Louisiana History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

History of Louisiana

This southern state has a rich history and a unique blend of cultures that is unmatched anywhere else in the United States. The Louisiana area was first inhabited by Native American tribes including the Atakapa, Boocana, Nakasa and at least 12 other Indian clans. The first European explorers arrived from Spain and visited the Mississippi Delta region in 1528. Hernando De Soto followed with his expedition in 1548.

Europeans had been interested in the Louisiana area for over one hundred and fifty years, until the French came on call at the end of the 17th century. France claimed a mighty piece of North America for its own and began ambitious work to create a commercial and religious domain from Canada. to the Gulf of Mexico.

The French explorer La Salle gave the area its name in honor of King Louis XIV. This original Louisiana territory spanned what is now 15 of the largest states in the US on both sides of the Mississippi River. New Orleans has been declared the French capital of this New World due to its prime location along the Mighty Mississippi River.

The French ceded most of the land east of the great river to England after the French and Indian War (aka the Seven Years’ War) in the mid-1700s. The rest became Spanish territory through the Treaty of Paris of 1763 at the end of the war.

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After the Seven Years’ War, thousands of French loyalists were expelled fromNova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick (the area then known as Acadia) by the British. These refugees made the long march south across the North American continent to Southwest Louisiana. Today’s Cajun people are descendants of Acadian settlers with a rich culture all their own.

During the 1700s, the connection between Louisiana and its parent Caribbean colony became strong and focused on maritime trade. The land of Haiti has had a strong influence on the people, culture and religion of the area. Slave uprisings in the islands led to an influx of Haitian slave refugees whom the Spaniards tried to cut it with little effect. When Haiti won its independence in 1790, thousands of French displaced descended from New Orleans and southern Louisiana, along with their African slaves. Fear of ‘rebellious activities’ was very high with these Caribbean slaves spreading ‘dangerous doctrines’ among the local slave population.

Louisiana made its way back into the French Empire through the Treaty of San Ildefonso with Spain in 1800. Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, attempted to create a new world empire based on the Caribbean. the sugar trade with the mainstay being the adoption and re-enslavement of the people of Santo Domingo (today’s Dominican Republic). When an acceptance led by his brother failed, he decided to sell the entire Louisiana Territory to the United States.

The Louisiana Purchase

The US did not originally intend to purchase ALL of Louisiana, but simply New Orleans and the surrounding areas. When Napoleon Bonaparte offered the entire Louisiana Territory, US President Thomas Jefferson accepted. His Ambassador-at-Large James Monroe (later President Monroe) closed the Louisiana Purchase for about $15 million in bonds, and that sale almost doubled the size of the United States of America overnight! After a rocky road through Congress, Louisiana was officially ceded to the United States in 1803.

Louisiana timeline

1500s – 1600s

(1519) Spanish explorer Alonso de Pineda reached the mouth of the Mississippi River

(1541-42) Hernando De Soto explored the area, discovered the Mississippi River

(1682) Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, claimed Mississippi watershed France ; named area for King Louis XIV


(1714) Juchereau de St. Denis founded first permanent settlement in Louisiana

(1718) Jean Baptiste le Moine, Sieur de Bienville, founded New Orleans

(1719) Black slaves imported into Louisiana

(1722) Hurricane destroyed much of New Orleans

(1723) New Orleans became the capital of Louisiana

(1729) Natchez Indians massacred 250 settlers at Fort Rosalie

(1762) King Louis XV gave Charles II of Spain all the land west of the Mississippi

(1768) Louisiana colonists rebelled against Spanish rule

(1769) Spain regained control of Louisiana

(1788) Most of New Orleans destroyed by fire


(1800) Spain ceded Louisiana back to France

(1803) US bought Louisiana Territory

(1812) Louisiana became 18th state

(1815) British defeated by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans

