The Port of Gramercy is located in St. James Parish, Louisiana, some 47 river miles upstream (58 kilometers or 36 miles west-northwest by air) from New Orleans. The Port of Gramercy is also about 80 river miles downstream (65 kilometers or 41 miles southeast by air) from Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capital city. The Port of Gramercy is part of the Mississippi River System. Almost 3900 people lived in the Port of Gramercy at the time of the 2010 US Census.
Before Europeans arrived in the region, the future Port of Gramercy was home to the Houma and Chitimacha Nations. Father de Limoges, a Jesuit missionary, established a chapel and a mission among the Houmas in 1700. The Chitimacha were not so receptive to Christianity as the Houma. In 1706, they murdered Father St. Cosme and two of his companions. The Chitimachas were soon defeated.
The Port of Gramercy was a French and Indian trading post for years before it became a town. Much of the area was purchased by Joseph Delille Dupart, the Commissioner of Indian Nations under the command of French Governor of Louisiana Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, also the founder of New Orleans. The town of Gramercy was not incorporated until 1947.
St. James Parish, the Port of Gramercy's home county, was one of Louisiana's first parishes. Created by the territorial legislature in 1807, St. James is the only place in the world where Perique tobacco is cultivated. The tobacco is highly prized by tobacco companies. Acadian exiles began to settle in the Port of Gramercy region in about 1762.
In 1893, Willis Boyd Johnston created the W.B. Johnston Grain Company in Enid, Oklahoma, to provide seed, grain, hay flour, coal, and livestock to settlers in the Cherokee Strip. The company became a regional giant in the agricultural industry by the early 1900s. Lew Meibergen, a nephew of W.B. Johnston's son, bought the company in 1976.
When the railroads changed their rate structures in the 1980s and changed services from grain to more profitable cargoes, Meibergen contracted for a port facility east of Tulsa on the Verdigris River, calling it the Johnston Barge Terminal, to ship grain by water. Johnston's Ports continued to grow until they had ports in Muskogee in Oklahoma and Chalmette and Gramercy in Louisiana.
Inland waterway shipping has become more profitable. The costs are far less than that of rail transport. Barges are capable of carrying large cargo loads, offering more operational and energy efficiencies that trucking or rail. Johnston's Ports also offers the furthest north ice-free port operation on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River System.