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The area was settled in the early 19th century. The town was named after John Denham, a surveyor who worked for the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad (later part of Southern Pacific). In 1881, he purchased land from George W. Hill and built a house on property that would become downtown Denham Springs. In 1908, an earthen dam across Amite River broke during construction of the Kansas City Southern Railway through Livingston Parish; flooding killed more than 100 people in nearby Springfield (now West Feliciana Parish) and Amite parishes as well as Denham Springs itself. A second flood struck in 1913 with water rising to within two feet of where it had been before 1908; however no one died because residents were warned by telephone calls from neighbors living along higher ground upstream about twenty minutes before waters rose again.