(1832) Yellow fever and choloera epidemic killed more than 5,000 in New Orleans

(1837) New Orleans hosted the first Mardi Gras parade

(1849) Baton Rouge became the capital of Louisiana

(1853) Yellow fever epidemic killed more than 11,000 in New Orleans

(1861) Louisiana seceded from the Union; joined the Confederation

(1862) New Orleans captured by Allied forces; salt mine discovered in Avery Island

(1866) Race riots in New Orleans killed 38, wounded 146

(1868) Louisiana re-admitted to the Union; state lottery set

(1870) Robert E. Lee beat Natchez in a steamboat race

(1873) Colfax Riot occurred, more than 100 African American men killed

(1874) Severe flooding occurred throughout the state

(1879) New state constitution passed; the mouth of the Mississippi River deepened to allow large ocean-going ships to reach New Orleans

(1884) World’s Fair held in New Orleans

(1891) New Orleans mob lynched 11 Italians accused of killing Chief of Police Hennessey

(1892) The Knights of Labor held a general strike in New Orleans

(1893) Hurricane killed over 2,000 in Louisiana and Mississippi


  • (1901) First oil stream discovered at Jennings
  • (1915) Hurricane hit New Orleans, killed 275 people, caused $13 million in damages
  • (1916) Natural gas field discovered under Monroe
  • (1921) New state constitution passed
  • (1927) Floods devastated 1,300,000 acres, leaving 300,000 homeless
  • (1928) Hui P. Long elected governor
  • (1932) Hui P. Long became US Senator; new Capitol completed in Baton Rouge
  • (1934) Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, shot by law enforcement and squad near Gibsland
  • (1935) Hui Long killed on the steps of the Capitol
  • (1939) Political scandals caused the resignation of Gov. Richard Lech
  • (1947) First offshore oil well in Louisiana set
  • (1956) World’s longest overwater bridge – Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened
  • (1957) Hundreds of people in Cameron Parish killed in Hurricane Audrey
  • (1958) City bus segregation abolished in New Orleans
  • (1960) Desegregate two public schools in the Orleans District
  • (1965) Hurricane Betsy devestated southern Louisiana; more than 60 deaths have occurred
  • (1966) National Football League franchise awarded to New Orleans Saints
  • (1969) Hurricane struck Camille, killed 250 people
  • (1973) Lindy Boggs became Louisiana’s first congresswoman
  • (1975) New Orleans Super Dome completed
  • (1983) Edwin Edwards became first three-term governor
  • (1985) Edwards indicted on federal racketeering charges
  • (1986) Governor Edwards acquitted of all charges
  • (1987) Pope John Paul II visits New Orleans; Cuban detainees at Oakdale Detention Center staged an eight-day capture held 26 people hostage
  • (1988) GOP convention held in New Orleans
  • (1989) Former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, elected to the state legislature
  • (1991) State Legislature approved riverboat gambling
  • (1992) Hurricane Andrew killed 11 caused $1 billion in damages
  • (1998) Major flooding throughout southern state from Tropical Storm Francis


  • (2005) Hurricane Katrina hit southeast Louisiana, damaged levees flood New Orleans, more than 1,500 people killed, over two million homeless; Hurricane Rita causes major flooding in New Orleans
  • (2008) Hurricane Gustav threat foreced 1.9 million people to evacuate southern Louisiana, with 200,000 being New Orleans residents, the largest evacuation in Louisiana history, 800,000 people left without power, $8 billion in property damage; Louisiana had the highest per capita homicide rate of all US states during the 20th cosecutive year
  • (2010) New Orleans Saints win Super Bowl; 11 killed, 17 injured in British Petroleum (BP) offshore oil rig explosion in Gulf of Mexico; a major oil spill has occurred; over 65 miles of Louisiana coastline smeared
  • (2011) BP sued Transocean, owner of the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf in 2010 for $40 billion in damages
  • (2012) BP reaches $7.8 billion settlement with largest plaintiff group for 2010 oil platform spill

Louisiana History