DeSoto Parish
Louisiana Genealogy & History Network

About DeSoto Parish, Louisiana...

It is a common misperception that the parish is named for Hernando de Soto, the Spaniard who explored the future southeastern United States and discovered and named the Mississippi River. The parish is in fact named after the unrelated Marcel DeSoto, who led the first group of European settlers there, to a settlement historically known as Bayou Pierre. The county name is also commonly misspelled following the explorer's name as "De Soto Parish," but it is properly spelled following the settler's name as "DeSoto Parish."

DeSoto Parish was created by a Legislative Act of 1843 from lands from both the present Caddo Parish and Natchitoches Parish. Spain followed trails in the area. By 1795, Pedro Dolet of Bayou Pierre established a settlement at Bayou Adayes, which was left in Natchitoches Parish according to old maps. On the Sabine River the waterloo community seems to have existed when Louisiana became a state in 1812. The site probably shifted somewhat when a Dr. Logan established a ferry crossing called Logan Port. By 1848, the post office there was named Logansport, which continued to be an important river port, even competing with Shreveport, until the railroad came in 1885. Settlers from Alabama and Mississippi territories began to find the French and Spanish, who had come earlier, and by the 1830's Americans from Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee had begun to outnumber the earliest pioneers.

The density of population warranted the establishment of two post offices on April 10, 1836. Both were listed in Natchitoches Parish, but actually they were in Caddo Parish, created on January 15, 1839. One of those post offices was Grand Cane on U. S. Highway 171. The other was Coates Bluff, located on the Red River near Louisiana Highway 1, as it enters Shreveport. Coates Bluff became the Shreveport post office May 15, 1838 to honor Captain Henry Miller Shreve. Gradually, the name became Shreveport and the population of Northwest Louisiana began a phenomenal growth.

Captain Shreve had succeeded in breaking up the steam boat traffic; the whole area benefitted. Shreveport was on the way to becoming the center of Ark-La-Tex trade and the southern part of Caddo and northern section of Natchitoches Parishes were populous enough for the creation of DeSoto Parish. In June 1843, the DeSoto government was organized by the Police Jury meeting at Screamerville, a few miles west of the Grand Cane post office. The Police Jury decided to create a new town for the parishseat, much to Screamerville's disappointment. For $200.48, they bought a quarter section of land from John A. Gamble and Charles A. Edwards and name it Mansfield. Mr. J.D. Wemple was commissioned by the Police Jury to survey the site. His map was ready by January 1844 and the sale of lots began. Sales stepped up after the Red River was opened and the ferry at Vicksburg in the 1830's was added to the Natchez crossing, which served the earliest colonists.

The population of Mansfield justified the establishment of the post office in 1844, a few months after the Keatchie post office began serving that area. In 1855, the Mansfield Female College opened and in 1856 Keatchie College began instruction. The earliest settlers had established churches and schools. Nearly every major religious denomination was represented in DeSoto to transplant in this new land the cultural and religious ideal that have been characteristic our nations since Jamestown and Plymouth. In less that fifteen years after DeSoto was organized two colleges were necessary.

The Battle of Mansfield was fought in DeSoto Parish on April 8, 1864. General Alfred Mouton was killed in the fighting, but his position was carried forward by Prince de Polignac, a native of France. The battle is commemorated at the Mansfield State Historic Site four miles south of Mansfield off Louisiana Highway 175. The Confederate victory prevented a planned Union invasion thereafter of Texas.[3]Mansfield, also known as the Battle of Sabine Crossroads, a Confederate victory, occurred with one year and one day left in the duration of the war. Mansfield was quickly followed by the Battle of Pleasant Hill to the south.

The parish has a total area of 894 square miles, of which 877 square miles is land and 17 square miles (1.93%) is water. The population recorded in the 1900 Federal Census was 25,063. The 2010 census recorded 32,002 residents in DeSoto Parish.

Neigboring parishes and counties are Caddo Parish (north), Red River Parish (east), Natchitoches Parish (southeast), Sabine Parish (south), Shelby County, TX (southwest), and Panola County, TX (west). Communities in the parish include Grand Cane, Keachie, Logansport, Longstreet, Mansfield, South Mansfield, Stanley, and Stonewall.