This oldest town in the Florida Parishes has been called the town two miles long and two yards wide; it lies on a loessal ridge created by the dust storms of the Glacier Period. Swept n from the western plains, this soil formed vertical cliffs sometimes ninety feet high which rested on the sand and clay bottom of an ancient sea. These formations occur only in a narrow strip of land extending from Baton Rouge into Tennessee; the ridges are actually the foothills of the Appalachians.

This bluff attracted early Spanish Cauchins in need of a highland burial ground. They received a land grant from their king and built a wooden monastery sometime between 1773 and 1785. The settlement which straggled up around the cemetery and monastery took its name from the order's gentle patron. By 1785 the number of land grants taken up by settlers prompted the Spanish government to create the district of Nueva Feliciana comprising all the land of the Florida Parishes -- the instep of the boot that is Louisiana today. "La Villa de San Francisco" was dignified by charter and town plat when it was developed early in the 1800's by John H. Johnson, who marked off streets and squares with optimistic disregard of loessal topography.

Below the bluffs of St. Francisville a different sort of town grew. Bayou Sara took its name and impetus from the creek which provided flatboaters a safe anchorage. With the steamboat, Bayou Sara became one of the largest cotton ports on the river. Its rowdy richness fell before civil war, fire, flood, and the boll weevil. Hardly a trace remains today.

St. Francisville has survived and reflects the growth and character of the surrounding countryside. A stroll through its historic center awakens a sense of place and an awareness of history with two centuries of architecture and life styles.

Content from the 1975 Audubon Pilgrimage Booklet by the WFP Historical Society.

View more Vintage Photos