Ouachita Parish is located in north Louisiana. Monroe and Ouachita Valley have a long and impressive history which dates several centuries prior to the official founding of organized government in 1783: It was during a period when the vast territory west of the Mississippi was a pawn of the Spanish crown.
Ouachita Parish was established March 31, 1807. It is one of the 19 parishes, which were created by dividing the Territory of New Orleans. The original Ouachita Parish was subsequently divided into the parishes of Morehouse, Union, Caldwell, Franklin, Tensas, Madison, East and West Carroll with the present Ouachita Parish remaining.
The parish is named after the Ouachita Indians who held the area when it was first discovered and explored. There is disagreement as to the meaning of the word "Ouachita." Its Choctaw meaning is "Big Hunting Ground," but it also means, "silver water." Years before the "Louisiana Purchase" the present site of Monroe was a more or less established point of contact on the banks of the Ouachita River for the fur traders and Indians of the region. It was a half-defined gateway into the land of adventure and mystery that lay beyond the great lone wilderness.
The Ouachita River was first explored by Hernando de Soto in 1542, and later by the French. In March and April 1700 "Father of Louisiana", Jean Baptist LeMoyne, the Sieur de Bienville came on a fact finding tour for his brother Iberville. He visited a Ouachita Village where the present day town of Columbia is Located.
There were five huts and 70 men to record. A French trading post called: Prairie de Canots was established on the "Washita," but there were no permanent settlements until after the close of the French and Indian War in 1763, when Louisiana was ceded to Spain. This was near where the present day Monroe is located/Prairie de Canots (Prairie of the Canoes) was named this probably because it was a landing place for the Indians of the region who came to trade with the hunters and trappers.
Spain sent Don Juan Filhiol as commandant of the post, and he built the Post of Ouachita around 1780 to protect the settlers against the Indians. He later renamed it to Fort Miro. This fort was on the site of the present Monroe. He was commandant until 1800.
In 1805 the newly established town was plotted, recorded and by act of the territorial government, Fort Miro was designated as the seat of justice of "Ouachita County". The Filhiol plantation on the east bank of the river was divided into blocks each 300 feet square. The eastern boundary was the present Jackson Street, The original plantation of Joseph de la Baume, which had by this time been disposed of by the owner, and similarly divided, and from those two grants a major poition of the present cities of Monroe and West Monroe evolved. Fort Miro was built on the banks of the Ouachita River in what is now downtown Monroe and is where the parish courthouse now stands. Filhiol is considered the father of modern Monroe. In his day, he worked hard to establish a town on his land grant.
On September 5,1816,Filhiol signed the deed, which gave over the lots to the parish government. On that date, Monroe had its true birth.The town name was changed from Fort Miro to Monroe in 1819 in honor of the United States President James Monroe. Primitive as it was, it evolved into twin cities of industrial and commercial importance. West Monroe actually became a city in 1880. Combining the two former towns of Trenton and Cotton Port, each of which began at separate times and locations, formed the city of West Monroe. Monroe and West Monroe are often referred to as the twin cities.
THE LAND & RESOURCES
Ouachita Parish is located at the hub of Northeast Louisiana in Interstate 20, about 100 miles east of Shreveport and 65 miles west of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The parish is divided by the Ouachita River. The two major cities in Ouachita Parish are Monroe and West Monroe. The towns of Richwood and Sterlington complete the incorporated areas of Ouachita Parish.
About half the land in Northeast Louisiana is in pine timber production, which has a great deal to do with the location of the woods product industry in this area and its importance in the economic base. From Monroe to the east is the Mississippi River alluvial flood plain, an area almost totally utilized for agricultural production, with preference to cotton, soybeans, rice and sweet potatoes as principal crops Geographically, the eastern portion of the parish is located in the Bayou LaFotirche alluvial flood plain and is virtually flat. The Ouachita River is the primary drainage artery for the parish and is supplemented by a number of connecting bayous.
Ouachita Parish is a dynamic-part of the great paradise for outdoor sports. Straddling the nationally recognized and scenic Ouachita River, host to Bass Master and Lady-Bass Tournaments, Ouachita Parish has abundant wildlife.
Miles of oxbow lakes, serpentine bayous meandering southward emptying into this river; reservoirs and barrow pits offer anglers a choice of freshwater fishing, many only minutes from Monroe and West Monroe. Great hunting opportunities are found in the state-owned Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area located east of Monroe as well as along U.S. Highway 80 and 1-20, the Ouachita Wildlife Management.
Areas and the D'Arbonne Wildlife Refuge located on the Ouachita and Union Parish lines. Cheniere Lake, located in the southwest part of the parish and owned by the Parish Government, offers great canoeing and fishing opportunities. Bird watching abounds in the wildlife management areas along the banks of Cheniere Lake and other waterways. There bright Cardinals, Tit Mice, Pileated Woodpeckers and gold finch are often seen.
Ouachita Parish has a population of approximately 150,000. Its area encompasses 611 square miles.
Before there was an established form of government for the state and parish, there existed a police jury to oversee the affairs of area residents. From 1806 to present day, the Ouachita Parish Police jury has significantly changed.
Established by Governor C.C. Claiborne, the 12-member jury was "charged with the duty of visiting in person and appraising the real estates in their said districts at what they regarded as real cash value." Today the jury takes care of roads, drainage, fire departments, parish libraries, health units, jails and correctional facilities.
Four State Senators represent Ouachita Parish;
District 32 (Southern)
District 33 (Northern)
District 34 (Eastern)
District 35 (Western)
Ouachita Parish is represented by six representative districts as defined below;