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An entry from D'Iberville's Gulf Journal providing what is believed to be the first sighting of Baton Rouge:
"The 17th [March]. Five leagues and a half from our last stop for the night we came on the right side of the river to a little stream in which the Indians informed us there were a great number of fish. Here I had nets set out but caught only two catfish. The Indians having stopped 2 leagues below to hunt bear, where they say there are a great many, my brother stayed with them. This stream is the dividing line between the Ouma's hunting ground and the Bayogoula's. On the bank are many huts roofed with palmettos and a maypole with no limbs, painted red, several fish heads and bear bones being tied to it as a sacrifice. The area is very fine." (McWilliams, 64)
"A land grant called a concession was made to a member or members of the Dartaguette family of France. The grant may have originated while Louisiana was still a royal colony, but it is definitely known that it was first settled under the leadership of the Company of the Indies...Bernard Diron Dartaguette, who developed the concession at Baton Rouge, was a member of a powerful and influential family..." (Meyers, 10-11)
It is believed that Bernard's older brother, Martin, was the recipient of the concession after he became a director of the Company of the West in 1717. It was Bernard who stayed in America and saw to the land development.
The Treaty of Paris was an agreement signed by France, England, Spain, and Portugal to end the Seven Year's War. The French were defeated by the English and as capitulation their North American Territory was to be divided amongst the English and Spanish. The English were to take everything East of the Mississippi River except for New Orleans. During British rule, Acadians were expelled from Acadia [Canada] and transported to France. The Acadians then settled in the areas West and South of Baton Rouge in an area that would become known as Acadiana. The Acadian settlers began calling themselves Cajuns shortly after the area was settled.
Don Bernard de Galvez was appointed Governor of Louisiana in 1777 by King Charles III of Spain. During his tenure as Governor, he worked closely with the Americans to rid the West Florida Territory of the British in order to re-establish Spanish control. On September 21, 1779, Galvez, along with Oliver Pollock, his troop of Regulars, miltiamen, free blacks and mulattos, American volunteers, Cajuns, and Indians captured the fort at Baton Rouge under the control of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Dickson. As per the capitulation terms, Dickson surrendered Baton Rouge, Manchac and Fort Panmure at Natchez, Mississippi.
To learn more about the Battle of Baton Rouge check out the Wikipedia page.
"In 1805 the governor of West Florida, Don Carlos de Grandpre, ordered an area east of Fort San Carlos at Baton Rouge be used to resettle the Spanish families from Galvez Town in order to increase the population to help defend the fort site. The original plan drawn by the surveyor-general, Vincente Sebastian Pintado, included fourteen narrow lots, each containing almost four arpents, and four "public garden" lots located nearest the fort lands along the southern edge of Bayou Gracie. The public road leading from the fort was called "Spanish Road" and later "Spanish Town Road." The boundaries were later expanded to include 20 more lots. (The original area of Spanish Town is contained roughly between present day N. 7th Street and N. 12th Streets.) Jean Baptist Aubert developed the area northwest of the original grant (between Lakeland Avenue and Capitol Drive) into smaller lots whose original deeds denote this area as "Aubert Town." Later additions called "towns" or suburbs named for their developers were added after 1809: Gras, Devall, Leonard, Hickey, Duncan and Mather and Beauregard Towns. (All of these were later incorporated as "Baton Rouge" in January 1817, and the town became Louisiana's capital in 1846.)" (John Sykes, Historic Spanish Town Civic Association.)
