About This Place
Colfax (pronounced COLL FAX) is a town in and the parish seat of Grant Parish, Louisiana, United States. The town, founded in 1869, is named for the vice president of the United States, Schuyler M. Colfax (pronounced COLE FAX), who served in the first term of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, for whom the parish is named. Colfax is part of the Alexandria, Louisiana Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 1,659 at the 2000 census.
Colfax was settled by European Americans as a Red River port within Rapides Parish. Prior to the American Civil War, it was known as "Calhoun's Landing," named for the cotton and sugar planter Meredith Calhoun, a native of South Carolina. Calhoun also published the former National Democrat newspaper in Colfax.
During the Reconstruction era, Colfax was the scene of the Colfax massacre on Easter, April 13, 1873. Some three whites and about 150 African-American fatalities occurred in the riot. A white militia was led against freedmen by Christopher Columbus Nash, elected sheriff on the a Fusionist/Democratic slate. Freedmen were defending Republican officials at the county courthouse and had gathered there as tensions rose in a post-election dispute. A contemporary report by the U.S. military documented the three white fatalities and 105 black victims by name, with 15-20 unidentified blacks found in the Red River. Because of the disproportionate number of deaths between whites and blacks, and documented accounts that at least 50 black prisoners were executed while under control of the white militia, 20th-century historians redefined the "riot" as a "massacre." The event is significant because blacks, who comprised the majority in the county, organized to defend themselves and their political rights.