Historically Speaking: Miss Emily Garrison’s Diploma

By Jessica Gorman

Last week, the museum was very fortunate to receive a donation of items from Delta Estate Sales. Among these items was Miss Emily Garrison’s diploma from the Minden Female College dated 20 July 1855. I wasn’t familiar with her name but went to work learning about who she was and how she fits into our local history.

In the U.S. Censuses for 1850 and 1860, Miss Garrison is listed in the household of R.A. Lancaster. It is likely that she was his stepdaughter. R.A. Lancaster moved from Alabama to what was, at the time, Bossier Parish in the 1840s. He was married to Melvina Garrison, who was likely Emily’s mother, in December of 1845 in Harrison County, Texas. 

Federal land records record his purchase of the southwest quarter of Section 4 Township 18N Range 10W in 1850. The following year, he purchased the southeast quarter. This property is located in the area of the Saint Matthews church on Highway 80 west of Minden and is referred to in later records as “the old Lancaster place.” That same year, The New Orleans Crescent reported that Mr. Lancaster was preparing to construct a sawmill near Minden. In 1852, he is mentioned in the Times Picayune as one of several local men refuting charges against W. Jasper Blackburn for dishonesty, drunkness, and gambling. 

By 1856, the family had moved to Minden. R.A. Lancaster had been confirmed by the state legislature as a notary public for Claiborne Parish. He was also serving as postmaster at Minden. In 1858, he began his first of at least five terms as mayor of Minden. At that time, the mayoral term was for a period of one year. Mr. Lancaster served at least four consecutive terms from 1858 until 1862. Records have not been found for 1863-1865, but he was serving as mayor in 1865 and was subsequently appointed by Governor Warmouth to serve again in 1868. Before this final term as mayor, he had also been appointed to the position of receiver general in the land office located at Natchitoches.

While it has been hypothesized that the family may have lived in the Vance-Sugg House on Broadway, it now seems more likely that it was a son, Julius Lancaster. He worked as a clerk for packet boats and was married to Cornelia Randle, daughter of another Minden mayor, T.W. Randle.

In 1860, a 21-year-old Emily Garrison is recorded in the Lancaster household. Her occupation is listed as teacher. Sometime within the year, Melvina died. R.A. Lancaster remarried to Eliza Thompson in June 1861. Emily is recorded in the household of her brother W.O. Garrison in Natchitoches Parish in 1870. She may also be the same Emily Garrison that was principal of the female department of the Academy and Normal School at Fillmore in the fall of the same year. 

Emily Garrison was married to J. Freeman Boone in March 1874 in Bossier Parish. The Boones then made their home in Hempstead County, Arkansas where J.F. Boone probably died. Emily returned to Louisiana. A letter dated 1883 and addressed to her seems to be in response to a request for financial assistance.  At some point, she returned to teaching. Her license to teach third grade in Bossier Parish, dated 1895 and renewed for 1896, was also included in the items donated to the museum. Emily Garrison Boone died in Taylor, Arkansas in November 1909.

(Jessica Gorman is the Executive Director for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum, Webster Parish Historian, and an avid genealogist.)