Bernice, Dubach have history

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

There was a reason for the drive we made up through the North Louisiana Hill Country that day. We had been reminiscing about our Harper relatives who once lived near Bernice and wondered if we could find their old home place. From the stop at the Autrey house, we continued on toward Dubach, a historic town advertised as the Dogtrot Capitol of the world. Intersecting with Highway 167, we continued the drive north toward Bernice.

Both Dubach and Bernice are historic towns and have places of interest we would enjoy visiting. The Baldwin house is off Highway 167 about two miles south of Bernice. The Baldwin family built it in the early 1900s. The Bernice Depot was built when the Rock Island Railroad was routed through the town. It was bought and restored by Corney Creek Pork Festival, and donated to the town, and the block was made into a park. A caboose was later purchased and placed on the rails that remained at the depot.

Two houses, Garland House and Heard House are listed on the Historic Register.

We turned east on the edge of Bernice, then turned south onto a dirt road leading out through the country toward the former Harper homestead. My cousin and I reminisced as we drove along, reliving memories of Aunt Lela and Uncle Wilbur. The old house and their dairy barn would probably be gone now. The cows they milked and the pastures the dairy cows fed on would be grown up with weeds and trees.

"Wait, back up!" from the passenger side, directed me back to a low place in the road and an old barb wire fence gate with a sign that indicated that trespassing wasn't allowed.

We parked there on the road, recalling the beauty of the old farm now planted with pine trees. We remembered the dairy out front, the attractive old home, and the ponds in the green pastures where family fished whenever they came to visit.

Family lore is that the Harpers attended church a few miles up the road, alternating Sundays, attending Weldon Baptist Church one week and Alabama Methodist Church the next. They are buried in between the two churches in Weldon Cemetery. The cemetery and the two churches are located just over the line inside Claiborne Parish and south of Corney Lake.

History of Alabama Church 1850-1945, by Lillian Dawson Smith tells the story of a group of people from Shelby County Alabama coming to North Louisiana in search of a new home. "Their trip was made in wagons drawn by horses, taking six weeks to make the trip, arriving here in 1849. Being of Methodist belief they soon organized a Methodist Church and named it Alabama in memory of the State of Alabama from whence they came."

Smith's history of the church, published in Historic Claiborne by the Claiborne Parish Historical Association, gives a detailed record of the organization of the church, the various locations of earlier buildings, names of charter members and other people who played a part in moving the church forward. The Harper name is prominent among lists of Charter Members, builders and trustees in Smith's history.

The Bernice history page published on line tells us that today's Alabama Methodist Church was built in 1895 and was active until 1950. The original pews and pulpit are in excellent condition, strong and sturdy. Since it was put on the National Historic Register it has been maintained and is in good condition. Recently, the church has been used for weddings.

We were reluctant to leave the historic and picturesque church and the memories of the relatives who were a part of the area's history and ours. However, another historic site with a name echoing through untold years of history was just down the road. The name Shiloh, takes one deep into Biblical history, as well as Civil War History and the name is commonly found in many locations today.

The Shiloh we drove along to wasn't very far east of Bernice. It is south of Corney Creek, a small stream beginning in the northwestern part of Union Parish that turns and twists its way down and emptying into Lake D'Arbonne.

To be continued.