First Acadians in New Acadia: 1764-1784
The First Arrivals
For the first 10 years of the exile (1755-1764),
there is no documentation that Acadians made their way to Louisiana.
In this period, they were still in French Canada, the American colonies,
England, and France. It seems as though they were still anticipating
the return of their homeland. Some tried to return even before the
war was over, but they were often put into "prison camps" near Halifax
or deported again.
There has been some discussion that a few
Acadians made it to Louisiana by land. In Felix Voorhies' book, Acadian
Reminiscenses, he relates the story as told to him that some Acadians
made their way to Louisiana through the Ohio Valley and down the Mississippi
River. A few other families claim that their ancestors made it to Louisiana
before 1764, such as the Moutons, but the documentation has yet to be found
for such a claim.
D'Abbadie, the French officer in charge of
Louisiana, died on Feb. 4,1765. The next highest officer, Capt. Charles
Philippe Aubry, took charge until Spain sent someone. The only money
in use, French paper money, had gone down in value. The French government
wouldn't redeem it at face value. The Acadians would be arriving to find
what paper money they had wasn't being accepted.
The first Acadians to arrive in the Louisiana territory
consisted of 21 people in 4 families who came from Georgia and arrived
in Mobile. The South Carolina Gazette (Jan. 14, 1764) has an entry dated Dec. 22 that says "Yesterday more of the Acadians , in number about 21, went in a vessel for Mobile, from which place they are to go to New-Orleans." On Dec. 21, the Savannah Packet left Savannah for Mobile.
Based on church records, we know that this group included:
Jean Baptiste POIRIER & Madeleine RICHARD, Jean Baptiste (son), Joseph (son)
Jean Baptiste RICHARD & Catherine CORMIER, Jean (son), Joseph (son), Rosalie (daughter)
Jean Baptiste CORMIER & Magdeleine RICHARD, Anastasie (daughter), Marie (daughter), Marguerite (daughter), Marie Anne (daughter), Madeleine (daughter)
Olivier LANDRY & Cecile POIRIER, Jean Antoine (son), Joseph (son), Marie (daughter).
made their way to New Orleans, and were settled along the west bank Mississippi
River (on what was to be called the Acadian Coast) in the first week of April 1764.
In the New Orleans church records of 1764, we find proof of these Acadians in Louisiana in the following 4 entries. [SOURCE: N.O. Sacramental Records, V. 2: 1751-1771]
- Baptism of Jean Antoine LANDRY on feb. 26, 1764 (b. Nov. 13, 1760 to Olivier & Cecile POIRIER), sponsors Antoine OLIVIER & Magdeleine BRAZIER.
- Baptism of Joseph POIRIER on Feb. 26, 1764 (b. June 12, 1762 to Jean & Magdeleine RICHARD), sponsors Antoine OLIVIER (Joseph's grandfather) & Marie CORMIER (Joseph's first cousin on his mother's side).
- Baptism of Joseph RICHARD on Feb. 26, 1764 (b. March 24, 1748? to Jean & Catherine CORMIER), sponsors Jean RICHARD (Joseph's brother) & Magdeline RICHARD (Joseph's aunt)
- Baptism of Jean Baptiste POIRIER on March 1, 1764 (b. May 20, 1760 to Jean & Magdeline RICHARD), sponsors Jean Baptiste DEVILLE DEGOUTIN & Marianne COUTRIE.
by George Rodrigue |Over 1000 Acadians Arrive from 1765
In the final week of February, 1765, 193 Acadians arrived in New Orleans. The record of the baptism of Michel DAROIS on Feb. 19 means they were there by that date.
Led by Joseph Broussard dit
Beausoleil, they were Acadians who had been kept at Halifax. After
sailing to Santo Domingo, they changed ships and sailed for Louisiana.
Though directed to provided them with the bare essentials, Foucault took
pity on them and spent 15,500 livres on food, tools, guns, and construction
material for them. [The Founding of New Acadia,
Brasseaux, p. 74]
The acting governor, Charles Philippe Aubry,
was familiar with their plight, since he had encountered the Acadians a
few years earlier when in New England. He planned to put them on
the right bank of the Mississippi River close to New Orleans. But
the area he chose was covered with hardwood forests and was susceptible
to flooding. Clearing the land and building levees would not allow
them to begin farming. So he allowed them to go to the Attakapas
region. They left sometime after April 17 and were in the Attakapas area by April 24.
| The following year, a decree was made ordering any new Acadian
arrivals to be settled along the Mississippi River. This was the fate, for example, of the 224 Acadians that arrived in New Orleans on Sept. 28, 1766 from Maryland.
