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Early Settlers


This is a good place to back up and write a bit about the settlement of The Town of Urania and environs. In the article written on December 15, 2000, I gave some of the history of the town but settlement started here long before 1898 when Henry Hardtner bought the “pecker wood sawmill” from Josiah Prestridge.  Josiah was one of four families that came here in 1859 from Lawrence County, Mississippi. His wife was Amanda Mirah Kees. Other families were Wiley P. and his wife Permillia Angelina Cooper Maxwell, Commodore Perry and wife Martha Cooper Kees, John W. and wife Sarah A. Prestridge Kees. As you can see from the names, all these families had intermarried and all kin by birth or marriage.

They didn’t all settle right here in the present day Urania but within a few miles of here. But Wiley P. Maxwell did settle here and the place was called Maxwell Springs. There were springs all around the town site; mostly around where the land fell off into the flat lands which is the level ground along Castor Creek. However, there was an exception and the largest and most prolific spring was located at the intersection of School and Center Streets. The coordinates for the spring are as follows: 31-52-10N and 92-17-46W. I give these coordinates because one hundred years and beyond from now, the year 2008, many of the structures, streets and etc. might not still be in existence whereas the longitude and latitude should remain constant for ages.

Wiley Maxwell lived here until about 1900 when he bought land on Chickasaw Creek between Olla and Jena. Most of the people named are at rest in the Pine Hill Cemetery between Urania and Olla. These families organized the Pine Hill Baptist Church in 1860 and I am adding herewith, an article written by author unknown. I do however; have hard copies of the church minutes from 1860 through 1967. Here is the article.

In the year 1859 a group of settlers arrived in this area and homesteaded acreage in what is now the Urania and Olla areas. These folks came from Lawrence County, Mississippi, which was about 10 miles East of Brookhaven. Brookhaven was in Lawrence County at one time, but now it is in Lincoln County.

On 22 September 1860, some of the settlers met at the location which is now Pinehill Baptist Church and with Brother Nathan M. Davis as moderator, organized the church. The 11 charter members were: Commodore Perry Kees who was elected the church clerk. Others were J. I McManus, Josiah Prestridge, Wiley Pemberton Maxwell, John W. Kees, Ann McManus, Permeliar Angelina Maxwell, Amanda Prestridge, Sarah A. Kees, Mary J. Hooker and Martha Kees.

It has been reported but I have never found any solid evidence of the fact that Commodore P. Kees operated a merchandise business here and that location was at 31-52-03N – 92-17-39W. Across the street from there, was in my youth, a rustic two story building that we always called The Woodman Hall but I suspect it had other activities connected with it also. I will quote from the book, Let There be Light by Dr. H. Glenn Jordan, to wit: Missionary (Ridge) Lodge No. 210 was charted on February 14, 1872 in Catahoula Parish. (Now LaSalle Parish) Upon the recommendation of Columbia No. 164, a dispensation was issued on August 3, 1871 to Wiley P. Maxwell, W. H. Holloman, Commodore P. Kees, R. L. Elliot, B. H. Pendarvis, John Roberts, C(ollier) A. Maxwell, F. W. Stroud and J. A. Whitten to form a lodge in the community of Missionary Ridge. Maxwell, Holloman and Kees served as officers. The lodge, however, existed only thirteen years and forfeited its charter on February 10, 1885.

Maxwell, Holloman, Roberts and Kees lived in or near Missionary Ridge, R. L. Elliot near Olla, B. H. Pendarvis had extensive land holdings northwest of Tullos, F. W. Stroud owned land west of Kelly and whether he lived there is not known. Collier Maxwell lived at Maxwell’s Crossing on Dugdemona River where he operated a ferry and was a brother to Wiley P. Maxwell. That crossing is at 31-49-33N and 92-28-43W.

In the early history of the Town of Urania, Dr. Matthews’ office was located next to where the Kees Store was reported to have been and since the so called Woodman Hall, which was also used as a church, was located near the big spring heretofore mentioned, one could surmise that was the Missionary Ridge village center.

E. Forrest Cook



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