City of Shreveport
As Americans headed West, some sent their
steamboats up the
Red River and traveled
on horseback or in wagons, frequently traveling through
the area because it was higher ground. This was known
as the Texas Trail numerous years before Shreveport was
James Huntington Cane and William Smith
Bennett opened a store in a one-room cabin and called it
“Cane’s & Bennett’s Bluff.” When they actually arrived
is in question, but one piece of history records their
names with the date 1832. It was illegal for whites to
settle in this area because it had been designated as
Indian territory, but settlers came anyway, noting the
area’s potential importance. Groups traveling West often
stayed in the area for a year to farm before continuing
their journey; however, many of them never headed West,
choosing to stay on the land.
Saloons, gambling houses, and dance halls
appeared on Commerce Street, giving entertainment to
those who had boarded up their houses and moved West.
Caddo Indians sold their land to
the United States in 1835, they gave a section of the
land to their friend and interpreter, Larkin Edwards,
who had arrived from Tennessee at the time of the
sold the land in that same year to Angus McNeill, who
located a claim where Shreveport was built. McNeill
along with Cane, Bennett, Thomas Taylor Williamson of
Arkansas, Sturgis Sprague from Mississippi, Bushrod
Jenkins from Natchitoches Parish, James Belton Pickett
from South Carolina, and
Henry Miller Shreve from
Pennsylvania were the founders of the Shreve Town
Company on May 27, 1836.
These seven investors established the town and invited
Shreve to plat it.
It was born “Shreve’s Town” and renamed “Shreveport” in
This was the second city in Louisiana, planned because
of the fertility of the land and the location along the
Red River after it was opened.
formed a community measuring eight streets long and
eight wide with the Public Square on Block 23.8
These streets now form present-day downtown Shreveport.
With Texas gaining its independence in 1836,
Shreveport’s main street
was named Texas Trail and
renamed Texas Avenue after its extension. Caddo Street
was named for the Caddo Indians, who first owned the
land, and Cotton bears the name of the area’s staple
crop. Hopeful names were given to Commerce and Market
Streets, as the founders anticipated their development
into prosperous business streets; the first market house
also stood at the northwest intersection of Texas and
Market Streets. Fannin, Travis, Milam, and Crockett
Streets honor those who died at Goliad, the Alamo, and
San Jacinto: Colonel J. W. Fannin; twenty-seven-year-old
Colonel William Barrett Travis; Ben Milam of Kentucky;
and David Crockett, who died at the Alamo. Edwards
Street remembers Caddo Indian interpreter Larkin
Edwards, McNeill Street bears the name of the Shreve
Town Company’s president, and Marshall Street was named
for Colonel Henry Marshall, who
settled in Gloster,
Louisiana. Spring Street called to mind the nearby
which gave water to the cattle and pasture of
the owner of a nearby pioneer
boarding house. Lake
Street was fittingly named, as it was interrupted by
Shreveport had been challenged by another
rising community, Coates Bluff, which had opened the
first area post office on April 10, 1838.
community, located on what is now Stoner Hill, had begun
with a trading post owned by McLeod and Carr. Using the
Eradicator, Shreve dug a ditch across the
forty-two-yard neck of the river circle that went around
Coates Bluff, leaving the community dry.
The post office was moved to Shreveport on May 15, 1838,
and former Corps of Engineers officer Captain Charles A.
Sewall was named postmaster.
Shreveport was also designated Caddo Parish’s seat of
justice. In 1843 an argument began over moving the
parish seat to
Greenwood. Shreveport lacked a strong
judicial system, but in 1839 the city fathers passed the
first ordinances in the city. These ordinances included
the removal the trees and stumps along Commerce Street
and the creation of Cross Bayou.
In 1840 the parish’s population had risen to
Merchants and brokers were abundant, serving as
middlemen in the cotton economy. Business expanded
during the 1840s.
The police jury recorded its first minutes in 1840, and
the first Citizens Bank of Louisiana opened a branch in
Shreveport in 1842. The first volunteer fire department
was also organized in 1847. With the outbreak of the
Mexican War, a company of volunteers organized to serve
under Lawrence P. Crain and William Flournoy.
By 1850 Shreveport had a population of 3,634
whites, 5,208 slaves, and forty-two free people of
color, as well as a bad reputation; the community was
filled with one Methodist church, one Baptist church, a
jail, a courthouse, several hotels, a number of saloons,
gambling houses, and at least two brothels.
Albert Harris Leonard’s family first came to Shreveport on a
steamboat in 1849. He recalled that as a boy, watching
from the gallery of the Palmetto Hotel, an attacker
stabbed another man to death in the street.
It was not until 1860, with the Public
Square being too far from the Red River, that Block 23
was used for the
By the beginning of the 1860s, Shreveport’s population
made it the seventh largest city in Louisiana. The
total population equaled 3,500 with 2,200 of them being
free. Shreveport contained the only notable shipyard in
the upper Red River region.
LEADING INTO THE CIVIL WAR
Whigs, nationalists supporting harmony and trust,
supported a strong national financial system,
protectionism, and internal improvements. They were
popular with area businessmen and planters, and in the
1844 and 1852 elections for Henry Clay and General
Winfield Scott, Shreveport threw its support to the Whig
party. The party collapsed with the Kansas-Nebraska Act
of 1854. The former Whigs then joined the Know Nothing
party; in 1856 Shreveport supported the Know Nothing
candidate, Millard Fillmore. The community supported
John Bell and the Constitutional Union party in 1860,
but the rural areas in Caddo Parish supported Democrat
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