History of Baton Rouge, LA

Baton Rouge, LA has a long history extending well before the United States were formed.  It’s southern location just north of New Orleans and along the Mississippi River lends to its high probability for explorers and settlers.

French explorers discovered the area in 1699 where Baton Rouge is now located. Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville’s journals call the area as the Native American name ‘Istrouma’ or Red Stick, which when translated into French becomes Baton Rouge. D’Iberville goes on to describe his party coming across a large red cypress tree stripped of its bark. This was the ‘Red Stick’ that later led to the area’s name and was believed that the tree designated the hunting ground boundary of two Native American local tribes, the Bayou Goula and the Houma tribes. Archeologists have determined that Native Americans tribes had called this area their home since 8000 B.C.

Baton Rouge became an official European settlement in 1719.  Since then the area has functioned under seven different governing bodies: France, England, Spain, Louisiana, the Florida Republic, the Confederate States, and the United States. In 1763, the area was transferred to England by the treaty of Paris and the settlement was renamed New Richmond. In September of 1779, the Spanish defeated the English at Fort Butte on Bayou Manchac and then captured Baton Rouge.  This led to Spain governing Baton Rouge as part of the Spanish-influenced West Florida area.

In the early 1800s, the Spanish were overthrown by the local residents who declared themselves independent.  In 1810, Baton Rouge was annexed by Lousiana and became the East Baton Rouge parish. In 1812, Lousiana was admitted to the union.  Baton Rouge was incorporated in 1817 and shortly thereafter in 1849 became the state capitol.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the town had undergone significant industrial development as a result of its strategic location along the Mississippi river for the production of petroleum, natural gas, and salt. In 1909 the Standard Oil Company built a facility that proved to be a lure for other petrochemical firms.

Throughout World War II, Baton Rouge growth continued when the petrochemical plants were asked to increased production for the war effort. Another boom in the petrochemical industry occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, which led to further city expansion away from the river, but also threatened to strand the historic downtown area. In the late 20th century, government and business began a concerted effort to move back to the central district. A building boom that began in the 1990s continues today, with multi-million-dollar projects focusing toward quality of life improvements thru new construction continues throughout the city.