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  • Church Point
    – Formerly Plaquemine Brûlé

As the Louisiana man with the butterfly tie attests (in French) in a short documentary from Radio-Canada’s archives (at the accompanying link), the Acadians settled in the Cajun Prairie to raise cattle and indulge in agriculture as they did prosperously in Grand Pré in Acadia (now Nova Scotia) before the Great Upheaval.

Courtesy of Atlas of Louisiana Surnames (source Acadians in Gray)

The colonization of Mermentau Prairie between Bayou Plaquemine Brûlé and Bayou Queue de Tortue in Acadia Parish is part of the migration toward the wide-open spaces of the West where the grazing lands were providential. It is from “Prairie des Femmes” between Arnaudville and Grand Coteau that the transition takes place according to the needs and growth of families. Subsequently, the community of Plaquemine Brûlé, later renamed Church Point, appeared around 1780. One of the region’s first settlers was Michel Comeau. It is said that the origin of this surname dates back to 1348, in the commune of Pouilly-en-Auxois, in France’s department of Côte-d´Or. In Church Point and its surroundings, street names such as Arceneaux, Barousse, Bellard, Breaux, Bienvenue, Daigle, Fabian, Guillory, Janelle, Keller, Labbie, LeJeune, Richard, Thibodeaux, and Voitier admirably commemorate these French-speaking families, who contributed to the development of Plaquemine Brûlé.

Development of Plaquemine Brûlé

The persimmons of a Louisiana persimmon tree
The persimmons of a Louisiana persimmon tree in the sun (Photo credit: Heather Kirk-Ballard, Louisiana State University AgCenter)

Plaquemine Brûlé takes its name from the persimmon tree whose fruits are commonly called Persimmons or Plaquemines. It is a large, globular berry the size of a tomato. According to a letter written by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1682, the local Native People called this fruit tree a “piakimina”. At the end of the 18th century, wishing to create clearings “in the local manner”, the Acadians burned the coppices, including several persimmon trees, in the same way that the indigenous people burned them in order to grow pastures susceptible to attract bison herds.

Glow of fireflies on Bayou Plaquemine Brûlé
Glow of fireflies on Bayou Plaquemine Brûlé (Photo credit: Bob Dailey)

Bayou Plaquemine Brûlé (famous for the glow of its fireflies) is one of the four tributaries of the Mermentau River which originates northwest of the city of Lafayette and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It bears the name of an Attakapas chief from the late 1700s. The other three tributaries are Bayou Nezpiqué (meaning tattooed nose), Bayou des Cannes (so named because of the many reeds that grow along its course; Fabien and Louis Richard were among the first settlers of this bayou), and Bayou Queue de Tortue (also named after an Attakapas chief who was called Célestin La Tortue in the days of French Louisiana; rice cultivation is widely developed along this fourth bayou).

The literature regarding the Mermentau Basin tells us that few Acadians settled in the rougher meadows of the northwest, more precisely in Prairie Mamou. Around 1790 some settled in Prairie Faquetaique (south-east of the present town of Eunice). In the late 1700s, four families (or 29 people) migrated from Bayou des Cannes to Bayou Blaise LeJeune. It was the most westerly area where Acadians settled before the purchase of Louisiana by the United States in 1803. After this historic date, Acadians who immigrated to Louisiana became “Cajuns” of Louisiana, and six of them, wealthy ranchers in the Vermilion and Carencro regions, bought land (mainly from the Attakapas) near Mermentau (along the Mermentau River), and in the Lower Bayou Plaquemine Brûlé (between the present-day communities of Crowley and Estherwood). In addition, after 1803, seven Acadian families from Opelousas took up residence in Bayou Mallet, Bayou Jonas, Bayou Nezpiqué (near its confluence with the Mermentau River), and Bayou des Cannes.