Talk Of The Town: New Llano - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Talk Of The Town: New Llano

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NEW LLANO, La. (KALB News Channel 5) - From an abandoned sawmill town to one of the greatest social experiments of the 20th Century, New Llano is a town with a rich history.

 

Geographically, where the city of Leesville ends, the Town of New Llano begins. Historically, it's a story of an experiment that had worldwide influence. 

"New Llano has probably got as much history, or more history than any other parish in the area over here."Said New Llano Mayor Freddie Boswell.

With some research it doesn't take long for New Llano's strange and unique origin story to emerge.

"New Llano was born out of one of those great social experiments that took place at the latter part of the 19th Century and the Early part of the 20th Century, and it's quite often called a utopian movement, or in some cases a social experiment." Said John Crook of Vernon Parish Tourism.

Originally, New Llano was a small town named Stables owned by the Gulf Lumber Company. In 1917 the company sold the property to a California attorney named Job Harriman. Harriman, a one time candidate for Vice President of the United States, was the leader of a Socialist Cooperative known as the Llano Del Rio Colony. 

The history of the New Llano Colony is one that is both complicated and romantic, an idea that came out of California, found it's way to West Louisiana and grew into one of, if not the largest social experiments of the 20th Century. A History that still lives on today. 

"If I remember correctly, my dad had to pay a membership to get into the colony, 1000 dollars for him and 500 dollars for me and my sister." Said Bill Brough, one of the original colonists.

For many suffering during the Great Depression, a place like New Llano seemed like a utopia, where employment was guaranteed. That's how a 10-year-old Brough and his family found their way from Massachusetts to West Louisiana.

"During the depression years he was afraid of getting laid off, somehow or another he found out about this colony, we lived in Massachusetts, he got a man to come with us and drove the car, we left there on Sunday November 15th 1931, we arrived here in New Llano on a Sunday, November 22nd." Said Brough. 

Brough was among thousands who spent time at the colony between 1917 and 1937. Colony life was based off of Socialist principles, dreamed up by Harriman in California before he and 200 others found their way to Louisiana. But the Colony wasn't exclusive.

"Socialism has so much to do with it but you didn't have to be a socialist, as I understand it, only 3 or 4 of the people were socialist."Said Martha Palmer, Vernon Parish Historian.

Their ideas, radical at the time, became social norms after the Depression.

"The colonists were all a part of those social changes that brought about many things that they themselves weren't necessarily instrumental in as individuals, but they brought about changes like social security, fair labor practices, not using child labor, so when they appeared radical at that time, they were the type of people that led efforts that tried to create life, aspects of life that are all better for us today." Said Crook.

But the Colony wasn't immune to the times and financial disputes eventually led to the downfall of the "Utopia of West Louisiana."

"They lost it, they fought for a lot of years and spent a lot of money, money they didn't have to try and hire attorneys to fight the system." Said Palmer.

Paving the way for the future of the town known today as New Llano, but not without leaving behind a rich history.

Some of the things the New Llano Colonists are known for include helping build Camp Polk, which is now Fort Polk, inventing the modern day cotton picker and pioneering one of the first day care centers which they called the "Kid Kolony".

 

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