Ascension Parish
Ascension Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville
Ascension Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville
Flag of Ascension Parish
Map of Louisiana highlighting Ascension Parish
Location within the U.S. state of Louisiana
Map of the United States highlighting Louisiana
Louisiana's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 30°12′N 90°55′W / 30.2°N 90.91°W / 30.2; -90.91
Country United States
State Louisiana
Founded1807
Named forAscension of Jesus Christ
SeatDonaldsonville
Largest cityPrairieville
Area
 • Total303 sq mi (780 km2)
 • Land290 sq mi (800 km2)
 • Water13 sq mi (30 km2)  3.75%
Population
 (2020)
 • Total126,500
 • Density420/sq mi (160/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional districts2nd, 6th
Websitewww.ascensionparish.net

Ascension Parish (French: Paroisse de l'Ascension, Spanish: Parroquia de Ascensión) is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2020 census, the population was 126,500.[1] Its parish seat is Donaldsonville.[2] The parish was created in 1807.[3] Ascension Parish is part of the Baton Rouge metropolitan statistical area.

Early European settlers of the area that was developed as Ascension and Gonzales were, for the most part, of French and Spanish ancestry. They settled among the Houma Indians who lived in the area.

Among the projects and plans carried out by Luis de Unzaga 'le Conciliateur' while he was governor of Louisiana between 1769 and 1777 was the promotion of new settlements by Europeans, among them were French Acadians and Malaga in the fertile Mississippi region and more specifically in the Unzaga Post or 'Puesto de Unzaga' that he created in 1771 in Pointe Coupee, the parish of Saint Gabriel in 1773 and Fort Manchac in 1776; the Ascension people occupied land at the confluence of the aforementioned European settlements.[4]

During the American Civil War, desertions had been of major concern to the Confederate States Army. Henry Watkins Allen, before he was governor, reported more than eight thousand deserters and draft-dodgers about Bayou Teche. There were some 1,200 deserters in Livingston, St. Tammany, and Ascension parishes.[5]

Planters in Ascension Parish later complained of raids by guerrillas. In 1864, planter W.R. Hodges requested soldiers to protect the planted fields from such attacks. Union soldiers were accused of "wandering about at will, and helping themselves . . . to whatever could be found," explains the historian John D. Winters in his The Civil War in Louisiana (1963).[6]

During the historic 2016 Louisiana Floods, around one-third of all homes in Ascension Parish were flooded. 15,000 homes and businesses took on water, mostly in the Galvez-St. Amant area, prompting a visit to St. Amant by then-presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump.[7][8]

Ascension Parish is one of the 22 parishes that make up Acadiana, the heartland of the Cajun people and their culture. This is exhibited by the prevalence of the French or Cajun French language heard throughout the parish, as well as the many festivals celebrated by its residents, including the Boucherie Festival, Lagniappe Music and Seafood Festival, Crawfish Festival, and the world-famous Jambalaya Festival.[9][10][11][12] The largest city in Ascension Parish, Gonzales, is celebrated as the "Jambalaya Capital of the World".[13]

Law and government

Long a Democratic bastion, since the late 20th century, like much of the rest of the South, Ascension Parish has registered more Republicans and election results have shifted. Since 2000, nearly 14,000 new voters have registered in Ascension Parish, and fewer than 1,000 of those are Democrats.

Democrats still lead in registrants with 28,181; Republicans follow with 16,218. There are also 13,052 "No Party" registrants, as permitted under Louisiana law.

Ascension Parish also had a small number of voters registered as upper case Independents. As of April 2007 there were 31 Libertarian Party members and 33 Reform Party registrants. The total registrants in April 2007 stood at 58,221.[14]

Republican Eddie J. Lambert, an attorney in Gonzales who resides in Prairieville, has represented Ascension Parish in the Louisiana State Senate since 2016. Previously, he was the area state representative from 2004 to 2016.[15] He unseated Juba Diez, the representative from 1976 to 2004.

