The history or Alexandria, Pineville, and Rapides Parish in book form was significantly neglected through much of the 20th century. Yet, Alexandria and Rapides are historically noteworthy for the Civil War "Red River Campaign," the construction of Bailey's dams (in the Red River between Alexandria and Pineville), the burning of Alexandria during the Civil War, and the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1940-1943, the largest concentration of U.S. troop training activities of World War II.
Additionally, there was the temporary construction of four massive World War II Army/Army Air Corps camps in Rapides Parish, the Rapides' "timber rush" of the late 19th century, the first railway west of the Mississippi River, Kisatchie National Forest, the Bentley Hotel of Alexandria, LSU at Alexandria, the Catholic Diocese of Alexandria, and the Lee Street Riots. World War II Camp Caliborne (both a troop training and prisoner of war camp) was also temporarily established in the western part of Rapides Parish.
Pineville is historically on the map because of the Louisiana Seminary (later LSU), Veteran's Hospital (just north of Pineville), the Alexandria National Cemetery, Camp Beauregard, Camp Livingston, Central Louisiana State Hospital (mental health), Huey P. Long Memorial Hospital (in downtown Pineville), Confederate Forts Buhlow and Randolph, Buhlow Lake, and Louisiana College, a high active Southern Baptist college created to servethe higher education needs of Pineville/Rapides Parish and Louisiana Baptists throughout the state.
Red River X-Press was established in 2003 when the importance of a publishing company and of ISB numbers became apparent to Carl Laurent, of Alexandria, its owner and sole proprietor. It is named for the first railway west of the Mississippi River, i.e. the "Red River Railroad," constructed by Ralph Smith Smith in 1837. It ran from Alexandria to Lecompte or Cheneyville. Although it was not well constructed, it was serviceable and many Rapidians found such trips to be excursions.
Having arrived home to stay in 1983, it wasn't until 1998 that Carl took an interest in the history of Central Louisiana (Cenla). Gradually he noticed that history, and certainly preservation, were not uppermost on the minds of the people of Cenla, and that "highest and best use" were most significant with most people, especially land developers and realtors. One obvious conclusion was that the people/events of Cenla's principle city, Alexandria, and those of the parish overall, had not been comprehensively compiled and recorded since 1935, and this only through the Civil War.
This was Rapides Parish, Louisiana, a History, by George Purnell Whittington; it was first published in serial form in the Louisiana Historical Quarterly between October of 1932 and January of 1935. George's history was first published in book form by the Alexandria Committee of the National Society of Colonial Dames in Louisiana. Seeing a need for republication (it was out of print), and a need for format and factual clarification in the actual text, Red River X-Press published a second edition with minor editing and improved new graphics in 2003 (click on BOOKS). This was done with written permission from the Louisiana Historical Society.
Born in 1881, George had the advantage of being able to interview Civil War veterans and their children. However, his untimely death in 1932 left this life's work reasonably complete only through the Civil War. Had he more time, there are several portions, especially toward the end of this work, that George Whittington would have more thoroughly documented and examined. Apparently, only two efforts, prior to this one from Whittington, were made to write Rapides Parish history. The first was included as Chapter XI along with twelve other northwestern Louisiana Parishes, in the 1890 publication of Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest Louisiana; it was eighty pages long. Later this book was reissued by the North Louisiana Historical Association, and published by the Walsworth Publishing Company of Chicago. This second edition is available in most Rapides Parish libraries.
The next known very brief effort was made by Mrs. Louise A. Armstrong, and appeared in the Alexandria Weekly Town Talk August 1, 1896. Mrs. Armstrong's submission was selected by school administrators at Louisiana State Normal School (NSU) in Natchitoches. It reappeared in the Golden Jubilee Edition of the Alexandria Daily Town Talk on March 17, 1933. Also in the Golden Jubilee Edition of the ADTT, Hunter Jarreau, the editor, wrote an updated history of the community. This was followed by Sue Eakin's efforts in the July 1957, sesquicentennial editions of the Town Talk, and by input from Sue Eakin and others for the 1983 Town Talk centennial editions. In 1987, Mrs. Eakin published Rapides Parish, An Illustrated History. This was a brief coverage of the history of the entire parish. The most recent comprehensive newspaper effort was made by the Alexandria Town Talk in August of 1999 with 20th Century Chronicles, five magazine sections that covered the ten decades of the twentieth century.
Carl began the sizable undertaking in 1998, of writing the entire story of this very historic, yet widely neglected part of the United States, i.e. Alexandria, Pineville, & Rapides Parish, Louisiana. Established in 1805, Alexandria and Rapides (first established as Rapide County) prospered using slave labor to harvest and produce cotton and sugar cane, and they were dragged through two military invasions during the Civil War. While rebuilding on its own desolate earth, scorched by the troops of Union General A. J. Smith, it became the center of the Louisiana timber rush of the late 1800's.
Carl has written, edited, graphically designed, printed, and published his books from the beginning. In addition to his own work, he has published editions for four other local entities, and assisted in the consultation and/or editing of two others. Recently Red River X-Press published two small books using the perfect binding method, the process commercially used to publish all paperback books. Next year it will produce Volumes I and II of From the Valley using the same process with hard back covers. In January of 2012, he began writing his history of Civil War Central Louisiana.
As to Alexandria CBD preservation, the most prominent name to date is that of Buddy Tudor. Major restorations involving Buddy and his associates include the 1902 Commercial Bank Building, the 1931 C.A. Schnack Jewelry Store, the 1908 Hotel Bentley, and the Astor Hotel Building. Other old buildings being reused include the S.H. Kress building, the Hemenway Furniture building, the old Alexandria Public Library, the James Wade Bolton House, the Arna Bontemps house, the Old Union Depot, Gem Jewelry, Lerner's, and the old Rapides Bank Building (part of the Alexandria Museum of Art).