History of Grand Cane
The Village of Grand Cane began as a settlement near the intersection of two wagon, horse and Buggy, horseback trails and was within a larger area referred to as Grand Cane Country. Originally the area known as Grand Cane was a part of Caddo Parish. When DeSoto Parish was established in 1843 it took parts of then Caddo Parish and Grand Cane was included within the new DeSoto Parish boundary line.
Settlements in the surrounding area included Cook, Wagner, Hazelwood, Davidson, Hobgood, Screamerville, Davidson, and Williams. Many businesses located in these settlements, relocated to the Village of Grand Cane when the railroad arrived. Most of these settlements are only a memory of what once was because of the arrival of the railroad at the Village of Grand Cane.
The first school opened in Grand Cane in 1890, its’ first graduating class was in 1895-96. There were three female graduates. The first one-story frame building was destroyed by fire and replaced by a two-story brick building. When the two story brick building was deemed unsafe it was replaced with the present day two-story brick building. Grand Cane High School was the first accredited and approved high school in the State of Louisiana. Also, the first female principal in the State of Louisiana, Miss Bessie Hooker was principal from 1914 through 1918. The Central School of Grand Cane, a private school, now occupies the old Grand Cane Public School.
Amanda Hobgood deeded land situated in Section 28, Township 13, Range 14 to the New Orleans & Pacific Railway and Grand Cane was laid out in lots and streets parallel with the NOPR tracks dividing the town between West Main Street and East Main Street. The railroad depot marked the center of the town. The railroad was completed in 1881. Spurred by the Railroad and the improvements to the two crossroads (now Hwy 171 and Hwy 3015) the Village of Grand Cane prospered, the population grew. It became a thriving business community. Business established included: the Peyton Store, 1881, G.W. Peyton; E.S. Hicks and Brothers, 1882; Jones, Chaffin & Company, 1883; Hobgood & Foster, 1884 and P.E. Allen’s Drug Store, 1884-1885. Other businesses located within the Village included Tidwell’s, Ricks Brothers, Hicks & Richardson, Hoell, Cook and Douglas, and George Parker. Other businesses included: Dr. Platt, Dentist, and Dr. J.L. Leopold on the second floor of the Platt building. The ground floor of the Platt building included the Leopold Drug Store, Louis Cowdin’ café and Robert Cowdin’s barber shop. Fires occurring in 1892, 1903, and 1904 burned many of the original structures located within the Village. Water was scarce and made firefighting a difficult effort. Fire in 1936 destroyed the Gamble’s café, meat market and grocery store, C.W. Gamble’s blacksmith shop, Jim Gamble’s feed store and the W.P. Sloan building, occupied by Porter Rick’s shoe repairing shop. Once again a fire in 1938 destroyed all of the businesses housed in the Platt building, the post office located in a building owned by the Thomas estate, the unoccupied Tull building and the Ed Platt general merchandise store
The Village of Grand Cane was incorporated in 1899, although there are references of earlier incorporation in historical documents, 1899 is the date considered as official. The first Mayor was Reverend E. R. Fortson. Councilmen included Paul E. Allen, Loderick Monroe Cook and Dr. J.B. Johns.
The DeSoto Telephone company charter was established in 1897, P.E. Allen, President, E.G. Hinkle, Secretary/Treasurer. Other notable charter members included L.H. Richardson, G.W. Peyton, J.E. Cain, and W.J. Hicks. Mansfield was connected with Shreveport and the towns between and along the Texas and Pacific road. The line was established and working from Grand Cane to Shreveport and extended as far west as Logansport. By 1899 a telephone line from Grand Cane to Many was established. It is noted that phones were placed at Wagner’s, Cook and Lula, and Grand Cane was the central office on the line.
In July, 1904 it was announced in the Mansfield Journal that Grand Cane was to have a bank. The Bank of Grand Cane was chartered August, 6, 1904. First National Bank of Mansfield bought the bank in 1969. When the FNB moved to its new building in 1980 the old bank building was donated to the Village of Grand Cane for use as the Village Hall. The building was occupied as a bank for 76 years. It is this building that is listed on the Register of Historic places and has become the icon of Grand Cane.
