Visions of Vernon: Vernon Parish Communities, Hicks Crossing - Hornbeck

Stanley Fletcher
Leesville Daily Leader

    Hicks Crossing (31.2276815 N, -93.9404333 W)  was a north-south crossing of the Calcasieu River between LA Hwy. 465 in the Simpson community and LA Hwy. 121 in the Hicks community.  The crossing is on Sheep Farm Road, also called Hicks Crossing Road, also called Vernon Parish Road 830.  Today, the southern end of the road is LA Hwy. 28 between Leesville and Alexandria.  

     Hicks Crossing is found on early Vernon Parish maps.  In the 1800s the crossing was used by settlers who came into present-day Vernon Parish from the northeast.  The Monett's Ferry on the Red River to Huddleston trace used the crossing to cross the Calcasieu River.  In the early 1900s the crossing connected the Simpson community with the southeast LaCamp community.  In more recent years the crossing connects the communities of Simpson with the southwest community of Hicks.

     Hood, (31.2885129 N, -92.8932099 W) also called Benasco, was a turpentine camp located between Kurthwood and Longleaf on the Red River and Gulf Railroad.  It was located eighteen miles east of Kurthwood.

     Hood was named after William Allen Hood who was the manager of Lake Charles Naval Stores from New Orleans.  Benasco was an Italian town that was the center of the naval store industry in Italy.  The town was destroyed by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796 and 100 men were executed.  Benasco's turpentine products were stolen for the French navy.

     Hood received a post office for six years from 1919 to 1925 with Benjamin F. Williams as the only postmaster.  Benjamin was a railroad engineer.  Mail from Hood went to Sieper.

     There is disagreement about the location of  Hood.  According to railroad maps, Hood was a camp on the mainline of the RR&G Railroad at mile marker 32.  According to post office maps, the camp was a side camp located on a north spur one mile from the mainline.  

     In 1930-31 Hood had one of eleven black schools in Vernon Parish with an enrollment of 37 students with one teacher.  The closest white school was Stille which was five miles east of Hood at mile marker 27 on the RR&G Railroad. 

     To get to Hood take LA Hwy 8 east from Leesville.  Turn right on the first road after Temple which is Hood Camp Road.  Drive three miles to VP Road 51.  Hood was located at the intersection.  The site is 7.9 miles NE of Simpson and 24 miles NE of Leesville.

     Hornbeck (31.325937 N, -93.395945 W) had an early history as a crossroad community in the 1830s.  The community was slow to develop.  There were no large streams to float logs and the land was too poor and hilly for large-scale farming.  Only subsistence farming existed.

     Hornbeck is in T4N, R10W.  The first family in the township was the Self family.  In 1860 William H. Self received 320 acres in the Pleasant View Cemetery in Section 34, which was three miles south of present-day Hornbeck.

     Hornbeck is located in Section Sixteen, which was owned by Vernon Parish Schools.  For this reason, there were no land patents.  The first land owners were  Henry Solomon Beckcom from  Georgia and John McInnis from Union Parish, who homesteaded in Section 20 to the southwest.  Both received 160 acre land grants in 1889 at the present-day intersection of LA Hwys. 473 and 392.

     In the 1880s land barons purchased one-fourth of Vernon Parish.  In T4N, R10W, where Hornbeck is located, Jay Gould purchased sixteen land grants in the township in 1888.

     According to post office records, a post office was established one to two miles north of Barham in 1891in a hamlet called Adaline..  The land description puts the hamlet in present-day Hornbeck.  Adaline was on the 1876 trace from Kisatchie to Bevil's Ferry.  The trace eventually became LA Hwy. 392 to the east and LA Hwys. 392 and 473 to the west.

     In 1897 the Kansas City Southern Railroad was built through present-day Hornbeck.  Frederick "Fred" Augustus Hornbeck was employed by the Arkansas Town Site Company as a land agent for the railroad.  It was his job to purchase the land, create a town plan, and sell lots.  He purchased what was to become Hornbeck for $8,640.00.

     The KCS Railroad had plans for Hornbeck.  KCS offices,  a roundhouse, brick kiln, water tank, maintenance shops, and other railroad-supporting facilities were built.  For whatever reason it didn't pan out and Leesville became the center of KCS operations in 1912.  The population of Hornbeck dropped from 459 in 1910 to 350 in 1920.

     Hornbeck incorporated in 1902.  Governor William Heard appointed the first government.  He appointed William M. Conerly, a grocery salesman, as first mayor.   The village had a bank, a newspaper, five two-story hotels, five saloons, ten mercantile stores, a school, and a sawmill.  

     KCS's decision to move the railroad division did not kill Hornbeck.  Hornbeck's crossroad position remained important.  Hornbeck had a village sawmill plus two sawmills at Barham and Everett.  There was a large turpentine distillery at Auburn.  Farming, especially cotton, continued to be a source of income.  The small sawmills were eventually overtaken by the much larger mills and closed in the 1830s. 

     Hornbeck received a post office in 1897 which is still open.  The earliest postmaster was Walter E. Cary.  Postmasters that followed were Daniel B. Pate from 1897 to 1914, Leon Palmer from 1914 to 1915, Sallie A. Harrell from 1915 to 1942, Joy Pate from 1942 to 1943, Joy Pate Cabra from 1944 to 1970, and Bernice O. Cabra in 1971.  

     Hornbeck is in Ward Two.  In the 1870s when the Vernon Parish School System was established, Ward Two received twelve white and two black schools.  The twelve white schools were China Grove, O.K., Oak Grove, New Chapel, Anacoco, Pleasant Grove, Beech Grove, Touro (Toro), Holly Grove, Mitchell, Pine Grove, and Good Hope.  The two black schools were Mulberry Flat and Pine Grove.  Using land ownership and school records, it was determined the schools closest to present-day Hornbeck were Oak Grove, New Chapel, and Touro (Toro).   

     In 1898 the village of Hornbeck received a public school with two teachers.  In 1907 the community received a secondary school.  In the 1930-31 school year Hornbeck had the fourth largest school in Vernon Parish with 323 students. 

     Today, Hornbeck is village with a 2018 population of 440.  It is located 22.2 miles north of Leesville on U.S. Hwy 171 and is known as the "Gateway" to Toledo Bend.