The post-Civil War Reconstruction Era was a time of growth in the area now known as Sulphur.  This growth found its roots in 1859, with the discovery of oil in West Calcasieu, and many attempts were made between 1860 and the 1870’s to extract it from the earth.  The early Sulfur Mining Companies also began their operations at this time, mostly unsuccessfully (until the Frasch Mining Process was developed in 1894).

Meanwhile, a man named Eli Perkins was operating a sawmill at Rose Bluff (the site of the existing Citgo Refinery).  His son, Dosite Samuel (D.S.) Perkins was born in 1866 at Rose Bluff.  In addition to being involved in the town’s early oil prospecting attempts, Eli Perkins also has the distinction of being the first store-owner, with the construction of his general store in the area of Sulphur in 1876.  The store was built to serve the workers in the oil and sulfur industry that were taking up residence near the sulfur dome northwest of modern-day Sulphur.

Another influential resident of “soon to be” Sulphur moved to the area in 1872.  John Thomas Henning began working at Eli Perkins’ sawmill, and eventually married Perkins’ daughter.  In 1885, he moved to Sulphur, building the first house in the new village.  John Thomas Henning operated a boarding house, a transfer company which moved sulfur from the mines to the railroad, and also served as the town’s postmaster for a while.

Another major development in the history of the city was the construction of the Louisiana Western Railroad in the 1870’s.  An aggressive marketing campaign in the Northeast provided a steady flow of immigrants to the newly-forming region.

With all this new growth in the city, several residents began the task of laying out the groundwork for a city.  In 1878, Thomas Kleinpeter drafted the plans for the town of “Sulphur City,” even though it wasn’t  incorporated until 1914.

 “The Village of Sulphur” was incorporated on April 17th, 1914 by Governor Luther E. Hall.  Dr. D.S. Perkins was appointed mayor at that time, since he was largely responsible for gaining the necessary signatures and gathering the paperwork required by the state.  After taking a census which showed a population of 1,702, the village was proclaimed a town a few short months later on June 16th, 1914.  The first elections were held on September 12th, 1916, where the following elected officials took office:  George W. Root, mayor; William Johnson, W.T. Henning, C.E. Burleson, Louis Smith, and F.W. Breeden, aldermen; and Eulice Picard was elected as town marshal.

The new town continued to grow through the rest of the 1910’s, but soon faced two major disasters in 1918.  The first disaster took the form of a fire which destroyed two blocks in downtown Sulphur.  Many businesses were lost, including the Paragon Drug Store, owned by D.S. Perkins.  The town council at the time decreed that both sides of Huntington Street would be required to rebuild with brick.

In the midst of the reconstruction, a ninety mile per hour cyclone damaged many buildings in the town and the Sulphur Mines.  Major damage included the destruction of the Methodist and Baptist churches, the middle building of the Frasch School complex, and over $3 million in damage to the Sulphur Mines.

The rebuilding process began almost immediately, and thanks to the generosity of city and business leaders, the churches and school were restored.  By 1920, an elementary school had been created at the Sulphur Mines for the Mexican children living with their families at the Mines.  The Mexican school remained in operation until 1927.

The 1930’s include several milestones in the city’s history.  First, in 1930, the Sulphur Daily News, which would become Sulphur’s local newspaper, was established in Vinton by H.P. Hebert and William Navarre, under the name of the “Southwest Builder.” The paper moved to Sulphur in 1933,  and was sold several times in its history, but ended up in the hands of Erbon Wise in 1951.

Additionally, Sulphur High School Football had its first game on October 4th, 1930, against LaGrange High School.  Though their first game was a 19-0 loss, football remains a popular sport in the city today.

The 1940’s and 1950’s marked a period of major growth in Sulphur, with the relocation of several large industrial developments on the outskirts of town.  Cities Service, Conoco, Mathieson (later Olin Mathieson), and Firestone all find their beginnings around the time of World War II, and all contributed greatly to the community’s growth.  With the influx of new industrial workers, the construction of Maplewood was much needed.

In 1952, Governor Earl Long officially declared the town of Sulphur a city.  The following year, voters of Sulphur moved from the Aldermanic form of government to the commission plan, which operates with a mayor and a group of commissioners who manage the various functions of city government.

Like the city’s period of growth in the 1910’s, the growth in the 1950’s was also marked with a tragedy.  Hurricane Audrey struck Southwest Louisiana on Wednesday, June 26th, 1957.  Casualties included around 550 deaths, most of which were from Cameron Parish.  No fatalities were reported in Sulphur, but damage to property was estimated to exceed half a million dollars.

The industrial growth of the 1950’s was followed by more growth in the 1960’s.  As the area was already full of industrial engineers, operators, and workers, many national and international industries began to relocate new facilities in and around Sulphur.  Among these were Conoco Chemical (Lake Charles Chemical Complex, which later became Sasol), and Hercules, a polypropylene plant, which was the world’s largest of its kind at the time.

All of this industrial growth necessitated the construction of a new port in West Calcasieu, which was created in 1966.  Construction began on the port in 1969.

At this time, the city’s population was approximately 11,800 in 1960, but swelled to 15,300 in 1970.  The reason for this large jump was the annexation of Maplewood and its suburbs in 1969.  The construction of Interstate 10 between Sulphur and Westlake in 1962 eased traffic congestion in the growing city considerably.

Associated Documents