The European settlement of Mobile, then known as Fort Louis de la Louisiane, started in 1702, at Twenty-seven Mile Bluff on the Mobile River, as the first capital of the French colony of Louisiana. It was founded by French Canadian brothers Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, to establish control over France's Louisiana claims. Bienville was made governor of French Louisiana in 1701. Mobile's Roman Catholic parish was established on 20 July 1703, by Jean-Baptiste de la Croix de Chevrières de Saint-Vallier, Bishop of Quebec. The parish was the first established on the Gulf Coast of the United States. In 1704 the ship Pélican delivered 23 French women to the colony, along with yellow fever which passengers had contracted at a stop in Havana. Though most of the "Pélican girls" recovered, numerous colonists and neighboring Native Americans died from the illness. This early period was also the occasion of the arrival of the first African slaves, transported aboard a French supply ship from Saint-Domingue. The population of the colony fluctuated over the next few years, growing to 279 persons by 1708, yet descending to 178 persons two years later due to disease.
Mobile and Fort Condé in 1725.
These additional outbreaks of disease and a series of floods caused Bienville to order the town relocated several miles downriver to its present location at the confluence of the Mobile River and Mobile Bay in 1711. A new earth and palisade Fort Louis was constructed at the new site during this time. By 1712, when Antoine Crozat took over administration of the colony by royal appointment, the colony boasted a population of 400 persons. The capital of Louisiana was moved to Biloxi in 1720, leaving Mobile in the role of military and trading center. In 1723 the construction of a new brick fort with a stone foundation began and it was renamed Fort Condé in honor of Louis Henri, Duc de Bourbon and prince of Condé.
In 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the French and Indian War. The treaty ceded Mobile and the surrounding territory to Great Britain, and it was made a part of the expanded British West Florida colony. The British changed the name of Fort Condé to Fort Charlotte, after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, King George III's queen.
The British were eager not to lose any useful inhabitants and promised religious tolerance to the French colonists, ultimately 112 French Mobilians remained in the colony. The first permanent Jewish presence in Mobile began in 1763 as a result of the new religious tolerance. Jews had not been allowed to officially reside in colonial French Louisiana due to the Code Noir, a decree passed by France's King Louis XIV in 1685 that forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and ordered all Jews out of France's colonies. Most of these colonial era Jews in Mobile were merchants and traders, and added to the commercial development of Mobile. In 1766 the population was estimated to be 860, though the town's borders were smaller than they had been during the French colonial efforts. During the American Revolutionary War, West Florida and Mobile became a refuge for loyalists fleeing the other colonies.
While the British were dealing with their rebellious colonists along the Atlantic coast, the Spanish entered the war as an ally of France in 1779. They took the opportunity to order Bernardo de Galvez, Governor of Louisiana, on an expedition east to retake Florida and captured Mobile during the Battle of Fort Charlotte in 1780 as part of this campaign. They wished to eliminate any British threat to their Louisiana colony, which they had received from France in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. Their actions were also condoned by the revolting American colonies, as evidenced by the presence of Oliver Pollack, representative of the American Continental Congress, and because West Florida, for the most part, remained loyal to the British Crown. The fort was renamed Fortaleza Carlota, with the Spanish holding Mobile as a part of Spanish West Florida until 1813, when it was seized by the U.S. General James Wilkinson during the War of 1812.
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