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EARLY SETTLER’S HOME STANDS NEAR DUBACH

Adapted from a similar article which appeared in the Ruston Daily Leader of January 4, 1967

Courtesy of: Mrs. Tyners Pendergrass – Miss Ada M. Napper

 

The challenging cry of Horace Greeley, "Go West, young man, was probably partly responsible for the great Western Movement which was one of the most interesting and romantic periods of American History. Even during our fast atomic and space age, we can see reminders of the movement, if only we pause long enough to observe the things about us.

One of the many young men who took Greele’s advice seriously was Absolem Autrey, of Selma, Alabama. In 1846, he loaded his family and a few necessities on an ox wagon and started West, helping blaze a path. On Christmas Eve he and his family reached the area where Dubach is now located.

Absolem Autrey was the first white man known to have crossed Bird Creek, the small stream on the western edge of Dubach. He cut his way through the tangled cane brake, located a bubbling spring, good farm land, nice shade trees, and decided that he had found his settling place.

After building a temporary shelter, the Autreys started work on their log home, which still remains at the end of Hico Street where Louisiana Highways numbers 151 and 152 intersect. (The property is now owned by C. C. Barham of Ruston.) This log house is probably one of the oldest houses in Lincoln Parish. It is a masterpiece of workmanship that shows very clearly the hardships and labor that the early settlers endured in order to establish themselves in the open and free West.

The home built by Absolem Autrey was the common style of that day. It is constructed of hewn logs, and consists of four rooms, two on each side of an open hall twelve feet wide and thirty-two feet in length. A gallery, about twelve feet wide by fifty-two feet long, spans the front of the house. The gallery is still partly enclosed by a banister of split, hand-hewn logs. These were mortised in place by very skilled workmanship. Much of the flooring in this old house is of the original hand-split plank, as are two doors still in use.

The logs of the house are most interesting. Although hand-hewn, they are so skillfully cut that today one would deem them the product of precision machinery. Most of the logs are about eight to ten inches thick and sixteen to eighteen inches wide. They are mortised together and held in place by large wooden pegs of about two by twelve inches in size. The few nails that were used are the old handmade square type. The pillars of the house were built in a most unique and durable manner. Each pier started with a substantial foundation, consisting of large boulders sunk into the ground. Atop this foundation was placed a triangular pier cut from a large virgin timber.

A chimney stands at each end of the house. One is the original, built by Mr. Autrey while the other is a replacement of brick. As four rooms would not accommodate Autrey’s large family, their eight boys used the attic of the house for their sleeping quarters. Once a stairway led to the attic. It has been gone for several years.

A large cellar under the house provided storage for such food as fresh milk, butter, fruit and vegetables. The meat supply was not lacking. Mr. Autrey killed 445 deer the first four years in his new settlement. Other wild game was as plentiful.

Furniture for the new home was obtained in a most unusual manner. After completing the house, Mr. Autrey traveled to New Orleans, where he purchases two poster beds, a bureau and a marble-topped sideboard. He had his new furnishings shipped by water to Monroe, where they were transferred to ox wagons and hauled the remaining forty-eight miles to his home. Many of the original furnishing of the Autrey homestead remain in use to this day. Mrs. Alf Harris, granddaughter of Absolem Autrey, lives within a mile of the original homesite. A cherished possession is the family clock, brought from Alabama to Louisiana between feather mattresses.

In the early days there were no church building in the area. People gathered in homes to worship. The Autrey home seemed a popular place in which to meet. Some people, living too far away to come and go in one day, put quilts in the wagons, and with these made pallets on the floor of the Autrey home, spending the night with the large family.

Absolem Autrey’s family was even more interesting than his house. He and his first wife, Elizabeth Norris Autrey, were the parents of fifteen children, eight boys and seven girls. With the exception f the youngest, all the Autrey boys served the Confederacy in the war between the states. Two were killed in the battle.

Elizabeth Norris Autrey died in 1860 and Absolem Autrey later married Kesia McCall. There were no children of this union. The second Mrs. Autrey died in 1878, preceding her husband in death by seven years.

Since there were no public cemeteries in those days, deceased members of a family were usually buried near the family home. The Autrey family was no exception. Mr. Autrey, his two wives, some of their children and some of their slaves are buried in a private plot behind the house. Most of the epitaphs are still readable. Noted on some of the tombs are "He (or she) was a member of the Primitive Baptist Church". The graves of the slaves are not marked. These are difficult to find except by those knowing their exact locations.

As one would expect, the descendants of Absalom Autrey have played important roles in the life of Dubach and the communities where they have lived, furnishing leadership with the pioneer spirit inherited from their illustrious forebears. There are too many descendants of this Lincoln Parish for all to be named in this article. The grandchildren living in this area are Mrs. Alf Harris, Mrs. Cordia Bennett, Mrs. Beulah Tatum and Mr. Hill Mitchell.