Ft. Toulouse was a French fort located in the Creek nation at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers in Lower Louisiana and functioned from 1717 until the French left the area after the French and Indian war. There were numerous Indian towns in the area, but other than the French soldiers, their families, and a few traders there were very few whites in the area. The married marines had farmsteads and gardens and they traded with the Indians for a number of things. All things considered the class of people sent from France to populate Louisiana, probably fared better than their counterparts who remained in France. Goods were shipped up from Mobile and New Orleans and down from Illinois on the rivers and there was a land route from the gulf. This post will take a brief look at goods coming into Lower Louisiana.
The Illinois country is one of the finest in the world; it supplies all the lower parts of Louisiana with flower [sic]. Its commerce consists in furs, lead and salt. There are many salt springs that attract the wild oxen, and the roe-bucks, which like the pastures around them very much. Their flesh and tongues are salted, and furnish another branch of commerce to New Orleans; and they cure hams, which equal those of Bayonne. The fruits are as fine as in France. – Bossu, M. Travels through that part of North America Formerly called Louisiana. Vol. I. London.
Salt was as important for preserving food as for seasoning it so having it brought down river was important trade for the inland parts of Lower Louisiana. The Indians were frequently seen in the area because of the salt springs and salt rivulets, “with which it abounds, particularly in the neighborhood of Fort du Quesne”. – Smollett, Tobias. The Critical Review. 1758. London.
Wheat grew better in Illinois than it did in lower Louisiana so there are several accounts of quantities of flour being shipped down river. Du Pratz wrote that wheat, rye, and other grain grew well there and that when flour from France was scarce they shipped down to New Orleans, “upwards of eight hundred thousand weight thereof in one winter”.
Wheat didn’t do as well in Lower Louisiana so much of the bread eaten in that area was made from cornmeal. A small amount of flour was received from France, but most of what was available came from the Illinois area. “In the late wars, New Orleans and the lower parts of Louisiana were supplied with flour, beer, wines, hams and other provisions from this country”. – Pittman, Phillip. The Present State of the European Settlements on the Mississippi. 1770. London.
Du Pratz noted that the French colonists exported to the islands native Appalachean beans, maize, red peas, and cleaned rice, returning with sugar, coffee, rum, etc. – Du Pratz, Le Page. The History of Louisiana and the Western Parts of Virginia and Carolina. London.
The following is a list of common ingredients used in preparing foods during the 18th century with insight into how the items became available between 1717 and 1765 in Lower Louisiana. Combined with locally harvested fruits, vegetables, fish, domestic animals, and wild game French women at Ft. Toulouse could have made almost anything any other 18th century woman could, and probably much more than they could have in France unless they were wealthy.
Not all ingredients were available at all times. Availability of anything not produced locally depended on sporadic shipments from France or traders who brought in whatever items they thought would yield a profit, and what a woman could make during the winter depended on how prudent she’d been in preserving her bounty during the summer and fall. It was crucial that supplies were stored so that vermin couldn’t get to them. Lastly, kitchen gardens needed water to grow and during a hot dry summer watering by hand meant carrying the water in a bucket.
Chickens were valued more for eggs than flesh, but hens don’t lay year round. Cows and goats were valued more for the dairy products, but they don’t produce milk year round. Sheep provided fleece which was used to make warm woolen garments so roasted lamb meant less wool for clothing. Vegetables and fruits are seasonal so unless pickled, dried, or preserved with sugar there were no pies or puddings except for the few weeks they could be picked. Having nuts for winter baking meant gathering them and storing them before the squirrels ate them.
FLOUR. Trade. Brought from France in small sporadic quantities, primarily grown in Upper Louisiana and shipped up from New Orleans and Mobile, or down from Upper Louisiana (Illinois and Canada)
COFFEE. Trade. Various substitutes were produced.
SUGAR. Loaves. Trade.
CORN MEAL. Produced from locally grown corn.
VINEGAR. Produced from any of the many fruits grown in the area.
DAIRY: Cream, Milk, Cheese, Butter: Produced from the many cows in the area.
EGGS: Produced from chickens, ducks, and geese brought from Europe.
HERBS: (Parsley, Basil, Rosemary, Marjoram, Savory, Tarragon, Chervil, Dill, Sage, Chives, Fennel, Lavender, Mint, Oregano, Rue, Thyme) Produced, grown in gardens.
MOLASSES. Primary sweetener in 18th century. Traded.
RICE. Produced, and traded as well.
CITRUS. Grown in Lower Louisiana, probably traded as well.
SPICES. Trade, including trade from the French West Indies.
SOAP. Produced, to a lesser degree traded.
NUTS. Produced, harvested in various areas.
SALT. Produced, and to a smaller degree traded.
CHOCOLATE. Traded, including trade from the French West Indies.
YEAST. Produced – from hops, potatoes, etc.
ROSE-WATER. Produced. Possibly traded.
ORANGE FLOWER WATER. Produced.
ANCHOVIES: Traded. Sometimes a substitute was made from any other small fish and pickled.
WINE OR BRANDY. Produced.