A Short History of New Orleans

In order to properly see and appreciate New Orleans the stranger must knew something of its history.

Louisiana was discovered by the Chevalier Robert de La Salle, who explored the Mississippi River from its source to the sea in 1682, taking possession of the entire country in the name of Louis XIV, King of France. He called the country Louisiana in honor of his King. Louisiana comprised all that country extending from British America on the north to the Gulf of Mexico on the south, and west of the Mississippi to the Pacific slope above California.

The first French colony was founded in Biloxi in 1699, by Iberville, a Canadian of French extraction, who with his brother, Bienville, was the next to enter the Mississippi River. They ascended the river as far as the mouth of Red River, and then separated. Iberville passed through Bayou Manchac, and discovered several lakes, one of which he called Lake Pontchartrain, in honor of Count Pontchartrain, a Minister of France, the other Lake Maurepas, after another Minister, and the third. Lake Borgne, which he called for a French word meaning "one-eyed," as he found that it was not a complete lake. He passed from Lake Pontchartrain into a beautiful bay which he called "Bay St. Louis," after Louis IX, who was such an excellent King that he was canonized as "Saint Louis." Continuing his route Iberville passed into Biloxi Bay, and finding the Indian village of Biloxi at this spot, he made a settlement there.

Meanwhile, Bienville continued down the Mississippi River to the month where the French fleet was moored. Before reaching the mouth he met an English vessel, under command of Captain Bar. The Captain told him that he was examining the banks of the river in order to select a good site for an English colony. Bienville told him that the French had already taken possession of the country and made it a dependency of Canada. Captain Bar then turned back and sailed into the ocean. The point was called by Bienville "Le Detour Anglais," or the English Turn. All these original names still remain. Bienville then joined Iberville at Biloxi, and found him on the point of leaving for France. He had appointed his brother Sauvolle Governor of the colony of Louisiana.

Among the arrivals in the French colony at this time were twenty young girls who were sent by the King of France to be married to the colonists. The Bishop of Quebec was charged with selecting good and pious young women for this purpose, and as a proof of her respectability each young woman was provided by the Bishop with a curiously wrought casket. Fond of giving nick-names, these twenty were called by the Creoles "The Casket Girls." In 1706 these girls, becoming indignant at being fed on corn bread, held the first public meeting of women on the American Continent. They threatened that if things were not better they would return home at the first opportunity. In a few days they quieted down and remained loyal and faithful wives. The uprising is laughingly called "The Petticoat Insurrection."

Sauvolle was killed by the Indians shortly after Iberville's departure, and Bienville became Governor of the Colony. He is known as the "Father of Louisiana History."

Noting the inaccessibility from the sea of the Biloxi settlement, and dreaming of a great port near the mouth of the Mississippi River, in 1718 Bienville determined to select a more suitable site for the capital of the colony. Taking with him fifty picked men he came upon the site of the old deserted Indian Village Tchoutchouma," which was located 110 miles from the mouth of the river. Here he decided to build his city. He called it New Orleans, after the Due d' Orleans, who afterwards became Louis XVI of France. Owing to opposition from the Company of the West, to whom Louis XIV had granted a charter, Bienville did not remove the colony to the new capital till 1723. It Was then that the real history of the city began. That same year New Orleans was visited by a terrible hurricane that lasted three days. It destroyed many houses, the church and hospital and the shipping in the harbor. The crops were utterly ruined. Many of the settlers were so discouraged they determined to leave New Orleans, but Bienville persuaded them to remain and rebuild the city. In 1727 the first boys' school in Louisiana was established. That same year the Jesuit Fathers and the Ursuline nuns, on invitation from Bienville, came to labor in the colony.

In 1743 the romantic history of New Orleans began, under the administration of the Marquis de Vaudreuil, a nobleman and high-toned gentleman, who established a miniature court called "Le Petit Versailles," or the "Little Versailles." He introduced court balls and state dinners, costume de rigueur and polite speeches. Many titled noblemen and French officers also came over with their families and settled in the colony. Marquis de Vaudreuil is called in Louisiana history "Le Grand Marquis." His administration was the beginning of that aristocratic coterie which a century later made New Orleans famous in the cities of the Union. In 1757 Louisiana was ceded by France to Spain. The colonists bitterly resented the cession, and sent the Spanish Governor back to his country. Then the most influential citizens rose in revolution against Spain and declared the independence of the colony. This was the first declaration of independence on American soil. The leader of the revolution was a planter named Lafreniere.

