Attakapas County, Orleans Territory
Attakapas Parish was a former parish (county) in southern Louisiana and was one of twelve parishes in the Territory of Orleans, newly defined by the United States federal government following the Louisiana Purchase. At its core was the Poste des Attakapas trading post, now St. Martinville.
Attakapas Parish was formally created from the Attakapas and Opelousas Districts in 1805 by Governor William C. C. Claiborne. It occupied the triangle between the Mermentau River on the west, the Atchafalaya River on the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south.
In 1811, the parish was divided into St. Martin Parish and St. Mary Parish. The region was further subdivided in 1823, 1844, and 1868 to create Lafayette, Vermillion, and Iberia parishes, respectively.
Prior to European colonization, the area was primarily home to the Atakapa tribe.
The first Europeans arrived in the 1730s, and they were predominantly French or of French descent.
In the 1760s and 1780s, the area received a sizable influx of Acadian immigrants, who had been deported from their homes in Nova Scotia and then scattered among various French and (other) British domains: the thirteen British Atlantic coast colonies, England, France, Saint-Domingue, Cayenne (French Guiana), and the Falkland Islands.
Approximately 193 Acadians who had been involved in guerilla warfare against the British in Canada were led by Joseph Broussard, also known as Beausoleil, to settle in the Attakapas District in 1765. These early settlers established themselves between modern Breaux Bridge and Loreauville. This was two years after France had transferred most of its Louisiana colony to Spain (after losing the Seven Years' War), although the French colonial governor Charles Philippe Aubry was still in charge.
These settlers became the nexus for future waves of Acadian immigration, when their dispersed relatives were able to gather sufficient funds and permissions from the various national entities under whose control they found themselves.
By the time that the former Attakapas Territory/District became Attakapas Parish, the Acadians living there had developed a prosperous agricultural economy based on cattle, enhanced by small-scale vegetable and corn farming; and powered, to a significant degree, by slave labor. The Attakapas District census of 1803 listed "2,270 whites, 210 free people of color, 1,266 slaves; in all 3,746 souls.
- Post, Lauren C. "Some Notes on the Attakapas Indians of Southwest Louisiana." Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer, 1962), pp. 221-242. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4230667
- Bradshaw, Jim. "St. Martin is the Cradle of French Louisiana: Acadian and Aristocrat, African and Anglo Found Shelter Together." Lafayette Daily Advertiser, July 29, 1997. http://zachary.waiting-forthe-sun.net/Pages/Archives/Cradle.html
- History of Lafayette, Louisiana
- Griffin, Harry Lewis. The Attakapas Country: A History of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. Gretna, 1999: Pelican Publishing, p.2.
- "Attakapas". Encyclopedia Louisiana. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
- Bradshaw, "St.Martin"
- Brasseaux, Carl A. The Founding of New Acadia: The Beginnings of Acadian Life in Louisiana, 1765-1803. Baton Rouge, 1987: Louisiana State University. p. 34
- Brasseaux, 76
- Jobb, Dean. The Cajuns: A People's Story of Exile and Triumph. Hoboken, NJ, 2005: John Wiley and Sons. p190-191.
- Bradshaw, "St. Martin"
- Bradshaw, Jim. "African Americans have deep roots in St. Martin." Lafayette Daily Advertiser, July 29, 1997. http://www.carencrohighschool.org/LA_Studies/ParishSeries/StMartinParish/AfricanAmericans.htm