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Shreveport History, Louisiana

Shreveport may not be among the oldest settlements in the state of Louisiana, but that does not make Shreveport history a lot less interesting. Actually, the city has preserved its rich history quite well and you will be thrilled to know that Shreveport has the second highest number of historical landmarks (next only to New Orleans) in the state. We shall immediately go into the details as to how it all began.

Shreveport History – The Beginnings

Shreveport, Louisiana, was established as a new settlement by the Shreve Town Company in 1836; it was all a part of a scheme that required the establishment of a new township at the junction of the Red River and the Texas Trail following the clearing of the Red River logjam/debris. This unclogging job was undertaken by a United States Army Corps of Engineers’ team under the leadership of Captain Henry Miller Shreve. Just like the company, the new settlement was named ‘Shreve Town’ after Captain Shreve. Incidentally, the land, on which this new settlement rose, was purchased by the company from the Caddo Indians in 1835. (The original Shreve Town was divided into sixty-four city blocks and it exists even today – in fact, it now forms the city’s core business district and has found a place in the National Register of Historic Districts).

Shreve Town had things going for it from the very beginning; thus, when the Caddo Parish was carved out in 1838, Shreve Town was named the seat of the parish (and it remains so even today). The following year marked the real beginning of Shreveport history when the community was officially incorporated as a town, while being re-named ‘Shreveport’.

Shreveport History –19th Century

After this very promising beginning, Shreveport did continue to do well, particularly doing well commercially. The navigable Red River made the town a busy commercial hub – engaged in the transportation of commodities, mainly agricultural products. The employment opportunities started attracting new settlers and by 1860, Shreveport had a population of around 3500 people; the fact that there was a considerable slave-population did tarnish its image (in the national context) but it also made Shreveport a Confederate stronghold during the Civil War days and it acted as the Confederate capital from 1863 to 1865. (Following the occupation of Baton Rouge by the Union forces in 1962, Opelousas was named the capital by the Confederate government; when nine months later Opelousas was captured, Shreveport was declared capital.)

The end of the Civil War, however, restored peace in the region and Shreveport was declared a city in 1871.

Shreveport History – The 20th Century to Present Times

The 20th century saw the city prosper further, and it was not just economic prosperity, but also social and cultural progression. Shreveport’s first skyscraper, the Commercial National Bank Building was ready by 1910. If this was the first sign of the emergence of a modern city, the following decades kept on adding to its appeal.

With Huddie William Ledbetter (the world-renowned blues singer and guitarist, better known as Leadbelly) carving a niche for himself with his own style of music inspired by Shreveport’s local music, the city acquired a distinct cultural character. This image was further enhanced by the Louisiana Hayride radio/television program that was aired from Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium from the late 1940s to the 1960s; this program helped in launching the careers of country music singers.

Meanwhile, the Barksdale Air Force Base had come up in adjoining Bossier City in 1933, adding to the military significance of Shreveport. All these, together with the people’s civil rights aspirations, brought Shreveport the recognition of All-American City. 1953 was exceptional in the sense, it was for the first time in Shreveport history that the city was named an All-American City; the city went on to receive the same honor on two more occasions – in 1979 and in 1999.

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