Trinity Was Bustling River Town
Trinity as described by Alonzo Fuglaar in 1950
by: Verdis Dowdy
Copied from a 1950 issue of the Jonesville Booster
A book on the sunny South, read thousands of miles away in Norway, is responsible for Catahoula having one of its oldest families—the Fuglaars.
When C.H. Fuglaar was 19 years old, he came from Norway to America, which he had been told was the land of opportunity for dairy farmers. He had several relatives who had already come over here and settled in Wisconsin, and he stayed with them for about a year.
But somehow the pictures that had been painted in his mind of the richness and life of the South haunted him, and he determined to come find out what it was like for himself.
From store clerk to boat builder
Upon arriving in Louisiana in 1851, Fuglaar chose as his home Trinity, which was then the largest town in Catahoula. Later he married Annie Laurie Slay, who was then 16 years of age.
Three children were born of this marriage, among them Alonzo Fuglaar, who continued to live here, where he married and reared his family.
In 1893 Alonzo Fuglaar married Alma Kirby, also a member of one of the oldest families in the parish. To this union were born four children - Russell, Gladys, Ray and Valda. Mrs. Fuglaar died in 1911, when the children were still small.
Soon after he was married, Fuglaar found out that a family couldn't live on what a store clerk earned, and he went into the boat building business. That work seemed to come naturally to him, and he advanced rapidly, soon rising from $40 a month to $5 a day. He had never had any preparation in boat building other than a keen interest, taking odd jobs, and watching other people work.
In 1900, he moved across Little River to Jonesville, where he built barges and boats for Capt. Jed Swayze. Swayze used the boats for transporting timber and other Catahoula products to the Monroe and New Orleans markets. Fuglaar worked for Captain Swayze about five years.
In 1907 Fuglaar started building government quarter boats and other vessels, which were used for running up and down the river, dynamiting leaning trees and snags and keeping the river navigable.
From 1908 to 1912, Fuglaar worked with a wood products company, Van Derventer Manufacturing Company, which as he puts it, "made every--thing from butter dishes to barrel staves." Van Derventer only lasted about eight years here, before it went bankrupt.
Harrisonburg Locks and Dams
Around 1911 Fuglaar started working on the locks and dams at Harrisonburg and worked there until 1915, as seasons would allow. During the time off from his job at the locks he worked on odd jobs - mostly with boats - getting more experience.
A series of small ventures followed, too numerous to name, since Fuglaar worked with many different things in the parish.
Author’s Note: Following is an account of Trinity as he remembers it from around 1880 to 1900:
Recollections of Trinity
"At my first recollection Trinity was pretty densely populated. The town was laid out with streets and squares beginning at the riverfront facing Black River. Our streets ran at that time as they do now, about north and south from the river-point to about a half-mile up along Ouachita River on the east and Little River on the west.
"Along our city front were many business houses and several residents. One of the homes was owned by 'Daddy' Guss. Here he raised his family of five boys, John, William, Joe, Lon, and Edward. Some of the boys made their home here later on.
"Another home was at one time a hotel operated by a Mrs. Cockerham, who had one son named Guss Cockerham, and as I remember, two sons by a former marriage, John and Jack Snyder.
"Anyway, in my young days, these men whom I have mentioned were among the best citizens.
"Our principal business houses lay along this city front. Beginning at Little River there was a large store owned by Capt. Sam Block, a small store by Camile Bazette, a store and market by John H. McCabe, Further down was a large general store owned by 'Daddy' Guss, a large store run by Isaac Schlenker and a saloon operated by John Snyder.
"Then there was a large home owned by a Mr. Rotheroc who also owned a large public warehouse for steamboat trade which was a going business in the early days. This warehouse was located out on the opposite side of the street where there was a large brick store.
"Next to Rotheroc was a store owned by Nick Knauer. This was a two-story building and was also his family home. The Knauers reared three children who later moved to New Orleans. The children were Mary, Maggie, and John. John later was a steamboat engineer.
"On this front street was a real nice home and two-story store business, owned by Schuyter Marvin, a very progressive man who in later years moved to Troyville, now called Jonesville, where he built the Commercial Hotel and owned other property.
