“The good old days” in Converse, Louisiana
Converse was built in 1906 and is the Northernmost town of Sabine Parish.
Located on the once thriving Kansas City Southern railroad, it was named after Colonel James Converse, who owned a large tract of land in the area, including the Converse town site. The first business was built and operated by Dr. G. M. Mott and Wilt Morgan.
The citizens of Converse have a history of a willingness to improve their community despite personal costs involved. This was true of the first rural telephone lines, which were owned by companies composed of citizens of Converse. Those lines kept Converse in contact with the surrounding world. The citizens were willing to tighten their belts a little more to build a model road through Converse around 1909. A special tax was passed to aid in the road’s construction, and the people of Converse, determined to improve their town were the first in Sabine Parish to establish a hospital.
In 1909 the Converse State Bank was opened up to serve the community’s financial needs. Willie Jackson was the initial manager over the bank. In 1923 the bank was robbed, but the thieves were caught and given a humiliating punishment – they were put on display at the bank for all to see and know what they tried to do. All of the bank’s customers could go in to do their normal banking and see first hand what happens to thieves in Converse.
Being a railroad town in the middle of an oil boom in the 1920’s, Converse was a center of trading and shopping for a large area. The community had a good school, a church, several stores, a few medical doctors and a cotton gin. Converse even had a movie theater and a saloon during the ’30’s, but the local clergy snuffed out those two establishments before long. The doctors in those times held their practice at their homes and would travel by foot or horseback to visit the patients who were unable to make the trip.
The oil boom from the ’20’s died down and in the ’30’s the Depression was sweeping the nation. Converse was no exception. By 1933 the bank was closed and few, if any, residents held jobs. People with exceptional educational backgrounds would travel through Converse looking for work, but to no avail.
A small, two bed hospital was established in 1908 in the back of the local drug store, L. E. Harper’s Pharmacy (at least the doctor was close to the medication). A larger, more modern hospital was constructed in 1927 and named the Allen Hospital (after Dr. W. E. Allen, who put together the first, smaller hospital). This new hospital, the first in Sabine Parish, accommodated 14 patients and had an operating room, with Dr. H. M. Prothro as the surgeon. In 1935 the hospital was destroyed by fire.
The education in Converse started out on a grade school level, but grew into a new high school in 1920. The first high school was a two story frame building with seven classrooms and an auditorium. The building was completely wooden and, as such, was at risk of fire damage, which finally destroyed the school in 1927 – due to a problem with the chimney. To help finish out the school year the First Baptist Church of Converse allowed the students to complete the term in its building.
To replace the destroyed school, in 1928 a two story brick building was erected not far from the original high school site. This new school’s twelve classrooms and auditorium had all the modern conveniences with running water, electricity, as well as clocks and bells.
Source: Sabine Parish Library; author: Sabine Times 6/12/96