A Brief History of Negreet, Louisiana
Present day Negreet doesn’t consist of much materially, but in historic value, it is priceless. Down to the Indian face painted onto the side of the school with its feather-laden headdress, Negreet is still an audible echo of its past.
The Origin of “Negreet”
There has been some controversy over where the name Negreet originated. One of the claims is that the community was named after an Indian chief, since artifacts found prove that a tribe of Indians at one time lived on the land.
A more credible explanation, however, is that Negreet is derived from the Spanish word “negrito”, translated as “black” and was labeled as such due to the abundance of Black Haw trees which grew along the banks of the bayou on which Negreet was originally located.
This theory is supported by early maps which labeled the Negreet area as Black Haw Creek while later maps, with obvious Spanish influence, use Bayou Negreet. This name-changing influence was due to a Spanish settlement in the area.
Violence Slows Negreet’s Start
Reportedly, in 1789, Christopher Anthony passed through the terrain and was impressed by its forests of hardwood and pines as well as the abundance of fresh water. However, the land soon became included in what was then known as the Neutral Strip, a lawless area between Texas and Louisiana brought about by the uncertainty of Louisiana’s western border (which the Spanish and the United States disagreed on). Due to its lack of security, Anthony held off from any permanent building because the Neutral Strip was hardly a place for settlers and families trying to live a quiet life, with bandits and marauders raiding and pillaging towns outside the Neutral Strip and using the Strip’s chaotic nature as a protection from the law.
In 1812, once the boundary had been agreed upon by the US and Mexico and Louisiana was officially taken in as the 18th state in the Union, the United States ordered the construction of Fort Jesup for the purpose of enforcing the law within the Neutral Strip. The soldiers of Fort Jesup began cleaning up the no man’s land, burning the hiding places and headquarters of the scoundrels who inhabited them.
The fort was so effective that by 1822 Anthony decided it was safe to begin building Negreet into the permanent community that it is today and he was soon married to Milberry Cook, the daughter of the man who chartered Negreet’s first church, Elder Cook. Over time, Anthony’s opulence expanded, with his succession notice (a document much like a modern-day will) showing him to be the owner of thousands of acres of land.
Zion Hill Baptist Church was organized by Elder William Cook and James Martin on the third Sunday in December, 1826. The present day church is built near the original site.
In 1843 Sabine Parish was formed from a section of Natchitoches Parish and Negreet was taken in as a member community of that parish.
Negreet before and after the Civil War
In the times before the Civil War, many early settlers of Negreet were very prosperous, with large farms and plantations providing them with a bountiful income. However, the Civil War left Louisiana in shambles, looted by political and financial carpetbaggers, and many of the Negreet residents were forced to move to Southern Louisiana, where oil fields sent out promising offers of jobs and a better life.
Education in Negreet
Before being consolidated into one school, eight one-room schools served the Negreet community in educating the residents’ children. In 1921 a number of these one-room school building were aggregated into one two-story building, Negreet High School, under the direction of G. S. Manning, the school’s first principal. The school was established initially by five of the eight preceding schools including Liberty, Pilgrims Rest, Self Community, Spring Grove, and Oak Hill. In 1922 the new high school was joined by Hooker Bend, followed by Union Hill in 1928.
Source: Sabine Parish Library; author: unknown