Calcasieu Parish is part of the Lake Charles, LA Metropolitan Statistical Area with a population of 194,138. It is also located near the Beaumont–Port Arthur (Texas), Lafayette, and Alexandria metropolitan areas.
Calcasieu Parish was created March 24, 1840, from the parish of Saint Landry, one of the original nineteen civil parishes established by the Louisiana Legislature in 1807. The original parish seat was chosen as Comasaque Bluff, that was east of the river and later called Marsh Bayou Bluff. On December 8, 1840, the seat of justice was named Marion. Jacob Ryan was successful, in 1852, in having the parish seat moved from Marion to the east bank of Lake Charles. As the population in this area grew over the years, the original Calcasieu Parish has since been divided into five smaller parishes. The original area of Calcasieu Parish is called Imperial Calcasieu.
The name Calcasieu [p] comes from the Atakapan word, "quelqueshue", meaning "crying eagle". It was originally the name of an Atakapa chief, but became the name given to what was formerly the Rio Hondo River (Rio Stondo or "Deep River"), now the Calcasieu River. The parish then inherited this name.
The early history of the parish dates back to the time of the Spanish occupation of Louisiana, when, in 1797, Jose M. Mora was granted a large tract of land between the Rio Hondo (now Calcasieu River) and the Sabine River, known for years as the "Neutral Strip". The area became a refuge for outlaws and filibusters from Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi. A long in dispute between Spain and the United States, after France had ceded Louisiana to the American government in 1803, was definitively acquired by the United States with the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819. The treaty was formally ratified on February 22, 1821. By an act of Congress, approved on March 3, 1823, this strip of land was attached to the district south of the Red River.
Early settlers to the area included the Ryans, Perkins, LeBleus, Deviers, and Hendersons. Acadian settlers, from the eastern parishes of Louisiana, also emigrated to this area, resulting in a diverse ethnic mix in the population, consisting of Creoles, Acadians, Anglo-Americans, and Indians.
When "Imperial Calcasieu Parish" was created in 1840 from the Parish of Saint Landry, it actually comprised the area of what is now five parishes. On August 24, 1840, six men met to organize as representatives for six wards that later became five parishes. The meeting was held in a private dwelling, that was the rough-hewed home of Arsene LeBleu near present-day Chloe. The first jury men were David Simmons, Alexander Hebert, Michel Pithon, Henry Moss, Rees Perkins, and Thomas M. Williams. They first order of business was the elected officers, a parish clerk, and a set of simple parliamentary rules which would give the president authority to keep the meetings orderly and progressive. The jury adopted all of the laws then in force in Saint Landry Parish. Appointments were made for a parish constable, a parish treasurer, two parish assessors, and an operator of the ferry at Buchanan's crossing. The assessors were given two months and to assess all of the property in the parish and given a salary of $90. On September 14, 1840, a survey was authorized of land known then as Marsh Bayou Bluff for the purpose of establishing a seat of justice and for the erection of a courthouse and jail. On December 8, 1840 it was resolved that the seat of justice be given the name of Marion. In 1843, the Legislature authorized a vote on moving the parish seat, but it was not until 1852, that Jacob Ryan was successful in having the parish seat moved from Marion to the east bank of Lake Charles. This parish seat was incorporated as a town in 1857 as Charleston and was reincorporated in 1868 as Lake Charles. It is located about six miles (10 km) from the original parish seat of Marion, which is now known as Old Town. The name, Lake Charles, perpetuates the memory of one of the first settlers, Charles Sallier, an Italian who took up land in this area at the beginning of the 19th century.
In 1870 Cameron Parish was taken from the south portion of Imperial Calcasieu that remained until 1912, at which time it comprised an area of over , was the largest parish in the state, and for this reason is sometimes called "Imperial Calcasieu". In 1912, the three parishes of Allen, Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis, with a total area of approximately , were formed from the Parish of Calcasieu. Being the last parishes created in Louisiana it is believed to be the reason for the apparent population decline of Calcasieu Parish, between 1910 and 1920, as seen in the censuses for those years.
Older maps as show the Calcasieu to have been called "Bayou Quelqueshue", which means "crying eagle" in English, is said to have been the name of an Attakapas Indian chief who gave a peculiar cry like an eagle as he went into battle.