History of Louisiana
Louisiana is a state rich in history. You will enjoy exploring Louisiana state history as the locals take such pride and enthusiasm in showing off their traditions, explaining their interesting culture and spinning some excellent ghost stories!
The history of Louisiana began with a very large population of Native Americans. That is why you find many cities and rivers that are transliterations of Native American dialects. The city of Natchitoches, north of Lake Charles and Lafayette, is named after a former Native American tribe and the Mississippi is a translation of “big river” from an Ojibwa Indian word. Louisiana history is full of influences from Native American culture, like in the city of Marksville which has a center for Native American culture.
Louisiana State history began in 1528 when the area was settled by the Spanish from the mouth of the Mississippi River. The French explorer La Salle came later in 1682 and named the territory Louisiana after King Louis the 14th. When he settled this territory, he most likely planted flags bearing the symbol of the Fleur-de-lis, the stylized flower that symbolizes the French monarchy. That is why you will see this symbol throughout Louisiana, including road signs on the highways from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.
The French settlement of Natchitoches, established in 1714 is the oldest settlement in the State of Louisiana, founded primarily as a way to continue trade with the Spanish in Texas and keep the Spanish from making advances into the territory of Louisiana. The Louisiana territory eventually spread all the way to Canada encompassing several other areas that are today known as the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The capitals of the French territory of Louisiana were originally Biloxi, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama, which showed the importance of trade and military interests on the Mississippi River.
The city of New Orleans history began in 1718 when it was founded by Frenchman Jean Baptiste Le Moyne as a port city for the transfer of goods coming into the Americas. It is named after the Duke of Orleans, Phillipe II, who was regent of France.
After the French-Indian war from 1754-1763, the French lost the territory east of the Mississippi to the British and the rest of what is now the state of Louisiana to the Spanish. Another famous event in Louisiana history occurred during the Spanish rule, when refugees from Acadia (now known as Nova Scotia) came down the Mississippi, were welcomed by the Spanish, and settled in the Southwestern part of Louisiana after being expunged by the British. This area is now known as Acadiana, or as their modern day ancestors call themselves, Cajuns. The culture of this diverse group created some of the best food in the world, making dining in this great state on the top of the to-do list for visitors.
The city of New Orleans remained under Spanish control for the next 40 years. One of the biggest modern day examples of New Orleans history, the French Quarter, was actually developed, ironically, under Spanish control.
In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte acquired Louisiana from Spain, and started to make plans to reestablish the French presence in New Orleans. This disturbed U.S. President Jefferson at the time, who saw this as a detriment to the Untied States trading along the Mississippi. Louisiana history changed permanently when Jefferson decided to negotiate a purchase of New Orleans and portions of the Mississippi for $2 million dollars to assure the U.S. colonies right to move freely and trade along the river. When the Spanish got wind of this trade, they closed the port in New Orleans, causing outrage in the newly formed United States. Although the public demanded war, Jefferson held his temper and sent an envoy to Napoleon upping the offer for New Orleans to 10 million dollars.
His envoys found themselves negotiating for the entire territory of Louisiana. Napoleon, greedy for the money to help him wage war against England, agreed to the sale for a total of $15 million dollars. While Jefferson had authorized $10 million for a port city he found himself doubling the size of his country overnight, allowing for the much wanted expansion to the west he had thought would be good for the country. There were some federalists that objected to the purchase, saying the Louisiana territory was nothing but a worthless desert.
On November 29, 1803 the United States raised their flag in the port city of New Orleans and took control of the entire Louisiana territory for less than 3 cents per acre and made the once weak Independent Colonies a new world superpower.
New Orleans history was again influenced by trade, but during the 1800’s, primarily by the growing slave trade. The boom in this port’s activities moving slaves from Africa and the Caribbean boosted it to become one of the richest cities in the Union. Eventually the Union army captured New Orleans during the American Civil War.
But the presence of the African Americans in this region added even more flavor to the city’s mystique, and depth of culture by bringing with them an underworld of voodoo, rich “soul” food and eventually led to the birth of jazz in the nation by such early artists like Louis Armstrong, a native of New Orleans. New Orleans jazz is prominent to this day, appearing at the famous Preservation Hall in the French Quarter and at the year round events and festivals, like the New Orleans Jazz Festival each year. The love of music and parties that originated in this town has grown today into the famous Mardi Gras that takes a parade down Bourbon Street each year before Lent.
Today, the State of Louisiana has a population of around 4,500,000 people and still remains a powerful center of American culture and life. The history of Louisiana made way for this marvelous diversity of cultures and has given the State of Louisiana flair all its own, including a European influence rarely seen in other U.S. destinations.
This state has a rich and interesting history. No matter the destination, your Louisiana vacation is sure to cross paths with Louisiana State history, from historic buildings to stories from the locals full of legends of the old south. On your next vacation to this great state, take time to witness the history of Louisiana by visiting the myriad of preserved historic landmarks and plantation homes. It’s well worth the trip!
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