A Brief History of the DeLisle Community
DeLisle --- Past
Located four miles north of Pass Christian, DeLisle has never been incorporated. Since the timber lands have been cut-over during the 1920s, today, the community has very little employment, and is composed of a scattered population creating a beautiful residential and farming community.
Although much unaware to many Coastians, the quiet back-bay area has a wealth of history. It was first explored and hunted for its rich wild game by Jean Baptiste Saucier in the early 1700s. However, the area did not become settled until 80 years later, when a grandson, Philippe Saucier, received two Spanish land grants; one in the St. Louis Bay area, recorded on August 27,1781, followed in 1794, with a second tract that was situated on Bayou DeLisle, adjacent to his brother-in-law, Bartholome Grelot. These early French settlers were soon joined by Jean Baptiste Nicaise, Pierre Moran, Ramon Lizana, Chevalier DeDeaux, Jean Cassibry, and Charles Ladner. The early settlement was called La Riviere des Loups (Wolf River), then, a century later, in 1880, the English translation became Wolf Town, and since 1884, with the creation of its post office, it became known as DeLisle.
In 1849, American migrants began arriving from Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas to settle alongside the local French inhabitants. These families were named Thompson, Huddleston, Keel, Lambkin, Staples, Varnado, Whitfield, and Fahnstock,
At DeLisle, where the Wolf River empties into the bay, during the 1840s to 1861, there was a significant lumber center with a proliferation of lumber mills headed by such people as John Huddleston, W.J. White, Thomas Gray, G.L. Thomas, Leonard Stables, and others. In this safe haven, away from the coastal beaches, John Huddleston, Mateo Martinolich, and Justine Lassabe started ship yards where many boats were built for the seafood and lumber industries along the coast. In 1850s, there were as many as 13 lumber mill sites on the river and adjacent bayous.
Our Lady of Good Hope Parish at DeLisle was established in 1872, and its church was built the following year. “Changing Wolves into Lambs,” was the call by Father Theodore Meerschaert in a letter to Bishop Elder on January 7, 1874, with the announcement that a church had been built at the Wolf River. Two decades later, Father R.J. Sorin was named pastor in 1896, and served 56 years until his death on February 6, 1955.
Responding to a request for relief by Father Sorin, the Josephite Order established the St Stephen Mission Church in 1922, thereby segregating the Black parishioners. That church was built by Father Stephen Sweeney, during his pastorship of St. Philomena’s Black Catholic Church in Pass Christian, now named Mother of Mercy. In 1963, the Josephite Order at DeLisle was replaced by the Trinitarian Order as it continues today.
Due to the destructive forces of Hurricane Camille, in August 1969, Our Lady of Good Hope Church was destroyed beyond repair and many of the former white church members started participating at St. Stephen’s Colored Catholic Church. When it was decided not to rebuild a church for the white parishioners, St. Stephen’s status was upgraded in January 1973, from being a mission church to that of being a mother church in unifying the whole Catholic Parish of DeLisle.
Dupont / DeLisle
In December 1979, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company dedicated its Dupont/DeLisle plant where it manufactures titanium dioxide. In accumulating its surrounding lands, it included the former 186-room Pine Hills Club Hotel, which later became a Catholic seminary. The building was razed from the former 2000-acre site that was formerly known as Shelly Beach, having been named so for the huge shell mound that was originally formed by the indigent Indians that fished from the bay shores. Dupont later acquired the adjoining property, the site of the former Pine Hills Hotel.
Some of the largest live oaks are to be found at DeLisle, as it remains a nice, quiet, residential community with some farming activity. The surrounding lands along the river and bayous are abundant with large live oak trees in addition to pecan and magnolias.
DeLisle — Today
Some of the best formed large Live Oak trees can still be found in DeLisle, a small village located north of the marshes that lie above the Pass Christian city limits. Henderson Avenue, leading from the beachfront of Pass Christian, intersects into Hampton Road. It courses across bridges that cross Bayou Portage, Wolf River, and Bayou DeLisle. That roadway was built in 1914 to accommodate the road traffic that was arriving from New Orleans. Until 1928, the Kiln-DeLisle Road was the only means for automobiles to reach Pass Christian.
Prior to that, all transportation from that area was conducted by sailing schooners. In its isolation, the DeLisle area, like the Kiln area, became well known for its own type of White Lightnin’ which the makers called “Creme of DeLisle.”
Much of DeLisle consists of truck-farming and large residential estates with grazing horses, cattle, and goats.
The Dedeaux Oaks are some of the largest and oldest remaining.
Below shows construction and completion of the Portage Bridge between DeLisle and Pass Christian from the Henderson/Hampton road.
Some Truth -- Some False
Some writers of history have stated that the town of DeLisle was named for the Parisian map maker, Guillaume deLisle. This is not likely, since he had never come to the New World. Some first names for the area were: de Loupes, de Lobos, (the Wolves) Three Rivers, and Wolftown.
Possible persons for the current name adoption may have been from early French settler claims around the Bay such as Baptiste DeLisle and Dupard Delile, sometimes recorded as Delile Dupare.
Jean Baptiste Saucier, a French-Canadian sergeant, frequently led small groups of soldiers and Canadians to make camp in the area around the Bay during the early 1700s. Sometimes they stayed in Indian camps for several months when food supplies dwindled at the early settlement forts of Mobile and Biloxi. They learned to live with the Indians and hunt for wild game as they awaited the return of ships with renewed supplies from France.
Some historians report that in 1717, a Madame deMezieres was given a French land grant to all the area around the Bay, but not having performed the necessary colonization requirements, she lost her bid. Port documents do show that she made an attempt to establish a colony because two ships, the La Gironde and the La Volage arrived at Ship Island in 1721 with 300 people that were destined for several claims along the Coast, including that of the deMezieres concession.
Although there are no signs of a settlement along the Gulf, a Count deMezieres was successful in establishing a plantation north of New Orleans on the banks of the Mississippi River some time during the early to mid-1700s.
There were many conditions that had to be met before colonists were allowed to settle on concession claims. Most of them who attempted to settle the Gulf seaboard were not trained for the untamed wilderness and suffered dearly. Their numbers greatly decimated by many having died from disease due to a lack of food and potable water, also, many returned to France being disheartened by their first encounter with difficulty.
The earliest verifiable records for the DeLisle area show that Barthelome Grelot was followed by his brother-in-law Philipe Saucier in the mid-1780s.