Historically Speaking: A description of Minden

By Jessica Gorman

The early 1900s marked a time of rapid growth in Minden, both in industry and population. The following is a description of Minden from April 1907.

“In the opinion of the Alexandria excursionists, the City of Minden is the crown jewel of North Louisiana’s diadem of gems. One of the speakers from Alexandria, the Rev. Dr. Grey, was so enthusiastic over the attractiveness of Minden that he characterized it as ‘paradise regained’ and there is much to justify his somewhat extravagant eulogium.

There is probably no town in Louisiana more inviting to the casual visitor than Minden with its magnificent avenues of oaks and other shade trees proclaiming its ancient origin and the architectural taste of its founders. Minden is a city of something over seventy years of age. Its main street is about three times the width of Canal street with a neutral reservation about five blocks long carpeted with a rich green lawn and lined on either side with shade trees of ancient origin.

At the far extremity of this avenue stands the court house, a magnificent structure built about a year ago at a cost of fifty thousand dollars.

Electric light, waterworks and volunteer fire departments are among the conveniences of the town and the streets are thicky lined with up-to-date stores whose shelves are filled with a rich and varied assortment of merchandise of every description and variety.

The population of the city is about four thousand and its leading industries are two lumber mills, an oil and ice company, a cotton compress and bottling works.

The striking feature of the city however, is its magnificent homes, many of which would do credit to St. Charles avenue, New Orleans, and among its churches is a recent structure erected by the Methodist congregation at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars.

The industrial activity of Minden may be measured by the fact that the Minden Lumber Company alone has a pay roll of seven hundred strong and its equipment is not excelled anywhere in this state for efficiency and importance.

Like all progressive towns, Minden has recently organized a progressive league to promote its prosperity and advertise its resources, its membership of one hundred and seventy-three citizens with the following officers: F.H. Drake, president; H.A. Davis, secretary, and R.H. Miller, treasurer.

At this writing Minden has but one railroad, the Louisiana and Arkansas, but in the near future Minden will boast of another railroad to be known as the Shreveport and Memphis. This enterprise has a strong financial backing and the grading has been completed as far as Homer. It is expected that by next Christmas the line will be in operation to Shreveport. Added to these transportation facilities is the Dorcheat River, an extension of Lake Bistineau and flowing into Red River.

The stream can easily be made navigable, and Congressman Watkins has secured an appropriation for a preliminary survey.

Among the institutions of Minden deserving of special mention is its civic club, composed exclusively of ladies, whose purpose it is to enhance the attractiveness of the city and make it ‘a clean, healthful, beautiful place of abode. This club maintains two parks, a handsome fountain, a bandstand, and twenty-five lawn settees. The courthouse and grounds and under its care, and under its auspices Arbor Day is observed annually. During the current year the club has placed, through its forestry committee, fifty beautiful trees, and under its auspices the city was given a street cleaning that was a sight to see, ladies vying with each other raking the dead leaves and piling up other rubbish, to be destroyed by fire. This progressive womans club is officered as follows: Mrs. Walter H. Webb, president; Mrs. L.K. Watkins, first vice president; Mrs. T. Crichton, second vice president; Mrs. John W. Sandlin, recording secretary; Miss Danna Watkins, corresponding secretary; Mrs. J.J. Holmes, treasurer.

The Cemetery association devotes its efforts toward the beautifying of the home of the dead, and embraces in its membership leading members of the community of both sexes. The two literary clubs are among the features of the town that makes for culture and refinement, both taking the Bay View course.

The reception committee was up early this morning, and under its supervision forty-two vehicles were placed at the disposal of the visiting excursionists. The committee was composed of L. Crichton, C.A. Ives, Dr. C. Harrell, F.H. Drake and R.H. Miller. After a drive through the principal streets a meeting was held at the courthouse, where speeches of welcome were made by ex-Mayor Robert Roberts, G.W. Roberts, and Mayor Walter Webb, on behalf of the people of Minden. Appropriate replies were made by Hon. John H. Overton of Rapides Parish, Dr. John Grey and A. F. Cazadessus.

Commercially speaking, Minden, in its quiet and unobtrusive way, is not only a point of considerable importance, but has the reputation of being one of the richest towns in the South of its size. Its financial solidity may be gauged from the fact that its two banks have individual deposits of over $700,000 and undivided profits and surplus of $100,000. There was universal satisfaction over the quality of Minden’s hospitality, and not the least conspicuous feature of it was the breakfast spread at the Taylor House. The Progressive League of Alexandria was charmed with its reception at Minden, and evidenced its appreciation by three rousing cheers as the train pulled out of the city. ”

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