Due to a couple
of reasons, Acadian immigration basically ceased in 1768. Over 1000
of them had arrived from 1764 to 1768. It is probably that
a few arrived on various ships in succeeding years. A few even made
it by land. For example, a small group made their way to Louisiana
by way of Texas in 1769 after their ship was blown off course to Texas about the Britannia. The next significant arrival of Acadians
wouldn't come till 1785.
|Acadian Arrivals: 1764-1770
||Halifax -St. Domingue
||Acadian Coast, Attakapas
||Acadian Coast, Attakapas
||San Luis de Natchez
||St. Gabriel, Attakapas
Louisiana History of This Period
|Acadians Settle in the
Attakapas (and Opelousas) Region
South Louisiana, west of the Atchafalaya, was
divided into 2 districts. Named after the Indians of the area, there
were the Attakapas area and the Opelousas area. Each had a military
post as its headquarters. The Attakapas post was around today's St.
Attakapas (named after an Indian tribe ...
the man-eaters ... that had since moved out) had been recently settled
by a few French families from the Mobile area. It encompassed some
or all of present-day parishes Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Mary,
and Vermilion. Crops could be started right away on the prairie lands.
Aubry was also interested in developing cattle farming to provide for New
Orleans. Antoine Bernard Dauterive made a contract with 8 of the
Acadians on April 4 to raise cattle. Dauterive, a retired French
officer, and Edouard Masse had obtained a large land grant in 1760 in the
region. The Acadians would supposed to work for him for 6 years;
in return, they got the land and half of the increase in livestock.
| Joseph Broussard's group was the first Acadians in the area. They were joined by 38 more soon after.
The Acadians were given supplies (salted pork
& beek, rice, hardtack, and flour) to last them for 6 months.
They were also given seed (rice, corn) and farming tools to sustain themselves
in the long run. Military engineer Louis Andry was selected to help
Broussard lead the Acadians to their new home. They traveled
along the waterways to the Bayou Teche and on to the Attakapas area.
Andry was also supposed to lay out a village and set
|the grants (the bigger the family, the larger the grant).
Instead of a central village and surrounding farmland, the Acadians preferred
to put their homes on their farming grants. Although
the Acadians were to have some voice in exactly where they settled, Andry's
decision was to prevail if there was a disagreement. Eventually,
they talked him into giving them the area between Fausse Pointe
(Loreauville) and La Manque (Breaux Bridge). This was to be their
New Acadia. They soon spread out and another group of Acadians settled
in the nearby Opelousas area (at Prairie des Coteaux).
When the Acadians got to Dauterive's land,
located on the east back of Bayou Teche at present-day St. Martinville,
they found that the neighbors considered them trespassers. So, instead
of raising cattle for Dauterive, the Acadians bought some cattle from Jean
Baptiste Grevemberg after going to Fausse Pointe. When they tried
to patent the land, Grevemberg got upset since he considered the land on
the east bank of Bayou Teche between the Vermilion River and Fausse Pointe
as his land. He wrote Governor Aubrey, asking for a patent to the
land he had for 14 years. But the government allowed the Acadians
to stay on the land. (The Founding of New Acadia,
Brasseaux, p. 92)
Just as in Acadia, the Acadians wanted
to select their own lands. They moved up Bayou Teche to the large
westward bend above today’s Parks and settled at an area they called La
Pointe de Repos. But many of these Acadians moved after a bad epidemic
in June 1765. Cote Gelee was settled by March 1766 with 37 Acadians.
This area was between today’s Broussard and Pilette, on the west bank of
Bayou Tortue opposite Dauterive’s new concession, Prairie Vermilion.
La Manque was an area settled by 44 Acadians. La Manque was probably
the area just to the north of the La Pointe area, extending to Francois
LeBeau’s land 2 miles below today’s Breaux Bridge. The Opelousas
Post soon saw the arrival of 32 Acadians. The Post, at that time,
was located on the Bayou Teche below today’s Port Barre. Capt. Jacques
Guillaume Courtableau allowed them to settle at Prairie des Coteaux, and
area on the Teche Ridge ... making up an arc to the east/southeast of today’s
Opelousas. Their farms were spread out, but they remained neighbors
with family and friends. (The Founding of New Acadia,
Brasseaux, p. 94)
|Acadians Settle Along the Mississippi
Although the Acadians related that thousands
of Acadians would like to relocate in Louisiana, such a mass movement never
took place ... due to lack of funds on the part of Acadians in the colonies
or the colonial governments' interference ... or both. Still, more
Acadians continued to arrive.
