History of the City of D’Iberville
The History of the City of D’Iberville
Compiled, edited and written by Nicole LaCour Young, June 2011The history of the City of D’Iberville can be told in two stories; the story of its namesake Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville who explored the area after landing on the Gulf Coast in 1699 and the story of a group of dedicated citizens who worked tirelessly to incorporate the community known as d’Iberville in 1988.
Biography of Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville:
D’Iberville’s father was Charles LeMoyne. He came to New France (Canada) in 1641 at the age of 15 as the indentured servant of Jesuit missionaries. He was later a fur trader and an Indian fighter. He was a true self-made man, becoming one of the wealthiest and most powerful citizens in modern-day-Montreal and an influential pioneer in the small town of Ville-Marie. In 1668 he was issued letters of patent by the court of Versailles, giving him a noble title. He was also granted land in the Longueuil area and hence became known as Charles LeMoyne de Longueuil. His wife was Catherine Thiery. She gave birth to 13 children, including 11 boys, each of whom fought for the French in their quest to conquer Canada.Note: phrases such as d’Iberville, de Longueuil, de Sainte-Helene or Sieur de Bienville were used after proper names as a reference to a noble title, either inherited or issued by a sovereign. It also indicated ownership or lordship over land. “D’Iberville” referred to a fief held by his father’s family in Dieppe, a province of Normandy, France. He also was known as Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville et d’Ardillieres, after he acquired land in a province of Aunis near Rochefort.
D’Iberville was born on July 9, 1661. A relatively uneducated man, he became an accomplished soldier and is known in Canada as its first hero with a statue of him standing today at the Valiant’s Memorial in Ottawa, Canada.In 1686 he was sued for paternity of an unborn child by the guardians of Jeanne-Genevieve Picote de Belestre who accused him of seduction with the promise of marriage. He was found guilty in October, 1688 and instructed to take charge of the child (daughter). He then married Marie-Therese Pollet in October of 1693 after a long courtship. Marie-Therese lived most of her married life in France.
Three of Charles LeMoyne’s sons were part of an expedition of the Hudson Bay in 1686: Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville, Jacques LeMoyne de Sainte-Helene and Paul LeMoyne de Maricourt. The campaign gave the French control over three trading posts. D’Iberville then travelled to France in 1687-88 and convinced the court of King Louis XIV to fund more, French-led campaigns to compete with the English fur trade in the Hudson Bay area.
It should be noted here that d’Iberville’s motives, like many soldiers of fortunes of the time was both nationalistic and materialistic. He was loyal to the French crown and fought to maintain its control of North American lands and its continued rivalry against the English and he was equally determined to gain wealth in the fur trade and often used the resources of state and the rewards of battle to do so. He is called a freebooter by some historians. He was a ruthless fighter and shrewd tactician. Historians write of his bravery as well as his brutality. One reads such words as pillage, murderous raid, and massacre when reading of d’Iberville’s exploits.
D’Iberville fought against the English, both in North America and Europe. In Canada he battled English fur traders and in Europe he fought the English in conflicts that were part of King William’s War, a conflict that spilled over into the New World and Canadian colonies.
He was second in command against the English at Corlaer (New York), a notorious battle, described by historians as the most brutal massacre of the colonial wars of the time. (The English being the victims of the massacre.) During four months of raiding in 1695 he destroyed 36 English settlements, killing 200 and imprisoning 700. In 1697 D’Iberville faced off with three English ships in the Hudson strait and bravely engaged the ships. He defeated and sunk the 56-gun man-of-war, Hampshire with his 44-gun Pelican. The 32-gun ship Hudson’s Bay also sank and the 36-gun Dering fled. D’Iberville and his crew had to abandon the Pelican as it also sank after being damaged in the battle.
The Treaty of Ryswick, signed that September of 1697 ended King William’s war and along with consequent treaties negated the gains for France that d’Iberville had been a major part of. In 1697 he returned to France.
By 1698, at 37, d’Iberville was a soldier of fortune, known in the Hudson Bay area as “the most famous son of New France.” He had participated in brutal battles and gained wealth and fame. Some historians write that he was looking for more adventure and action in warmer climates. He was in France when King Louis XIV decided to send another expedition to the territory named Louisiana by the explorer LaSalle. D’Iberville was chosen to head the expedition. D’Iberville argued strongly in favor of the expedition at the court of Versailles saying,
“If France does not seize this most beautiful part of American and set up a colony…the English colony which is becoming quite large, will increase to such a degree that in less than one hundred years it will be strong enough to take over all of America and chase away all other nations.”
