Marksville, Louisiana: Background information when reading What the River Washed Away

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What the River Washed Away

by Muriel Mharie Macleod

What the River Washed Away by Muriel Mharie Macleod
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2013, 288 pages
    Jul 2013, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Marksville, Louisiana

Print Review

Wagon Wheel MonumentIn Venice, Italy, where it is believed he was from, he was Marco Litche, a trader. In America, he became Marc Eliche. In 1794, a broken wagon wheel stranded him 62 miles north of Lafayette. But the environment was nice, and so were the Avoyels, a small Native American tribe that lived there; also he was a trader, so there was business to be done. He established a trading post, married Julie Carmouche of Point Coupee Parish in 1796, and secured Spanish land grants. (Spain owned Louisiana from 1762-1802 but was mostly a benign and absent "landlord". Although it only owned Louisiana for a short time many defining characteristics of Louisiana's architecture, such as buildings in the French Quarter of New Orleans, are Spanish constructions.) Later on, Eliche donated the land, and it became Marksville's courthouse square. "Marc's Place" and "Marc's Store" were the first names for the area, before finally becoming "Marc's Ville," eventually taking its present name, Marksville.

But the history of what is now Marksville extends long before the arrival of Marc Eliche. The area is rich with artifacts from an ancient culture that lived in the region from about 100 BCE to 400 CE. Known today as the Marksville culture, the people are believed to be part of the larger Hopewell culture that lived in the northeastern and midwestern United States from about 200 BCE to 500 CE and were connected by a network of trade routes. The people of the Marksville culture imported raw materials with which they made decorative pottery and might have been agriculturalists, specifically horticulturalists of native plants. Burial ceremonies seem to have played an important cultural role - with indications that the dead were temporarily stored elsewhere before being buried together in intricately designed mounds that took years to build.

Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861, becoming part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and Marksville had its share of the war. A few fights broke out near Marksville, including the battles of Mansura, Yellow Bayou, and Fort De Russey, all part of the Red River Campaign, so named because they took part along Louisiana's Red River.

Marksville Prehistoric Indian SiteThe Union took over Marksville in 1863, led by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks. By 1910, Marksville's economy was robust enough to merit two banks - it would remain the only two-bank town in Avoyelles Parish until after the Great Depression. When Arletta (the protagonist of What The River Washed Away) arrived in Marksville in 1915 commercial business was booming. Anything, from flour, to lard, to a horse carriage, to a 10-cent ice cream soda, could be bought there. Today, Marksville boasts of colonial and civil war history sites, natural areas, such as the Lake Ophelia and Grand Cote National Wildlife Preserves, as well as the Marksville Prehistoric Indian Site, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Broken wagon wheel statue that stands in Marksville
The Marksville Prehistoric Indian Site.

Article by Rory L. Aronsky

This article is from the September 18, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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