GERMANS MOVE INTO SOUTH LOUISIANA
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I wonder how many Louisiana natives and visitors have searched for the German Coast along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The area known as the German Coast was in fact, along a coast; however in the sense that the word coast

 

refers to land bordering a body of water, the description includes lands which comprise the parishes of St. Charles, St. John, and St. James that lie along the Mississippi River. (See highlighted in dark green)

Early in the 18th Century in an attempt to bring more settlers into the new land known as Louisiana, the French government contracted with a privately-owned venture known as the Company of the Indies. The enterprise, led by the infamous John Law, a fast-talking red-headed Scotsman, had as his primary focus the population of the new colony with any many people as possible. Law cared not for the skills and character of these recruits; only that they fill the large America-bound ships sailing from European ports.

Europeans were promised by Law and the Company of the Indies that Louisiana was the land of plenty, the weather was ideal, native Indians friendly, and New Orleans was a growing cultural metropolis. In 1721, just 3 years following the establishment of the settlement known as New Orleans, ships began arriving with unsuspecting German immigrants. Upon arriving many of these unfortunate people were forced into a life of indentured service. These hard-working and determined farmers were settled on land along the Mississippi above New Orleans and faced great hardships including floods, disease, and starvation.

By 1731, the Company of the Indies had failed, and the Germans were released from their indenture contracts to became independent land-owners. The land adjacent to the Mississippi was rich in alluvial topsoil brought in by floods during the spring of each year. These settlers quickly turned tragedy into success with their vegetable farms, dairy, and hogs; and traveled regularly to New Orleans where the produce was quickly purchased by hungry residents there.

Most of the German settlers came from the Rhineland region of Germany and many of the were from the Alsace-Lorraine area of France and Belgium. They quickly merged with the French Acadians and within two generations the German language had all but disappeared. Many of the German surnames were Gallicized or translated into French. Some prominent German descendants in the New Orleans area include names like Delgado, Touro, Godchaux, Behrman, Ochsner, Schwegmann, Rummel, and Schexnayder. And names like Troxler became Trosclair and Zweig, Labranche as the German culture was absorbed into the French communities. Former territorial governor, Michael Hahn, for whom the St. Charles Parish seat (Hahnville) is named, was a German who originally settled in St. Charles Parish.

The Germans introduced the accordion as a musical instrument and it was quickly absorbed into Cajun music. Their culinary contributions especially the use of sausages and andouille, were significant. They also celebrated the butchering of the hog, la boucherie. Shredding and salting of cabbage to produce sauerkraut was introduced into South Louisiana culture as was the first beer distiller on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The German Coast translated into French was originally known as the Cote des Allemands. Today St. Charles, St. John, and St. James parishes are commonly referred to as the River Parishes and agriculture was replaced by oil as the dominant industry in the mid 20th Century.

Just as so many other immigrant groups, the German population of South Louisiana and New Orleans has contributed greatly to the development of its culture, agriculture, medical, and construction. If you happen to visit a library, you might check out an old 18th century French or Spanish survey map where you’ll see many German landowners on both banks of the Mississippi along the Cote des Allemands.