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1 More Thing You Should Know About Central

The first Mayor, Police Chief, and City Council of the City of Central were sworn in on July 11, 2005, which is generally marked as Central’s own Independence Day! That was almost exactly 15 years ago. The Central City News was founded a few months earlier. So every year about this time, the Central City News honors the founding of the City of Central. 

In 2018, the Central City News published the 13th City of Central Anniversary Edition. It included, “50 Things You Should Know About Central!” Then in 2019, we published “10 More Things You Should Know About Central!” You can read those stories and almost all our back issues at centralcitynews.net, the website for Central City News archives.  So in that tradition, here’s One More Thing You Should Know About Central!

How have people in Central crossed the Amite River since East Baton Rouge Parish became American territory in 1810?  

Answer: Over the centuries, the Amite River has definitely been a major obstacle dividing people living in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes!

In 1810, what is now the City of Central was sparsely-settled wilderness in the Spanish colony of West Florida.  During normal weather, an able-bodied person could ford the Amite by wading or swimming or riding a well-trained horse across. When the water was low, wagons were able to cross at a few fords.  However, when the water was at flood stage, any crossing was an act of courage or insanity.

After this became American territory in December 1810, new settlers began to arrive.  By the 1840’s, landowners on the Amite began to operate ferries to haul people, animals, wagons, and goods across the river.   These included Benton’s Ferry where Florida Boulevard crosses the Amite today, Morgan Ferry at the foot of Morgan Road, the McCaa Ferry just north of Magnolia Bridge, the Burlington Crossing Ferry near where Hooper Road intersects Greenwell Springs Road, and the Greenwell Springs Ferry just north of Burlington.

Most of these ferries operated for only a few years.  Often, when one began, another would feel the competition and shut down.

The Burlington Crossing Ferry was important to the area before the Civil War but the small community of Burlington died shortly after the war and with it the ferry. The Greenwell Springs Ferry was short-lived and operated only when the Greenwell Springs Hotel was in existence.

The most important crossing was at Magnolia. Colonel Pruyn built a bridge there and collected tolls.  By some accounts, the bridge was built as early as 1860, but was certainly in use after the war and until the early 1900’s.  When the bridge opened, it put the McCaa Ferry out of business.

The toll for using the Burlington and McCaa ferries and Colonel Pruyn’s bridge was five cents by foot, 15 cents by horse, 20 cents by buggy, and 25 cents by wagon.

In the years before the Civil War, the major road on the East Baton Rouge Parish side of the Amite was Greenwell Springs Road.  At Indian Mound, the road forked, as it does today.  One leg went to Clinton and then Liberty, Mississippi.

Thus, the name Liberty Road.

The other fork crossed Sandy Creek and then east across the Amite River at Williams Bridge.

Denham Road entered Greenwell Springs Road from the west just north of Greenwell Springs.

What is now Hooper Road did not exist before the war.  

However, the Burlington Road connected Greenwell Springs with what is now the Watson community.  Dr. Jesse L. Fairchild’s history of Greenwell Springs said,

The Burlington Road began at a site just south of the hospital and almost directly opposite the intersection of the present Hooper Road with the Greenwell Springs Road.  It crossed the Amite River at the settlement of Burlington at a point locally referred to as “White’s Bluff” and coursed northeasterly along the banks of the Amite River to eventually intersect with and become part of the Springfield-Galveztown Road… A toll ferry was used to transport the traffic across the Amite River and the site was known as “Burlington Crossing…”

Burlington was well established prior to the development of the Greenwell Springs.  By the time of the Civil War, the ancestors of the present Carl family of Greenwell Springs had acquired the ferry.  In addition, they had a cotton gin, a grist mill, a brickyard, and a blacksmith shop…  By the time of the Civil War, Burlington was in full swing and a thriving community but, as so often happened, rapidly died out toward the end of the war.  Another factor may have been construction of a toll bridge at Magnolia…  Colonel Robert L. Pruyn built and operated the bridge at Magnolia and controlled the traffic across the bridge by means of a locked gate on the bridge.

Colonel Pruyn’s bridge was replaced by the Old Magnolia Bridge in the early 1900’s.  It was a one-lane bridge, and cars went “clackety-clack” as they passed over it.  

In 1955, the State of Louisiana built a new Magnolia Bridge connecting Central with Livingston.  The bridge was 1,842 feet long and 24 feet wide.  It served 16,700 cars a day in 2009.  By that time, the bridge was in poor condition and needed to be replaced.

State legislators serving Central and Livingston secured funding for a new bridge, and ground-breaking was held on Oct. 22, 2010 at nearby Greenwell Springs Baptist Church. Gov. Bobby Jindal officiated at the ribbon-cutting for the new bridge on Nov. 29, 2012.  It cost $19.9 million and serves more than 26,000 vehicles a day.

At the ceremonies, Gov. Jindal said, “This project is great news for the Capital Region. Indeed, upgrading our infrastructure not only makes our roads safer for our families and speeds up commutes for our people, but it also helps companies access our cities and towns more easily. ”

For the people of Central, the new bridge, which was more than 200 years coming, provided much needed relief.

Another bridge extending Hooper Road across the Amite River to Watson has been proposed since the early 1950’s.  It would move tens of thousands of cars a day off I-12 to Florida to Magnolia Bridge and ultimately to the new Hooper Road bridge.

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