Heart of Louisiana: Jim Bowie Relay Station

There is no set schedule for when the duty ferry will cross the Ouchita River.

It only moves if someone shows up at the ferry landing that links the tiny town of Enterprise with the farmland on the other side. The ferry holds five or six cars, or one school bus. But on Saturday evenings, it's busier than usual because folks are headed to Jim Bowie's Relay Station.

John Ed Bartmess, a retired teacher and principal in Enterprise, created what amounts to a backwoods amusement park with a restaurant with a stage for live music.

"I thought and I thought, and as my grandpa said I thunk and I thunk and I even prayed about it and the only thing I could think of was I like to eat and I love country music and gospel music," Bartmess said. "My brother told me location, location, location, and i knew i had to overcome it."

It's about as far away from anywhere as you can get in Louisiana halfway between Monroe and Alexandria. But Bartmess has built out of scrap lumber a one room school house, a blacksmith shop, an esso station complete with a 1942 dodge truck, a grist mill and the 100-foot long sweetheart covered bridge that crosses an alligator pond.

The place got it's name from the real Jim Bowie. The famous frontiersman lived just a short distance away from here in the early 1800's and it's called 'relay station' because it used to be a stagecoach stop.

"I said maybe people will come here and thank god they did, they came in droves once we got her going," said Bartmess.

It's a wonder that people can find the place. It's not on the way to any place else. Raymond Nugent bought Jim Bowie's relay station two years ago. He personally greets the crowd.

"This group all the way from Michigan. Where else are ya'll from over here, got Sweden over there, Frankfield, Missouri, New York City, and Brazil," Nugent said.

The restaurant serves steaks and seafood to 25,000 people a year. It's only open Friday and Saturday nights and closed all of December. But somehow the crowds show up week after week.

"Most of the time it's word of mouth. Somebody brings them in, somebody told them about it, and they want to check it out," said Nugent.

There's no alcohol, just a home cooked meal and genuine Bluegrass, Country, or Gospel music.

"I love the process of people coming in and learning about the old ways, old stuff that you will never see again. I love to be around people and it makes my day just to make somebody else laugh, just to come up and enjoy the places," Nugent said.

John Ed Bartmess, the man who created Jim Bowie's Relay Station, says he's found property records at the Catahoula Parish Courthouse that back up his claim that the Bowie family once lived nearby, and that the area near the ferry landing was used as a stagecoach stop.

For more information, go to http://www.jimbowiesrelaystation.com/history.html