New Llano

The New Llano area was first settled by the Gulf Land & Lumber Company who owned several lumber towns in the area, the largest being located at Fullerton. The town, called Stables, consisted of some run-down shacks and the sawmill, but was handily located along the Kansas City Southern railroad. When most of the trees had been cut and the mill burned for the second time, the company decided not to re-build again. They sold the property to the Llano del Rio Company, a Socialist group who were seeking a new location for their Utopian colony.

The Llano del Rio colony had been started in California by a well-known lawyer named Job Harriman, who often defended the working class against the money barons. Harriman was well liked and had been a running mate to the first Socialist party candidate for U.S. President, Eugene Debbs. After their defeat, he also ran for Mayor in San Francisco, but lost this race just two days before the election, after two of his clients pled guilty to a high-profile bombing. He decided that perhaps he could better help mankind by forming a co-operative colony, where all members shared the work of producing what they required and received equal opportunities in return.

His first colony was in the Antelope Valley of California and was very successful. Within two years, membership had grown to over 1,000 residents. But there wasn't enough water to sustain such a large population and Harriman began looking for a new location for the colony.

He soon settled on this location in the highlands of Vernon Parish, La. and hired a charter train to bring colonists who wanted to go along and their equipment to the new location. The town was re-named Newllano, though this over the years became New Llano, as it's known today.

The colony continued to be quite successful in many ways. Memberships were sold to those who had the money, but the ones who didn't were allowed to join and receive all the opportunities of full members except the right to vote. If they stayed long enough to work off the membership fees, they received that right as well. Members came and went throughout the colony's existence, sometimes coming from other countries with their sole intent being to join. The colony offered a job for any man or woman who wanted to work. Each received a house to live in and all the necessities of life, though not many of the luxuries.

Education was stressed in the colony, beginning with babies who were taken to the Kid Kolony for daycare while the mothers worked, and continuing through adult education classes. Colonists created their own entertainment which included Saturday night dances, as well as a variety of musical and dramatic performances. Many members were Socialists and atheists, but it was not a requirement and any member was free to have religious meetings if they so desired. Medical care and funerals were provided.

Despite the fact that the colony had large debts, leaders continued to expand, purchasing a rice ranch in south Louisiana, a cattle ranch in New Mexico, and erecting three oil wells which never produced a drop of oil. In 1935, a group of dissatisfied new colonists who hadn't yet even earned the right to vote, persuaded enough colonists to join them and elected a new board. The feud became so public that some of their supporters filed suit to get their loans back and the courts appointed a receiver to oversee the finances of the colony. When he found it impossible to get the colonists to work together, he resigned and another receiver was appointed. The political difficulties made it impossible for the colony to pay their debts and within three years all colony properties were sold for pennies on the dollar.

Today, New Llano is a small town with a post office and several businesses. It is governed by a Mayor and Town Council. For more information about the city of New Llano, please call 337-239-3849.The Museum of the New Llano Colony, located at 211 Stanton St. opened in 2013. A well-maintained park with paved walking path is across the street.