Prior to the early 1910's the area we know as Kiln or “The Kiln” was referred to as the Jourdan River Community. However, since at least the 1880's, it has been known as Kiln because of the kilns once located there and used for the production of pine tar. By 1913 the name Kiln was firmly established.
The earliest inhabitants of the area were Choctaw and Muskhogean Indians, who lived along the banks of a river (later named the Jourdan) emptying into the Bay of Saint Louis. These tribes hunted, fished, and trapped on this land prior to the settlement by the French who moved into the area in the late 1700's.
The first white settlers in the Kiln Community whom we know by name were Jean Baptiste Nicaize (Necaise) and his family. It is likely they moved from the Wolf River area (De Lisle) to Kiln and acquired the J. B. Necaise claim under a Spanish land grant around 1800 or before. There is a record of a marriage on May 11, 1745, of Jean Baptiste Nicaize to Marie Cathering Miot (Meaut) in the Wolf River area. This record also noted that the father of J. B. Necaise was a native of Paris, France. A daughter, Marie Jeanne, was born to this union on December 22, 1749.
The Jourdan River received its name from Noel Jourdan, an early settler on the river, who had received a Spanish Land Grant at the present site of Diamondhead. He later served as a delegate to the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1817, and he was the first representative of Hancock County in the Mississippi Legislature.
The first census of the area was taken in 1840 by John McCaughan, Enumerator, who before that time was U. S. Custom Collector for the town of Shieldsborough (Bay Saint Louis). Later, he became the first postmaster of Biloxi.
Tar kilns had operated in the Hancock County area to produce naval stores since the days when it was part of British West Florida. During the 1840's the community of Jourdan River had a prosperous business in the production of charcoal, which it sold on the New Orleans market.
The sawmill era began around the time of the Civil War when a sawmill was built on the Jourdan River by Capt. Sam Favre from Mobile, Alabama. He also built a home on the Jourdan River in 1859. Later this house was moved to its present location near Annunciation Catholic Church and is currently owned by one of his descendants. It is considered the oldest house in the Kiln.
Francois Haas from New Orleans built a sawmill on Bayou Talla in the Kiln area. After the Civil War Capt. Favre moved to the Logtown and Napoleon areas, and the Francois Haas sawmill was operated by Elisha Haas and Timothy Herlihy. Later the mill became known as the Herlihy and Haas mill. The next sawmill in Kiln was operated by Emilio Cue, who became the first postmaster at Kiln on January 31, 1887. In 1906 Cue sold his sawmill to Herlihy and Haas.
However, in 1909 W. W. Carre & Co., Ltd., of New Orleans bought the Herlihy and Hass operation. Carre sold the company to the Edward Hines Company who operated the sawmill until it closed in 1933.
During this era there were other industries set up in the Kiln because of water transportation on the Jourdan and the vast virgin forests to the north. Willie Curet operated a shipyard on the Jourdan, Jeremiah Haas operated another shipyard on Bayou Talla, and Savadore Necaise operated a shingle mill. These family names are familiar in the area, and descendants of these men live in Hancock County today. In one of his books, S. G. Thigpen said, “By 1913 Kiln grew into one of the best small towns in the state, and was, for a time, the busiest town between Hattiesburg and New Orleans.” Businesses included a company store, a forty-five room hotel with a reputable restaurant, a small hospital with round-the-clock doctor and nurse, a movie theater, and a drug store. In addition, there were a high school and several churches in the area. The town also boasted a semi-pro baseball team!
The great timber supply brought in another large industry known as naval stores, or the turpentine business. The natural gum was tapped from the living pine trees and manufactured into turpentine and resin by plants called turpentine stills. A large plant was built near Kiln on the Jourdan River. It was owned and opterated by A. J. McLeod. His wife Virginia and their nephew Norton Haas continued its operation into the 1950's. The product was shipped by schooner and later by power boat down the Jourdan to New Orleans and Mobile.
Local legend tells us that with the Stock Mark Crash of 1929 and the Depression of the 1930's, some residents of Kiln resorted to making illegal whiskey. Because of the high quality and ready availability of this whiskey, Kiln became known as the “Moonshine Capital of the World.” Legend also tells that gangster Al Capone purchased a fleet of boats called “rum runners” to transport whiskey to Chicago. These boats smuggled imported foreign liquor from ships anchored beyond the ten-mile territorial limit of the United States. Once acquired, these rum runners dashed into the Bay of Saint Louis and up the Jourdan River to areas near those which later became Darwood on the Jourdan and Holly Bluff Gardens.