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The history of Catahoula Parish includes extensive Native American occupation, French and Spanish traders & settlers, Civil War battles, and a feud between two prominent families that lasted 18 years. And we have our share of legends that include buried gold and a giant catfish.

Native Americans
We know organized human activity was taking place within the border of present day Catahoula Parish around 3,000 BC. Over the next 4,000 years those Native Americans built what we call Indian mounds beside the highways of their time… our rivers, lakes and bayous. Some of those mounds stood alone and some were part of a complex of multiple mounds. A mound site would rise and flourish for a time and then it would be abandoned. But following it, at another location, the mound builders were at work once again.

European Settlers
Less than 40 years after LaSalle claimed Louisiana for France two trading settlements in Catahoula Parish appear on a 1720 map in the French National Archives in Paris. However, these French settlers abandoned their trading posts in 1729 fleeing to New Orleans after they heard about the Natchez Indian massacre of the French at nearby Fort Rosalie. In retaliation the French pursued the Natchez to Catahoula where the Natchez Indian Nation was destroyed in 1731. Due to the brutal massacre at Fort Rosalie it would be many years before Europeans returned to Catahoula.

Being under Spanish rule for over 30 years the frontiersmen that had ventured back into Catahoula petitioned the Spanish governor in 1794 for permission to settle “about ten Leagues from the Rapide, over the Catahola Lake”, which was granted. The population increased immediately following the Louisiana Purchase in 1804 as more and more settlers moved into this area, and on March 23, 1808 the Catahoula “settlement” was erected into a parish.

Civil War
As part of the Red River Campaign, Federal gunboats arrived in Catahoula during May of 1863 to eliminate Fort Beauregard, which guarded the Ouachita River, at Harrisonburg. The Confederate fort fought off the naval armada so a large Federal infantry group fought it way from Natchez to Harrisonburg to accomplish the task. While the Civil War brought a four-year pause to a feud of prominent families that began in 1852, the feud continued until 1870.

Some of Catahoula’s legends include buried gold that was hidden by the Natchez Indians as they fled from the French. Then there is the giant catfish that was caught in Tew Lake, which still generates interest as the Internet exposes this amazing story to people around the world.

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