, Sat • Page 4
Categories: 1870's, Native American History, Steamboat Travel