Captain Elias Toutant Beauregard retired to Baton Rouge in 1799 after a military career in the New Orleans Company of Carbineers. He had extensive land holdings in Baton Rouge and decided in 1806 “to lay out a town… in the grand manner of European cities: a town with plazas, formal gardens, and public buildings.” This area came to be known as Beauregard Town and includes the area bounded by North, South, and East Boulevards, and the Mississippi River. Most buildings in the neighborhood that stand today have columns, porches, and ornate millwork and are known for their style and craftsmanship. The neighborhood was designated a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Eleventh Annual Restoration Renaissance. By the Downtown Development District, 2000; p. 28 (from the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association Records)
"Several of the inhabitants of West Florida began to organize conventions to plan a rebellion, among them Fulwar Skipwith, a Baton Rouge native. At least one was held in a house on a street that has since been renamed Convention Street in their honor. On September 23, 1810, the rebels overcame the Spanish garrison at Baton Rouge; they unfurled the flag of the new Republic of West Florida, known as the Bonnie Blue Flag. The flag had a single white star on a blue field and inspired the later Lone Star flag of Texas. The West Florida Republic existed for almost ninety days, during which St. Francisville in present-day West Feliciana Parish served as its capital." (Wikipedia,"History of Baton Rouge, Louisiana")
"The Mississippi River, which had defined so much of Louisiana's early history, was recognized by President Thomas Jefferson as being the key to the control of the North American interior. He dispatched Robert Livingston to Paris in 1803 to negotiate with the French the purchase of New Orleans, which Jefferson believed would guarantee the United States' free navigation of the river. Napoleon startled the American representatives by offering the entire Louisiana territory for a paltry $15 million. Thus began a new era in the already colorful history of Louisiana. Spain held on to its holdings east of the river until 1810 when residents of the West Florida Republic revolted against their rule. In 1812, Louisiana was admitted to the United States as the 18th state." (Louisiana Secretary of State)
"…..from the mouth of the bayou at the upper part of the town of Baton Rouge called Garcia’s Bayou (Capitol Lakes) and extending on the main branch of said bayou to the distance of forty arpents from the Mississippi on the lower line of the tract of land claimed by Madame Marion and pursuing the direction of said line to the distance of forty arpents to the Mississippi."
"Zachary Taylor commanded the post several times and was stationed at the barracks when elected President in 1848… ‘the old buildings are simple, genuine, and moving; precisely the sort of thing that would make a European town famous among the tourists’—essayist, John Crowe Ransom." (State Division of Tourism)
"Earliest records of the church  are written in clear and careful Spanish; French superceded this and was not replaced by English until after the Civil War." (State Times, Oct. 13th, 1916)
"the Marquis de Lafayette, who had fought valiantly in the [American Revolution]…traveled through the United States,” he made a stop in Baton Rouge. “Second Street was rechristened ‘Lafayette Street’ in his honor." (Historic Baton Rouge, Rodrigue and Phillips, pg. 16)
"Prior to 1835, all prisoners incarcerated by the state of Louisiana were sent to the old city jail in New Orleans… described by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 as a place where ‘men [were] thrown in pell-mell with swine, in the midst of excrement and filth’... The penitentiary served the state from 1835 until 1917 when it was replaced by the Angola State Penitentiary at Angola Plantation." Hard Labor : History and Archaeology at the Old Louisiana State Penitentiary
"Baton Rouge searched for the perfect site for the new State House… The property of Judge Thomas Gibbs Morgan was finally chosen. [It was] described as one of the most beautiful and impressive sites on the river… The land, approximately five acres and valued at twenty thousand dollars, was officially transferred to the state on September 22, 1847." (Louisiana’s Old State Capitol, Carol K. Haase)
"Even though the people of Baton Rouge were in revolt, [General] Williams had little trouble in occupying the city … Williams brought with him six regiments of infantry, two artillery batteries and a troop of cavalry. However, in the process of locking down the city, it was also ransacked." (Civil War Baton Rouge, Port Hudson and Bayou Sara, Dennis Dufrene.)
What is currently Louisiana State University Agricultural and Mechanical College, was originally located in Pineville, Louisiana. The campus was moved to Baton Rouge in 1869 after a fire destroyed the Pineville campus. The school took up residence in the Louisiana Institute for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind until it was later given quarters at the Pentagon Barracks. The school moved to its current location in 1926.
“It was a great day …when the street cars made their appearance… a holiday was declared and prominent businessmen took the reins and drove the mules.” (Morning Advocate, May 1936.)
“The mule cars turned from North Boulevard into Lafayette, … turned at Convention, and traveled up Third to Main.” (State Times, October 1942.)
“Deep water navigation on the Mississippi made Baton Rouge an attractive choice [for Standard Oil]." (Historic Baton Rouge, Rodrigue and Phillips, pg. 33.)
