What’s in a Name?
The town of Bunkie, Louisiana, has a one-of-a kind name. There is no other “Bunkie” anywhere in the United States. And there is an interesting story behind how Bunkie got its name.
it started with the railroad
Like a lot of small rural towns, Bunkie exists mostly because of the railroad. Some of the older residents of Bunkie remember when the passenger train used to stop here. Lynette Clarke recalls riding the train as a child, “and we rode the train and we came back on the train, slept in a pullman car”. Clarke, who grew up in Bunkie and then retired here, is a local history buff. You can learn a lot about the early days of Bunkie and the railroad in the Old Depot Museum on Main Street. And Clarke can also tell you how the town got its unique name.
the origins of the name bunkie
There are a lot of popular names for towns and cities around the country. Nearly every state has a Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Clinton. What about Bunkie? Clarke tells me that a man named Samuel Haas, who donated land for the railroad, got the rights to name the train stop. She tells me the naming story, “The Haas’s had a little girl. Her name was Macci, and when she was a little bitty thing, her Daddy brought her a mechanical monkey after one of his trips and she called it her “Bunkie”. And that became her nickname. He named it “Bunkie” after his little girl”.
railroad history in bunkie louisiana
Sullivan “Butch” Battiste is a retired railroad employee who says, “I worked out of Bunkie up to Melville.” Battiste worked for the railroad for 39 years. He explains some of the old artifacts like a long forked pole hanging on the wall of the small museum. He says it’s, “for passing messages to the train.” Battiste explains, “the clerk would come out and he’d hold up the pole for him to give a message to the train,” as it rolled by the depot.
bunkie featured on tv
a revival on main street
Bunkie is one of those small towns that is now seeing businesses return to Main Street. I stop by Griffin’s Antiques and Main Street Market in an old building that dates to 1904. I hear the voice of a waitress as she adds two scoops of vanilla ice cream to slices of pecan pie.
The antiques store features an old-time soda fountain and lunch counter. You can get a slice of pecan pie, a pulled pork sandwich, or a bowl of gumbo at the diner. Or you can pick from one of the 19 flavors of homemade pies in the bakery. Claire Pilgreen is a co-owner of Griffin’s Antiques. She says, “People that walk in and say, you know, where’s your antiques? I don’t think they realize we have antiques as well as trendy gifts”. Pilgreen explains that the large two-story building has 70 different vendors who lease spaces to sell their art, crafts and other merchandise.
The Bunkie Depot Museum is located at 110 NW Main Street in Bunkie, LA. Griffin’s Antiques & Main Street Market is located a few blocks away at 228 SW Main Street, Bunkie, LA.