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History of Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island is rich in history, dating back to around one thousand years B.C. Drawn from afar by the endless supply of seafood found in coastal waters, early inhabitants left their mark on the north side of Dauphin Island by forming “mounds” of discarded clam and oyster shells, parts of which still exist and may be explored today.

One large shell mound and several smaller ones in a serpentine formation exist on the north side of the island, located on Iberville Drive. Although somewhat of a mystery, the Indian shell mounds are similar to those of the Aztec and Mayan cultures, and are a lasting testament of the long-term Native American occupancy of Dauphin Island.

According to legend, the first European to visit this area was Prince Madoc of Wales in 1171. The Island and Mobile Bay were mapped in 1519 by Alonzo Pineda. Over the next century or so, the Island was visited by various exploring nations, some of whom perhaps tried to settle here. When Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville led French explorers to colonize here in 1699, they found numerous skeletons-perhaps the remains of a lost colony- and cried out in horror, “Ah! What a massacre!” They subsequently named the island “Massacre Island”. By 1707, he renamed his fort “Isle Dauphine” and the port “Port Dauphin”.

The island remained a French possession until 1763, in spite of Spanish attacks, and became the capitol of the Louisiana territory. The British captured the island in 1766, only to be seized by the Spanish in 1780. American forces captured the island in 1813 in an effort to prevent the British from using it in the War of 1812. It was not until 1813 that Dauphin Island was truly American.