A barefoot boy from Home Villa had a hand in history

By W.C. Abbott, Jr.
Journal Correspondent

Members of the Bullion family were pioneers of Hope Villa, a village on the shore of Bayou Manchac back in the mid to late 1800's. Some of their holdings were in East Baton Rouge Parish where they built a store, but most of their land was on the south side of the bayou in Ascension Parish. There, they built a cotton gin on a rather high bluff next to the bayou. Confederate General O.A. Bullion lived on a large farm about two miles southwest of Hope Villa. The site in and around the farm became the community of Bullion and the road leading to it was and still is called the Bullion Road. The Bullions raised cotton on the level alluvial land, which had many hears before received rich soil deposits from the overflow of the Mississippi River in flood times.

The cotton gin was built in the 1800's and operated as long as it was profitable. The cause of its demise was a fall in cotton production due to the boll weevil and also, another gin went into operation in nearby East Baton Rouge Parish. I don't know exactly when this took place but I do know that in the 1920's the gin was an old abandoned building. The store owned by the Bullion family went out of business about the same time the cotton gin closed down. My friend E.D. Dixon and his father Earl worked in the Bullion store when it was in operation. Also working there was Donald Mackay, a son of "Grandma Mackay" and her husband, Mr. Fred.

One of the Bullion daughters, Estelle, married C.C. McCrory and they raised their family of four boys and two girls in a home near Bayou Manchac on the same tract of land where the old gin was located.

At that time C.C. McCrory was farming the old Bullion place, growing mostly cotton. Governor Ruffin G. Pleasant went to McCrory in his cotton field, so the story goes, to ask him to be adjutant General for the State of Louisiana.

Sidney Jackson McCrory, the second son of Cecil and Estelle, also was a leader. Early in life he organized the boys in the community into a "Gang" that met on Saturday afternoons to play ball, hold track meets, swim, fish, and roam the woods. Sidney finished college at LSU in entomology. He became the state entomologist and later was elected to statewide office as Commissioner of Agriculture when Earl K. Long was Governor.

Sidney's youngest sister, Cherrie Claire, married a young man named J.L. Iles, who during World War II was stationed on the Solomon Islands and was a roommate of John F. Kennedy. They became friends, both being P.T. boat commanders. When the war was over their friendship continued with J.L. attending the annual reunion of the group in New York for several years.

When John Kennedy decided to run for President and came to Louisiana to make political speeches, Sidney McCrory, then Commissioner of Agriculture, escorted him throughout his stay in the state.

Sidney's wife, the former Nettie Faye Cooper, told me Sidney saw to it that Kennedy was named king of the annual Rive Festival at Crowley, Louisiana. It was reported that at the Festival, Kennedy spoke to a throng of one hundred thousand people.

The Reggie family from Ville Platte helped in the political activities of John Kennedy. Much later, one of the Reggie daughters married J.F.K.'s younger brother Ted, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

While McCrory, J.F.K., and Reggie worked South Louisiana, J.L. Iles, Senator Russell Long, and Louie Boss, who lived in Jonesboro, traveled all over North Louisiana in support of Kennedy. At the time, Iles was staying in the home of George and Stella Mackay, George being the son of Grandma Mackay. Iles told me he attended Baton Rouge High School with Bentley Mackay, who is my cousin. Bentley, Sr., was George Mackay's brother. Bentley married Sarah Daigle, my mother's sister.

John Kennedy won Louisiana by one percent of the vote, and I'm told that if Louisiana had gone to Nixon, he was have been elected instead of Kennedy.

Think of this. A youngster who organized a group of boys into a Gang later became Commissioner of Agriculture, and helped elect a president of the United States, This boy was raised on the shore of Bayou Machac in the little village of Hope Villa, where he waded barefooted in the water to catch bream and red sun perch.

This story is from "Bayou Machac in the 1920's" by W.C. Abbott, Jr., of Jonesboro, a retired Jackson Parish County Agent.

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