Louisiana Timeline


Louisiana Timeline
Louisiana Trivia
The tale of the Whisky Barrel


I have done a rough sampling of some dates, and they appear correct, however, like anything else you find on the web, it probably contains errors.  Your mileage may vary.

History from 1510 to 2001

Before 1510 The first inhabitants of southeastern Louisiana are nomadic Native Americans. They follow the Mississippi River, fishing the bayous and river for fish, shrimp, oysters, and crabs, and farm the swampy land. They are Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Natchez and are there for 10,000 years before the first white settlers arrive.

1510 The Spanish already know of the land on the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

1519 Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda is in the region on an exploring expedition. Cabeza de Vaca and the survivors of the Narváez expedition of 1528 also see the region.

About 12,000 Native Americans live in the region.

1541 Hernando de Soto leads a group of Spanish explorers into the lower Mississippi River area in a search for gold.

1542 Hernando de Soto crosses the Mississippi and probably enters the region before his death. Survivors of his expedition descend the river to its mouth in 1543. Having found no gold or silver mines, the Spanish make no effort to plant colonies on or near the Mississippi River

1682 René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle leads about 50 Frenchmen and Indians into the area, coming down the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes region. On April 9th, he claims all of the land drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries for King Louis XIV of France. Louisiana is now a French royal colony.

1684 La Salle obtains permission to establish a colony but fails to find the mouth of the river and lands on the coast of Texas. His efforts to locate the river are futile and he is killed by some of his men in 1687.

1699 Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville takes up the task of colonizing Louisiana. His party includes André Pénicaut, a ship's carpenter; and d'Iberville's brother, Jean Baptiste le Moyne, whose title is Sieur d'Bienville. Both of these men, who are to become very important in the history of Louisiana, are under the age of 20. Le Moyne builds a fort near what is now Ocean Springs, Mississippi. It will be the capital of Louisiana until 1702. His party first sees the bluffs of Baton Rouge on March 17th. A small stream at the right of the river separates the hunting grounds of the Bayagoulas and the Oumas Indians, living on the Istrouma Bluffs. Its banks are separated by a reddened, 30-foot-high maypole with several heads of fish and bear attached in sacrifice and dripping with blood. The natives had sunk it there to mark the land line between the 2 nations. So D'Iberville calls the area Baton Rouge (French for red stick), and hence the region's name is born.

1700s The legend of Père Noël, the French messenger of Christmas cheer, migrates into the Louisiana Territory with the colorful Cajun settlers, who gave him a twinkling wit and an eye for the ladies.

1700 Le Moyne builds a fort about 40 miles above the mouth of the Mississippi.

1702 The capital is moved to Fort Louis de la Mobile, near the site of present-day Mobile, Alabama.

1712 Antoine Crozat, a merchant, is granted possession of Louisiana for a period of 15 years. He has exclusive trading rights.

1714 A French fort and settlement are established at Natchitoches on the Red River. Trader Louis Juchereau de St. Denis' settlement is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.

1717 Crozat's proprietary contract is terminated, and his trading rights are transferred to John Law, a Scottish financial promoter in Paris, who starts an investment scheme to colonize Louisiana.

1718 Jean Baptiste le Moyne, the governor of Louisiana and Pierre's brother (see 1699 above), chooses the site of New Orleans and designates it the capital of the French Empire of the New World. He names it in honor of the regent, the duc d'Orleans and envisions it becoming a great commercial center. It's a company town for the Company of the West. The site is not far from Bayou Barataria, which will later be the rendezvous of the famous pirates, Jean and Pierre Laffite. It offers access to the gulf without stemming the current of the Mississippi.

The cultivation of rice, tobacco, and sugarcane begins.

1719 The French build a fort on that strategic spot on a bluff along the Mississippi River. It will be called Baton Rouge.

1720s Africans are first brought to New Orleans and sold as slaves, mainly to planters.

1720 Law's colonization scheme fails.

1721 Women are in such short supply that the government of France ships 25 prostitutes to the colony, hoping to lure Canadian settlers away from Indian mistresses.

French engineer Adrien de Pauger lays out the first town plan for New Orleans, a rectangular grid of 66 squares in a classic 18th-century symmetrical gridiron pattern.

New Orleans has a population of more than 370 people, including 147 male colonists, 65 female colonists, 38 children, 28 servants, 73 slaves and 21 Indians.

1722 New Orleans becomes the capital of the colony of Louisiana. It has about 100 Cyprus cabins and 500 inhabitants. 2 squares on the riverfront are reserved for the military (Place d'Armes) and the church.

