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Scared to move to Washington Parish

I've been reading about the efforts of the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission for the last year or more and finally feel I must write this letter.
I just cannot remain silent any more. After having a dream of owning my own land for the last 25 years, I was finally able to save up enough money to have sufficient down payment to secure a loan and buy a parcel of land in Washington Parish in 2003. My intention was to work and improve the land, plant trees, build a retirement home there, get back to nature, etc.

I subscribe to the Era Leader in an attempt to integrate myself into the community before I move there and also to stay abreast of current events in Washington Parish. Even though I don't currently live in Washington Parish,
I spend considerable amounts of money there on gasoline, supplies, contract labor, equipment rental, etc.
I know my "to be" neighbors and find them friendly and good, decent folks.

I currently work in New Orleans for a major international oil company and look forward to a less stressful life when I am able to quit commuting. The issues relating to the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission
and the methods that are being used to make decisions regarding the appropriation of land from property owners scares me.

I am also scared and concerned because I hate to continue investing money in property that may be taken from me because of what I see as greed and self-serving interests that don't seem to care about the issues being raised by families that have lived on the land for generations. Based on my limited knowledge, most of these families seem to be fairly poor or without political connections, but have a passion for the land.
I can identify with this passion for the land and have worked long and hard to be able to finally get my own, even though it's only a small parcel.

The commission doesn't seem to care about families that will have to move or about loved ones dug up from graves that they chose to be buried in. What is the real issue behind what this commission wants to do?
Do I really want to move into such a community? If so, what might happen to me and my land?

I belong to a hunting club in Washington Parish that was forced to sell land for a State Park that is to be built along the Bogue Chitto River in Washington Parish. Thousands of acres of wetlands that flood every year were purchased in the name of Economic Development and the dollars that the State Park would bring.

How many more of these projects are out there in the wings waiting to appropriate more land.
When will we see these dollars and will they be more than the dollars we would have had otherwise?
Are these dollars worth sacrificing our neighbors for?

Whose land will it be next and who will be benefiting from it? Now I see there is an effort to pass
another bill called SB 639 which will create an economic development district with another "commission" empowered like the Reservoir Commission was. Do you have any idea of whose land will be next?

Are you ok with it as long as it isn't yours? What if it's your neighbors or your son or daughter's?
What if it's your Mom or Dad or Grandparent's or Aunt or Uncle's?

Will you be proud to have stood in silence while this is allowed to happen? I am very disappointed there has not been more outrage expressed by the citizens in Washington Parish on this issue.

How can you sit by and let this happen? Will you act this same way when they come to take my land? What about when they take your neighbor's land or you or your relatives land? I understand and support appropriation of land when necessary for a school or housing for the poor or a hospital, etc. and no other suitable land can be found. These are certainly valid needs in some cases. The problem is, this is not for a school or for housing for the poor and other suitable land can be found and other landowners might be more willing to sell. Why not go that route? I don't know the folks in Oak Grove or the other small communities that will be affected and I also do not know Mr. Toye Taylor or his Reservoir Commission members.

What I do know as a Christian is that we are our brother's keeper and there is a God above that must be frowning right now. Why do I not see more outcries from fellow Christians who currently live in Washington Parish? Most of the letter's I see are from people who stand to lose the land they've held for generations or who stand to lose the graveyards their relatives are still buried in. I'm 53 years old and thinking "where do I want to be buried when I die?" Now I have to weigh that decision with the fact that in Washington Parish, just because you choose to be buried somewhere doesn't mean you'll stay buried there.

Washington Parish is full of Christians. I like that and I like the serenity and nature which is one of the reasons I chose to buy land and retire there. What I don't like is what you are allowing to take place. Why are you letting a handful of individuals take land from your neighbors in the name of progress when you know there are alternatives? If it was your land, would you be satisfied with the lack of support from your neighbors?

