Great Southern Lumber Company in Bogalusa, 1930s
Location of Bogalusa in Washington Parish, Louisiana.
Location of Louisiana in the United States
|Incorporated||July 4, 1914|
|o Mayor||Wendy O'Quin Perrette|
|o Total||35.00 sq mi (90.64 km2)|
|o Land||33.10 sq mi (85.74 km2)|
|o Water||1.89 sq mi (4.90 km2)|
|Elevation||95 ft (29 m)|
|o Estimate (2016)||11,913|
|o Density||359.87/sq mi (138.95/km2)|
|Time zone||CST (UTC-6)|
|o Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
Bogalusa is a city in Washington Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 12,232 at the 2010 census. It is the principal city of the Bogalusa Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Washington Parish and is also part of the larger New Orleans-Metairie-Bogalusa Combined Statistical Area.
The name of the city derives from the Choctaw language term bogue lusa, which translates to "dark water" in English. Located in an area of pine forests, in the early 20th century, this industrial city was developed as a company town, to provide worker housing and services in association with a Great Southern Lumber Company sawmill. In the late 1930s, this operation was replaced with paper mills and chemical operations.
In the early 1900s, brothers Frank Henry Goodyear and Charles W. Goodyear of Buffalo, New York, bought hundreds of thousands of acres of virgin pine forests in southeastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi. They had already been successful in lumbering isolated areas in New York and Pennsylvania, and had developed a strategy of building railroad spurs to provide access to the forests. In 1902, they chartered the Great Southern Lumber Company (1908-38) and built its sawmill in what became Bogalusa, a company town which they built to support this rural operation. The sawmill was the largest in the world at the time. The Goodyear interests built the city of Bogalusa to house workers and supervisors, and associated infrastructure. They also built the Great Northern New Orleans Railroad to New Orleans to transport their lumber and products to market.
The city, designed by architect Rathbone DeBuys of New Orleans and built from the ground up in less than a year, had several hotels, a YMCA and YWCA, churches of all faiths, and houses for the workers and supervisors. It was called the "Magic City" due to its rapid construction. The manager of Great Southern Lumber Company was William H. Sullivan. As sawmill manager, he acted as town boss when the city was built. After Bogalusa was incorporated as a city on July 4, 1914, Sullivan was elected as mayor by white voters (blacks had been disenfranchised), and repeatedly re-elected, serving until his death on June 26, 1929.
The Great Southern Lumber Company's sprawling sawmill produced up to 1,000,000 board feet (2400 m3) of lumber each day. With the virgin pine forest cleared, the sawmill closed in 1938 during the Great Depression. It was replaced as the city's main industry by a paper mill and a chemical plant run by Gaylord Container Corporation.
Crown-Zellerbach acquired Gaylord's operations in 1955. An attempt to keep the sawmill open with California redwood proved too costly, and the mill was closed. A paper mill and chemical operations continued. At its peak in 1960, the city had more than 21,000 residents.
Both black and white industrial workers had come to the company town for work. After World War II and service for their country, African-American veterans struggled in Louisiana and the South against the oppression of Jim Crow laws, state segregation, and disenfranchisement and exclusion from the political system, all continuing since the turn of the 20th century.
During the civil rights era, black workers pressed Crown Zellerbach to open all positions to them, promote them to supervisory positions, and otherwise give them equal opportunities at work. White workers resisted these changes. Blacks pressured the city to integrate public facilities, especially after passage of national civil rights legislation.
In Bogalusa, black workers also struggled against the industrial class system. As their activism increased in the civil rights era, whites resisted. Local Ku Klux Klan members dominated the region, attacking and intimidating civil rights activists in the 1960s. In 1964, as civil rights activists continued to push for their constitutional rights after congressional passage that year of the Civil Rights Act that year, whites increased their attacks.
