The short-lived period of Reconstruction in the former Confederacy was met with defiance, violence, and a growing sense of chaos and danger — and that powder keg exploded on Easter Sunday in 1873, when the residents of tiny Colfax, Louisiana went to war with each other.
Listen to the the Southern Hollows episode "Fire and Bones," now:
Now that you have heard the history, take a closer look:
The Flaming Fountain at Colfax
The fountain in front of the Colfax Courthouse, was built on a well that edited both water and natural gas. Pictured here in a newspaper clipping from 1947, it burned from around 1899 until the early 1950s, when the flame went out. (Alexandria [La.] Town Talk)
Illustrations in the national press at the time depicted both the conflict itself and the gathering of the dead in the aftermath.
Below is the 1921 monument in Colfax to the three white militiamen, "heroes" who fell "fighting for white supremacy."
Below is the state highway marker, erected in 1951. Both markers still stand today.
Explore the story deeper:
Historian LeeAnna Keith has researched the Colfax Massacre extensively and has written a fascinating book about the tragedy. It's a great read, especially when it comes to tracing the direct line from Downtown Colfax, Louisiana, to the collapse of Reconstruction.
Learn more about the book here.
If you like historical fiction, check out Red River, by Lalita Tademy. Tademy is the descendant of slaves, and her books have been New York Times best-sellers and named to the Oprah Book Club. This powerful novel, Red River, is set in Reconstruction-era Colfax and tells the dramatic, intertwining story of two families during the conflict.
Learn more about the book here.
The Fountain Today
All that remains of the once-celebrated Flaming Fountain of Colfax is a sparsely filled planter.
Sound Design/Audio Engineer:
Music from the Episode:
Cold Sober by Kevin MacLeod
The Kid in the 4th Grade Kid Who Really Liked the Denver Broncos by Chris Zabriskie
Death Wish by Sebastian via Moosique
Water Lilly by Kevin MacLeod
Ghostpocalypse 8 - Epilog by Kevin MacLeod
Compositions and performances licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License.
Special thanks to Brian Sherman and Christopher Smith at the Louisiana State University-Shreveport's Noel Library and Melanie Simms at the Hebert Law Center Library, also at LSU. They were crucial in helping us track down the elusive Angolite article.
"Colfax Project to Reactivate Its Burning Well Gets Official Sanction," The Alexandria (La.) Daily Town Talk, June 15, 1959.
"Facts of the Colfax Riot," The Alexandria (La.) Weekly Town Talk,May 28, 1921.
"Flaming Fountain Replaces Famed Colfax Burning Well," The Alexandria (La.) Daily Town Talk, March 2, 1966.
Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row. 1988. (more)
"Historic Colfax Riot Plaque to Be Unveiled June 14," The Alexandria (La.) Daily Town Talk, June 16, 1951.
Keith, LeeAnna. The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror, and The Death of Reconstruction. New York, Oxford University Press. 2007. (more)
Wikberg, Ron, et. al "Tragedy at Colfax," The Angolite, November/December 1989. (read article)