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Striped awnings shade the porch at Mary Ellen Dunn's Gretna cottage. The home, in the same family since it was built in 1895, is featured on the Gretna Historical Society tour Sunday, April 23.

Cheryl Gerber

Founded because of their location on the river, and developed by ferry and train service, the towns of Gretna and Westwego and surrounding communities have always been closely linked to New Orleans.

Just upriver from Algiers, John McDonogh founded McDonoghville as a residential farming community in 1836. Mechanikham was settled upriver from McDonoghville in the same year by Nicholas Desterehan, and in 1838 Gretna was founded by the St. Mary’s Market Steam Ferry Company and settled largely by Germans. Gretna became the seat of Jefferson Parish in 1884 and in 1913, Gretna’s boundaries were expanded to include McDonoghville and Mechanickham.

Gretna is home to the David Crockett Seam Fire Company No. 1, the nation’s longest continually operating volunteer fire department, which started in 1841.

The area around Westwego developed as a fishing community because of its location on Bayou Segnette, which for years was connected to the Mississippi River with locks. Several plantations originally existed on the land, and one of them was subdivided by Pablo Sala, who sold many of the lots to survivors of the 1893 hurricane that destroyed Cheniere Caminada.

Westwego itself was formally founded in 1870 by the Texas and Pacific Railroad. The town reportedly got its name because as passengers left the rail station, the conductor would yell “west we go.” Westwego eventually encompassed Salaville and the other communities that were developed on the former plantations.