Before we can start gathering information about the families and communities along Cocodrie I believe that we need to look at a brief history of Louisiana, St. Landry Parish, Evangeline Parish and and because of the close connections to this area Avoyelles Parish. The communities that we are concern with are the communities of Clear Water, Blood Bend, Lone Pine, Centerville, Dossmann , the Town of St. Landry and the logging town of Omo which does not exist now. All of these communities were in St. Landry Parish when they were originally settled. There are a number of other places that will also enter in to the picture. Bayou Chicot and Gold Dust just to name two. These places were very important to the people that settled along Bayou Cocodrie.
St. Landry Parish
French and Spanish Territory
The land which became St. Landry Parish was inhabited since at least 10,500 B.C., as deduced from excavations of three prehistoric dwelling sites. By the 15th century, the Appalousa Indians settled in the area situated between Atchafalaya River and Sabine River (at the border of Texas-Louisiana). The Appalousa were a warlike tribe, preying on their neighbors to keep their own territory.
The first European recorded in the Appalousa territory was the French trader Michel de Birotte. He came in 1690 and negotiated with the Appalousa nation. Nine years later in 1699, France named Louisiana as a colony and defined the land occupied by the Appalousa as the Opelousas Territory. The area south of the Opelousas Territory between the Atchafalaya River, the Gulf of Mexico and Bayou Nezpique, occupied by the Attakapas Indians (Eastern Atakapa), was named Attakapas Territory.
In 1720 France established the Opelousas Post slightly north of the contemporary city of Opelousas. It was a major trading organization for the developing area. In addition France established the Attakapas Post (near the present St Martinville) in the Attakapas Territory. France gave land grants to soldiers and settlers to encourage development. Most settlers were French immigrants. Tradition holds that Jean Joseph LeKintrek and Joseph Blainpain, who had formed a partnership to trade with the Opelousas Indians, came in the early 1740s. They brought with them three enslaved Africans, the first Africans to live in the area.
Some natives sold pieces of land to the settlers. After the Eastern Attakapas Chief Kinemo sold all the land between Vermilion River and Bayou Teche to the Frenchman Gabriel Fuselier de la Claire in 1760, the Opelousas exterminated the Attakapas (Eastern Atakapa).
France ceded Louisiana and its territories to Spain in 1762. Under Spanish rule, Opelousas Post was established as the center of government for Southwest Louisiana. By 1769 about 100 families were living in Opelousas Post. Between 1780 and 1820, the first settlers were joined by others coming from the Attakapas Territory, from the Pointe Coupée Territory, and east from the Atchafalaya River area. They were joined by immigrants from the French West Indies, who left after Haiti/St. Domingue became independent in a revolution by the slaves and free people of color. Most of the new settlers were French, Spaniards, French Creoles, Spanish Creoles, Africans and African Americans.
The group coming from Attakapas Post included many Acadians. These Acadians were French who migrated from Nova Scotia in 1763, after expulsion by the English in the aftermath of the defeat of France in the Seven Years' War (known in North America as the French and Indian Wars). They were led by Jean Jacques Blaise d’Abbadie. Jean Jacques Blaise d'Abbadie was Governor of the territory from 1763 to 1765. The French community built St Landry Catholic Church in 1774, dedicated to St. Landry, the Bishop of Paris in the 7th century.
On April 10, 1805, after the US acquired the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the post was named as the town of Opelousas and established as the seat of St Landry Parish.
Purchase by the United States
The United States gained control of the territory in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase. Americans from the South and other parts of the United States began to migrate to the area, marking the rrival of the first large English-speaking population and the introduction of the need for more general use of English.
St. Landry Parish was officially established on April 10, 1805 by a legislative act, becoming the largest parish in the Louisiana state. The new parish was named after the Catholic Church located near the Opelousas Post. The church had been named in honor of St. Landry, the Bishop of Parish in 650. The parish's boundaries encompassed about half the land of the Opelousas Territory, between the Atchafalaya River and Sabine River, between Rapides Parish and Vernon Parish, and Lafayette and St. Martin Parishes. Since then, the area of the parish has decreased, as six additional parishes have been created from its territory. These include Calcasieu, Acadia, Evangeline, Jeff Davis, Beauregard, and Allen.
In 1821 the second educational institution west of the Mississippi was founded in Grand Coteau. In this community south of Opelousas is the Academy of the Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school founded by the French Creole community.
The city of Opelousas has been the seat of government for the St Landry Parish since its formation. After |Baton Rouge fell to the Union troops during the Civil War in 1862, Opelousas became the state capital for nine months. The capital was moved again in 1863, this time to Shreveport when Union troops occupied Opelousas.
Evangeline Parish 1910
The parish was created out of lands formerly belonging to St. Landry Parish in 1910. The area was originally settled by French, German, Spanish and Scots-Irish people. The majority were French, former soldiers from Fort Toulouse, and generations born there were originally called Creoles. The major families were Fontenot, LaToure, Guillory, Lafleur, and Brignac. The Creoles developed a culture that was a mixture of all the ethnic groups living in the area. A few Acadians settled the area, but outsiders mistakenly labeled all the white French people as Cajuns.
The parish was named Evangeline in honor of the Acadian people who lived further south; their history had been commemorated in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's narrative poem, Evangeline. Evangeline Parish was immortalized in the Randy Newman song "Louisiana 1927", in which he described the Great Mississippi Flood which covered it with six feet of water.
Avoyelles Parish is known for its Cajun, French-speaking history, with traditions in music and food. The area was first settled by Native Americans around 300 B.C.E. Today on the banks of the old Mississippi River channel in Marksville, three large burial mounds, a museum and a national park commemorate their civilization. Tunica’s from the Natchez tribes east of the river conquered and assimilated with the Avoyels nearly two centuries ago and are currently the largest Native American group in Avoyelles.
Spanish and African traders were probably the first foreigners to arrive in the area by 1650. In late the 18th century European families from Normandy and other parts of France, Scotland, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Spain arrived and established the towns and villages that exist today. Their direct ties to Europe set them apart from the Acadians (Cajuns) of most of southern Louisiana. Later, blacks serving under Napoleon and those loyal to France in Haiti and the French West Indies settled in Avoyelles. Arriving as refugees at the Pearl River port near Mansura, they were taken in by the Native American and European families of the area. The blending of these three cultures created a distinct Creole culture noted in the local language, food and family ties. Today's Avoyelles Parish culture conveniently falls under the larger umbrella of "Cajun" because of the similarities in speech, food, and various folk traditions. But, it should be made clear that very little, if any, of the culture descends from the Acadian tradition. Middle and south Louisiana had been settled by both black and white francophone’s long before "The Grand Derangement", when the Acadians were expelled by the English from Acadia (present day Nova Scotia). The people of Avoyelles would more correctly be called "French Creoles" because they descend from those born in the French colony. "Cajuns" or "Cadjins" would also be a correct term for those of the French culture of Avoyelles. "Coonass", a popular colloquialism, is generally derogatory (though some are proud to be called such).
Time to Start our trip into the Past:
Having covered a brief history of the area in question let's get started. Cocodrie Lake is located on the Parish line of Evangeline and Rapides Parishes. This is the head waters of Bayou Cocodrie. Bayou Cocodrie flows south from here, almost parallel with Bayou Boeuf until they join just north of the Town of Washington. Here they become Bayou Courtableau. Washington in the early 1800's was a thriving inland port, where steam boats came to pick up cotton and other produce that was transported down Bayou Cocodrie and Bayou Boeuf.