Britt family home part of early Hill Country history
By Mary K. Hamner
Dr. Phillip Cook's History of Ante -Bellum Bienville Parish tells the story of the early development of northwest Louisiana. "The first English speaking people entered northwest Louisiana in the second decade of the nineteenth century," Cook writes. He goes on to say, "Government land policies during the ante-bellum period made the acquisition of land possible. After 1830 Bienville Parish was transformed from a frontier to an area of scattered farms and infant towns." Bienville Parish was created out of the vastness of Claiborne Parish in 1849. William Mobley homesteaded three 40-acre sections in the Old Saline community in 1838. He built the antebellum house in which he and his family lived in 1840. In 1894 the first post office was established and located at what today is known as the Britt house built by Wiliam Mobley in the 1840s.
Joel and Judie Rhodes Britt came to Louisiana from Calhoun County, Alabama in 1892. Joel is listed in records as one of the veterans of the Civil War who later lived in Bienville Parish. They purchased what was known as the Mobley Place containing 160 acres and a house built before the Civil War. Before the war the former owner owned slaves. There is a little cemetery where the slaves were buried.
The youngest son of the Joel Huey Britts was Joel W. Britt who married Hattie Madden, who was born in Alabama also. This couple continued to live in the same Britt house that was bought in 1901. There were six children born to them: (three died as infants) the other three were Lula Britt, J. W. Britt, Jr. and Leland Britt.
One hundred seventy three years later, the stately mansion that doesn't show its age, is still owned by the Britt Family. Although Leland and his wife Gladys are deceased the old home is owned and maintained by their children, William, David and Judith Lynn. The house built by William Mobley in 1840 was renovated in 1950-1960. A new wing was added on the south. The two- story structure of hand-planed pine lumber put together with square nails remains much the same.
High steps fronting the home lead up to the front door of the living room. The eyes are drawn to the old fireplace above which family pictures are arranged. One made in the early history of the Britt family with the house in the background (circa 1920) gives testimony to the age of the old building. A large Bible sitting on a table attracts attention due to its obvious age. The old edition copyrighted in 1820 is filled with ancient script telling the family history. The book of Maccabees would make interesting reading if not for the crumbling condition of its pages.
A beautiful old staircase led up to the second story. As we reached the landing the eyes were drawn to the scene outside the windows. A well kept lawn stretched across the back and was shaded by an ancient pecan tree. It had been grafted I was told and each year it bears two varieties of pecans.
Gladys Britt, spent 21 years in the public school system as librarian and English teacher. Born in 1929, she began writing poetry as a high school senior. "This House," published in one volume tells the story well.
Over this threshold many.
Dead bodies have crossed
It is the house of my birth
I will breathe
Britt home today, with brothers William and David Britt seated on the porch.
Britt family members in fornt of house purchased in 1901, House is in background.