I read the advertisements in the papers by the Reservoir Commission and laugh.
A water shortage they say. Let's be serious, I say. How many wells do you have that are drying up?
Let's face it folks, you only have to go down less than 200' to hit good, quality drinking water in Washington Parish. The real number is probably 110' but I'm going to give the 200' number to be conservative. Think about it. Which way does all the surface water drain in the USA? The answer, for the most part, is North to South. That's why the Mississippi River caries so much water. It doesn't originate in Louisiana. The soil is very similar.

When we drill wells in the oilfield, we look for rock that has permeability because that allows the oil and gas to "travel" through the "rock" to the wellbore so we can transport it to the surface. What's the most permeable "rock" out there? It's sandstone or something you and I call "Sand". Is there much sandy soil in Washington Parish? Why, yes, there is. That's one reason why we don't have a water shortage in Washington Parish.
We have water traveling via gravity from up North through sandy soil and we drill water wells into this sandy soil in Washington Parish. We typically have problems with our water wells when we have screen failures, pump failures, etc., not because we're running out of water.

Some of you probably know of "live" or artesian wells that don't even require the use of pumps. Even if we were running out of water, why on God's Green Earth would we build a Reservoir that sits on top of land that is so close to the Choctaw disposal pits? If we want water for that area, a smarter solution would be to drill 2-3 water wells north of that disposal site and pipe the clean water to the locations desired.

When I share the concepts of "running out of water" with my Geoscientists, Geologists, etc. at work, they laugh and want to know who came up with this "story". They assume it's from people who have a vested economic interest rather than on science. I tend to agree with them, but even if I didn't, I would ask "Why there"? Why take land that people don't want to sell? Washington Parish is a big Parish. How about moving the reservoir to an area that is willing to sell? Laying pipeline from that point would be easy and also would stimulate the Washington Parish economy with pipe laying jobs, right of way fees, sales of pipe and valves, etc.

While I'm on the subject, who will benefit from the proposed project? Who owns the adjacent lands that might become "Lakefront"? Who owns the companies that will be doing the construction work and selling the supplies that will be used? Why aren't these funds being used to build housing for the disadvantaged or to help pay medical bills for the elderly and the poor or give your schoolteachers and public works people more pay?
Are the schools in Washington Parish without needs? Is there no value in addressing those issues?

Who decided a Reservoir is more important than these opportunities? Answer these questions and you might get a little closer to the real issue, which is why some of our neighbors aren't crying foul about this effort.
It may not be because they have a vested interest in the dollars the project may generate; it may be because
the issue doesn't affect them personally or perhaps they are busy with work and school and life.

It's good to be busy, to have property, to make money, to have a business that prospers, to create jobs, etc.
It's just a question of if it's good to do all those things on the backs of those who don't have the resources to fight back or who don't have the political connections or who happened to grow up in a certain community.

Is it ok to do these things even if it tramples on the backs and rights of our neighbors and the poor?
There is a God above and there will be a judgment for us all one day.

Kim Barbin Mandeville, LA.

A Community Lost

Back in the early 1800’s five families moved onto an approximate five to seven mile stretch of land along Bogue Lusa Creek (Bogalusa Creek) which means “Black water.” These five families were the Moores, the Jones, the Carters, the Williams, and the Resters.

They soon became related through different marriages that took place as the families got established. These early pioneers established the moral standards of an area that we now know as the Oak Grove Community.

These early settlers were, and are still known, for their hospitality and charity not only towards each other, but also towards strangers that would come into their midst. It was the custom in the early days that if someone was in trouble or needed help, surrounding families would come to that person or that family’s aid. Whether it was to help plant or harvest a crop, build a house (Thomas Moore was killed by a falling tree while helping to build a log house for another family), or a barn.

If anyone had a death in their family, the other families would put any personal feelings aside and come together and pitch in with whatever was needed. They would cooking, clean, or even help dig the grave.

If there was a family that needed food, all the other families along the creek would contribute what food they had - sometimes at the risk of cutting themselves short. Such was the way of life on the creek in those days.

