It’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand the significance of places like Ocean Springs and how inter-connected all of our gulf coast towns are. Fort Maurepas was the stopping off point of the LeMoyne brothers in their expedition to find a new place to settle for French Colonists of Quebec and Montreal who chose not to swear loyalty to Britain after their defeat. One of my ancestors on my mother’s side, Jean Baptiste Badreau de Graveline, was a member of that party in 1699. He was also among the group of men who later built the first settlement of what was to become Mobile. Jean Baptiste went on to build his own plantation on the banks of what is now known as the Pascagoula River. According to wikipedia, “the French claim to La Louisiane (in New France) began at Fort Maurepas in 1699, moved to Mobile in 1702 (relocated in 1711), and returned to Fort Maurepas (Old Biloxi) in 1719.” Dates vary slightly depending on the documents used to determine the dates which is understandable as many of these documents were created after the fact and memories are fallible.
Deer Island is just offshore and easily visible from both Biloxi and Ocean Springs. It is on this island that my ancestor, Jean Baptiste, spent time raising his two children with a native American spouse whom he later legally married in the Catholic Church to establish the legitimacy of his son and heir. Ironically, in his old age, Jean Baptiste Sr. disinherited his son, Jean Baptiste Badreau de Graveline II, due to his wild escapades and ill treatment of his father. Junior was eventually captured by the Spanish government and executed in New Orleans, but that is a tale for another day.
Of course Ocean Springs bears little resemblance to the vast undeveloped coastline that existed more than 300 years ago, but you can see glimpses of its wild beauty in the portion of the Gulf National Seashore located near the heart of Ocean Springs. It’s a lovely gulf coast town with a mix of charming historical buildings, some waterfront park areas and access to a lovely portion of the Gulf Islands National Seashore at Davis Bayou. Come enjoy the warm breezes, quaint shops, and delicious seafood.