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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Early Gulf Coast History

Early Biloxi & Pass Christian

• A map was draw in 1732 by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville, and published in 1752 in Paris. [The map is available from the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.] On the map “Chats” is Cat Island, “Vaisseax” is Ship Island, “Corne” is Horne Island, “Ronde” is Round Island, “Chevreals” is Deer Island. Village des Pascagoulas is the Indian Village. “Hab du S. laPointe” is the concession of Simon De La Pointe, the 2nd husband of Catherine Doucin (359). As a settlement, Biloxi, is older than Mobile or New Orleans and dates its beginnings from 1699. It is the second oldest existing city in the continental United States. When D’Iberville was governor of the French province of LA, which then embraced the central gulf coast and extended up the MS valley to Canada, the provincial capital was first established on the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay. The governor delegated two of his aides, Christian L’Adnier, a doctor, and his brother Marianne L’Adnier to chart the offshore waters of this coast, now known as the MS Sound. Two passes were discovered and named for the two brothers, the outer one for Marianne and the inner one for Christian. The L’Adnier families settled here giving the town (Pass Christian) the name of the inner pass. (S)

• On 4/8/1699 D’Iberville decided to build a fortification believed to have been in present day Ocean Springs, MS. The fort was abandoned on 12/17/1701.

• In 1719, because a hurricane had sealed off the Dauphine Island harbor, D’Iberville decided to move back to Biloxi. This site is on what is now Lovers Lane in Ocean Springs. In 1720 and 1721 there was a famine in Biloxi. The memories of Charles Le Gac indicate about 2,119 new individuals arrived at New Biloxi in 1721. Pratz, in his History of Louisiana, indicates that more than 500 of about 7000 people died of hunger during this time. The famine ended when provisions arrived in 1721. By 1722 Governor Bienville began efforts to move the capital to new Orleans.

• In 1763 the British took control of the coast. In June 1768 George Gould, a British Surveyor, made a map or the MS coastline. He found “… just opposite to ship island on the mainland is situated Old Biloxi [Ocean Springs] on a small bay of the same name, behind L’Isle au Chevreuil or Buck Island.” He found only a few descendants of the original French settlers still there. They existed by raising cattle and making pitch and tar, and were troubled by the Indians. (S) Ware, 1982, PP106-7. In 1780 Spain took control of the coastal areas as part of West FL. In 1803 the coastal region became part of the United States under the LA Purchase, although this was disputed with Spain until 1810. In 1811, the land along the MS Sound briefly became part of the Orleans Territory, then in 1812 the MS Territory, then in 1817 part of the State of MS.

Turn of the Century Biloxi

• By the mid-19th century, the rapid construction of summer homes, small gulf-side hotels and myriad jutting piers had earned Biloxi the title “queen of the watering places”. Many of the homes and businesses built “shoo-flys” around trees. By sitting up in these fixtures the people would be above the ground level which was dominated by mosquitoes and deer flies. No real roads exited, overland people traveled along sandy paths. In the 1840’s the first major land artery was constructed, the Pass Christian – Point Cadet road, a sandy 30-mile route. Later in Biloxi it became Howard Ave. Even then the primary means of transportation continued to be the water ways. In 1847 Congress appropriated $12,000 for the construction of the Biloxi Light House.

• Tourism really blossomed with the completion of the railroad between New Orleans and Mobile in 1870. This railroad was also the transportation link which launched the highly successful seafood industry in the area, providing the means for quickly getting the catches to markets. By the end of the 19th century Biloxi’s title had changed “Seafood Capital of the World”. Oysters and shrimp were harvested primarily by 2-masted schooners. Biloxi was starting to become a “town”, but still a sleepy one. In just a few short years the bustling seafood industry transformed Biloxi’s downtown. At this time the Madison Cox (4) and George Gollott (6) families had moved from AL and were active members of the community. The Alexander Lamey (28) descendents, early settlers on the north shore, even had easy access to Biloxi via the single-lane wooden toll bridge built in 1901 for $12,000.

• Many relatives are identified in the census’ as oyster fishermen. One method used for coastal reefs was “tongs” from small boats. The other method involved the use of schooners and a dredge. Madison Cox (4) was “dredging” in Lake Borgne when he was arrested. Some were shrimpers. Commercial fishing was seasonal, and many of our relatives were also carpenters. The seafood and leisure water sport industries led to extensive shipyards, from small to large. Our fisherman-relatives worked in these shipyards yards, as well as in home construction.

• Our ancestors also weathered hurricanes. In the 1915 hurricane, when there was no tracking system to warn the residents, many seamen were lost, especially in Lake Borgne. The 1947 hurricane sent may boats ashore. The ’47 also brought an end to the construction of wooden buildings along the south shore.