by Carola Lillie Hartley
Tidbit of Opelousas History: Did you know that Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States has a connection to Opelousas? Yes, he had a cousin that lived in Opelousas and St. Landry Parish during the late 19th century. His name was William Lawrence Truman. Known as W. L., he was a politician and served in the state legislature from St. Landry Parish, elected in 1896. He was later elected City Judge of Gueydan, when he moved there in 1899.
As a native of Kentucky, how did Truman arrive in Opelousas? Well as the story goes, Truman was a confederate soldier during the Civil War. While he was serving in Alabama he met Cora Hadden the daughter of Dr. Louis Hadden of Belmont, Alabama. Following the war, Truman and Miss Hadden maintained an active correspondence. During that time, the Hadden family fell upon hard times and Dr. Hadden moved his family to the Opelousas area. And as the old saying goes,” Love conquers all.” So Truman moved to Opelousas and married Cora Hadden there in about 1868.
Besides being a good physician, Dr. Louis Hadden was involved in the Opelousas community in many ways. He was instrumental is getting the Presbyterian Church started in Opelousas on May 20, 1871.
His son-in-law W. L. Truman was a leader in establishing the First Baptist Church of Opelousas and was one of the five charter members when the church was constituted in 1880. He was responsible for purchasing the property on East Bellevue Street, where the first building to house the church was constructed in 1883. In 1952, the congregation replaced that wood building with a new brick building, which is standing today, now occupied by the Bellevue Street Baptist Church.
Have a question about Opelousas history? Send it to me care of St. Landry Then and Now and I will try to get the answer for you as we continue our Tidbits of Opelousas History.
Photos: 1st – Photo: Harry S. Truman ((1884–1972) – 33rd President of the US. Photo taken in 1945 – Photo credit: U. S. Senate Historical Office
2nd – The new and the old First Baptist Church of Opelousas on Bellevue Street, pictured in the 1950s. (Carola Lillie Hartley collection,)