The three River Parishes, St. Charles, St. John and St. James began to be settled soon after New Orleans was founded.
In 1720, 21 families from Germany settled on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, between the communities of what is now Killona and Taft. They were joined a year later by another 330 German immigrants, brought by John Law’s company to help settle the area.
The settlers faced many difficulties, including swampy land difficult to cultivate, floods and disease. In 1765, the Acadians also settled in the area, mainly upriver in St. James Parish. The Germans and Acadians worked together to farm the area and feed New Orleans.
At the end of the 18th Century, several plantations lined the river in the three parishes, including the Destrehan, Ormond and Home Place plantations.
In 1811, the parishes were the site of largest slave insurrection in U.S. history, led by slave Charlie Deslondes. The German Coast Uprising was short lived, and 96 slaves were gathered and killed in retaliation for killing two whites.
In the early 1900s, the area was extensively harvested for cypress. After oil was discovered in Louisiana in the early 20th century, the Destrehan Plantation was sold to the Mexican Petroleum Company as a site for an oil refinery. Several refineries and oil export terminals followed, which were then followed by chemical companies. Dow, Monsanto, Shell, Motiva, Valero are some of the companies that now operate in the River Parishes.