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Arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana

The book Acadian Miracle by Dudley J. LeBlanc, pgs. 311ff, discusses the possibility that some Acadians may have arrived in present-day St. James and Ascension Parishes prior to 1755; and some shortly thereafter from South Carolina and Georgia. Dr. Jacqueline K. Voohries in Some Late Eighteenth Century Louisianans, pages 421 - 422 has a Census of Acadian Farmers Living Around Fort Toulouse in 1758. This was interpreted by some to be Fort Toulouse, Alabama. Stephen A. White, noted Historian and Genealogist at the University of Moncton, New Brunswick has determined that the year 1758 in the section entitled Census of Acadian Farmers Living Around Fort Toulouse 1758 was actually about 1716; and, it was Fort Toulouse, Cape Breton. The material was inadvertently filed in the 1758 section of the microfilmed records. There is also a Mouton family legend that Salvador Mouton settled the St. James area in 1756. This legend is clearly disputed by the fact that Salvador was in prison in Halifax in 1763 and didn't arrive in Louisiana until 1765! While there were Houma Indians living in the area of St. James and Ascension around 1755, Ms. Lillian C. Bourgeois in her book Cabanocey, pgs. 8-9 states that the first persons to develop the area were Jacques Cantrelle and his son-in-law, Nicholas Verret who had plantations in the area prior to 1763. They had slaves working the land, and didn't move there until some time between October 7, 1764 and April 4, 1765. Their families moved after the April 1, 1766 census. 

While it is possible that some Acadians did arrive prior to 1755 and in-between 1755-1764, the first documented group of Acadians [4 families: 20 individuals] arrived in New Orleans in February 1764 from New York after a brief stop in Mobile, Alabama where Jean Poirier and Magdeleine Richard were married on January 22, 1764.  The arrival was documented in a letter dated April 6, 1764 from Governor D'Abbadie to his superior in France.  They were settled along the Mississippi River in present day St. James in the area of the vacant lands between Verret's plantation and Jacquelin's cow ranch. [Source for location: pages 60 (map), 64 & 68-69 of Vacherie by Elton Oubre]. Note: The early census records use the terms "left bank" and "right bank" of the Mississippi River instead of East Bank and West Bank.  This has caused some confusion and some location errors because most persons use North when thinking about East [right] and West [left]. The direction for rivers, however, is based upon the direction it is flowing.  The Mississippi flows south toward the mouth below New Orleans so the Left Bank was East and the Right Bank was West!   The 1764 group was followed in late February 1765 by a group of about 200 Acadian refugees from detention camps at Halifax via St. Domingue [Haiti] led by Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil.  The arrival of this group was reported in a letter dated February 25, 1765 by Aubry  [The Acadian Miracle by Dudley J. LeBlanc, p. 318] which read in part:

"Two hundred Acadian men, women and children, repelled by the climate of San Domingo, have just disembarked here and will actually die from want if they do not receive succor..."

This group wanted to go to the Upper Mississippi Valley (Illinois) but they were sent to the Attakapas District - later St. Martin County & Parish that was eventually divided into 5 parishes - see map.  In a joint letter dated April 30, 1765, Aubry and Foucault wrote to Choiseul-Stainville:"...We have the honor of informing you of the arrival of several Acadian families from Saint-Domingue.  Since their arrival, others have come.  Notwithstanding seven or eight who have died, they constitute 231 person.  More are expected. We were able to convince them to settle in the districts of Opelousas and Attakapas, and they have departed...." [Brasseaux, Quest for the Promised Land, pgs. 43-45] Note: Pages 44-45 of the April 30, 1765 letter raises the issue of Card Money in the sum of 33, 395 livres, 15 sols [the amount was shown as 18 sols in a March 8, 1766 letter - see below]. See List of 32 members of the Broussard Group who exchanged card money.Note that the April 30, 1765 letter states that "others have come" which explains the discrepancy in some books re the number of Acadians that arrived in February 1765.Eighty [80] Halifax Acadians arrived on May 4, 1765 via St. Domingue and 48 families arrived from St. Domingue on May 13, 1765. The placement of the May 1765 Acadians isn't specifically resolved in the correspondence.  Foucault indicated in a letter dated May 13, 1765 that "...there is nothing easier than to give them land in the areas where the other Acadians have already settled.  However, how can we prepare them for the trip? [Brasseaux "Quest For the Promised Land" p. 48].  It is possible that this group was sent to Opelousas, but they could also have remained in New Orleans and gone to Cabanocé with the Acadians who arrived in June, August and September 1765. In a joint letter dated September 30, 1765, Aubry and Foucault stated that "...Some families are in Attakapas and Opelousas and others are on the right bank [of the Mississippi River] above the Des Allemands District..." [Brasseaux, Quest for the Promised Land, p. 52]One of the May or June, 1765 arrivals was Rose LeBlanc, the widow of Raphael Broussard, a son of Joseph Broussard dit Beausoliel.  She became the first Acadian Religious in Louisiana.  Three other Acadian women entered the Ursulines between 1766 - 1768.  See the Louisiana's First Acadian Religious page for the details. Note: An Acadian was a co-founder of the American Sisters of Charity Order in Baltimore, MD and became the First Acadian Mother Superior when she succeeded Mother Elizabeth Seton - see the  Rose Landry White [LeBlanc] page.Additional Acadians arrived between June-November, 1765. A Report on Paper Money Held by Acadians dated March 8, 1766 [Brasseaux, Quest for the Promised Land, p. 54] Original source: AGI, Audiencia de Santo Domingo, 2585: non-paginated] reads in part:

From one Broussard [Joseph Broussard dit Beausoliel], leader of the first group [of Acadians] to reach this colony, composed of 58 families, the sum of 33, 395 livres, 18 sols, divided equally among the said 58 families...From one Bergeron [Jean Baptiste], the sum of 47,076 livres, 19 sols, 6 deniers, belongiong to 73 families, some of whom arrived in June 1765 and the remainder of whom will arrive at the first opportunity... [Note: Jean Baptiste was married to Marguerite Bernard - the family is on the April 9, 1766 Census of Cabanocey]From one Lachausée, 27044 livres, 7 sols, 8 deniers, belonging to 37 families, some of whom reached this colony in various ships - in August, September, October and November - and the remainder will arrive shortly. . These arrivals were placed in Cabanocey [St. James] and Ascension Parish. 

[Note: Lachausee was Philippe Lachausee, a French Physician, was married to Francoise Gaudin who died before October 5, 1766 when he married Rosalie Bourgeois, widow of Pierre Gravois]

In mid-Sept. 1765, 82 Acadians along with their Pastor, Fr. Jean-Francois went to Cabanocey from Attakapas to flee the Teche region's raging malarial or yellow fever epidemic.  [Dr. Carl Brasseaux on p. 102 in "The Founding of New Acadia"].  On September 28, 1766, 224 men, women and children [150 in the last two categories] arrived at Belize on an English sloop.  They had left Maryland on June 26, 1766.  Fourteen died during the voyage and three more died at Belize.  Three were born on the trip and two died since their arrival. [Letter from Ulloa to Grimaldi dated Sept. 29, 1766] [Brasseaux, Quest for the Promised Land, pgs. 77-78]. In a letter dated November 18, 1766, Foucault stated that  216 Acadians had arrived about a month and a half ago from Halifax  on a boat chartered at their own expense. [Letter from Foucault to Praslin, dated November 18, 1766] [Brasseaux, Quest for the Promised Land, p. 80] . This was the same group of 224 that arrived from Maryland - Foucault incorrectly stated Halifax.The Spanish Governor, Ulloa decided in May 1766 to assign subsequent arrivals to strategic sites along the Mississippi River to aid in the Colonial defense.  On July 12, 1767, 211 Acadians (about 50 families) who had left Baltimore, MD in April, 1767 on board the Schooner Virgin arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River and two weeks later they were in New Orleans [Ulloa incorrectly stated that they arrived from Virginia in a letter to Grimaldi dated July 23, 1767 - Brasseaux, Quest for the Promised Land, p. 92].  Ulloa assigned them to Fort St. Gabriel located at Bayou Manchac (then Iberville River) & the Mississippi River to counter the English Fort Bute on the opposite bank.  Bayou Manchac (see map) was the international boundary between England and Spain.  They left on August 7, 1767, arrived on August 17, 1767 and started dividing the land on August 18, 1767 [Letter from Ulloa to Grimaldi dated August 25, 1767 - Brasseaux, Quest for the Promised Land, pgs. 94-95]Some of these moved back to the Acadian Coast in 1769 and afterwards but many remained and built St. Gabriel Church (1772-1776). Over 70% of the current St. Gabriel Church (which was in active use until 1953) is the original construction material.  The Registers of St. Charles aux Mines in Acadia covering the period 1707-1748 (1 entry made on June 29, 1773) were turned over to St. Gabriel by the 1767 arrivals (it is assumed by the Allain family) and discovered in the DOBR Archives.  These records are in DOBR vol. 1 and DOBR vol. 1.a. Revised.  The Pointe Coupee Records are in the original v.1 and in revised v.1.b.    In his July 23, 1767 letter to Grimaldi, Ulloa said that the next Acadian arrivals would be sent to Fort San Luis de Natchez.  In March 1768, 149 Acadians were sent to San Luis de Natchez, near present-day Vidalia, Louisiana - they arrived March 20, 1768. [Letter from Piernas to Ulloa dated March 27, 1768 - Brasseaux, Quest for the Promised Land, p. 120].  Note: According to Acadians in Maryland by Gregory A. Wood, p. 34, the group sent to Natchez included the majority of the Acadians at Port Tobacco and a few families from Upper Marlboro.Largely because of their unhappiness with the decision to send the 1768 arrivals to Fort San Luis de Natchez, over 200 Acadians participated in the French Creole revolt that led to the ouster of Spanish Governor Ulloa on October 29, 1768. Note: The Braux [Breaux] brothers, Honore and Alexis, led the opposition to the settlement of the Acadians at Natchez. Spanish control was restored in August 1769 by Alejandro O'Reilly who allowed the San Luis de Natchez Acadians to migrate to the Acadian Coast in December 1769.  On September 14, 1769, Governor ordered a census.  The Registers from this census were compiled into a Census of Louisiana dated September 2, 1771.  The Acadians represented a significant number of the total population.