A hurricane destroys 30 New Orleans houses and damages crops. German colonists who were flooded out on the Arkansas are persuaded by Bienville to settle along the river above the city.

1723 New Orleans serves as the seat of government from this year until 1849, with the exception of one year, 1830.

1725 The first school in the Louisiana Territory is established in New Orleans by Father Raphael with 7 students attending.

1727 Education for girls begins in the Louisiana Territory with the arrival of a group of Ursuline nuns to establish a school in New Orleans.

1731 Louisiana again becomes a royal colony of France. The French will be disappointed with the small income produced by the colony.

1762 King Louis XV of France gives Louisiana to his cousin, King Charles III of Spain in a secret treaty. Many colonists resist Spanish possession.

1763 France loses Canada and all its possessions east of the Mississippi River to the English at the end of the Seven Years' War. The English have free passage the length of the river now. Baton Rouge is fortified by the British and called New Richmond.

1768 The first Spanish governor, Antonio de Ulloa, never takes formal possession and is forced out by the colonists.

1769 The affable Alexander O'Reilly, an Irish officer in the Spanish army, arrives with a force of about 3,000 men. His manner lulls suspicion until he ascertains the leaders who oppose Spanish rule. He invites them to a reception, arrests them, executes 5, and sends the others to prison in Havana, Cuba. The succeeding Spanish rulers will be liberal and tolerant.

1771 4 professors from Spain are sent to Louisiana. Governor Unzaga is ordered to pay them out of the general fund until permanent taxes for the purpose can be provided. But only one free public school is opened the next year, and it never enrolls more than 30 students.

1775 The Revolutionary War begins. Spain allows agents of the Continental Congress to use New Orleans as a base--they ship supplies up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to the struggling American colonies.

1783 The Revolutionary War ends.

1788 Most of the wooden buildings of the French in New Orleans are destroyed by a devastating fire.

1795 Étienne de Boré introduces an improved process for refining sugar, which leads to sugarcane becoming a commercial crop. Within one season, there is a wholesale substitution of sugar cultivation for indigo on the plantations surrounding New Orleans.

1779 Despite prosperity under the Spanish, Creoles begin appealing to France for deliverance.

1791 Refugee players from Santo Domingo present in New Orleans the first professional theatrical production in Louisiana.

1794 Louis Duclot establishes the first newspaper in Louisiana at New Orleans. It has a monopoly until 1803.

1795 The boundary between Louisiana and West Florida is set at the 31st parallel.

A treaty with Spain permits U.S. navigation on the Mississippi.

1779 War breaks out between Spain and Britain. Spanish Governor Bernardo de Galvez conducts a surprise attack on the British fort at Baton Rouge and captures the outpost. As a result of this victory, the West Florida parishes are returned to Spanish rule.

1800s A settlement of Afro-Creole planters grows up along the Cane River area. They build their own plantations. They are deeply religious with great pride of race and often own slaves themselves.

1800 Napoleon coerces Spain into ceding Louisiana to France. The U.S. frowns upon the transfer because free navigation of the Mississippi is imperative to the people living in the valley.

"Africa House," an African-style structure is built near Melrose.

New Orleans, the Louisiana Territory's chief settlement, has a population of about 10,000.

1803 Napoleon sells the entire Louisiana Territory to the U.S. for $15 million--one of the great real estate buys in history. William C.C. Claiborne is appointed by President Jefferson to receive Louisiana from the French official, Pierre Clement de Laussat. Formal possession is transferred on December 20th. The purchase doubles the size of the nation and prompts a great increase in westward migration.

New Orleans' population is only 8,000, with approximately 3,000 whites, 3,000 free persons of color, and 2,000 slaves.

1804 Congress provides a government for the territory on March 25th. Claiborne is the territorial governor. Louisianans desire immediate statehood.

1805 The first Protestant church in Louisiana, an Episcopal church, is established in New Orleans.

1808 The first public schools in the state are established in Pointe Coupee Parish.

1810 A census is taken--population is 76,556-- and a constitutional convention is held.

The American settlers in the Spanish possession of West Florida revolt against Spain in September. They organize the Republic of West Florida. U.S. troops occupy part of the republic in October. President James Madison declares that the region belongs to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Pirate and smuggler Jean Laffite and his men begin operating off the Baratarian coast south of New Orleans. His ships, commissioned by several of the Latin American nations in revolt against Spain, prey on Spanish commerce. The booty (including slaves) is brought from Barataria Bay through bayous to New Orleans, where Laffite's brother Pierre is the primary person responsible for its disposal through the Laffite brothers' blacksmith shop.

