In United States history , a carpetbagger was a Northerner who moved to the South after the American Civil War, during Reconstruction (1865-1877). "Carpetbagger" was a term referring to the carpet bags (a form of cheap luggage at the time) which many of these newcomers carried.
In Vernon Parish, carpetbagging started much later than 1865 - 1877. The lack of a railroad made large-scale timber harvest impossible. There were no money to be made in timber.
In the 1800s Vernon Parish was covered in timber. The problem was getting it to the mill and lumber to market. The railroad changed that. In 1887 Arthur Stilwell formed the Kansas City Southern Railroad and announced a railroad to the Gulf of Mexico through Vernon Parish. Land speculators jumped on Vernon Parish like flies on honey.
The land patent system has seen many changes in our nation's history. The history started with the Land Ordinance of 1785 which required $2.00 an acre and 640 acres minimum ($33,793.58 in today's dollars). The Land Act of 1820 lowered the price to $1.25 an acre and 80 acres minimum ($2,188.82 in today's dollars). The Homestead Act of 1862 gave 160 free acres per homestead for an $18.00 fee.
The first and last land patent issued to a carpetbagger in Vernon Parish was Nathaniel Fairbanks (Founder of Fairy Soap, then Proctor & Gamble) in 1872 (160 acres) on present-day Ft. Polk in the Holly Springs Cemetery community. Fairbanks was also last in 1934 (520 acres) on present-day Sandy Hill. During those sixty-two years 1,550 patents were issued to ten speculators, six individuals and four groups. From 1888 to1890 54% of the 1,550 patents were issued. Land speculators received 213,599.26 acres in a parish with 858,240 acres (25%).
In this research, carpetbaggers with fewer than fifty patents were not included. Many small carpetbaggers like George E. Avery with 38, Michael Kelley with 35, Henry Lamport with 43, and many others were excluded.
Also, the research was limited to the "first generation" of carpetbaggers. Only two, Lutcher-Moore (Fal) and Van Schaick-Carpenter (Ludington), were in the lumber business and brought jobs to Vernon Parish. The remaining eight were land speculators who took advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862. They knew land values would increase in ten years with the coming of the railroad.
The six individual and four group land speculators were:
Augustus Brown - 130 patents in 1890 consisting of 17,082.41 acres
Nathaniel K. Fairbanks (2x) - 130 (individual) patents in 1872, 1888, 1890, 1892, 1934 consisting of 32,756.24 acres
Jay Gould - 95 patents in 1888 consisting of 27,066.42 acres
Charles Hackley - 306 patents in 1888 & 1890 consisting of 36,946.27 acres
Franklin H. Head - 180 patents in 1884, 1885, 1888, 1890 consisting of 16,489.27 acres
Group # 13 (Van Schaick & Carpenter) - 82 patents in 1890 & 1898 consisting of 5,220.13 acres; Groups # 23 & 24 (Fairbanks & Harvey) - 258 patents 1889-1892 consisting of 26,953.95 acres
Groups # 58 & 59 (Lutcher & Moore) - 293 patents in 1888-1890 consisting of 14,047.12 acres
Group # 65 (Pack & Woods) - 76 patents in 1884-1886 and 1891 consisting of 10,083.50 acres.
The second generation of carpetbaggers came with the railroad. Lumber barons like William Pickering, Samuel Fullerton, Joseph Kurth, Clarence Slagle, and many others will buy the timber-covered land called green gold by many.