History and Our Mom’s Home Town–Jonesville, LA
My sisters and I have begun this endeavor to memorialize our family memories and stories out of a deep sense of longing brought on by the loss of connections we once had, and also by the desire to carry on the way we were taught by our beloved mothers– to share the stories and keep the memories of loved ones alive. In 1991, our mother, Nelda LaPrarie Adams, passed away. She loved the little town of Jonesville, where we lived for several of our childhood years. Those were the happiest childhood years of my life. I was born in this town in 1970–the first baby born in the new hospital that year. (My mom kept the newspaper clipping, of course, as the women in my mom’s family always did.) She told us many stories of her happy childhood there in another era–when neighbors were kind to one another, everybody knew each other, and everyone cherished the place and each other. And when her mother, our grandmother, Dee Wright LaPrarie Bass, passed away in 2005, we felt we had lost the last strong link to our home on our mother’s side of the family. While doing research for this website, we have come across several other interesting websites, created by others who share a love for the town. I want to provide a link here to one of the most informational sites about Catahoula Parish history (see link at the end of the article).
Because Jonesville was settled at the confluence of four rivers, its history as a densely populated place approximately a thousand years ago, makes sense, since rivers were the “highways of the time.” How odd it is today to drive through the sparsely populated little downtown area, so near where the rivers merge, and imagine it bustling with activity! Who could believe that at one time, the flat topography of the present area, was made up of a large area of earthen mounds? Much of the town’s history is marked by fighting and greed, as is much of all recent History–destruction of cultures and structures and people, all in the name of “progress.” But this is not the Jonesville of my memory. A place is as warm as the people in it. A place will take on the characteristics of the individuals who occupy it. So, the Jonesville of my memory is full of good neighbors and good will and loving family.
My sisters and I have an interest in studying the “good old days” of Jonesville’s history because we grew up hearing stories about the cafe (Bill’s Cafe–upcoming article in progress) our maternal grandfather, “Bill” LaPrarie, owned downtown for some years during the 1930s-1950s. Our mother and grandmother kept those times and those people alive for us through their stories, and they made those experiences part of our immediate awareness. In that way, we experienced our grandfather, who died when our mom was two, by our grandmother making him present in our lives through her stories. She made sure we knew about him. We were taught to keep memories alive. How brilliant of her, really, because people can tear down buildings and transform the landscape, but they can’t destroy the living memories, stories we tell, and emotional ties.
People can be taught, manipulated, and intimidated into forgetting, but they can’t be forced to, if they choose not to do so. No one, and no act, can destroy the love that people shared in a particular time and place. To remember—that is the true progress. It is the bravest thing one person can do in the midst of human tragedy. It is the one single act of sovereignty in the face of destruction and cruelty. And for me, the people, the love, the memories, and the place, share time and space and presence. That love lives on forever….and never dies. I believe, buried under this facade of a small town, we can still hear the whispers of the essences of other eras. On a breezy, warm, summer afternoon, I can walk along the levee near the riverbanks and imagine other times and feel the lingering presences of loved ones. And even though I don’t have a physical home there right now, I will always have one there in spirit and in my heart…