Another significant thing that bonded these families together was their love of God. They would travel by walking, horses, or buggies once a month to someone’s house on a designated Sunday to hear what used to be called, “circuit riding preachers.” Those Sundays were an all day event in their lives. As years went by going to church once a month turned into twice a month. They stopped congregating at someone's house and started gathering on a hill over looking Bogalusa Creek that had a stand of red oak trees on it. Following the morning service beneath the shade of the trees, they would have what we would call, “dinner on the ground,” followed by an evening service. This tradition went on for a couple of years.

After the introduction of the car and real roads instead of trails, our families started holding Sunday services every Sunday. They soon decided that it was time to have a permanent meeting place.

On July 4, 1924, a name was chosen and a building was built on the hill over looking the Bogalusa Creek amongst the same stand of Oaks that once provided shade for their outdoor services. They called it Oak Grove Baptist Church.

Hence the stretch of land on Bogalusa Creek from the Bouey Moore Place up to and along the Choctaw Trail became known as the Oak Grove Community.

Over the years, the old plank church has evolved in to a beautiful, majestic building tucked into the Oaks. It stands as a beacon and serves as a reminder of the moral and spiritual standards that the members of Oak Grove Community still hold dear to this day.

The old church has seen its share of happy and sad occasions as evidenced by the graves in it’s cemetery that it fervently stands watch over. It has weathered many a stormy night but remains a strong historical symbol to the residents of the Oak Grove Community.

When you visit this church quietly nestled into the oaks, you can literally feel the peacefulness of the surroundings and appreciate the history of how it came to be.

Oak Grove is a rare community with deep-rooted integrity.If you travel through it and find yourself in need of assistance, you can stop at any house and be assured that they will go out of their way to help you in any way they can.

Treasured because of its old fashion values, people have come to our little community seeking out a secure place to raise their families or to live out their lives in a peace and harmony that only Oak Grove can offer.

We have little to no crime because we take care of each other. We watch out for each others children, and we respect each other. Oak Grove may have some challenges but they are ours and we own them and take care of them as they come up.

The Oak Grove Community has grown considerably over the years bringing in some of the best people this world has to offer. You could safely say that the Oak Grove Community is our little slice of heaven on this earth, and we like it just the way it is.

The residents of Oak Grove are peace loving and laid back. You will not here much from them in the way of writing editorials or being vocal about their opinions to the general public. Almost two centuries later, we are still known for our kindness, hospitality, and charity. We still practice coming to each other aid just like our ancestors did back in their day. It has become the signature of community strength not weakness.

Take heed, though we represent and live a peaceful life, we are prepared to and will defend our community when it’s threatened through every means available.

Very recently, the legislators of our great State of Louisiana, along with a handful of land developers have decided that a reservoir in this area and money is more important than the way of life that the Oak Grove has spent nearly two hundred years carving out for itself.

Should a reservoir be built in our community, it will wipe away all traces of our peaceful lives and our rich heritage. It will ignore the sacrifices that were made by our pioneer families who blazed the trail to create what we have today. Sadly, if the reservoir can not be stopped, then the Oak Grove Community will be forever, a community lost!

By Winford E. Pittman

Compliments of: Oak Grove Community

The History of the Bouey Moore Place

As told by his children, William Ernest Moore, Adolphus Moore, Edith Moore Strahan, and Lavada Moore Pittman

Located at 19068 Moore Road, Washington Parish, Louisiana, the old Bouey Moore Place is one of two log homes outside of the Miles Branch Settlement in Franklinton that is still standing, livable, and still being used today. The second home is privately owned and currently occupied.

This is a story not just about a family, but how a simplistic log cabin grew to become a home and the impact it has had over the years on many of the residents in Washington Parish.

Angus Bouey Moore was born around November 5, 1856 and is the fourth son of Thomas Jefferson Moore and Annie Eliza Morris Moore. Thomas and Eliza moved from St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana to the banks of the Bogalusa Creek in Washington Parish around 1838. Their union produced eleven children who grew up and scattered through out Washington Parish.

