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Baron de Bastrop

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Bastrop, the government seat of Morehouse Parish, is nestled in the northeast region of the state just 25 miles north of Monroe and I-20, approximately 20 miles south of the Arkansas state line and 60 miles west of the state of Mississippi.  The region was inhabited by Native Americans when the first settlement was established at Point Pleasant by Indian trader Francois Bonaventure in 1785.  In an aggressive colonization program, Spanish governor Baron de Carondelet granted 12 leagues square, or one million acres, in 1796 to Dutch nobleman Felipe Enrique Neri, Baron de Bastrop on the condition that he would induce 500 families to settle in the area.  Bastrop went right to work, promising titles to 400 acres of land and six months provisions to very family and boy child when he came of age.  In return, these famillies were asked to remain three years and cultivate the land on which they settled.  Bastrop later sold large tracts of land of Colonel Abraham Morehouse.  After the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Morehouse left Kentucky for Louisiana and settled in Prairie Mer Rouge.  The Baron de Bastrop moved to Texas where he was permitted to establish a colony and made significant contributions to Texas history.

The Louisiana Purchase was separated into counties, making this area part of Ouachita County.  Morehouse continued the effort to bring families to this area.  Between the years of 1805-1813, Morehouse sold land ranging from 30 to 10,000 acres to ninety people.  These transactions mark the birth of present-day Morehouse Parish.  Though there were no churches, doctors, schools, the nearest store was in Monroe and roads were unmarked trails, familes continued to come to live the frontier life of those early days.

As the years passed, this region grew.  More properties had been settled and cultivated. Farm land consisted primarily of cotton and rice.  Steamboats traveled up the Ouachita River and rested at stops along Bayou Bartholomew for trading.  Several small stores had been opened for operation, including a blacksmith shop owned by a man named Gillespie.  It sat at the intersection of travel north to south and east to west, known as the X Roads.

In 1844, it was decided to remove this territory as part of what was by then named Ouachita Parish and establish a new area to be known as Morehouse Parish in honor of Abraham Morehouse for his efforts to populate this region.  Much confusion proceeded about whether the early pioneers were the true owners of land settled in Morehouse Parish in the days of Baron de Bastrop and Abraham Morehouse.  To resolve matters and secure titles to land ownership, the United States Court ruled that those who could prove they had lived and cultivated the land where they resided for at least 20 years would be granted legal ownership. 

Efforts to establish a central seat of government quickly followed the incorporation of Morehouse Parish.  The intersection of present-day Madison and Washington streets, once known as the X Roads, became the site of the Morehouse Parish Courthouse in the place that became known as Bastrop in honor of Baron de Bastrop who first endeavored to establish settlements in the area.  Bastrop was officially incorporatedin 1852.  The 192-acre tract was purchased by the Morehouse Parish Police Jury and the area divided into lots with the public square, on which the courthouse sits, remaining for the benefit of the parish.  The courthouse square was not only a gathering place for legal proceedings, but was also a social meeting place and was the hub of activity.  What was once a population of a little more than 400 had doubled by the turn of the century.  By this time, people in professional fields such as law and medicine, populated the area.

Today, Bastrop boasts a population of nearly 13,000 people and, with its historic courthouse square, remains the heart of Morehouse Parish.  The square has seen revitalization in recent years.  Most businesses have traded their outdated aluminum facades for the traditional fronts of the original buildings surrounding the square. Community activities such as Music on Main Street, a  concert series on courthouse grounds, and Witch Way to Main Street, an annual Halloween trick-or-treat event for youth sponsored by businesses lining the square in mid-town Bastrop, have breathed new life into the courthouse square.  Arguably the most visible and significant change is the 2002 renovation of the Morehouse Parish Courthouse itself.  Both interior and exterior changes were noted, including, but not limited to, stained glass windows, hand-crafted wood detail, marble flooring and preservation of the plaster and brickwork. Bastrop was home to International Paper Company, which had for many decades remained a vital economic staple of the community.  Education and healthcare are also noteworthy industries in Bastrop as well as retail businesses.

Many technological advancements and social changes have occurred since the first family settled in the Bastrop area a little more than 200 years ago.  While Bastrop stays on the forefront of this constant evolution, the community strives to preserve its small-town spirit that inspires continued economic and civic growth and prosperity.  It is a spirit that continues to inspire those long-lived and new familes alike, to call Bastrop their Hometown Louisiana!

City Hall
202 East Jefferson Avenue
Bastrop, Louisiana 71220

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