The Gulf Coast Expedition
Tasked by King Louis XIV and the French Government with building a southern bastion on the Mississippi River and enforcing France’s claim on the area they called Louisiana, d’Iberville was following the previous exploration of Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1682 when he claimed the territory of Louisiana for France, but failed to find the mouth of the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico. D’Iberville’s mission included finding that passage and blocking the entrance to the Mississippi from rival nations.
In October of 1698 d’Iberville led a group of four vessels that included two frigates, the Marin and the Badine along with two traversiers (ferries), the Precieuse and the Biscayenne from Brest, France to the Gulf of Mexico after a stop in Saint-Domingue and Florida. When he reached Pensacola he observed the Spanish occupation there.
In February of 1699 d’Iberville anchored the frigates in the lee of what is now called Ship Island. On the 13th he traveled to the mainland, wading ashore, “with proper escort.” For the next three months d’Iberville led explorations of the region as he traveled east to Pascagoula, 200 miles up the Mississippi River, to Lake Pontchartrain and across the Pearl River and into Bay St. Louis.
Native Americans were present on the mainland when d’Iberville came ashore. They greeted d’Iberville with a “belly-rub” ceremony. The name they called themselves sounded like BIL-OX-EE to the French and they gave the bay and the area that name.
With d’Iberville on the expedition was his younger brother, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. In late April, 1699 Bienville explored the area now known as D’Iberville. When d’Iberville explored the same area on the north side of the Biloxi Bay, traveling 12 miles inland, he wrote, “I found it very beautiful with pine woods, mixed with trees of other kinds in spots, many prairies, light, sandy soil everywhere; I saw a good many deer. Deer are killed everywhere in the vicinity of the fort.”He did not, however find a suitable location for a French Colony. Instead he took the colonists who had traveled with him to the east side of the Biloxi Bay and gave instructions to built a pine log fort, a beach head, named Fort Maurepas before he left in May to return to France for more supplies and reinforcements for a permanent colony. The young soldier, Sauvolle was left in charge of the colony and instructed to continue exploring the area.
In France d’Iberville was presented with the Cross of the Order of Saint-Louis, seen in the much-reproduced portrait of him. He was the first Canadian to receive the honor.
In January, 1700, d’Iberville returned to the beach head from France delivering much needed supplies. He left again in late May for New York and France, selling pelts acquired from trappers in the Mississippi Valley. In 1701 after the sudden death of Sauvolle, Bienville assumed command of the fort. D’Iberville arrived in Pensacola in 1702 and ordered the abandonment of Fort Maurapas in December, 1702.
In the beginning of 1706 he ruthlessly drove the English out of the island of Nevis (a 36 square mile Island 200 miles south of Puerto Rico). He then traveled to Havana, Cuba to sell some French iron. He died there on board the Juste on July 9, 1706. (Some historians speculate that the American New England coast was the next stop of d’Iberville’s anti-English crusade.) He had been suffering from some type of illness since 1701. He is buried under the name “El General Dom Pedro Berbila” at the Church of San Cristobel in Havanna. He was 45 years old. At the time of his death an investigation into his financial exploits and the gain of his military plundering was underway. Though he died a wealthy man, his wife was unable to benefit from the wealth as it was tied up in legal issues during the course of her life.
The History of the North Bay continued…By 1701 the French colony moved to Mobile, and then in 1719 back to the east side, then west side of the Biloxi Bay. Meanwhile more colonists were arriving via Ship Island and taking possession of land grants on the Pascagoula River.In 1722 the colony moved to New Orleans and made it the capital of the Louisiana Territory. Some French and Canadian families remained behind, many having married and integrated with Native Americans. These families settled the area, spawning generations of Gulf Coast families with names such as LaFontaine, Moran, Cuevas, Seymour and Gollot.
Milestones between 1722 and 1980s:1763 – Area is in under British colonial control.1783 – Area is under Spanish colonial control.
1797 – The Mississippi Territory is assembled with land ceded by Georgia, South Carolina, U.S. and Spain along with land purchased from Native American tribes between 1800-1830.
