The moss-draped oaks standing atop its natural ridges served as silent witnesses to the prowess of these mighty warriors, who lived on the bayou's lower reaches. Standing at the threshold of the vast pairie region, one wonders if the Halifax Acadians came upon any of the recent arrivals in this part of the colony. Moving from the river settlements above New Orleans to the Poste des Opelousas, the Allibamonts , as their French neighbors called them, were the first substantial group of colonists to settle on the prairies.
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They, too, if water levels had permitted, would have endured the winding journey through the Atchafalaya Basin. Having reached the Opelousas country, Lieutenant Andry would have led the Acadians south down the dun-colored Teche. Perhaps the grasslands emanating from the bayou in all directions reminded some of them of the wide stretches of marsh and prairie back in their native Chignecto.
But the climate here was so different--so warm, so wet. The rains came hard, obscuring everything around them, hurrying along the current of the sluggish stream.
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As at Chignecto and Minas in the old country, they could see the dark gray clouds forming across the prairies hours before the rain came pouring down. It reminded them of rain falling upon the Bay of Fundy or the tossing Atlantic, at first so seemingly far away and then suddenly upon them, hard, cool, refreshing. The great live oaks with their long gray beards of moss were not the only flora they had never seen. Thick clumps of palmetto covered the ground along the edge of the swamps.
Sturdy bald cypress, draped in moss, with their peculiar "knees," stood magnificently above even the oaks and the other great trees. They had seen much wildlife since they left New Orleans, that smelly little city they were glad to put behind them. Some of the wildlife was familiar--deer, turkey, bear, waterfowl of every description--but much of it they had never seen before.
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There were raccoons back in Acadia, those troublesome creatures, but there were no opossums or other strange mammals they were finding here, no tropical birds like the ones they were seeing, roosting and flying in such amazing numbers. There were many more snakes here, some of them deadly, Andry no doubt pointed out. But the most fantastical--and dangerous--creature of them all was the slow-moving alligator, whose narrow yellow eyes promised them a warm reception if they came too close. The swamp had been full of them, but they also had seen them along the banks of the Mississippi, and there were plenty of them here, basking in the shade along the muddy banks.
If the Indians ate them, they would eat them, too. It may have been on this journey that they were introduced to the wriggly red swamp crawfish, which would have looked to these northerners like stunted lobsters. Again, if the Indians ate them, they would eat them, too.
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They kept a constant look out for the local Indians, wondering if they resembled the Mi'kmaq back home. The place where they were going bore the name of the local Natives. They were heading down to Attakapas to make a new life for themselves, but they probably saw no actual Atakapa on their journey down. Here, at the present site of St. Amid stately live oaks draped in Spanish moss, one of which would figure prominently in their descendants' collective memory, the Acadians must have contrasted this exotic place with their beloved homes back in Acadie.
Some had lived at Minas with its complex of dykes and marshland watched over by distant Blomidon.
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None of these places back in old Acadie resembled this place in any way. Aubry's instructions to Andry had insisted the Acadians "reside in the village," that is, Poste des Attakapas, "and cultivate outlying lands in the European tradition," but, Carl Brasseaux tells us, "it is apparent that the settlers prevailed upon the colonial engineer to establish them on widely separated parcels of land Such a figure would have reminded the old resistance fighters of their glory days back in Acadie. After passing the homestead of Jean-Baptiste Grevemberg dit Flammand, another major cattle producer in the area, the Acadians came to a place called presqu'ile , the peninsula, also called la fausse pointe , the false or fake point, near present-day Loreauville.
Donald J. Arceneaux proposes that, in the beginning, these "camps" likely were clusters of dwellings occupied by extended family groups, which allowed the exiles to assist one another during the difficult months of adjustment to this strange new wilderness. Many of them, after all, were the aboiteaux builders of the Fundy shore.
The practice of related families first living together in a strange, unfamiliar, subtropical environment would be advantageous. Family cohesion, mutual assistance, and group protection, epecially in time of crisis, would be better assured. Food gathering skills and other new survival knowledge could be shared easily. Once camp members selected undeveloped personal property, workers of a camp could go to each other's parcels, where they could together help build more permanent shelters and also clear, plow, plant, and cultivate the gound that each had claimed.
Morbihan, named for a region in Brittany, France, stands south-southwest of Loreauville and well below it at the northeast edge of today's New Iberia. No longer visible, the waterfall's base was made of clay, not stone, the latter substance entirely absent from the surface of the soil along the Teche. This small stream, with a short portage at its upper, or southern, end, would have served as a shortcut across the oxbow peninsula and may have been originally called Bayou des Tortues.
Arceneaux insists that each of these "initial" settlements, not just Camp Beausoleil, lay on both banks of the bayou along the arc of Fausse Pointe. Happily, perhaps miraculously, a description of Acadian life during these first days on Bayou Teche has survived the test of time. A person who wants to devote himself to property and make an effort will be comfortably off in a few years. It is an immense country; you can come here boldly with my dear mother and all the other Acadian families.
They will always be better off than in France In truth, the Attakapas dwellings, at first, were nothing more than crude huts that would have to suffice until they had the time and the wherewithal to build more substantial structures. There were six plows that worked; we had to break in the oxen and travel fifteen leagues to get horses. Finally, we had the finest harvest We are hoping for a very fine harvest this year, with God's help, having cleared a great deal of land," he reassured his father.
But their Herculean efforts came at a price. The rigors of travel, adjustment to a new climate, and the hard work required to prepare their new homesteads took its toll on the colonists. The infant was only six days old when she passed. Even worse, an epidemic, perhaps of smallpox, typhoid, or malaria, struck the settlement in early summer and raged through the autumn. Joseph Dugas was buried on July Marie Dugas , wife of Mathurin Landry , died probably from complications of childbirth and was buried on July Brigitte Breau , widow of Charles Thibodeau , was buried on August 5.
