Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History
Acadian History | Acadian Genealogy | Cajun History | Cajun Genealogy
MAIN PAGE | "How To" Book | Article Index
| CMALinksHébert Website

History of the Cajuns
Cajuns in the 18th Century
The 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 20 people in 4 families who came from New York and arrived in Mobile.  Based on church records, we know that this group included: Joseph BLANCHARD, Jean POIRIER/Madeleine BLANCHARD, Firmin GIROIR, Joseph GUILBEAU, Charles MOUTON, Charles SAVOIE, and Francis SAVOIE.  They made their way to New Orleans, and eventually settled along the Mississippi River on what was to be called the Acadian Coast. 

Over 1000 Acadians Arrive from 1765 to 1768

     In the final week of February, 1765, almost 200 Acadians arrived in New Orleans.  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]

FIRST CAJUNS by George Rodrigue
by George Rodrigue
     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. The following year, a decree was made ordering any new Acadian arrivals to be settled along the Mississippi River.  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 1770.  The next significant arrival of Acadians wouldn't come till 1785. 

Background: Non-Acadian 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. Martinville.
     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. 

     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 
BAYOU TECHE by Robert Dafford
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 River

     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.  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. 
      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 to go. 
      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, p. 102-3)

    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 farms.

     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, p. 104) 

The Attakapas and Opelousas Acadians Settle In

     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.

COURTAINBLEU by Robert Dafford
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. 
        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)
      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 In

     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 grapes.
     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 more oxen. 
     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 Genealogy section.
     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.

On to: The Seven Ships of 1785

God Bless.

Cajuns in the 18th Century   •  Cajuns in the 19th Century  • Cajuns in the 20th Century  •••  Encyclopedia of Cajun Life

God Bless.

Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History
Acadian History | Acadian Genealogy | Cajun History | Cajun Genealogy
MAIN PAGE | "How To" Book | Article Index
| CMALinksHébert Website

The artwork by Robert Dafford is placed at this web site by his permission.
The artwork by Nelson Surette is placed at this web site by permission of Chez Surette Art®.
The artwork by Claude Picard is placed at this web site by his permission.
The artwork by George Rodrigue is placed at this web site by his permission.
 Thanks to these talented gentlemen for allowing me to share their work.

Copyright © 1997-99 Tim Hebert


Background: Non-Acadian Louisiana History of This Period  [Return to the Cajun History text]

