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Vision of Vernon: Vernon Parish Communities, New Llano - Nona

Stanley Fletcher | Local Historian
Leesville Daily Leader

 New Llano (31.114722 N, -93.279722 W) is a town once located two miles south of Leesville in T2N,R9W.  Called Stables from 1905 to 1917, it was purchased in 1917 by the Llano del Rio Colony from Llano, California and renamed New Llano.

     The founder of the colony was Rev. Job Harriman (1861-1925) from Indiana.  He ran for vice-president on the socialist ticket in 1900 then ran for mayor of Los Angeles twice.  Job became convinced that the political system was not the answer but a self-sufficient community with socialist ideas was.  He formed the Llano del Rio Colony in 1914 on 9,000 acres in the Antelope Valley, 45 miles north of Los Angeles.

     To be a full member of the colony you had to purchase 2,000 shares at $1.00 per share.  As a full member you received full voting rights and $4.00 a day in tokens.  If you joined with less than $2,000.00 you received less than $4.00 per day in tokens and the money went toward purchase of 2,000 shares for full membership.  Those with needed skills paid nothing, but made periodic payments.

     In three years the colony grew to 1,000 members.  With ten inches of rain a year, obtaining water for farming became a problem so they applied for a permit to build a dam.  They were denied permission to dam a nearby stream because of close proximity to the Sierra Madre Fault.  The colonists had to move.   

     The colonists set their eyes on Stables in Vernon Parish.  It was a sawmill town owned by the Gulf Lumber Company.  In 1916 the mill burned for a second time and the company decided to sell the mill site.  The company decided to sell 20,000 acres of the 106,000 it owned to the colonists for $6.00 an acre.

     In October, 1917 about 200 colonists arrived by train from Llano, California.  A colony from Texas joined them, but left quickly.  From 1918 to 1924 the colony faced hardships.

     The basic structure of the colony was the family.  Mothers stayed at home with babies for two years.  After two years small children stayed in daycare and mom went back to work.  Older children lived in single-gender communal housing and worked in the Kid Kolony.   Meals were served in the communal dining room.  

     Social life included after-work club meetings, night learning, musical instrument classes, and other activities.  Entertainment included dancing, theater, singing, bands, card games, and table games.   Physical activities included swimming, baseball, football, track, and tennis.

     The colony had 29 industries, some of which were a broom factory, harness shop, ice plant, and print shop.  Eight farm/ranch ventures included agriculture, dairy, poultry, hog, sheep, and goat.  The colony purchased a 546 acre rice farm in Jeff Davis Parish, a 2,760 acre sugar plantation in Terrebonne Parish, a 3,500 acre cattle ranch in Gila, New Mexico, and a citrus farm in Freeport, Texas.

     The colony had a school which stressed the Montessori system.  Early education was stressed along with hands-on learning.  Older students attended school for half a day and learned a skill the other half.  The Commonwealth College offered classes for adult education.  Non-colonists could attend school in exchange for labor.

     Colonists could not practice their religions openly.  They could practice their religions in their homes.  Marriages and funerals were void of religion.

     Problems started in 1927 when the colony went into receivership for unpaid debts, which it recovered.  The second receivership was in 1937, which it did not recover.  The colony ended in 1939.  All assets were sold to buyers. 

     Why did the colony fail?  There were fourteen reasons.  Some of them were the influx of unskilled and uneducated members, no-return spending, exploitation by outside forces, lack of cohesion, and the building of Camp Polk which offered jobs.

     Nitram (30.9543569 N, -92.9926552 W) was a rail village at the junction of the north-south Gulf and Sabine River Railroad from Fullerton and the east-west Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad from DeRidder to Oakdale.  It was located in T1S, R6W, Sec. 28.

     Nitram was named after Walter A. Martin (1871-1928) who was the general manager of Gulf Lumber Company's operations in Louisiana.  According to the 1900 Census, he was a sawmill manager in Leesville in 1900.  Nitram is a semi-palindrome for Martin.  It's unclear why his name was spelled backward.

     Records disagree about Nitram's post office.  According to post office records,  Nitram had a post office in 1914 and 1915 with John O'Quinn and Annie Wade as postmasters.  According to other post office records, the post office was planned, but never opened.

     Nitram was on present-day LA Hwy 10 about 3.6 miles west of Pitkin and 2.7 miles east of Cravens.  The historic village site is 1/4 to 1/2 mile south of the highway on the south bank of Little Sixmile Creek.  You have to reach it by foot.

     Nona'slocation is a mystery.  Records disagree.  Post office maps have it in north Vernon Parish in T3N, R8W, 13 miles north of Leesville on Comrade Creek.  My guess is Nona was an end camp or turpentine distillery on Nona's Leesville East & West Railroad.  However, Nona's two railroads went west to Schley and east to Front.  No line went north.

     Nona received its name from Nona, Texas in Hardin County.  The company, Nona Mills, built a sawmill in Leesville in 1899.

     Written records have it adjacent to Leesville for the population to be included in  Leesville's 1900 census.  Leesville's population went from non-incorporation (fewer than 150) in 1890 to a town in 1900 with 1,148 people. 

     According to post office records, Nona received a post office in 1909 with a population of 75.  James A. Grant, Sr. was the postmaster from 1909 to 1917 and his son, John D. Grant, from 1917 to closure in 1921.  Mail from Nona went to Kurthwood.  Because mail from Nona went to Kurthwood and not Leesville, the post office was in north Vernon Parish, thirteen miles away.  Also, the postmaster lived on present day Grant Road which was less than one mile from Kurthwood.  It is unclear why Nona had a post office in north Vernon Parish, if it did.

     The Nona Mills Lumber Company was good to the people of Leesville.  The mill employed 370 workers.  The mill put $15,000.00 into Leesville's economy monthly.  The company built a new waterworks, fire department, swimming pool, two churches for whites and blacks, ice plant, and more. 

     When did Nona Mill close in Leesville?  The post office closed in 1921.  Records say the mill lasted 25 years, which would mean it closed in 1924.