“… Clearing the land recently purchased by the Standard Oil Company may be taken as the starting point in the erection of an enterprise that will mean more to Baton Rouge and the State than any that has ever entered its portals. It will mean a long step toward the attainment of a goal…and will bring Baton Rouge to the front in a commercial sense.” (The New Advocate, April , 1909)
“When Southern University [moved to Baton Rouge], a raised cottage was the only habitable building on campus. The house was a one-story structure containing four bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and front and back porches. It served as the president’s living residence and office, a dormitory for female students and teachers, the dining hall, and the classroom building. This building… today [serves] as the Southern University Archives and Information Center, and is listed in the National Historic Register.” (A Portrait of Southern University: History, Achievements, and Great Football Traditions, Everett D. Gibson, pg. 36)
"As consequence of segregation, blacks developed their own social clubs. The most prominent of these was the Prince Hall Masonic Temple (at 1335 North Blvd.) built in 1924... This facility became the center of social activities for the black community. In fact, many top black entertainers, including Duke Ellington, B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and later Ike and Tina Turner, performed at the Temple Roof garden on the building's top floor... There was also a strong link between the Prince Hall Masons and the NAACP... the Masons provided members and meeting places; they organized voter registration schools; [and] furnished general financial support." (Old South Baton Rouge: The Roots of Hope, Petra Munro Hendry and Jay D. Edwards, pg. 65.)
“The luxurious ten-story Hotel Heidelberg [became] the premier downtown hotel… [It] symbolized power in the life of the city and the state over the next several decades… Huey P. Long wrote [the song] Every Man a King in his suite at the Heidelberg.” (Historic Baton Rouge, Rodrigue and Phillips, pg. 37.)
"The present state capitol building of Louisiana, located in Baton Rouge, will forever be entwined with the political career of Huey Pierce Long. It was Long's idea for the state to construct a new building for the statehouse in 1928 when he was running for Governor of the State of Louisiana. The construction of the building was part of his political platform, as well as the notion to place the state capitol on the site, which was once Louisiana State University and formerly a military post known as the Pentagon Barracks. Included was a strip of land on which the Arsenal Museum was located. Long had contracted with a New Orleans architectural firm, Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth, to design the building. Next, Governor Long had pushed through an amendment which financed the new capitol by the end of the 1930 Legislative Section. Within 36 days of the completion of the final design, actual construction by the George A. Fuller Company of Washington, D.C. had begun. The construction work took 29 months to complete and the dedication was coordinated with the inauguration of Oscar K. Allen as Governor on May 16, 1932. Ironically, Long was not present because he had been elected to the U.S. Senate and was in Washington, D.C." (nps.gov, "Louisiana State Capitol Building and Gardens.")
The "Plan of Government," which becomes effective in 1949 provides for a single planning commission for the parish of East Baton Rouge and for the City of Baton Rouge. The unification thus effected will be of a very great benefit to the community. It makes possible the planning of the entire urban area as a unit.
“In 1953, African Americans made up 70 percent of the Baton Rouge Bus Company’s business…but were restricted to the “colored” section of buses… In June 1953…more than 7,000 African-American citizens gathered in Baton Rouge’s municipal stadium. ‘We don’t have to ride the buses…”We’ll keep walking!’ … “The gathering had mobilized the entire African-American community…to stage the nation’s first large-scale bus boycott challenging practices of segregation.” (Know Louisiana: The Digital Encyclopedia of Louisiana and Home of Louisiana Cultural Vistas: “We’ll Keep Walking: The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott of 1953.”)
“Seven Negro students from Southern University seated themselves at the white lunch counter in S.H. Kress variety store here Monday. They were promptly arrested. … Donald T. Moss, 22, a law student at Southern, and one of the participants, said: ‘I think being a human being gave me the right to do this. The consequences weren’t important.’ The move was described as a ‘passive protest.’” (The Times-Picayune, March 29, 1960, pg. 32.)
In January of 1972 following a community meeting called by an out of town Black Muslim group, tensions escalated between authorities and those in attendance at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple on North Boulevard. The Incident left three Muslims and two police officers dead and a local camera man permanently disabled.
