Routes to Attakapas and the Acadian Prairies

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Categories: Louisiana Immigration | Acadian Immigrants to Louisiana | Iberia Parish, Louisiana | Attakapas, Louisiana | St. Landry Parish, Louisiana | St. Martin Parish, Louisiana.


Routes to Attakapas

Atakapa-Ishak Warrior

(The Atakapa-Ishak are a SW Louisiana/SE Texas branch of ancient Indians who lived in the Gulf of Mexico's NW crescent and called themselves Ishaks (ee-SHAKS).)

Maps of the transission of the Attakapas region.

The routes from New Orleans to the Acadian Prairies

The routes from New Orleans to the Acadian Prairies were via a circulatory route through the bayous and rivers of the Atchafalaya River. The Spanish had established Poste Opelousas in the present town of Opelousas and Poste Attakapas in the present town of Saint Martinville. It was by this complex route that pioneers reached the Acadian Prairies from about 1695 until the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880.

Opelousas Court House
Le Vieux Village, Opelousas


The most prevalent route to Opelousas from New Orleans was up the River Road on the Mississippi River by hack to the Plaquemine outlet and across to the Atchafalaya River. From there up the Contrableau Bayou to Washington near Opelousas. At that time the town of Washington was the head of navigation for boats coming west. The Contrableau was formed by the confluence of the Boeuf and Cocodrie Rivers (or bayous) which were fed by the overflow of the Red River. Once the "Great Raft" was removed and the flow of the Red River was tamed Washington became landlocked. [1][2]

Downtown Saint Martinville on the Teche
Longfellow Bust on the Bayou Teche


As given by William Darby in 1818 in his Emigrant's Guide to the Western and Southwestern States and Territories:

New Orleans-0
Mouth of the Plaquemine River-132

Bayou Plaquemine leaves the Mississippi at the town of Plaquemine in Iberville Parish. When LaMoyne and LaSalle arrived here in 1699 it was the home of the Chitimacha Indians. In 1800's the Bayou Plaquemine provided the most utilized route to the Acadian Plaines. In the 1860's the locals built a levee across the outlet on the Mississippi.[3]

Bayou into Lake Natchez-142

Lake Natchez is a small lake southeast of the community of Pigeon in Iberville Parish.[4]

Lake Natchez-144
Re-enter Atchafalaya-154
Mouth of the Teche-175

Rentrop’s refers to the landing for a ferry operated by Henry Rentrop and his family. Darby’s map shows the ferry crossing Berwick Bay from about where Morgan City is today to about where Berwick is now.

Outlet of Lake Chitimachas-191

Lake Chitimacha was a large expansion of the Atchafalaya River above Berwick Bay. A modern map shows it as an oval-shaped area, much of which has become dry land, bordered on the top by the main course of the Atchafalaya and on the bottom by the present Riverside Pass.The outlet referred to was a slender bayou that ran from the lake and connected with Bayou Teche near present day Patterson, Louisiana.

Courthouse of Saint Mary's-206

The present day courthouse of St. Mary’s is in the town of Franklin.


Midway between Franklin and Sorrell, Louisiana


Sorrel in the same place as the modern community by that name on Hwy. 182 midway between Franklin and Jeanerette. Jacques Joseph Sorrell came to Louisiana in 1762 as an officer of the French army and settled in the Attakapas district a year later. He established a 4,000-acre cattle ranch and helped to open the trade route through the lakes and bayous from Bayou Teche to the Mississippi River.[5]

New Iberia-282
Madame St. Maur's-308

The St. Maur settlement was on Bayou Teche about four miles north of New Iberia

Saint Martinville-314[6]

Weeks Cemetery, Shadows on the Teche
Bayou Teche in New Iberia

In “Evangeline,” Longfellow says:

“On the banks of the Teche, are the towns of St. Maur and St. Martin.
There the long-wandering bride shall be given again to her bridegroom,
There the long-absent pastor regain his flock and his sheepfold.
Beautiful is the land, with its prairies and forests of fruit trees;
Under the feet a garden of flowers, and the bluest of heavens
Bending above, and resting its dome on the walls of the forest.
They who dwell there have named it the Eden of Louisiana!”
Evangeline Historic Marker
Evangeline's Tomb, Gift of Dolores Del Rio

For further research:

  • The manuscript and typescript contain Thomas C. Nicholls' reminiscences, written around 1840. Included are Nicholls' impressions of New Orleans and the Creole culture of Attakapas.


  3. Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, Page 733
  4. Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, Page 733
  5. The community of Sorrel roadway Highway 182 East runs through the community, it is named for the original landowner, Marquies Jacques Joseph Sorrell de Contamine, who came to Louisiana as a French soldier and served as interim commandment at the Poste de Attakapas in St. Martinville. His family originally came from the Grenoble, France area. He had three nephews Joseph Sorrell Contamine, Martiel and Dr. Solange Sorrell, and descendants of this family live in New Iberia, La. Also, during the Civil War, the Sorrell family spent it in France. A great nephew of Jacques Sorrell, was Arnus Sorrell, who married a Miss Olivier, and their descendants came to live in New Iberia, La. and the surrounding area.

Images: 11
Opelousas Court House
Opelousas Court House


Longfellow Bust on the Bayou Teche
Longfellow Bust on the Bayou Teche

Evangeline Historic Marker
Evangeline Historic Marker

Evangeline's Tomb
Evangeline's Tomb

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On 13 Apr 2016 at 18:42 GMT Jacqueline Girouard wrote:

Makes me sooo homesick! Thank you.

On 13 Apr 2016 at 17:22 GMT Liz (Noland) Shifflett wrote:

Very Nice!! Thanks Allan!

Cheers, Liz