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 Mouton brothers stake claim in Vermilionville: Part 6
By Alice Ferguson 
Editor's note: Having found a permanent homeland in southwestern Louisiana, Acadian refugees from
Nova Scotia were not content to sit back and squander their energies. Part Six of The Advertiser's
series on the settlement of Acadiana tracks growth as the refugees and their children spread out from
St. Martinville to establish new towns, ranches and business ventures. They were particularly
successful in and around Vermilionville, now known as Lafayette. 

     Early visitors to the "large plantation of Jean Mouton" known as Vermilionville found a genteel lifestyle of
cattle ranching, religious activities and graceful Southern entertaining.
     Would they ever have guessed that Anne Bastoroche Mouton and her children, including Jean, spent 10
days in the forests of Nova Scotia, hiding from the English and surviving on roots and berries?
     Anne and Salvator Mouton's son Marin, according to Louisiana: A Guide to the State, was spared that
hardship; he wasn't born until after the family had made its escape to Louisiana. The brothers Jean and
Marin, along with Andrew Martin, cleared away the first bits of forest to open up settlement in the area
they called Vermilionville.
     It was the missionary Pere Michael Bernard Barriere who provided the first written account of life in
Vermilionille, the Guide states. Like their Acadian neigh-bors in St. Martinville, the Mou-tons and others in
the area enjoyed a peaceful, prosperous lifestyle in La Nouvelle Acadie.
     And for the Moutons, political power was theirs as well. L'Oncle dit Chapeau Jean - known so for his
fondness of hats - fathered Alexandre Mouton, who became the first Democratic governor of Louisiana.
He also was elected to the U.S. Senate.
     The other branch of the Mouton family - called the Capuchin Moutons because forefather Marin preferred
a homespun cap to his brother's hats - also prospered in the area.
     But Jean was the undisputed patriarch. He was instrumental in having Vermilionville named as the parish
seat in 1824, and donated land for the courthouse and the area's first Catholic church. He, his brothers and
his sons are still recognized as Lafayette's true forefathers.
     Another Mouton, Alfred, was also active in Vermilionville's early history. A West Point graduate, he was
hired by area cattle ranchers to help them fend off rustlers, as the Guide notes:
     "Cattle raising (was) jeopardized ... by a highly organized band of cattle thieves. Ruin threatened the
Acadian ranchers when the rustlers grew so bold they began to corral entire herds in day light. The bandits
were largely 'foreigners.' Numbered among them were wild young sons of Acadian families, attracted by
easy money and adventure."
     Alfred Mouton, though, apparently felt his Acadian people had had enough adventure in the New World,
and set out to put a stop to his cousins' marauding. With help from some 4,000 "vigilantes" and a
large-sized cannon, the Guide states, he managed to disband the bandits. About 200 were captured. The
leaders ended up swinging from trees, but the Acadian participants got off with only a lashing and a promise
to improve their behavior.
     The Moutons and other residents of Vermilionville had their share of sickness and death, as did the St.
Martinville Acadians. Two separate outbreaks of yellow fever, and then the Civil War, tested the spirit of
Vermilionville's founding families. (which became Lafayette in 1884). As usual, they weathered the storm
and, after the railroad came in 1881, flourished even more.
     They spread out to New Iberia, which by the census of 1788 already had 190 residents. Canary Islanders
were attracted to the area by the rich prospect of flax and hemp farming, and later raised cattle after the
example of their Vermilionville neighbors. Like most area towns, New Iberia suffered from epidemics of
yellow fever. During the bout of it in 1839, many were saved by the homespun medicines of the slave
named Felicite.
     Other parties of settlers left the newly established towns at St. Martinville, Vermilionville and New Iberia to
seek a place of their own. John Hays settled at Avery Island in 1791, and the town of Washington was
established in 1800. Arnaudville was next, establistied in 1807.
     As author Bob Hamm wrote in What is a Cajun, "a Cajun can work as hard and as long as any living man.
He carved out Acadiana by hand from the swamp and marshes and uncultivated prairies."
     And they weren't about to stop with just a few. More towns and parishes were yet to come, the Guide
recounts, to provide space, homes and prosperity for the sons and daughters of the refugees from Acadia.

© 1994 Lafayette Daily Advertiser [July 10, 1994]