The first 20 Acadians (in 1764) were apparently
settled at Cabannoce by d’Abbadie. In May, 80 Acadians from Halifax
(and maybe a few from Santo Domingo) were also settled there, though Foucault
notes that he had run out of supplies. They were led by Jean Baptiste Bergeron (dit d'Amboise). Even if he might have wanted
to allow them to join their friends and family at Attakapas, he didn't
have the supplies and boats to send them there. Though he did buy
8,890 livres of supplies from local merchants, he wasn't able to send them
to Attakapas and settled them along the Mississippi River on the right
bank just upriver of the German Coast ... the original area selected for the Acadians. But in the middle
of September (1765), 82 Acadians and the priest (Jean Francois) moved there
to avoid the epidemic. About 300 more Acadians settled along the river by the end of the year.
In March 1766 a decree from the governor
required that future Acadian arrivals be settled along the Mississippi
River. The military engineers would decide where the Acadians were
On Sept. 28, 1766, 224 Acadians arrived from Maryland. Most settled along the river, though some traveled to the Attakapas to join relatives. In 1766, 216 Acadians arrived from Halifax.
There were 406 who arrived from Maryland from 1767 to 1768. Commandant
Joseph Orieta placed one group of Acadians at St. Gabriel. The 47
land grants along the east bank of the Mississippi River went from about
2 ½ miles south of the fort down to 6-8 miles away (near today’s
Ascension/Iberville border). Other Acadians were assigned land along
the river at San Luis de Natchez, reaching a point about 2 ½ miles
south of today’s Vidalia, Louisiana.
The problem with the land
at St. Gabriel was that it was eroding into the River. At San Luis,
the Acadian lands were open to Indian raids and lacked fresh water.
Dysentery was a common problem. But the governor (Ulloa) wouldn’t
let the Acadians at these two places move. This perhaps was one of
the reasons some Acadians joined in the revolt against Ulloa on Oct. 28,
1768. (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux,
In December 1769, O'Reilly allowed the Acadians at San Luis de Natchez move to the Acadian Coast.
The settlement area on the River became known as
the Acadian Coast (in St. James Parish). These first Acadians on the River
were mainly from the Cobequid area. As the population grew, the Acadians
took even more land upriver and a second Acadian Coast was formed (in Ascension
Parish). Most of the Acadians who followed the first group were from
the Minas/Pisiquid area of Acadia.
|Acadians Set Out to Create a New Acadia
For the first few years, things were good and
bad. The Acadians were given land and supplies. But many died of
disease caused by their exile and in becoming acclimated to their new land.
As time went by, they became adjusted to their new land. The Attakapas
Acadians developed ranches. The Mississippi River Acadians developed
As previously mentioned, it is thought that
small numbers of Acadians made their way to Louisiana between 1768 and
1785. Some probably found passage on ships. There is at least
one example of Acadians entering Louisiana by land (though it started out
as a sea trip).
Thirty Acadians sailed from Port Tobacco,
Maryland on the schooner Britain for New Orleans on Jan. 5, 1769.
They got to the mouth of the Mississippi by Feb. 21, but they couldn’t
travel upriver due to heavy fog. A strong east wind blew them to
Matagorda Bay, Texas, where it was seized by the Spanish. The crew
and passengers were arrested as smugglers and had to work at hard labor
in Presidio de La Bahia (today’s Goliad, Texas). When they were released,
they traveled overland to Natchitoches, arriving in late October.
The fellow in charge, Commandant Athanaze Demezieres tried to get them
to stay there, but they convinced him otherwise. The made it to Iberville
Parish, and were given land on the west bank of the Mississippi River by
mid-April. A number of these Acadians later moved to the Opelousas
area. (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux,
The Attakapas and Opelousas Acadians
Most of these first Acadians at Attakapas were
from the Beaubassin area, where they had raised livestock. So the
cattle business was not new to them. They did even better at it in
Louisiana, which had a warmer climate. By 1771, the average Acadiana
in the area had 22 cattle. He also had 6 horses, a luxury they hadn't
known in Acadia. By the end of the century, most Acadian ranches
had increased their holdings of livestock to over 100 head. They
still raised crops, if only to provide vegetables for their meals.
Although the Acadians started bringing cattle
to New Orleans in the 1770s, they were only bringing the cattle of the
larger ranchers. Amant and Pierre Broussard and a group of assistants
started cattle drives to New Orleans along the Old Spanish Trail (down
the Colette Trail, then along Bayou Teche, Bayou Black, Bayou Lafourche,
and to New Orleans). The average drive consisted of 100 to 150 cattle.
