As any local schoolchild could tell you, a Frenchman named Iberville is responsible for settlement of the Mississippi Coast in 1699. Iberville was flying under the flag of the Sun King, Louis XIV.|
What many may not know is that this Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, had a brother named Jean Baptiste le Moyne, sieur de Bienville.
Bienville was an adventurer, explorer, soldier and bit of a politician like his better-known older brother. He was the one in 1699 who first stepped on the shore of Bay St. Louis and named the area for his king's patron saint. He was in search for the mouth of the Mississippi River.
When his brother died, Bienville took over his reins of the Louisiana Territory, which includes present-day Mississippi. He was the grand age of 22 when he became governor.
Mindful of this fact, the city that carries the name of Bay St. Louis honored Bienville in 1999 for its 300th birthday. On Aug. 24 that year, a bronze likeness of Bienville, sculpted by artist Mary Ott Davidson, was unveiled.
A time capsule was sealed in Bienville's tall granite base, and inside were placed business and personal cards, a phone book, a newspaper and other memorabilia for the county and the city that has a motto, "A Place Apart."
The statue was dedicated in the newly named Tercentenary Park, a joint project of the city of Bay St. Louis, the Hancock County Historical Society and Hancock Bank, which donated the high-bluff land donated for the park on South Beach Boulevard in Old Town. Katrina chomped at much of that part of Old Town, including the road itself. When waters and wind receded, Bienville still stood tall.
At the time of the dedication, Bay Mayor Eddie Favre said, "Three hundred years ago, it took courage, trust and teamwork to explore and make voyages of discovery. Our ancestors were good stewards. It will take courage, trust, teamwork and good stewardship to keep Bay St. Louis 'A Place Apart.'"