this Louisiana Genealogy Trails Website for Orleans Parish (County)
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New Orleans was founded in
1718 by the French Mississippi Company as la Nouvelle-Orléans, under the
direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. The site was selected
because of its relatively high elevation along the flood-prone banks of
the Lower Mississippi River and its location adjacent to a Native American
trading route and portage between the river and Lake Pontchartrain.
In 1763, the French colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire and remained
under Spanish control for 40 years. Most of the surviving architecture of
the French Quarter dates from this Spanish period. Louisiana reverted to
French control in 1801, but two years later Napoleon sold it to the United
States in the Louisiana Purchase. The city grew rapidly, with influxes of
Americans, French and Creole French.
During the War of 1812 the British sent a force to conquer the city. The
British were defeated by American forces led by Andrew Jackson in the
Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. However, a peace treaty was
signed between the United States and Britain on December 24, 1814, and
news of the treaty did not reach the United States in time to prevent the
battle from occurring.
By 1840, New Orleans had become by far the wealthiest city in the nation,
and was also ranked as the third most populous, being beaten by Baltimore
by only 119 people. Since that time, the city has become the thirteenth
poorest large city in the Nation. Up until 1960 New Orleans had
consistently been ranked in the top fifteen largest Cities in the U.S. but
since that time, the city has shrunk to the thirty-fifth largest city in
The population of the city doubled in the 1830s, and by 1840 the city's
population was over 100,000—one of the largest cities in the U.S.
Population growth was frequently interrupted by yellow fever epidemics,
the last of which occurred in 1905.
New Orleans, 1909
As a principal port, New Orleans had a leading role in the slave trade,
while at the same time having the most prosperous community of free
persons of color in the South. Early in the American Civil War New Orleans
was captured by the Union. This action spared the city the destruction
suffered by many other cities of the American South. (Source:
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