A glimpse at Minden’s early years

By Jessica Gorman

In 1873, Mr. Pike Reynolds wrote a letter that was published in the Minden Democrat. In it, he recalls details about Minden when he was a resident thirty years earlier. Mr. Reynolds had been a partner in a business here.

This letter refers to the year 1843. Minden had been founded only seven years earlier. Mostly, we get a sense of how the town had grown both in business and in population. When Charles Veeder founded Minden, he opened the first store. The second store to open was that of H. Wilson & Co. owned by Hiram Wilson. Mr. Wilson also operated steamboats. He captained at least four different steamboats in the 1840s and 1850s, the Swamp Fox, Beeswing, Planter, and Sydonia.

By 1843, there were at least nine stores in operation in Minden. They are identified by Mr. Reynolds as Morrow, Berry, & Co., Drake & Hardy, Drury Murrell, S.D. Pitts, Thompson and Moore, Baker & Webster, John Chaffe, Montgomery & Co., Pike & Rush Reynolds. Two of these, S.D. Pitts and John Chaffe, also had offices in New Orleans. John Chaffe later moved to New Orleans.  

There was also a number of other businesses. Sanders P. Day was a hotel keeper. According to another source, he had assumed operation of the Rock Hotel built by Charles Veeder. There were two tailors, Allen Jones and Mr. Goldsmith. Mrs. Barfield ran a bakery. Edward Etter was a silversmith. There was also a tanner, David Laird, and a saddler, C. Reid.

The town had two doctors, Dr. Quarles and Dr. Pennall. Eight lawyers practicing in Minden are identified as Lawson, Evans, Olcott, Bonner, Vaughn, Drew, Scott, and Kirby. Judge Scott and Judge Peets also lived at Minden. Elkin Jones served as sheriff.

We also get a little insight into the nearby town of Overton, the seat of Claiborne Parish. Mr. Reynolds states that there was only one store located at Overton, that of L.E. Pratt. We can also see the lawyers, judges, and sheriff all living in Minden instead of at Overton. This information, combined with other evidence, paints a much different picture of Overton than some stories that are told.

Another detail that is revealed is the existence of three pianos in Minden and the fact that people would travel to Minden to listen to the music played upon them. Mr. Reynolds also makes mention of the Christmas of 1844 and all the activity in the town on that day. “We had a ball or cotillion party, a horse race, chicken fight, shooting match, and the keno and all banking tables going, including all short games from full deck three up, and on the same day the main parallelogram was full of Indians, and their ponies packed with deer hides, and they were trading their peltry for provisions, ammunition, and whiskey, and running foot races, dancing, and singing their songs.”

Insight into the population is given by a listing of residents. Mr. Reynolds identifies the young ladies of the town as Penelope Hamilton, Rebecca Kennon, Jane Powell, Almedia Hill, and Miss Cleveland. Heads of household are identified as follows: Judge Scott, Judge George W. Peets, Andrew Lawson, D.H. Evans, Tillinghast Vaughn, Mr. Kirby, Madison Morrow, Todd Morrow, Abner Drake, William Hardy, Drury Murrell, Mr. Jacobs, David Laird, Tom Holmes, Mrs. Barfield, C. Reid, Joseph Berry, Nathaniel Moore, Mr. Webster, S.D. Pitts, John Chaffe, Charles Chaffe, Major Jim Lee, Captain Hiram Wilson, George Thompson, Billy Crooker, William Prothro, Sr., William Prothro, Jr., Sanders P. Day, Pike Reynolds, Rush Reynolds, Mr. Allen, Mr. Jones, Mr. Etter, Mr. Goldsmith, Widow Webb, Henry Pitts, Bill Fuller, James Fuller, J.M. Fuller, Paschal Bates, Ellison Bates, John Reiher, Mr. Montgomery, Bill Dyer, Mr. Peabody, Mr. Sherwin, W. Mooney, Chas. Mooney, M. Jackson, Mr. Crawford, J. Crownover, Gus Kellogg, and Ed Kellogg.

Although brief, Mr. Pike Reynolds letter allows us a small glimpse at how Minden had grown and developed during its earliest years. 

(Jessica Gorman is the Assistant Director and Archivist for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum in Minden and is an avid genealogist.)