German Coast Influence Spreads (1843)

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The Destrehan family provides the unique connection between the German Coast and the west bank of Jefferson Parish. The descendants of Jean Baptist Destrehan were instrumental in spreading the German influence to Gretna, Harvey, and other Jefferson Parish towns.

Knowing and appreciating the work ethic of the German people, Nicholas Noel Destrehan, a German Coast native and son of Jean-Nöel, actively recruited many German immigrants to assist in the construction of the Destrehan Canal, now known as the Harvey Canal.

Gretna Historical Marker
Gretna historical marker.

Louise Marie Destrehan was educated at Sacred Heart Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, and returned home to the family plantation (now Harvey) at sixteen years of age in 1843 to assist her father, Nicholas Noel, in managing his many business enterprises and the construction and completion of the Destrehan Canal. She was also informed at that time that she was to marry Sea Captain Joseph Hale Harvey, who had been carefully selected by her father. After Nicholas Noel’s death in 1848, Louise and Captain Harvey purchased the canal, the house, and surrounding property from the estate. Captain Harvey went on to change the name of the canal from Destrehan to Harvey. In 1870, using her father’s conceptual plan, Louise and the captain had a canal lock system designed and constructed which initially ended in failure because of a deep bed of quicksand. Captain Harvey died in 1888.

Nearly 40 years after the first failure of the lock system, and at 75 years of age, Louise Destrehan Harvey again undertook the construction of the lock system that would open a narrow barrier separating the canal from the Mississippi River. Louise would climb down the ladders to closely observe and inspect all aspects of the engineering project. Dying in 1903, she was unable to enjoy its successful end. Her son, Horace, persevered. After laborious testing in February of 1907, the system was finally approved and formally dedicated on March 29, 1907. It was sold to the United States government in the 1930s and became the Intracoastal Waterway System.

Nicholas Noel Theodule Destrehan
Portrait of Nicholas Noel Theodule Destrehan, b. 1793, d. 1848; fourth son of Jean-Nöel Destrehan; married Victoire Fortier (m.l), Henrietta Navarre (m.2); father of four children from second marriage; lived in Gretna; active in sugar cane industry; scholar, inventor, astronomer; reportedly drew blueprints for the lock system for the Harvey Canal. Served as Corporal in Battle of New Orleans; reputed to be an original developer of New Marigny (New Orleans) and Mechankham (Gretna) suburbs. Interred in St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery.
Louise Marie Destrehan
Louise Marie Destrehan Harvey, a woman ahead of her time, b. 1827, d. 1903; daughter of Nicholas Noel Theodule Destrehan and Henrietta Navarre Destrehan; granddaughter of Jean- Nöel Destrehan; married Captain Joseph Hale Harvey in 1845. Interred in Metairie Cemetery.

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

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