Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William J. Cooper, Jr


The Florida parishes of Louisiana experienced a peculiar pattern of development. Following successive periods of English and Spanish domination and an armed insurrection resulting in the shortlived Republic of West Florida, the region stabilized under the control of delta parish planters. A fierce tradition of Jeffersonian republican values encouraged the plain folk to assert themselves politically during the 1830's and 1840's. Yet by employing a series of enemies common to southern whites, and by expanding their control over the means of access to market, the planters stifled the aspirations of the plain folk insuring white unity on the eve of secession. Throughout Reconstruction the planters continued to employ common enemies to maintain their dominance. Yet with the close of Reconstruction the plain folk rejected the authority of the planters. The construction of a railroad through the piney woods at the close of the antebellum period, and the concomitant social and economic transformation of the region, dramatically disrupted traditional patterns of stability. Moreover, the residents, imbued with a Jeffersonian tradition corrupted by the extremely brutal war and Reconstruction periods, rejected governance and resorted to violence as the primary solution to conflict. With no single faction strong enough to effectively govern the territory, and juries unwilling to convict accused criminals, the region degenerated into chaos. Multiple family feuds provided the only means of societal regulation. The failure of state and local government to control the violence, and the residents peculiar tolerance of homocide, produced some of the highest rural murder rates in the nation for the remainder of the nineteenth century.