Visions of Vernon Vernon Parish Communities, Bevil's Ferry - Black Land Cottage

Vernon Parish Historian

In 1820 he lived in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  The first mention of him was in Texas history in 1823 as a surveyor from Louisiana.  John surveyed a route from Alexandria, Louisiana to Austin, Texas (TX Hwy. 21). He returned to Texas from Natchitoches the following year in 1824 and received a league of land (4,426 acres) and began his ferry service in 1829.

 Some maps label the site as Bevil's Crossing, suggesting he never developed a ferry service.  The crossing was located where the Kisatchie Wold crossed the Sabine River.  

A wold is a hilly or rolling region that is generally open and resistant to erosion.  

The wold offered a sandstone bottom void of mud and sand where cattle could cross easily during low water.  

For this reason the crossing was located on the Upper Beef Trail from Jasper and Zavalla in Texas to Alexandria and Natchitoches in Louisiana.

Other maps label the site as Bevil's Ferry.  In 1836 Texas independence was gained from Mexico and Texas became an independent country.  The U.S. had to establish an international boundary. In 1840 the steamboat Albert Gallatin # 1 surveyed the Sabine River to Logansport.  On the 1840 map the site was labeled Bevil's Ferry at the mouth of Mill Creek, 300 river miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The ferry was located at the south end of several extreme meanders knows as Widow's Bend.

In 1848 and 1849 William David Hadden received two land grants on the Louisiana side of the Sabine River consisting of 21.3 and 45.5 acres of land at the mouth of Mill Creek at the end of present-day Old River Road.  The site became Hadden's Ferry.   

 Little is known about William Hadden.  He was born in New York in 1786 and lived in Kentucky according to the 1820, 1830, and 1840 censuses.  He served in the War of 1812 for which he received a pension of $4.00 per month. In 1843 his wife Susanna died and he moved to Louisiana, where he remained single.  In Louisiana he was listed as a slave owner.

Hadden's Ferry never developed into a community of size.  It did not have a post office. Toledo, which was six miles upriver on the Texas side, was a large agricultural community that supported the ferry community.  

 William died in 1852.  It is not known who operated the ferry from 1852 to 1925.  He had six children with Susanna, yet in 1850 he lived alone.  None were recorded in the Sabine Parish censuses. In 1925 the ferry was sold to R. Ferguson, probably George Rose Ferguson, who was manager of the Nona Mills Lumber Co. in Leesville.  The ferry was discontinued. Today the site can be found at the end of Old River Road off of LA Hwy. 392.   

Billy Goat Hill is a community 1.9 miles south of New Llano on U.S. Hwy. 171 on a hill 76 feet above Castor Creek's floodplain.  Called Huddleston in 1847, it was the oldest community in central Vernon Parish with a history that goes back to the 1830s.  The community was a crossroad community on a north-south trace in 1841 and on an east-west trace in 1845. After 1876 the community ceased to exist as Huddleston.

Today the site (T1N, R9W, Sec. 3) is called Billy Goat Hill.  The name of the community goes back to the late 1800s or early 1900s when open-range was the law.  Most of the people were farmers who let their goats roam freely, even on roads.

It was homesteaded by Elizabeth Embar White in 1899 on both sides of U.S. Hwy. 171.  She farmed the 120 acres until 1909 when she died. Other farmers were Newton McLaren, James O'Banion, Marma Fletcher, Lyman McManus, and many others who listed farming as their source of income.    

If you google Billy Goat Hill you get Billy Goat Hill Recreation District, also known as The Strip.  Today it contains many watering holes for young people on Friday and Saturday nights.   

Black Land Cottage was a crossroad community on a north-south trace from Huddleston to Anacoco and an east-west trace from Hawthorn(e) to Burr Ferry.  Located three miles west of Hawthorn(e), it was also called Black Land by some and Cottage by others. The store-post office was owned by Nathan Bray, Vernon Parish's first judge and ran by his son, Cavil Bray.  The community post office opened in 1873 with a population of 150 people and closed in 1884. As Leesville became more established, the north-south road from Huddleston to Anacoco went through Leesville and not through Black Land Cottage to the west.

Cavil was born in England in 1834.  He arrived in 1840 in New Orleans with his family from England on the ship Bombay.  According to the 1860 census, he was a 26 year old school teacher in Sabine Parish, which is where Black Land Cottage was in 1860.  He left education and listed himself as a farmer in 1870 and 1880. The school remained open many years after Many Ward became part of Vernon Parish in 1871 and was listed in Vernon Parish Police Jury records as a school in the 1907-1908 school year.

As with Huddleston, it was a cotton-growing area.  A check ofUSDA Vernon Parish Soil Survey  shows T2N, R9W, Sec. 6 contains Hornbeck soil (HoC, HoD), which locals call blackland or gumbo.  The neighborhood depended on cotton as a source of income.

Today the site of Black Land Cottage is on Ford Stewart Road between Lake Vernon and Wyatt Creek.