National Heritage

The French

With the French beachhead established at present-day Ocean Springs in April 1699, by French Canadian Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville (1661-1706), King Louis XIV of France had the physical presence to defend the Louisiana claim of Rene' Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687). In 1682, La Salle exploring from eastern Canada discovered the Gulf outlet of the Mississippi River and claimed it and all the vast territory it drained for France. He named the land "Louisiana" in honor of his King. After reconnoitering the northern Gulf Coast from Florida to the deltaic mouth of the Mississippi River, and inland as far as present-day New Orleans, Louisiana, d'Iberville built Fort Maurepas on a peninsula on the eastern shore of the Bay of Biloxi. The French operations were conducted from the deepwater anchorage at Ship Island. The French adventurers had made contact with the local Amerinds who were established on the Pascagoula River. These tribes were called Bylocchy, Pascoboula, and Moctoby. The name Bylocchy or Biloxi became synonymous with the French settlement at Fort Maurepas, and in later times became spelled Biloxi.

In early 1702, the French made a decision to relocate their small colony from Ocean Springs to the Mobile Bay area. The first city of Mobile was established by d'Iberville in 1702, at Twenty-Seven-Mile Bluff on the Mobile River near the confluence of the Tensaw and Middle Rivers. After the harbor at Dauphin Island was obliterated by a hurricane in 1717, the French moved the capital of Louisiana back to the site of Fort Maurepas on Biloxi Bay in 1719. This settlement was removed to present-day Biloxi in 1720, as this site, which was near the present-day Biloxi Lighthouse, afforded easier access from Ship Island. It was called Nouveau Biloxy (New Biloxi), and the original settlement at Ocean Springs became known as Vieux Biloxi or Old Biloxi. Colonists of John Law's Mississippi Company were landed at Ship Island and brought to New Biloxi where they were transported to various concessions in French Louisiana. New Biloxi was essentially abandoned after the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans in 1722.

The historical record of Ocean Springs during the next one hundred years is rather sparse. When Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville (1680-1768) left Fort Maurepas for Dauphin Island in January 1702, he left some men at Fort Maurepas. It is probable that some French and French Canadians remained in the area after Old Biloxi was abandoned in 1720. New Biloxi met the same fate circa 1728.

British West Florida

After France lost its North American colonies to England as a result of the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), Ocean Springs became part of British West Florida, whose capital was at Pensacola. English surveyor, George Gauld, made a map of the Mississippi coast in 1768. It depicts the homestead of a Madame Bodron (probably Baudreau) living at "Old Biloxi" at this time. Spain declared war on England in 1779. Spanish-American forces under Galvez and Pollock defeated the British at Mobile and Pensacola liberating the area in 1781. The Treaty of Paris in 1783, gave British West Florida to Spain. Spain held the area as Spanish West Florida until the Republic of West Florida was declared in 1810.

The Spanish

During the Spanish period, there are anecdotal stories concerning a Spanish Camp or garrison, which was situated on the Fort Point Peninsula, the locale of Fort Maurepas and later Old Biloxi. These reports are presently not substantiated but may have a connection with the "Spanish Fort" or de la Pointe-Krebs House at Pascagoula. The American State Papers indicate that Littlepage Robertson received permission from the Spanish Governor of Mobile to settle at Ocean Springs in 1782. This is corroborated by the affidavits of Pierre Carco and Susan Fayard recorded at the district of Jackson Courthouse in August 1820. They said that Robertson settled on the northeast side of the Bay of Biloxi adjoining the "Old Fort." He was situated here about two years after the capture and occupation of Mobile by the Spaniards. Robertson lived here and cultivated the land until he raised his children to manhood. Woodson Wren later claimed title to the Robertson land, which was west of Martin Avenue and included the Fort Point Peninsula (Section 24 and Section 25, T7S-R9W).

Les LaFontaines

Circa 1805, Louis Auguste LaFontaine purchased two hundred eighty arpents on the Bay of Biloxi from Julian Azevedo, probably a Spaniard. This tract is in the heart of old Ocean Springs. It is bounded on the south by the Bay of Biloxi, west by Martin Avenue, north by Government projected west to Martin, and east by General Pershing from Government south through the Inner Harbor. LaFontaine and his wife, Catherine Bourgeois, were the parents of several children, mostly daughters. These daughters would later be married into the local families of the area Ladner, LaFauce (LaForce), Ryan, and Westbrook.