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Dauphin Island, AL
Archive of Historical Data, Books, Maps
And Other Materials

Excerpt from the book
"Dauphin Island AL:
French Possession 1699-1763"

by Jo Myrtle Kennedy

"The Exodus 1717-1721"

The sun that had ascended so brightly on Dauphin Island had reached high noon and was beginning to wane. The 1717 hurricane had shifted a sand bar across the harbor, which had blighted the early promise of Dauphin Island. After much work, the men had managed to dig out a channel to make the harbor once more usable, but there was a constant threat that another wind could sweep more sand across the opening to the harbor. A closed harbor would be a handicap to commerce, but in time of war it could mean entrapment and defeat.
For a long time, Bienville had been considering the desirability of removing the capital of Louisiana to the mouth of the Mississippi River as a better location, with French settlements and plantations spreading westward along the gulf coast, and inland along the rivers. In 1717 Bienville started a crew of workmen clearing land to build a well-planned town on high elevation near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The place was named New Orleans in honor of the Duke of Orleans, a friend of John Law.

Always exhorting the need for agriculture to support the colonies, Bienville finally succeded in convincing settlers that their best profit pay in the cultivation of rice, indigo and tobacco. The land around New Orleans was ideal for those crops.

After repeated flooding of the Mobile River around Fort Louis, recent attacks by the Spanish from Pensacola, and John Law's plan for development of Louisiana, the Company of Mobile moved the seat of government to a site called New Biloxi, though Bienville still favored New Orleans as the capital.

In 1720, Serigny (Bienville's brother) returned to France and became captain of a ship and governor of a province. He married and reared a family that would be the only ones to bear the LeMoyne name into the next generation.

With public houses completed at New Biloxi, the exodus began on Dauphin Island in 1721. One of many ships, the 'Neptune' was loaded with families, officers, soldiers, stores and magazines for the voyage to the new capital, bringing to an end eighteen years of Louisiana government in Mobile.

The move to New Biloxi proved to be a tragedy, with summer fever invading the colony, as it had in earlier days. In additon, ships had trouble discharging cargo upon the low shores of New Biloxi. Then distressing news came that John Law's bank, the Royal Bank of France, had failed, and that Law had left the country, adding disgrace to his already tarnished name. But Dauphin Island remained, for many years, as the chief port of operation for ships that arrived from and departed for France.

Financial disaster in France threatened to collapse the Lousiana colony, but the Company of the West held on for ten more years trying to recover some of the losses. Finally, in 1731, the directors admitted failure and returned the colony to King Louis XV. Once more Louisiana became a crown colony, but all of France was in turmoil, and investors in the Lousiana project were broke and destitute and unable to provide any assistance to the settlements. Some of the colonists, no longer able to get supplies from France, were forced to scatter out and live among the Indians. The final blow came when fire swept through the buildings at New Biloxi, wiping out the village. The survivors hastily moved either to Mobile or to growing New Orleans. This tragedy finally brought about the realization of Bienville's dream, for New Orleans was now named the new capital.



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