A Brief History of Lake Charles, Louisiana

A view of Ryan Street looking south ca. 1900. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lake Charles in Calcasieu parish, is the fifth-largest incorporated city in the state of Louisiana. It lies about seventy miles west of Lafayette in southwestern Louisiana. The first white settlers to the area were Martin LeBleu and his wife Dela Marion. Leaving Bordeaux, France in 1775, they arrived before the beginning of the nineteenth century. Soon to follow was Charles Sallier, a native of Spain and the first white man to build a house within what are now the city limits of Lake Charles. After he built his home in this area, the lake became known as Charlie’s Lake. By 1860 this area was being called Charleston. Charles Sallier married Catherine LeBleu in 1802, and they had the first white child born in Southwest Louisiana. In an area earlier inhabited by native Indians, European immigrants began to hew out the land. By 1817, Jacob Ryan had arrived and settled 160 acres on the east shore of Charleston. Ryan was the first settler whose main objective was lumber, and it was he who built the first of many sawmills and the town’s first industry. The town grew up along the lake, actually around the Jacob Ryan sawmill. Lumber was the town’s reason to exist. Without lumber there would not have been the basic natural resources that early settlers knew how to refine into finished products necessary to develop the town’s economy (Louisiana Preservation, 2007).

Between 1817 and 1855, longleaf yellow pine and some cypress remained the primary industry. It was in 1855 that Captain Daniel Goos, a Frisian by birth, came to Charleston. He too built a sawmill, but soon branched out into building schooners, tug-boats, and even steamboats. Charleston found itself doing extensive trade with Galveston. In 1852 Jacob Ryan donated land and offered to move the courthouse in order to have the parish seat moved from Comasaque Bluff (now Marion) to Charleston. Six years after the city was incorporated, dissatisfaction over the name Charleston arose. On March 16, 1867, Charleston, Louisiana, was incorporated into the town of Lake Charles (Louisiana Preservation, 2007).


Louisiana Preservation Alliance. (2007, Oct. 15). Lake Charles, Louisiana. Retrieved from cityoflakecharles.com.

Wikipedia. (2018, Nov. 28). History of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Retrieved from wikipedia.org.

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