Friday, December 3, 2010

Wiley P. Mangham - The Tragedies and Success of a Soldier, Pioneer, and Entrepreneur

Just exactly who was Wiley P. Mangham?  To the average citizen of Richland Parish, they may or may not be quickly able to denote that he is the namesake for the community of Mangham. Wiley P. Mangham also started the first newspaper in Richland Parish, affectionately known, as the Richland Beacon News.


I personally became interested in Wiley P. Mangham when I discovered that a few of my own ancestors shared the last name "Mangham."  Wiley P. Mangham's youngest sister, Amanda Mangham, married Edward S. Landers on November 26, 1865, in Calhoun County, Alabama.


Amanda Mangham was my 3rd Great Grandmother [1. Amanda Mangham, 2. Wiley E. Landers, 3. Nobie Landers, 4. Janet Clement, 5. Johnny Letlow, 6. Luke Letlow].


So naturally I became interested in how her older brother, Wiley P. Mangham, made such an impact on the foundation of Richland Parish.


Wiley P. Mangham was born in Georgia near the Alabama border around 1838 to Thomas R. Mangham & Matilda D. Grant. Pictured to the right is a photo of Thomas R. Mangham (1806-1861)


Records reveal that as a young man, Wiley, alongside a relative, Thomas J. Mangham, started the Saint Clair Diamond in Ashville, AlabamaBut as enterprising as he might have been, when the war between the states broke out, young Wiley, at the age of 23, quickly joined the ranks of his neighbors and joined the 25th Alabama Infantry Regiment, Company D.  Young Wiley's military unit marched out of Ashville, Alabama (near Birmingham) on September 5, 1861.  Undoubtedly Wiley stood out amongst his peers.  When he joined he was given the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, but quickly earned the rank of 1st Lieutenant.  The 25th Alabama Infantry saw action at Shiloh, as well as many other battles. Though it is hard for us to imagine some of the images that Wiley must have seen while fighting in the war, there is no doubt that part of this experience helped him to understand how precious life is; and after seeing as much countryside as he did; undoubtedly he was unafraid to search out his own destiny.


It was just a year or so after the Civil War ended that Wiley decided to travel west for a family visit.  Henry Mangham, Wiley's elder brother by ten years, had recently moved to try his luck in the heart of the Louisiana Delta by way of farming in the fertile fields of what is now Richland Parish. One might assume that with the new railroad being completed, this is likely the way that he traveled here.  But Wiley still had a thriving newspaper back in Alabama. It is not completely known whether Wiley ever had intentions of making a permanent move himself. 


Upon his visit here, he met a beautiful girl from Mississippi. When Wiley stepped off of that train into what must have looked somewhat like a wilderness, he clearly saw nothing but opportunity, and a beautiful girl.  So much so, that Wiley went back to Alabama, sold his newspaper, and made the permanent move west.  Young Wiley P. Mangham was going to take his chances with a Mississippi Girl in the heart of Louisiana. He quickly married Miss Caroline Frances Emaline Lynn, or "Fannie" to those that new her.  


According to Richland Parish historian Michael T. Anderson, "Mangham got a job serving as a printer in the telegraph and intelligence office in Monroe in 1866 and 1867. In October of 1868, when the creation of Richland Parish became a reality, he left Monroe for Rayville."


By 1869, Rayville had been chosen as the Parish Seat for the newly created Richland Parish.  Mangham,  just over the age of 30, must have known all to well that the upstart parish and community of Rayville would clearly need a paper. He purchased land adjacent to where the courthouse was being planned, and had a Washington Hand Press shipped in.


He built the first home in the town of Rayville, and on January 14, 1869, the very first paper in Richland Parish was printed. This was the beginning of the Richland Beacon News.  In the early days, it was delivered over the parish by horseback.  He chose to remain editor up until the time of his death in 1896.


Mangham's life is filled with both tragedy and triumph.  His first four children all die of illness, or "swamp fever." But his life also, is marked with much success. He started the first newspaper, built the first home in the town of Rayville, started the First Baptist Church of Rayville, and passed down his own last name to the community known today as Mangham.


Timeline for Wiley P. Mangham


1838 - Born to Thomas R. Mangham & Matilda D. Grant, approximate
1867 - First Child, Daughter, Jennie L. Mangham, is born
1868 - First Child, Daughter, Jennie L. Mangham dies of illness.
1869 - Built the first home in the town of Rayville
1869 - Second Child, Daughter Mary Alice Mangham, is born
1871 - Third Child, son Jesse Henry Mangham, is born
1871 - Third Child, son Jesse Henry Mangham, dies nine-months after birth, of illness.
1871 - First Baptist Church of Rayville started in Wiley P. Mangham's home.
1875 - Fourth Child, Fannie C. Mangham, is born
1876 - Second Child, Daughter Mary Alice Mangham, dies of illness at the age of 7.
1876 - Fourth Child, Fannie C. Mangham, dies of illness, 5 days after sister Mary dies.
1876 - Fifth Child, son Wiley Samuel Mangham, is born
1876 - Fifth Child, son Wiley Samuel Mangham, dies of illness, at 4months old
1877 - Sixth child, daughter Eunice T. Mangham is born
1879 - Seventh child, daughter Nettie Irma Mangham is born
1882 - Eighth child, son, Horrace A Mangham is born
1885 - Brother, Henry Mangham, dies at the age of 56
1889 - Ninth child, son Henry E. Mangham is born
1896 - Mangham Missionary Baptist Church was instituted on land donated by Mangham
1896 - Wiley P. Mangham dies in Richland Parish, at the age of 58


It is easy in 2010 to demonize our newspapers, editors, and journalists.  Indeed times have changed a great deal since the early days.  But our founding fathers new the importance of free speech; and they understood the importance of allowing the cause of freedom to be celebrated and communicated by way of free speech through the media.  Wiley P. Mangham understood the American dream, because he lived it.  He sought opportunity, and found it, right here in Richland Parish.

I have often run across Wiley P. Mangham's name while researching my own family; If you read some of the oldest copies of the Beacon, which are located on microfilm at a few local libraries, it will not be long before you run across his name.  What stands out to me about Wiley P. Mangham is the extensive detail he gave when writing obituaries, editorials, and notes of condolence when other people in the community lost loved ones.  He was incredibly eloquent with his words, and its very evident that he cared greatly about the community he chose to grow old in.  And yet when one looks closer, it is easy to see that Mangham was dealing with as much personal grief and loss as any human might be expected to bear. 


Though it is likely one exists -- I have never been able to locate a tombstone or an obituary for the editor, Wiley P. Mangham. Perhaps it is there and I just missed it. Or perhaps there was no-one there to write it at all. Whatever the case, I write this to honor him.  He undoubtedly touched hundreds of lives; consoled countless families; and chose to make Richland parish his home.  And for this we should all be grateful!


Additional notes:
*H.A. Mangham, (1882-1961), the son of Wiley P, learned the alphabet by setting type in his father's newspaper plant and at six years old became a "hand" about the office doing small jobs.  H.A. Mangham served as editor and publisher of the Beacon from 1902 until his death in 1961.


*Many of the Mangham Family and Children are buried at the Mangham Family Cemetery. To reach the cemetery take Hwy 137 south from Rayville for 4.5 miles to Hwy 584, where you turn east for about 2.9 miles to 2063 Hwy 584. 

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