In Sarepta on Hwy. 371, right next to the Town Hall, is an Interpretive Kiosk, depicting the history and culture of the area. Sarepta is named after Sarepta Carter, a woman who donated a large Bible to the local Baptist church upon its completion in 1869 in exchange for it being named after her.
Award winning country music star Trace Adkins grew up here and sang in a local church choir and performed in churches as part of a gospel quartet before finding fame and fortune in Nashville. Some of the songs he made popular are Dreamin’ Out Loud, Every Light in the House and Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone.
Sarepta has seen its share of booms and busts. It boomed in 1898 when the Louisiana and Arkansas railroad came through the town and again when International Paper built a sawmill just up the road in Springhill. The population then dwindled as people moved closer to the mill and in recent years it has dwindled even more as the labor force at that mill has been greatly reduced.
Here are some things that you can enjoy along the Webster Parish portion of the Boom or Bust Byway:
Some describe Bayou Dorcheat as the heart of Webster Parish. From north to south it bisects the parish, and played a central role in the history and settlement of the region, and still offers entrée into the natural beauty of the byway. It was the bayou that connected the parish with the outside world.
Early settlers came seeking fertile soil, as shown by the community name, Cotton Valley. Before the post-civil war railroads put towns like Sarepta on the map, the bayou was the most important transportation route in the parish. In the heyday of steamboat travel, it was the bayou that connected the parish with the outside world.
Although the steamboats are gone, bayous still lend the byway its essential rural character.
Just south of the Boom or Bust Byway:
Germantown Colony State Museum
The Germantown Colony State Museum is one of three sites founded by the Utopian Movement or Harmonist Society in the 19th Century. In 1835, a group from the Economy, Pennsylvania site, under the leadership of “Countess von Leon”, established a colony near Minden. The colony operated on a communal basis for 37 years, finally dispersing in 1871.
The museum was placed on the official list of the Nation’s Cultural Resources Worthy of Preservation by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service in 1979. It is also the most recent addition to the Louisiana Department of State Museums and a major asset to the recently developed “Heroes and Heritage Trail” throughout the state of Louisiana.
The museum is nationally recognized by the National Geographic Society and can be seen on their new “geotourism” website: go to www.usgulfcoaststatesgeotourism.com and look under historical sites.
Keep up with other happenings at the Germantown Colony Museum now on Facebook @ Friends of the Germantown Colony Museum or go to www.visitwebster.net or call 1.800.2MINDEN.
Forests and Fields
Farms prospered on fertile land along the Red River. Cotton, for example, grew well there. Plantations and well-placed gins, thanks to the labor of hundreds of field hands and then sharecroppers, produced thousands of bales of cotton.
Closer to Sarepta, in what is still appropriately referred to as the Piney Woods, it was the combination of forests and flowing water that attracted the first of several generations of loggers. Axes and saw blades, in roughened hands, shaped and continue to reshape regional landscapes, triggering boom and bust cycles all too familiar to local residents.
Sawmills, like their agricultural cousin, the cotton gin, became centers of rural commerce and employment, growing larger and more mechanized with the passage of time. Tall, straight pines emerged from the mills as lumber for oil derricks, railroad ties, siding for boomtown homes, paper and boxes.
The Cox Family
Just 10 minutes south of Sarepta is the town of Cotton Valley, hometown of the Grammy Award winning Cox Family. The Cox Family was formed in Cotton Valley in 1972 and is best known for their recording, “I Am Weary” for the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” In 1994, after more than 20 years together as a band, the Cox Family won a Grammy Award for their work with Alison Krauss on “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”. The Cox Family began performing at fairs and church socials. Willard Cox worked in the oil fields of Cotton Valley and played the fiddle and sang in his spare time. His son and daughters began joining their father to perform. While they sang both country and bluegrass, they made their reputation singing gospel.