January, 1811 – Dr. William Flood, the representative of Governor Claiborne of the Orleans Territory, is sent to the Mississippi Coast to plant the flag of the United States. He said that the population between the Pearl River and Biloxi was about 400 people, mostly French and Creoles. He traveled to the Bay of Biloxi and gave Mr. Jacques Ladnier a commission to serve as Justice of the Peace. He said that most of the people he found were illiterate, primitive, “of mixed origins and retaining the gaiety and politeness of the French, blended with the abstemiousness and indolence of the Indian.” He reported that rice, roots, vegetables and game were the chief methods of subsistence and little law was in effect.
“I left with all these appointees copies of the laws, ordinances, etc… but few laws will be wanted here. The people are universally honest. There are no crimes. Fathers of the families settle disputes. A more innocent and inoffensive people may not be found. They seem to desire only the simple necessities of life and to be let alone in their tranquility.”
He spoke of the beauty and value of the coast, heavily timbered with pines, lovely bays and rivers and sandy banks. Dr. Flood thought the area would provide a rich commerce for New Orleans and Mobile as well as a good summer resort.
What’s in a name: The area now known as D’Iberville was known by many names in its history. Most were based on the names of Post Offices there such as Harvey, Quaves, Lazarus and Seymour. As the 20th Century approached the names Seymour, North Biloxi and d’Iberville were used. When the school district adapted the name D’Iberville in the 1920s, the name became in general use.
1817 – Mississippi enters the Union on December 10 as the 20th state of the United States.
1841 – Harrison County is formed on February 5, 1841
1852 – Geologist Benjamin L. C. Wailes wrote of his observances of the North Bay, saying, d’Iberville has a ferry running across the Bay, brick yards that made bricks from dry compressed earth using steam power, ship and boat repair shops and steam mills used for sawing pine timber. (The Biloxi Steam Brick Works owned by William Gray Kendall was the largest slave labor operation in Harrison County in the 1850s).
1853 – Yellow Fever outbreaks along the Gulf Coast.
1855 – September 15/16, The Hurricane of 1855 strikes near Bay St. Louis.
By the 19th century, the area is still largely French in speech and culture with its inhabitants mostly non-American and descendants of the settlers brought to the area by d’Iberville in 1699. Along with them were immigrants from Spain, Germany, Croatia and Switzerland.
The attractiveness of the Bay area as a place to settle included the abundance of seafood, fresh water, the vast, tall stands of yellow pine, oak and cypress, used to build boats and homes and a deep, sheltered channel from the entrance of the Biloxi Bay to the interior of the Bay, allowing fishing boats and schooners a safe mooring during violent storms.
1860, September – A hurricane devastates the Back Bay settlement.
1891, November – Travelers to the Back Bay tell of a picturesque, rambling village with a Roman Catholic Church, a school house, several stores and a ship building yard. Small cottages nestled in groves of trees dot the waterfront. They tell of the schoolyard with groves of trees hiding the glimmer of the Bay in the front and a wooded back yard, with charming vistas and shady nooks. Another writer says the area is known for its oysters, its bathing (swimming) and beautiful scenery.
1901 – A wooden pedestrian bridge built across the Biloxi Back Bay is opened on August 3, eliminating need for the steam ferry and increasing commerce between d’Iberville and Biloxi.
1907 – Henry Krohn begins work on Lamey’s Bridge Road from the Tchoutacabouffa River south to the Back Bay.
1913 – The Harrison County Board of Supervisors approves a contract to build a bridge across the Tchoutacabouffa River to replace the Lamey Ferry. (completed in April, 1914)
1915 – A shell road is completed from Ocean Springs to d’Iberville in the ruts of an old wagon trail.
1927 – The Biloxi-North Biloxi Bridge is dedicated on January 12, with parades, a barbecue and an amusement show. William A. Dever, Mayor of Chicago spoke at the dedication.
1969 – Hurricane Camille strikes the Gulf Coast.
1973 – The North Biloxian is founded by Charles R. (Bob) Stein, later called the Biloxi-D’Iberville Press.
1974 – The North Bay Area Chamber of Commerce receives its charter.
By the 1960s the inhabitants of d’Iberville were no longer French in descent and culture and the wooded areas on the inland were turned into shopping centers and subdivisions. The area became a bedroom community when more and more of its inhabitants were employed elsewhere in factories, at the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula or at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. Fewer people were making their living by fishing, oystering or shrimping.
1975 – U.S. Interstate 110 between d’Iberville and Biloxi is opened on June 22.
