a ST. LANDRY PARISH article
Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser, September 30, 1997
Duson bought 160 acres of land from Willie Humble of Prairie Faquetaïque and mapped out a town site, laid out in lots 50-by-140 feet, 12 lots to the block. Next, he persuaded the Southern Pacific Railroad to extend a branch line from Crowley to his new town. Then he began what he and his brother had learned how to do as well as anyone: promote land sales.
First, he promoted it in his brother's newspaper, The Crowley Signal, then a bit farther abroad. The Lake Charles Press carried an article about the new town in August 1894:
"Those ambitious and enterprising town builders, the Duson brothers, are busy now making a brand new city up in the woods one-third between Welsh and Alexandria. In conjunction with the Southern Pacific company, they have built a railroad from near the former place to a point some 20 miles on a direct line towards the capital of Rapides, which they have named the Midland Branch Road.
"At the terminus, a clearing in the woods, they have platted a town which they call Eunice, and which they propose developing into a town of 3,000 within a year. The new town has places platted for churches, school houses, parks, etc., and is laid out on modern improved ideas. The new (railroad) enters an entirely unoccupied field, as there is no road within 50 miles on either side."
Duson set Sept. 12 and 13, 1894, as the dates for the auction of his town lots and promoted the auction widely. On Sept. 12, the first trains came to what would soon be his new city. A special train from Lafayette arrived first, then a highly advertised excursion train from New Orleans.
Eunice pioneer Cliff Andrus recalled that day in an old newspaper interview.
"(The arrival of the first train) was something to see," he remembered. "The children set up a terrible howl and ran screaming to their mommas. There were teams hitched all along near the depot, and when that train came pulling in, the horses bolted, turned over buggies and wagons. It was a great commotion for awhile, especially when some of the older women fainted. "
"My aunt was one of the folks who sold gumbo, cake, and coffee that day," he said. "Many people did that. They brought their own wood, pots and things, and set up their booths right around the depot. I remember that they put up poles and covered the top with brush to provide shelter for their little cooking booths. They made a fire right on the ground, and cooked the gumbo in cast iron wash pots. My aunt did right well that day. We sold lots of gumbo, cakes, pies, and coffee."
Andrus remembers that C.C. Duson auctioned off town lots from a flat car just north of the depot.
"Before Eunice was founded," he said, "we had to go to Opelousas for things we needed, those we couldn't buy at our country stores. It was quite a trip by buggy or wagon. I used to make the trip every two weeks to buy blacksmith shop supplies for my uncle.
"There wasn't much you could buy in those days, and we usually bought things like flour, coffee and sugar at our country stores. There was Mr. (Gus) Fuselier's store, about halfway between Prudhomme and Eunice, the Theo Chachere store about halfway to Opelousas, and a little further, Mr. Dodd Jenkins' store. They all sold staple groceries, clothing, boots and shoes, and liquor."
Andrus became Eunice's first ice man, driving his wagon to Opelousas and back for the ice.
For weeks before the auction, Duson's Crowley newspaper had carried glowing descriptions of the town and the real estate bargains to be offered. Typical was this from the Signal of Sept. 8, 1894:
"All aboard for Eunice next Wednesday! Special excursion train for Eunice will leave New Orleans next Wednesday at 7 a.m., passing through here (Crowley) at 2:30 p.m. ... Drop your work for one day and take in the Eunice excursion and town lot sale next Wednesday. If you purchase; it will be the biggest day's business of your life, and if you don't buy, you'll have a nice trip anyway.
The Crowley Cornet Band provided part of the music for the celebration in Eunice. A member of the band would recall years later that during the train ride from Crowley to Eunice, somewhere past Midland, the train stopped and the brakeman got off and opened a gate across the track to allow the train to pass. The brakeman closed the gate after the train had moved through, and the excursion continued. The landowner, it seemed, had given permission for the track only on the condition that his livestock would not get out and roam the prairie.
The Sept. 15, 1894, edition of The Crowley Signal carried an account of the big day in Eunice:
"It was a big crowd that assembled at the new town of Eunice on Wednesday and Thursday, on the occasion of the first sale of town lots. The sale had been liberally advertised throughout the state in both the city and country press, and this advertising was not without results. There were people from Mississippi, Alabama, Te,as, and Louisiana. Scarcely a parish in this state was without representation. Large delegations were there from New Orleans, Morgan City, Houma, New Iberia, Abbeville, Patterson, Lake Charles, and Opelousas, while no less than 500 Crowley citizens attended either one or both days of the sale.
"But the big crowd that was there was small as compared with what it would have been had fair weather prevailed. The heavy rains all along the line of the Southern Pacific for three days was heaviest on Tuesday and prevented many from taking the early trains. Notwithstanding this fact, it was a large crowd that went to Eunice on a special Tuesday evening, while Crowley was overrun with guests who stopped off to remain over until the day following. After all our hotels had been filled many were the visitors for whom it was necessary to find accommodations in private families.
"The special train starting from Lafayette on Wednesday morning carried more than three hundred Crowley passengers in addition to the large number of visitors who had stopped over here, while several hundred passengers were picked up at other stations along the line. The Crowley brass band and Rayne string band supplied the music for the trip, as well as for the sale and entertainments at Eunice. When this train arrived there was found to be fully 1,500 visitors already on the ground, most of whom were residents of Acadia and St. Landry and who had made the trip on foot, on horseback, or in buggies or wagons.
"The visitors spent a few hours in walking over the town site and inspecting its beautiful location. Not until after 3 o'clock did Hon. C.C. Duson mount the auction table and offer the first lot for sale. It was located one square from the main street and was knocked down in short order to Gus Fuselier for $80. Property was offered for sale in different parts of the town and a number of bidders found themselves in possession of choice lots at low figures. No time was lost waiting for bidders to calculate. The prices at this time ranged from $30 to $125.
"About twenty lots had been sold when the New Orleans excursion arrived having on board fully 1,000 more visitors, bringing the total number of visitors on the grounds up to 4,000 or more. After a brief delay the sale was continued and better prices ruled. Avenue lots sold at from $125 to $205, and residence lots ranged from $40 to $101. The sale was continued until dark and nearly one hundred and fifty lots were sold at an average price of about one hundred dollars per lot. ...."
Eunice was incorporated on June 4, 1895. Eunice Pharr Duson, for whom the town was named, died at age 35 of tuberculosis.
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