Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History

History of the Cajuns

Cajuns in the 18th Century
The Seven Ships of 1785
     The story of Acadians exiled in 1758 to France is told in the 1758 Exile page at this site.  They were joined by additional exiles sent to France.  The largest group consisted of over 700 Acadians who came from England in 1763, where they had been detained since being deported to Virginia and forwarded to England.
     Although their ancestry was French, the Acadians in France did not feel that France was their home. After shuffling around in poverty for years, many of them agreed to go to Louisiana when the opportunity arose. After years of preparation, Spain paid for about 1600 Acadians to travel from France to Louisiana, which was now a Spanish colony. Spain wanted settlers in the land to protect against English invasion. In 1785, seven ships brought the Acadians to Louisiana. Once there, there were given free choice of where to go. The earlier Acadian settlers had taken the land along the Mississippi River north of the German Coast.and had formed the Acadian Coast.  But the land along the river was now occupied and they had to look elsewhere to settle.  Most of the 1785 settlers decided to go to the Bayou Lafourche area or along the River towards Baton Rouge. Some went to the Attakapas/Opelousas area.  Some on La Ville de Archangel went north of Baton Rouge, along Bayou des Ecores (present-day Thompson's Creek), though they later moved to Bayou Lafourche.
The First Ship Arrives

     The arrival of almost 1600 Acadians in 1785 made things even more crowded.  Most of the these Acadians had relatives in eastern Acadiana, so they wanted to settle there.  But the land along the Mississippi River was taken.  Navarro had seen the problems with forcing the Acadians to settle places against their will and worked to establish a good relationship with the Acadians.  Evidentally he was successful, as he was chosen as the godfather to Acadian children born on the trip to Louisiana. 
     He set up dormitories and separate hospitals for men and women at present-day Algiers.  The Acadians didn’t want to go to the French hospital in New Orleans.  The hospital was important, because the tough trip and illness were killing them, especially young mothers and the elderly.  He even added orderlies and wet nurses to assist them.
       An established Acadian, Anselme Blanchard, was hired to help settle the 156 Acadians when the first boat (Le Bon Papa) arrived in late July 1785.  He distributed the financial help.  Tools and farm implements were given to them from the royal warehouse.  They were given a month to recuperate before moving on.  During that month, some of them served as scouts ... visiting the area to look for good settlement areas.  Then Navarro rented a number of launches and barges to bring them upriver and they left on August 28, 1785. 
        Most of the group (27 families) settled at Manchac.  But one family settled at Lafourche and six families settled at Bayougoula.  At each settlement, and Acadian overseer arranged for temporary housing with the settlers already there and doled out the land grants ... 4-5 arpents wide each.  Blanchard stayed with them till they got onto their land.  (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 107-8)

Six More Ships

      Acadians from the next 6 ships were settled in a similar manner from Oct. 4, 1785 to Feb. 8, 1786.  The government gave them money and paid for medical help, supplies, and housing.  Each group stayed in New Orleans for about a month to recuperate while representatives scouted for the best place to settle.  They were allowed to go where they chose, even though the commandants at Avoyelles and Arkansas tried to get Navarro to send the Acadians to them. 

     Most of the ships had a fairly successful trip.  The numbers that died and were born just about balanced each other out.  The largest ship, La Ville de Archangel, did have a bit of trouble when it got to Louisiana.  It ran aground at Balize, the outpost at he end of the mouth of the Mississippi River.  They were stuck there for about a month, increasing the number of sick on board.  Food was scarce also.

        The Acadians didn’t even have to stay on the land that the representatives picked out for them (though most of them ... 84% ... did).  Sixty-seven Acadian families from five of the ships joined relatives at Opelousas/Attakapas.  Navarro even gave his blessing to this.  But it was harder to join your relatives in eastern Acadiana, since things were so crowded.   (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 109)

Ship passing the Balize outpost
Ship passing by Balize
        Four of the seven groups headed for the Lafourche.  Most of the rest (34%) headed for Baton Rouge, Manchac, and Bayou des Ecores.  The Lafourche areas was more appealing because it was further away from the English communities; and since the area had few settlers, so finding land and living close to relatives was easier.   The lower part of Bayou Lafourche had only been explored in 1772. 
        After a ship would arrive, weddings (perhaps shipboard romances) took place.  This meant celebration time. These occurred from Nov. 20 to Dec. 19, 1785.  Besides the normal music, food, cider, and beer, they had long speeches recounting their history. (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 110)
        So how many people went where?  Carl Brasseaux added up the numbers on p.111 of  The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux.
People on Board
Settlement Location
How Many Settled There
  Le Bon Papa
  La Bergere
  Le Beaumont
  St. Remi
  La Ville d'Arcangel
  La Caroline
  Baton Rouge
  Bayou des Ecores

