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The discovery of an English vessel from the Carolinas, attempting to ascend the Mississippi in 1700, caused the French to construct a fort near the mouth of that river. This was located on the west side, some fifty-four miles above the pass, and named Fort Mississippi. Here our hero, Bienville, then commandant, had his official residence, erecting some five or six barracks for his soldiers and a neat house for himself.
Here were Bienville's headquarters until 1705, during which time he was almost constantly engaged in exploration and in the locating of outposts for the exploitations of commerce with the Indians. Mobile, however, remained the official seat of government until the founding of New Orleans.
In 1717, Bienville determined on a site for a new village; this, he decided, should be located on the Mississippi River at the Bayou St. John portage path, at a point where it reached the Mississippi River. This move was made in the interest of the development of trade with the Spaniards at Nachidoches and the Indians near Fort Rosalie (Natchez), which had been established the year before.
The Company of the West, of which John Law was Director General, acquired in 1717 from the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, the sole trading rights of the Louisiana Province. M. de l'Epinay was appointed Governor to succeed Cadillac in 1716. Bienville being Commander-in-Chief in the absence of l'Epinay.
On the 9th of March, 1717, M. de l'Epinay landed at Dauphine Island and presented Bienville with the Cross of St. Louis, sent to him by the King.
Bienville finally received his commission as Governor on the 9th of February, 1718. His first act was to make arrangements for his settlement of the site selected the year before, and to which, according to Penicaut, the historian of the Annals of Louisiana, who was with Bienville then, he had “sent workmen and laborers the year before (1717), to lay the foundation of the future capital of Louisiana.”
They removed the trees and brushes, traced the streets and squares and dug drains around each.'
New Orleans was an imaginative picture in Bienville's brain from his appointment in August, 1717. The site he selected in September, same year, and the clearing made with final arrange
ment of streets, canals and levee was completed in February, 1718.
The Crown ceded the Province of Louisiana to the Company of the West in August, 1717. The decree of September 27, 1717, included also the Illinois country, and ordered the location of Nouvelle Orléans on the Great River.
There had been for several years a few log cabins along the river front above Fort Mississippi. The selection of the site of the Vieux Carré, as has been said, was suggested by the original Indian trail or portage, which started from Bayou St. John and ended on Hospital Street, on the river bank just below Jackson Square, which was then laid out as Place d'Armes by Bienville, forming the center of a parallelogram of nine by five squares, or islets of 300 by 300 feet each. Being on sea level soil, these islets were ditched about and canals leading into Bayou St. John carried off the rain water. The church site and official buildings were also laid out at this time.
Very shortly the river, which, normally, was eight feet below the bank, began to overflow the infant city, and Bienville constructed the first levee, six feet in height and extending above and below the new settlement.
A great storm in 1721 threw down all of his lightly constructed houses, some four hundred in number. The first historian of New Orleans, Charlevoix, found one hundred had been restored by the following year.
The first seagoing vessel to tie up at the site of New Orleans was the brigatin “le Neptune,” sent from France in 1717 with supplies, and directed to remain permanently in Louisiana. This boat brought over the first inhabitants for New Orleans in February, 1718, starting on her journey from a point near Gulfport of to-day, coming into the mouth of the river and landing at Bienville's clearing.
Accompanying Bienville were his engineers, de la Tour and Pauger, and many distinguished officers and marines with their families.
The ceremonial of laying out the public square, locating the church and government buildings was followed by a visit to the Oumas Indian village on the bayou at about the present site of City Park, which we hope to have christened as Bienville Park in 1918, and to locate within its entrance a memorial to the Founder of New Orleans who, until his death, just after the cession to Spain, was ever ready, even in his old age, to care for his children, the inhabitants of his own city, which he had named for his patron, the Regent Duke of Orleans, whose love of pageantry began and developed the celebration by costume balls in Paris of the Carnival season preceding Mardi Gras.
So, while we are celebrating the founding of New Orleans, we may, incidentally, also chronicle the two hundredth anniversary of the Regency balls, which were the beginnings of the Carnival tableaux and pageantry held in Paris for the first time under the patronage of the Duc d'Orleans in 1718, at the Grand Opera House, three times a week preceding Mardi Gras.
These are to-day repeated every year most elaborately in our various “Kings'” balls of the New Orleans Carnival, Bienville's city.
THE CITY BEAUTIFUL. A TALE OF CHANGES IN NEW ORLEANS DURING A LIFETIME.
By JAMES RENSHAW.
(NOTE.—Much of the matter embodied here was written by the author of this article and published some few years ago in the Times-Democrat.)
