Restoration Completed 1976 and First Florien Depot: The first KCS railroad depot was completed in 1896 where Hwy 474 crosses the railroad and burned in 1921
Moving and renovation of the Florien KCS depot began in 1973 and completed 1976. Bill Nixon and Ross Williams purchased the depot and began planning how to move it onto the property I had that was located across the street. In spare time, we worked a year preparing the building and site for the move (about three hundred feet). Site preparation included forming and pouring a concrete footing where the depot would rest. The depot was constructed in 1922 after the original depot (bottom cover photo), constructed in 1898, burned. Kansas City Southern depots were no longer needed when passenger trains no longer delivered mail to towns along the railroad; about 1970. Depots were sold, in most cases, on condition the structure would be removed from the KCS right-of-way.
A number of Florien residents had settled in the area during the 1830-40s. The Neutral Strip was no longer under enforced law and cleaned-up of the bandits, the U. S. Government sold the land up for 12.5 cents per acre. The land between the Sabine River and Fort Jessup was available and affordable. It was at this time that Sabine Parish was created and became a part of Louisiana.
The village of Florien was founded in 1896 at about the time Kansas City Southern Railroad was completed. The originator of the railroad, Arthur Stilwell, had the influence and money for such an ambitious project. Stilwell’s idea for developing a railroad line through western Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri was to create a short route to an ocean port from the mid-west, saving the midwestern farmer money, while also making money for himself.
The Kansas City Southern railroad began construction in 1890. Stilwell needed additional financial assistance at about the time the nation experienced the Panic of 1893 and three years later, the depression of 1896. He secured $3,000,000 from Dutch investors. Stilwell named a number of towns after the investors as token of appreciation to his Dutch friends. DeGoeijen became DeQueen, Arkansas and Mena, was named for his wife, Mena. Hornbeck and DeRidder, Louisiana, were also named for prominent Holland investors. Zwolle, Louisiana, is taken from the Netherlands city of DeGoeijen’s birth. DeQuincy, Louisiana, honors Baron DeQuincy, Dutch nobleman and early stockholder.
In 1896, the right-of-way and grading was completed through Florien. By 1897, tracks were laid and the railroad completed. The KCS railroad extended 1,711 miles from Port Arthur, Texas, now one of the nation’s largest ports, to Kansas City, Missouri.
Chinese, Irish, and African American workers provided most of the hard labor. One laborer said he worked for $1.35 a day, sunrise to sundown, driving spikes. A crew of six men gauged and drove spikes; two gauged while the other four paired off and drove spikes using a heavy sledge hammer. One man struck the spike as the other began swinging the sledge hammer to drive the spike. Most of the grading and ties were supplied by local farmers. The grading was done with a mule drawn slip. The farmer walked behind the slip and controlled it with two handles attached to each side. As the mule pulled the slip (similar to a very large wheelbarrow with no wheel or the scoop on a front-end loader of a tractor), the handles were lifted slightly to scoop the dirt. One slip load was probably equal to three to five wheel barrows. When the team reached their destination, the farmer would stop the mule team and lift the handles on the slip to dump the load.
W. G. Leach owned the fifty acres that would become the Florien town site. Leach sold the land to the Kansas City Terminal Construction Company for $600.00. The railroad right of way was one hundred eighty five feet wide through Florien. The original town site of Florien was surveyed in 1896. April 28, 1897, the Kansas City Terminal Construction Company sold the lots of the Florien town site, not previously sold to individuals, to the town site company. Consideration for the sale was $100.00. Many lots were sold by the company to individuals and later sold the remaining lots to Corley and Williams. Blocks and lots were laid parallel to the KCS track rather than aligning with the range and township lines.
The village of Florien was named in honor of Florien Giaque. Giaque was a prominent attorney from Cincinnati, Ohio, and was at one time the largest single land owner in the parish. Giaque purchased the title to a number of claims in the area of Lanana Grant No. 1 (as that tract of land is known). A number of residents had homes on Giaque’s land that had no titles verifying ownership. Giaque sold the residents the lots at reasonable prices and furnished them with proper titles.
Some scoffed at Giaque’s interest in the land, which he bought some 15 years before the railroad moved into town, and these objectors wrote the land off as worthless. However, when the KCS railroad was built in 1896, Giaque sold 32,700 acres of the land to promoters.