Bienville Parish, Louisiana
|Parish of Bienville|
|Founded||March 14, 1848|
|Named for||Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville|
|Largest municipality||Bienville (area)|
|• Total||2,130 km2 (822 sq mi)|
|• Land||2,100 km2 (811 sq mi)|
|• Water||30 km2 (11 sq mi)|
|• percentage||3 km2 (1.3 sq mi)|
|• Density||6.1/km2 (16/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|Website||Bienville Parish Government|
Bienville Parish (French: Paroisse de Bienville, pronounced [paʁwas də bjɛ̃vil]) is a parish located in the northwestern portion of the U.S. state of Louisiana. At the 2020 census, the population was 12,981. The parish seat is Arcadia.
The highest natural point in Louisiana, a hill known as Mt. Driskill, 535 feet (163 m) in elevation, is located in north central Bienville Parish. The mountain is located on private land with public access by walking trail. It is named for James Christopher Driskill, a 19th-century landowner. Nearby is Jordan Mountain, with an elevation of 493 feet (150 m).
Lake Bistineau and Lake Bistineau State Park embrace parts of Bienville and neighboring Webster and Bossier parishes.
In the 1830s, Ruben Drake moved his family from South Carolina to what he named Mount Lebanon, the first permanent settlement in the parish. As the Drakes were devout Baptists, they established a church and school, which evolved into Mount Lebanon University, the forerunner of Louisiana Christian University in Pineville in Rapides Parish in Central Louisiana.
On March 14, 1848, the Louisiana State Legislature created Bienville Parish from the lower portion of Claiborne Parish. Bienville Parish was named in honor of the French Canadian explorer Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, who was governor of French Louisiana for a total of thirty years.
The original parish seat was Sparta, a defunct community located between Bienville and Ringgold. All that remains of Sparta are two cemeteries. Among the early settlers of Sparta were the brothers Green and James Huckaby, ancestors of later U.S. Representative Jerry Huckaby of Louisiana's 5th congressional district. The courthouse was moved to Arcadia in 1893.
During the American Civil War, Bienville Parish was strongly Confederate but was spared fighting in its immediate area. Instead parish residents participated in the building of fortifications on the nearby Red River. Much of this work was done by slaves hired out by planters.
In 1864, Governor Henry Watkins Allen named Dr. Bartholomew Egan of Bienville Parish to establish a laboratory for the manufacture of medicines. Egan bought out the former Mount Lebanon Female Academy and nearly a hundred acres of land to turn out turpentine and medicinal whisky. He also produced castor oil and a quantity of opium. Winters explains that the "native wild white poppy produced an opium equal in strength and effectiveness to the imported product."
The notorious bandits Bonnie and Clyde were shot dead in Bienville Parish on May 23, 1934.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the parish has a total area of 822 square miles (2,130 km2), of which 811 square miles (2,100 km2) is land and 11 square miles (28 km2) (1.3%) is water. The highest natural point in Louisiana, Driskill Mountain (535 ft), is located in Bienville Parish. Driskill Mountain is 11 miles (18 km) south of Arcadia at Latitude 32 degree, 25 minutes North; Longitude 92 degree 54 minutes West.
Loggy Bayou flows south from Lake Bistineau and traverses Bienville Parish west of Ringgold before it enters Red River Parish and thereafter joins the Red River.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
|Black or African American (non-Hispanic)||5,273||40.62%|
|Hispanic or Latino||211||1.63%|
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 12,981 people, 5,812 households, and 3,586 families residing in the parish. At the census of 2000, there were 15,752 people, 6,108 households, and 4,214 families residing in the parish. The population density was 19 people per square mile (8/km2). There were 7,830 housing units at an average density of 10 per square mile (4/km2).
In 2000, the racial makeup of the parish was 54.92% White, 43.78% Black or African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.15% Asian, 0.32% from other races, and 0.55% from two or more races. 0.95% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. At the 2020 census, the racial makeup was 53.16% non-Hispanic white, 40.62% Black or African American, 0.47% Native American, 0.16% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.92% multiracial, and 1.63% Hispanic or Latino of any race.
At the 2000 census, were 6,108 households, out of which 31.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.70% were married couples living together, 17.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.00% were non-families. 28.80% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.09.
A tabulated 27.30% of the population were under the age of 18, 8.00% were 18 to 24, 24.60% were 25 to 44, 22.50% were 45 to 64, and 17.60% were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 91.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.80 males. The median income for a household in the parish was $23,663, and the median income for a family was $30,241. Males had a median income of $28,022 versus $18,682 for females. The per capita income for the parish was $12,471. About 21.80% of families and 26.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.00% of those under age 18 and 23.20% of those age 65 or over.
Religiously, Bienville Parish has various Christian churches, mostly of the Baptist denomination. Many are in rural areas and often have cemeteries adjacent to the sanctuaries. For instance, the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and Cemetery is located south of Ringgold off Louisiana State Highway 4. The Louisiana Baptist Convention was founded in 1848 at historic Mount Lebanon Baptist Church in the community of Mount Lebanon, originally settled by pioneers from South Carolina. The First Baptist Church and the First United Methodist Church in Arcadia are particularly impressive structures for a smaller community.
Bienville Parish is a traditional Democratic stronghold though it supported the Republican presidential nominees Barry M. Goldwater in 1964 and Richard M. Nixon in 1972. It is one of three parishes—the others are neighboring Red River and St. Bernard near New Orleans – to have rejected the successful GOP gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Representative Bobby Jindal in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 20, 2007. One of Jindal's opponents, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell of neighboring Bossier Parish, led in Bienville Parish with 38.6 percent of the ballots cast.
However, the Republican presidential nominees have won narrow victories in Bienville Parish in the past three general elections. In 2004, President George W. Bush polled 3,612 votes (50 percent) to 3,399 (47 percent) for Democrat John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. In 2008, John McCain of Arizona won in Bienville Parish by a 187-vote margin over the Democrat Barack Obama of Illinois, 3,776 to 3,589. In 2012, the partisan breakdown for president was nearly identical to 2008. Mitt Romney won in Bienville Parish by 151 votes over President Obama, 3,641 votes (50.6 percent) to 3,490 (48.5 percent).
Bienville Parish was represented in the Louisiana State Senate from 1948 to 1960 by segregationist and unsuccessful 1959 Democratic gubernatorial candidate William M. Rainach of neighboring Claiborne Parish.
Lorris M. Wimberly, a Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was a native and resident of Arcadia. Wimberly served in the House from 1928 to 1940 and again from 1948 to 1956; he was Speaker from 1936 to 1940, 1950 to 1952, and briefly in 1956. His father, Joseph Rush Wimberly, I, served in the legislature from 1900 to 1908 and was thereafter a judge.
The last state representative whose district included only Bienville Parish was Len Lacy of Castor, who served a single term from 1964 to 1968 and had been a member of the Bienville Parish School Board for thirty-two years.
The Bienville Parish School Board operates area public schools.
Bienville Parish is served by the weekly Bienville Democrat newspaper.