During April 1867, Thomas Jefferson Moore was unexpectedly killed while helping friends build a log cabin. They were falling timber when one of the trees fell on him crushing him to death instantly. The only family member that stayed on at the old place was, Thomas and Eliza’s son, Bouey Moore.

Bouey married Ms. Louisiana Trim. They lived as it was sometime the custom in those days with Bouey’s parents until they could build a house of their own.

No one knows or understands why Grandpa Bouey did not just build onto Grandpa Thomas’ log home as his family grew. Grandpa Bouey acquired a log cabin that had been abandoned from sources unknown. With the help of his oldest three or fours sons, they disassembled it, and moved it from its original location and reassembled it where it stands today. Grandpa moved his family into it. This all took place around the mid to late 1800’s.

We believe that the Bouey Moore Place is very unique in its architectural and engineering design. It is also a testament to the ingenuity of our early pioneers. You see, as Grandpa Bouey’s family grew, the old house had to grow as well. We believe the story of the family coincides with the story and evolution of the old house.

The old house is the marrying of several different houses or parts thereof. They have all been connected together to make this place we call home. We will attempt to explain how all of this unfolded over time.

The Bouey Moore family were originally hunters, trappers, and farmers although they did work outside of the farm from time to time. They lived a self- sufficient lifestyle like many families in the 1800’s.

The first part of the old house is the log part. It measures 18’5” by 14’ and had a 6’6” by 3’6” clay fireplace where all the cooking took place. It was in used up to 1969 when Grandpa Bouey’s sons, Ernest and Adolphus “Doll” Moore had it replaced with a brick fireplace to alleviate the risk they felt existed that could have resulted in the house catching fire.

The logs that were used to construct the walls in what we now call the dinning room have not been pined. They are notch and made of Yellow Pine. They are still solid and fit tightly in to their notches. The roof has evolved from wood shingles to tin, but the pole rafters that held the wood shingles are still solidly in tact and in place. They now hold the present tin roof.

As was mentioned earlier, the old house grew as Grandpa’s family grew. With the growth of the family came the need for more space. Grandpa Bouey soon located another abandoned house. This one was made of planks of Yellow Pine instead of logs. Bouey used it to build the second part of the old house.

The second part consists of one bedroom measuring 7’4” by 21‘, which is attached to the end (or side) of the original log cabin. The door of the bedroom opens onto a front porch that also serves as an outdoor “hallway” to connect the two rooms. A lean to style kitchen was attached to the back of the original log cabin. The wood stove that was bought for the kitchen sits behind the old house. A person has been contacted to restore it, and once restoration is accomplished, the stove will be put back in its original place inside the house. The additions to the original house are constructed of Yellow Pine planks.

The third part of the old house is the family mystery. No one knows just how it became a part of the house. The family refers to it as “the house” when we are talking about the old place, because it stands out above the rest of the structure. It measures with the front and back porches 32’ by 20’2”. It includes a clay fireplace measuring 6’6” by 3’6” (which is currently undergoing restoration). This fireplace is also being used as a pattern for a shell to go around the brick fireplace in the log part of the house. The main part of the house measure 16’ by 20’2” without the two porches with the ceiling joists 16’ from the floor. This part of the house is connected to the rest of the old house by its back porch and roof. This clever design turned the whole house into a dogtrot style. Like the previous additions, it to is made of Yellow Pine planks.

The fourth part of the home is a single bedroom placed on the connecting porch of the house. It measures 8’10” by 8’1”. It is connected to the third part. There is still a breezeway between the two major parts of the old house. The old house grew from 18’5” to 51 feet by 20 feet 2 inches.