“The white establishment and press labeled me then as a troublemaker but … I was proving a point … now is the time to put politicians in office who know the people.” (News Leader. Pearl George, Februrary 1979.)
When the 1.4 million square foot Cortana Mall opened in 1976, it was the largest shopping center in the state. Four major department stores were located in the mall: Goudchaux’s, Sears, Dillard’s, and J.C. Penney’s, as well as one hundred smaller stores. The Penney’s store was the largest in Louisiana at the time it opened. The opening of the mall was a huge boon to the Baton Rouge economy.
“Was known as the ‘most complete temple for silent drama to be found in the Southern States’ when it opened in 1919 … the house originally hosted vaudeville, road show drama, silent films and early ‘talkies’… The man who was in charge of the demolition said he found a pigeon graveyard in the building’s attic. Hundreds of pigeon skeletons were stacked on top of each other…” (State Times Advocate, May 1979.
“On September 11, 1982, the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish voted to amend the entire Plan of Government with specific reference to Section 2.01. The voters approved the consolidation of the city and parish councils into one governing body called the Metropolitan Council. The Council members are elected from single member districts.” (brgov.com, "About Us".)
The Horizon Plan, a 20-year "Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan," is at work in East Baton Rouge Parish as a "blueprint for the future." The plan was created with substantial citizen involvement and adopted by the Metropolitan Council on January 7, 1992.
The Horizon Plan focuses on seven major planning elements: land use; transportation; wastewater, solid waste and drainage; conservation and environmental resources; recreation and open space; housing; and public services, public building, and health and human services. Existing conditions, issues, goals, objectives and implementation strategies, or "Action Items," are established for each of the plan's elements. The City-Parish Planning Commission is responsible for coordination of the entire plan, although the implementation of Horizon involves many local agencies, organizations and initiatives.
“The nation’s longest-running active desegregation case, Clifford Eugene Davis Jr., et al v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, has been settled after 47 years. […] efforts to integrate public schools clearly failed…” (The Advocate, August 2003.)
“Kip Holden’s election sends a loud and clear signal that we are a progressive and bold people, willing to look past racial and cultural lines to elect the best possible leader.” (Rep. William Daniel at the Holden inaugural ceremony 2005.)
“I tell people I earned my PhD from the streets.” (The Advocate, Kip Holden, January 2, 2005,)
“On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot several times at close range while [being] held down on the ground by two white Baton Rouge Police Department officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Police were responding to a report that a man in a red shirt was selling CDs, and that he had used a gun to threaten someone outside a convenience store. The shooting was recorded by multiple bystanders."
"The shooting led to protests in Baton Rouge and a request for a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.” (Wikipedia)
Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Sheriffs responded to a call on July 17, 2016 at Airline Highway of a man carrying a firearm along the hwy. Police were shot at by gunman, Gavin Long. Long wounded three officers and killed another three.
A "1000-year" flood took place in Southeast Louisiana from August 12-16, 2016. The rainfall reached as high as 20 inches in some parishes and submerged thousands of homes and vehicles. 13 people were killed during the flooding and thousands had to be rescued from their homes by boat. Check out this map that shows the estimated flood inundation for Baton Rouge
We hope you will join us in celebrating Baton Rouge's vibrant 200 year history! Check out the BR200 website to keep apprised of events, learn a bit about the city its people, or to find fun things to do.
Happy Birthday, Baton Rouge!
Dufrene, Dennis J., Civil War Baton Rouge, Port Hudson and Bayou Sara, Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012.
Eleventh Annual Restoration Renaissance. By the Downtown Development District, 2000; p. 28 (from the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association Records)
Hendry, Petra Munro, Edwards, Jay D., Old South Baton Rouge: The Roots of Hope, Lafayette, LA: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2009.
McWilliams, Richebourg Gaillard, LeMoyne d'Iberville, Pierre, 1661-1706: Iberville's Gulf Journals. University of Alabamam Press, 1981.
Meyers, Rose, A History of Baton Rouge, 1699-1812. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Louisiana State University Press, 1976.
Rodrigue, Sylvia Frank, Phillips, Faye, Historic Baton Rouge: An Illustrated History. San Antonio, Texas: Historical Publishing Network, 2006.