Exile Destination: Louisiana
| Louisiana had long been a French colony.
But after the war with Spain, and subsequent treaty, it was turned over
to Spain. When the first Acadians arrived in April of 1764, Louisiana
was owned by Spain but still retained all of its French culture.
It is usually written that those first arrivals consisted of 20 Acadians who had been in New York
and their relatives recently released from Fort Edwards, Nova Scotia ... but I've found recent evidence that they came from the American colonies. They
were settled along the Mississippi River around the boundary of St. John
and St. James parishes.
In late February of 1765, 193 more Acadians
arrived from Halifax via Saint Domingue. This group had originally
intended to settle at Saint Domingue. When they heard of the troubles
on the island, they altered the plan. They were to go to Saint Domingue
and pick up the Acadians already there. Then they would all head
up the Mississippi River and settle in the Illinois area. When they
arrived at Saint Domingue, they found the Acadians sick, dead, and unable
to afford passage to Louisiana. They had money, or so they thought;
they had 47,000 livres in Canadian card money which would be practically
worthless. [The Saint Domingue Refugees in Louisiana,
Brasseaux, Conrad] So the Halifax Acadians, led by Joseph
Broussard dit Beausoleil, took another ship to Louisiana. When they arrived
in New Orleans, they were seed grain (for 6 months), a gun, and tools with
which to clear the land. They were also led to the Attakapas area
and given land. A former military engineer, Louis Andry, guided them
and helped them to get settled.
At first, it took some getting used to; the
local commander gave them a bad time. They also had to adjust to the semi-tropical
climate. Some died of malaria and yellow fever that first year.
But within a decade, they had made a comfortable home for themselves.
When the Spanish governor Ulloa visited in 1766, they asked him if they
could invite their relatives to join them. They were looking to form
a “New Acadia.” Even though Ulloa gave them a “let’s wait and see” answer,
they went ahead and sent out letters inviting their friends and relatives.
As the letters made their rounds, Acadians
decided to make the trip. At least 689 of the 1050 Acadians in Maryland
and Pennsylvania boarded ships at Chesapeake Bay and sailed to Louisiana.
They were welcomed by authorities and offered land and assistance.
Acadians from Maryland (200 of them) were sent to St. James parish.
A group of 80 Halifax Acadians who arrived late were sent to St. James
in May of 1765. Things seemed okay at that point. But things soon
Acadians that followed were forcibly dispersed.
As Pennsylvania and Maryland Acadians arrived, they were settled according
to the Spanish defense strategy. After May 1766, they were settled
at sites along the Mississippi River at key border points of the English
/ Spanish territory. After all, the Spanish thought, there was no
love lost between the Acadians and the English. They would make a
In July of 1767, 210 Acadians were settled
at St. Gabriel. In February of 1768, 149 new settlers (in 29 families) were sent to
San Luis de Natchez (near Vidalia, LA). They had sailed from Port Tobacco, Maryland on Dec. 17, 1767 aboard the Jane under Capt. Richard Ryder. This forced settlement caused
the Acadians to be upset with Ulloa. In fact, they supported the
removal of Ulloa in the New Orleans rebellion of 1768. The new governor,
O’Reilly, allowed the San Luis de Natchez Acadians to travel to the Acadian
Coast in December of 1769.
From 1768 to 1785, virtually no new Acadian
settlers arrived in Louisiana. Perhaps they were afraid due to the Spanish-Acadian
conflict over settlement areas, or they could have feared the instability
in the area after the 1768 rebellion. It seems one small group of
Acadians made it to Louisiana in 1770. But the next significant arrival
of Acadians would not occur until 1785.
In 1770, 30 Acadians arrived along the Mississippi River below Bayou Plaqueminea. They had been sailing on the Britain and gone through
shipboard starvation, a mutiny, shipwreck, imprisonment, and forced labor
in Texas (which was still Spanish). The made a 420 mile
journey over land to Natchitoches. They didn’t want to stay there,
however, and were allowed to go to the Iberville area (and later to Opelousas).
Meanwhile, letters written by the early Acadian
settlers in Louisiana had reached the Acadians in France. It took
a while to work out things with the Acadians, the French government, and
the Spanish government. When Henri Peyroux returned to France from
Louisiana, he enlisted the help of Acadian Olivier Theriot to encourage
the other Acadians to sign up to travel to Louisiana. Gradually,
more and more Acadians signed on to the idea. In 1785, about 1600
Acadians traveled to Louisiana on seven ships ... courtesy of the Spanish
Upon arriving in New Orleans, they were housed
in converted warehouses until they recuperated. Delegates were sent
out to inspect possible settlement sites. Most of them (84%) went
along with their delegates’ decision, though some settled elsewhere.
Four of the seven groups primarily settled in the Bayou Lafourche area.
Two of the seven groups primarily settled along the Mississippi River south
of Baton Rouge. The seventh group primarily settled along lower Bayou des
Ecores (present-day Thompson’s Creek). When a hurricane washed away
the Bayou des Ecores settlement in 1794, they joined their fellow Acadians
along Bayou Lafourche.
The final group of Acadians arrived in 1788.
A schooner, captained by Joseph Gravois, brought 19 Acadians from St. Pierre
When the 10,000 Saint Domingue refugees arrived
in New Orleans in 1809, there were probably some Acadians in that group.
Since they were forced to stay in New Orleans, any Acadian culture left
in them was merged into the melting pot of New Orleans cultures.
To sum up the Acadian arrivals in Louisiana:
20 came from New York in 1764, about 311 came from Halifax in 1764-65,
about 689 came from Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1766-70, about 1600 came
from France in 1785, and 19 came from St. Pierre in 1788. More came
in over the years, but documentation on their arrival is still being sought.
For more information on the Acadians who settled in Louisiana,
go to the Cajun History and Cajun Genealogy sections.