Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Archives: Lake Charles Sesquicentennial

Timeline of significant events in Lake Charles

In 2017, Lake Charles celebrated its Sesquicentennial. Here are a few moments from our 150-year history:

January 31,  1792  Charles Sallier married his first wife, Angelica Fontenot.  She died in 1797.

March 12, 1812  Joseph Lawrence Bilbo, a pioneer settler of Lake Charles, was born in the Mississippi Territory.

July 17, 1821  Spain formally transferred the land between the Sabine and Calcasieu Rivers to the United States, having abandoned its claim to this land by the Treaty of Washington in 1819.

November 20, 1829  The U. S. Army authorized the establishment of a western boundary defense post at Lake Charles to suppress illicit trade that might come from Mexico, through the Gulf, and up the Calcasieu River.

December 28, 1834  James W. Bryan was born.  He served with the Confederacy as a captain, distinguished himself as a commander of a regiment during the siege of Vicksburg, and became the first mayor of Lake Charles in 1868.

March 6, 1836  Isaac Ryan, son of Jacob Ryan, Sr. of Bayou d'Inde and the older brother of Jacob Ryan, Jr., "the father of Lake Charles," died a hero's death at the Alamo in San Antonio.  He was 31.

March 24, 1840  Imperial Calcasieu Parish was created by act of the Louisiana Legislature from part of St. Landry Parish.  The name of Marion was given to the first parish seat.  It was located on Marsh Bayou Bluff.
July 4, 1843  John McNeese, after whom McNeese State University was named, was born in New York City to William and Mary Beechum McNeese, natives of Scotland.
September 7, 1846  Jacob Ryan, Sr., father of Jacob Ryan, Jr., the "father of Lake Charles," died.

October 4, 1850  After the parish courthouse was moved from Marion to Lake Charles, a post office was established which, officially, gave Lake Charles its name.
September 16, 1851  Leopold Kaufman, an early businessman in Lake Charles, was born.
September 26, 1858  The Catholic church built by David Reed on a lot across Ryan Street from the Calcasieu Parish courthouse was dedicated to St. Francis de Sales.
August 5, 1859  The first Masonic lodge in Lake Charles was organized.  Daniel Goos and Jacob Ryan, Jr. were among the charter members.

February 26, 1861  Common Street Catholic Cemetery was established as a gift from William Hutchins to Reverend Francois Jean Raymond, the first Catholic priest in Lake Charles.
March 7, 1861  The town of Charleston, which would later become Lake Charles, was incorporated.
April 16, 1862  The Calcasieu Tigers (Company I, 28th Louisiana Infantry Regiment) were sworn into Confederate service.  James W. Bryan, later the first mayor of Lake Charles, was elected captain and commander of the unit.
October 3, 1862  Lieutenant Frederick Crocker and 14 Union soldiers made a daring raid 80 miles up the Calcasieu River to Lake Charles where they burned three blockade-runners, captured the steamboat Dan, and, after six days, escaped downriver.
October 5, 1862  "Louisiana," a pseudonym for a Louisiana Paul Revere, rode all night alerting the planters of the parish to the danger from Lieutentant Crocker's Yankees entering Lake Charles.
May 6, 1864  Confederate infantry and artillerymen defeated two Union warships anchored in the Calcasieu River to earn a Southern victory in the Battle of Calcasieu Pass, the only battle fought in Southwest Louisiana during the Civil War.
March 16, 1867  Dissatisfied with the name Charleston, the town was incorporated into the town of Lake Charles.
February 16, 1868  The first issue of the Weekly Echo, established by Louis Leveque, Judge J. D. Reed, and Bryant Hutchins, was published in Lake Charles, becoming the town's first newspaper.
May 23, 1868  The mail for Lake Charles was delivered by one mule who carried it all the way from New Iberia.
June 17, 1868  The first town election was held in Lake Charles.
July 5, 1868  Dr. W. G. Kibbe was elected a member of the first Lake Charles City Council and was appointed with Joe Bilbo to select a burial ground for the Protestants of the town.
July 25, 1868  Lake Charles blacksmith and Confederate war veteran Pat Fitzgerald was sworn in as town constable, becoming the city’s first policeman.
August 29, 1868  At the meeting of the Lake Charles Town Council, it was resolved that slavery was dead and black voters were entitled to full enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

