Blake-Laplace sign

Hey Blake,

Where exactly is "the place" in the town of LaPlace?

Gregory

Dear Gregory,

The town of LaPlace in St. John the Baptist Parish originally was settled by the Chitimacha Indians, then by German immigrants in the early 18th century. It was one of four settlements collectively referred to as the German Coast. One of the other well-known settlements is Des Allemands, which in French means "the Germans."

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You'll notice the capital P in the spelling of LaPlace, but it is actually named for Basile Laplace, whose name had no capital P. Laplace, originally from France, was a pharmacist who came to Louisiana in 1848. In addition to working as a druggist, he was active in the maritime industry and owned a distillery. His Dec. 18, 1884 obituary in The Times-Picayune called him one of the area's "most valued and respected citizens." Laplace also was the manufacturer and purveyor of Laplace's Indian Turnip Pectoral Balm. Made using the Indian turnip root, it was marketed in the 1870s as a remedy for bronchitis, consumption "and generally all cases of inflammation of the respiratory organs."

Laplace also was a sugar planter and had three plantations in St. John the Baptist Parish. His great-niece, Mrs. Henry Clement Pitot, told Times-Picayune columnist Howard Jacobs in 1970 that the present-day location of LaPlace formerly was Laplace's 9,000-acre Eugenia Plantation, established in 1879. In 1883, when a railroad line was being built along the Mississippi River, Laplace gave the right of way, and the railroad stop (and later the town) was named in his honor.

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In February 1971, the St. John the Baptist Parish Police Jury passed a resolution calling for the town's name to be spelled LaPlace. "One juror felt that since most of the business places and public buildings in the parish use a capital P, that's the way it should be spelled," Police Jury President Henry Hymel told The Times-Picayune.

Laplace's descendants asked the council to reconsider. Albert Laplace Dart, Laplace's great-grandson, presented to the police jury 13 documents supporting the family's argument. "Our family is proud of our name and we are proud of the area. We would like our name attached to the town," Dart told police jurors, according to a newspaper account. Dart petitioned Gov. Edwin Edwards for help and sought a public vote on the change, to no avail.