The cajun heritage is very rich and diverse. Most of the Acadian ancestors were first thrown out of France and then thrown out of Acadia/Nova Scotia in the 1750's. Then those who made their way to Louisiana were persecuted for their differences. Up until fairly recently they were not allowed to speak their own rich language in public and were actually expelled or beaten if caught speaking the cajun language in the public school system. All of this without losing their sense of humor or their strong sense of family. Although most people think they are mysterious and a little scary, they are actually just a little leery of "outsiders" (which is understandable). But as soon as a cajun gets to know you they will take you into their hearts and into their communities. I am very proud to be descended from such a culturally rich and strong people.
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In 1604, the first immigrants in Acadia starting arriving but didn't actually colonize the area for several decades. Most of the settlers consisted of about 50 families who arrived in the 1630's and 1640's, although a few more settlers came over from France. Most of the rest of the surnames in Acadia come from soldiers and French Canadians (to the west) who came to Acadia and married the Acadian females.
The first settlement was at Port Royal. The Acadians no longer considered themselves pure French and began to develop their own culture. Originally a French colony, Acadian lands were passed back and forth between the French and English several times before the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 turned over the land to England. Some of the English leaders wanted to move their own people in and move the Acadians out. Under the treaty, the Acadians were granted the option of remaining on their land with religious freedom, or leaving Acadia and forfeiting their land. When the Acadians promised neutrality, they were allowed to stay. And the period from 1730 to 1748 was called the Golden Age of the Acadians.
They began developing their farming skills. Also, their coastal farming activities did not interfere with the fishing and hunting culture of the local Micmac Indians, and the Acadians enjoyed good relations with the native people. Several of the early Acadian families have MicMac ancestry (including the LeJeune branch of mine).
However, during the next war with France, the English settlers discovered a way to get rid of the Acadians. They asked the Acadians to sign an oath of allegiance to England, but the Acadians said that they wanted to remain neutral and refused to sign. So the English started gathering the settlers and began to deport them to other lands.
In 1755, under the order of Lawrence, Lieutenant Governor of Acadia, over 5,000 Acadians were deported to the American colonies. On September 5, 1755, at the Acadian Settlement of Grand Pre (gron-pray), 411 of the Acadian men and boys over 18 years of age were assembled at the church. There they were told that their lands and livestock were forfeited to the Crown and that they were to be driven out of Acadia. Twenty of their number were released the next day to visit the families of the 411 and tell them the sad news. Some of them never saw their wives and families after this assembly. After several days, they were paraded to the harbor, where they were loaded on five ships and expelled.
Most of these Acadians were shipped to England. Some of them escaped but the British Crown put prices on their heads, and the British Army spent seven years searching out those who had escaped deportation. Many moved westward to areas still held be the French and when those areas fell to the French, they were again deported to northern France.
But for the great bulk of the Acadians, their homeless wandering had begun and was not to end until many years later, when they established a new Acadia in Southwest Louisiana. Some of the Acadians escaped and headed for the American colonies, but many refused to take the Acadians. In Pennsylvania the Acadians were kept on board ships for two months. In Georgia they were permitted to land but were banished; most of them made their way into the hostile interior. Our ancestors were severely mistreated in Massachusetts and the Carolinas. Everywhere in the New World the Acadians went they were mistreated, except in Maryland.
The Governor of Louisiana opened up the vast prairie land of the Attakapas and Opelousas Indian country to colonization in 1757. The first Acadian colony in Louisiana was established on site of present-day Donaldsonville. Acadians began to arrive at Fort Attakapas in 1765. Fort Attakapas later became St, Martinville.
With the conclusion of hostilities in 1763, the Acadians were free to return home. But those who did found they could not settle together in large groups and their land was now occupied by people brought over by the English. Those Acadians in England, who were 'held' in four port towns, were shipped to France in 1763.
In 1762, France ceded Louisiana to Spain. A large number of the refugees found themselves in France. But even though they were "French", they didn't really feel at home in France. When the Acadians in France found out about their relatives in Louisiana and a possible New Acadia, they asked to join them. After years of preparation, Spain paid for about 1600 Acadians to travel from France to Louisiana. Spain wanted settlers in the land to protect against English invasion. In 1785, seven ships brought the Acadians to Louisiana. Once there, there were given free choice of where to go. Most of them decided to go to the Lafourche area or along the River towards Baton Rouge.
The Acadians were not alone in Louisiana. It is estimated that this area, upriver from New Orleans and referred to as the German Coast, received its first settlers in 1721. As time passed, the German Coast expanded upriver from its original area. The original German Coast was located in present-day St. Charles Parish, and the expansion moved into present-day St. John the Baptist Parish. They adapted to their new land. By the 19th century, many had intermarried with the French and Acadians. The Germans now spoke French better than German. Their culture and identitly was merging with other local people to form the Cajun culture.
Although Spain did not engage in any large settlement of its own people, it did send a group of settlers from the Canary Islands in 1778. There were some Indians in Louisiana even before the European settlers. Many of them stayed, and some intermarried with other nationalities. The main tribes in the Acadiana area are the Chitimachi and the Houma.
In 1803 Napoleon bought Louisiana, sold it to the United States 20 days later. Thus the Acadians, as well as others living in Louisiana, passed from the Spanish government to the French government to the American government.
The Acadians, now Cajuns, absorbed the other cultures into it's own so that the entire area became predominantly cajun and it stayed that way until the 1900's. As part of Louisiana's French legacy counties are called "parishes" and the Napoleonic Code (rather than Common Law) still holds sway in the state's courtrooms.
In 1910 with the discovery of oil near Jennings, the Cajuns were being bombarded with the "European" Americans and the loss of culture and language started.
The Jennings High School class of 1958 is looking for alumni for a class reunion (40th) next year. They have found almost everyone except James Hanson - if you know his whereabouts please contact me at