What is the one state where the Mississippi River runs through it, rather than by it? Louisiana. And, yesterday, our journey took us to St. Francisville, Louisiana, a tiny town with an interesting history.
St. Francisville bounced between countries during its two centuries of history before becoming part of the United States. Founded in 1809 by the English, it was also claimed at one time by France and Spain. In 1810, the town served as the capital of the Republic of West Florida, an independent republic set up by settlers who resented Spanish rule. The experiment lasted less than three months before St. Francisville officially became part of the United States once and for all.
In its heyday, St. Francisville was a center of commerce for the surrounding plantations, making it a key port for steamboats. At one time, it was the busiest river port between New Orleans and Memphis.
After the Civil War the town prospered, even though many people left to escape the economically devastated region. But, a large number of Jewish immigrants who fled persecution in Germany settled in the area and became merchants.
Today, it is a quiet town with beautifully maintained Victorian homes. The entire downtown area is a National Register Historic District.
One interesting fact about this town of 1,700 mostly retired residents is that it has a K-12th grade school that ranks as one of the best in the country, even though Louisiana as a state ranks 49th overall for its education system.
St. Francisville also has four banks and a large number of attorney offices in town, due to Angola State Prison being located 20 miles away. Since St. Francisville is such a desirable place to live and has an excellent school, the attorneys would rather live and set up their offices in town, rather than near the prison. As a result, homes in the downtown area are more than double the cost of similar homes in the outskirts of town.
One of the highlight of our visit to St. Francisville was enjoying the beauty of this quaint little town; especially the Victorian homes and stained glass windows of the tiny Methodist church.
The other highlight was strolling through the gorgeous grounds of the Grace Episcopal Church cemetery.