|Title||Heritage Scrapbook of Northwest Louisiana|
|Short Title||Northwest Louisiana|
|Text||We probably identify cotillions solely with the annual Holiday-in-Dixie celebration in Shreveport. But they have a tradition in this area dating form before the Civil War. This is borne out by two original invitations addressed to the Misses Marshall, daughter of Colonel Henry Marshall of Land's End Plantation in DeSoto Parish.|
The invitations were printed on fancy paper with deeply embossed borders of flowery garlands and phrased in equally florid language. One summons the guest with: "Your are respectfully invited to attend---" the other with: "The pleasure of your company is respectfully requested---." Both cotillions were held in December, 1860. The first was on the eleventh in Shreveport at the Verandah Hotel; the other was on Christmas Day at "Keachi." The site there was not named, but perhaps it was the hall regularly used for all large gatherings and didn't require identifying.
Because no earlier invitations to cotillions or references to them have been found, we can infer that 1860 marked the beginning in the Shreveport area of big parties by that name. By then, Shreveport was a flourishing commercial center and out in the countryside, wealthy planters had built large homes and were enjoying some hard earned leisure. Many of them had been accustomed to a cultivated social life back in the Piedmont before migrating west. But not until the 1850's were they in a position to establish a comparable social life on the frontier.
Whether or not these cotillions were the first local ones, they were the last for a long while. Less than five months later, Fort Sumter fell and, within a year, many of the happy young dancers would be in uniform, embarked upon on of the bloodiest wars in history.
John Allen Tharp, Sr
Christmas Day, 1860
Invitation sent to Misses Marshall, daughters of Colonel Henry Marshall of Land's End Plantation near Stonewall, Louisiana