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Dauphin Island, AL
Archive of Historical Data, Books, Maps
And Other Materials

Excerpt from the book
"Dauphin Island AL:
French Possession 1699-1763"

by Jo Myrtle Kennedy

"Massacer Island"

In 1698, Louis de Phelypeaux, Comte de Ponchartrain, Minister of Marine and Colonies for France, appointed Iberville to lead an expedition to the gulf coast in search of a site to establish a French settlement. Leaving Brest in October, Iberville's ships reached the Florida coast in January, 1699. Finding the Spanish in Pensacola Bay, only one month ahead of them, the French sailed westward seeking the Great River (Mississippi River) that LaSalle and others had reported to offer many advantages for settlement.

During a cold dark storm on January 31st, the French fleet reached a long finger of land jutting out from the east side of a large bay, which they later called Mobile Bay. A long island lay southwest of the large opening into the gulf. Anchoring in the bay, Iberville took a small party of men and rowed to the snow white peninsula (Mobile Point) on the eastern shore, where they explored before returning to the ship.

The next day the fleet, flying the Fleur-de-lis flag of France, sailed into a natural harbor at the edge of the long island (Dauphin Island) lying on the western side of the three-mile-wide bay. In bitter, cold wind and sheets of icy rain, they landed to explore the island. Weatherbound, the sailing vessels could not leave the harbor for three days, during which time Iberville, Bienville and others discovered on the island luxuriant foliage and huge trees over two-thirds of the island, with beaches of snow white sand in high rounded dunes along the western shore.

Finding heaps of human and animal bones piled together with Indian utensils at the southwest end, they promptly called the place Massacre Island.

When the weather cleared enough for sailing, they continued their voyage westward in search of the best location for a settlement. Along the way they named the largest islands according to their most identifying feature.

Cat Island abounded in unfamiliar racoons; Chandeleur Islands consisted of a group of small patches of land; Deer Island for the graceful wild animals there; Horn Island for its shape; Ship Island offered good harbor for their vessels, where they anchored to rest, bathe and plan further exploration.

After they rested for a week, Iberville loaded two longboats with thirty men, a pilot and provisions, and went to take soundings off Isle Massacre. They found good anchorage there. At the east end of Massacre Island there was a small island offshore forming a crescent-shaped harbor, large enough to shelter thirty ships. The channel to it and all adjacent waters were sounded and found to be good.

They then went to a bay five leagues wide that was only two leagues distant from Massacre Island (Mobile Bay) and entered the bay and went as far as a river nine leagues up into the headwaters of the bay, into which it emptied.


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