Back in 1971, Ernest Moore, Bouey’s son, who lived with his younger brother and sister Adolphus and Lavada, was cleaning the land like they did every year through controlled burning. Ernest was in his 80s. He got trapped in the fire and was seriously burned. His dying wish was to come home from the hospital to live out his to live out his days at the old house.

The doctor tending to Ernest called the family together and told them that Ernest could come home but some changes would need to be made to the old place. They said that the house would have to be sealed up and a full bathroom would need to be installed.

To honor Ernest’s wishes, the family was obligated to build a bathroom on the connecting porch across from the single bedroom. The bathroom represents the last addition made to the old house. One year later Uncle Ernest passed away in the house he loved so dearly.

Ernest Moore was the first person to man the Lookout Tower in Washington Parish. He stood the original Lookout Tower at Bogalusa, Louisiana and when the new tower at Sheridan, Louisiana was erected, he was the first person to be in charge of it. After his retirement, his nephew Nevels Pittman, (Lavada Moore Pittman’s son) took over the responsibility of the Sheridan Fire Tower.

Ernest mapped out many roads in the area. Many of those original roads are still being used today. Although once owned by the family, these roads are now owned and operated by the Washington Parish government.

Three weeks to the day after Ernest’s death, his brother, Adolphus Moore passed away. He lost his life defending his country when he was gassed in France. This left only their sister, Lavada Moore Pittman residing at the old house. There has never been any mention made of Grandpa Bouey having paid any money for the old house.

The out buildings, the dog trot style barn, the out house, and the smokehouse are still there and currently under renovation.

The Bouey Moore family has been well known conversationalists as far back as we can remember. Many local hunters know that the old house was a hunters meeting place. It was a place where they could get a good, hot meal, rest, and catch up on the news of the day. The hunters would often leave lost dogs that they found in the woods in the care of the family. The family would provide food and keep the lost dogs until the owners could be contacted or would come looking for them. This same practice is still exercised today. The old house remains a landmark to the hunters and parish residents.

April Jalon Pittman Beech, (the only daughter of Nevels Pittman and Betty Jean Schilling Pittman) moved into the old house after her Grandmother, Lavada Moore Pittman took ill and moved in with her son, Nevels. Jalon and her husband Carl Beech, enjoyed living in the old house for just over a year until moving away to accept a pastoral position in Mississippi. They later returned to Bogalusa and have full intent to retire at the old place one day.

Winford E. Pittman, (the only son of Nevels and Betty Pittman) together with his wife, Judy Ann Fincher Pittman lived on the old place for many years after they married. They currently have plans to build a new log home behind the old house. Angus Bouey Moore and Louisiana Trim Moore had fourteen children. It is believed that over half of the children were born in the old house. Many of their children stayed in Oak Grove. They started and raised their families there until they moved on.

We are certain that Thomas and Eliza Moore and their eleven children together with Bouey and Louisiana Moore and their fourteen children never realized the impact they would have over time in Washington or St. Tammany Parishes.

Just about every family in Washington Parish can trace roots back to the old Bouey Moore Place. This family helped create the community we now recognize as Oak Grove.

Descendents of Thomas and Bouey Moore have since spread throughout, Washington and St. Tammany parish, and into other parts of the United States, but they still call this place home.

The Bouey Moore home holds both fond and sad memories not just for the family, but also for the residents throughout the area.

It has never influenced American History, but it clearly demonstrates the resourcefulness and creativity of the early American pioneers. The house proudly stands as a testament and symbol of our pioneer spirit, which still lives on in each family member today.

We respectfully ask you to help us preserve the honor and the admiration this old place has earned throughout the decades. We hope that you’ll join us in the fight to stop the frivolous and needless spending of taxpayer money to fund the proposed reservoir. We have plenty of recreational areas and fishing holes throughout our parish. To flush away such a fundamental part of Washington Parish history would be to make of a mockery of all those that came before us.

~ Written submission courtesy of Winford Pittman ~
~ Photographs courtesy of the Moore and Pittman family~

Compliments of: Washington Parish Community Preservation Alliance