Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dustin Bellfield Willard’s Louisiana Years

1851 - 1885

Dustin and his family arrived in Bossier Parish, Louisiana between 1851 and 1858.  Evidence of this is found in two real estate transactions.  The 1st involved 80.49 acres (32°44’7.07”N 93°37’48.49”W) located 7 miles NW of Benton, La.  There is some confusion regarding when Dustin actually acquired this property.  A Federal Land Patent was issued to Private John Gibson who on 8/1/1860 assigned the property over to Dustin.  The description states that Dustin’s farm was already located on this property.  However, a Probate Record states that Dustan B. Willard (as spelled on the document) sold the property to John Coats on 7/22/1859.  So he must have acquired the property before 1859.

The 2nd property was 39.88 acres (32°47’43.48”N 93°42’11.30”W) located 6 miles NE of the 1st property and 7½ miles South of Plain Dealing, La.  A Federal Land Patent dated 4/2/1860 was issued to Dustan B Willard (as spelled on the document) granting him title to the property.  On 11/16/1865, Dustin sold the property to WSC Gardner (his son-in-law) for $100.  About 5 miles to the NE of this property is a place called Collinsburg, La.  To my knowledge it was never a town but during the late 1800’s a post office was located there and family mail was addressed to it.

Prior to 1875 Jacob Willard and Thetis Willard Gardner moved their families 61 miles NW to Richmond, Little River County, Arkansas.  Year’s later daughter Angelina Willard High and Dustin’s widow Nancy would also relocate to the Richmond area.  No one knows for sure why Jacob and Thetis left but Jacob may have gotten into trouble with the law.  On 10/1/1868, someone named Jacob Willard along with Peyton Ward, Mr. Cox, John Arnold and 4 others were charged with the murder of Henry Dixon as part of what became known as the Bossier Riots of 1868.

Dustin and Nancy don’t seem to be included in the 1870 Census.  However, in 1880 they are living with their daughter Mary Ella Bush near Collinsburg, La.  He was 80 and Nancy was 72 years old.  And according to the Willard Family Bible, on 1/3/1885 Dustin passed away.  His published obituary reads, “The death of Mr. Dustin B. Willard, which took place at the residence of his son-in-law Mr. M. E. Bush, near Collinsburg, on the 3rd instant, in the 85th year of his age, removes from our parish a valued and venerable landmark.  Mr. Willard’s experiences and acquaintances cover a large and prominent space in the history and progress of Bossier parish.  In the several relations of life, he was characterized by a high appreciation of those duties which made him esteemed and honored as a citizen, a husband, father and friend, and leaves a large and interesting family to mourn his loss.  It is an old adage that the young may die, but the old must.  In this instance death comes at a ripe old age, and when every passing moment was mellowed with the pleasing reflection that his life had been well and profitably spent.”  As of this writing, I have not been able to find Dustin’s grave site.

The Civil War was fought while most of the family lived near Collinsburg, La.  Two of Dustin’s sons, Roswell and Jacob enlisted into the Confederate army as well as 3 future sons-in-law.
  1. Roswell B. Willard enlisted into the army twice.  I will detail his life in one of my next postings.
  2. Jacob Willard enlisted in 1863, joining Company C, 6th La. Calvary.  
  3. WSC Gardner enlisted in 1862, joining Company A, 25th La. Infantry as a teamster in Capt. Head's supply train.  During a battle in 1864 WSC was badly wounded in the leg.
  4. Moses E. Bush enlisted in 1862, joining Company B of the 28th La. Infantry.
  5. William B. High, enlisted in 1862, joining Company D of the 9th La. Infantry.
Nancy Willard and her grand-daughter Thetis Bush wrote some letters to a family friend named Micajah Wilkinson, a farmer living in Liberty, Amite County, Mississippi.  "Their letters reveal information about religion, the temperance movement, agriculture, race relations, and community events in Collinsburg, La."  The original letters are a part of the Micajah Wilkinson Papers Collection housed at the Hill Memorial Library at LSU in Baton Rouge, La.  I plan to visit the library someday and obtain copies of these letters.