Spain sent a fleet and three thousand picked men to punish the conspirators. Lafreniere and his compatriots were sentenced to be hanged. The public hangmen cut off his arm rather than fulfill his duty, and not a man in the colony could be found willing to act as hangmen. Finally, Lafreniere and his associates were shot in the Place d' Armes, now Jackson Square. The other conspirators were sent to confinement in Moro Castle, Havana, and New Orleans was made a dependency of the Island of Cuba.

Don Luis Unzaga, the next Spanish Governor, completely won the colonists. He married a Creole lady and the officers of his court and army also married Creoles. Finally the reconciliation and amalgamation of the races became complete, and both worked in harmony for the upbuilding of the city. In 1788 the city was visited by another disastrous fire, which destroyed the Cathedral, Charity Hospital, and almost the entire residence section. New Orleans was laid bare. From the ashes of the old, irregularly-built French city arose the stately Spanish city — old New Orleans practically unchanged as we see it to-day.

In 1791 the insurrection of slaves against their masters in San Domingo brought to New Orleans many titled and wealthy refugees. They introduced a wealth and luxury unknown before in the colony. In 1794 the most important agricultural event in the history of Louisiana occurred when Etienne de Bore succeeded in making the first sugar crop in Louisiana. The cultivation of the cane was introduced by the Jesuits in 1751, But up to 1792 no planter had ever succeeded in making the syrup granulate. The cultivation of cane has contributed more to the prosperity of Louisiana than any of her other products. Many titled visitors came to New Orleans about this time; among others Due de Orleans, who afterward became Louis Philippe of France,, and his brother, the Duc de Montpensier and the Count de Beaujolais came in 1798. They were magnificently received and royal entertainments were given in their honor. When he became King of France Louis Philippe remembered by beautiful presents many of the families who had treated him so kindly when he was in exile.

In 1793 the Episcopal See of New Orleans was founded.

In 1803, by the treaty of Ildefonse, New Orleans was ceded back to France. Only for a few weeks did the French flag wave. Following quickly came the news that France had sold Louisiana to the United States. The American Government took possession Dec. 23, 1803. The people bitterly resented being "sold like a lot of cattle," and appealed to France. But Napoleon was too busy changing the map of Europe. As our historian says, "Louisiana was a gift never intended for Kings to keep." April 30th, 1812, Louisiana was admitted into the Union as a State. January 8, 1815, General Andrew Jackson and his band of Creole and American soldiery won the famous victory over the British, on the Plains of Chalmette. This great conflict is called the "Battle of New Orleans." With the American domination a marvelous period of prosperity began. Ancient walls were demolished, forts torn down and the city spread away up and out beyond her ancient limits. Differences growing out of


trade arose between the Creoles and Americans, and the latter built the American city above Canal street. The greatest rivalry prevailed. At one time there were three distinct municipalities, all united under one mayor. But as time passed Creoles and Americans, seeing the necessity of union, laid aside their differences and were reunited under one government.


In 1861, along with her sister States, Louisiana seceded from the Union.

In 1862 the Federal fleet, under Admiral Farragut, succeeded in forcing the passage of Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Appearing before New Orleans the city surrendered on April 25. General Butler came with his troops April 30, and martial Law was declared. This condition of affairs remained to the close of the memorable struggle. New Orleans suffered severely during the war and still more so from the misgovernment of carpet-baggers during the so-called days of reconstruction. Her commerce was virtually destroyed and for many years after the war business seemed at a standstill. The revival in trade began less than twenty years ago, and has been astonishingly rapid. Every year finds New Orleans further advanced in its career of prosperity. Today Louisiana exists among her sister States as free as the freest of them all. She is in the Union, of the Union, for the Union.

- The Picayune's Guide to New Orleans (1904) - As Written
A Short History of New Orleans
Revised and Enlarged
Sixth Edition
Price, By Mail 30¢
At Picayune Counter 25¢
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