Settling In

        They were ready to settle in.  As soon as the Acadians got to Manchac in September, for example, they began building a road along the levee and began building simple huts to live in. 
        But they soon found that living in Louisiana required adjustments ... it was quite different from Acadia.  Many things .. land, geography, crops, climate ... were different.  The assistance of money from the government and the Acadians who had been there since the 1760s made things easier.  For example, Ambroise Theriot bought some Attakapas beef and held a boucherie for the new Manchac Acadians in October 1785.   (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 111)
      Smallpox epidemics in 1786 and 1787 killed a number of the Acadians.  But the new arrivals still had cleared land and build levees by 1788.  They quickly learned to adjust. 
        Clearly, the appeal for the Lafourche area was because it was more removed from the influence of the government and the Creoles.  Younger settlers who had been along the River also headed for Lafourche. 
        In August 1794, a hurricane took away the crops, livestock, and fences of the Bayou des Ecores settlement.  So those families “went to establish themselves at Lafourche.”  (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 112)
     At first (1767), the Acadians had settled only the area just below where the Lafourche joined the Mississippi River.  By the early 1770s, 17+ families (mostly those who had been in Ascension Parish) had moved down the Lafourche ... along the west bank between Labadieville and Donaldsonville.  The east bank was more prone to flooding, and saw few settlers till 1785 when 274 Acadians settled the Valenzuela area. 
       Six hundred Acadians settled the central Lafourche area, between Lafourche Crossing and Labadieville.  The most “Acadian” area was around today’s Napoleonville, where 85% of the settlers were Acadians from France.  Though most of the settlers between Napoleonville and Raceland were Acadians from France, there were many who had been living on the 1st and 2nd Acadian Coasts who had moved to the area (crowded out?). 
      As the population grew on the Acadian Coasts in the 1770s and 1780s, some families (18+) moved down to the lower Lafourche area.  But once the 7 ships arrived, the upper and middle area of Bayou Lafourche was as crowded as the Mississippi ... the most crowded being at Lafourche Crossing, Thibodaux, Labadieville, and Napoleonville.  Most grants were 6 by 40 arpents.  By 1793, the grants went from Donaldsonville to all the way down to Lafourche Crossing, and had started branching out along the Bayou Terrebonne.   (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 113)

The Seven Ships

Le Bon Papa 
   The first ship left France, led by Captain Pelletier, on Tuesday, May 10, 1785. The 280 ton ship made the trip in 80 days, arriving in Louisiana on July 29, 1785. There were 36 families (156 people on board). Three additional families had signed up for the trip, but failed to report at the departure. One child died on the trip. After arriving in New Orleans, the group increased by 12 (3 births, 9 adults) and decreased by 13 (10 died, 3 deserted). There were 38 family groupings when it came time to settle down: 37 of them settled in the area around St. Gabriel along the Mississippi River, and 1 family chose to settled along Bayou Lafourche. 
La Bergere
     There were 73 families (273 people) scheduled to take the 300 ton La Bergere. It left France on Saturday, May 14, 1785 and arrived in Louisiana 93 days later on August 15, 1785. Besides the Acadians, there were five French passengers. On the way,, there were 6 deaths and 7 births.  While in New Orleans (till October 4), the group further increased by 10 (5 births, 5 adults) and decreased by 10 (9 died, 1 deserted). There were also 4 marriage. There were 74 family groupings (268 people) when it came time to settle down: 6 families (23 people) settled at Attakapas, 1 family (3 people) settled in the area around St. Gabriel along the Mississippi River, and the remainder chose to settled along Bayou Lafourche.
Le Beaumont
     The small 180 ton Le Beaumont was led by Captain Daniel and left France on June 11, 1785. They made the trip in only 69 days and arrived in Louisiana on August 19, 1785. There were 51 families (178 people) scheduled for the trip. On the way, there were 2 deaths. While in New Orleans, the group further increased by 7 (1 birth, 6 adults) and decreased by 6 (4 died, 2 deserted). When it came time to settle down: 41 families settled near Baton Rouge, 5 families went to the Attakapas, and 3 families chose to settled along Bayou Lafourche. 
Le Saint Remi
     The Le Saint Remi, a 400 ton ship led by Captain Baudin, left France on Thursday, June 27, 1785.  After 75 days at sea, they arrived on September 10, 1785. There were 325 people on board, along with 16 stowaways for a total of 341.families On the way, there were 15 deaths from scurvy and smallpox. While in New Orleans, the group further increased by 19 (including 8 births) and decreased by 16 deaths. When it came time to settle down: 2 families settled near Galveztown (or New Galvez), 2 families went to the Attakapas, and 85 families chose to settled along Bayou Lafourche. 
     The L'Amitie, a 400 ton ship led by Captain Joseph Beltremieux, left France on August 20, 1785. After 80 days at sea, they arrived on November 8, 1785. There were 270 people in 68 families on board On the way, there were 6 deaths after sickness spread through the ship (though there were no deaths once they got to New Orleans).  The number of families increased to 93 due to 24 additional adults, 10 births, and 17 marriages. When it came time to settle down: 17 families settled near Galveztown (or New Galvez), 3 families went to the Attakapas, and 71 families chose to settled along Bayou Lafourche.  By the way, the ship was also called by its Spanish name, the La Amistad
La Ville d'Archangel
     The La Ville d'Archangel, a large 600 ton ship, left St. Malo, France on August 12, 1785. Upon reaching Balize, an outpost at the mouth of the Mississippi River, it ran aground on November 4. This, and the fact that they had already run out of food, caused a number of passengers to get sick.  Finally the ship made it to New Orleans (after 113 days at sea) on December 3, 1785.  The ship ended up with 60 familes of 299 people. The trip saw 15 deaths and 2 desertions. But there were also 7 marriage, 11 adult additions, and 2 births. This group didn't send most of its people to Lafourche. There were 53 families (271 people) who decided to go to Bayou des Ecores (near Thompson Creek, north of Baton Rouge). One family (7 people) stayed in New Orleans, while 6 families (21 people) decided to go to the Lafouche area. Of course, after a hurricane about a decade later, many of the Bayou des Ecores settlers moved south to join the other Acadians along the Lafourche.
La Caroline
     The La Caroline was a 200 ton ship under the command of Captain Nicolas Baudin. It left France on October 19, 1785 and made the crossing in 64 days. After the 28 families (80 people) were let off, the ship took on a load of wood and headed back to Nantes.  While in New Orleans, the group had 3 births, 2 marriages, and 5 additional adults. There was also 1 death and 1 person deserted. From this group, 6 families went to the Galveztown (or New Galvez) area, and 18 families went to the Lafourche area.
On to: The Acadians Become Established in Louisiana: 1786-1800
Copyright © 1997-09 Tim Hebert