Discovery & Settlement

At approximately 295 square miles, St. Charles Parish is one of Louisiana's smaller communities. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in a vast, rich history. Created on March 31, 1807, St. Charles Parish was one of the original 19 civil parishes of the Orleans territory. The community was named in honor of Saint Charles Borromeo, who died in 1584.

Although the lower Mississippi River was discovered by the French and explored by the Spanish, it was German settlers who chose to call the parish home. Pierre Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville explored Bayou Manchac and lakes Maurepas and Ponchartrain in 1699.  The river shores and Lake Ponchartrain were well known to the French, but there were no records of permanent French settlements within the territory as late as 1715.

It was about this time that events in Europe were unfolding - events that would eventually shape the future of St. Charles Parish. Antoine Crozat, a merchant, was given exclusive trading rights in Louisiana in 1712. The move was an attempt by the French government to exploit the area. Crozat would transfer his trading rights to John Law, a Scottish economist and promoter who was living in Paris.

Before long, Law launched an unscrupulous plan to colonize Louisiana through a corporation titled the Mississippi Company. Two years later, the company suffered financial disaster. Although Law's scheme fell short of the grandeur he envisioned, it did attract thousands of settlers to Louisiana. A group of pioneering Germans formed the first permanent settlement in St. Charles Parish.

The Parish's First Lawman Arrives on the Scene

Karl Freiderick D'Arensbourg arrived in the new world in 1719 after he learned of the collapse of John Law's company. He settled in St. Charles Parish at the urging of Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville.

For the first 40 years of his residence, D'Arensbourg served as commandant and judge for the German Coast. In effect, he was the parish's first law enforcement officer. British troops would add to the parish's population around 1760, driving thousands of Acadians from their homes in Nova Scotia to Louisiana. Some found their way to St. Charles Parish, making their home among the Germans.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 officially declared Louisiana a part of the United States. Finally, St. Charles Parish could fly the American flag. Since the German Coast's discovery by the Spanish in 1542, it had thrived under three national flags.

Scope of the Top Lawman's Job Defined

In 1807, when St. Charles Parish officially took shape, Gov. William C.C. Claiborne outlined the officers of the community. Among the lead roles was that of parish judge.

The judge held all the powers granted to the clerk, sheriff, coroner, and treasurer. The judge, parish justices of the peace, and jury (12 property owners from the community) formed the governing body of the parish. Together, they were the policy-makers and administrative body of the parish in matters of police, taxation, and internal improvements.

The Louisiana legislature added the office of sheriff in 1810. Appointed to serve a three-year term, the sheriff was also to serve as ex-officio tax collector for the parish. A constitutional provision approved by the Legislature in 1845 changed the sheriff's job to an elected post.

Unlike sheriffs in other states, Louisiana sheriffs are responsible for enforcing all laws, providing patrol and investigations, operating the parish's correctional center, and collecting all taxes - property and inheritance.

Past Sheriffs of St. Charles Parish:

Noel St. Martin 1854 - 1862
Louis Ranson 5-21-1866 to 6-7-1866
Victor Laurent 6-8-1866 to 7-13-1868
M. Morgans 7-14-1868 to 8-15-1871
J.G. Badenhouser 8-16-1871 to 8-24-1871
M. Morgans 8-25-1871 to 12-17-1872
George Essex 12-18-1872 to 9-30-1878
Owen McLeran 10-1-1878 to 11-4-1878
Clement Colly 11-5-1878 to 4-20-1880
B. Similion LaBranicke 4-21-1880 to 4-22-1883
Ernest Lafitte 4-23-1883 to 9-7-1883
T.T. Baudoin 9-8-1883 to 4-21-1884
* Lewis Ory 4-22-1884 to 1-27-1903 *
Anthony Madere 1-28-1903 to 4-15-1912
J.S. Paterson 4-26-1912 to 4-17-1916
Leon C. Vial 4-18-1916 to 3-28-1939
Marie Keller Vial 3-28-1939 to 4-17-1940
Ralph Dubroca 4-18-1940 to 4-17-1944
Leon C. Vial Jr. 4-18-1944 to 3-2-1964
John O. St. Amant 3-3-1964 to 6-30-1972
Julius B. Sellers, Jr. 7-1-1972 to 6-8-1976
John O. St. Amant 6-9-1976 to 11-29-1979
Herbert LeRay 11-30-1979 to 6-30-1980
Charles C. Wilson 7-1-1980 to 6-30-1984
Johnny Marino 7-1-1984 to 6-30-1996
Greg Champagne 7-1-1996 to present

* Killed in the line of duty

For more recent historical and demographic information, visit our About St. Charles Parish page.