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Sunday, April 18, 2010

French Louisiana

French Louisiana 1699-1763

In 1702 Fort Louis de la Louisiane, on the Mobile River, was established. A lack of fresh water and its remoteness made this site unacceptable. A move was made down the river to the current site of Mobile, AL. Both the village and fort were completed by 1711. In 1717 soldiers were sent north to establish the Poste des Alibamons. Fort Toulouse, near present day Montgomery, helped to assure French possession of the Mobile River, and alliances of the Indians in the area. This was a small fort that only held a few dozen soldiers and traders. In 1706, Mobile had 85 non-military French and Canadian inhabitants.

In 1718, the site that is now New Orleans was recommended for settlement. Between 1718 and 1719 multiple boats arrived with new colonists. Colonists were soon locating all along the coast between the two primary settlements of New Orleans and Mobile. By 1721 there were 350 people of European descent in Mobile, and New Orleans had 680 inhabitants.

Before September of 1721, a decision was made to move the colony’s headquarters to New Biloxi. Before the transfer was complete, word arrived from France that New Orleans had been designated the Provincial Capital. By 1723 New Orleans was the residence of Le Moyne de Bienville, the Commandant General. As the capital, New Orleans grew quickly. At the same time Mobile’s population declined. By 1728 New Orleans had grown to 600 family units, whereas Mobile had only 90 households. The presence of the English to the northeast, and the Spanish at Pensacola, kept Mobile (now known as Fort Conde) as the military focus of the area.

Western Louisiana was secretly ceded to the Spanish in 1762. The cession of eastern Louisiana to Great Britain in 1763 started the exodus of all French military personnel, and many civilians. In January of 1764, the British Commander at Mobile indicated that there were only 10 French families remaining in Mobile, and only 98 in the entire district.

 After a report of Captain George Farragut to the Territorial Governor, the following events took place: On the 5th of January (1811) the Governor dispatched Dr. Flood, a well known citizen of New Orleans, on the U. S. sloop, Alligator, (and) Captain Farragut, with instructions to proceed to the Bay St. Louis, the Pass of Christian and Pascagoula, and hoist the flag of the United States and to distribute copies of the President’s proclamation and of his own ordinances establishing the parishes of Biloxi and Pascagoula. He was entrusted, likewise, with commissions for …, Jacque Ladnier (Cox 40) and …, as Justices of the Peace, each of whom to be furnished with a copy of the terms of Territorial laws. Dr. Flood’s report: “New Orleans, January 25, 1811. Governor: in compliance with your instructions … next day displayed the flag at the Pass, and proceeded to the bay of Biloxi, where I found Mr. Ladnier, and gave him the commission. He is a man of excellence sense, but can neither read nor write, nor can any inhabitant of the bay of Biloxi that I can hear of. They are, all along this beautiful coast, a primitive people, of mixed origin, retaining the gaiety and politeness of the French, blended with the abstemiousness and indolence of the Indian. They plant rice, and a few roots and vegetables, but depend for subsistence chiefly on game and fish. I left with all these appointees copies of the laws, ordinances, etc. But few laws will be wanted here. The people are universally honest. There are no crimes. The father of the family or the oldest inhabitant settles all disputes. … Finding no one able to read or write in the Pascagoula settlement, and the inhabitants expressing great confidence in and attachment for Capt. George Farragut, … I prevailed on him to accept the commission… Finding only one family resided at Bayou Batre, I did not go there, … The population of Pascagoula parish is about 350; of the parish of Biloxi, 420 chiefly French and creoles. A more innocent and inoffensive people may not be found. They seem to desire only the simple necessities of life, and to be let alone in their tranquility. I am greatly impressed with the beauty and value of this coast. The high sandy lands, heavily timbered with pine, and the lovely bays and rivers, from Pearl River to Mobile, will furnish New Orleans with a rich commerce, and with a delightful summer resort. …” (S) JFH Claiborne: MS as a Province, Territory and State (1880), PP306-307.