Hidden town wants parish recognition

Elkinsville, a small community, wants official town plaque

October 29, 2008 at 9:10 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Residents of Elkinsville want the parish to put up a sign that would officially recognize their town, which was founded by free slave and business owner Palmer Elkins around 150 years ago.
Shonna Riggs/Herald Guide
Residents of Elkinsville want the parish to put up a sign that would officially recognize their town, which was founded by free slave and business owner Palmer Elkins around 150 years ago.
Driving through St. Rose, everyone rolls past a tiny town called Elkinsville, although no one would ever know it. That’s because there’s no sign or historical marker to identify the small community.

Now, members of the Elkinsville Historic Revitalization Association hope that parish officials will put up a sign to give the community official recognition as a historic town.

“Palmer Elkins was a free slave and business owner that  purchased more than a hundred acres of land to develop between River Road and Airline in the 1800’s,” Dwayne Harris, resident and one of the co-founders of the association, said. “Those areas he developed right now are called 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Streets, but all four streets should be called Elkinsville.”

Harris says it took him about three years to gather the historical background of the community.
On Sunday Oct. 26, the elder descendants of Elkins were honored during a special ceremony to celebrate the community’s plans to push for town recognition.

“During the time when land was plentiful, Palmer Elkins purchased 160 acres or more at an auction for $943.50,” Harris said. “Back then, he developed the community and everyone who settled there were families.  Everyone knew everyone, people were able to leave their doors open and didn’t have to worry about the things we worry about today.”

According to historical documents, Elkins came from the northern United States after the Civil War ended and settled in the south. He spotted a vast portion of land, about 12,000 acres, in St. Rose that was owned by Union Insurance Company of New Orleans.

Elkins bought 160 acres of that land and then established one of the oldest churches in St. Rose - Mount Zion Baptist Church.

“There are two churches here over 100 years old,” Harris said. “The graveyard is also over 100 years old, so there are a lot of historical landmarks in this community that deserve recognition.”

The remainder of the property remained vacant for about six years until Elkins partnered with other freed slaves and developed 1st through 4th Streets.

“I learned a lot through my research about the history of these four streets and the contributions to the community that Palmer Elkins made,” Harris said. “And we hope the signage will serve as a reminder for future generations of who founded this community.”

Ricardo Smith, another co-founder of the historic organization, says the oldest member of Elkinsville is over 100 years old.

“There’s a lot of history here,” he said. “Most of us who live here and grew up here are all related and we’re all descendants of Palmer Elkins. The oldest resident is Sister Virginia Harris, who is well over 100 years old.”

Smith says the goals of the historic organization are to restore historical integrity to the four streets.
“We want to remove all of the blighted housing, use the green space to make a park for the kids and anything that will enhance or uplift the community,” he said. “It’s truly about family. We take the advice of our elders in this community and we want to continue to instill pride and integrity back to future generations that will have to grow up here.”

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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