Revival of Ruston’s historical Chautauqua series continues

October 13, 2016


Staff Reporter | kjk019@latech.edu

Kevin Adkins, head of the history board at Union High School, spoke about northern Louisiana’s role in the civil war. Photo by Danny Do.

Kevin Adkins, head of the history board at Union High School, spoke about northern Louisiana’s role in the civil war. Photo by Danny Do.


Ruston community members packed a room of the Lincoln Parish Museum for a lesson in local history and the Civil War.


The Chautauqua, a series of educational lectures in its second year of revival, drew a number of Ruston residents to the museum on the evening of Oct. 4. Kevin Adkins, a history teacher at Union Parish High School, delivered the first lecture and offered an in-depth look at the role of northern Louisiana in the Civil War.


Margaret Anne Emory, director at the Lincoln Parish Museum, said the original Ruston Chautauqua, held from the 1890s to the early 1900s, was an educational conference where teachers and community members could gather to hear lectures, learn, and participate in recreational activities.


“The Chautauqua idea is that everybody learns, which is such a great concept,” she said.


Emory described the Chautauqua’s historical role in the town of Ruston and Tech.


“The Chautauqua was the reason for Tech,” Emory said.


According to a paper written by Patricia Strickland, who received the North Louisiana Historical Association’s Overdyke Award for her work, a speech given at the 1892 Chautauqua suggested the need for a technical school in the area. This speech on civil engineering played a role in inspiring the creation of Louisiana Industrial Institute and College in Ruston. This school later evolved into Louisiana Tech.


Emory said the current series of lectures was intended to be a revival of the original Chautauqua, and she said this particular series focused on honoring veterans.


“What I’m hoping is that it’ll become a real community activity of Ruston because it used to be, and it’s a nice concept,” she said.


Charlotte Gregory Milonski, a Tech alumna and Monroe resident, said her love of history inspired her to attend the event.


“I hope to find out a little bit more about people who lived back in the Civil War era,” she said.


Adkins, who is pursuing a master’s degree in history at Tech, said he was selected to deliver a speech concerning the Civil War in Louisiana. His presentation also addressed keeping history alive, and he said there were many ways to connect with the past.


“Visit museums to gain an appreciation and be able to have a hands-on experience with the past,” he said. “Get into primary sources by doing family history and genealogy. That’s how you get in touch with the past.”


The speech spurred a lively question-and-answer session between the speaker and community members. Questions ranged from how to find ancestors who had been involved in the Civil War to the current legal battles over various Civil War monuments in the South.


The next lecture in the fall Chautauqua series will cover the Kidd family legacy. The event is held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Lincoln Parish Museum at 609 North Vienna Street, and is open to the public.


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