Cheré Dastugue Coen
Honoring an Louisiana outlaw legend
Louisiana has installed its first Legends and Lore Marker — and it’s to honor an outlaw. The historical marker unveiled at the Merryville Historical Society and Museum in Beauregard Parish honors “Leather Britches” Smith, an outlaw who lived in a once ruthless, lawless region of Louisiana.
Although Charles Smith — his real name — lived on the western boundary of Louisiana at the turn of the 20th Century, that region has been called “No Man’s Land” for its lawless reputation. When Louisiana purchased the colony from France at the beginning of the 19th century, Spain disputed its western boundary so no law existed in that region until clear lines were drawn and the United States moved in with military muscle.
At left: At the unveiling were the University of Louisiana's Center for Louisiana Studies Director Dr. Joshua Caffery, Assistant Director John "Pudd" Sharp and Dr. Keagan Lejeune, a professor of Folklore and English at McNeese.
Smith roamed No Man’s Land as an outdoorsman and outlaw and is credited with starting the Grabow riot in 1912 between timber companies and striking workers. The rift caused four deaths and 50 injuries. He eluded capture but was later killed by sheriff deputies. After they displayed his body for public viewing, Smith was buried allegedly face-down — as was the custom with outlaws — in the Merryville Cemetary.
The Leather Britches marker was created from a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation in Syracuse, NY. The marker is part of the Pomeroy Foundation's Legends and Lore Marker Grant Program.