"Just up the main street facing Ouachita River after Marvin's place, Ephraim Goodwin owned a store and jewelry store. Across the street was the post office and store operated by a man named Moritz. Moritz has three sons -- Leon, Ben, and Charles. Most everyone in this section, especially the older set, knew the Moritz boys, although they later moved to Natchez and Vidalia and became leading businessmen there.
"One more small store was owned by my father, C.H. Fuglaar. This was up town three blocks. He also owned the residence, which is now in possession of the Kirby family. My father was a carpenter, and his work while here included the building of a large two-story store for Captain Benefield who lived in Troy. Father settled in Trinity before the Civil War, marrying there. There were three of us boys, Thomas H., Volney and myself. I am the only one still living.
"After leaving our main business section we had a sawmill on the point at the mouth of Ouachita River, which was first operated by Captain Schriver, I think.
"The lumber was made by rolling logs up over a pit and having men to stand over the log while others in the pit were helping to operate a whip saw. This saw was pulled up and down through the log to cut off the boards. All lumber was manufactured by hand in the early days of our town. We did most all our work the hard way.
"The rest of our town was taken up with residences. Some were very nice ones. Nearly every lot had a house of some kind on it and all were fenced with good fences, some very pretty ones around the best homes. There were many beautiful flower gardens. Our Jewish families usually had the nicest yards.
"These families include those of Isaac Schlenker, Leon Moritz, Dan Lemte, Leon Fass and Capt. Sam Block. Captain Block owned the home now owned by J.A. Guss and his sister, Elizabeth (Mrs. Lizzie Harrell). Block's land in Jonesville is now a part of the town. The present school was built on that land.
"Among other fine people here at that time was Jim Tiffee, who owned a splendid home and reared a beautiful daughter, who married Dr. J. Damabach of Buffalo, N.Y. Her heirs now own the land on Little River where the bridge crosses to Jonesville, and for which land I have been agent for forty years.
"We had a lady resident who was a landowner for years, Mrs. Emily A. Calvert. She owned what later became a part of Trinity.
Mrs. Calvert had three sons. Bill and Dabney Gillispee by a previous marriage and a younger son, Lenard Calvert.
"The elder son, Bill, was our magistrate for years. His children went to live in New Orleans, as did Dabney's widow and children after his death.
"Len Calvert moved to Monroe, and later took his mother up there, where she died at the age of 97. Len's wife was the daughter of the late Captain Mardise of Black River. John Guss now owns the Calvert property.
"The names I have mentioned made up the active citizens who lived here during my early life. But we, of course, had quite a few other good people including Capt. Loren Virgin, steamboat captain; Captain Patterson, a noted steamboat pilot; Theodore Ussery, who ran a fish market; Abner Smith, carpenter and farmer; and John Wurster, cabinet maker.
"Wurster owned a home here and a city square. He reared three sons and one daughter, Anne, who married James Mann, a successful merchant of Jonesville. Two of the boys, Frank and Charlie, never married. John, the eldest, married and most of his children now live in Jonesville.
Churches and School
"There are some things which also are worthy of mention, as I recall. The first church was a large well-finished brick building, built by the Presbyterian people of our community. It was badly damaged during the Civil War by cannon fire from the Yankee gunboats. But the large holes were planked up and our citizens continued to use it as a combination school and church.
"There was a Methodist church near the center of our town which was blown down before I began to keep my diary.
"We had a large two-story wooden building which I can't recall when it was built. It was located right near the Presbyterian Church on the bank of the Ouachita River. This building housed the Masonic fraternity and school for quite some time. One of the first teachers was a lady, Miss Katie Trunzler. John Dale was also a teacher. He, his mother and four brothers - Sam, Guss, Lee and Thomas - were our neighbors and mighty fine people.
After writing the above-quoted portions himself, Fuglaar ended his recollections abruptly.
"That brings us up to around 1900, " he said, "and most of the 'younger set' can remember from there."
Authors Notes: Half a century ago - 1900 was. And of course, there are many Catahoulans who do remember back then. But to the youngest 'younger set', that seems ages ago, and most of them, driving through Trinity now, have little idea about the bustling place it once was.