One of the sixty-four parishes of Louisiana,
Caddo Parish was formed in 1838. A parish is the same as
a county in any other state, as Louisiana is the only
state to have parishes. Early on, however, Louisiana was
divided into counties.
In 1804 President Thomas Jefferson
appointed William C. C. Claiborne as governor of the
Territory of Orleans, as Louisiana was known in its
first years. On April 10, 1805, Louisiana was divided
into twelve counties. The largest, Natchitoches County,
included all of Louisiana north of Rapides County and
west of Washita (Ouachita) County.
To better understand the vastness of this area, nine
parishes were subsequently formed from this area:
Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto,
Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, and Webster.
The legislature soon established nineteen
parishes to coexist with the counties.
In 1812, when Louisiana became a state, North Louisiana
included Natchitoches, Ouachita, Warren, Catahoula,
Concordia, and Rapides Counties.
People were heading north and west into Texas from
Louisiana, and enough of a population existed in
Natchitoches County to create Claiborne Parish, named
for the governor, in 1828. This parish consisted of all
the land east of the Red River in northern Natchitoches
In 1835 the Caddo Indians
ceded their land to the United States, and the area was
opened up for settlement. Within three years the area
had enough people to create another parish. Thus, Caddo
Parish was created on January 18, 1838. The name,
suggested by legislation member W. H. Sparke, refers to
the Caddo Indians.
Caddo’s first parish seat was at the Wallace family home
situated along Wallace Lake, but it eventually moved to
The boundaries of the new parish were not set until
Originally Caddo Parish was framed by the Arkansas line
at the north and the Red River at the east, but it
extended farther south than it does today. The western
boundary was the line dividing the established
United States from the territory which had been part of
the Louisiana Purchase. The line was accepted by
settlers in the area, but in 1841 a survey of the border
was made and determined to be seven miles east of the
generally accepted line; therefore, Louisiana lost a
stretch of land seven miles wide and about seventy miles
long. (This area is now part of Harrison, Marion, Cass,
and Bowie Counties in Texas.)
In 1843 DeSoto and Sabine
Parishes were created and took land from the southern
part of Caddo Parish. In 1845 the state created a new
constitution which was based solely on the parish
system, and the counties evaporated.
In 1845 the state of the
parish’s western boundary was altered when Texas was
annexed to the Union. No longer would the western
boundary be an international boundary. But that has not
been the only boundary change. The course of the Red
River, the eastern boundary, has changed often, although
the river as a boundary has not. Several sections of
land east of the river, which appear to be in Bossier
Parish, actually belong to Caddo Parish, and the
opposite is true for Bossier Parish.
Settlers bought the land in Northwest
Louisiana from the government and established
plantations, primarily growing cotton, which was the
staple crop of the South. By 1860 Caddo Parish was
leading in cotton production in the state with Carroll
Parish (which had not yet divided into East and West
Carroll Parishes) following closely behind.
With the on slot of the Civil War,
military activity accelerated from June until December
of 1861 with some of the parishes surpassing their
required number of soldiers. The parishes in the river
areas of North Louisiana, such as Caddo, Carroll,
Bossier, and Ouachita had pulled together several
companies, and these parishes subsequently increased
their war efforts with more military units, such as the
Caddo Rifles in North Louisiana.
In 1873 the state was still suffering
greatly from the harshness of the Reconstruction
government. Caddo, Bossier, and DeSoto Parishes found
the situation intolerable and attempted to break away
from Louisiana to join Texas. For this to happen,
Louisiana’s legislature would have had to approve, and
the carpetbaggers serving as members would not allow it.
Sawmills came to the area because of the
timber, and steamboats and railroads transported the
lumber to the Northeast factories. Cotton and timber
served as the greatest economic resources until the
turn-of-the-century; however, farmers in Caddo Parish
were frustrated. Drilling water wells for their
livestock or for drinking water for themselves proved
useless, as their water continuously came out sour. Some
began to wonder if natural gas could be causing the
In 1901 oil was discovered near
Beaumont, Texas at Spindletop and at Jennings and at
White Castle, Louisiana. Four years later in May, five
barrels of oil were produced in the Caddo-Pine Island
Field. By 1911 the Gulf Refining Company had
successfully drilled oil on Caddo Lake; this was the
first off-shore drilling in the nation. The 1930’s saw
another oil boom as people began to flock to Rodessa.
for a listing of Caddo Parish sites that are listed on
the National Register of Historic Places.
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