The Story of IncorporationThe community of d’Iberville has always had a somewhat distinct identity from that of its neighbor across the bay, Biloxi. For many years, the settlers on the north shore were disconnected by the natural barrier of the bay itself. It wasn’t until 1901 that a pedestrian bridge connected the two communities, followed by the Biloxi-North Biloxi Bridge in 1927.The City of Biloxi, bound on the west by Gulfport and on the east by Ocean Springs was continually making attempts to annex north of its boundaries. Many citizens of the community of d’Iberville had been fighting such attempts as early as the 1930s. Jerry Lawrence, the city’s first mayor is said to have been fighting such annexation since 1949.
The 1979 successful annexation by Biloxi of an area north of the city served as a warning to the citizens of d’Iberville. It seemed apparent to many that if they did not incorporate their community it would inevitably become a ward of Biloxi.
A group of concerned citizens, including people such as Linda Davis, Leonard Wolfe, Jerry Lawrence, Bob Stein, Barney Scarborough and Thomas Moore formed the D’Iberville Civic Improvement Society with the goal of petitioning the court for incorporation. They held their first meeting on March 27, 1986 and set out to campaign for incorporation and gather petitions from citizens in favor of incorporation. Their efforts were successful. By November of 1979 the Biloxi City Council passed an annexation resolution that omitted the community of d’Iberville from its proposed boundaries.
On February 10, 1988 in the Chancery Court of the Second Judicial District Courthouse in Biloxi, Chancellor Jason Floyd decreed that the City of D’Iberville be granted incorporation. At his words, an explosion of applause rang out from the packed courtroom. The City of D’Iberville was born. (The official Secretary of State Judgment of Incorporation was signed on February 23, 1988.) At its birth the city became the 11th city on the Gulf Coast and the 295th in the state. It was 4.8 square miles with a population of about 6,500.
The Society formed an interim government to hold office until elections could be held in 1989. The interim administration consisted of: Jerry Lawrence as Mayor, Oliver Diaz, Sr. as councilman-at-large and Linda Davis, Thomas Moore Sr., Barney Scarborough, Bob Stein and Leonard Wolfe as councilmembers.
They received their commissions in a ceremony on April 7, 1988 at the d’Iberville Community Center in an event attended by 300 people. Vernon Simmons, a past president of the North Bay Chamber of Commerce, served as master of ceremonies. Jerry Lawrence told the audience, “I think we have the makings of a fine little city here. Give us your help, offer your suggestions and I’m sure we will survive.” Oliver Diaz said, “Incorporation will help citizens maintain their civic pride. Now, sworn officials must accept the challenge of the serious responsibilities we now face.” Harrison County Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius said, “You are part of the beginning and you will set the path for the future.”
Other attendees of the ceremony included: Don Cherry, President of the North Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Robert Carlisle of Big Ridge Baptist Church who gave the invocation, the D’Iberville High School ROTC, the D’Iberville High School Band and Boy Scout Troop 212 who led the pledge of allegiance.
Citizens who were singled out for recognition included: Gary Higginbotham, Jane Rogers, A.J. Penrow, Bob Stein, Paul Davis and Norma Jean Hart, Fire Chief Merritt Bennett, Water and Sewer Board James Parker and Incorporation Attorney Wayne Hengen.
Congratulations were received from State Senator Tommy Gollott, Governor Ray Mabus, US Congressman Trent Lott, Secretary of State Dick Molpus and State Treasurer Marshall Bennett.
The City’s official seal was conceived and drawn by Joe Lawrence and consisted of a bust of a Native American, a shrimp boat and a cross and boulder.
Before the city’s first council meeting, Alderman Linda Davis was quoted as saying, “There’s so many things we need to get into, I just don’t know what we’re going to get into first.” Biloxi Councilman Bill Stallworth said of D’Iberville, “I think they bit off more than they can chew,” and claimed that the city’s taxes would increase.
The interim government held its first meeting on April 12, 1988. They formed a commission to study the election system and the establishment of wards. They also appointed Audrey Lamey, a former City Manager of the City of Gautier as their first City Manager and acting City Clerk. Lamey had worked with the group in their struggle for incorporation, having had similar experience in Gautier.
A temporary city hall was established in a trailer where the North Bay Chamber of Commerce held their office at 10487 LeMoyne Boulevard. The meeting time and place of the council was established and resolutions were passed to keep the D’Iberville School System in the Harrison County School System and Interlocal agreements between the city and county were discussed, keeping police and fire protection under the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and the existing D’Iberville Fire Department. Code enforcement, building permits and garbage collection were also kept at the county level.
