Athens Louisiana

Mt. Olive Christian School occupies the former public Athens High School building.

Mt. Olive Christian School occupies the former public Athens High School building.

The history of the town of Athens, Louisiana, had its beginning more Derbigny on March 13, 1828. It was then that the settlers coming from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina had begun to arrive in North Louisiana and build their cabins, clear the fields, plant the crops, and obtain livestock by purchasing from neighboring settlements. In the latter part of 1828 John Murrell and his family left Tennessee and started in search of a home somewhere in the Red River Valley. He settled about 12 miles northwest of the town of Athens. now six miles west of Homer. For years his house was the center of all public business for the new parish; the first district court convened there with Judge Wilson of Monroe presiding, Isaac McMahon as sheriff, and Robert Cochran as clerk.than a century ago soon after the establishment of Claiborne Parish by Governor Pierre As the population in the community increased, through the Influence of Sam Russell and others, a place on Russell’s property was selected as the parish seat. This town was given the name of Russellville and was located one mile north of New Athens and East of Highway 12. James Lee and K. C. Kilgore moved their stock of goods there and became the first merchants in Russellville. Russellville, settled as early as 1825, had a rude courthouse and jail. About 1826 the first slaves were introduced into this area and the cultivation of- cotton was entered into extensively. The jail housed both white and black desperadoes of the time and in 1835 the murderer, Halthouser, was hanged.The people of this community obtained their water for drinking purposes from a spring which they had rocked up. This spring can still be seen near the home of Emmett Atkins in Athens.In 1829 the first public road was opened from Russellville to Overton or Minden Lower Landing situated on Bayou Dorcheat. Later on, a water mill was constructed on Berry Creek and gins and horse power mills were use in the neighborhood. In 1836 the – parish seat was moved to Overton and Russellville soon fell into decay. Twenty-two years later, 1858, the Salem Cumberland Presbyterian Church was established near the deserted town.In 1846 the parish seat was to be moved from Overton because of the unhealthful living conditions. It was then that Athens, the site now known as Old Athens, was selected as the seat of justice. A large area of ground and an old school building were donated by John Wilson for parish seat purposes. A flowing spring was a consideration in the selection of this site. The business part of the town consisted of the post office in charge of a Baptist preacher named Arthur McFarland, a tavern kept by Saunders P. Day; and a small store managed by a man named Kiser.Charles L. Hayes settled on the place known as the Keener farm in 1825. John Kimball settled about three and one-half miles southeast of Athens on what became known as the Nelson place. Thomas Leatherman. the Butlers, Crows, Pates, Drakes, Graves, Walkers, Millers, Brooks, Barnes, and Cardwells were some of the families identified with this section when the Hulse family arrived on January 8, 1848. The courthouse remained at Athens until 1849 when it burned with all the parish records in it. It was believed, but never proved, that some person or persons sought to destroy some particular records and, in order to do this, they burned the building with all parish records. In 1850 the grounds on which the building had stood were returned to Judge Wilson.By now the population had spread about equally throughout the parish and after the disastrous fire the parish seat was moved to Homer in the year 1849.In 1887 Major Beardsley built the Louisiana and Northwest Railroad from Gibsland to Homer: it was completed from Homer to Magnolia, Arkansas, in 1898. The building of this railroad caused the town of Athens to be moved to a site about two miles east of the old town. The new location was near the railroad. The old community then became known as Old Athens.The physicians of the new town of Athens were Dr. Curtis Albert Bailey, who attended Louisville Medical College in 1890, and Dr. Robert McAlpine Brownfield, who attended Louisvlle Medical College in 1888.On February 3, 1899, Ben Collins signed the proclamation for the town of Athens to be incorporated. This Incorporation was not finished until January 6, 1903.In 1910 the first high school was built with P. C. Fair as the new principal. This building burned in 1928, and in 1930 a new building was erected which would do justice to a town of a much larger population. The enrollment now is approximately 250 with a faculty of 17 teachers.Athens today has a population of 560 and is surrounded by a healthful and productive country with soil and climate well adapted to the raising of all products. Cotton is the leading crop; however, the production of corn and oats has increased.’The planters are giving more thought to the turning of farming lands Into pasture and to the raising of dairy and beef cattle. Pastures are being planted, reseeded, and grazed, giving higher average of butter fat and milk qualities.The village of Athens is governed by a mayor and town council. The present mayor is Reese Van Hooser and the councilmen are Murray Greer, G. W. Sims, and Grady Buckner. The town marshal is Aub L. Atkins. Athens consists of eight business houses, a masonic hall, a gin, barber shop, dry cleaning shop, telephone office, post office, and five service stations. There is a shortage of dwellings in Athens, but the majority of the homes have at least six rooms with electricity, natural gas, and water supplied by shallow well pumps. All streets of the town are blacktop.There are three active churches in Athens: Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian. A Methodist Church, known as Ashbrooks, was erected as early as 1830 and the Missionary Baptist held meetings as early as 1839, In the schoolhouse. As previously stated the Salem Presbyterian was established in 1858.A hill near Old Athens and about 475 feet above sea level is generally accepted as the highest point in Louisiana.In 1950-51 about two miles north of Athens, Skelly Camp with six homes and oil supply houses was erected. The Athens gas field is known throughout the South but is not yet completely developed.Sources:Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest LouisianANashville and Chicago: The Southern Publishing Co., 1890.Hulse, B. M., History of Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, 1886.’History of Athens” Eighth Grade, 1951.1952

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