|Editor's note: Having found a permanent homeland
in southwestern Louisiana, Acadian refugees from
Nova Scotia were not content to sit back and squander
their energies. Part Six of The Advertiser's
series on the settlement of Acadiana tracks growth
as the refugees and their children spread out from
St. Martinville to establish new towns, ranches and
business ventures. They were particularly
successful in and around Vermilionville, now known
Early visitors to the "large
plantation of Jean Mouton" known as Vermilionville found a genteel lifestyle
cattle ranching, religious activities and graceful Southern
Would they ever have guessed
that Anne Bastoroche Mouton and her children, including Jean, spent 10
days in the forests of Nova Scotia, hiding from the English
and surviving on roots and berries?
Anne and Salvator Mouton's son
Marin, according to Louisiana: A Guide to the State, was spared that
hardship; he wasn't born until after the family had made
its escape to Louisiana. The brothers Jean and
Marin, along with Andrew Martin, cleared away the first
bits of forest to open up settlement in the area
they called Vermilionville.
It was the missionary Pere Michael
Bernard Barriere who provided the first written account of life in
Vermilionille, the Guide states. Like their Acadian neigh-bors
in St. Martinville, the Mou-tons and others in
the area enjoyed a peaceful, prosperous lifestyle in
La Nouvelle Acadie.
And for the Moutons, political
power was theirs as well. L'Oncle dit Chapeau Jean - known so for his
fondness of hats - fathered Alexandre Mouton, who became
the first Democratic governor of Louisiana.
He also was elected to the U.S. Senate.
The other branch of the Mouton
family - called the Capuchin Moutons because forefather Marin preferred
a homespun cap to his brother's hats - also prospered
in the area.
But Jean was the undisputed
patriarch. He was instrumental in having Vermilionville named as the parish
seat in 1824, and donated land for the courthouse and
the area's first Catholic church. He, his brothers and
his sons are still recognized as Lafayette's true forefathers.
Another Mouton, Alfred, was
also active in Vermilionville's early history. A West Point graduate, he
hired by area cattle ranchers to help them fend off rustlers,
as the Guide notes:
"Cattle raising (was) jeopardized
... by a highly organized band of cattle thieves. Ruin threatened the
Acadian ranchers when the rustlers grew so bold they
began to corral entire herds in day light. The bandits
were largely 'foreigners.' Numbered among them were wild
young sons of Acadian families, attracted by
easy money and adventure."
Alfred Mouton, though, apparently
felt his Acadian people had had enough adventure in the New World,
and set out to put a stop to his cousins' marauding.
With help from some 4,000 "vigilantes" and a
large-sized cannon, the Guide states, he managed to disband
the bandits. About 200 were captured. The
leaders ended up swinging from trees, but the Acadian
participants got off with only a lashing and a promise
to improve their behavior.
The Moutons and other residents
of Vermilionville had their share of sickness and death, as did the St.
Martinville Acadians. Two separate outbreaks of yellow
fever, and then the Civil War, tested the spirit of
Vermilionville's founding families. (which became Lafayette
in 1884). As usual, they weathered the storm
and, after the railroad came in 1881, flourished even
They spread out to New Iberia,
which by the census of 1788 already had 190 residents. Canary Islanders
were attracted to the area by the rich prospect of flax
and hemp farming, and later raised cattle after the
example of their Vermilionville neighbors. Like most
area towns, New Iberia suffered from epidemics of
yellow fever. During the bout of it in 1839, many were
saved by the homespun medicines of the slave
Other parties of settlers left
the newly established towns at St. Martinville, Vermilionville and New
seek a place of their own. John Hays settled at Avery
Island in 1791, and the town of Washington was
established in 1800. Arnaudville was next, establistied
As author Bob Hamm wrote in
What is a Cajun, "a Cajun can work as hard and as long as any living man.
He carved out Acadiana by hand from the swamp and marshes
and uncultivated prairies."
And they weren't about to stop
with just a few. More towns and parishes were yet to come, the Guide
recounts, to provide space, homes and prosperity for
the sons and daughters of the refugees from Acadia.