Other milestones in the first years of the city:The 1987-1988 budget was approved in the amount of $136,955.The Council decided to consult with the Postmaster about changing the name of the Post Office from the North Bay Branch to the d’Iberville-North Bay Branch.
A discussion began about whether d’Iberville should be spelled with a lowercase d or an uppercase D. (The uppercase D won out.)
An office at the People’s Bank on LeMoyne Boulevard was leased for $1/year as a temporary city hall/office.
1988, May 14-D’Iberville Beautification Day
1993, August 25-A groundbreaking is held for D’Iberville’s first casino. (As of June, 2011 the first casino in D’Iberville has yet to break ground.)
By 2005 the City of D’Iberville had come a long way from its humble beginnings. In 2004 the city annexed approximately 2.5 square miles, north of its boundary and within 5 years was providing the area with municipal services.
The administration had become more professional with updated salary standards and an employee total of about 122. The Building Department, Code Enforcement, Planning and Zoning, Parks and Recreation and Municipal Court were all now in-house with skilled professionals running them. The 2008-2009 budget was $18 million. By October 2008, the D’Iberville Police Department officially assumed full law enforcement responsibilities for the city.
Hurricane Katrina: August 29, 2005In 2005 the City of D’Iberville was emerging from the fledgling, new incorporation to a professional, ever-growing city. City officials were beginning to plan for a better D’Iberville when the worst natural disaster ever to strike the United States struck a devastating blow to the small town on August 29, 2005.That October, Governor Haley Barbour’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal brought planners and architects from around the country to the Gulf Coast for a charrette, an intense, creative, brainstorming and planning session designed to give Gulf Coast residents and leaders a vision of what their recovery and rebuilding could be. The goal of the charrettewas to provide a vision for how Gulf Coast cities could not only recover and rebuild, but use the opportunity to build back smarter and better, using the theories and practices of Smart Code and New Urbanism.
The City of D’Iberville remains one of the few cities on the Coast that has remained committed to bringing the ideas of the charrette, to fruition. Between October of 2005 and June, 2006 the city held its own version of charrettes and public Town Hall meetings, presenting the vision for its future, developed with Jaime Correa, the planner assigned to D’Iberville at the original charrette, to its citizens. That vision can be seen in the adopted 2006 Citizens Master Plan.
The Citizen’s Master Plan concentrates on the section of the city called Old Town by long-term residents. Taken in conjunction with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and goals for economic development, a vision for growth is produced focusing on two, major regions:
the northern Retail Region, around the I-110 and I-10 interchange and
the southern Waterfront Region facing the Back Bay.
The Retail Region is well under way, with the existing Lakeview Shopping Center and its recent expansions and the newly built Promenade Shopping Center.
The plan for a working Waterfront includes a functioning Marina and the ever-present hope of a major casino development. It also includes the re-development of the Old Town section of town. The idea is to develop a French-Market-styled area with mixed-use developments and tourist attractions. The Town Green and Visitor’s Center is an important step in the completion of that goal.
Legend of the Cross and BoulderThe City of D’Iberville’s seal contains an image of a cross and boulder. The image is a reference to an actual cross and boulder that once stood on the bank of the Back Bay, clearly shown in an archived black and white photograph from the Biloxi-D’Iberville Press.The story goes that a settler from the days of Spanish-held Gulf Coast, Emanuel Sanchez, erected a large wooden cross near a chapel that he built for his wife. When the wooden cross deteriorated, a small iron one took its place. The Sanchez property was eventually purchased by the Catholic Church.
The land was rumored to be the spot where Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville first landed to explore the North Bay area. In 1920, the Daughters of the American Revolution donated a boulder to commemorate the supposed landing site of d’Iberville. Thus the cross and boulder became connected and the image of the two has become an icon of cultural identity for the community of D’Iberville.
The first Blessing of the Fleet was held at the site as Father Carey blessed fishing boats along the Back Bay.
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McWilliams, Richebourg Gaillard. ed. (1981). Iberville’s Gulf Journals. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa and London.
Bellande, Ray L. (2010). Ocean Springs Arichives. [online]. http://www.oceanspringsarchives.net/node/66.
Various Articles. (1087-89). Biloxi-D’Iberville Press. Biloxi, MS