Spanning the North American continent, from the cool Canadian border to the hot Gulf of Mexico, is a large swath of land that was once owned by the powerful French Republic. As chief Consul of France, Napoleon Bonaparte chose to abandon his grandiose plans for a French empire in the New World to prepare for war in Europe.
The United States then agreed, on April 30, 1803, to purchase the vast French territory called Louisiana for 15 million dollars. The Louisiana Purchase instantly doubled the size of the United States. In 1804, the U.S. Congress decided to divide the Louisiana Purchase into twelve smaller territories, one of which was the Territory of Orleans.
Orleans, along with the other territories from the Purchase, was subdivided into counties. In 1812, the Territory of Orleans officially became the sovereign State of Louisiana, the eighteenth state in the Union. The Louisiana State Constitution, adopted in 1845, refashioned the counties into parishes. The Parish of Ascension came from the former Acadia County.
Amidst swamps and bayous, connected to their neighboring settlements only by mere footpaths and waterways, Spanish and French descendants lived among the Houma Indians in the area of Ascension which is now Gonzales. Their small, closely-knit community worked on the land. In 1851, the settlement had ten inhabitants. In 1855, Adlard Gautreaux was able to open a school to educate the local children. Homesteading was granted to those early settlers in the mid-1880s, with tracts of land ranging from forty to one hundred and sixty acres in size. Long fields of rice, sugar cane, and indigo flourished throughout the region.
“History of Gonzales”
In the year of 1886, “Big” Joseph Gonzales was elected as sheriff of the growing community. Joseph’s son, “Tee-Joe”, opened his own general store and post office in 1887. The Railroad Commission ordered the local railroad, the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company, to change the name of its depot from Edenborn to the name of the settlement’s post office, which had been named for its founder. As a result, the village became known by a new name, Gonzales.
With the bustling arrival of the railroad, Gonzales began to rapidly grow. The design and allotment of the settlement was made in 1906 by Joseph “Tee Joe” Gonzales, who served as the first mayor. On April 12, 1922, Governor John M. Parker officially incorporated and proclaimed Gonzales to be a village. The great “Kingfish” himself, Governor Huey P. Long, predestined the thriving growth of Gonzales by constructing Airline Highway through its limits. On May 4, 1952, the village became known as the “Town of Gonzales” by proclamation of Governor Earl K. Long.
The decade of Jerry Lee Lewis and A Streetcar Named Desire ~ burger joints and jukeboxes, Truman and Eisenhower ~ was also a time of change and revolutionary growth for Gonzales. Smokestacks and glistening lamps of new industrial plants began to tower above the surging Mississippi River. As more jobs became available because of these corporations, the population began to grow exponentially in the 1950s.
Ten years after the Jambalaya Festival Association was chartered in 1967, the State of Louisiana granted Gonzales a change of status from “town” to “incorporated city”. On August 17, 1977, Governor Edwin Edwards, officially proclaimed and designated the newly established “City of Gonzales.” From that point onward, the citizens of Gonzales have worked together to form a community diverse in ethnicity, abundant in opportunity, and poised for a hopeful future. More to come on History of Gonzales!
Jambalaya Park, Gonzales Louisiana
Gonzales Committee on Cultural Affairs: http://gonzalesculture.org
City of Gonzales: http://www.gonzalesla.com
Ascension Parish Tourism: http://www.tourascension.com
Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce: http://www.ascensionchamber.com