November 17, 1870  The New Emanuel Baptist Church in Lake Charles was founded.
October 10, 1871  The steamer Cassie, belonging to Captain Daniel Goos, arrived in Lake Charles from Galveston with 50 or 60 immigrants.
April 11, 1874  "Louise" observed Lake Charles had three churches: Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist, as well as a nice library.
February 6, 1875  The Weekly Echo reported the steamer Ramos, commanded by Thomas R. Reynolds, provided transportation to Cameron in a 12-hour trip on Mondays and Thursdays for $5 one way, $8 round trip.
October 1, 1876  The first public schools of Imperial Calcasieu Parish opened following organization of the school board in July with J. W. Bryan as president.
May 1, 1877  United Friends of Temperance (Lake Charles Council No. 61 and Bagdad Council No. 64) held a May Day temperance rally and picnic on the Calcasieu River.  Long tables of food for 400 people were spread under shady trees.
January 29,  1878  15th District Judge Alfred M. Barbe, for whom Barbe High School was named, was born in Lake Charles.
March 21, 1878  H. D. Nix advertised in the Lake Charles Echo that his ferry was ready to accommodate all kinds of stock needing to be transported across the Calcasieu River.  In addition to a large safe flat, he had beef pens and pasturage on each side of the river.
July 2, 1879  The first railroad and locomotive to reach Lake Charles arrived.  Construction of the line worked its way westward from New Orleans.

March 26, 1880  The gap in the railroad between Houston and New Orleans was closed at the Sabine River, making the trip possible in 24 hours and finally connecting Lake Charles with Orange and Houston.
May 29, 1880  Lake Charles banned hogs from running loose on town streets.
March 5, 1881  Jacob Ryan and sons advertised in the Lake Charles Echo that, having erected at great expense a new steam rice mill, they were prepared to clean rice.  Samples of rice cleaned in their mill could be seen at various stores in Lake Charles.
August 21, 1881  Haskell House Hotel, said to be one of Lake Charles’ finest, opened on Ryan Street.
October 2, 1881  The Church of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated in Lake Charles.
February 21, 1882  The first Mardi Gras parade in Lake Charles took place.
September 11, 1882  St. Charles Academy was opened in Lake Charles by the Sisters Marianite of the Holy Cross.
July 3, 1885  The Lake House Hotel in Lake Charles burned down.  The fire engine came but there was not enough water to save the building.  Captain Green Hall, the proprietor, estimated the loss at $7,000.
July 19, 1885  The first church service was held in the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Charles.
September 17, 1887  The hall over the Lake Charles Fire Company 1 fire house was fitted out as the town's first city hall.
September 8, 1888  John McNeese was unanimously elected to the office of Calcasieu Parish School Superintendent.
October 8, 1888  The Warren Methodist Church was organized in Lake Charles.
July 31, 1889  The First Baptist Church was organized in Lake Charles.
October 23, 1889  Workmen completed construction of Central High School on the corner of Kirkman and Kirby streets in Lake Charles.
November 8, 1889  The First National Bank of Lake Charles was chartered.

March 2, 1890  The first service of the Methodist Episcopal Church was held in the Masonic Temple on Hodges Street.  Reverend Cyrus King gave its first sermon.
October 28, 1890  The second high school in Calcasieu Parish was opened in Lake Charles (the first had been in Sugartown).
November 7, 1891  The town of Lake Charles granted a water franchise to Lake Charles Ice, Light, and Water Works, Inc.
January 6,  1892  Calcasieu Bank, the first state bank in the area, was organized and opened for business.
January 14,  1893  The Review Club was formed in Lake Charles.
May 30, 1894  Professor J. E. Keeney was elected principal of Lake Charles Central and High Schools.
February 4, 1895  The Lake Charles American Press was founded by Guy Beatty and J. F. Reed as  the Lake Charles Press.  It combined later with two other papers, the Lake Charles Daily and the Daily American.
February 14, 1895  The Great Snow began in Southwest Louisiana. Over 12 inches fell in two days, accumulating drifts of four to five feet.
November 23, 1898  The Enterprise Club was organized in Lake Charles.
April 3, 1899  The new Lake Charles city charter was passed by unanimous vote.
December 17, 1899  Jacob Ryan, Jr., the “father of Lake Charles,” died at his home on the lake front at age 83.  He was buried in Bilbo Cemetery the following day.

