Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History

History of the Cajuns

Cajuns in the 18th Century
The Acadians Become Established in Louisiana: 1786-1800

The Last Acadian Migration

      Though a small group arrived by boat in 1788, the Acadian migration had ended.  The schooner Brigite left St. Pierre on Oct. 16, 1788.  The vessel with 19 Acadians was captained by Joseph Gravois.  Most (17) of the group were his relatives.  They arrived at Pass a L'Outre on Dec. 11, 1788.  After securing a passport from a Spanish official (Ygnacio Balderas), they sailed up to New Orleans.  The group consisted of Anne Marguerite Babin, Charles Babin, Francois Laurent Babin, Marie LeBlanc Babin, Mathurin Babin, Pierre Moise Babin, Victoire Babin, Jean Baptiste Boudrot, Madeleine Bourg, Jean Frederic Gravois, Jean Hubert Gravois, Joseph Gravois, Madeleine Blanche Gravois, Marguerite Angelique Gravois, Marie Felicite Gravois, Marie Susanne Gravois, Marie Tharsille Gravois, and Victoire Gravois. They eventually joined their relatives in today’s Ascension Parish (the second Acadian Coast). (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 105, 208)
     By 1790, pretty much all of the Acadians who came to Louisiana were settled in, though some Acadians were probably in the group that migrated to Louisiana when 10,000 refugees escaped St. Domingue in 1809.   The largest communities were in Attakapas, Opelousas, the Acadian Coast, and Bayou Lafourche.  Smaller groups were found in a few areas.  There were also small pockets of Acadians in the cities (ie. New Orleans, Baton Rouge), along smaller bayous, and in other settlements. 

The French Revolution and Louisiana

     The French Revolution (circa 1789), though across the ocean, was felt in Louisiana.  When Louis XVI was beheaded, Spain declared war on France.  Rumors of rebellion started in Louisiana.  So Carondelet issued a proclamation that people couldn't read aloud or discuss the French Revolution.  To do so meant a fine or imprisonment at Morro Castle.  He force 70 people to leave Louisiana and sent 6 leaders to prison.  He reorganized the military and repaired fortifications around the city.  He build boats to patrol the Mississippi River.  A long letter from the French in France was published in Philadelphia and smuggled to Louisiana.  It was titled "The Freemen of France to their brothers in Louisiana: 2nd year of the French Republic" and urged Louisiana colonists to rebel against Spain.   Carondelet encouraged French to come from France, hoping the horror stories they brought would discourage the sympathizers in the colony.  [Eakin, Culbertson: p. 159-160] 
     The Acadians, by this point, were staying out of it.  Their heritage was French.  But France hadn't really helped them during the Exile period.  Spain, on the other hand, had given them a chance to build a New Acadia.  There is no evidence that Acadians took part in any activities caused by the French Revolution.

Spreading Out
     In the 1780s, people began moving further down the bayous.  Most movement had been restricted by the government since the 1760s.  But they were running out of room.  Once a father died, his land was divided up.  After a generation or two, the land for a descendant's family was a very narrow strip.  So they looked elsewhere for land, which was available along more remote bayous and prairies. 
     This movement continued and increased throughout the 1790s.  Settlements were becoming more common in lower Lafourche and along smaller bayous of the area.  Four families settled along the Attakapas Canal between 1793 and 1803.  A couple of other families (from the 1785 group) went to Bayou Boeuf.  Seven families made their way to the settle along Bayou Terrebonne.   In the west, Acadians had pretty much filled the areas along the major bayous.  So they headed for prairie land, and often stopped at the first waterway with available land.  (The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 113)
LIFE IN A NEW LAND by George Rodrigue
by George Rodrigue

In 1798, Father Bernardo Deva reported that the parish of the Assumption at Valenzuela had 2075 people the previous year (1145 men, 930 women). He noted that 11 pesos should be received from the pew rent, but the church has a need for everything (including more priests since the territory now occupied 25 leagues).

One particular move occurred with the group that had headed "north", and settled above Baton Rouge at Bayou des Ecores (today's Thompson's Creek).  In August 1794, a hurricane destroyed the crops, animals, and fences of the settlement.  Rather than try to rebuild their community, they migrated down to Bayou Lafourche to live, joining family and friends.  There was still land available in central and lower Lafourche.  (PPC, 209:356, Anselme Blanchard to Carondelet)
     One final development of note deals with sugar cane.  In 1795, Jean Étienne Boré, who had a plantation near New Orleans, developed a process of refining sugar by boiling the cane juice until it reached the granulation point.  Up till this time, cotton had been the major cash crop.  The final years of the 1700s saw a marked increase in sugar cane crops.

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