     This is an abbreviated version of the historical happenings in Louisiana while the Acadians were getting established in Louisiana.  The new Spanish governor Ulloa finally arrived, with 90 soldiers, on March 5, 1766.  But Ulloa left N.O., without even taking down the French flag, and Aubry was still basically in charge.  [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 137]
     Ulloa was told by Spain to allow Louisiana to stay as French as possible.  He and Aubry visited the interior settlements.  Then Ulloa went to Balize in September and "governed" from there.  He started making rules that upset the locals ... such as only Spanish ships could be used in commerce and trade was restricted to Spanish ports (so no French wine, etc.)    He and Aubry signed a deal in 1767 that they would rule jointly (until Spanish troops could arrive).  He married down in Balize and ingnored the New Orleans social crowd, which upset them.  [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 138-9]
     Finally the native population were tired of Ulloa and his rules and a revolt took place on October 28, 1768.  About 400 people (including some from the Acadian and German Coasts) assembled.  Ulloa took refuge on a ship in the harbor.  Aubry's troops refused to fight against the crowd.  They made up a petition and sent it to Spain protesting Ulloa's actions.   Ulloa left for Havana.  Another petition was sent to France that October.  The series of acts that year were referred to as the Revolution of 1768. [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 141-2]
     It's thought that the Acadian participation in the revolt is one of the things that stopped Acadian immigration into Louisiana.  Also, the forced settlement pattern, which didn't allow the Acadians to settle where they wanted to, is believed to have had a hand in stopping the immigration.
     Alejandro O'Reilly arrived at Balize on August 17, 1769 with 24 ships and over 2000 men.  He brought Don Luis de Unzaga with him to be governor when he left.  O'Reilly, a great general in Europe, had orders to stop the rebellion.  The colony was officially transferred by Aubry to O'Reilly in a ceremony on 8/18/1769.  The leaders of the rebellion were put on trial.  Some were executed, some put in prison.   The French hated "Bloody O'Reilly" as they called him.  He changed the govt. from French to Spanish.  He visited the interior to survey the land and people.   He had surveyors map out property lines.  He issued a land ordinace on 2/18/1770.  Each newly arriving family would get 6-8 arpents of frontland (by 40 arpents in depth) on a river or bayou.  The grantee had 3 years to build a levee and drainage ditches, to clear the front 2 arpents deep, and to build a fence around the cleared land.  A road behind the levee with bridges over the ditches had to be built.  They couldn't sell it for 3 years.  Some areas (Opelousas, Attakapas) could get larger grants for cattle raising.  Cattle had to be branded before 18 months old.  All wild cattle were killed by July 1, 1771.  He also had a census taken.  The Louisian colony had 13, 538 people ... 3,190 of them in New Orleans.   He divided Louisiana into 21 parishes.  And he moved the authority over the Louisiana Catholic church from Canada to the bishop of Santiago de Cuba. [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 143-8]
     O'Reilly made Unzaga governor on Dec. 1, 1769 and left for Spain on Oct. 29 of the following year.  Unzaga, an old man, married a French woman.  He was easier on the colonists.  He let them "go to the Manchac" (trade with the English).  Paper money was replaced by hard money.   He left in 1776.  Galvez, commander of the Spanish troops, became governor in 1777.  [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 149-51]
     During the American Revolution, Galvez assisted the Americans.  France joined Spain in 1779 as an ally to the colonists.  Galvez took some British forts (Ft. Bute, Fort New Richmond, Fort Panmure) in 1779, 1780 (Fort Charlotte, Mobile), 1781 (Fort George, Pensacola).  [Eakin, Culbertson.   Because of his victory, Spain got the Floridas when peace was made in 1783.  A total of 1,582 Canary Islanders arrived by 1779.  The 1784 census showed an LA population of 32,114 (probably LA and the Floridas).  A 1778 royal decree encouraged settlers to come to LA.  The head of each family got 5 arpents fronting a stream.  He could own as far back as he could clear.  He also got 1 bushel of corn for each adult and 1/2 a bushel for each child for the first year.  Each family also got an axe, a hoe, a scythe or sickle, a spade, 10 hens and a cock, and a 2 month old pig.  Trade was easier under Galvez ... ie. with the French West Indies and France.  [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 152-4]
     The very successful and well-liked Galvez left in 1784 to become viceroy of Mexico, but died in 1786 at age 38.  Don Estevan Miro became governor in 1784.  Americans (who were mostly Protestant) were allowed to settle the Florida parishes and not convert to Catholicism.  But in the rest of the colony, settlers had to pledge allegiance to Spain and practice Catholicism. [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 155]
     A 1788 census found 43,111 residents (19,945 blacks), most living around N.O.  N.O. was a busy port town.  About 40 boats were docked at any one time.  But the city was dirty, with sewage floating into the streets after a rain.  The town was infested with insects and reptiles.  A big fire destroyed much of N.O. (856 buildings) in about 5 hours on Good Friday, March 21, 1788.  Over 1000 people were homeless.  It started in a private chapel in the home of the treasurer of the colony (Vicente Jose Nunez) when a lit candle fell against some lace draperies.  Miro became favored when he supplied tents and food to those in need.  The richest man in the colony, Don Andres Almonester helped replace the buildings ... featuring Spanish architecture of course.  [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 156]
     Miro also gained favor with colonists when he turned back Father Antonio de Sedella, who was sent from Spain to hold Inquisition hearings (... so no Inquisition in LA).  Miro also allowed trade with Americans.  He also sought good relations with the Indians.  Old and tired, Miro was allowed to return home in 1791.  He was replaced by Carondelet, who came from San Salvador, on Dec. 30, 1791.  [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 158]

Return to the Cajun History text