February 23, 1900  Lake Charles High School was the first high school in the state to publish a school newspaper.  The publication was called The Record.
March 30, 1900  The Lake Charles Daily American observed that Lake Charles, steadily growing as a center for the pine lumber industry, had ten mills operating within a three-mile radius.
August 27, 1900  Rosa Hart, director of the Lake Charles Little Theatre, was born in Woodville, Mississippi.
September 20, 1900  The First Methodist Church of Lake Charles moved its front around to face Broad Street and was dedicated.
November 3, 1900  The Lake Charles Weekly took over the Lake Charles Commercial.
August 16, 1901  Harrison C. Drew deeded six acres of land to the city of Lake Charles for a public park to be maintained by the "patriotic and public spirited ladies" of the Enterprise Club.
August 22, 1901  A group of citizens petitioned the Lake Charles City Council proposing a sewerage and drainage system for the city.
March 11, 1904  The Lake Charles American was first published.
August 30, 1904  The Lake Charles Loan and Trust Company was chartered.
October 27, 1906  At the end of a strike, all Lake Charles saw mills adopted a ten-hour day and a weekly pay day.
November 19, 1906  The Pleasure Pier Theater in Lake Charles opened.
March 10, 1907  The Calcasieu Council, Knights of Columbus, was organized.
June 11, 1907  Temple Sinai filed articles of incorporation in Lake Charles. Jewish worshipers had been meeting first in a rented hall and then a temple constructed at 713 Hodges Street in 1903.
March 17, 1908  St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles opened to the public and was formally dedicated.
January 5,  1909  The U. S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court judgement that nullified a Lake Charles ordinance passed in 1906 that had granted the right of way franchise to the St. Louis, Watkins, and Gulf Railroad along the lake front and Front Street.  The decision forced the removal of the tracks on Front Street.
November 22, 1909  Fire destroyed the Lyric Theater, a warehouse owned by Leopold Kaufman, and one house in Lake Charles.

April 23, 1910  The great Lake Charles fire destroyed seven city blocks, including the parish courthouse, the city hall, and 107 other buildings.
April 24, 1910  First Baptist Church of Lake Charles dedicated a new building costing $30,000 on the corner of Hodges and Pujo streets.
September 18, 1910  Arsene Pujo of Lake Charles was elected U. S. Representative of the 7th Congressional District.
November 24, 1910  The Lake Charles High School football team won the Louisiana state championship.
June 10, 1911  After a year's copying, three stenographers completed restoring the mortgage, conveyance, and sheriff sales records destroyed in the great fire of 1910.
November 13, 1911  The Lake Charles Humane Society was organized.
May 4, 1912  Delegates from Imperial Calcasieu's 10 wards agreed to divide the huge parish into four smaller parishes.
August 23, 1912  The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury paid the final installment of $37,800 for the Ryan Street courthouse.
November 26, 1912  The Lake Charles National Bank and the First National Bank merged with a combined capital of $200,000. H. C. Gill was president and C. H. Moss was vice president.
September 30, 1913  Lake Charles was inundated by Calcasieu River flood waters.
June 2, 1914  John McNeese, after whom McNeese State University was named, died a year after retirement as first Calcasieu Parish school superintendent.
April 14, 1915  Booker T. Washington spoke at the Arcade Theatre in Lake Charles discussing white assistance in improving education for rural blacks, improving the work ethic among blacks by increasing material ambitions, and urging an end to migrancy as a precondition to progress.
June 3, 1915  The Confederate Monument on the courthouse lawn in Lake Charles was unveiled by the Robert E. Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
June 4, 1917  F. K. White was elected superintendent of Lake Charles schools.
August 25, 1917  The Lake Charles Chamber of Commerce was notified that the U. S. Army would build a fighter pilot training base, later named Gerstner Field, on 1,200 acres of land southeast of Lake Charles near Holmwood.  About 3,000 workers built the base in three months. The 45th and 143rd Aero Squadrons of the U. S. Air Service from Chandler Field at Essington, Pennsylvania, became the first units to occupy the new Gerstner Field.
August 6, 1918  The hurricane of 1918, often called the "1918 Storm," struck the Gulf coast between Oak Grove and Cameron with a tidal surge and 100 m.p.h. plus winds.  As it moved inland, it caused death and destruction at Creole, Big Lake, Gerstner Field, Lake Charles, Sulphur, and DeQuincy.

June 15, 1920  Ward Anderson was elected school board superintendent.
November 29, 1920  Following his unsuccessful campaign as Democratic candidate for the vice presidency, Franklin Delano Roosevelt arrived in Lake Charles for a five-day hunting trip in Cameron Parish.
February 25, 1921  The U. S. government sold all the remaining hangars, barracks, and other buildings (about 100) and many tons of equipment at Gerstner Field, valued at $2 million, to Harris Brothers, a New York wrecking firm, for $50,000.
July 14, 1924  The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, under the presidency of H. G. Chalkley, issued a proposal for a highway system.  A detailed map printed in the Lake Charles American Press gave the location of the highways to be constructed and rebuilt.  Fred Shutts was the parish engineer and W. B. Gabbert was the chairman of the road and bridge committee.
December 3, 1926  The Port of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu Ship Channel were formally opened.
February 24, 1927  The newly organized Little Theatre, inspired by Rosa Hart, presented its first production, three one-act plays, at the Episcopal Parish House.
April 30, 1928  Drew Park, Lake Charles’ first city park, was formally dedicated.