By the end of the decade, though, they were able to sell some of their
own stock. As the years went by, and the Acadians' herds shot up
in number, they were able to bring more of their own cattle to New Orleans.
Few Acadians settled the
rougher northwestern prairies. Some went to Prairie Faquetaique (SE
of today’s Eunice) about 1790. Four families (29 people) made their
home from Bayou Des Cannes to Bayou Blaize LeJeune. This was the
furthest west that Acadians would settle in the 1700s. In the early
1800s, 6 well-to-do ranchers from the Vermilion and Carencro areas bought
land (mostly from Attakapas Indians) near today’s Mermentau (along the
Mermentau River) and in lower Plaquemine Brulee (between today’s Crowley
and Estherwood). Also, by 1803 seven Opelousas Acadian families moved
to Bayou Mallet, Bayou Jonas, Bayou Nezpique (near where it joins with
the Mermentau River), and Bayou Des Cannes. (The Founding
of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 100)
COURTAINBLEU by Robert Dafford
| The Prairie des Courteaux
Acadians finally got patents after surveys in 1776 and 1778. But
they were ready to leave, and sold the land to Creole and English settlers.
They moved to Prairie Bellevue, between Bayou Bourbeux on the south to
Bayou Silvain on the north. Prairie Bellevue became the most
crowded settlement in the Opelousas district by 1788. (The
Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 99)
The kids of the Prairie Bellevue Acadians
would move to settle at Plaquemine Brulee and Grand Coteau, on land their
parents had obtained earlier. By 1796, there were 26 families ...
children and grandchildren of the original Acadians ... in the area.
Generally, the Acadians settled in rural
prairies next to other Acadians. But they didn’t stay put.
The typical Acadian family moved at least once before 1785 to gain a larger
piece of land. (The Founding of New Acadia,
Brasseaux, p. 101)
Acadian Settlment Along
the Mississippi River
The Mississippi River Acadians Settle
While the Attakapas Acadians were concentrating
on raising livestock, their emphasis along the Mississippi River was agriculture.
But the type of crops had to change, given their new climate and conditions.
In Acadia, a typical farm in the Minas area consisted of vegetables, oats,
rye, barley, flax, and wheat. In their new land, the main crops were
corn, cotton, and also some rice and tobacco, though a smaller garden of
vegetables was kept for household consumption. But even the types
of vegetables had to change. Turnips and cabbage grown in Acadia
were replaced by different types of beans and peas. Today's okra,
a staple of gumbos, didn't come along until the Africans brought it in
the 1800s. Their fruit trees also changed ... from the apple trees
of Acadia to peach and fig trees in Louisiana. Some farms even grew
One thing that they weren't used to was clearing
forest land. They weren't able to reclaim salt marshes as they did
in Acadia. So they had to learn to clear land. That's not to
say their land wasn't inundated by water from time to time. As a
condition of the land grants, they had to build levees (about 6' high)
and a road along the riverfront. But the occassional flood swamped
their lands. Not everyone kept up their levees. This caused
some of the Acadian Coast residents to move to the drier Attakapas area.
Those who stayed learned to change their farming
methods. In Acadia, plows were scarce. Seeds were sown close
to the surface. But this kind of farming didn't work in Louisiana,
where the rains would wash away the seeds. The Acadians learned that
they had to plow the fields and plant the seeds deeper. This required
Just as the Acadian ranchers of Attakapas
still grew gardens for food, the River Acadians also kept livestock for
food. They took the 7 chickens and 2 cows given to them when they
first arrived and expanded their livestock. They also bought pigs
to raise. In just a few years, most Acadians had at least 2 dozen
pigs and a similar number of chickens.
The average Acadian maintained a small farm.
They were called petits habitants. He made enough to feed
his family. But he only grew enough crops so that money could be
raised to buy items they couldn't grow or make themselves.
Just as the Attakapas Acadians began selling
cattle to New Orleans, the River Acadians sold their produce. But
they also found another market for their goods. The government in
New Orleans had set low prices for goods. The Acadians found that
they could travel to the Manchac and sell to the English at much better
prices (though against the law). They were used to this, as they
had engaged in such illegal trade in old Acadia.
The Revolutionary War
Spain became an ally of the American Colonies
during the American Revolution. The Acadians didn't mind being on
the side of the enemies of England and a number of them joined the Spanish
militia. You can find some of the militia lists at the Cajun
As a result of wartime activities, Galvez
took British West Florida. Needless to say, trading at the Manchac
slacked off at this time! The English were no longer at Manchac,
and the Acadians had to sell their goods at the lower New Orleans prices.