I was reading a description of a poster for the 2012 Gretna Fest, and it said that the town previously had been called Mechanicsham and that the main industry dealt with the railroad. What do you know about this?
The area now called Gretna originally was a grant from the King of Spain to the Ursuline nuns, who eventually sold it.
Years later, it became the property of aristocrat Nicholas Destrehan, who settled some German immigrants on some of his property on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in 1836 and called the settlement Mechanikham (also spelled Mechanicsham). Not too far east, John McDonogh established a village in 1815 and named it McDonoghville, a name that seems to make more sense. When the villages started to grow and merge, the name Mechanicsham was dropped.
One McDonoghville resident was a justice of the peace who was known for accommodating young lovers who had run away from home by marrying them at any hour of the day or night. Lots of young people came to McDonoghville from New Orleans. So many, in fact, that folks jokingly started calling the village "Gretna" after the town of Gretna Green in Scotland, a refuge for young lovers across the border from England.
Eventually the moniker Gretna caught on, and in 1913 it was incorporated under that name along the section of McDonoghville within the Jefferson Parish boundaries.
The area once was a shipping point for plantations, truck farms and dairies. Also of great importance were the railroads — the Southern Pacific, Texas and Pacific, and the Missouri Pacific railroad companies — which established depots on the river. Before the Huey P. Long Bridge was built, barges transported freight and passenger railroad cars across the Mississippi River between Gretna and New Orleans.