Bernard Parish is a product of sediments deposited by the
in several delta-building phases. Approximately 4,000 years ago, the
began forming a delta in the St.Bernard Parish area, through the Bayou La
Loutre channel. A second phase of delta building occurred in the
Bayou Terre Aux Boufs channel. It lasted approximately 500 years. A third
phase began building land about 3,500
years ago through Bayou, les Families ending 1,500 years later. The last
of the delta phases which built St, Bernard was Bayou Sauvage which
continued until 700 years ago. The river gradually shifted its course and
sediment distribution until it completely abandoned the St. Bernard area.
Gradually the delta shifted to its Plaquemines-Modern delta complex of
today. Some sedimentation continued to occur in the area due to periodic
flooding of the river and its minor distributaries until settlement by man
occurred in the area .
to have his influence felt in the area in the eighteenth century. Early
during this period, the French colonized part of the area confined to
individual plantations along the natural levee bordering the river. After
the transfer of the
, the Spanish began to colonize what is now lower St. Bernard parish.
The Spanish, under Bernardo de Galvez, brought several hundred
settlers from the
. The center of the colony, on
Bayou Terre Aux Boeufs was initially called New Galvez. The people of the
colony changed its name to
or Saint Bernard in honor of Galvez's name saint.
At the same time, the Marigny de Mandeville was also bringing in
colonists from the
and settling them on his concession in St. Bernard.
These settlers have come to be known as the Isleneos or Islanders.
Additional settlement occurred later in this period
when many French Acadian refugees settled in St. Bernard.
area's soil, rich from many years of flooding, provided for excellent
agricultural usage. The land
produced as much as four crops per year.
These crops included sugar cane, indigo and various vegetables.
Throughout the later 1700's and into the early 1800's the
area became more densely settled and the richness of the fertile land was
utilized more extensively by farmers.
historic event in St. Bernard's history occurred in January of 1815 in the
area known as the plain of Chalmette, where the
Battle of New Orleans took
place. The great battle ended the rivalry between the
United States and
for control of the lower
valley. Led at the site by their general and later president, Andrew
Jackson, the American forces which totaled 2,500 men, defeated a
substantially larger British force which had secretly advanced
through Lake Borgne
and the bayous of St. Bernard.
parish of St. Bernard was officially designated just eight years before
the Battle of New
Orleans in 1807. The boundaries of the parish changed on seven occasions from its
inception until it assumed its current boundaries in 1842 (Burk and
character as well as the population of St. Bernard changed very little
until the 1940's. The 1940 census showed an increase in population of
11.870 over the 1930 total to 7,280 persons in what was to mark the
beginning of the rural/suburban transition of the parish's character.
Industrial development was coming to St. Bernard and with it a
migration of people particularly from the city of
attracted to new jobs or to new subdivisions that were beginning to
develop in St. Bernard Parish.
this trend continued as St. Bernard's population grew to 11,807, a 52.370
increase over the previous census. By
1960 St. Bernard had grown to 32,186, a 190.370 increase over 1950, the
largest percentage population increase in the parish's history. The trend
continued in 1970 when the population grew to 51,185.
This represented a 59.270 increase in population over 1960.
Census figures for 1980 put the population of St. Bernard Parish at
64,097, a 25.2% increase over the
previous decade. Between 1980 and 2000 St. Bernard's population grew very
little to only 67,229 largely due to a stagnant regional economy suffering
form the loss of many jobs due to the down-sizing of the oil and gas
industry in the region. Locally
the closure of the Kaiser Aluminum Chalmette Works and the loss of over
2,000 high paying industrial jobs had a significant effect on the parish's
population and economic growth trends.
the economy of St. Bernard has been tied to the land and its unique
environment until the mid-twentieth century.
The plantations and farms that were developed along the rich soils
that lined the banks of the Mississippi
provided economic benefits to the
parish's residents during the pre-Industrial period.
Bernard's wetlands provided extensive economic benefits through the
fishing and trapping industries which thrived in the area.
The wetlands also provided timber to the area due to the abundance
of cypress trees found there. These
trees were harvested and used in the
construction of many houses in the
area in the 1800s and early 1900's.
1940's, urbanization and industrialization have altered the area and its
economy. The wetland areas
have been altered by the activities of man which have resulted in the
destruction of fresh water marshes
which has impaired the production of fur-bearing animals.
The construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), an
alternative access to the Port of New Orleans from the Gulf of Mexico, in
the late 1950's, has resulted in significant
land loss in St. Bernard Parish due to resulting salt water
intrusion. Many former farmlands have become subdivision developments of tract
homes. Despite these changes,
the environment continued to provides economic benefits.
The seafood industry provided all or part of the economic
livelihood for many St. Bernardians in the lower portion of the parish.
industrialization and urbanization began in earnest in St. Bernard in the
1940's and 1950's. Industrial development was along St. Bernard's portion
of the east bank of the Mississippi
where the American Sugar Refinery, Kaiser Aluminum's Chalmette Works and
the Tenneco Oil Refinery (now Exxon/Mobil) were developed on the riverfront from the
parish line in Arabi to
. Other industrial
developments in the area included the Murphy Oil Refinery, natural gas
processing plants and ship building in the area between Meraux and
industrial developments, as well as the flight to suburbia by those who
Bernard an attractive alternative to life in the city, resulted in
tremendous growth and expansion of the economic base of the
parish. The population
increase brought with it the development of the wholesale, retail and
service sectors of the economy which were necessitated by the expansion.
By the 1970's portions of St. Bernard had transformed from a sleepy, rural area
to an urban area similar in
character and appearance to the rest of
suburban areas. But because of its heritage and
continuing ties to it's roots and traditions St. Bernard maintained
it's sense community and maintains it's small town charm on the edge
of the city.
All that changed on August,
29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina pushed the marsh and the Gulf of
Mexico in like a funnel through the Mississippi Gulf Outlet drowning
every structure in St. Bernard in up to twelve feet of marsh muck that
did not recede for up to over two weeks. It left a community of
67,000 people in over 27,000 households an empty shell in what used to
be weeks before a vibrant productive community. Although many of
it's citizens are gallantly attempting to repopulate the area the
population remains well below its pre-storm population.
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