1812 The steamboat New Orleans, completes a trip down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from Pittsburgh in January, beginning a period of commercial expansion. The Mississippi River soon becomes the chief shipping waterway of the inland area of the U.S.

Louisiana enters the Union a slave state on April 30th. Freedmen can serve in the state militia but can't vote. New Orleans becomes the state capital.

A few days after Louisiana becomes a state, Congress adds West Florida to the state--the area is often referred to as the Florida parishes.

Territorial governor William C.C. Claiborne is elected the first governor of the state.

The War of 1812 breaks out, but New Orleans is not endangered until the fall of 1814.

1814 General Andrew Jackson and the U.S. army reach the city in December. Neither side knows that the treaty of Ghent was signed 2 weeks before, ending the war.

1815 A motley army of Creoles, Spanish, free men of color and Choctaw Indians, together with riflemen from Tennessee and Kentucky totals about 4,000 men. They face an army of 10,000 seasoned British soldiers under Major General Sir Edward Pakenham. The Battle of New Orleans is fought, a decisive victory for the Americans, led by Jackson, who is suffering from malaria at the time. Pirate Jean Laffite and Baratarians help out the Americans.

Andrew Jackson is fined $1,000 in federal court for contempt of court for issues related to his refusal to lift martial law before receiving confirmation of peace.

True to his word, Andrew Jackson secures President Madison's public proclamation of pardon for the Baratarians. Many settle down on Grand Terre to fish and trap. But the restless Jean Laffite moves on to another island fortress off the Texas coast.

1817 Baton Rouge is incorporated.

1818 2,200 people in New Orleans die from yellow fever.

1821 From 1821-1835, the average total of exports and imports per year through New Orleans is $22 million ($15 million exports, and $7 million imports).

1825 The state founds the College of Louisiana in Jackson.

1829 The first Louisiana railroad, the Pontchartrain Railroad, begins operating between New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.

1830s Workers build the New Basin Canal from Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans through fever-infested cypress swamps. Thousands of recent Irish immigrants are employed in the digging. 8,000 workers die before the project is completed--some estimate the death toll to be as high as 20,000.

Captain Henry M. Shreve opens the Red River to navigation.

1830 The capital is moved from New Orleans to Donaldsonville in an effort to keep the legislators from the distractions of New Orleans nightlife.

1831 New Orleans serves as state capital from 1831 to 1849. Then Baton Rouge becomes the capital.

The first railroad in the state is completed between New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.

1834 The Medical College of Louisiana is founded in New Orleans.

1837 Jesuits finally return to Louisiana.

1838 The first street parade of the Mardi Gras in New Orleans is held.

1839 The U.S. Mint is built in New Orleans.

The Methodist conference of Mississippi and Louisiana establishes Centenary College to celebrate the 100th anniversary of John Wesley's first organization of the Methodist Societies in England. It will open its doors in Clinton, Mississippi and in the next year move to Brandon Springs, Mississippi.

1840 New Orleans' population stands at 102,193. New Orleans is the nation's 4th largest city.

1843 Norbert Rillieux, a Creole black man, invents a process of boiling the cane juice in vacuum pans to make sugar crystal. So, sugarcane, like cotton, becomes extremely profitable to grow, but also requires a large labor force. More and more slaves are imported or "sold south" to meet the demand.

Abbeville (which is at first called La Chapelle) is founded by a Capuchin missionary, Père A.D. Mégret, who patterns it after a French Provençal village. It is settled by Acadians and Mediterranean immigrants.

1845 The new constitution creates the office of state superintendent of education. Alexander Dimitry, the first superintendent, sets up a statewide public school system.

The Methodist conference of Mississippi and Louisiana purchases the College of Louisiana. Merged with Centenary College, the new entity will move to Jackson, Louisiana as Centenary College of Louisiana.

1847 2,800 people in New Orleans die of yellow fever.

1849 New Orleans is the 3rd largest city in the U.S. with a population of 102,00. It ranks first in exports. But 3 separate feuding factions live in what amounts to 3 separate cities: the Creoles, newly-arrived Americans, and a group of French, mulattoes, and Germans. They all have their own civic rulers and social activities.

Baton Rouge is the capital.

1850 Population is 517,762.

Wealthy New Orleans merchant John McDonogh leaves half his fortune for the promotion of education in that city. Most of the free schools there before 1861 are supported from this fund.

1853 9,000 people die in New Orleans of yellow fever.

