Jennings, the parish seat of Jefferson Davis Parish, is a city that boomed when oil was discovered nearby in 1901 but that now has a diverse economic base. First settled in 1884 by S.L. Cary, an immigration agent for the Southern Pacific Railway, the town was named for Jennings McComb, the railway engineer in charge of building the lines in southwestern Louisiana. (McComb's last name had already been given to a town in Mississippi.) Many farmers moved to Jennings from the Midwest, and the town was chartered in 1888. Because the 1901 oil well was the first in the state, Jennings is known as the "Cradle of Louisiana Oil."

In 1912, when Imperial Calcasieu Parish was divided, creating Jeff Davis Parish, Jennings was made the seat of government. Today, the parish has a population of about 33,000. In addition to ancestors of the original settlers, the parish includes many Cajuns and African Americans as well as members of the Coushatta (Koasati) Indian tribe. Other towns in the parish include Lake Arthur, Welsh, Elton, and Fenton. For more information, go to The Jeff Davis Parish web site

Tourist Information

General Information. Jennings and Jeff Davis Parish have much to offer tourists who either decide to zip off Interstate 10 for a short visit or want to travel through the area at a more leisurely pace. For more information, contact the Jeff Davis Parish Tourist Information Center; phone (337) 821-5521, or 1-800-264-5521.  The tourism information on the Jeff Davis web site includes a calendar of events.

W.H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum. Located at 311 N. Main St. in Jennings, this unique facility offers visitors a trip back in time to experience what it was like to go to a general store, the mainstay of the retail trade in bygone days. The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday (small admission charge). It contains the contents of the W.H. Tupper General Merchandise Store when the store closed in 1949. All of the merchandise was kept by the owners and ultimately donated to the City of Jennings, which established the museum. Everything is displayed just as it was in such establishments earlier in the century. Many of the 10,000 items are in their original unopened packaging and display cases: school supplies, fashions, tools, auto parts, hardware, medicines, and toys. The toy collection includes a Kewpie Doll, antique checkers, a wind-up version of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy, and wind-up dolls of Popeye doing a jig and Olive Oyl playing an accordion. When the Tupper Store was in operation north of Jennings, Coushatta Indians used to trade pine needle baskets for food and other merchandise. Indian baskets are on display in the museum. None of the store's treasures is for sale, but souvenirs can be purchased at an adjacent gift shop. Other crafts and antique shops are also located nearby. For more information, go to the museum's web site.

Louisiana Telephone Pioneer Museum. Located in the same building as the Tupper Museum, the Telephone Museum features 10 exhibits, including hundreds of pieces of equipment, tools, and telephones spanning more than 100 years. The Telephone Pioneers of America is a volunteer service organization formed in 1911 to promote the ideals of early telephone workers: loyalty, friendship, and service. The Louisiana chapter has 14,000 members.
Zigler Museum. The museum, located at 411 Clara St. in Jennings, was created in 1963 by the late Mrs. Ruth B. Zigler, widow of Fred B. Zigler, a Jennings industrialist and philanthropist. The museum includes colorful and realistic dioramas of wildlife found in Southwest Louisiana. The permanent collection features works by a variety of European and American artists. A rotating exhibit displays works by Louisiana artists. During the Christmas season, the museum features Christmas trees and other decorations. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sundays (closed Mondays and on major holidays, nominal admission, children free). For more information, phone (337) 824-0114.
Oil and Gas Park and "Chateau des Cocodries." The park, located at Jennings exit 64 on Interstate 10, is the site of the Visitors' Information Center (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, literature available Saturdays, phone 1-800-264-5521. The center is patterned after an early Acadian home. In addition to a replica of an oil derrick commemorating the first discovery of oil in Louisiana, the park offers visitors a chance to view an exhibit of live alligators. Alligator feeding time (June-August) is 1:30 p.m. Mondays. The exhibit, which includes an air-conditioned viewing area, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Admission is free. The park has picnic facilities and a duck pond, so it is an excellent stop for families traveling along the interstate.

Lacasign.jpg (5909 bytes)Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge. Located southwest of Lake Arthur, the 33,000-acre Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge offers visitors a chance to see a large freshwater marsh that is home to various wetland animals and to thousands of wintering ducks and geese.  Hunting and fishing are permitted at designated times. The headquarters is open 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. weekdays at 209 Nature Road, Lake Arthur, LA 70549; phone (337) 774-5923. The refuge is included in the Great Outdoor Recreation Pages.  Further into Cameron Parish, you can see alligators along the mile-long nature trail in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge . For details on the Lacassine, Sabine, and other refuges. go to the Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

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Lake Arthur. Just ten minutes south of Jennings, Lake Arthur has a beautiful lakeside park with a beach and a boardwalk. The lake is a favorite among sailboaters, and there is a fenced off swimming area.

Coushatta Indians. The Coushatta Indian reservation, located north of the town of Elton, has a restaurant, gift shop, gas station, convenience store, and numerous administrative buildings. The gift shop has examples of beautiful long-leaf pine needle baskets for which the Coushatta Indians are nationally known, as well as tee-shirts, videos, books, and many other items of interest.

Economic Development

Jennings and Jeff Davis Parish are strongly committed to economic development. For specific information, contact the Jeff Davis Parish Economic Development and Tourist Commission.

The nearest colleges are LSUE (about 30 miles away) and McNeese State University (about 35 miles away). The Morgan Smith Campus of Louisiana Technical College in Jennings is part of a statewide system of vocational-technical schools.

In addition to other means of transportation, waterways are particularly important to Jeff Davis Parish. The Mermentau River forms the east boundary of the parish. The river moves south into Lake Arthur connecting with the Intracoastal Canal. Along the river are two port authorities, the Port of Mermentau and the Jennings Navigational District. The Mermentau River is the lifeline of the shipyards and oil refineries located on its shores.


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These pages were established and maintained by David Simpson, who retired from LSUE in 2009.