It is not the purpose of this paper to give the statistical development that has occurred during the two centuries which have almost passed since the foundation of New Orleans, but to touch lightly upon the various changes which have happened since the few squares were originally marked off until the present time, when the city extends from the Jefferson Parish line on both sides of the river to Plaquemines Parish on the right bank and to St. Bernard Parish on the left bank, while on the side bordering Lake Pontchartrain the territory stretches to the Rigolets, a tract embracing 1964 square miles and containing approximately some 75,000 to 80,000 buildings of all kinds; and more especially to bring prominently into view those changes in the inner life of the city, changes which were so gradually developed that perhaps only those immediately concerned took more than a momentary notice of them, and which, though some are even of comparatively recent date, are forgotten or are but dimly pictured in memory.
The little village, notwithstanding it had its full share of infantile troubles, grew; expanding on its lower limits through the incoming of a sturdy population into what is now known as the Third District, the old town being the nucleus of the Second District, while across the upper boundary, Canal Street, the American inflow settled, and that section is now called the First District. In time, commencing at Felicity Street, then called Felicity Road, the little community of Lafayette extended on up, gradually developing into what we now term the Fourth District, and which for quite a period was prettily designated the Garden District of New Orleans. From Toledano Street to Joseph Street was the town of Jefferson City; and, skipping over some interlying tracts of land, from Lower Line on further up, was the town of Carrollton. These two separate towns, with the other mentioned territory, now form part of New Orleans, being the Sixth and Seventh Districts. Upper Line was one of the boundaries of the Bouligny tract, and was in Jefferson City, while Carrollton on its lower side was bounded, as stated, by Lower Line, giving rise to what must now seem to the uninitiated a twisted state of affairs, for Upper Line is below Lower Line as the streets run. Across the river was the town of Algiers, which also in time was annexed to and became part of New Orleans as the Fifth District. The extension along the Lake Pontchartrain border was the result in part at least of political exigency, during the time of negro prominence as a voting power. Thus the little plot of ground laid out by Bienville in 1718 has grown into the present City of New Orleans.
Probably not one-half of those who live to-day in the beautiful residences that border St. Charles Avenue remember when that thoroughfare upward from Lee Circle, then called Tivoli, was known as Nayades Street; or that the central ground was the roadbed for steam trains between Carrollton and this city, and yet such was the case not so many years ago. We forget things fast.
On that little piece of ground forming the upper river corner of Baronne and Perdido Streets, and where, by the way, was subsequently erected a theatre for the production of German plays in the vernacular, and which building itself now is only a thing of memory, having been supplanted by the De Soto Hotel, was the initial depot. From here up Baronne Street, around Triton
Walk, now known as Howard Avenue, and cutting its way through where at present stand Ford's animal hospital, the long cars of the train were drawn by horses. At this point the change was made from animal to steam power, the depot covering the space from Carondelet (then Apollo) Street through to St. Charles, which, as already stated, was Nayades. On a great portion of this ground to-day is our handsome Public Library.
It was a regularly appointed steam train that carried the people—several long passenger coaches and the steam locomotive. Regular stops were made along the route, the first at a station located midway between Polymnia and Felicity Streets, until the terminus was reached at Carrollton. From here the railway continued on out to the lake shore, where one among the finest of the city's restaurants was located, and where other accommodations for rest or pleasure were to be found.
At Carrollton, between the depot and the roadway running parallel with the river, was the Carrollton Garden, with its long two-storied frame hotel, its pretty walks, its lovely plants and flowers, its fountain with the ever-falling and ascending ball, and its swings for the children. On a Sunday afternoon, particularly, the place was alive with pleasure seekers, both old and young. How many a frosted-haired merchant of to-day could tell of his innocent rambles there; how many a grandmother perhaps here first heard whispered the words of love, while the roses swayed and nodded to the caressing breezes from the great river just in sight. It was the one place, it might be said, where the city's population met.
But the garden has passed out of sight; the lake end is dismantled; and only its pleasant memories remain to the older set. All the open spaces between Carrollton and Louisiana Avenue, which were once the tempting crawfish grounds for the schoolboys’ Saturday frolics, are now built up with handsome residences.
Oh! what delightful recollections cluster around those Saturday frolics, when a half-dozen youngsters would start out with their bucket and string and bait, and loiter half the day under the big oaks that sheltered Delachaise and Burtheville. And when the fragrant acacia was in bloom, how pockets bulged out with the sweet-scented yellow balls, that mothers took gladly in pay for all the trouble that sunburned and muddied children