History of Hodges Gardens
Located in North Central Louisiana, Hodges Gardens, the nation's largest privately owned horticultural parkland and wildlife refuge and is one of Sabine Parish's most celebrated attractions. It was founded by Andrew Jackson Hodges, Sr., notable civic leader, oil producer, conservationist and lumberman. Mr. Hodges was born at Cotton Valley, Louisiana on March 22, 1890, son of Floyd Crawford and Adeline Reynolds Hodges. The Hodges ancestors were among Captain John Smith's company of early settlers of Jamestown, VA. They moved from Virginia to North Carolina, then to Georgia and later to Cotton Valley. Mr. Hodges received his elementary and high school education in Webster Parish and later attended Meridian Military College, a small college in Meridian, Mississippi, no longer in existence.
He began his career in merchandising in Cotton Valley. Becoming interested in oil and gas exploration in the early 1900's, he participated in the development of the Cotton Valley, Sugar Creek and Sligo oil and gas fields. In 1923 he became associated with the Triangle Drilling Co. of Shreveport, and in 1948 he acquired all of the stock, combining it with his timber-growing interests in Sabine Parish to form A.J. Hodges Industries, Inc.
Hodges Gardens stems from a vast reforestation program and forest genetics research in the early 1940's by the late A.J. Hodges. A strong believer in conserving natural resources in the production of oil, gas and fresh water, Mr. Hodges also became a member of the pioneering corps of Louisiana men who recognized the need to restore barren and cut over forest lands. These men mobilized for the battle of "Southern Forestry" on land laid barren and worthless as a result of the "cut out and get out" philosophy of lumbermen in the first 20 years of the 20th century.
A.J. Hodges Industries purchased 107,000 acres of cutover land, mainly in Sabine and Vernon Parishes in 1937 and 1940.
In the early 1940's he put his lands under an extensive timber management and improvement program which included planting approximately 39,000 acres of pine seedlings and converting the entire acreage into a managed tree farm.
Seedlings from superior seed trees were used in the replanting, and experiments were begun in forest genetics under the direction of the Southern Forest Experiment Station at New Orleans, the Texas Forest Service at College Station, Texas and Louisiana State University. Work was aimed at a cross breed of slash pine for straightness and loblolly pine for toughness.
Selected for the arboretum was a ridge running east to west just south of Many which contained an abandoned stone quarry. The site encompassed 4,700 acres and in 1951 it became the Hodges Gardens Experimental Area and Wildlife Preserve.
Mr. Hodges and his wife, Nona Trigg Hodges, recognized the potential of the old quarry and planned a unique scenic garden using the natural rock formations. Flowers were planted on one level above another. Walkways were laid and foot bridges built. Streams, waterfalls and a 225-acre lake were created to further enhance the overall beauty.
Thus, Hodges Gardens became one family's contribution to the preservation of our land's natural beauty.