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  • Napoleonville (Bayou Lafourche)
    – Name changes according to events

During his exploration of the Lower Mississippi in 1699 Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville (born in Montreal and considered as the “Father of Louisiana”) ascended the great river going northwest to Washas Country. Where the waters split like a fork, he then descended southeast the Washas River, which became Bayou Lafourche, before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico at Port Fourchon. It is said that Bienville, having explored the first 48 kilometers of the bayou (171 kilometers in total length), was fascinated by the symmetry of the oaks’ greenery which delineates its course giving it the appearance of a majestic grand alley. The Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the bayou which, according to geologists, was at one time the main stream of the Mississippi. Progressively, the Chetimachas replaced the Washas and the bayou took the name “The Fork of the Chetimachas”. Long before the arrival of the first French and Acadian settlers in 1765, missionaries ventured into the region. It is important to remember that at the end of 1706 Father Jean-François Buisson de Saint-Cosme (originally from Lauzon near Quebec City) did camp with three companions at the Fork of the Chetimachas where present-day Donaldsonville is now situated. During the night, the group was attacked by a band of wild Chetimachas, and all were killed with arrows. To avenge this barbaric act, Bienville, then governor of Louisiana, summoned the Natchez tribe and some other allied First Nations to take up arms against the Chetimachas, with the result that the latter indigenous tribe was almost wiped out. In turn, the site was renamed with its diminutive, “The Fork”.

Map of Bayou Lafourche
Map of Bayou Lafourche in its entire length (source Louisiana Historic & Cultural Vistas)

Colonization of Bayou Lafourche

According to historical documents, it was in the late 1760s that the first Acadian settlers made the bayou Lafourche basin their home. They came from the Attakapas Prairie, the Acadian Coast, the German Coast (via crossbreeding) and Bayou Teche. Twenty years later, a second cohort of Acadian families exiled in France chose the shores of Bayou Lafourche to start a new life in America. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard seven French vessels chartered by Spain in 1785 for the purpose of colonizing Louisiana, which became Spanish territory in 1762. The colonization of Bayou Lafourche was carried out from north to south, that is to say from its confluence with the Mississippi at Donaldsonville toward its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico near Timbalier Bay.

Among the 89 families (325 people) aboard the ship Le Saint-Rémi, 85 of them (96%) settled along Bayou Lafourche. Here are their family name: Aucoin, Benoit, Billiardin, Blanchard, Budrot, Bourg, Boutary, Carret, Clément, Comeau, Daigle, Darrois, Dugas, Duambourg, Gautrot, Garnier, Guérin, Guillot, Hamont, Hébert, Henry, Labauve, Landry, Leblanc, Lecoq, Lejeune, Leprince, Levron, Michel, Naquin, Pitre, Richard, Robichaux, Thériot, Thibodeaux, and Trahan. Regarding families who were on the six other ships, please consult for genealogy research the passenger list per vessel.

The history writings about Assumption Parish’s communities, more specifically Bruslé St. Martin, Paincourtville, Plattenville, Napoleonville (the seat of Labadieville Parish), and Pierre Part near Lake Verret as well as Thibodeauxville (seat of the neighboring Lafourche Parish) make all mention of the unforgettable contribution of the Acadians.

Lake Verret
An isolated tree in Lake Verret where winters are sweet (Photo credit: Phil Orgeron, Pinterest.ca)

Lake Verret (which, prior to 1770, was connected to Napoleonville by an arduous path) draws its name from Nicolas-Pierre Verret, a captain at Cabanocé on the Acadian Coast from 1770 to 1775. He was charged by the outgoing French governor, Blaise D’Abbadie, to help the Acadians settle in their country of adoption. Many descendants of Acadians who came from France in 1785 did claim to prefer the Louisiana bayous over the cold weather of Normandy and of Acadia, their former homeland. Their testimonies are unequivocal: “It’s a paradise here … life is so much better”, “Here (Acadiana) is the best country in the whole world”, “The good life is in Southern Louisiana above the bayous”, moreover “We don’t want to live anywhere else”, hence Acadiana’s most popular Cajun slogan “Let the good times roll” (“Laissez les bons temps rouler”).