Created in 1811,
St. Mary Parish was originally part of the Attakapas District and St.
Martin Parish. In the midst of French culture, exploration, and settlement
during the late eighteenth century, St. Mary bears the distinction of
being a primarily Anglo-Protestant settlement in the midst of French-Catholic
Acadiana. Their dominance in the region is evident in the non-French
towns of Franklin, Baldwin, and Patterson.
early settlers, mostly a wealthy planter class, found the soil and climate
ideal for growing sugarcane, and they transformed the existing small
farms producing indigo and cotton into some of Louisiana's earliest
sugar plantations. By 1840, St. Mary Parish was recognized as one of
the states major shippers of sugar.
Today, the region's
economy is still dependent on revenues generated from sugarcane, as
well as the petroleum industry, fishing, and other agricultural crops
such as rice and soybeans. St. Marys current population of approximately
58,000 consists of Anglo-Americans, Creoles, and African-Americans,
who comprise the largest segment of the populace.
of the sugar cane industry during the antebellum period left an enduring
legacy of mansions and plantation homes throughout the area, particularly
in Franklin, the seat of St. Mary Parish. Franklin also has a historic
district with 420 landmark structures and a turn-of-the-century commercial
and railroad district. Even though equestrians and buggies are no longer
present, the street lamps in Franklin still bear "no hitching"
St. Mary Parish
is also home to the Chitimacha Indian Reservation and Museum, Cypremort
State Park, the International Alligator Festival, and the Louisiana
Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. The Wedell-Willliams Memorial Aviation
Museum in Patterson is a popular attraction as well. The museum contains
replicas of aircraft parts used by Harry Williams, mayor of Patterson,
and his partner, speed pilot Jimmy Wedell. At the time of his death,
Wedell held more air speed records than anyone else. Natives of the
area also boast of the parishs largest city, Morgan City, where
two film classics were madeTarzan of the Apes and Thunder