Waterford: Agriculture to Industry – Chapter 1 (The Setting)

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NOTE: The following research material is included on this website courtesy of Entergy and was prepared in 1988 for Louisiana Power & Light Company (presently Entergy) following their purchase of one of the most historical properties in St. Charles Parish dating back to the earliest settlements on the German Coast. Originally known as the Darensbourg Tract, this site at the time of purchase was Waterford Plantation, one of the last surviving plantations in St. Charles Parish.

New France in 1719
Reproduced from an engraving in the Collection of Historic Urban Plans, Ithaca, NY (Courtesy of the Historic New Orleans Collection)

Chapter 1: The Setting

Figure 1-1: Current Map of the Waterford Location.


Upon the vast continent of North America, great geologic forces have shaped the landscape. Glacial epochs shifted mountains, scoured the bedrock, and cleaved it with the power of water. As the Ice Age waned, the melting snows of tens of thousands of years were funneled down through the center of the land. The mountain ranges of Appalachia to the east and the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountain Range forced the rapid torrents to the sea. The mighty Mississippi River was born of these cataclysmic events. As the detritus of the topography washed by these currents settled by the sea, a land was also born. Louisiana is part of that land, built up from the sedimentation of soils deposited from this great river. This is the delta of the world’s third-largest river system. It relieves and discharges a vast amount of sediment sufficient to cover 270 square miles with one foot of silt each year. Much of the alluvial sediment is deposited on the Mississippi delta.

Coastal Plain

The Waterford Plantation site is geographically located within this alluvial plain known as the Mississippi alluvial deltaic plain. The Mississippi alluvial plain has an average width of about 50 miles and is sloped gently southward from an elevation of 115 feet above mean sea level on the Louisiana – Arkansas border to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. Near New Orleans, parts of the plain actually lie a few feet below mean sea level. Throughout its course, the river has etched the landscape with its meanders, and in doing so, has deposited sediments in ridges along the curves. In places, fastlands have risen above low-lying swampy areas which ebb and flow with seasonal floods of the Mississippi and, together with abundant rainfall, have created a geography of flat floral wetlands thriving on a subtropical climate. The delta is indented and dispersed with bays, bayous, inlets, and lakes forming an immense coastal plain along the Gulf of Mexico.

The Great River

The people who have explored and settled these lands have been blessed with many natural resources. Native American Indians inhabited these areas for its abundant wildlife, seafood, and mild climate. They perhaps knew of the delta as a land of trade among tribes located throughout the coastal wetlands. 

When European explorers arrived at the end of the fifteenth century, they found both strategic and natural values for the area. Its location at the delta of the Mississippi River piqued the interests of the military-minded. The opportunistic capitalists of Europe’s crowns sought fur, timber, and agricultural products grown on the fertile soils. The land along the Mississippi River is rich in phosphorus and other minerals, furnishing southern Louisiana with some of the most fertile farm land on the North American continent. 

The Mississippi River has proven to be both an advantage and a burden to the people and their property which lie along its banks. Through the years, the Mississippi River has wreaked destruction on homes and businesses as it moves through the land cutting and overrunning its banks with seasonal frequency. In return, the deposited sediments of these floods nourish the soil and feed the swamps with fresh water, providing a rich habitat for wildlife and fertilizers for the land.

Succession of Ownership

The development of the lands along the Mississippi River, including the Waterford property, attracted settlement and development because of its prosperous soil. The transition of owners from the year of original habitation to the present day shows clearly that its ownership was found to be a valuable asset. The proprietors were people of substance and education who developed the land and used its benefits for economic and community prosperity. One ·such individual was the original owner of the land, Charles Darensbourg, who led the first settlers and their families from their assembly in France to Louisiana in 1721. The ownership of this property changed hands several times over the years. In 1797, Charles Perret owned about half of the land that is now Waterford and the remainder was owned by Pierre B. St. Martin and one Madam Widow Ranson (see Figure 1-2).

In 1852, William B. Whitehead bought the consolidated land from the partnership of Charles Perret, Sr., Pierre B. St. Martin, Delhonde, and Peroux and worked the land well into the Civil War period. In 1879, Richard A. Milliken, a native of Waterford, Ireland, purchased the property from W. B. Whitehead, and for the first time the name Waterford appeared. 

Landholdings of Perret & St. Martin
Figure 1-2: Land­holdings of C. Perret & P. B. St. Martin as Recorded on Map Dated 1804. (From Waterford: Agriculture to Industry, November 1988)

After Milliken’s death in 1917, the land’s ownership pasted to his nephews, Charles III and F. Evans Farwell. In 1963, LP&L purchased the Waterford property and the adjacent Killona Plantation from the Farwell family. Thereafter, LP&L implemented the expansion of the Company’s electrical production capacity by the construction of generating plants on the property. The present-day LP&L units on the site were designed and constructed to meet the existing and projected needs for electric power for the customers of the Company.

This concludes the research material on Waterford Plantation, originally the Darensbourg Tract.