1855 The Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy is founded in Pineville.

1856 A hurricane on August 10th washes away 200-300 revelers at Last Island.

1858 New Orleans is linked to Jackson, Mississippi by rail.

1860 Anglo-Saxon Protestants settle the uplands of northern Louisiana.

The State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy opens. William T. Sherman is president.

Louisiana State University is founded at Baton Rouge.

1861 Louisiana secedes from the union in January. The Civil War begins. The confederate government seems oblivious to the importance of holding New Orleans.

1862 Admiral David Farragut captures New Orleans. The city front blazes with the fire from thousands of bales of cotton and hogsheads of sugar and molasses put to the torch to keep them out of Union hands. General Benjamin F. Butler and 15,000 soldiers take over the city.

President Lincoln orders the Union military government to hold elections for Congress. Reconstruction of the state begins.

1863 Newly-elected Congressmen are seated in February.

1864 Civil government supersedes military rule in March. A convention assembles to rewrite the state constitution.

Union general Nathaniel P. Banks is put in charge of the Red River campaign and sent into Louisiana.

The battle of Mansfield is fought in April.

1865 The Civil War ends.

1866 An illegal constitutional convention convened by the radicals is dispersed, but almost 50 people, mostly blacks, die.

1868 Louisiana probably suffers more than all of the other southern states under the corrupt carpetbag governments of Henry Clay Warmoth, P.B.S. Pinchback, and William Pitt Kellogg.

The Opelousas Massacre at St. Landry Parish on September 28th kills 200 blacks.

1870 Pineville's academy becomes Louisiana State University.

1877 Rival governments are set in place under Democrat Francis T. Nicholls and Republican S.B. Packard. President Hayes orders government troops to withdraw from New Orleans. The Democrats are left in control. Decades of political corruption leave the state one of the poorest and most underdeveloped in the nation.

A modern school system begins after the passage of a general school act.

1878 The state begins to reconstruct its economy.

1879 A new constitution is written.

Riverman James B. Eads and his engineers deepen the mouth of the Mississippi River, providing a year-round shipping channel in the mouth of the Mississippi and allowing large ocean-going ships to dock at New Orleans. Commerce revives.

1880s Sugar and cotton planters bring in Italian laborers to work on plantations. Many of them prefer to live and work in New Orleans and become active in local industry.

1880 The Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, a land-grant school, is founded for blacks.

1882 Baton Rouge replaces New Orleans as the state capital.

1884 The ill-fated World's Cotton Centennial is held in New Orleans.

The Louisiana State Normal School opens at Natchitoches.

1887 Tulane's Newcomb College for women opens in New Orleans--it will set high standards in the South for women's studies.

1890 Louisiana legalizes prize fighting.

1891 When the New Orleans police chief is murdered, people suspect a criminal group known as the Italian Mafia. Anti-Italian sentiment leads to the lynching of 11 Italians.

1892 On June 7th, Homer Plessy refuses to move from the whites only section of a rail car and is arrested. Black leaders will rally behind him and challenge the legality of the Separate Car Act in the Louisiana State Supreme Court. The court rules against him and the case is appealed in the U.S. Supreme Court in April of 1896. On May 18th, the Supreme Court will rule that states have the right to forcibly segregate people of different races.

1894 Edward Douglass White is appointed an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Cleveland.

1898 The new constitution provides the first effective financial support of the school system and has a grandfather clause designed to eliminate black voters.

1899 -16 degrees F is the lowest recorded temperature in the State--at Minden on February 13th.

1900s Louisiana begins to develop its rich mineral resources.

1900 The state population is 1,381,625.

Louis Armstrong begins his life in one of New Orleans' toughest back alleys.

1901 Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute sends one of his recent graduates, Charles Adams, to Grambling to establish a private school for blacks. They name it Grambling College.

Oil is first discovered near Jennings and White Castle.

1906 The Louisiana State Museum is founded.

1908 Centenary College moves to Shreveport.

1910 The free school system is developed.

1912 Loyola University, a Roman Catholic coeducational school, is established in New Orleans.

1913 Living at a New Orleans "waif's home," or reform school, Louis Armstrong is given an old cornet by the music teacher.

1914 World War I begins.

The completion of the Panama Canal increases foreign commerce in New Orleans.

1915 Xavier University opens in New Orleans. It's the only Roman Catholic university in the U.S. with a predominantly black student enrollment.

1916 The first compulsory school attendance laws are enacted.

Natural gas is found near Monroe.

1917 The Louisiana State Normal School is made a 4-year college and its name is changed.

1918 World War I ends.

1920 New Orleans' fame as a jazz center begins. Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and King Oliver all play in New Orleans.

Louisiana has only 5 free public libraries.

