Sunday, June 4, 2017

Melville, Louisiana -- catfish love the place

Melville had its highest-ever population 47 years ago – 1,987. The 2010 census reported 1,041 residents.

Melville is 52.47 percent white; 45.78 percent African-American; 0.87 percent Asian; and 0.87 percent from two or more races. (What are the chances two demographics will be the same?)

Per capita income is $8,881. About 35.6 percent of families and 40.1 percent of total population lives below the poverty line, including 42.7 percent of those under 18, and 37.7 percent of those 65 and older.

“In 2010, Melville had the 12th-lowest median household income of all places in the United States with a population over 1,000.”,_Louisiana

The “Welcome to Melville” sign says the town is the “Catfish Capital of Louisiana.” No reference, nor how the designation was determined.

(NOTE: Back when I covered Clarksville, Texas, and Red River County for the Paris, Texas, newspaper, one Clarksville City Council meeting stands out, when the council proclaimed Red River County as “Wild Turkey Capital of Texas.” The mayor explained that the city attorney said the proclamation was OK, since no other place in Texas had made the claim. Maybe it was the same with the “Catfish Capital of Louisiana.”)

The Atchafalaya River is Melville’s east border. The rest of the town is behind a levee. Satellite image here:,-91.737938,5212m/data=!3m1!1e3

Just about every place in Louisiana capitalizes on Cajun-ism these days, even though there was a time non-Cajuns looked only down at their swamp-dwelling, alligator-catching brethren.

The St. Landry Parish web site is no different, as noted by the “” tag.

“There’s good reason that the town of Melville celebrates the catfish festival every October. Much of the town’s history and commerce are tied to the Atchafalaya River. Historically, the town made its fortune in river commerce and then as a crossing point for the railroad.

“Documents also indicate that Melville had several fish docks and ice houses. By the turn of the century, 50 barrels of fish were being shipped from Melville each day. Remnants and photos of those early days can be found at the town’s grocery and hardware store, Cannatella's, which has been in business for 90 plus years serving authentic Italian sausage and Muffulettas.”

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