Attakapas District and St. Martin Parish. In the midst of French culture, exploration, and settlement during the late eighteenth century, St. Mary bears the distinction of being a primarily Anglo-Protestant settlement in the midst of French-Catholic Acadiana. Their dominance in the region is evident in the non-French towns of Franklin, Baldwin, and Patterson.
These early settlers, mostly a wealthy planter class, found the soil and climate ideal for growing sugarcane, and they transformed the existing small farms producing indigo and cotton into some of Louisiana's earliest sugar plantations. By 1840, St. Mary Parish was recognized as one of the state’s major shippers of sugar.
Today, the region's economy is still dependent on revenues generated from sugarcane, as well as the petroleum industry, fishing, and other agricultural crops such as rice and soybeans. St. Mary’s current population of approximately 58,000 consists of Anglo-Americans, Creoles, and African-Americans, who comprise the largest segment of the populace.
The prosperity of the sugar cane industry during the antebellum period left an enduring legacy of mansions and plantation homes throughout the area, particularly in Franklin, the seat of St. Mary Parish. Franklin also has a historic district with 420 landmark structures and a turn-of-the-century commercial and railroad district. Even though equestrians and buggies are no longer present, the street lamps in Franklin still bear "no hitching" signs.
St. Mary Parish is also home to the Chitimacha Indian Reservation and Museum, Cypremort State Park, the International Alligator Festival, and the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. The Wedell-Willliams Memorial Aviation Museum in Patterson is a popular attraction as well. The museum contains replicas of aircraft parts used by Harry Williams, mayor of Patterson, and his partner, speed pilot Jimmy Wedell. At the time of his death, Wedell held more air speed records than anyone else. Natives of the area also boast of the parish’s largest city, Morgan City, where two film classics were made—Tarzan of the Apes and Thunder Bay.
by Alana A. Carmon
Events and Festivals
Harvest Moon Fest (Franklin)
Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival (Franklin)
Bayou Teche Wooden Boat Show (Franklin)
Shrimp and Petroleum Festival (Morgan City)
Rhythms on the River (Morgan City)
ALR Freedom Fest (Morgan City)
Cypress Sawmill Festival (Patterson)
Chitimacha Pow Wow (Charenton)
Lighthouse Festival (Berwick)
Historic Sites, Plantations & Museums
Original Swamp Gardens (Morgan City)