Bernice, Louisiana

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Bernice is a town in Union Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 1,809 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Monroe Metropolitan Statistical Area.



The area was part of the Louisiana frontier and pine forests, but early houses survive from the mid-nineteenth century: among the oldest homes are the R.T. Moore/Gresham/Stenzel House, known as the "Sweet Onion", and McCuller Log Cabin, both circa 1865.

Bernice was established in 1899 as a sawmill town after Captain C.C. Henderson built the Arkansas Southern Railroad, the first railway in Union Parish. Also an agricultural trade center, Bernice is the youngest European-American town to be founded in the parish. The area was known as the "big woods" because of its large stands of huge virgin pine. Henderson built the railroad to enable harvesting of lumber from the area. Moving south from Junction City, he directed construction of the railroad to Winnfield.

Henderson sought to purchase property about a mile north of the present town from Henry Mabry, but they could not agree on the price. Henderson moved south and bought land from Allen Lowery and Dave Cole. He named his acquisition for Lowery's infant daughter, Bernice. On a late spring day, Henderson auctioned lots for the planned community. According to Mabry's son Brooks, he and his brother furnished water for the momentous event.

"We hauled water from up there where Preacher Burns' wife is living now, in a wagon, and put it in tubs on stumps along there on every corner. He had the lots laid brother...and myself would go round and fill the tubs...for people to drink".

[citation needed]

Bernice was incorporated that same year, and the railroad depot was built soon after. A 1901 picture of Louisiana Street includes the depot, and a c. 1905 interior photograph shows the agent and several local citizens. Restored, today the station is operated as the Depot Museum, displaying a collection of Bernice memorabilia. It also serves as a tourist information center.

Jake Crews was the first mayor. He was a contractor who built many of the earliest homes. Still standing are his own 1900 house, now called the Caldwell Home and said to be the oldest house in town; the 1902 Garland/Reeder House; the 1903 J.W. Heard/Laurence/Patton House; and the 1904 Thomas Heard House. Other turn-of-the century structures are the Cook/Minter House, the John Roach House and the Rives/Lindsey Hotel. The first brick home in town was the Pollock/Martin House, which dates from the 1920s, as does the old Bernice Jail.

The circa 1895 Alabama Methodist Church is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Lynn Log House was moved to its present location and reconstructed from an antebellum dogtrot house that once stood across the road.

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