Monday, March 1, 2010

BURR FERRY, SITE OF WARTIME FORT


Take a trip through history on a weekend at Burr Ferry

BY: MIKE JONES 
BURR FERRY -- Tucked away in the piney woods of western Vernon Parish is an out-of-the-way spot that the adventurous traveler and history buff alike will find fascinating, Burr Ferry.

Outlaws, runaway slaves, pioneer log cabins and an old Confederate fort give Burr Ferry a colorful past. The Sabine River and Pearl Creek, teeming with bass and white perch, entice fishermen looking for a great catch.

The property is now owned by the Louisiana Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. Anacoco Rangers Camp of the SCV has maintained and improved the site, along with volunteers. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. The site has original Confederate earthworks, a historic monument and a Confederate flag display.
 
White settlers moved in shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and established the ferry as one of the main crossings of the Sabine River into Texas.

But the boundry between the United States and Spain was in dispute until 1819. The strip of land along the border between Louisiana and Texas became known as ''the neutral strip'' or ''no man's land.''

In that period, both Spanish and U.S. authorities agreed to keep their armies out of the area. It was a haven for outlaws one step ahead of the law, or fugitive slaves being pursued by slave catchers. Many of the slaves fled into Spanish Texas.

In the early 1800s, the first Burr settled in the area. This was Timothy Burr, said to be a cousin of Aaron Burr, the vice president under President Thomas Jefferson and who killed Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel in 1804.

In the years before the War Between the States, Burr Ferry became an increasingly important crossing point to and from Texas for both people and livestock.

The standard ferry fee was 20 cents for a wagon and team, 10 cents for a man and horse and five cents for a person on foot.

After the war started in 1861, the ferry was an important stretegic point for the Confederacy for moving men and supplies across the river from Texas.

When the Union Army invaded western Louisiana in the fall of 1863, work was begun on an earthen fortification to defend the ferry.

Although constantly busy, the only war action there was a skirmish with Union cavalry scouts.

One section of the fortification is well preserved and can be seen today in a fenced memorial park just off Hwy. 8, a few hundred yards east of the Sabine River Bridge. Between the fort and the river is the site of the old Burr mansion, which burned about five years ago. Still standing is a massive barn believed to be well over 100 years old.

After years of searching, Peavy pinpointed the site of the old ferry and dug up a number of artifacts, including the endless pulley that was used to pull the ferry across the river. The site is just south of the bridge.

Possibly the most priceless historical treasure of all is the old Lile family log cabin, which dates to the early 1800s. It is a true log cabin, built with hand hewn logs and cypress shingles. The cabin is on private property and not open to the public.

Two cemeteries in the area are of particular historical interest. The Old Burr Cemetery contains tombstones dating to 1828 and is where the earliest settlers are buried.

The ''Plunk Away'' Cemetery,  is reportedly said to have received its unusual name as the result of an outlaw shootout. One of the dying outlaws, when asked where he wanted to be buried, is supposed to have said, ''Just plunk me away over there.''

In the cemetery are a number of ''unknown'' graves of travelers who died along the trail to Texas, wounded Confederate soldiers trying to get home to Texas and outlaws who died in shootouts.

How to get there:

The best way to reach Burr Ferry from Lake Charles is to take La. 27 to Singer; turn west onto La. 110 to Merryville and there take U.S. 190 north and continue north on La. 111 to Burr Ferry, which is located at the intersection with La. 8.

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