Baton Rouge lies on the east bank of the Mississippi River approximately 230 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The city sits near the southernmost end of a series of bluffs formed by the last ice age nearly 20,000 past. The earliest known inhabitants lived here nearly 5,000 years ago and were successive groups of mound builders, whose structures are still in evidence on the LSU Campus and in Arsenal Park. At the time of European contact, the primary tribes that populated the area were the Bayou Goula and Houmas Indians.
The Explorers European explorers Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville and his brother Sieur de Bienville arrived at the site of the city on Mardi Gras Day March 17, 1699. After observing a large red cypress on the bluff, Sieur d’Iberville gave the town the name Baton Rouge, which translates into “Red Stick”. In 1718 the king of France gave Bernard Diron d’Artaguette and his family a land grant to settle the area, but by 1727 the area was largely abandoned. In 1763 England receives the territory from France in the Treaty of Paris and established Ft. New Richmond near the site of the Pentagon barracks. The British hold the area until it is taken in 1779 by Don Bernardo de Galvez. The successful West Florida Parish revolt in 1810 cleared the way for the territory to join the United States. On October 27, 1810, the Republic of West Florida was annexed by proclamation of U.S. President James Madison and Baton Rouge territory is officially incorporated into Louisiana on April 14, 1812. Louisiana joined the Union on April 30, 1812.
Development on the River Baton Rouge became established as a growing Mississippi River Port town serving as a conduit for goods to and from the interior of southwestern Louisiana. Early neighborhoods in Baton Rouge included Spanish Town (1805) and Beauregard Town (1806). On January 17, 1817 Louisiana’s Governor Jacques Villere signs a legislative act which incorporates Baton Rouge. In 1846, the Louisiana Legislature designated Baton Rouge as the State Capital, replacing “sinful New Orleans”.
Battle of Baton Rouge After the Battle of Baton Rouge and Union occupation, Louisiana, much like the rest of the south, took many decades to recover after the Civil War. With its arrival in 1909, Standard Oil heralded the advent of economic recovery in Louisiana. Over the course of the first half of the twentieth century, industry, especially the petrochemical industry was the economic engine that drove Louisiana forward. Baton Rouge’s post war population increased by 440% From 34,719 in 1940 to 153,100 in 1956, priming the area for decades of economic, social and political growth.
Defining Decades Much like the rest of the nation, the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s in Baton Rouge were decades of great political unrest and change. The Civil Rights Movement came to the forefront of local politics. The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott in 1953, the filing of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Desegregation suit in 1954, the Kress Lunch Counter Protests in 1960, the rise of CORE and the Black Panthers and the events at Southern University and North Boulevard in 1972 all became defining moments in the City’s history. Positioning for the Future In 1968 the Baton Rouge Goals Congress was established to design a plan that would bring the City into the future. This fore-runner of the Horizon Plan and FutureBR heralded the development of the Centroplex, re-organization of schools, zoning regulations and a restructuring of the City-Parish Government. In the 1990’s a State Government building boom once again redefined Baton Rouge from a sleepy river town to a southern metropolis primed for growth into the Twenty-first century.
Baton Rouge Timeline
Follow this link to view an interactive timeline from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library that explores the city's creation and development throughout the years.
Baton Rouge Photoslider
Watch the past come back to life through the lens of the future using our 200 Years of Baton Rouge Photoslider, here!