Antebellum Period (1803-1861)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Battle of New OrleansRise of PlantationsMississippi River Levees
1826 CourthouseGerman Coast Influence Spreads
Descendants of Early SettlersFr. Joseph Paret Arrives on German Coast 
Life on the BayouEarly Railroads
Emergence of Protestant ChurchesFr. Paret’s Watercolors & Journal
Tourist’s View of the ParishSt. Charles Parish in Spotlight – Star Plantation

Extraction of St. Charles Parish
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 #11947.1)

In the 18th 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

Norbert Rillieux (1806–94) of New Orleans was a free person of color. He was a student of thermodynamics and a scientific genius who invented the vacuum pan process, which helped to revolutionize and streamline the sugar industry. This process was used at the Destrehan Plantation when Judge Pierre Adolphe Rost was owner. Information can be found in the Champonier’s report of crops, which was published more than ten years before the Civil War began and provides additional information about other plantations along the German Coast. “A vacuum apparatus” is listed as being used for the crop year of 1855–56, with the same description the following year. Rillieux’s process is still being used to manufacture condensed milk, soap, gelatin, and glue, in the recovery of waste liquors in distilleries, and in paper mills and other processes.

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

Further Reading

Feasibility of Sugar Cane
Phase II National Register Testing of Three Archaeological Sites