THE COAST 43 M ississippi’s coastal region, a forty-three mile swath of sandy soil and piney woods, was the site of the state’s earliest European settlement. In 1699, the French explorers Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville and his brother Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville, were commissioned by King Louis XIV of France to seek the mouth of the Mississippi River and thus link trade routes from France’s colony in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. France also desired to check English expansions and any additional Spanish developments along the Gulf Coast by establishing permanent French claims. As a result, French presence on the Mississippi Coast began in 1699 in present-day Jackson County with the establishment of Fort Marpeaus on what is now the beach at Ocean Springs. One of the earliest residential settlements dates back to 1715 when Joseph Simon de LaPointe received a land grant from King Louis XIV for a holding on the Pascagoula River. Hugo Ernestus Krebs, La Pointe’s son-in-law, inherited the land in 1751, after marrying Maria Josephine Simon La Pointe in 1741. The exact location of La Pointe’s land grant is unclear, although it was probably in the area of what had been called the Old Spanish Fort for decades and is now officially named the LaPointe-Krebs House. A 1768 map refers to the area where they lived as the Krebs Plantation, a fort-like site consisting of a two-story house, slave cabins, kitchen, warehouse, milk house, forge, pigeon house, and wooden palisades. The LaPointe-Krebs House, built in the 1750s, today has the distinction of being not only the oldest standing structure in the state but also the oldest between the Appalachians and the Rockies. The settlers around the Krebs Plantation began farming and were self-sufficient. Though the land in that area is not ideal for raising cotton, it was indeed planted and harvested as a cash crop. An interesting development of this limited cotton culture was the building of what may have been the world’s first cotton gin. Although most attribute the development of the cotton gin to Eli Whitney in 1793, Hugo Krebs had fashioned a machine in 1772 that could gin approximately eighty pounds of cotton daily. While his machine did not reach national attention, local cotton growers more than likely benefited greatly from it. As early as 1720, the first recorded French ship carpenters, Pierre Gautier and Laurent David, also appeared on the passenger list of La Gironde, a ship from France sailing to the Pascagoula River area and land owned by Antoine Chaumont and his wife, Catherine Barre. From these colonial beginnings, Pascagoula developed into a major shipbuilding community that is still engaged in constructing ships today. French rule ended in 1763 when the French lost all their North America holdings as a result of losing the French and Indian War. England took control of the Mississippi Coast as the spoils of war and called it British West Florida. The British period of rule was of short duration (1763-1780) and ended after they were defeated by the newly formed United SHIP ISLAND Ship Island consists of two barrier islands off the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. East Ship Island and West Ship Island are both part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. In 1969, Hurricane Camille divided the island into two separate islands. Fort Massa- chusetts was built from 1859 to 1866 and is located at West Ship Island. The island served as the only port between Mobile Bay and the Mississippi River. It was used to dock ships carrying explorers, soldiers, and invaders. The following flags have flown over Ship Island: Union, Confederate, Spanish, French, and British. Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, a French explorer, dis- covered Ship Island on February 10, 1699. The island served as a headquarters when explorers discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River. In 1862, the fort was renamed Fort Massachusetts in honor of the Union warship that took over the deserted area. Construction of the fort was suspended in 1866, even though the fort was not completed. The entire island consists of just under two square miles of land. PHOTOS BY GREG CAMPBELL