On October 27, 1769, a group of Acadians, German-Catholic families and others arrived in Natchitoches, LA. after a 15-month ordeal in which they had been blown off course, landed in Texas, imprisoned briefly by the Spanish and finally made the 420 mile trek overland.  According to Dr. Carl A. Brasseaux in "Scattered to the Wind" Dispersal and Wanderings of the Acadians, 1755-1809, pg. 67, this group successfully resisted government efforts to settle them permanently in the Natchitoches post; and, they established homes first in the Iberville district and later at Opelousas. See Passengers of the Ship Britania.  Also see German Settlers in Louisiana for an article by Dr. Glenn Conrad that discusses the Germans on the Ship "Britania" and others.

Several sources have published information first contained in The Acadian Odyssey by Oscar William Winzerling that  the Count d'Arana had arranged for 2 Acadian families, composed of 22 persons. to be sent to Louisiana from France in 1777.  According to Albert J. Robichaux, Jr. in The Acadian Exiles in Nantes 1775-1785, p. viii, this didn't occur. He states:

"...In 1777, the Count d'Aranda, Ambassador of Spain in Paris, was asked if his government had any objections to the transporting of the families of Jean Jacques LeBlanc and Andre Templais, composed of 22 persons, to Louisiana. Although earlier historians have mistaken the request as having been fulfilled, the documents prove that the French government abandoned the idea on the grounds that the cost would be too great; therefore, no Acadians came to Louisiana from France in 1777..."

In 1785, the Acadians who had been exiled to England and then France and those who had been sent to France directly in 1758/59 were allowed to go to Louisiana . These included Nathalie Pitre, widow of Jean-Jacques LeBlanc with a son and a daughter; and, Andre Templet and his family.  Of the 1500 Acadians who had been sent to England in 1755 when Virginia refused to allow them to enter, only about 753 survived to join their fellow Acadians in France in 1763.  Approximately 1574 Acadians (about 70% of the Acadians in France) boarded the seven ships bound for New Orleans  between Mid-May and Mid-October 1785.  See Report on Acadian Immigrants Who Came To Louisiana From France for the number of families and persons who embarked in France; the number of births and deaths on the voyage; the number of families and persons who landed in Louisiana; the added number of births, deaths and desertions in Louisiana; marriages contracted there; and places where they settled. [Source: Annual Report of The American Historical Association 1945 in Four Volumes; Vol. III Spain in the Mississippi Valley 1765-1794, Part II, Post War Decade 1782-1791, p. 169]. The lists of individuals on each ship are published in several sources. See image of the ship L'Amitié which was one of the seven ships.According to Albert Robichaux, Jr. in The Acadian Exiles in Nantes, approximately 625 Acadians remained in France in 1785.  In 1786, another unsuccessful attempt was made to send more Acadians to Louisiana.On October 16, 1788, Capt. Joseph Gravois and seventeen Acadians left from St. Pierre Island [Miquelon] on the schooner, La Brigite. They arrived in Louisiana on December 11, 1788.  A list of the passengers is provided in Appendix B, page 208 of the book The Founding of New Acadia  by Carl A. Brasseaux:

Anne Marguerite Babin, Charles Babin, François Laurent Babin, Marie LeBlanc Babin, Mathurin Babin, Pierre Moïse Babin, Victoire Babin, Jean-Baptiste Boudrau, Magdelene Bourg, Jean Frédéric Gravois, Jean Hubert Gravois, Joseph Gravois, Magdelaine Blanche Gravois, Marguerite Angélique Gravois, Marie Félicité Gravois, Marie Susanne Gravois, Marie Thersille Gravois, Victoire Gravois.

Last group of Acadians to arrive in New Orleans: A small group of Acadians were among the 10,000 Saint-Domingue (Haiti) refugees who arrived in New Orleans in the fall of 1809.See Acadians in Exile for the locations to which the Acadians were exiled.

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