Days Gone By - stories from the past

UPDATED WITH PODCAST -Did you know that Mardi Gras started on Massacre Island?

Did you know that Mardi Gras started on Massacre Island?

This story is an excerpt from the book ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1) available at

Fort Louis de la Mobile

Mobile was the first white settlement in Alabama

The first white settlement in Alabama occurred in 1702 at Fort Louis De la Mobile near the city of Mobile.  Though De Soto had traveled through Alabama earlier, no white settlement had ever been established by him.  France wanted to gain a foothold in the new World and in 1699 Pierre LeMoyne Sieur D”Iberville began to explore Mobile Bay.

On January 6, 1702, “French colonists from Biloxi unloaded goods at Massacre Island to be used for the establishment of Fort Louis de la Louisiane on a bluff twenty-seven miles from the mouth of the Mobile River.” (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

See all books by Donna R Causey

Pierre LeMoyne Sieur D”Ibervilled-iberville-pierre-le-moyne01

Named Massacre Island

They landed on an island and were sickened by the appalling discovery of a mountain of bones of Indians, many with their heads cut off.  Because of this macabre discovery, they named the island Isle Du Massacre or Massacre Island.

 This story and many others can be found in –ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1)

The mountain of bones was a burial mound that had broken open during a hurricane but it horrified the crew so much that they set sail up the Mobile River and entered the Mississippi/Alabama/Louisiana Delta Gulf Coast Region.

D’iberville declared his camp “Pointe du Mardi Gras.” He eventually settled near Twenty-Seven Mile Bluff where Fort Louis De La Mobile was built. The colony was part of Louisiana at the time and consisted of only thirty families.

Iberville and Bienville

Iberville_&_Bienville_Found_MobileFort Louis De La Mobile was the capital of the French province

A Catholic Church was built in 1704, the first in Alabama and the same year, the first white child, Claude Jousette was born in Mobile.

In 1704 Fort Louis De La Mobile was formally made the capital of the French province of Louisiana.

Mardi Gras was first celebrated in 1709

Masque De La Mobile (Mardi Gras) was celebrated at Fort Louis De La Mobile until 1709.  Mardi Gras began as a holiday for French colonists to remember their homeland roots.

In 1706, D”Iberville died of yellow fever in Cuba and his younger brother Bienville Lemoyne became governor of the area.

The Lemoyne Brothers


Massacre Island became Dauphin Island

In 1707, the name Massacre Island was changed to Dauphin in honor of an heir to the French throne. At this time, the little island was the capital of the whole Louisiana Territory which made up about two-thirds of the United States.

Dauphin Island Today


Shortage of Women

However, the men of the settlement faced a big problem. There was a shortage of women for the settlement so France came up with a solution and the famous “cassette girls” immigrated to Alabama to become wives of the colonists.  They were named the cassette girls because the French government gave each volunteer some clothing and a small trunk called a “cassette” to take with them to America. On arrival, they soon found a male mate among the male colonists.

Bienville proclaimed first Mardi Gras

Fort Dauphin was moved in ca.1713 to its present location in Mobile due to flooding. Bienville proclaimed a Societé de Saint Louise Holiday in Mobile which would be the beginning of what one day would be the world famous and popular Mardi Gras. Even Huntsville had a Mardi Gras.Mobile_Mardi_Gras_2010_55

The French explored inland as far as Madison County, Alabama by 1715 because a French map shows a French fort on the Tennessee River close to where Muscle Shoals is today.

Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac arrived aboard a French frigate in Mobile Bay on May 17, 1713 and became Governor of the Louisiana Province. He had previously settled Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit, the beginning of Detroit, Michigan in 1701. The Cadillac automobile is named after him.

Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac



TOWNS IN THE ALABAMA TERRITORY – Mobile described in an article published in 1817!

Editorial provides a glimpse of Mobile during Spanish days [film of vintage homes]

Mobile, Alabama And Louisiana Territory Almost Became An Independent Republic

The daughter-in-law of Peter the Great – Did she fake her death and escape to early Alabama? [photographs]


Read this story and many others in –ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1)


ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1) (Paperback)

List Price: $15.97
New From: $15.97 In Stock
Used from: $15.97 In Stock
buy now

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: A Collection of Lost & Forgotten Stories (Kindle Edition)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R
List Price: $8.95
New From: $8.95 In Stock
buy now

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

Liked it? Take a second to support Alabama Pioneers on Patreon!


  1. Thought Childersburg was the first town that was settled

    1. Mobile was first white settlement in Alabama, not native American.

  2. Thank you, I learned something this morning! Very interesting article!

  3. I have been to massacre island. It was very interesting.

  4. Mardi Gras was started in Mobile. New Orleans came later.

    1. About 150 years later. City fathers from Mobile traveled to New Orleans to help the city get started with all the odds and ends required to establish a Mardi Gras.

  5. This is beautiful!!! Linda McKnight

  6. […] [Are you looking for something to do this during these dreary winter months? Then check out Mobile, Alabama, the original of Mardi Gras celebrations. Mardi Gras celebrations start early in Mobile, Alabama and will officially kick off this Saturday, January 9, 2016 with the first parade of the season on Dauphin Island, the Krewe de la Dauphine at 1:00 p.m. (Read about the history of Mardi Gras and Dauphin Island in the Have you ever heard of Massacre Island in Mobile, Alabama?) […]

  7. Just read mother account of the original organized Mardi Gras in 1703 in Mobile.

  8. […] Rings at 2:00 p.m. (see route -DIP) (Read about the history of Mardi Gras and Dauphin Island in the Have you ever heard of Massacre Island in Mobile, Alabama?) Mobile’s Carnival season goes on for three weeks with more than 50 groups organize parades, […]

  9. […] burial ground that is rumored to be watched over by supernatural specters at night. (See story: Have you ever heard of Massacre Island in Mobile, Alabama?) “Since that “spirited” beginning, the whispers and shadowy folklore surrounding Dauphin […]

  10. Massacre island is actually bloody island which is translated from Spanish at foot of the African town bridge is the site if the original fort site a
    Stevenson actually came afterwards

  11. […] Alabama is the birthplace of the first Mardi Gras in America. [See the story: Have you ever heard of Massacre Island in Mobile, Alabama?]  Every day from January 27, 2016 until 'Fat Tuesday' on February 9, 20116, Mobile will be […]

  12. I was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1929, educated in the Academy of the Visitation, on Springhill, Avenue, and was the first Secretary to the first Manager of Bel Air Mall before moving to Houston, Tx. in 1981. I still miss it! Great place to have grown up in.

  13. On Massacre Island they discovered a mountain of bones, Indian braves and “squares”?

  14. wow. from Mobile and did not even know the original name of Dauphin island was “massacre island”. Yes I tell everybody I know that MOBILE was the first mardi gras NOT New Orleans and we always knew that Mobile was the more “tame” Mardi Gras to attend. lol

  15. […] Did you know that Mardi Gras started on Massacre Island? […]

  16. I lived in Mobile from the time I was 10 until I was 26….I wish I had never moved in many ways..Greatest place to grow up. Spent many wonderful times at Dauphin Island…Would move back in a heartbeat, if I could. I miss it everyday.

  17. Stay away during spring break!

Leave a Reply to Amy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.