By Kevin Shannahan
Bandits, feuds, taverns and lodging that would make the Bates Motel look benign and Aaron Burr’s conspiracy against the young United States, all of these places and characters are just a few examples from the history of the “Neutral Strip”, a portion of land that stretched from just south of Keithville to the Gulf and from what is now western Natchitoches Parish and the parishes of Allen, Sabine, Vernon, Desoto, Beauregard, Caddo and Calcasieu.
This interesting time in our state and nation’s history was the subject of a presentation from The Cane River National Heritage Area’s Heritage Ranger, Michael Mumaugh, titled “Outlaws of No Man’s Land”, Saturday, July 20. The area got its name of “No Man’s Land” as a result of a border dispute between the French to the East and the Spanish to the West. There was essentially no effective government in much of the area. The “Neutral Strip” was home to a mixture of particularly hardy settlers, escaped slaves, soldiers of fortune, and some truly vicious predators.
The talk covered the era of roughly 1804 to 1881 and covered the timeline of people and events that shaped the area and its culture. At one time or another, France, Spain, Mexico, the United States and the Confederacy laid claim to parts of the area. Aaron Burr’s conspiracy against the United States almost split off a huge area of the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase and was thwarted largely due to a remarkably duplicitous US Army general who was a co-conspirator of Burr’s. He was also spying for the Spanish. He had second thoughts and betrayed the plot to President Thomas Jefferson.
The Cane River National Heritage Area is celebrating the history and culture of this unique part of our state and nation. This celebration will be marked by events and presentations from 2019 through the Fall of 2021. Come out and experience some of the history that has shaped our state.