By Jessica Gorman
When I’m researching a topic, I often stumble across unrelated but interesting bits of information. To me, it often feels as though the past is reaching out to tell its story and sometimes that story is different from the one that we have long known to be true. Recently, while researching acts of the Louisiana legislature relevant to Webster Parish, I ran across some particularly surprising facts.
It has long been claimed that Overton had been in existence before Charles Veeder ventured to Louisiana and purchased the site that became Minden. Overton was located on the banks of Dorcheat just south of Interstate 20 and west of Highway 371. Today, nothing remains but the remnants of the old cemetery. One account of its history states that, “It was not until the year 1818, after the arrival of Newt Drew, that the village was named Overton,” and that “Overton grew so rapidly that it was ambitious to become the parish seat of Claiborne Parish.” From this, it would seem that Overton had already been established and was seeking designation as the parish seat. However, the legislative act moving the parish seat of what was then Claiborne Parish from Russellville contradicts that claim and suggests that a closer look is needed.
Charles Veeder purchased the site of Minden from Adam Stewart in July 1835. It was not until March of the following year that the state legislature ordered the parish seat to be “removed from the town of Russellsville, the present location, to or within three miles of the residence of Newit Drew, the precise point to be fixed upon by Hugh Walker, Richard H. Thomson, James Lee, John Gieren, Sen. And Samuel Leatherman . . . which shall be called and known as the town of Overton.” This act did not move the parish seat to a place known as Overton. It specifically stated that whatever place chosen by these men to serve as the parish seat would be called Overton. Essentially, Overton could have been placed at any point within three miles of Newit Drew’s home.
Not only was Overton established the same year as Minden, but another explanation may exist for another part of the connected history of the two places that says that in 1836 Charles Veeder hurriedly laid out the town of Minden and was in competition with Overton to become the parish seat. Veeder later moved on to California before realizing his goal of Minden obtaining this distinction. It would seem this part of the story may stem from circumstances that occurred a few years later.
Surprisingly, the state legislature did, in fact, order the parish seat of Claiborne Parish to be moved to from Overton to Minden “so soon as suitable buildings are erected.” This occurred in February of 1842 and before Veeder’s move to California. For reasons currently unknown, this act was repealed exactly one year later and the parish seat remained at Overton. Considering this, Charles Veeder was probably not just frustrated with an unrealized goal of Minden becoming the parish seat, but having it designated as such only to have that designation taken away.
Admittedly, I have more work to do to try to sort out the details of this part of our Webster Parish history but hope to learn and share more of this story.
(Jessica Gorman is the Executive Director for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum, Webster Parish Historian, and an avid genealogist.)