October 1, 1907
What better way to kick off the month of Oktoberfest than saluting the iconic Dixie
Brewery in New Orleans which opened this month in 1907. The first commercial
brewery in New Orleans was opened in 1852 by Swiss immigrant Louis Fasnacht. The
Fasnacht brewery did not survive the Civil War, but in 1869, recent German immigrant
George Merz opened a brewery that would be the first with air-conditioning. In 1907,
Merz’ son, Valentine, built the brewery at 2401 Tulane Avenue, and brand their
product Dixie Beer. Hurricane Katrina would temporarily doom Dixie, but in 2017,
Saints owner Tom Benson announced plans to rebuild the brewery and resume
October 2, 1887
The U. S. Post Office at Angola was established today in 1887. Since the end of the
Civil War, the lease to run Louisiana's prisons had been awarded to a former
Confederate Major Samuel James, whose family would run the Louisiana corrections
system for thirty-one years. In 1880, James purchased an 8,000-acre plantation in
West Feliciana Parish called Angola. He began keeping some inmates there at what
used to be the Old Slave Quarters, which later became Camp A. In 1901, the state
resumed control of all inmates, and in 1922, a series of eight purchases procured
10,000 acres of land that brought Angola to its present 18,000-acre size.
October 3, 1964
Hurricane Hilda came ashore in St. Mary Parish today in 1964. Hilda was the most
intense hurricane of the 1964 season, but most of the deaths associated with the
storm due to tornadoes. One tornado near Larose killed twenty-two people and
injured 165 others. No other tornado in the state resulted in deaths, though multiple
twisters in the New Orleans metropolitan area caused extensive damage to several
automobiles and buildings and injured five. At Erath, a 125-foot high water tower
succumbed to Hilda's strong winds and collapsed onto an adjacent town hall where
civil defense personnel were operating, killing eight and injuring six.
October 4, 1884
Today in 1884, philanthropist Paul Tulane made a $1 million gift to the University of
Louisiana in New Orleans. In recognition, the school would be renamed the Tulane
University of Louisiana in his honor. The Medical College of Louisiana had been
founded in 1834, in response to the fears of smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera in the
United States. It was second medical school in the South and the first west of the
Alleghenies. In 1847, the legislature designated the school as the University of
Louisiana, a public university, and the law department was added. The university
would close during the American Civil War and struggle after it reopened in 1865.
October 5, 1961
Governor Jimmie Davis and Texas Governor Price Daniel posed for awkward photos
at the groundbreaking of the Toledo Bend Dam today in 1961. The $60 million project
had been in the planning stages for twelve years. Three years after the
groundbreaking, construction of the dam, spillway, and power plant began in 1964.
The closure section of the earthen embankment was begun in October 1966, and the
power plant was completed in the early part of 1969. The Toledo Bend Project was
constructed primarily for the purposes of water supply, hydroelectric power
generation, and recreation. Toledo Bend is the nation's only public water and
hydroelectric project undertaken without federal funding.
October 6, 1937
The first Crowley Rice Festival, now the International Rice Festival, was held in
Crowley this weekend in 1937. The “father” of the Louisiana rice industry was Joseph
Henry Fabacher, who had been born in New Orleans in 1858. Fabacher’s father had
not been successful in the rice business, but Joseph would encourage innovations
including constructing water reservoirs, growing “upland rice” on higher land than the
low-lying marshes, and digging deep water wells to irrigate the crops. When the
Midland-Eunice Railroad was completed in 1894, Fabacher built a warehouse next to
the tracks and opened his rice storage and shipping business transporting rice by
railroad to mills in Eunice and Crowley.
October 7, 1995
Eddie Robinson, Sr., notched his 400th career win today when Grambling State
defeated Mississippi Valley State, 42-6. Coach Rob had been born in Jackson,
Louisiana and was a star quarterback at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge. He
took a job in a Baton Rouge feed mill before learning of an opening for a coach at
Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute, later to become Grambling State
University. In fifty-six years of coaching at Grambling State University, he became the
winningest coach in NCAA Division I history. He retired in 1997 with 408 wins, 165
losses and 15 ties and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
October 8, 1963
Today in 1963, Sam Cooke and his wife, brother and manager tried to check into the
Holiday Inn in Shreveport, and were turned away, despite having a reservation. He
was told that the hotel was "closed" and that he should take his business to a black-
owned motel. Upon leaving, Cooke's manager claimed that the horn on the singer's
car "got stuck", causing a disturbance. They were later arrested for disturbing the
peace. In December of that year, he would record "A Change Is Gonna Come" about
the experience, and he sang the song for the first time on The Tonight Show with
Johnny Carson in February 1964.