1921 The Federal Government purchases the Carville Leprosarium from the State of Louisiana for a national leprosarium.

1922 Radio stations in New Orleans and Shreveport are the first to begin broadcasting.

1925 The Louisiana State Library begins organizing parish wide public library systems to serve all 64 parishes.

1927 The most devastating flood in the history of the state inundates 1,300,000 acres, drives 300,000 people from their homes, and destroys millions of dollars' worth of property.

1928 Congress appropriates $325,000,000 for building levees and instituting flood control.

Huey P. Long's election as governor challenges the old landed gentry regime. A tumultuous political era begins with the rural and working classes pitted against the urban leaders.

1930 Long attracts national attention with his Share the Wealth program.

1932 The Bonnet Carre Spillway largely ends the threat of flooding around New Orleans by the Mississippi.

1935 Senator Huey Long is shot to death in the state capitol on September 8th.

1936 Plain Dealing records the highest temperature on record in the state--114 degrees F--on August 10th.

1939 World War II begins. Shipbuilding and petrochemical production begin in the state. Shipping through the Port of New Orleans increases sharply.

1946 The second free port in the U.S. opens at New Orleans.

1945 World War II ends. Industry will continue to grow, the number of factories rising about 60%. Thousands of Louisianans move from rural areas to cities to work in the new factories.

1947 Tennessee Williams writes A Streetcar Named Desire, which is set in New Orleans.

1948 Williams is awarded a Pulitzer Prize for A Streetcar Named Desire.

The first television station begins broadcasting in New Orleans.

1950 Population stands at 2,683,516.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals orders the integration of the graduate school at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

1954 The U.S. Supreme Court declares racial segregation in the schools unconstitutional.

The legislature exempts from the compulsory attendance laws any school ordered by the federal courts to segregate. The state constitution is amended, authorizing the legislature to maintain segregation.

Republican presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower carries the state for the first time since Reconstruction--less than 40% vote.

A causeway over Lake Pontchartrain is completed.

1958 The University of New Orleans opens.

1960 Population stands at 3,257,022.

The legislature enacts additional anti-integration measures, but court decisions indicate that all such acts would be considered unconstitutional. The courts order integration in New Orleans, East Baton Rouge, St. Helena, St. Bernard and Tangipahoa parishes by 1964.

1961 NASA selects the old Michoud Ordnance Plant in New Orleans to produce the Saturn rocket.

1962 Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel orders all Catholic parochial schools integrated as soon as possible. Many Catholics object. At least 3 segregation leaders are integrated.

1963 Michoud Assembly Facility produces its first rocket.

1965 Hurricane Betsy causes 81 deaths, flooding, and $500 million dollars in property damages.

1967 The courts order that the students and faculty of all schools in the state are to be integrated by the end of the 1967-68 session. This includes all state colleges and trade schools.

1968 Ernest N. Dutch Morial of New Orleans becomes the first black since Reconstruction to win election to the Louisiana House of Representatives.

1970 The Superbowl is played in New Orleans.

1975 The Superdome, the world's largest indoor stadium, open in New Orleans. It leads to the building of several hotels and motels in the downtown area.

1979 David C. Treen became the first Republican to be elected governor since the 1870s.

1982 A Pan Am Boeing 727 crashes in Kenner on July 9th, killing 153 people.

1984 The New Orleans World's Fair closes, $100 million in debt.

1986 The state's aerospace industry suffers after the U.S. space shuttle Challenger explodes in January. The Michoud Assembly Facility is forced to lay off hundreds of workers involved in the shuttle program.

Congress designates 19 miles of Saline Bayou as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The U.S. Supreme Court voids the Louisiana law requiring schools to teach creationism.

In the last 60 years, the Mississippi River delta has lost more than 680,000 acres of land (roughly the size of New Jersey) due to the relentless assault of nature, ironically assisted by humanity's efforts to prevent floods. About 25 square miles of Louisiana coastline are erased each year. The Louisiana legislature establishes a task force to begin to address the problem. It has a budget of about $50 million a year.

The state's population has increased by about 32,100 people in the last decade. Baton Rouge has a population of 219,531.

1992 Hurricane Andrew, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, crashes into the central Gulf coast after devastating south Florida.

2000 The U.S. Geological Survey reports that New Orleans, already on the average 8 miles below sea level, will be on the verge of extinction by this time next century.

2001 Louisiana, with more than a third of a billion dollars, ranks number one in the National Park Service's annual report documenting tax credit renovation activity across the nation for fiscal year 2000.

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This site was last updated 12/30/03