Trails To The Past - Mississippi Fort Maurepas

Fort Maurepas

First established in 1699 by Paul Pierre LeMoyne, sieur d'Iberville. He was looking for a good place to establish a French colony along the Mississippi River. However, due to it's overflow, he was unable to locate a suitable location. Running low on supplies, he found what he felt was an acceptable location on the east side of Biloxi Bay in what is now Ocean Springs.

The fort was also called Fort Bilocci and the camp was called Fort Maurepas. Maps drawn as late as 1710/1725 would label the fort as Fort Bilocci/Fort Biloxi.

The fort was originally built as four sided with bastions housing twelve guns at each corner. A stockaded moat provided additional protection. It also featured a barracks, bakery, warehouses, forge, and a magazine built completely of cut timber.

The fort was started 8 Apr 1699 and completely finished by the end of the month according to d'Iberville's journal. In May, d'Iberville left a small number of workmen and Canadians, including some soldiers and sailors, in total about 100 men, while he returned to France for provisions. He left M. de Sauvolle de la Villantray as governor and de Bienville (his brother) was second in command. Although the purpose was to establish a colony, there were few members of the colony with any experience in sustainable agriculture and the colony never became self-sustaining.

When d'Iberville returned in January with supplies, he also brought instructions to breed the buffalo, search for pearls, evaluate the mulberry bush for possible silk, locate timber for ship building and to seek for mines. Much was done to explore the future state of Mississippi during this time.

In the meantime, the French had established forts and settlements in the Illinois area. Hearing about the new fort in the south, boatloads of Canadians began coming from the north. In the interests of France, d'Iberville was sent north with 20 men to establish fort to protect the copper mines of the Sioux Indians. In his absence, a request came for assistance in exploring the Missouri River. With de la Villantray dead (and many others as well) from yellow fever, de Bienville, with youthful enthusiasm, assisted in the explorations.

In September, members of the Choctaw tribe arrived commanding help in fighting the Chickasaw tribe.

In October, a shallop from Pensacola arrived with news that d'Iberville had arrived there. Bienville was ordered to relocate to the Mobile area, where he established a fort on the west side of the river named Fort of St. Louis de la Mobile. He would later build a new fort on the side of the river where present day Mobile Alabama is called Fort Conde.

In 1702, the fort was abandoned when the capital was moved to the present day Mobile Area. In 1719, the capital was moved back to Old Biloxi from Mobile. Due to hurricanes and shifting sandbars blocking the harbor, the capital was moved across the bay to present day Biloxi. Afterwards, Fort Maurepas was burned and never rebuilt by the French

In 1981, a replica fort was built near the original site (not on the original site as that is now private property). The replica was severely damaged from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The park was rebuilt and rededicated in Oct 2009. However it contains no replica fort, weaponry or any interactive displays. It does contain a statue of d'Iberville.