somewhere in Southwest Louisiana

Who are the Acadians?

No one knows exactly where the name of Acadia or Acadian comes from.

It was applied to the peninsula on the eastern coast of Canada now known as Nova Scotia. Whether it was an Indians word or evolved from Arcadia because it was such a pleasant land we do not know.

In any event the Acadians are those French people who settled in Nova Scotia in 605- the first white people to settle on the American Continent north of Mexico (which included Florida).

The earliest settlement n what is now the United States was St. Augustine in 1565.

The oldest settlement in all the territory north of the 30th parallel o latitude was that of Port Royal, now called Annapolis, which was settled in 1605 by Poutrincourt. Poutrincourt brought with him as his Apothecary Louis Hebert, whose father was the apothecary of Catherine de Medici.

This Louis Herbert was the progenitor of the thousands of Hebert's living in Canada and United States today. Soon other colonists were brought over from France. They were mostly peasants from Normandy and from Tourmaline. In the next 30 years several hundred additional families came to Acadie. The descendants of these few families in little more that 100 years numbered 10,000. The land was rich and fertile and they became prosperous and well-to-do.

England had obtained possession of Nova Scotia by the treaty of Utrecht in 713.

At various times her times her governors had attempted to force the French Acadians to take the oath of loyalty to England. The Acadians not only spoke a different language but they were Catholic in religion. Many would not take the oath and claimed themselves "neutrals" -prisoners of war, so to speak.

They were later termed "French Neutrals" by the English in their correspondence. Many Acadians, however, did take the unconditional oath. The governor during this time was Perregrin Hopson, absent from Nova Scotia de to illness and residing in England. Although not officially named governor of Nova Scotia until December 1755, Charles Lawrence appears to have been the catalyst requiring the Acadians to swear allegiance to England.

Correspondence to another to another English official, Monckton, shows that Lawrence planned to deport the Acadians regardless of their decision to either take the oath or ignore it. With reasons only tantamount to a witch hunt, an order was decreed by Judge Jonathan Belcher, in conjunction with Lawrence, and the deportation of all Acadians was executed.

Accordingly, in September 1755, the men were herded in their village churches, arrested, and loaded on board ships waiting in the offing. In this process some of the families were separated

. The soldiers burned the houses, took away their livestock, destroyed the orchards, and lay waste the crops.

Deportations, mass killings, and displacement have been practiced throughout recorded history and, unfortunately, continue to this day.

Yet the deportation of the Acadians and their exile by force has been the subject of song and story. The tale of Evangeline by Longfellow moves us still.

Emile Louvriere has written a famous book in French termed The Tragedy of a People, which won him the DeGoncourt prize for French composition and for excellent in literary expression.

In it he tells the story of the expulsion of the Acadians. There are other books on the subject.

About 7,000 Acadians were deported in the fall of 1755. These Acadian families were placed on ships and sent to various English colonies up and down the Atlantic Coast- Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston.

Some were landed at various ports in the Caribbean. Most of these deportees found their way back to Canada in a few years, while some were lost at sea, and some died from malnutrition and sickness.

However, no Acadians arrived in Louisiana until April 4, 1764. On this date D'Abbadie, the acting governor of the colony, noted in his diary that 20 Acadians had arrived from New York City. There were four families but they had no money as they had paid all of it for their passage down to New Orleans.

(On April 6 D'Abbadie wrote his superior officers in France about the Acadians- for this reason the difference of two days in the date of the arrival of the Acadians has not been understood by some historians.)

After this there continued to arrive in Louisiana from various parts of the country and the Caribbean Islands small groups of Acadians. One of the largest contingents came from Baltimore in 1769.

In 1785 about 2,000 Acadians came from France, where they had lived for a generation. There is known as the "grand migration." This group had gone to England from New England and then removed to St. Malo, France, where they were supported by the French government.

Finally in 1784 arrangements were made with the Spanish government to have them transported to Louisiana. Most of these settled along Bayou Teche or in the Attakapas country. The name of these immigrants and information about them is contained in a book published by the Louisiana State University Press.

From records available, it is probable that no more than 1,000 Acadians had arrived in Louisiana previous to 1784. The total number of Acadians who came here then could not have been more than 3,500. Today their descendents number from 200,000 to 300,000.

Some writers claim that a few Acadians settled in St. James and other parishes in 1756, reaching here overland from Georgia. This is improbable and would have been almost impossible. In the first lace, it was the time of the French and Indian War. This lasted for seven years. Beginning in 1756, it did not end until 1763. During this time the English at war with the French would not have permitted ships to sail down the coast bringing these French Acadian exiles to Louisiana.

The migrants could not have come overland because not only was the war on and Indians on the warpath, but travel overland was practically impossible in those days. The exiles and their families would have had to traverse dense forests through which at that time there were no routes or trails from the Eastern seaboard to the Ohio or Mississippi rivers.

Besides such improbabilities there are no records to prove that any of these people arrived in Louisiana before 1764. There are two sources of records - first, the Catholic Church, and second, the Spanish government, which governed the province of Louisiana at that time. The Acadians were a very religious people and they were careful to record their marriages, baptisms, and deaths.

For instance, in St. James Parish, the first settlers would wait until a priest visited the area when several couples would get married at the same time and children of earlier marriages would be baptized. The Church has no records in any its churches of sacraments administered to any Acadians before 1764.

The Acadians were industrious, kindly, and thrifty people. After arriving in Louisiana they worked hard and it wasn't long before they had gotten back the wealth they had lost by their forced migration. They did so well along the Mississippi River in St. James and Ascension parishes that that section of the country was known as the German Coast in the early part of the 19th century.

Picture taken from:
Cajun Country Guide
by Macon Fry and Julie Posner

Louisiana Almanac
1997-98 Edition
Editor: Milburn Calhoun
Assistant Editor: Jeanne Frois
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