Cultural Geographies of pre-Statehood Louisiana

Authors: Judy Schaaf*, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Topics: Cultural Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: Louisiana, German Coast, immigration
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The lands along the east side of the Mississippi River north of New Orleans called the “German” coast were occupied by a rich variety of people, creating a complex cultural tapestry. Before it became part of the new state of Louisiana in 1812, the region shifted its geopolitical identity many times. Native peoples lived there: Koasati, Houma, Choctaw, Caddo, and others. Spanish occupation began in the middle 16th century. LaSalle claimed it for France in 1682 and French settlements brought slavery, of both indigenous and African peoples. “German” immigration began in the early 18th century when an enterprising Scot promoted his vast holdings to the dispossessed of war-ravaged areas of Germany/Prussia’s empirical ambition, especially to Alsatians (who spoke German but identified as French) and Swiss. From 1763-1783, Britain secured its hold on its colony of West Florida by granting large tracts, primarily to American migrants of British ancestry from New England and New York. Using maps to explain this history briefly, the presentation then describes three specific communities of early Louisiana to explore the symbiosis of communities of different origin, language, and culture living side by side but essentially apart. Genealogical research provides the examples that follow, of: (1) Alsatian immigrants on a “pest ship” to New Orleans in 1721, (2) a Norman French immigrant to Natchez about 1725, and (3)a British American family taking up a claim on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in 1777.

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