This is just a short condensed story about a young man from Pennsylvania. His study was engineering. He journeyed to the Alexandria area sometime between 1832 and 1834. A short time there after he made history in more ways than one and is little recognised today for his accomplishments.
In just a few year’s, Ralph Smith Smith bought and imported a steam engine on wheels that ran on a iron track.
Purchased 15 miles of right-a-way between the Red River and Lacompte , following Bayou Boeuf in the middle of many sprawling prosperous cotton plantations.
Around 1835 or a little later, the first railroad west of the Mississippi began operation.
It was probably the second railroad operating commercially in the United States.
It carried produce and passengers between the docks at Alexandria and Lecompte with stop’s along the way for cotton.
All this cotton was transported by the small steam engine to the docks on the Red River at Alexandria. Loaded aboard steam boats, which Smith Smith ended up owning at least three of and carried down river to New Orleans.
Smith continued his prosperous ways till near the end of the Civil war, when the Union Army was reported to have destroyed the engine for fill on Baileys Dam or just pushed the locomotive into the river.
(Also reports have it pushed into the bayou.)
He is reported to have used his steam ships to furnish supplies to the Confederate army during the war.
After the war till his death he operated at least two plantations.
A 1877 map of Alexandria at the Louisiana History Museum in Alexandria, shows two parcels of land on Cassion Street as belonging to him at that time.
Ralph Smith Smith was born in 1806 and died in Alexandria in 1883.
Rapides Parish Court records show his estate at the time of his death was estimated at about $25,000.00.
We should make use in tourisum of the fact that Alexandria is the site of the second railroad in the United States and the first railroad west of the Mississippi river.