March 1, 1931  The Business and Professional Women's Club of Lake Charles was formed.
April 10, 1931  Ethel Barrymore, although hampered with a severe cold, played in The Love Duel in Lake Charles supported by her children, Ethel Barrymore Colt and John Drew Colt.
May 9, 1931  LaGrange High School was destroyed by fire.
June 29, 1931  United Gas acquired the natural gas distributing system of the Gulf States Utilities Company.
December 7, 1933  The Charleston Hotel grill started the first legal liquor sales in Lake Charles following the repeal of prohibition.  Straight whiskey was 30 cents a shot, highballs 40 cents, and wine sold at 30 cents a glass.
July 23, 1934  Calcasieu Marine Bank opened its doors in Lake Charles with Della Bel Krause making the first savings deposit.
February 13, 1935  Permission to build a new radio station to be operated by the Calcasieu Broadcasting Company in Lake Charles was granted by the Communications Commission in Washington, D. C.
February 10, 1939  The Lake Charles Civic Symphony, conducted by Francis Bulber, presented its first concert.
September 11, 1939  The Lake Charles Junior College Opened with classes in 21 departments with 140 students and 13 faculty members.
December 27, 1939  The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury Park Committee, John Doescher, chairman, secured an option to buy a nine-acre tract on Prien Lake to be used as a park.

February 20, 1940  Sam Jones of Lake Charles, running as an anti-Long reformer, defeated Governor Earl K. Long in the Louisiana Democratic primary, which was tantamount to winning the office of governor.
April 4, 1940  The first Southwest Louisiana Fat Stock Show and Rodeo opened.
October 9, 1940  The McNeese Junior College football team played for the first time.  Although they played a tight first half, the Cowboys lost to Southwestern Louisiana Institute  32-0.
November 10, 1940  Elder Daniel Bass established a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Lake Charles.
December 15, 1940  Before 2,000 people, the 135-member Messiah Chorus performed Handel's Messiah for the first time in the McNeese Auditorium.  Dr. Francis Bulber directed.
May 26, 1941  The Lake Charles High School Drama Club was organized.
July 1941 The Louisiana Maneuvers began with Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower using McNeese’s Kaufman Hall as his headquarters. Lieutenant General Walter Krueger made the McNeese Auditorium his headquarters as they both prepared for mock war games.
July 12, 1941  The new direct, deep-water ship channel from Lake Charles to the Gulf held its grand opening.  Governor Sam Jones and 400 others toured the channel on 14 tugs and cruisers.
December 18, 1941  O. J. Gill, chief registrar for the Calcasieu parish civilian defense group, registered a record number of men and women volunteering their services and time to the strengthening and unification of the national effort in this area.
August 1, 1942  The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury donated the German trophy cannon, a familiar sight on the courthouse lawn since 1919, to the nation's scrap metal drive.
November 28, 1942  At 12:12 p.m., Toni Jo Henry was electrocuted with 20,000 volts from a portable generator in the Calcasieu Parish jail.  She had been convicted of the 1940 Valentine's Day murder of a traveling salesman in a rice field southeast of Lake Charles.  While in jail, she became a Roman Catholic.
March 28, 1943  The Horizon Club at Lake Charles High School was organized.
April 1, 1943  George M. Johnson, 26,  McNeese College's first librarian, was killed in an accident in the Pacific while serving as a pilot in the Marine Air Corps.
September 1, 1943  Production began at the Firestone Synthetic Rubber and Latex Plant in Lake Charles.
December 21, 1943  Thomas B. Shearman, Sr. wrote his first editorial after purchasing the Lake Charles American Press.
January 22, 1944  A parish-wide library service was organized at the Lake Charles courthouse.
October 16, 1944  Levingston Brothers purchased the A. M. Mayo Title Company, which Mayo had started in Lake Charles in 1887.
November 9, 1944  Mayor J. H. Handley declared that cattle would no longer be allowed to roam at large in the streets of Lake Charles.  Policemen were to be on duty 24 hours a day to round up any loose livestock.
January 19,  1945  The giant catalytic crackers of Unit A at Cities Service refinery set a new world record of 283 days of continuous operation while turning out fuel needed for the country's war effort.
July 16, 1945  Bishop Jules Jeanmard created St. Margaret Parish in Lake Charles.  The original five blocks of property had been purchased for $625.
May 17, 1948  The Lake Charles Little Theatre's production of The Great Big Doorstep opened featuring a weather-beaten cypress shack moved piece by piece from Sweet Lake to provide a realistic setting for the play.
June 14, 1948  Life magazine's account of Lake Charles Little Theatre's production of The Great Big Doorstep appeared.
August 12, 1949  Dr. R. Gordon Holcombe, Jr. gave his father's library, containing the first edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association published in 1883, to St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles.

