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The History of North Central Goes Back to 1800’s

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    This article was written from documents owned by The Central Historical Society.  Many thanks to the Society for their willingness to share their wealth of information.  Check out the Central History Section at the Joor Road Branch of the Public Library.

    The ties that exist amongst the families of the Milldale area date back to the Euro-American settlement of the area.  Planters from the eastern seaboard states of the Carolinas and Georgia, with their slaves, travelled across the Southwestern frontier through Tennessee and down into the Mississippi territory.  By 1800 the Drehrs, Kellys, Chaneys and Norwoods settled in East Feliciana Parish in Louisiana.  The next generation moved into East Baton Rouge Parish and replaced an earlier Anglo settlement that had established land grants under the British and Spanish governments which controlled West Florida before 1810.   

    The population until the Civil War was about half white and half slave.  Settlements were established along bodies of water such as the Amite and Comite Rivers and Sandy Creek.

    Two core areas existed in the settlement along Sandy Creek.  At the confluence of Sandy Creek with the Amite River the people tended to be Methodist and the focal point of the community was the Bethel Church.  This was later called Indian Mound.  North along the west side of Sandy Creek more of the people were Baptist.  This upper settlement became known as Pride.  The area developed west toward the Comite River and the settlements of Deerford and Milldale came into existence.  Along the east side of the Comite River, settlement was sparse and chiefly consisted of the Norwood and Chaney plantations.  After the Civil War, the landowners that remained faced a vastly changed set of economic and social relations with a newly freed population, immigration and natural population growth.  The rural community of the 19th and early 20th centuries centered on the community hub of the country store, church, post office and one-room schoolhouse.

    The naming of schools and post offices played a symbolic role in the formation of rural communities during the Post-Reconstruction period (1877-1910).  With a name, a sense of community was fostered by a communal identity for families who lived in the area.  Burlington is a name that appears on early maps and it was located on the Amite River about two miles south of the confluence with Sandy Creek.  A ferry crossed at Burlington and a post office, cotton gin, and blacksmith shop were in operation.  A post office with the name of Sandy Creek existed during the early 1830’s in the lower Sandy Creek settlement.  The post office was soon transferred to Burlington.  During the 1850’s Greenwell Springs came into existence as a resort and the post office was moved there in 1854.  A post office by the name of Pine Grove served the upper Sandy Creek settlement during the 1830’s.  Stoney Point took over the mail service in 1840.  There was a ferry and a post office at Stoney Point until 1918.  During the Reconstruction Period (1865-1877) the post office at Port Hudson served the northern end of the Parish.  It was during the Post-Reconstruction Period that many contract post offices sprang up in the countryside.  Applications for post offices required detailed descriptions concerning location.  This information was translated onto maps.  No towns existed in this rural area of East Baton Rouge Parish.  The names for the places marked on maps originated with the name the first contract postmaster chose.  In most instances, it was a country store owner who applied for a contract post office.  The shortest lived post offices opened during this century were the Milldale and Tucker post offices.

    Sawmills came into existence at the turn of the century and provided men with their first opportunity to work off the farm for cash.  Until the roads were graveled and labor was hired to maintain them and the opening of Standard Oil, sawmills and the cutting of cross-ties and staves was the main occupation outside of farming.  Sawmills were located in Milldale, Deerford, and Baywood.  Wood production shaped the rural communities in the South during this time.  The increased availability of cash due to wood products led to a more stable situation for a country store owner.  The crop lien system had not been favorable for a country store owner.  Men traded staves at the store to pay for their groceries and for cash.  There were stores located in Deerford, Milldale and Pride.

    The value of wood products lent itself to local cultural interpretation through membership in the “Woodmen of the World”, a fraternal organization that provided burial insurance to its members.  This organization played a significant role in the leadership of the white community. 

    The Standard Oil Corporation built a refinery in Baton Rouge in 1910, and over the next decades other national corporations opened plants along the Mississippi River.  Men found jobs outside the local area and many families left.  Farming became a part time endeavor and cotton fields were turned into cow pastures.  Rural electrification through the leadership of Wesley Long was brought into the area.  Farmers, chiefly cattlemen, organized themselves into a profession.

    Much of the local community life changed as early as 1930 with the consolidation of the Baywood, Milldale, and Deerford schools into Pride High School.  The churches at Baywood, Pride and Deerford remained as the only expression of localism.

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