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My Sketchbook 1926-27: Memoirs of Natchitoches and Plaquemine, Louisiana

Arthur Babb's existence might have gone unnoticed except for his capacity to record virtually everything he did. Born October 31, 1865 in Fairfield, Texas (about 85 miles south southeast of Dallas) he grew up almost entirely self-taught and from an early age liked to draw and to write.

From the late 1880s he did railroad work and for about fifty years was associated with the San Antonio and Aransas Pass railroad, the H. T. and C., and finally The Texas-Pacific.  In a 1940 feature article in The Dallas Morning News the famed columnist Paul Crume said Babb as an architect had designed "some of the finest homes to be built in the Park Cities (then a suburb of Dallas) area." It was this innate ability to write and to draw which no doubt secured his job with the Texas-Pacific Railroad, as "an evaluator of properties." He would sketch existing T-P properties and subsequently went on to draw plans for construction jobs. Thus, he quickly rose to the post of supervisor of construction for the railroad and it was in this capacity that he came to Plaquemines, Louisiana in 1926 to build a new depot.

Within a year he moved on to Natchitoches to build the depot which still stands between Sixth Street and Martin Luther King Drive. While residing in Louisiana Babb acted out the role of animated and inquisitive tourist, taking "kodak" pictures and recording his sojourns about the Louisiana countryside in his diary which later he named his "Sketchbook," meaning to write out, rather than to draw, his impressions of people and places. Approximately the first third of the book is taken up with Babb's travels and descriptions of the people and the environs of Plaquemines, Louisiana, whence he was sent by the Texas and Pacific.

"My Sketchbook" is not, however, history writ large; it is a small work, with perhaps nothing more than a regional interest to recommend it to the reading public. But it fits into a greater piece of history, that of Louisiana itself, and so makes it worthy of recognition. Babb retired from the railroad service about 1930-31, and spent most of the rest of his life in and around Dallas, trying to earn a living from his drawings and bookbinding skills.