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About Bienville Parish, Louisiana...
In 1690 the area that later became Bienville Parish was explored by Don Domingo Teran DeRios who was sent from Mexico to scout the area. Father Masinettes, who was with the expedition, established a mission called "Mission Loretteto". This site is near present day Ringgold, Louisiana.
Originally, Bienville Parish was a part of the Territory of Orleans, which was then known as the Parish of St. Francis. In 1805 it became part of Natchitoches County which was changed to Natchitoches Parish in 1807. In 1828 old Natchitoches was divided and portions of it (including what is presently Bienville Parish) became Claiborne Parish. In 1848 under Governor Isaac Johnson, the lower part of Claiborne Parish was split off and became Bienville Parish, it being named in honor of the "Father of Louisiana", Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Bienville.
Mt. Lebanon became the first permanent stable community in Bienville Parish. Reuben Drake came to the area, scouting land for his South Carolina families. A church and school were at the top of their priority list. For many years these people and their descendants led the state in Christianity and education. Mt.Lebanon University and its Female College branch were the pride of the region and owed their existence to the Louisiana Baptists. The college was moved to Pineville in 1907 and became Louisiana College.
The town of Sparta was the first parish seat. It was the cultural and political center of the parish until the late nineteenth century. Wagon roads led to Sparta from almost all the communities in the parish as early as the 1850’s. Despite its centralized location, Sparta proved to be a remote community and was located far away from any navigable watercourse. Merchants had to haul their goods from Lake Bistineau, 18 miles away, or from the Ouachita River. But it was the coming railroad that doomed Sparta. The railroad was constructed in the northern part of the parish in 1884 thus cutting off the town of Sparta. Arcadia and Gibsland, 20 miles north of Sparta, became boom towns and the economic focus of the parish. Arcadia became the parish seat in 1890.
The settlement which was to become Arcadia had its origins in the 1820's, but it was not until 1855 that Arcadia became an incorporated village. Shadrick P. Sutton was the first post master, and it was he who gave Arcadia its name, which means "beautiful hills." Arcadia officially became a town in 1903 when the census declared that there were one thousand residents. The original site is still known as "Old Town" and is located on the Jonesboro Highway between Highway 9 and College Street. Arcadia was originally a stagecoach stop on the Wire Road, but the town moved to its present location with the construction of the railroad.
Religious, social and educational institutions were becoming a familiar part of Bienville Parish life, along with the government and political activities that were characteristic of the older regions. All evidence points toward a Bienville Parish in 1860 that was well on its way toward fulfilling the dreams and ambition of its settlers. Yet that same year marked the beginning of a disastrous war that would destroy this progress and long retard the entire region.
While human losses were high, the Civil War took a much greater toll in the economy of the parish. The boom years of the 1850's and the strong demand for cotton had led everyone who could possibly do so to stake everything on cotton farms and slaves. Fortunes large and small were lost and more significantly, a way of life was 'gone with the wind'. Although genteel plantation culture never existed to a great extent in Bienville Parish, the hopes and dreams of the more numerous common farmers were oriented that way. Instead, the abolition of slavery ended those dreams and produced a somewhat leveling effect, wiping out wealth and reducing many of the previously affluent struggling for survival.
The coming of the railroad infused new hope in a tired land. The rails opened up markets timber. Sawmills came into the parish to harvest virgin timber. Sawmills brought jobs and the sale of timber supplemented the income derived from cotton farming. The timber industry continues to dominate the economy of Bienville parish today.
Bonnie Parker (October 1, 1910 – May 23, 1934) and Clyde Barrow (March 24, 1909 – May 23, 1934) were well-known outlaws, robbers and criminals who traveled the Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression. Their exploits captured the attention of the American public during the "public enemy era" between 1931 and 1934. The outlaws were accused of killing 12 people, nine of them policemen.
In 1934 Bienville Parish became famous as the location where law officers gunned down the infamous criminals. Their car was towed to Arcadia, Louisiana with the bodies of the young fugitives Bonnie and Clyde. The crowds were already waiting. The corpses were brought for embalming to the former Conger Funeral Home in Arcadia, the couple having been shot to death in a volley of bullets from six law-enforcement officers from both Bienville Parish and Dallas County, Texas. The bodies were then sent to Dallas for separate funerals and interments. The ambush occurred southwest of Arcadia on Louisiana State Highway 154 between Gibsland and Sailes. The focus of tourism regarding Bonnie and Clyde has been at Gibsland, where L. J. "Boots" Hinton, son of posse member Ted Hinton, operates the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum.
The parish has a total area of 822 square miles, of which 811 square miles is land and 11 square mile (1.35%) is water. The population recorded in the 1850 Federal Census was 5,539. The 2010 census recorded 14,353 residents in the Parish.
Neigboring parishes are Claiborne Parish (north), Lincoln Parish (northeast), Jackson Parish (east), Winn Parish (southeast), Natchitoches Parish (south), Red River Parish (southwest), Bossier Parish (west), and Webster Parish (northwest). Communities in the parish include Arcadia, Bienville, Bryceland, Castor, Gibsland, Jamestown, Lucky, Mt. Lebanon, Ringgold, and Saline.
Bienville Parish, Louisiana Records
Birth Records - The Louisiana State office maintains records for 100 years after the date of birth. Birth records are considered confidential for the first 100 years. For current information on who may obtain a birth record as well as how to submit a request visit the Office of Public Health, Vital Records Registry website or write to them at PO Box 60630, New Orleans, LA 70160.
Birth records older than 100 years are available through the Louisiana State Archives, 3851 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. (225) 922-1000.
Death Records - The Louisiana State office maintains records for 100 years after the date of death. Death records are considered confidential for the first 100 years. For current information on who may obtain a death record as well as how to submit a request visit the Office of Public Health, Vital Records Registry website or write to them at PO Box 60630, New Orleans, LA 70160.
Death records older than 100 years are available through the Louisiana State Archives, 3851 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. (225) 922-1000.
Marriage Records - There are thousands of Bienville Parish, Louisiana marriages here on our website. For current information on how to submit a request for a certified copy of an Orleans Parish marriage record less than 50 years old, see the Louisiana Office of Public Health Director, Vital Records and Statistics website or write to PO Box 60630, New Orleans, LA 70160.
Marriage records over 50 years are stored by the Louisiana State Archives, 3851 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. (225) 922-1000.
Divorce Records - To obtain current information on how to submit a request for a certified copy of divorce records contact the Clerk of Court. For the address of the parish Clerk of Court visit the Bienville Parish Important Addresses page.