All roads led to Pass Christian
In 1817, Mississippi became a State. Steamboat service was inaugurated between New Orleans and Mobile in 1827. Lighthouses were constructed at the Pass and at Cat Island in 1831. The former Negro slave of the Widow Asmard, Carlos (Charlot Asmard), died in 1835 leaving all of his remaining downtown properties to his heirs. And in the following year, 1836, Louise Livingston sold the vast remainder of the Pass Christian peninsula to John Henderson, et al. With the dissolution of the real estate partnership the following year, Henderson concentrated his holdings to the west end of the peninsula west of the lighthouse to the Bay of St. Louis. He and his descendants became known as the originators for land sales and development of Pass Christian Isles and Henderson Point.
It was with these beginnings during the 1830s, that Pass Christian evolved into a thriving community. This was largely due to its proximity to New Orleans and its participation as a "sister city" in culture as well as in its dynamic spirit. Its first mercantile activity was that of a trading center. The Pass had developed as a small port for local fishermen and arriving boats passing through to other port communities along the Coast between Mobile and New Orleans.
Former coast historian, Ray Thompson, described that, "Long before Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, Mississippi City or Biloxi had hit their stride entertaining coast visitors, this community of Pass Christian was an old established and favorite summer retreat for the cotton and cane planters of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. These planters were the first to build private cottages and second home villas along the four mile stretch of shell roadway that fronted the beach area of Pass Christian."
First Pass Christian inhabitants
Julia de la Brosse, known as the Widow Asmard, operated a cattle and dairy farm on the whole peninsula which she owned since the early 1740s. Her plantation was operated by her slaves and one or two overseers. The nearest other inhabitants were in the DeLisle area, north of Bayou Portage, wherein lived a number of other French land owners who moved there in the mid-1790s. These included the Saucier's, Grelot's, Nicaise's, Moran's, Labats, and other settlers. Jean Baptiste "Martial" Nicaise and Pierre Moran had each married daughters of Nicholas Christian Ladner who had settled at Cat Island in 1748.
Next Owner --- Edward Livingston
Following the widow's death circa 1800, Spanish Captain Bartholemeu Pellerin received a Spanish grant of the widow's lands in 1809. With political turmoil in the area, Pellerin moved his family to New Orleans and sold the entire peninsula to Edward Livingston for $7000.
Republic of West Florida
For 74 days, the Gulf Coast, from Baton Rouge to the Perdido River, had declared their independence from the Spanish following their rebellion in the final months of 1810. The leaders had appealed for annexation by the United States.
In 1811, the Louisiana Territorial Gov. Claiborne charged Capt. Flood with annexing the French settlers along the Gulf Coast as a defense against the British.
Capt. Flood's report :
“Sir, in compliance with your instructions to me, dated New Orleans, January 5, 1811, I embarked on board the felucca Alligator, and proceeded to Simon Favre’s on the eastern bank of Pearl River, and delivered him his commission as justice of the peace in and for the parish of Viloxy (Biloxi), a copy of the civil code of the territory and the law and different acts of the legislature.”
“From Pearl River I proceeded to the Bay of St. Louis and Pass of Christian, where I hoisted the flag of the United States on 9th January, 1811, at 2 o'clock, a.m., filled out a commission as justice of the peace in and for the parish of Viloxy, for Phillipe Saucier, delivered him a copy of the civil code of the Territory, with the laws and different acts of the legislature.”
American troops were sent to Pass Christian and garrisoned atop the high bluffs at Henderson Point. Note: It was most likely at that site where Capt. Flood raised the American Flag when meeting with Phillipe Saucier. (Bluffs that existed there were later flattened and used for fill in the marsh areas with land developments in the 1920s)
During the early 1830s, construction of the first hotel, the Pass Christian, began. Shortly afterwards, appeared the Mansion House, the Sans Souci, the St. Nicholas House, which was exclusively for bachelors, and the Napoleon Hotel; besides several boarding houses and private homes that accommodated guests. Year round commuter service with reliable, inexpensive steamboat connections between New Orleans and Pass Christian encouraged many Orleanians to build homes, resulting in dual citizenship for many.
It wasn't until the 1830s, that some of the Saucier family members and other DeLisle area inhabitants began acquiring lands along the coast in the small growing village of Pass Christian.
In 1839, the post office was established. In 1844, the first Catholic Mission Church was built and replaced nearby in 1851 with a larger church mounted with a high steeple. The Catholic church was followed shortly by other faithful Christians who built the Trinity Episcopal Church in 1849.
It was at the Pass Christian Hotel that the Southern Regatta Club was formed in 1849, which was the precursor to the Southern Yacht Club and the Pass Christian Yacht Club.
When Pass Christian was incorporated in 1848, it was already famous for its gallant and gracious charm and courteous service to its summer guests and residents.
During the summer of 1852, a scholar by the name of Benjamin Wailes recorded his journey throughout the coast of Mississippi. He described that two roads led out of the town.
“The Red Creek Road (crosses the northernmost extension of Menge Avenue at the Wolf River) ran northward following the ridge dividing the Wolf (River) from the Red Creek-Biloxi River System. This was an early farm-to-market trace which brought produce to be sold in the Pass Christian farmer's market.” (Note: The Red Creek Road described here crossed the northernmost extension of Menge Avenue at the Wolf River and continued southwesterly crossing the Portage and Johnson rivers and the lowlands shown in 1849 map at right, proceeding to the Gulf.)
“The other road, was the Pass Christian Road (now called Pass Road)." Initially it was an Indian path following the first coastal terrace inland from the Mississippi Sound traversing Harrison County from the Pass to Biloxi, which was a distance of 25 miles. This became the earliest County Road when established in 1842.
Pass Christian became the largest trading center in Harrison County, exporting many stores and supplies to many World markets. Timber forests of Mississippi pine and very tall cypress were extensive. Much of the early cut timber had been exported to France for construction of their naval fleet. Through the years, kilns were built to produce large quantities of tar and, as a by-product, charcoal. These products were brought in by oxcart to the "Pass" for local consumption, or to be loaded on ships. Pass Christian also developed as a sheep and wool center with sheep herders bringing their stock to local auctions for shearing and export. The Rhodes store, later the VFW hall (now the Palace in the Pass) at Scenic Drive, was where the sheep owners sold their wool to the highest bidders. With the money, the sheep men bought provisions, food, and clothing to take back home with them.
From 1820 to 1865, all roads led to Pass Christian.
Reconstruction, Reversals, and New Horizons
The Civil War completely disrupted Pass Christian’s commerce followed by the construction of the L&N railroad.
After the Civil War, the New Orleans, Mobile and Chattanooga Railroad Company was formed – with regular passenger and freight service having begun on November 21, 1870. Depot stations were built along the route — as new towns took seed and sprouted, Pass Christian became a tourist spa and residential resort — no longer a commercial district.
In 1897, new tracks were laid along the beach front from Biloxi to Pass Christian in providing local and tourist traffic to travel by streetcar while viewing the beauty of the Mississippi Sound. However, since the Beach Avenue residents of the Pass refused obstructions on their beaches, the tracks were diverted to Second Street and stopped at Trinity Church. This mode of travel ended in the late 1920s as automobiles made their emergence.