Joe Sevario, a Prairieville businessman, served in the state Senate for District 18, including Ascension Parish, from 1976 to 1994.

On March 8, 2017, Ascension Parish President Kenneth Paul "Kenny" Matassa (born September 12, 1949), a Republican,[16] along with Olin Glenn Berthelot (born August 1948), a Democratic[17] businessman from Gonzales, faced indictment in an attempted bribery scheme. The pair is charged with encouraging a candidate to withdraw from a local election on November 8, 2016. The grand jury released its true bill to Judge Tess Stromberg of the 23rd Judicial District Court in Ascension, Assumption, and St. James parishes. Among those who testified in the case were Democratic Gonzales City Council member Neal Bourqueat. Matassa and Berthelot allegedly bribed the Democrat A. Wayne Lawson with offers of money and a government job to drop out of the city council race in Division E against Bourque,[18] who nevertheless won reelection with 61 percent of the ballots cast.[19] Matassa and Berthelot turned themselves in to authorities and posted a $5,000 bond. Reports, meanwhile, surfaced of a move before the parish council calling for Matassa to resign. He cannot be forced from the office, however, unless convicted of the crime. Matassa and Berthelot could have received up to two years in state prison either with or without hard time and/or a fine of $2,000.[18] Matassa was instead acquitted in July 2018 of the election bribery allegations and returned to his duties as parish president with a legal cloud lifted from his shoulders.[20]

Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the parish has a total area of 303 square miles (780 km2), of which 290 square miles (750 km2) is land and 13 square miles (34 km2) (4.2%) is water.[21] It is the fourth-smallest parish in Louisiana by total area.

Waterways

Major highways

Adjacent parishes

Communities

Map of Ascension Parish, Louisiana With Municipal Labels
Map of Ascension Parish, Louisiana With Municipal Labels

Cities

Town

Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
18102,219
18203,72868.0%
18305,24640.7%
18406,95132.5%
185010,75254.7%
186011,4846.8%
187011,5770.8%
188016,89545.9%
189019,54515.7%
190024,14223.5%
191023,887−1.1%
192022,155−7.3%
193018,438−16.8%
194021,21515.1%
195022,3875.5%
196027,92724.7%
197037,08632.8%
198050,06835.0%
199058,21416.3%
200076,62731.6%
2010107,21539.9%
2020126,50018.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[22]
1790-1960[23] 1900-1990[24]
1990-2000[25] 2010-2019[26]
Ascension Parish racial composition as of 2020[27]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 79,645 62.96%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 30,296 23.95%
Native American 266 0.21%
Asian 1,681 1.33%
Pacific Islander 32 0.03%
Other/Mixed 4,197 3.32%
Hispanic or Latino 10,383 8.21%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 126,500 people, 44,267 households, and 32,305 families residing in the parish.

Education

Ascension Parish School Board operates the local public schools.

The parish is also home to private schools and — since 1998, to River Parishes Community College.

National Guard

The 922nd Engineer Company (Horizontal), a unit of the 769th Engineer Battalion and the 225th Engineer Brigade. The 1021st Vertical Engineer Company also resides in Gonzales, Louisiana.

Media

Two newspapers are based in Ascension Parish's two cities, Donaldsonville and Gonzales. The Gonzales Weekly Citizen is a bi-weekly newspaper formed after the merger of The Gonzales Weekly (founded 1920) and The Ascension Citizen (founded 1996). The Donaldsonville Chief, founded in 1871, is the parish's longest-continually-published newspaper.

KKAY 1590 AM is headquartered in Donaldsonville on historic Railroad Avenue. It is a local radio station that airs programs from local ministers and churches and about local high school softball and football.