Determined to fight for their rights, Robert "Bob" Hicks, Charles Sims, A.Z. Young, and others had taken leadership of the (all-black) Bogalusa Civic and Voters' League. On February 21, 1965, with the help of three activists from the Deacons for Defense and Justice based in Jonesboro, Louisiana, they founded the first affiliated chapter of the African-American self-defense organization. Other leaders of the Deacons were Bert Wyre, Aurilus "Reeves" Perkins, Sam Bonds, Fletcher Anderson and others. They mobilized many veterans of the black community to provide armed security to civil rights activists and their families. Expecting a violent summer, the State Police established an office in Bogalusa in February.
As explained by Seth Hague,
...the community came to embrace the militant rhetoric of the Jonesboro Deacons. Many violent conflicts ensued under this ideology and culminated in a climactic summer in 1965. Consequently, the black workers' militancy threatened not only the power of the middle class blacks, but also the political and economic hegemony of the white power structure in Bogalusa. Except for a few noteworthy courtroom "victories" versus Crown-Zellerbach, threatening the power structure was virtually the struggle's only effect as the white power structure subsumed the militancy and rhetoric of the revolutionary Bogalusans."
With changes in the lumber industry, through the late 20th century, after 1960, a steady decline in industrial operations, jobs, and associated population of the town occurred. By 2015, the population was estimated at slightly less than 12,000, more than 40% below the high in 1960. These conditions have made it more difficult for remaining residents.
In 1995, a railroad tank car imploded at Gaylord Chemical Corporation, releasing nitrogen tetroxide and forcing the evacuation of about 3,000 people within a one-mile (1.6 km) radius. Residents say "the sky turned orange" as a result. Emergency rooms filled with about 4,000 people who complained of burning eyes, skin, and lungs. Dozens of lawsuits were filed against Gaylord Chemical and were finally settled in May 2005, with compensation checks issued to around 20,000 people affected by the accident.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the city with winds of about 110 mph (175 km/h), downing numerous trees and power lines. Many buildings in Bogalusa were damaged from falling trees, and several were destroyed. Most of the houses, businesses, and other buildings suffered roof damage from the storm's ferocious winds. Some outlying areas of the city were without power for more than a month.
Bogalusa has an elevation of 100 feet (30.5 m).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.5 square miles (24.6 km2), of which 9.5 square miles (24.6 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km2) (0.52%) is covered by water.
As of the census of 2000, 13,365 people, 5,431 households, and 3,497 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,407.6 people per square mile (543.8/km²). The 6,300 housing units averaged 663.5 per square mile (256.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 57.18% White, 41.21% African American, 0.32% Native American, 0.39% Asian, 0.16% from other races, and 0.73% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 0.75% of the population.
Of the 5,431 households, 29.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.1% were married couples living together, 23.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.6% were not families. About 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the city, the population was distributed as 27.4% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 21.3% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 82.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $19,261, and for a family was $24,947. Males had a median income of $26,716 versus $17,992 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,476. About 26.1% of families and 32.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 45.1% of those under age 18 and 22.0% of those age 65 or over.
Bogalusa was founded by the Goodyears of Buffalo, New York, who chartered the Great Southern Lumber Company in 1902. The sawmill was, for many years, the largest in the world. The company was famous for its reforestation program.
In 1938, the Goodyear family's mill had clear cut all the virgin longleaf yellow pine within hundreds of miles of Bogalusa and, after a unprofitable effort to import redwood from California ended their sawmill operations at the Great Southern Lumber Company; the next phase was run by Gaylord. This was bought by Crown Zellerbach, which in turn was acquired by Georgia Pacific in 1986. Its brown paper successor Gaylord Container Corporation owned it until 2002, when Gaylord was acquired by Temple-Inland Corporation, the area's largest employer. As of 2012, the paper mill was owned by International Paper, which acquired Temple-Inland.
Bogalusa's economy revolves around the lumber and paper mills, as well as agriculture.
Bogalusa is home to the 205th Engineer Battalion of the Louisiana Army National Guard. This unit is part of the 225th Engineer Brigade, which is headquartered in Pineville, Louisiana, at Camp Beauregard.
Bogalusa operates its own public school system, Bogalusa City Schools.
Northshore Technical Community College is located in Bogalusa. In 1930, it was the first trade school established in the state of Louisiana, and it is now a fully accredited community college.