L’Acadie to la Louisiane: Part V. Sailing to Louisiana

After the French and Indian War, several groups of exiled Acadians who had survived war and disease made their way to la Louisiane, or Louisiana. Some sailed from the English colonies, where they had lived in a sort of purgatory. Some left from prison camps in Halifax. Still others, who had been sent to France, later set sail for Louisiana, because France had turned out to be less than hospitable.1

Eighteenth-century Louisiana consisted of the Mississippi River Valley from the Appalachians to the Rockies, and from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the Great Lakes. After the French and Indian War, the Treaty of Paris of 1763 awarded England France’s possessions in North America – except for Louisiana. To England’s surprise and chagrin, France secretly had given Louisiana to Spain in 1762. Whether the Acadians knew much about these border changes is unknown. They did know, however, that Louisiana was a safe, Francophile destination outside of England’s reach.2

The First Cajuns By George Rodrigue (click to enlarge)

The First Cajuns
By George Rodrigue
(click to enlarge)

Several different groups of exiles made their way to Louisiana, often at their own expense. The first group comprised several exiles who had originally been deported to the Georgia Colony. The second group, led by Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil, comprised 193 Acadians, including Periot’s cousins Pierre and Jean. The third group included Periot, Marie-Josèphe, 3-year-old Eusèbe and a 12-year-old orphan named Firmin Arseneau. Firmin was probably a cousin whose other family members died or had been dispersed to other regions. Their ship arrived in New Orleans with 80 exiles in May 1765. Joining them was their newborn son, Pierre. He was born either aboard ship en route to New Orleans or when they reached the city.3,4

(Broussard’s ship, or ships, reportedly stopped in Saint-Domingue, known today as Haiti, before sailing to New Orleans to pick up some Acadians who wanted to leave the island. A French colony, Saint-Domingue was where Acadians from some of the American colonies had already gone, “only to encounter nothing but death.”5 The Acadians had been promised jobs and farmland in Saint-Domingue. But, for most, the experience ended in disaster caused by unfulfilled promises, starvation and disease. Some historians say Periot’s ship also may have stopped at Saint-Domingue.6)

Other ships carried Acadians who had originally been exiled to Maryland, Pennsylvania and the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. The final groups of Acadians to arrive had been originally been forcibly “repatriated” to France, sometimes via internment camps in England. Recruited by Spain, they arrived in the 1780s on seven ships and included at least three families who married into the Arseneau/Arceneaux family: the Heberts, the Blanchards and Mazerolles. Altogether, approximately 2,900 Acadians migrated to Louisiana.7

Acadians Sent to Attakapas District and Cabanocé

The Acadian Coast From: http://goo.gl/UxBvlM (click to enlarge)

The Acadian Coast19
(click to enlarge)

Louisiana officials sent Broussard’s group of settlers to the prairies on Bayou Teche near Opelousas to farm and to manage cattle. The settlements were in an area designated by French colonial officials as the Attakapas District, named for the Native American tribe they eventually displaced. Like the exiles who managed to leave Georgia, Periot and his fellow refugees were sent to Paroisse Saint-Jacques, later St. James Parish, on the west bank of the Mississippi above New Orleans.8 Generally known then as Cabanocé, this undeveloped area had been most recently populated by Houmas Indians. The area eventually became known as the Acadian Coast.9

Through 1785, several other groups of Acadians followed Periot’s group. They included exiles sent to the American colonies, which were all too happy to be rid of them. They also included Acadians deported to France, where they had been living in poverty. For the most part, Spanish authorities welcomed the Acadians, providing them with money, land and tools to establish themselves. Outside of New Orleans, Louisiana was untamed wilderness, and Spanish officials, like the French before them, wanted the land settled and productive as soon as possible. To be sure, life was strenuous and dangerous in Saint-Jacques, with the settlers having to clear land and drain swamps to make way for agriculture.10

As with the other new settlers, Periot was likely given a grant of land. However, he died not too long after their arrival, still in his thirties. We know this because Marie-Josèphe married again sometime before the 1769 census, to fellow exile Basile Préjean, who had arrived with Periot and Marie-Josèphe from Halifax as a single man.11 Marie-Josèphe died in 1815 in St. Martin Parish.12

Eusèbe Arseneau

Next in our line is Periot and Marie-Josèphe’s oldest son, Eusèbe. Eusèbe, 26, married Rosalie Bergeron, 20, in 1788 in Saint-Jacques. Her family had been among those exiled to France. They had 13 children together.13 In the 1790s, Eusèbe and Rosalie moved to upper Bayou Lafourche, known then as La Fourche des Chetimaches.14 The bayou was so named by explorers because they found the Chetimacha tribe living at the junction of the Mississippi River and the bayou, which formed a fork. Eusèbe’s little brother Pierre moved to the Attakapas District where his cousins lived. Firmin stayed in Saint-Jacques.14 What Eusèbe did for a living is not known. He died in 1825, and Rosalie in 1839. Both were buried in Assumption Parish.16

Eusèbe-Alexandre Arseneau

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

In the next generation is Eusèbe and Rosalie’s oldest child, their son Eusèbe-Alexandre. Born in 1789, Alexandre married Marie Aimée Blanchard in the Plattenville church, on Bayou LaFourche south of Pancourtville, in 1810. Her family had been exiled to France, too. Among their children was a son named Hubert, born in 1818 in Assumption Parish.17

In 1840, 22-year-old Hubert married 19-year-old Irma Rodrigue, a daughter of colonial settlers from the Canary Islands. Hubert and Irma had nine children. Their youngest child, Leomas, was born August 25, 1864 in Labadieville.18 He was the father of Alfred Phillip Arceneaux, Sr., father of Ralph and Alfred Arceneaux.


Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Related Links:


1. Carl Brasseaux (1991). Scattered to the Wind: Dispersal and Wanderings of the Acadians, 1755-1809.
2. Ibid.
3. Steven Cormier (2014). Appendices: Arceneaux, http://www.acadiansingray.com
4. Carl Brasseaux (1991). Scattered to the Wind: Dispersal and Wanderings of the Acadians, 1755-1809.
5. Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc (2013).Acadians in Halifax and on Georges Island, 1755-1764.”
6. Carl Brasseaux (1991). Scattered to the Wind: Dispersal and Wanderings of the Acadians, 1755-1809.
7. Steven Cormier (2014). Acadians in Gray, http://www.acadiansingray.com
8. Steven Cormier (2014). Acadians in Gray, Appendices: Arceneaux, http://www.acadiansingray.com
9. Lillian C. Bourgeois (1957). Cabanocey: The History, Customs and Folklore of St. James Parish.
10. Carl Brasseaux (1991). Scattered to the Wind: Dispersal and Wanderings of the Acadians, 1755-1809.
11. Steven Cormier (2014). Appendices: Arceneaux, http://www.acadiansingray.com
12. Acadian-French-Canadian Database (11 Feb 2009), http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com
13. Denis J. Savard (2000). Dictionnaire généalogique des familles Arsenault.
14. Steven Cormier (2014). Appendices: Arceneaux, http://www.acadiansingray.com
15. Ibid.
16. Stephen A. White, Dictionaire Genealogique des Familles Acadiennes, 1715-1780 (draft) (via Karen Theriot Reader (2009). AFC Database – Arseneau, rootsweb.ancestry.com).
17. Denis J. Savard (2000). Dictionnaire généalogique des familles Arsenault.
18. Ibid.
19. Ron Chapman (2012). “How Louisiana Became a State,” http://www.myneworleans.com/Louisiana-Life/March-April-2012/How-Louisiana-Became-A-State/

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