The front facade of the W. H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum, circa 2008
|Motto: "Cradle of Louisiana Oil"|
|Elevation||26 ft (7.9 m)|
|Area||10.3 sq mi (26.7 km2)|
|- land||10.2 sq mi (26 km2)|
|- water||0.04 sq mi (0 km2), 0.39%|
|- summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|Website: City of Jennings, Louisiana|
Jennings is a small city in and the parish seat of Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, United States, near Lake Charles. The population was 10,383 at the 2010 census, a small decline from the 2000 tabulation. The city is 68 percent white.
Jennings is the principal city of the Jennings Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Jefferson Davis Parish. It is also part of the larger Lake Charles-Jennings Combined Statistical Area.
The first settler was A. D. McFarlain, who came from St. Mary Parish, in 1881. McFarlain was the community's first rice grower, merchant, postmaster, brick maker, and builder. McFarlain prospered with Jennings' growth and later became one of the town's most prominent businessmen and civic leaders. He opened a store in Jennings in 1881.
The Jennings area was settled by Anglo wheat farmers of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and other Midwestern states. The new settlers of southwest Louisiana were referred to as "Yankees" by the natives. The Cajuns gave appreciable aid to the settlers in homesteading and homemaking. The people grew rice, cotton, sweet potatoes and corn.
Sylvester L. Cary, who arrived on February 7, 1883 from Iowa and known as the town's "father", stated he was "seeking a home where there was neither winter or mortgages." So impressed was "Father" Cary by the attractiveness of the country around Jennings that he felt impelled to share his findings with others. The conviction resulted in his entering upon the second phase of his great adventure, that of bringing fellow Midwesterners to southwest Louisiana. He began to write letters to his friends in Iowa, extolling the advantages of the countryside surrounding Jennings. When he returned to Iowa to remove his family to their newly acquired home, he successfully persuaded several neighbors, preparing to migrate west, to take advantage of the opportunities he had discovered in Jennings and southwest Louisiana.
Much of southwest Louisiana was developed by the North American Land and Timber Co. Seaman A. Knapp, president of the Iowa State College of Agriculture, was engaged in 1885 to demonstrate the suitability of the region for rice production. Knapp attracted a number of Iowans to settle the area. The settlers were lured to this area by advertisements published in newspapers in the midwestern states.
By 1900, Jennings was incorporated as a municipality. In 1901, a fire destroyed a large portion of Jennings. However, that same year, Jennings was the location of the first oil well and oil field in the state of Louisiana. Oil brought a boom to the town but this was only a peak in its continuous growth. When oil production declined, the basic agricultural economy kept the town prosperous.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.3 square miles (27 km2), of which 10.2 square miles (26 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) (0.19%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,986 people, 4,090 households, and 2,875 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,072.6 people per square mile (414.2/km ). There were 4,541 housing units at an average density of 443.4 per square mile (171.2/km ). The racial makeup of the city was 70.42% White, 28.00% African American, 0.37% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.22% from other races, and 0.70% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.92% of the population.
There were 4,090 households out of which 34.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.1% were married couples living together, 18.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.7% were non-families. 26.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.16.
In the city the population was spread out with 28.8% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 87.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $24,410, and the median income for a family was $30,783. Males had a median income of $26,630 versus $19,010 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,357. About 22.4% of families and 26.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.3% of those under the age of 18 and 18.1% of those ages 65 or older.
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Jefferson Davis Parish Public Schools operates public schools serving Jennings. The schools serving Jennings, all within the city, include Ward Elementary School (PK-2), Jennings Elementary School (3-6), and Jennings High School (7-12) .
Jefferson Davis Parish Library operates the Headquarters Branch at 118 West Plaquemine Street in Jennings. In addition the City of Jennings operates the Jennings Carnegie Public Library at 303 North Cary Avenue.