NOTE: In an ongoing series published exclusively in the Jackson Parish Journal the history of Jackson Parish and all the communities that are located in it is being examined. Today we look at the birth of Eros.
According to Wikipedia there is only one other town in the United States named Eros than the hamlet located on Hwy 34 in eastern Jackson Parish. The other is in north, central Arkansas just four mile from the Missouri border.
What makes the Jackson Parish version unique is that unlike the other locale that was named after the mythical Greek “God of Love” the local community was named after an asteroid, making it one of the most uniquely named incorporated towns in the United States.
According to records it was a local lady who lived in the area where Tremont Lumber had built a new mill in 1898 that gave the town it’s name. The way it happened was one day Mrs. Pearl Collins, who was interested in astronomy, read that a German astronomer had discovered the 433rd asteroid ever documented and named it Eros.
Enamored with the way it sounded and having already the want to have the community get a Post Office she submitted the name to the Louisiana Postal Service. On October 23rd, 1899 she received approval from the state and the town not only had a Post Office but a new name.
After five years of operation “Mrs. Pearl” had a new building erected, the only structure in the town that covered by insurance and in 1906 the first rural route in Jackson Parish began mail delivery. Just before 1920 the town boasted a population of more than a 1000 residents, quite a large number for such an out of the way place. It was by far the largest town in the parish.
The Tremont Lumber Company was not only the largest lumber mill in Jackson Parish at the time but one of the largest in North Louisiana. As result, the thriving community was one of the fastest growing in north Louisiana with families moving in by such numbers that the construction of houses couldn’t keep up and many were forced to sleep in tents for months before permanent lodging could be built.
There were three hotels, one of which boasted over 100 rooms, a newspaper (Eros Plaindealer), three doctors, three churches, a jail, a bank, its own telephone exchange and the first high school in Jackson Parish which over 600 pupils attended. Eros also had the first movie theater in the parish where silent movies were shown in what was called a “hippodrome” type theater. Movies were only shown at night when it was dark enough.
This was an open-air affair that was a precursor to the “drive-in” theaters that boomed across the nation years later. At that time viewers would watch the shows in their wagons or on a blanket that was spread on the ground, except for Dr. Hearn, who was longtime Chatham resident Howard Hearn’s father. He had the only automobile in Jackson Parish – a 1912 Ford.
Then on the night of April 8th, 1920 catastrophe struck when a tornado almost wiped the community off the map. Not only was virtually every building in the town leveled it also dealt the mill a might blow. Miraculously no one was killed although several were buried in debris suffering from bad cuts and bruises. This included on one man who was taking a bath in one of the hotels only to be picked up by the wind and deposited roughly one hundred yards away still in the tub. Showing resilience the town’s people rebuilt the mill and most of the town, although in a smaller fashion, but in 1926 a great fire struck which closed the mill for good and ended the boom days of Eros.
Next week – Eros Today!
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