Olde Town -- History -- A Place Apart
History of Olde Town
A Place Apart
Bay St. Louis is distinguished as A Place Apart --- truly so --- and with good reason. Old Town characterizes this historic place as epitomized by its compact business community. It is cozied atop the very same bluffs where d'Iberville's brother, Bienville, had camped and hunted the rich game that prevailed throughout the area's wilderness in 1699.
As a young man, only 19 years of age at the time of his arrival to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he participated in or directed the establishment of many colonial settlements. In 1699, at Ocean Springs (Fort Maurepas of Old Biloxi
); in 1702, at Mobile (Fort Louis
); in 1714, at Natchitoches; in 1716, at Natchez (Fort Rosalie
); in 1718, at New Orleans (Place d'Armes
); in 1720, at Biloxi (Fort Louis of New Biloxi
), and as far north as Detroit (Fort Chartres and Kaskaskia).
It was left to those who followed in his footsteps to clear the wilderness along the bluff ridges --- to lay-out the shell roads which became Front Street (Beach Boulevard) and the road to Pearl River (now Main Street) creating the foundation for many streets to access the community of Shieldsborough (now Bay St. Louis).
Not unlike today, the first businesses were general merchandise stores, drugstores, mercantile and feed stores, and saloons.
Old Town survives with continued magnetism, heritage, and engaging gulf vistas.
Archival References to Bay St. Louis
Iberville's FIRST JOURNAL 1699
"March 2, They passed another island and passed a bay, 2 leagues wide and extending 3 to 4 leagues inland. The seas were stormy but they could not enter the bay due to shallowness. They continued west for 3 more hours and finally were forced ashore for protection and encountered the mouth of the Mississippi, which the Spanish map had marked as the Rio de la Palizada. They entered the river and took safety along the shoreline protected by thick reeds."
"Iberville reflected that de LaSalle had descended the Mississippi River from its west branch which he supposed had emptied into the St. Louis Bay (Matagorda Bay in Texas was named Bay St. Louis by LaSalle)"
Iberville's SECOND JOURNAL 1700
Jan 22, due to SE winds, Iberville stayed the night. "I could make no more than 1½ leagues and came to the east point of St. Louis Bay and spent the night. A part of my men, whom I sent hunting, killed seven deer and saw a few buffalo, but could not shoot them."
Jan 23, During the following morning, the Bayogoula Indian boy died of throat ailment. (In Father DuRu's Journal, p.63, he wrote, "April 27, 1700. We left Pointe a Mousquet [the Indian boy was named Musket] early in the morning. We said Mass at the head of the Bay of St. Louis." They reached their ship at noon.
Apr 27, Iberville continued to examine the upriver (Father Du Ru's Journal described that one of Sauvole's men drowned while crossing a river at the Bay of St. Louis, [evidently the Jordan River])
"May 9, Sauvole and M. le Vasseur Russouelle arrived from the Colapissas, they had brought back hides of two cows killed at the Bay of St. Louis."
Excerpts from Penicaut's Fleur de Lys and Calumet
1699 (Iberville departed on May 4, the following more than likely occurred in June or July, prior to August)
"Resting a few weeks, we then explored the westerly shores in order to seek the Mississippi River once more. "We found a Bay one league wide and four leagues in circumference, forming a half circle . . . . we named it Baye de St. Louis because it was on St. Louis' Day that we came there. This Bay is eight leagues west of Fort Biloxi. We went ashore there and found such a great quantity of game of all kinds of animals that we killed more than fifty wild animals, as many buffalo as deer; we made no attempt to kill more."
1699 (sometime in August, possibly near the end of the month)
"We continued along the river making a circuit around back to Lake Pontchartrain by way of Pass Manchac, which means back entrance. From there, northward around the Lake we came upon the Tangipahoa River, which means white corn. After circling Lake Pontchartrain, we passed through the Rigolets, which means channel.
"The next day, leaving Isle-aux-Pois, we passed through some little rigolets (East Pearl River), which end up at the sea three leagues away, near Baye de St. Louis. We slept at the entrance of the Bay, close by a spring of fresh water that flows down from the mountains and that nowadays is called La Belle Fontaine. We hunted for a few days on the shore of this Bay. We loaded our long boats with the buffalo and deer that we killed, and the next day we brought them to our fort."
"During that time, (Bienville) permitted fifty men, who had volunteered to go into the woods and live from hunting, or live among the savage nations friendly to us, with instructions to return when they heard the ships had come. As I was young, and passionately fond of rambling, I went with the group. We went in several rowboats, all keeping together, as far as the Baye de St. Louis, where we had very good hunting and fishing, off which we lived. After a few days, I proposed to twenty of my comrades, the youngest ones, that we go back up the Missicipy together and visit some of the nations along the bank of the river." Those who remained pursued northward into the Bay.
End of year - 1704.
"Jean Baptiste Saucier and the other 30 had separated into two groups, one going to Fontaine (on the bluffs of present Bay St. Louis) and the other group led by Saucier traveled along the (Pass Christian) peninsula exploring the Bayous."
"The La Marie arrived in March of 1718 with 500 persons including officers, soldiers and civilians to settle at the concessions (land grants) located throughout the vast French Louisiana Territory. Nearly all of these concessions were placed along riverways, bayous, and bays in order to provide means of transportation. They were settling all around the new city of New Orleans, the Natchez, the Nassitoches, the Yazoo, the Illinois, and along the coastal waterways of Bay St. Louis, Biloxi Bay, and Mobile Bay."