In 1926 Grand Cane officials entered into an agreement with the Louisiana Public Utilities Company, Inc. of Mansfield to lay lines for gas and install electric lights in Grand Cane. A survey map produced by the gas company in preparation for the laying of lines within the town indicates that the Grand Cane Bank was located next to Pittard Grocery on one side and the Cook Grocery, which also housed the Post Office. It is also notes the Platt Building locations of the ground floor Barber shop (Bob Cowdin), Louis Cowdin’s Café and the Leopould Drug Store, a dentist office and the Victory Café in the same block.
Highway 171 paralleled the railroad tracks which was the basis of Grand Cane as an incorporated village. The road was blacktopped in the late 1920’s to early 1930’s. Southern Bus Company made five daily stops in Grand Cane from Shreveport on its route to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Tickets for the bus service were sold in the Hicks-Richardson Store. Buses stopped in front of the Hicks-Richardson building for passengers and to pick up freight. The Village continued to thrive until the Great Depression of 1929.
The railroad was a valued means of transportation during the first and second wars. General Patton quartered in the Village. Maneuvers took place throughout DeSoto Parish in preparation for embarkation to Europe in World War II. Mrs. Beth Rick Conner told of General Patton coming into the Cook & Douglas Store. It was here that General Patton was taken into the back fitting area, stripped down and treated by her grandfather for his red bug infestation with Tichener’s Antiseptic.
Service men and women followed General Patton to Europe. Many local families lost loved ones or those that returned from the war were wounded. Some from the Grand Cane Area servicemen that never returned were Tom Abington, Roy C. Bolton, Lawrence Cordova, and Marshall Sample, John Payne, David Shaver, Cecil Smith, and James Hill Cook. Some of those that returned to Grand Cane after the war included Sergeant Lloyd B. Platt wounded and later became the Grand Cane Postmaster. Lewis Richardson came back to start a dairy farm. He opened a creamery plant in 1954 in Grand Cane.
The downward spiral of Grand Cane accelerated with the demise of the Texas & Pacific Railway in the late 1950s. The steady decline of the agricultural industry, the lack of new businesses, the loss of the public school, and a general movement away from the rural area saw the end of the Village as a center for trade.
Highway 171 paralleled the railroad tracks and became the lifeline that connected Grand Cane to the north and south communities. In the 1960’s State Highway 3015 was blacktopped. Completing the blacktopping of the connection East to West of the original crossroads responsible for the beginning of Grand Cane’s existence.
The Village of Grand Cane, like so many small towns left behind by progress, simply went to sleep until 1993, when the Village used funds from a Rural Development Grant from the State of Louisiana to purchase the Hicks & Richardson Building. This action spurred the passage of a preservation ordinance, creating the Grand Cane Preservation Commission, which resulted in the subsequent listing on the National Register of Historic Places of several buildings in the Historic District (Platt, Old Post Office, Cook & Douglas, Hicks & Richardson, & Ricks Bros.). These buildings joined the Village Hall and the Grand Cane Methodist Church that had obtained earlier listings. Historic Preservation has opened the door for new economic use of the old buildings.
Today, the Historic Village of Grand Cane is strongly supported by members of the Historic Grand Cane Association, the Elected Officials of the Village, and a host of supporters, whose common goal is to keep alive the presence of yesterday as a constant reminder of the importance of preserving our unique past for future generations.
In September 2009 the Village of Grand Cane Cultural District was certified by the Louisiana Cultural Districts, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. This initiative has added to the community revitalization with added cultural activity by the DeSoto Arts Council and Gallery and the Back Alley Theater.
Today the Village is establishing itself as a popular place for date night in DeSoto Parish. The Back Alley Theater provides varied and popular entertainment throughout the year.
With the recent completion of Highway 171’s four lane project from Lake Charles to Shreveport, Grand Cane is once again a community on an important transportation corridor.