The same was true of Paul Josset , who was buried on August Marianne, three-month-old daughter of Jean-Baptiste Bergeron , died on August Anselme-Joseph Godin dit Bellefontaine was buried on September 2. Jean Dugas , another Dauterive signer, age 53, was buried on September 5, a month and a half after his wife died. Marguerite Thibodeau , age 60, wife of Alexandre Broussard dit Beausoleil, was buried at dernier camp d'en bas on September 5.
Isidore, 6-week-old son of Mathurin Landry , died on September 9.
Alexandre Broussard dit Beausoleil, age 66, one of the oldest in the party, was buried at dernier camp d'en bas on September 18, less than two weeks after his wife Marguerite had passed. Madeleine Dugas was buried on October 6. Joseph Dugas was buried on October Sylvain Breau , age 52, was buried at dernier camp d'en bas on October 12, the same day his wife Isabelle Darois , age 66, was buried.
Joseph, month-old son of Jean-Baptiste Bergeron , was buried on October the second child of Joseph and his wife Catherine Caissie buried in less than two months. Michel, fils , nine-month-old son of Michel Bernard , was buried on October Isabelle LeBlanc , wife of Victor Broussard , was buried on October 29, nine days after her father-in-law was laid to rest.
Jean-Baptiste Bergeron , age 35, he who had buried two children, a father, and a cousin since the end of August, was buried on November 2. Marie-Marthe, month-old daughter of Michel Doucet , was laid to rest on November Brasseaux also notes that at least 32 Acadians also fled the epidemic by heading back up the Teche, where they found refuge on an unoccupied ridge of the upper bayou at the eastern end of the Opelousas District.
By the end of September, while the epidemic on the Teche still raged, Director-General Aubry could write to the Minister of Marine: "We have every hope that in a very short time these settlements will become quite large, even though several Acadian leaders have died of extreme fatigue and heat. Like their cousins on the lower Mississippi, these prairie Acadians settled atop the natural levees on long-lot Spanish land grants facing the water.
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Among the other early settlers in the Attakapas District was a family from eastern Louisiana, today's Alabama, who settled on the Teche near where the Acadians established their "initial" settlements. Antoine Bonin dit Dauphine of Grenoble, France, for reasons of his own, preferred to live at Fausse Pointe on the lower Teche rather than among his fellow Allibamonts from the garrison at Fort Toulouse who settled on Bayou Courtableau in the Opelousas district.
At the time, the huge Opelousas region was inhabited only by a hand full of Indian traders and cattlemen, the most prominent being the family of Jacques-Guillaume Courtableau of Biloxi. This changed in late and early , when French authorities at New Orleans opened the prairie districts to large-scale colonization.
These colonists were mostly former French troupes de la marine who had refused to live under British rule. In late October of that year, Louisiana's Director-General d'Abbadie had gone to Mobile to supervise the transference of the area to British rule. The British tried to entice the Frenchmen to remain, but the effort failed miserably. Some of the troupes de la marine who had served at Mobile and in the frontier forts above Mobile Bay were family men who were eligible for retirement on half-pay.
Some families from the Alabama posts were now in their second and even third generations there. Rather than remain in a province ruled by the hated British, they chose to migrate to western Louisiana. In mid-January, many of them followed d'Abbadie back to New Orleans. Some of them honored the director-general's wishes and settled on the Upper German Coast, where, in February and March, he granted them land in present-day St.
John the Baptist Parish. A year later, t hese immigrants from the upper Mississippi also chose to remain in the colony despite its cession to Spain. Some, like Guillory and Rivard, were among the oldest names in the colony. During the two months between the arrival of the Broussard party in late February and its movement to Attakapas in late April, these nine families evidently joined the larger party, if they had not already been a part of it.
At least two of the wives were pregnant:. Michel Comeau of Chepoudy, age 31, came with very pregnant wife Marie-Madeleine Girouard , age 28, and son Jean, age 5. Charles Comeau of Chepoudy, age 23, came with wife Anastasie Savoie , age 21, and no children. Joseph's younger brother Michel, age 24, still a bachelor, also was a member of the party. Pierre's younger brother Victor, age 18 and a bachelor, also was a member of the party. Paul Savoie of Chepoudy, age 24, a bachelor, came alone.
These Acadians, too, celebrated a birth and mourned a death during their odyssey to the New Acadia.
Just as sadly, wife Anne-Marie reached the prairies with only two of their children. One of the youngest family heads, Joseph Cormier of Chignecto, was only age Their daughter Susanne had been born on Georges Island, Halifax, and was just a toddler when the family reached Louisiana. Accompanying Joseph and Marguerite was Joseph's younger brother Michel, still a bachelor, who may have been pining for Marguerite's sister, Anne dite Nanette, widow of Basil Babin.
He had known her on Georges Island, but, sadly for him, she had not yet come to the colony. The Cormier brothers were first cousins of Jean-Baptiste Cormier , fils of the Broussard party who would reunite with his parents and sisters at Cabahannocer on the trip up to Bayou Plaquemine. The brothers, anxious to see their uncle and aunt and five female cousins who they also had not seen for over a decade, likely visited their relatives at Cabahannocer before moving on to the prairies.
Teche-bound Pierre Richard , a nephew of the Cormier brothers' aunt, Madeleine Richard , and of Madeleine's brother, Jean-Baptiste, who also had settled at Cabanhannocer, would have had good reason to linger there, too.