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Visions of Vernon: Vernon Parish Communities, Markee - Mayo

Stanley Fletcher | Guest Contributor

   Markee (30.9268581 N, -93.1154365 W) was a railroad stop on the Santa Fe Railroad between DeRidder in Beauregard Parish and Oakdale in Allen Parish.  Located in T1S, R7W, Sec. 32, it was the only railroad stop between Chassmore and Cravens.

     The railroad was built in sections.  The section from DeRidder to Cravens was built in 1907.  According to post office maps, the community was called Drake from 1902 to 1904.  

     Markee was probably named after John Minard Markee of Butler County, Kansas.  He was an Illinois farmer who responded to Santa Fe Railroad's request to resettle farmers in Kansas.  In 1876 he was the first family to answer the call and purchase eighty acres from the railroad near Plum Grove, Kansas.  He died in 1878 leaving the family to pay the $380.00.

     Markee did not have a post office.  As said, the community was called Drake before the railroad and it had a post office which closed in 1904, three years before Markee was established.  Rena, also called Cole Central, which was 2 3/4 miles southeast, had a post office from 1908 to 1916, which is probably where the people of Markee received their mail.

       The first homesteaders were the land and timber barons in 1885.  Franklin Head purchased 24 tracts of 1,487 acres in 1885 and 1888.  A partnership which consisted of  Nathaniel Fairbank(s) and Turlington Harvey purchased 72 tracts of 8,096 acres from 1889 to 1892.  The barons purchased 42% of the township where Markee was located.   

     The community was late settling.  Few locals owned land in the township.  The first settler in the community was George Brister in 1902.  Other families that settled in the community were the Johnson, Perkins, Bailey, Deason, and Stracner.

     Markee was located in the southwestern edge of the township in Ward Four.  In 1878 the closest school was Drakes Fork, which was in Ward Five.  Other schools in the area were Crystal Springs to the south, Black Creek and Allen's Branch to the west, and Gravel Hill to the northeast in Ward Five.  Over the years schools were consolidated.  In 1907 only Whiskachitto School remained.  Two years later Cole Central School in the Rena community serviced the area.  Eventually, only Cole Central and Whiskachitto Schools remained.  

     Mathis(Approx. 31.333635 N, -93.019417 W) was a side camp between Longleaf and Kurthwood on the Red River and Gulf Railroad.  The side camp was six miles east of Kurthwood and 44 miles west of Longleaf.  The side camp was located in T4N, R6W, at the union of Sections 7, 8, 17, and 18.  Because the side camp was one mile east of Hutton, it never developed services.

     The years of the side camp are not known.  The railroad through the area was built from Longleaf to Kurthwood from 1917 to 1919 to supply logs and ship lumber for the Kurthwood Mill owned by the Vernon Parish Lumber Company.  The mill stopped cutting pine in 1929 and went to hardwood only.  In 1945 the mill closed completely and the rail through Mathis was picked up in 1954.    

     Why did so many side camps exist in Vernon Parish along the RR&G Railroad?  Land and timber baron Jay Gould purchased 27,066 acres of northeast Vernon Parish in 1888.  Upon his bankruptcy, Southland Timber, which was owned by Crowell and Spencer, purchased his land.  Crowell and Spencer owned Peavy-Wilson Lumber Company, Alexandria Lumber Company, and Vernon Parish Lumber Company.  Each lumber company had different railroad stops.  On the 25 mile railroad line from Longleaf to Kurthwood in Vernon Parish, there were sixteen stops, nine were section camps, three were turpentine distilleries, two were mills, one was a logging camps, and one was a community in Vernon Parish.

      Mayo (31.1993492 N, -93.0334919 W) was a late Postbellum Period hamlet established in 1899 in the southeast corner of T3N, R7W, Sec. 36.  The hamlet was also called O.K.  Once located a mile north of LA Hwy 121 on Mayo Road, it's now located on the somewhat new LA Hwy 28 between Leesville and Alexandria.  The site is about 1 1/4 mile east of the LA Hwys 121 and 28 intersection.  A pond, possibly a mill pond, is visible to the north as you pass Mayo Road.  If you've driven to Alexandria you've driven through the hamlet site.

     Mayo received a post office twice from 1899 to 1916 and 1925 to 1933.  The community had a population of 75 in 1899.  The first postmaster was Elijah L. Mayo.  He was followed by William F. Bryant in 1905, Joseph O. Mayo in 1906, Elijah L. Mayo in 1907, and Joseph O. Mayo in 1916. In the second opening from 1925 to 1933 Elizabeth L. Mayo served as the only postmaster.  The post office was low volume with an annual compensation of $52.82 in 1901. 

     Elijah homesteaded in the township in 1897.  Other early settlers were William Bryant, William Hicks, Benjamin Netherlan, and Simeon Martin.  Land and timber barons Augustus Brown, Jay Gould, and Nathaniel Fairbanks purchased much of the area in 1888 and 1890.

     When Vernon Parish's schools were established, students in the Mayo community went to Walnut Hill which was three miles away.  By 1879 additional schools were opened called Glade Springs, Loan Oak, Mulberry, and New Prospect.  In 1907-08 the only area school was Glade Springs.  By 1930-31 Glade Springs closed and Mulberry reopened.  In the same year Mulberry with 44 students and Simpson with 327 were the only schools in Ward Six.

     The earliest church close to the Mayo community was the Simpson Church of God which was three miles northeast of Mayo.  The church formed in 1897 in homes. The first pastors were Robert "Bob" Owens and William "Willie" Jackson.

     There are no cemeteries in the Mayo community, but there are several in the surrounding area.  Ebenezer, Glass Window, and Mayo Cemeteries are the burial sites of Mayo community members.