Life along the Mississippi shore

An Associated Press article talks about life along the Mississippi shore for some 400 batture dwellers. The back of the press photo is stamped Jun 11 1961.

The Unsolved Murder of Lonzy Haywood Minshew
The Unsolved Murder of Lonzy Haywood Minshew

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** Article transcription **

By DAVID ZINMAN
Associated Press Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS, June 10. –
“Hold your horses,” the stubble-whiskered old man said. He raised his arm like a sentry.

“Not another step. Not another word.”

I had walked down the catwalk to a stilted home on the Mississippi River bank. This is the Batture – a strip of forgotten land the river shaped through the years as it washed sediment against the levee. A colony of wooden squatter homes stretched out for 200 yards.

“Why do you want to write about us, boy?” the old man said. “First thing you know, they’ll be clearing us out again.”

BEHIND THE curtain the old man was trying to draw lies a curious sight in the 20th Century. A tax-free world.

The Batture squatter doesn’t pay a penny in property taxes. Most of the Batture is publicly owned, the New Orleans Levee Board says. The state can’t tax itself.

And so a No Man’s Land that disappears under high water – and doesn’t even exist on some Louisiana maps and deeds – has become a poor man’s Shangri-La for some 400 Batture dwellers.

 

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