By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – I’ve done a fair amount of blogging in this space about our Caddo Parish Confederate monument and the anti-monument hysteria that is sweeping the country, so if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to bring you up to date on our local monument controversy.
Ours is not like any other in the country and ours will be one for those who watch legal precedent. In most cases the monuments have been on public lands. Our is not. Ours is on privately owned land.
Our parish governing body, the Caddo Commission, voted last week, reaching a 7-5 decision, to remove the Caddo Confederate monument from in front of the courthouse after years of discussion and wrangling over the issue.
What makes our situation unique from other cities, at least as far as I know, is that while the United Daughters of the Confederacy owns the monument, and while the UDC also contends they own the 400 square foot parcel of land upon which the monument sits, there is no deed to that effect. There is only a statement in the 1903 minutes book of the Police Jury in which they “give to the United Daughters of the Confederacy” use of the land and a large cash donation for the monument.
By the same token, there is also no deed on record for ownership of the land on which the courthouse sits.
The plot thickens.
The land was owned initially by the Caddo Indians but in 1835, President Andrew Jackson sent an agent to negotiate with the Caddo Indians for their land. Larkin Edwards was the interpreter for the Caddo and was the husband of a Caddo Princess. The eventual treaty included 645 acres of land reserved for Edwards but their other land was transferred to the United States. According to local historian Eric Brock:
This included land from the line of the Arkansas Territory south along the Red River to Pascagoula Bayou, west along the Bayou to Wallace Lake, across the lake to Cypress Bayou, and up to the United States-Mexico border as defined by the two governments, then northward along that border to Arkansas again. This area encompassed roughly the whole of modern Caddo Parish and a part of DeSoto [Parish] as well.
The provenance of the land has been in and out of litigation ever since. Supposedly, Larkin Edwards sold his land to the developers of the eventual city of Shreveport, specifically to a man named Angus McNeill; later McNeill transferred the title of his purchase to the Shreve Town Company but later said he had been tricked. The matter was in the courts until basically everyone died and was never resolved.
Bottom line – no deed for Block 23 where the Caddo Parish courthouse now stands.
This will be a tangled web for the courts and certainly will be appealed no matter who wins the first round.
As soon as the Caddo Commission voted to remove the Confederate monument last week, the United Daughters of the Confederacy filed, within hours, for an injunction to stop them. Also pending is a lawsuit by a third-party local citizen for a judgment by the courts to determine who owns the land. That case is expected to be dismissed as the citizen has no standing to file such an action.
It will all be fought in the federal courts and will go on for years. The only winners here will be the lawyers.
The UDC is raising money for their legal defense fund and the Caddo taxpayer will be footing the bill for the Caddo Commission.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.