Friday, December 20, 2013

MORE MEANDERING


In a blog last month, I mentioned that Darrell Bourque, former poet laureate of Louisiana, was interested in finding the location of the settlement that Joseph "Beausoleil" Broussard established with some of the first Acadians who fled in the Grand Derangement to Louisiana. Broussard led a group of exiles to Saint Domingue (now Haiti), then on to New Orleans in 1765, and eventually to south Louisiana where the exiles settled somewhere between New Iberia and St. Martinville, Louisiana.

In a recent issue of La Louisiane, the magazine of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I discovered that Dr. Mark Rees, an archaeologist and anthropology professor at ULL, Warren Perrin, co-founder of the nonprofit Acadian Heritage and Culture Foundation, and Adam Doucet, a senior majoring in anthropology, have begun working on a project to locate the site where Broussard and his band of Acadians settled. Rees is a descendant of Alexandre Broussard, brother of Joseph Broussard, and Perrin is also a descendant of the renowned "Beausoleil" Broussard.

The researchers seem to think that the Acadians in the Broussard party settled near Loreauville and are certain that they established three sites along the Bayou Teche. They're looking for areas of high ground where the Acadians could have found a habitable site. Doucet has begun interviewing Loreauville residents who may have information about gravesites of early settlers that would possibly indicate the position of homes in the early settlement.

The first time I heard about the possibility of Broussard settling near Loreauville, I was told that the site could have been at Lake Fausse Pointe, which is located about eighteen miles east of St. Martinville near the Atchafalaya Basin. Tuesday, as we were again visiting the Gonsoulin Meat Market, we decided to proceed to Lake Fausse Pointe State Park from Loreauville, about ten miles east of the town, to take a look at the place that had been mentioned as the possible settlement, or entry point of Broussard's party.

Lake Fausse Pointe State Park is approximately 6,000 acres in size and was once known as the home of the Chitimacha Indians, but today it is largely the habitat of whitetail deer, black bears, snakes, alligators, and armadillos. After we arrived, we started out on a trail that must have been Armadillo Ridge because we disturbed one of these gray armored creatures that wouldn't sit still for a photograph.

We stood on a bridge over the lake near the Interpretive Center and took one photograph of an American Egret who assumed a sedate pose for us momentarily, then became spooked at the sound of our footsteps. Much of what I glimpsed were sloughs and swampland, hackberry and cypress trees, and I vetoed the idea that Broussard and his party might have settled in this low ground area even though today the scenery is unspoiled wilderness and the wildlife is abundant.


When we consulted the GPS on our return trip, we were mistakenly directed to take a right turn toward Bayou Benoit, scattering a flock of killdeer as we turned, and traveled a gravel road eighteen miles through scantily inhabited land. The levee loomed on the left side of the corduroy road, and trailers teetered on the right side of the road in the low areas beside Lake Fausse Pointe.

We traveled eighteen miles on this circuitous route, emerging on a paved highway near Charenton, Louisiana, at least thirty minutes away from home ground of New Iberia. And so much for uninformed researchers who have time to spend on wild goose chases! We'll leave the "New Acadia Project" conducted by Rees and Perrin to those who have mapped the area and know what they're looking for. And, by the way, the New Acadia Project is attempting to raise $100,000 for the research needed to find the site of these first Acadian settlers. The site could become a draw to Acadiana for tourists.
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