Henry Marshall was one of the thousands of young men who
left their homes in South Carolina
and moved west during the decades before the Civil War. He wanted land—lots of
it—rich land which would also attract his friends and, as he hoped, would “make
a society.” He spent three years looking all across the South at established
cotton plantations that were for sale and at raw undeveloped land suitable for becoming
plantations before making up his mind in late 1835. The place he finally
selected was the wild Red River Country in the northwest corner of Louisiana.
It was virtually unoccupied; the Caddo Indians, who for centuries had made it
their home, had just that year sold out to the United
States and were moving to the adjoining
nation of Texas. And the town of Shreveport,
which would become the area’s metropolis, still existed only in the minds of a
Marshall and his family left a detailed record—in their own
worlds—of their migrating from the South Carolina Piedmont to Louisiana
and their making a home in the frontier wilderness. The record is found in the
collection of several hundred letters and related papers which form the basis
of this book. In it is chronicled the family’s everyday life—their house,
foods, social life, education, recreation, religion, travels, relations with
their negroes, illnesses, births and deaths from the 1830s to the Civil War.
The big house that Henry Marshall built on his plantation, Land’s
End, was a tourist attraction in recent years before being
destroyed by fire in 1989.