Sikes history noted on hill country tour

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

A shady spot to relax in Sikes, Louisiana is under the front of
Womack's General Store, where the gas sold has no ethanol,
according to the hanging sign.
A road trip over to Columbia, Louisiana was initiated by a friend, Laura Abels, who had never been there before. We traveled from her home in the Jonesboro/Hodge area down Highway 167, then turned left at Dodson, onto Highway 126.

North East Louisiana Hill country is filled with beautiful scenery and many surprises. Four people sitting around a table on the front port of Womack's General Store in Sikes, Louisiana caused me to pull over and stop. The hospitality of that group and information found there turned into a lesson in the history of Sikes traveling back one hundred plus years.

The September 2014 Sikes Historian chronicles well the exciting history of the old town. Puckett Willis, born in Sikes in 1924, writes the story. "Originally the town was 'Crain'. When it was discovered that another 'Crain' existed in the state, the town had to be renamed, and here we are 112 years later--Sikes.

An illustrated map of early Sikes shows twenty business establishments plus a Hospital, Hotel, Cotton Gin, Railroad Depot, and a Tomato shipping house. Willis writes, "The great fire in 1924 destroyed eight stores and other buildings. In 1930 the local school had more than 500 students. The bank closed in the 1929 Depression. In 1930, the Tremont and Gulf Railroad hired an agriculture agent to work with farmers to produce tomatoes, potatoes, beans and other produce to ship. In June 1932, Sikes shipped the first car of tomatoes ever shipped from Winn Parish.

After enjoying the visit with Bonnie Womack, General Store Owner and Manager, and Jennifer Smith, PSE, who works at the Sikes Post Office adjacent to the store, and accepting two copies of the Sikes Historian newspaper, we continued our journey on to Columbia.

My passenger and friend experienced the same awe I always experience as we drove up the steep inclines of the historic Columbia cemetery, marveled at the beautiful church buildings and went by the visitor's center. Then after lunch at the Mexican restaurant, we traveled over the impressive bridge over the Ouachita River, then turned south along the riverside. A right turn onto Highway 559 continued on toward the Duty Ferry landing, the only Toll ferry in Louisiana. We stopped along the way to see the McKeithan grave markers before our exciting journey across the ferry over to the other side of the river.

Jim Bowie's Relay Station was closed as we drove by on our way back to Highway 126 and home. We visited Womack's General Store again to ask more questions and share a cup of coffee. The Sikes community is exceptional in that they have established an organizational group that carries their historic story forward. The Sikes Historian, a collection of photographs and historical writings, is published annually. The community celebrates the Wolf Creek Festival on the third Saturday in September of each year.