October 9, 1946
The first Yambilee was held in Opelousas today in 1946. The Yambilee Festival, which
was discontinued in 2012, was started by J.W. "Bill" Low and Felix Dezauche.
According to J.W. Low, the raison d'être of the festival was to “assist and encourage
the advancement of the material prosperity and progress of the State of Louisiana,
Southwest Louisiana and St. Landry Parish by stimulating local and national interest
in Louisiana farm produce, particularly Louisiana Sweet potatoes.” The first Louisiana
Yambilee festival queen was Jean Horecky of Church Point. There were 2 Co-Mr.
Yams, Jack Herbert and Alfred Lagrange, both from Opelousas.
October 10, 1829
Louisiana Governor Pierre Derbigny died in office today in 1829, three days after
being thrown from a carriage in Gretna. He'd been born in Laon, France on June 30,
1767, and came to the United States, living in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, and
Illinois, before finally settling in Louisiana. He served in the state House of
Representatives, as secretary of state, and as a member of the Louisiana Supreme
Court. During his term as governor, several New Orleans navigation companies were
authorized, the state's levees and bayous were developed, a New Orleans gas light
company was integrated, and attempts were made to mend political rifts between the
French and English.
October 11, 1889
Collett Everman (“C. E.”) Woolman was born this week in 1889. Woolman was grew up
in Urbana, Illinois and moved to Louisiana shortly after graduating from college at
Purdue. He became an Agricultural Extension Agent at LSU in Baton Rouge, where he
and a team began using army-loaned aircraft and pilots to conduct dusting
experiments to control boll weevils. Huff-Daland Aero Corporation, an aircraft
manufacturer, took notice of their experiments and decided to form a new division for
crop dusting, and established its headquarters in Monroe. Woolman and others would
later buy the division and name it the Delta Air Service. It would eventually become
Delta Air Lines.
October 12, 1964
The original "Bridge to Nowhere" was dedicated today in 1964, after being opened to
traffic two months earlier. Prior to the opening of the bridge, only ferry boat operations
carried traffic across the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It
was planned that the Sunshine Bridge would be part of a larger highway project called
the Acadian Throughway, which never got off the ground. As the region has grown,
the bridge has become a key link between I-10 and the Bayou Teche area. It was
proposed that this bridge be named after Governor James Davis. Davis, however,
asked that his name not be put on the bridge.
October 13, 1970
It was a big day for Pelecanus Occidentalis. Louisiana's state bird, the brown pelican
was placed on the Endangered Species List today in 1970 because of sharp
population declines, the threat of further declines from pesticide-contaminated food
supplies, and the uncertain status of the species in other areas where pesticide
contamination was expected. Widespread pesticide pollution was the major factor in
the decline. The accumulation of DDT in the tissues of pelicans interfered with calcium
deposition during eggshell formation, resulting in thin-shelled eggs that are easily
broken during incubation. When DDT was banned, the brown pelican began its
comeback and it was taken off the endangered list on November 11, 2009.
October 14, 1951
This week in 1951, State Land Registrar Lucille May Grace, filed objections to the
candidacy of gubernatorial candidate Hale Boggs, alleging that he had been a
member of the Communist Party. Boggs and Plaquemines Parish political boss
Leander Perez had quarreled for two decades, so it would be no surprise when
candidate Grace, at the instigation of Perez, made the accusation against her
opponent Boggs. The bitter fight between the candidates would assure the election of
Robert Kennon in 1952. Grace had been the first woman elected to statewide public
office in Louisiana. She succeeded her father when he died in office and was elected
in her own right six times.
October 15, 1890
Today in 1890, New Orleans Police Chief David C. Hennessy was shot and killed. He
had been a popular figure in the city, and the pressure to catch his killers was
intense. At a trial of six of the nineteen men who were arrested and charged with his
murder, they were found not guilty of the charges on March 13, 1891. On the next
day, hundreds of citizens rallied at the statue of Henry Clay on the Canal Street,
marched to the city jail and lynched eleven of the nineteen men who had been
indicted for the murder. The incident was the largest known mass lynching in U.S.