Growing Communities on the West Side
The community developed out of Abraham Lobdell’s early 19th century plantation lands northeast of the present-day Hwy 415, which was formerly Lobdell Road. A village grew up around the Lobdells’ store, sugar and saw mills, and the boat landing. Two churches were created in the area as well. Dr. Ira Smith of Smithfield Plantation donated an acre of his land on which a chapel was built for the congregation of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Later, a Catholic chapel was constructed south of the village and Parish of Saints Peter and Paul was established with the seat in Lobdell (that parish was later incorporated in the church parish of Holy Family in the 1920s). In the late 1800s, larger boats could no longer come to the landing at Lobdell, so the shipping center shifted south to Wall’s Landing, but this area was also frequently referred to as Lobdell. In the early 1900s, the population of Lobdell gradually shifted south to Port Allen. In the 1930s, levee changes threatened to destroy the village; most of the businesses and homes were dismantled or moved. Of all the plantation homes in the Lobdell area, only the home of the Carruth family of Catherine Plantation exists after it was rolled away from the new levee construction in 1933.
Drug Store in Lobdell, c. 1900
The Morley family established a cypress lumber company just west of Brusly in 1907. A settlement sprung up around the saw mill with the families of workers, most of whom moved there from the Midwest. By 1904, Louisiana was the leading southern state in lumber production. Morley also had a one-room school, post office, and doctor’s office run by Dr. Paul B. Landry. The Texas and Pacific Railroad track ran through the middle of the town and, until a log and sawdust road was built, was the only way to get in and out of the town. Within twenty years, nearly all the timber was harvested, the mill was shut down, and Morley was abandoned in 1927.
Main Street in Morley, c. 1915
The community of Sunrise was a three street-wide neighborhood only one mile long slightly north of Port Allen. Alex Banes purchased this property from J. P. Allain in 1874. Banes, a runaway slave before the Civil War, had made his way to West Baton Rouge and sold himself to John Hill of Homestead Plantation. Banes eventually became a foreman on the plantation before he established his own farm. The community received its name from the Sunrise Realty Co., Limited, which was formed to sell lots. Many of the inhabitants of Sunrise worked for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, which had a depot a few miles from Sunrise at Anchorage Plantation. The community of Sunrise no longer exists.
The village of Sunnyside was laid out near the Town of West Baton Rouge in 1871. The two communities were separated by plantation fields. Sunnyside had a railroad depot, the parish courthouse, the ferry landing, and a post office. However, around 1900, the Sunnyside depot was abandoned and a new one built farther south. A new ferry landing was also established, and then, in 1918, a fire destroyed the business portion of Sunnyside. There was no local fire protection at the time, so firefighters from Baton Rouge were ferried in. The blaze spread to eight blocks before it was brought under control. The population and businesses shifted toward the Town of West Baton Rouge, renamed Port Allen in 1878 in honor of the late Henry Watkins Allen, Louisiana’s last Confederate Governor. Port Allen became a chartered village in 1916 and then a chartered town in 1923. In 1924, Francis J. Whitehead and Charles A. McDonald bought Oaks Plantation and began selling individual lots for homes, which developed in the Oaks Subdivision. Cohn Subdivision was carved out of Carolina Plantation in 1925 by Henry Cohn Jr.
Image shows the smoldering ruin Cohn's store in the 1918 Sunnyside fire
The Community of Erwinville developed northwest of Port Allen in the late 1800s. Between 1887 and 1920, Thomas Erwin, who had come from Grosse Tete in Iberville Parish, purchased land in the Port Allen area in 43 separate recorded transactions. Thomas built a home along Poydras Bayou and operated a saw mill, which employed a large number of people. The lumber from this mill was used to build many of the homes throughout West Baton Rouge. In 1895, the community received its own postmaster to handle mail, and around the same time Thomas allowed a railroad depot to be built on his property. The depot was called Erwinville. By the time of Thomas’ death in 1934, he had served on the board of the Bank of West Baton Rouge for over a decade, as a police juror, and as an officer of the Atchafalaya Levee Board. He was also instrumental in organizing the Association of Farmers in Erwinville and in completing the 1926 Choctaw Canal that helped with drainage throughout the entire parish.
The colonial community of Molaisonville, named after land-owner and store-owner Jacques Molaison, grew to become Brusly. At the turn of the century, Brusly was the largest community in West Baton Rouge and became a chartered village in 1901. It was first called Brusly Landing, but by the late 1940s town minutes referred to the community as Brusly. Businesses in the village grew during this period, including various stores, a saloon, and service stations. Adjacent to the north side of Brusly was Cinclare Plantation and Sugar Mill. The village of Brusly and the community of Cinclare have always had strong ties; Cinclare had its own post office that was originally named the Brusly Landing Post Office, indicating that the residents of Brusly proper received mail via the post office on Cinclare’s property. The Brusly Landing Post Office name changed to “Cinclare” in 1892.
The Texas and Pacific Railroad completed a line from Texas to New Orleans in 1882 that ran through West Baton Rouge. A new community sprouted in West Baton Rouge as a division point for the railroad called Baton Rouge Junction. J.W. Addis, a T & P official, did a great deal to develop this community by supporting the establishment of a depot. In 1909, Baton Rouge Junction was renamed Addis in his honor. Addis became a village in 1915 with George Booksh as the first mayor, a title which he held intermittently for 44 years.
A hotel and eating house were built in Addis that mostly catered to train crews working on the cane cars during the grinding season. These men were called "Boomers" and would often come into town with only a lantern in their possession.