May 27, 1951  Lake Charles High School was destroyed by fire.
September 28, 1951  Governor Earl K. Long opened the $13 million Calcasieu River Bridge (I-10).
October 18, 1953  Professional actor Jeffrey Lynn guest starred in the title role of Mister Roberts in the Lake Charles Little Theatre production.
September 29, 1954  St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church of Lake Charles held its first service in a deserted city fire station at Creole and 18th Streets.
February 28, 1955  A crippled B-47 crashed into a Lake Charles trailer park killing five people.
July 26, 1955  Eastdale Baptist Church in Lake Charles was chartered.
1956 Rosa Hart retired from the Lake Charles Little Theatre.
May 28, 1956  The first black students graduated from McNeese.
May 19, 1957  Calcasieu Parish opened a new $850,000 jail.
June 27, 1957  Hurricane Audrey, Southwest Louisiana's greatest natural disaster, hit the Louisiana coast at Cameron, killing hundreds.
December 19, 1958  The Stable, Lake Charles Little Theatre's playhouse, burned to the ground.  Despite the efforts of the local fire department, only a few items were rescued.

April 6, 1961  Hercules officially opened its first polypropylene plant in Lake Charles.
March 23, 1962  Lake Charles Airport officially opened.
June 7, 1964  Rosa Hart, founder and director of the Lake Charles Little Theatre, died.  She had served as director for 30 years.
June 26, 1964  The $18 million I-210 bridge was opened.
August 18, 1966  The Artists' Civic Theatre and Studio (ACTS) held its first meeting.
April 22, 1967  The Lake Charles Centennial Corporation presented "The Lake Charles Story" at the McNeese Cowboy Stadium.
July 1, 1967  The Lake Charles city school system merged with the Calcasieu Parish school system ending sixty years as separate systems.

September 22, 1972 The Lake Charles Civic Center or Centre Civique de Lake Charles formally opened.
December 1, 1975 The Lakeside National Bank building formally opened on the corner of Broad Street and Lakeshore Drive.
Burton Coliseum built.
1976 The last classes were held at Central School and the building became offices for the Administrative staff of the School Board.
November 30, 1978  Lake Charles firemen staged the city's first strike by public employees.

April 25, 1980  The Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles was established.
December 31, 1982  Governor Dave Treen toured flooded areas of Calcasieu Parish.  North Lake Charles, Westlake, Moss Bluff, and Sulphur were affected the most.
October 17, 1983  The Calcasieu Marine National Bank Tower opened on Lakeshore Drive.
1986 The Calcasieu Arts and Humanities Council began leasing the Central School building from the School Board.
1986 Boeing maintenance facility established at the Chennault Industrial Airpark.
1986 Jack Doland retired as McNeese President, replaced by Robert Hebert.

January 13, 1990  The Lake Charles American Press began operations in its new quarters on East Highway 90.
April 13, 1993  Robert Olen Butler, Jr. and Tony Kushner won Pulitzer Prizes for fiction and drama, respectively.
1996 The Lake Charles Boardwalk built.
1996 Calcasieu Parish voters vote to allow casinos to begin operating.
October 24, 1996  President Bill Clinton, during a campaign appearance at Chennault Industrial Airpark, became the first sitting president to visit Lake Charles.

General Resources

The McNeese Archives holds many resources regarding Lake Charles' history. For a general overview, please see The History of Lake Charles by Stewart Alfred Ferguson.

Lake Charles Centennial Images

Want to see how Lake Charles celebrated its Centennial in 1967? Check out these images:

Centennial Parade
Centennial Theatrical Production
Centennial Time Capsule
Other Centennial Activities

Digital Library

The LOUISiana Digital Library has many (but not all!) cataloged images of McNeese. Click here for McNeese's collection. Search for "Lake Charles," "Ryan Street," or any other term to find lots of local history images.

McNeese State University Frazar Memorial Library | Box 91445 | Lake Charles, LA 70609 | 337-475-5725 |

McNeese State University | 4205 Ryan St., Lake Charles, LA 70609 | 800-622-3352
EOE/AA/ADA | A member of the University of Louisiana System | Web Disclaimer | Policy Statements | University Status & Emergency Preparedness