How some places got names

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Have you ever wondered how places and towns got their names? In 1699, Iberville and Bienville explored the Mississippi River. They would invite an Indian guide who would tell them that there was a short cut to the Gulf by cutting through Bayou Manchac and traveling across the lake. Even with the water about 3 feet deep and all stopped up, it was a short cut.

The lake as you know it today is called Lake Maurepas, and the short cut passed through Manchac. The Indian guide deserted the explorers, and Iberville named this pass “Manchac” after their Indian guide. The guide belonged to the Manchac Indian tribe, and that’s how it got its name. Lake Maurepas was named in honor of Court Maurepas of France. Lake Pontchartrain was named in honor of Court Pontchartrain of France.

Towns in St. John the Baptist Parish got their names in odd ways. The village of Edgard was originally St. John Settlement. In 1850, the first post office was established, and the postmaster’s name was Edgard Perret. Everyone knew Mr. Perret as Edgard, and thus, the name was changed.

Lucy received its name in a romantic fashion. In 1876, a post office was established there through the efforts of Charles Huget, who would become the postmaster. He was in love with Lucy Trudeau, so he named the post office “Lucy,” so this became the village of Lucy. Lt. Ricardo Colas of the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office and a lifelong resident of Lucy said he remembered the first levee along the Mississippi River. He said people who owned the property up to the levee never sold their property, so when the second levee was built behind the first one, they still owned the land behind the levee. So when you see barges tied up to the west bank, they are leasing the land from the landowner so that they can tie up there. So by using the property behind the levee, this is called Battard Rights or River Rights. And now we know that a great deal of Lucy is in the Mississippi River. I have to say that in all my research, I never knew this, so thanks to Lt. Colas for a little more history information.

The village of Wallace got its name from Congressman Nathaniel Wallace. The village was first called St. Philip settlement, then in 1885, the people wanted a post office, and through efforts of Congressman Wallace a post office was established. The name of the village was changed to Wallace.

Lions was known as Terre Haute because it was a plantation. In 1890, a post office was secured by Frank P. Lions, and he was made postmaster, and the town was named after him.

Garyville was originally a sugar plantation. The Lyon Lumber Company bought the plantation, and they wanted to name the area. The board of directors held a meeting and Mr. Gary was not present. The area was named Garyville in honor of their absent board member, Mr. Gary.

Mt. Airy got its name from Mr. Mt. Airy, who bought the plantation, and everything then was known as Mt. Airy.

Reserve was originally named Bonnet Carre and later St. Peter. Mr. Godchaux bought the plantation and gave it the name Reserve because he had stayed at the plantation years before when he didn’t have a place to stay. He said he had reserved a place for himself, so he named it Reserve.

LaPlace was originally past Bonnet Carre and was named after a Frenchman, Bazile LaPlace. Mr. LaPlace came directly from France and went into the medical business. He later bought a plantation and named it LaPlace.  The post office and train station were named LaPlace and then the village also.

Isn’t it funny how these towns got their names? Mr. Lubin F. Laurent, who was born in the late 1800s and was superintendent of schools on St. John Parish in the 1920s, is responsible for recording the history of St. John Parish. It is unbelievable how he was able to acquire the facts of St. John Parish and fascinating to learn the history.


Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.