Pretty much everyone knows that Shreve Town and later, Shreveport, were named after Captain Henry Miller Shreve, he of Graft Raft-clearing fame. What you might not realize is that Shreve never lived in Shreve Town OR Shreveport, he really only made money and a name for himself from it. One of the other founders, however, was very much a part of both the founding and the early years of this area, and now, a small group of history lovers is trying to find him.
William Smith Bennett came here from the northeastern United States as a young man in the early 1830s. He and wife Mary Bennett operated a trading post on what is today the Shreveport side of the river. William, along with Shreve, was an original charter member of the Shreve Town company. Yes, it was a company, a for-profit entity organized to distribute the land acquired around the river from the Caddo Indians.
Sadly, Bennett did not live to see the founding of Sheveport in 1839. He died in 1837 of Yellow Fever, and was buried, according to documents, in the Oakland Cemetery in downtown Shreveport. His widow Mary went on to marry Bennett’s business partner Jame Cane (who also died and left her a widow). Mary Bennett Cane became known as the ‘mother’ of Shreveport and the ‘grandmother’ of Bossier City. Cane lived a long and very full life (1812-1902), and was supposedly buried next to her first husband. But William Bennett’s grave is nowhere to be found.
It’s a mystery that historian, author and LSUS professor Dr. Cheryl White and a small group want to solve. Dr. White believes that Bennett’s grave – and possibly others- were separated from the main portion of the cemetery by Sprague Street and is somewhere in the vicinity of Sprague and Marie’s Court, the only remaining fully brick street in Shreveport.
White has been joined in this quest by Dr. Gary Joiner, archaeologist Dr. Jeremy Pye, Spring Street Museum Curator Marty Loschen and others. It is their goal to find the grave of this important founding father of Shreveport, properly mark it and memorialize him and place a historic marker at the site.
To do this, the group is hoping to rent some ground-penetrating radar equipment that will literally see underground to tell them if graves are present. If so, excavation will follow. They are working to raise $10,000 to get started, and answer the questions this mystery poses.
They have set up a Go Fund Me account and would appreciate your support.
All donors will be publicly recognized unless they wish to remain anonymous and will be a part of unraveling this historical mystery.