St. James is one of the state's nineteen original parishes, created by act of the territorial legislature, March 31, 1807. The original seat of government was the community of St. James, on the west bank of the Mississippi, but this was moved in 1869 to what is now Convent, on the east bank. St. James is part of the Acadian Coast. While it is possible that some Acadians did arrive prior to 1755 and in-between 1755-1764, the first documented group of Acadians [4 families: 20 individuals] arrived in New Orleans in February 1764. The arrival was documented in a letter dated April 6, 1764 from Governor D'Abbadie to his superior in France. They were settled along the Mississippi River in present day St. James.
St. James is renown for its special tradition, Bonfires on the Levee, which takes place every Christmas Eve. Residents build large bonfires along the Mississippi on the levee, and light them all at nightfall. The townsfolk tell its young people that the purpose of this tradition is so Santa Clause can easily see his way down the Mississippi as he is delivering presents.
St. James is the only cultivation site in the world for Perique tobacco, introduced by an Acadian exile, Pierre Chenet, whose nickname was "Perique." It has been produced by his descendants for nearly two centuries (now covering only a 300 acre (1.2 km²) tract) and is in great demand by large tobacco companies.