The Legislative Act of 1871 created Vernon Parish from Sabine, Natchitoches, and Rapides Parishes. In Section Four of that act the parish was divided into six police jury districts: Ward One, Leesville; Ward Two, Anacoco and Hornbeck; Ward Three, Evans; Ward Four, Pickering and Rosepine; Ward Five, Pitkin; and Ward Six, Simpson and Hicks. Ward Seven, Rosepine, was created in 1928 and Ward Eight, Hicks, in 1938.
Other sections covered the organization and power of the police jury. Section Five established the guidelines for electing jurors. Section Six gave the jury power to oversee the construction of "suitable public buildings" which included courthouses, libraries, jails, and other buildings necessary. Section Fourteen gave the police jury "all the powers" which included overseeing public roads, maintaining schools, and public safety (sewer, water, health, etc.). For example, because of livestock kills, the police jury paid $10.00 ($281.42 in 2019 dollars) for each killed wolf in 1892.
The first police jury was appointed by Governor Henry C. Warmouth. He appointed Isaac Otis Winfree as Ward One juror, Thomas Hill Richardson in Ward Two, Henry Washington Scoggins in Ward Three, Elijah Walker Self in Ward Four, James Silas Talbert in Ward Five, and Calvin Dotson Collins in Ward Six. Henry Washington Scoggins was appointed president of the jury.
There were no road construction and maintenance workers in the early Postbellum Period. To assist the jurors, each ward had to appoint road propartioners (?) and overseers. Three propartioners were over each ward. All were community leaders such as Stanly, Smart, McAlpin, Koonce, Knight, and thirteen more. About fifteen overseers were assigned to each ward to oversee citizens which did the physical work of constructing and maintaining roads. Overseers could also assign road sections to citizens who maintained the road, especially along their property.
According to Martha R. Field, pen name Catherine Cole, of the New Orleans Daily Picayune, roads in Postbellum Vernon Parish were no better than before the Civil War. That changed in 1897 when the police jury passed a law overseeing the construction and maintenance of roads. The law stated that all males between eighteen and fifty years of age were subject to work on the parish's public roads. Men were given ten day notices of road duty which could not exceed twelve days per year. Fines were enacted for those who ignored the call.
The law also stated road construction guidelines. Parish roads were to be 18 feet wide, 14 of which had to be clear of all obstructions. Road shoulders could have stumps no higher than six inches. Bridges had to be at least twelve feet wide. A fine of $30.00 was enacted for violations.
Communities shift. With those shifts, roads shift also. Next week's article will look at changing communities and roads in the Postbellum Period. Writings by Catherine Cole plus maps by Lockett (1876), Gray (1880), U.S. Postal Service (1885), and others will be reviewed.