Why Does Louisiana Have Parishes?

Instead of counties, Louisiana has parishes—it’s the only state in the country with this unique feature. (Alaska, on the other hand, has boroughs instead of counties). The parishes are remnants of a bygone era, as Louisiana was Roman Catholic during both France and Spain’s ruling of the state. The boundaries, or parishes, neatly coincided with the state’s church parishes. This made it a lot easier to discuss regions. Officially, in 1807, the local legislature adopted the “parish” term, and it’s stuck ever since.


Louisiana, like all states, has gone through a lot of changes over the years. However, one mainstay has always been the parishes. There are 64 parishes in total. Of those parishes, 41 are managed by the Police Jury council. The remaining 23 have different types of government, including the council-manager, consolidated parish, parish commission, and president-council.


Parish the Thought


The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 caused the Territory of New Orleans to come into play. This was right before Louisiana became a “state” as we know it, and at that time it was divided into 12 regions. However, the boundaries weren’t very well defined. Still, they loosely resembled some of the parishes of today. By 1811, Louisiana was being prepared for union admission, and the term “parish” officially appeared on US maps in 1816.


Since then, parishes have been added and boundaries better defined. It’s one of the many historic tidbits that make Louisiana so unique.