Historic Downtown DeRidder in Louisiana’s No Man’s Land


Timber, Trains, a Gothic Jail, and Three Thousand Dolls!

A “Law & Order” Love Your Parks Tour Story assigned by San Diego attorney Ward Heinrichs, completed by Nancy J. Reid & Lisa D. Smith, Big Blend’s mother-daughter duo.

A few months before the pandemic, we spent a couple of weeks exploring Louisiana’s beautiful and culturally diverse No Man’s Land. This region draws its name from the area’s brief stint as the Neutral Strip between Spain and the United States following the Louisiana Purchase. When the United States purchased the territory from France; Spain and the U.S. were in conflict over the boundary south of Natchitoches. The region’s use as an official buffer between Louisiana and Spanish Texas lasted roughly from 1806 until the 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty that established the Sabine River as the territory’s western boundary.

Sometimes described as a place filled with an outlaw culture or as a region with a reputation for being a tough and isolated place, the region is better understood as a stronghold for those cultural groups who wished to find a home where they could preserve a way of life, they cherished in Louisiana’s No Man’s Land. Today, No Man’s Land is the place where the pirate met the cowboy, and where Native Americans, French, Spanish, Africans, Creoles, Cajuns, and American pioneers from the South and West met to build communities and a culture like no other.

You can experience No Man’s Land by visiting the communities that makeup Allen, Beauregard, Desoto, Lake Charles, Natchitoches, Sabine, and Vernon Parishes. We were touring Vernon Parish with the late Marci Cook of Vernon Parish Tourism. A passionate advocate for the historic and cultural roots of the region, she wanted us to not only experience her community of Leesville that’s home to Fort Polk, but also the neighboring city of DeRidder, the parish seat of Beauregard Parish. Part of the Louisiana Myths & Legends Byway, both Vernon and Beauregard Parishes are connected by Kisatchie, the only National Forest in the state.

Our first stop in DeRidder was at the Beauregard Museum where we met with Elona Weston. The museum is housed in the second Kansas City Southern Depot, built in 1926. A repository of local history that shares the stories of the people who make up the community, the museum’s exhibits and collections feature handmade tools, artifacts from the timber industry, old photographs, Native American arrowheads and pottery, military memorabilia, antique furniture, and musical instruments, plus, a stainless-steel caboose in the courtyard. Take a listen to our Big Blend Radio interview that was recorded on-site with Elona and Marci. Listen here on YouTube


Next up, was a creepy crime history experience at the Historic Gothic Jail where we met Cleo Martin. Built in 1914, in the Gothic Revival architecture style, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 17, 1981. You may have seen this former jailhouse in the horror movie “Mercy,” on the Travel Channel’s “Most Terrifying Places” show, or on the Discovery Channel’s “Ghost Brothers: Lights Out” paranormal series. Indeed, it’s had its fair share of ghost stories and legendary sightings. On March 9, 1928, after a double execution hanging in the jail, it became known as “The Hanging Jail.“ The two men who were hanged, Joe Genna and Molton Brasseaux, had been found guilty of murdering a local taxi driver for his fares. You can see the actual hanging site down the stairwell when you visit the jail. Hear all about it in our Big Blend Radio interview that we recorded on-location at the Beauregard Tourist Commission, located next door to the Jail, and home to the Lois Loftin Doll Museum which features a collection of over 3000 dolls. That’s over six thousand eyes looking at you…. Listen here on YouTube.

Plan your visit to DeRidder:







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