The City developed around the Mississippi River, the railroad, and the Westwego canal that once connected with the river through locks, Bayou Segnette, and the swamp and marshes south of the city that connected it to the rich wildlife and fishing areas of the Barataria basin. Westwego was founded in 1870 by the Texas and Pacific Railroad when it placed a railroad yard and docks on the Mississippi River just above the canal linking the river to Bayou Segnette, Bayou Lafourche then to the Gulf of Mexico. It grew to eventually incorporate the village of Salaville, Seven Oaks Plantation, Whitehouse Plantation, and surrounding farmland.
No one is quite sure how the town got its name, though Westwego was the location from which the railroad was compensated by the State to build a railroad to the west. Folklore holds that as travelers departed the station they heard the conductor yell "west we go". A railroad engineer, G. W. R. Bayley, first publicized the name in 1873 when he wrote, "The construction of the railroad west of New Orleans was commenced at Westwego, opposite the Western boundary of the city (New Orleans), in the latter part of May 1870."
A large portion of the early residents were fishermen, shrimpers, oystermen, and trappers, the city being on the fastest route for seafood to come from the Gulf and Barataria Basin to the markets of New Orleans. In 1893, a hurricane devastated a small fishing village on Cheniere Caminada, a small barrier island west of Grand Isle, with great loss of life. Many survivors moved their families to Westwego since it was a safer location far from the gulf. The introduction of motorized boats resulted in more residents and further development of marine related businesses.
Many early residents are descendants of the African-American, German, and Italian settlers that resided in the city. The Cheniere Caminada refugees of French heritage were the largest of the population in the city after 1893. It is still possible to hear French spoken among the residents. Their pride of, and concern about, family run deep and is evidenced by their support of family activities and recreational events that abound in Westwego.
Excerpts from Westwego: From Cheniere to Canal - published by Daniel and BeBe Alario.