Vinton, Louisiana

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Vinton is a town in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 3,338 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Lake Charles Metropolitan Statistical Area.


History of Vinton

The Old Spanish Trail, which was neither old nor Spanish, wandered north and south of what is now U.S. Highway 90 in large part because of the unstable roadbed. The chief means of outside travel in the Parish relied on riverboats plying the Sabine and Calcasieu Rivers. Much of the marsh and bayous remained impassable. River travel made Lake Charles possible, just as mining for sulfur led to the founding of Sulphur. There had been numerous attempts to improve transportation throughout the 19th century. Confederate soldiers in 1863 cut a road extending from Niblett’s Bluff on the Sabine River to Alexandria, but it never developed into a major artery. Settlers had long been in the Vinton area. Jean Baptise Granger settled acreage between what is now Vinton and Big Woods about 1827, one of the first pioneers of the area. Even so, the area remained sparsely populated.

Geography was not the main reason the area had few settlers. From the beginning, the Spanish and French disputed the western boundary of Louisiana. When America bought the territory, they inherited the dispute. In 1806, when negotiations bogged down, a neutral strip or buffer zone was created. Both countries agreed not to claim the land in question, referred to as the Rio Hondo Territory. Starting in 1810, both governments removed all settlers in the Rio Hondo Territory, which included a sizable portion of modern Calcasieu Parish. This policy of forced relocation continued until after the Civil War.

The parish, and Vinton itself, might have remained an undeveloped rural backwater if two signal events had not changed that forever. The first, which had the greatest material impact on the entire community, was the decision by J. Pierpont Morgan’s Louisiana & Texas Railroad Company to construct a railroad from New Orleans to Beaumont, Texas. The second, and most important for Vinton, was the arrival of a former professor from Indiana named Dr. Seaman A. Knapp.

Timber brought the railroad. The part of Louisiana that included Calcasieu Parish was also home to the finest longleaf pine in the world. When combined with the stands of cypress and other hardwood lumber, logging was a lucrative prospect. The railroad gave life to Vinton, starting with a switching track. Although there would be a depot later, Vinton began as a whistle-stop called Blair. The source of the name is unknown. Some have speculated that the railroad siding took its name from a local family. However, no family named Blair was in residence in the area at that time. Dr. Seaman A. Knapp completed the founding of Vinton. Precisely what brought Dr. Knapp to Louisiana is unclear. Formerly the president of the Iowa Agricultural College in Ames, Dr. Knapp arrived in Lake Charles in 1884 and went to work running an agricultural business for land developer Jabez B. Watkins. In 1887, he quit his job with Watkins and opened his own land company (some sources claim Dr. Knapp started his company in 1885, but the evidence is inconclusive).

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