Ascension History

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Ascension Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is one of the fastest growing parishes in the state. Its population is 107,215 which is 39.9% greater than the 2000 census.

Ascension Parish is part of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area as well as the Baton Rouge–Pierre Part Combined Statistical Area.

AREA: 303 sq miles
Founded: 1807
County Seat: Donaldsonville
Population: 109,985 (2011)

Louisiana's government is like that of no other state in the United States of America. Louisiana has "parishes" instead of "counties" and each of those parishes, for the most part, are governed by "police juries." Police jurors are elected officials and function in the same way as county commissioners in other states' counties.

At one time, Louisiana had counties. When the Louisiana Territory was purchased by the United States, twelve counties were established, but those large areas proved too hard to govern effectively. In 1807 the state was divided into 19 parishes, and the parish became the local government district.

Each parish was governed by a 12-member jury serving with the parish judges and the justices of the peace. Each jury was charged with the responsibility of "execution of whatever concerns the interior and local police and administration of the parish." In 1811 an act made the members of these assemblies elective, and they were officially designated as the "police jury."

Ascension Parish was created on 1807, from Acadia Parish and the parish was named in honor of the Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. The Parish seat is Donaldsonville.

The first Europeans to set foot in Ascension Parish in the area now known as Donaldsonville was led by DeSoto in 1543. The French explorer, LaSalle, named this place Lafourche des Chetimaches, "the fork in the river of the Chitimachas Indians". Bayou Lafourche was called the "river of the Chitimachas" by the early French explorers, and referred to as the "fork of the Chitimachas" where it branched off the Mississippi River - or, in French, La Fourche (the fork).

Ascension Parish became a Spanish Territory in 1763, and Louis Judice was named the first Spanish Commandant for Ascension. In 1766 the Spanish Government issued land grants to Acadians from Nova Scotia and Canary Islanders. It was their hope to reach the numerous French settlement areas along the lower Mississippi. This part of Ascension and St. James Parishes is what came to be known as the Acadian Coast.

On August 15, 1772, on order of Charles III, King of Spain, the Ascension Catholic Church was established to serve its parishioners.

Ascension Parish became the property of France in April, 1682, when LaSalle arrived and explored the Mississippi River. The parish seat for Ascension is Donaldsonville, named after its founder, William Donaldson. Donaldson was formally dedicated on April 17, 1806. The land was originally a Spanish grant, owned by a Mrs. Margaret Allain (Elaine), widow of T. L. Landry, an Acadian exile.

Neighboring Parishes:

Northeast:Livingston Parish
East:St. John the Baptist Parish
Southeast:St. James Parish
Southwest:Assumption Parish
West:Iberville Parish
Northwest:East Baton Rouge Parish

Cities and Towns:

Donaldsonville (County Seat)cityIncorporated Area
GonzalescityIncorporated Area
SorrentotownIncorporated Area