Railroads came with mills, created small towns
Castor Station, one of many logging towns, revolved around Huckaby Hotel in early days

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

William Buchanan's Louisiana & Arkansas Railroad gave birth to many small towns when it plowed through North Louisiana south to Winnfield in the 18981900 period. One such town, named Castor Station by Buchanan, with its depot, section house, and worker bunkhouse, was designed for a train stop and housing for railroad workers. According to the 1900 Census, the population of Castor Station was made up of railroad workers and a few landowners that lived nearby. It was home to railroad contractors, railroad foremen, real estate buyers, civil engineers, cooks, railroad firemen, timekeepers, one schoolteacher and numerous railroad laborers. Early on, with the exodus of people to this new center of opportunity, the town soon had a store and a post office.

Castor had developed into a wellestablished trade center by 1920. Martha C. Wimberly, who moved to Castor during its "glory days", gives a vivid description of its 20s arrangement in an autobiography written before her death in 2003. She writes, "Extending south of the Section Forman's house along front street were Campbell's Store, the U. S. Post Office, the Bank building, and the Huckaby and Carlile Stores. Dr. Bond's office, the telephone building, and a two story building with the Woodmen of the World on the top and a pool hall on the bottom finished the lineup north of Front Street. Extending south on Front were Matthew's Millinery Shop, Bogan's Store and Brewster's Store. To the east along Highway 4 were Norman and Gahagan, Powell's Garage, Austin's Meat Market, Dorgan's Café, V. B. Stewart's Drug Store, and Walter Carlisle's Livery Stable. The Huckaby Hotel was located across the tracks west of the Castor Station depot."

Castor incorporated in 1920 under the leadership of J. A. Sledge as Mayor, and H. H. Lawson, C.F. Dorgan, and A. J. Norman as Aldermen. Early problems addressed by the Mayor and Council related to rules of disorderly conduct (drinking and carousing, gambling, discharge of guns, and open pool halls on Sunday). They were also concerned with cleanliness of premises and cleaning around hitching racks for horses.

Will Huckaby was a farmer and also worked as a rural mail carrier for a period of time. In the early 1920s, he and his wife Fannie Moore Huckaby moved to Castor, La. Will worked for the Pardee Company until his retirement in 1940. Fannie owned and operated the Castor Hotel. Lodwrick W. Cook, eldest grandson of the Huckabys and, born in the Huckaby Hotel, gives this vivid description in his Memories of Castor. "The building was one story and could hold about twenty guests. There were five or six private rooms and several sleeping porches with more than one bed. A room was added in 1928 for the birth of their first grandson, but as soon as he and his parents moved elsewhere, they were able to begin renting it out to the patrons who were mostly traveling salesman (called "drummers") from Shreveport.

"The hotel had no running water so there were two sets of outhouses (one for men, one for women) with six nonpartitioned stalls in each and a copy of the Sears Roebuck catalog which had a "dual" purpose. For a shower, you stood in an outside building under the water cistern and pulled a chain to be doused in cold water. It was the only place in town with electricity from its own generatorbut as soon as Will Huckaby went to bed, he turned it off and guests had to use kerosene lamps. The hotel also had one of the two telephones in town.

"Fannie Huckaby's father lived on the hotel property in a separate little cabin and was known as Grandpa Moore by everyone in town. He worked a garden and helped to produce a huge selection of flowers and vegetables on the property. In the barn across the street they had cows for milk, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and mules for the wagon. Potatoes were stored under the back porch and Mrs. Huckaby always had her own canned goods in the pantry. The hotel meals were legendary and for $1 you could eat all you wanted. People would come just for the food even if they weren't hotel guests.

The Huckabys operated the hotel while bringing up their four children, Ettrice, Minnie Merle, Harold Ray, and Mitchell. All went on to live successful and rewarding lives with the exception of Mitchell. Mitchell was killed in a car accident near Castor in 1924 while hauling hay during a parttime holiday job.

Oil well exploration added another dimension to this 1920s town located on top of a salt dome. A 1921 issue of The Bienville Democrat headline is that ANOTHER OIL WELL MAY BE DRILLED AT CASTOR. The article goes on to say that "the Louisiana Oil & Refining Co. had a car of casing unloaded at Castor Sunday, and it is the supposition that a new well will be drilled near that town immediately. The test, which was drilled on the Huckaby tract, was abandoned about three weeks ago when the drill stem was lost in the well. This is the fourth well drilled in the Castor neighborhood in the past few years."

After Fannie Huckaby retired in 1940, Bill and Lorraine Joyner purchased the hotel and adjoining property and continued its operation for many years. Times changed and business declined and for a time the old building sat silent and vacant. Small children playing on the school grounds next door thought it was haunted, a home to ghosts.

The Huckaby/Joyner Hotel stood for almost eighty years until the 2000 tornado swept through on a mission to wipe away all things old. Its timeweathered boards suffered an ignominious end in flames after bulldozers swept its remains into a cleanup pile. Today, a few remember the old building but attempts to locate photographs have been unsuccessful. All that is left to mark the spot is a red spider lily living and blooming bravely every autumn.