Curley was born in 1846. He became one of the most influential politicians of his time. William was born in 1853. He achieved equal stature as a businessman.
Curley was born Aug. 31, 1846, the eldest of the five children of Cornelius Duson and Sarah Ann Webb. W. W. Duson was the fourth child, born on Oct. 5, 1854. The brothers had three sisters, Mary Ann, Ellen, and Laura.
W. W. Duson made his first money running a general store. He grew rich selling real estate. He made his legend drilling for oil. Curley Duson participated in most of his brother's ventures. But his fame came as an old-time, gun-totin' lawman who always got his man. He made his name during his 14 years as sheriff of St. Landry Parish, in the days when the parish stretched from the Atchafalaya River to the Sabine and was one of the roughest sections of the country.
Curley began as a 21-year-old deputy to Sheriff James G. Hayes, with whom he'd served in the Civil War. From the start, Curley believed his business was to hunt criminals. Historian and biographer William Henry Perrin reported one of the early incidents: "With two other deputies, [Duson] tracked the Guilroy brothers... who had long defied the law, to Catahoula Parish. There a fight ensued, in which eight shots were fired--three by the Guilroys and five by the deputies, terminating in the death of both Guilroy brothers."
Perrin tells us that when Curley became sheriff in 1974, "One of the first things he accomplished was the breaking up of organized bands of outlaws who for years had scourged the country. He followed criminals to the border of Mexico, into the mountains of the Indian Territory (Oklahoma), and as far north as Illinois. He had three desperate fights in his attempts to capture fugitives ... (and) was at different times the target for the bullets of those whose only chance of escape ... lay in his removal from their path."
It helped that Curley was a crack shot. A report in May 1882, noted that, shooting from a boat near Morgan City, Curley had killed 96 alligators with 96 shots.
Duson retired as sheriff when he was 41 years old to join his brother in promoting the new Acadia Parish. In the late 1880s, the W. W. Duson & Bro. Real Estate Co. helped bring hundreds of new families to the area, many of them to settle on Duson lands.
The brothers were among the first stockholders in the Louisiana Irrigation and Milling Co. organized in 1904. They were also officers of the Abbott-Duson Canal System, companies whose canals irrigated more than 20,000 acres of farmland. Eventually, W. W. held interest in a bank, a newspaper, four rice mills, three canal companies, and the largest rice farm in southwest Louisiana. But his most romantic enterprise was in a race to find oil.
In 1901, he was made president of the Crowley Oil and Mineral Co, which began drilling on a 640 acre tract on the same day the Heywood brothers began the famous well near Jennings that was the first in Louisiana.
Duson's derrick was completed and pipe was on hand by early June. The Heywoods were also ready to drill just next door. Duson broke ground first. The Heywoods got started an hour later. The race was on.
The Heywoods had to move their well when drilling pipe broke in the first one. The same thing happened to the Crowley well, and it too was moved. Drillers worked at a feverish pace. Duson ran out of time and luck on Sept. 21, 1901. The Heywood well gushed oil. Duson's drillers were still finding dust.
It wasn't until a year later, on Sept. 11, 1902, that Crowley Oil and Mineral finally got its gusher. It was less than 100 feet from the Heywood well.
That first strike brought better luck. By the end of 1904, Duson's company owned 14 producing wells. By 1905, the field was being called "the greatest in the history of the oil business." The good news was just one well in that field produced a million barrels of oil that year. The bad news was that oil sold for only 13 cents a barrel.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.