Shreveport

Last Modified: September 13, 2008History

See also:  Disaster on the Red , USS Shreveport Decommissioned , Historic Photos

Which Native American Indian tribe originally inhabited the Shreveport area?

The region of land centered around Shreveport in northwest Louisiana was originally inhabited by the Caddo Indian tribe who shared a common heritage with the Wichita and Pawnee Native American Indian tribes. The Caddo Indians’ first experience with Europeans occurred in 1542 when they were attacked near Caddo Gap in Arkansas by an expedition led by the Spanish conquistador, Hernando de Soto. Next, religious missionaries arrived in the area carrying the germs of foreign diseases from Europe and a smallpox epidemic broke out that decimated the Caddo’s population while also killing many of the newly arrived Europeans. The friendly Caddo Indians invited the Europeans to send more missionaries but when they did, another worse epidemic broke out that further reduced the Caddo population down to about 1,000. On July 1, 1835, the remaining Caddo Indians sold 1,000,000 acres of their land to the United States and in 1859 they were compelled to relocate to an Indian reservation in Oklahoma by the U.S. federal government.

Who was Captain Henry Miller Shreve?

In 1833, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hired a steamboat captain named Henry Miller Shreve to clear the Red River of the infamous Great Raft, a 165-mile long continuous pile of organic debris that had clogged the river from Loggy Bayou to Hurricane Bluffs and prevented transportation by boat. Captain Shreve had already pioneered steamboat navigation on the Ohio River, the Mississippi River and the Red River, and he had also significantly improved steamboats by adding separate boilers to power side paddlewheels independently and multiple decks to accommodate more passengers and entertainment for the passengers. With the assistance of a specially modified riverboat named the Heliopolis, 4 other steamboats and about 160 men, Captain Shreve cleared the river and opened the region for commercial development.

Who were the founders of Shreveport?

Seeing the potential for commercial profit in the area made possible by Captain Shreve’s work, some enterprising investors formed the Shreve Town Company on May 27, 1836 as a real estate brokerage firm whose purpose was to develop a new community at the intersection of the Red River and the Texas Trail, an overland trading route leading through the area into Texas. One of the founders of the Shreve Town Company was Captain Shreve himself who managed to successfully transition from the lowly status of government contractor to the elevated status of private investor. Another founder was Bushrod Jenkins, the wealthy owner of a large Red River property. Three other primary founders were Angus McNeill, Thomas Taylor Williamson and James Belton Pickett. James Cane and his brother-in-law William Smith Bennett who originally founded Cane-Bennett Trading Post in 1832 were later invited to become involved as investors in the Shreve Town Company venture.

The community created by the Shreve Town Company was named Shreveport in honor of Captain Shreve. It was incorporated as the Town of Shreveport on March 20, 1839 and it became the City of Shreveport in 1871. Shreveport originally consisted of 64 city blocks intersected by 8 streets running west from the Red River and 8 streets running south from the Cross Bayou. Today this 64-block area constitutes Shreveport’s central business district and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Why is Shreveport the Heart and Soul of Dixie?

Due to its strategic location on the Red River, Shreveport quickly became a center for steamboat commerce moving cotton and other agricultural crops grown in the South to the major markets on the East Coast. Shreveport also became a center for rebellion during the Civil War and served as the headquarters for the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederate Army. Confederate soldiers from Shreveport did not give up their fight when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia on April 9, 1865. Shreveport served as Capitol of Louisiana when Baton Rouge was overwhelmed by the Union Army and as the Capitol of the Confederacy after the fall of Richmond when Confederate President Jefferson Davis left the city. The last surrender of Confederate forces in Shreveport occurred on June 6, 1865.

For many years during the second half of the 19th century, Shreveport profited by being a central transportation hub for riverboat traffic. When commercial riverboat transportation was made obsolete by new train lines linking eastern and western America together at the end of the 19th century, Shreveport adapted by becoming a central transportation hub for trains. After the American Interstate Highway System was constructed during the 1950’s, Shreveport became a hub city for commercial trucking. In the 21st century, commodities move in and out of Shreveport-Bossier City every day via boat, train, truck and airplane, the Red River is pulsating with all kinds of new life, and residents are enjoying a new era of peace and prosperity in the Heart and Soul of Dixie where southern hospitality and charm survive with an abundance of style and grace.