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Gulf Coast History

How did the Mississippi Gulf Coast come to be? Here’s a little taste of our past and some suggestions for experiencing our history today.

Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, was commissioned by King Louis XIV to plant a colony somewhere near the mouth of the Mississippi. In October 1698, he set sail from France with about 200 colonists aboard. Six months later, he arrived at Biloxi Bay and landed on its East Side. It was then on April 8, 1699, d’Iberville selected the site of present-day Ocean Springs to build Fort Maurepas for the first settlement by the French for Colonial Louisiana.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast, first home to the Biloxi Indians and later to d’Iberville’s French, changed hands countless times over the centuries. With each new flag, a new culture was infused. Not unlike a good gumbo.

While you're here, consider a visit to Fort Massachusetts. Located on West Ship Island, Fort Massachusetts was one of the last masonry coastal fortifications built in the United States. Its construction began just before the Civil War, and although fell victim to advancing military technology, its beauty and craftsmanship remain. An enchanting, seventy-minute ferry ride transports visitors to West Ship Island, where park rangers provide guided tours of Fort Massachusetts.

Then be sure to stop by Beauvoir, the retirement estate of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, an exceptional example of the antebellum and Victorian homes that once graced the Coast. Completed in 1852, it stands on a spectacular 52-acre site overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Both a Mississippi Historical Landmark and a National Historic Landmark, touring this home is essential.

For more ideas for you history buffs, check out our History & Museums, and oral histories gathered by Francis Lam for