Did You Know?: Bienville Parish Has a Salty Past

Since it’s earliest beginnings, Bienville parish was a major producer of salt for the surrounding areas. Most families of the period would have an iron kettle for boiling off briny water and collecting the salt left behind. During the civil war, blockades took their toll on the southern states and salt was particularly difficult to get. At peak production, Raborn’s and King’s domes provided a majority of the salt available in the Confederate States. Sources say people would come from as far as Alabama to trade goods for Bienville salt. At the height of production during the war, salt seekers would pay the landowners a rent fee of 37 cents per bushel for their salt and use of wood cut from the property. Sources claim that Mr. Raborn would collect $375 per day on rents from his salt licks. If you had the same deal going on today, you’d be collecting over $8000 from your salt seekers! You could call me salty all you want for that kinda rent!

Another tale says that a “fastidious Frenchman” named Thomassy appeared in the area around Lake Bistineau in 1862 and began laying plans for giant solar stills to increase the production of salt while requiring less labor and resources than the use of kettles and fires. He built a large house near Tadpole Slough, an area which still bears the nickname Frenchman’s island. Unfortunately, before too much of the experiment got underway, a group of men from Arkansas seized the land by threat of violence and dug out “sink wells” instead. Monsieur Thomassay loaded into his wagon and departed the island, promising to return with troops to reinforce his stead. We now know the Frenchman as Raymond Thomassy, a published geologist of the period who wrote numerous scholarly works, including Geologie Pratique De La Louisiane: Practical Geology of Louisiana. Sadly, he would die the next year in Havana, Cuba and his experiment would never be carried out. There is some debate as to the nature of the wells that the Arkansan men dug, but sinks are what people of that period would often call latrines. What a waste!

To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE