The Antebellum Period, 1803-1861

Extraction of St. Charles Parish - Persac Map (Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection, Detail from Norman's
Chart of the Lower Mississippi River by Marie Adrien Persac–Accession #1974.1)

I n the eighteenth century, many early colonists were afforded land grants and established plantations and businesses. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, many Americans navigated down the Mississippi River in all manner of craft to settle in the Louisiana Territory. By 1804, more than eighty years had passed since the German Coast had been established and the floodgates opened to newcomers in 1809 when Governor William C. C. Claiborne decreed that emigrants would be allowed to enter Louisiana with their slaves. It was a time of great prosperity. Sugar, cotton, rice, indigo, and tobacco accounted for the vast fortunes established in “plantation country,” which became known as the Golden Coast. Etienne de Borés successful achievement of sugar granulation revolutionized the industry and enabled planters to focus on the more reliable crop of sugar cane.

     Comparing the map by Gertrude C. Taylor and Glenn R. Conrad entitled St. Charles Parish, 1804-1812, Some Landowners of the Era with the well-known Persac map of 1858, gives one a clear picture of the growth and prosperity of the German Coast during this period. As time passed, many changes in ownership took place because of normal factors of inheritances, crop successes and failures, and the normal course of free enterprise. The Mississippi River reclaimed many of the once-splendid plantations and the Civil War forever changed the physical and cultural landscape of this era. Only three of the original plantations remain in place today—Destrehan, Ormond, and Home Place. None of the descendants of the original owners are known to remain in possession.

"St. Charles Parish was graced with many plantations owing to the strategic location
on the Mississippi River. Without this water highway, shipping of agricultural produce would
be a long, tedious, time consuming and unprofitable enterprise. The river was essential to
a plantation economy. It has for centuries spread its contents over the farm lands…
Annual floods deluged the area with tons of fertile topsoil.”
                                                                         —Henry Eugene Yoes III, A History of St. Charles Parish

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