NOTE: In an ongoing series exclusively published in the Jackson Parish Journal the history of Jackson Parish and the communities within are being examined. This week – Cartwright!
The history of Cartwright, located in the northeastern part of Jackson Parish, is hazy. There is no official documentation on how the community, that once was a small town, got started other than it got its name in 1907 when the T & G railroad came through and put a depot there. Other than that what is known has been passed down word of mouth.
Even how Cartwright got its name is a mystery. One theory is a man named Cartwright who did some logging in the area lived near the depot and thus had the town named after him. Mason Huey is recognized as the first person to settle in the area having put down roots right after the War of 1812.
In the early days Cartwright was a farming community known for its large annual watermelon crop that was transported all over the state by the railway. The growing of potatoes became prevalent around 1934. Education was handled in a one room school house where the children went until the eighth grade. For most, that completed their education as the closest high school was in Eros which was too far to travel to or because the young men and women were needed on the farm for the family to make a living.
During its “heyday,” if there was a time that one could be referred to, Cartwright consisted of the schoolhouse, a grocery store, sawmill and train depot. All went by the wayside as the young people of the area moved away and the older generation of farmers gradually died out. The Baptist Church, which was built in 1939 and the cemetery which sits beside are the only remnants left of what used to be.
In August of 1976, Cartwright made the national news when a natural gas pipeline exploded that killed six people. Another disaster struck the area in May of 1982 when an anhydrous ammonia pipeline ruptured leaving a path of dead trees, ruined crops, sick cattle and people.
Today the community still boasts a few farms but virtually all of the original families who were the first founders are now gone. Those who do live in the area now almost all commute to Monroe or other neighboring towns to go to work. While how it was founded and named may forever be a mystery what remains a fact is that living in Cartwright offers a peaceful style of life, which is the main reason people first settled there.
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