Politics

United States presidential election results for Ascension Parish, Louisiana[28]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 40,687 65.28% 20,399 32.73% 1,239 1.99%
2016 36,143 66.10% 16,476 30.13% 2,059 3.77%
2012 33,856 66.29% 16,349 32.01% 868 1.70%
2008 31,239 67.08% 14,625 31.40% 707 1.52%
2004 24,661 63.07% 13,955 35.69% 484 1.24%
2000 16,818 54.53% 13,385 43.40% 641 2.08%
1996 10,885 37.02% 15,263 51.91% 3,252 11.06%
1992 10,275 37.03% 13,036 46.98% 4,437 15.99%
1988 10,726 46.15% 12,147 52.27% 367 1.58%
1984 11,945 51.55% 11,048 47.68% 177 0.76%
1980 7,238 35.83% 12,381 61.29% 581 2.88%
1976 4,435 31.73% 9,100 65.10% 443 3.17%
1972 5,187 54.48% 3,324 34.91% 1,010 10.61%
1968 1,338 12.69% 3,203 30.37% 6,004 56.94%
1964 3,197 39.59% 4,879 60.41% 0 0.00%
1960 1,012 13.30% 5,689 74.76% 909 11.94%
1956 1,853 40.86% 2,606 57.46% 76 1.68%
1952 1,787 33.22% 3,593 66.78% 0 0.00%
1948 433 14.52% 1,126 37.75% 1,424 47.74%
1944 364 13.71% 2,291 86.29% 0 0.00%
1940 385 13.58% 2,451 86.42% 0 0.00%
1936 350 12.92% 2,359 87.05% 1 0.04%
1932 279 13.42% 1,800 86.58% 0 0.00%
1928 436 23.72% 1,402 76.28% 0 0.00%
1924 277 28.97% 679 71.03% 0 0.00%
1920 496 44.36% 622 55.64% 0 0.00%
1916 106 15.19% 531 76.07% 61 8.74%
1912 64 10.26% 413 66.19% 147 23.56%

See also

References

  1. ^ "QuickFacts: Ascension Parish, Louisiana". United States Census Bureau.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "Ascension Parish". Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
  4. ^ Cazorla, Frank (2019) The governor Louis de Unzaga (1717-1793) Pioneer in the Birth of the United States of America and in Liberalism. Foundation Malaga, pages 48-56, 64-72, 83
  5. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, p. 306
  6. ^ Winters p. 394
  7. ^ "Ascension officials: 15,000 homes, busineses [sic] flooded so far; levee overtopped".
  8. ^ "Donald Trump, Mike Pence meet Louisiana flood victims, tour hard-hit Baton Rouge neighborhoods".
  9. ^ "2021 Boucherie Festival". www.boucheriefestival.com. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  10. ^ "Lagniappe Music & Seafood Festival - Tour Ascension". Archived from the original on February 22, 2019. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  11. ^ https://tourascension.com/events/dreams-come-true-crawfish-festival/[dead link]
  12. ^ "Welcome to the Gonzales Jambalaya Festival Website!". Jambalaya Festival Association. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  13. ^ "JAMBALAYA FESTIVAL | Gonzales Louisiana".
  14. ^ John McMillan, Advocate (Baton Rouge), River Parishes Bureau, April 29, 2007, p. 1B.
  15. ^ "Eddie Lambert's 2011 Seafood Fundraiser". eddielambert.com. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
  16. ^ "Kenneth Matassa, September 1949". Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler. Retrieved March 13, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Olin Berthelot, August 1948". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved March 13, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ a b David Mitchell (March 10, 2017). "Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa, Gonzales businessman indicted in bribery scandal". The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  19. ^ "Official Results: Ascension Parish". Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  20. ^ David Mitchell (July 14, 2018). "Ascension Parish President Kenny Matasse acquitted in bribery trial: 'I believe in the legal system'". The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  21. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  22. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  23. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  24. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  25. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  26. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  27. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  28. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved February 16, 2018.

Further reading

Coordinates: 30°12′N 90°55′W / 30.20°N 90.91°W / 30.20; -90.91