The 18th Century Draws to a Close

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A t the end of the 18th century, census records show that the majority of the residents of the German Coast settlement were German. Some were bilingual (French and German), and few traces of their German, Swiss, or Alsatian culture remained. Sawmills were everywhere, operating day and night. Cypress and other woods were being transported out of the swamps in exorbitant amounts. Traveling through channels and tributaries to the river, the wood was rafted and floated to New Orleans, the capital, for shipment to Havana and other places. The cattle industry was bustling. Sugar Cane was the main crop and plantations lined both sides of the river. In 1800, when news leaked that Spain had secretly returned Louisiana to France, German Coast residents were elated. Although the residents prospered and thrived under Spanish rule, they remained loyal to France and the Catholic faith. The Church of St. Charles on the east bank continued to be the only church to attend to the spiritual needs of residents of both banks of the river. Spain’s liberal immigration policy in the last half of the eighteenth century laid the groundwork for an American Louisiana. The nineteenth century’s Louisiana Purchase of 1803 legalized immigration activities, which had been occurring for decades on Louisiana’s German Coast.

As under French rule, German Coast farmers continued to be the breadbasket of the colony supplying food to New Orleans through the entire Spanish era. The Mississippi River, which made all of this possible, remained the lifeblood of the settlement and the colony.

Although the role of the German Coast and its people have been marginalized or non-existent in most historical accounts of the colonial period in the settlement of the Louisiana colony, it should be noted that in this same obscure manner, the industrious citizens of St. Charles Parish have continued through the centuries to help the river region, the state and the nation prosper.

We are the descendants of those Germans who turned the wilderness into a paradise such as Louisiana never possessed before.”—J. Hanno Deiler, Settlement of the German Coast of Louisiana and the Creoles of German Descent

This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.