Sugartown 1954

(Much of this story is from the notes of Don McFatter who gave a talk regarding the history of Sugartown)
The general consensus is that Sugartown became what could be called a permanent settlement around 1825. Many people helped to bring this about. Here is a sampling - but by no means complete - of the family names found in Sugartown's past and present: Andrews, Baggett, Bailey, Boggs, Caraway, Cole, Dickens, Gill, Jones, Holoway, Iles, Kemp, McDonald, McFatter, Moore, Officer, Sanders, Seamon, Singleton, Smith, Spears, Stracener, Watson, Welch, Weldon, Young - and the one black family in Sugartown, Cooper.

Allen Parish is two miles east on Highway 112, and Vernon Parish is two miles north on Highway 113.

Like all other pioneer communities, the people were very self-sufficient and imported very little, if anything. This condition existed for the most part until after the Civil War. Cooking was done over open fireplaces, and there was only candlelight at night. The houses were of the "dog trot" type with wooden shake roofing.

Gradually, a few enterprising people began putting in businesses at Sugartown. A tanning yard was established, along with a rope works, grist mills for grinding grain into meal, and syrup mills for making syrup. Both the grist mill and syrup mill were operated by "horsepower" in the truest sense.

The Pony Express ran out of Lake Charles and served the area for a period of time. The first post office was established in Sugartown in 1841. Prior to that, the mail had to be picked up at Belgrade, Texas, which was a boat landing on the Sabine River just south of the present town of Merryville.

It is recorded that in 1861, there were 150 families living within a ten-mile radius of Sugartown. These families didn't have many of what we refer to as conveniences, but they had a good life nevertheless. Dancing was held monthly in various homes in the community with music furnished by two black fiddlers named Uncle Rube and Joe who came over from the Ten Mile community which was located to the east of Sugartown. Campground meetings and religious gatherings were quite common back then. Many of them lasted for days and were as much a social gathering as they were religious.

Stores handling a general line of merchandise had opened during the 1860's. By 1870, they were stocking yard goods for dresses and rough jean material for men's work clothes. By the 1880's, the stores were carrying ready-made clothes.

The people of Sugartown have made many contributions through the years, but many people consider the most important contribution made by this community to be the establishment of the Male and Female Academy in 1880. This academy was felt to be the beginning of the educational system in southwest Louisiana. The first professor was WH. Baldwin out of Columbia University, New York. He was quite a recruiter and drew students from eight or nine surrounding parishes and even students from east Texas. The tuition at the academy ran from two dollars to four dollars a month.

At the turn of the 20th century, there existed in Sugartown a Masonic lodge, schools, churches, racetrack, saloons, and boarding houses, as well as several stores and doctors.

One of the notable medical doctors in Sugartown was Dr. Henry Ray Officer. He had arrived in Sugartown shortly after the turn of the century. He taught school for a couple of years and then started his medical practice. Dr. Officer did something back then that you don't find today - his office was open on Sunday. In fact, Sunday was one of the doctor's better days with two busloads of patients coming in from east Texas and remaining there most of the day while Dr. Officer checked everyone out. Each person leaving his office would be carrying one small bottle and one large bottle. It was said that these bottles made him a rich man.

The population of Sugartown began to dwindle; and businesses moved away when the railroads were laid to serve the busy sawmill towns of Bon Ami, Ludington, Fullerton, and DeRidder. Had any of these mills or rail lines been built at Sugartown, it probably would have retained its prominent role as the leader and queen city of the frontier.