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Jackson County Mississippi

Biloxi In 1699 a body of Frenchmen under d'Iberville established the town of old Biloxi. It was situated across the bay from the place of the same name. There are at least two places claimed as the site of old Fort Maurepas. One is a kind of picnic ground considerably to the north and on the eastern stretch of what is called the Back Bay. The other is on a little bluff not far north of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Bridge, within the grounds occupied by a Mr. Portevant, who lives about half a mile from Mississippi City.38 He owns a number of relics which have been dug up or found otherwise on his place, among them the iron shoe of a flag staff. This place looks out upon the entrance to the bay and is an ideal site for a fort. The claim of this latter place as the place where the first French settlement was made in Mississippi is further substantiated by a map drawn by F. Joussette and preserved in the Archives of the Maune at Paris.39 This shows the place to be just about where Mr. Portevant lives. An earth work is indicated on the map further south, but this was not the main fort, which so far as the writer knows has not been identified. Mr. Portevant's home is a pleasant suburban place with flowers, vines, trees, and spacious grounds.

La Harpe tells of the establishment of old Biloxi in the following words:

He (d'Iberville) concluded to fix his settlement at Biloxi. Here he built a fort with four bastions, which he mounted with twelve cannons, and gave the command of it to his brothers, Souvolle and Bienville, and having manned it with a force of thirty-five, he set sail for France on the 4th of May."

An account of the events which happened at this place from May 3, 1699, until 1701 will be found in French's Historical Collections of Louisiana, pp. 223-24040 Acting under orders from the home government, M. d'Iberville removed from Biloxi, Jan. 5, 1701, to Dauphin Island at the mouth of the Mobile Bay, "leaving but twenty men under the command of M. de Boisbriant, to man the fort" at Biloxi. In 1720 a vessel brought over 'a troop of young women, sent by force, except one, who was called the Damsel of Good-Will." Dumont says ''They were landed first on Dauphin Island, but the marrying mania had subsided, and there was no demand for them. As, moreover, the commandant had resolved to abandon the island soon, he put them all in boats and sent them over to Ship Island, thence to old Biloxi, where most of them got married."41

The events which led to the abandonment of old Biloxi are related by Dumont as follows:

'There was at Old Biloxi a sergeant, who, having drunk a little and lain down, took it into his head to light his pipe, as he did in fact with a stick from the fire; but as he was lying on his bed, instead of getting up to put the stick back, he threw it, unluckily, not in the middle of his cabin, but against the posts that surrounded it, so that the wind, blowing through the posts, soon fanned a blaze, which in a moment caught the palisades of pine, a very resinous wood, and easily inflamed. In an instant the fire spread to the next cabin, and from that to another, so that, though fortunately the wind was not high, the conflagration soon became so violent, that to check it and prevent its progress, they had to throw down two cabins on each side. The sergeant escaped as he was, not being able to take anything from his cabin; in all, eleven were burned or thrown down. The commandant had no thought of restoring them, as he was already disposed to transport his colony once more, and make a third establishment.

"A new reason decided him to do so. Although great care was taken in France to send abundantly provisions of every kind to the colony, yet all their care could not prevent want being felt there. It was so great that the commandant was obliged to send the soldiers, workmen, and even officers, to the nearest Indians of the country, that of the Biloxis and Pascagoulas, who received them with great pleasure, and supported them quite well, not indeed with bread, but with good hominy and sagamity, boiled with good store of meat or bear oil. At the same time the commandant raised at New Biloxi a third establishment, which being soon after completed, he transported the whole colony to it, abandoning Old Biloxi, where his stay had been marked only by disastrous events."

Extinct Towns| AHGP Mississippi

38. This seems to correspond with the view of Bancroft History of the United States, III., p. 201), Martin (History of Louisiana, I., p. 145), and Gayerre (History of Louisiana, I., p. 45) though Stoddard (Sketches of Louisiana, pp. 24, 26, 42, 136, 137) thinks that it was on the Perdido Bay, "twelve miles west of Pensacola River or bay." Charlevoix (History of New France, V., p. 123) says that it was "three leagues from the Pascagoulas," and Dumont (Historical Memoirs of Louisiana, ch. VII., p. 3) says that it was across the water "a good league" from New Biloxi.
39. A copy of this map will be found in Colonial Mobile, pp. 3233. The writer of this sketch is indebted to Peter J. Hamilton, Esq., author of Colonial Mobile, for information on this point.
40. Journal Historique de Establissement des Français a la Louisiana. By M. De Souvolle.
41.Dumont's Historical Memoirs, ch. vi.

Source: The Mississippi Historical Commission Publications, Volume V, Edited by Franklin L. Riley,
Secretary, 1902.


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