In Merryville, the story of Leather Britches has been passed down through the generations of locals since his death in 1912.
Charles “Leather Britches” Smith was a sharpshooting outlaw that fought in the Grabow Labor Riot of 1912. He was killed during an ambush and buried face down at the edge of the Merryville Cemetery, located on Hwy. 110 W.
There have been a few different markers laid out with “Leather Britches, Slain 1912” carved into them for the last 107 years, along with the stories, but this year something special has been erected.
The Merryville Historical Society and Museum, with help from the ULL Center for Louisiana Studies, received a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation to place the first Legends & Lore roadside marker in the state of Louisiana to commemorate the legend of Charles “Leather Britches” Smith.
Public relations coordinator for the Merryville Historical Society and Museum, Elaine Winn, happened upon the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and with the agreement from the museum’s board, applied.
The application was brought to the attention of Mr. John Sharp, liaison for Louisiana within the foundation, and Dr. Josh Caffery, both from the ULL Center for Louisiana Studies.
The William G. Pomeroy Foundation strongly believes that historic markers play an important role in local historic preservation by serving a dual purpose.
They educate the public and foster historic tourism, which in turn can provide much needed economic benefits to the towns and villages where the markers are placed.
This belief aligns with what the goal of the Merryville Historical Society & Museum strives for.
Also in attendance was Dr. Keagen LeJeune, Professor of English at McNeese State University. Not only are his interests Louisiana folklore, outlaw legends and Louisiana’s neutral strip; he is married to a Merryville native.
The stories he learned from the family intrigued him so he began to research and wrote a book on Leather Britches, Always for the Underdog: Leather Britches and the Grabow War.
The unveiling ceremony took place Friday, February 7, 2020 at 3:00 pm at the Merryville Historical Society and Museum. The museum is located at 628 N. Railroad St. in Merryville.
The Merryville Historical Society & Museum can be found on Facebook and at their website, www.merryvillemuseum.org.
For tours, you can call 337-340-0785 or 337-825-6289.
To learn more about the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and how to apply for a historical marker, please visit www.wgpfoundation.org