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Our Historic Shrines (October 2012)

Our Historic Shrines
By Ann Middleton

An unsigned article titled "Let's Know Our Historic Shrines" appeared in the February 1, 1951 issue of the Plain Dealing Progress, shortly before the first annual Dogwood Drive pilgrimage was to begin.

The author of the article wrote that "It seems altogether apropos that special attention should be focused on several historic points comprehended in or closely adjacent to the proposed touring site."

The Dogwood Drive brochures then being prepared centered mainly on the twenty-mile dogwood scenic route, but a real opportunity to tie in several very historic points presented itself.

The first historic destination pointed out by the writer was just three or four miles from the Arkansas-Louisiana state line and seven miles north of the terminus of the Dogwood Drive route. The last resting place of Arkansas' first governor, James Conway, the spot is one of the truly historic shrines of Arkansas. Conway is buried in the Walnut Hill Cemetery. The grave had special local interest because a number of Conway's direct descendants were living in Bossier Parish-the Dooleys, Dismukes and several other prominent families. The route from this Arkansas point could branch out from Bradley and via Walnut Hill tap the Dogwood Drive. It was the most direct route from Arkansas and it contained significant scenic beauty.

The next point of historic interest that the writer includes as a Bossier historic shrine is the George Oglethorpe Gilmer mausoleum in the Plain Dealing Cemetery. George Oglethorpe Gilmer was the founder of the vast Gilmer Plain Dealing plantation from which the present town received its name. Gilmer was, coincidentally, born n 1787 the year in which the United States constitution was written. The article points out that Hammond, Louisiana recently honored its founder by placing an historic marker in the middle of Hammond, and questions why Plain Dealing could not erect such a marker to honor Gilmer.

Perhaps the most interesting Bossier historic shrine on the list is a frequently overlooked one-the Cottage Grove Academy site. "The academy day, the immediate period before the present high school years, has a very important place in Louisiana's educational history and so far as we know, Cottage Grove has the last physical remnant or relic of the era, now extant. The very rooms that some of North Louisiana's most esteemed matrons occupied and some of these still live, are still a part of the present Millen home hard by a spot where stood the Cottage Grove seminary or academy. This history of that famous seat of learning dips back to the Civil War and reconstruction period, almost a hundred-year span. Just a fortnight or so ago fire came near consuming this last academy day physical vestige. Is there any one or group that would like to take measures to perpetuate this sacred shrine?...Surely a secondary route marker, Plain Dealing Dogwood Drive, via Cottage Grove and Collinsburg pointing left and the same pointing right, via Rocky Mount, should find a place on the maps or charts being prepared by the Dogwood Drive committee. Let's know and appreciate our historic shrines. Let's not miss this opportunity of perpetuating them."

The Dogwood Drive Festival ended in 2004.

You can learn more about historic sites and happenings in Bossier Parish by visiting the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.