Forest Lookout Tower at Sicily Island Hills

Posted: July 16, 2010 in Homepage
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The view from the former forest lookout tower in the Sicily Island Hills, formally known as the Leland Tower, must have been spectacular. From that unique vantage point a 360 degree view would have given the observer an unparalleled vista of the Chalk Hills to the west, the Ouachita Hills to the northwest, Macon Ridge to the northeast and the Mississippi Alluvial Plain to the northern, eastern,  and southern horizons. It would not surprise me if the paper mill in West Monroe were visible on a clear day.

As with most lookout towers, the Leland Tower having outlived it usefulness was eliminated in the late summer of 1980. According to documents I kindly received from the LDA&F Office of Forestry, perched on a northern portion of the Sicily Island Hills, the Leland Tower was 22 feet square at its base, and 110 feet tall from its base to the top of the cab. Photos of the footings of the tower are on my Photos/Map page.

According to Mrs.Bobbie Black a retired Office of Forestry District 3 employee of the former Olla office, the tower ladder was dangerous and she had difficulty staffing the tower due to the angst it caused the tower employees. This problem was addressed in letters to and from the Louisiana Forestry Commission. In a April 2,1958 letter from the Catahoula Parish Police Jury to the Louisiana Forestry Commission it was requested that the commission eliminate the “old style perpendicular ladder” as it was a hazard. The commission replied in a letter dated April 15, 1958 that the commission acknowledged the police jury’s resolution and “”planned to make safety alterations on this tower during the coming maintenance season after activation of our steel rigger crew”.

I spoke July 19th with Mr. Eddie Roy Posey who worked at the Aimwell tower and for the Office of Forestry from about 1967-1986. He expressed his trepidation about climbing the Leland tower because as he described it, ” it was like climbing straight up an oil derrick”. Working the towers also meant taking readings of humidity, rainfall and temperature on a daily basis to determine the fire danger. In addition, if fires broke out workers might man the tower all day, fight the fires into the night and then report back in for duty at the tower the next morning.

Fonder memories were found to be enjoyed at other times by families of employees living in the area. The son of Leland tower employee J.D Weeks recounted memories of Easter egg hunts in the area of the tower.

Although this is not a complete list, other men with connections to the Leland tower include John H. Greene, Ira Guice, Lee Patton and Clarence Wagner.

More information including hopefully photographs soon to follow.

My thanks to Messrs. Sam Irwin, David Batson, and many other Louisiana Department of Forestry employees for their research on this project.

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Comments
  1. DeWayne Guice says:

    It was John Feilding Guice who helped Mr. J. D. Weeks to erect and man the tower. For years we were able to climb the tower and talk to the man on duty and observe the view. The ladder to the tower went straight up and was not side to side as is most towers. I have my Grand pa’s retirment certificate when he retired fron the tower January 1st. 1957 after serving 5 years in the tower. More history can be obtained by contacting my father Loma D. Guice in Sicily Island. I believe the last tower attendent was Mr. White.

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