The Historic Small Town That Every Louisianian Should Visit At Least Once
There are plenty of small towns in Louisiana that are worthy of a day trip, but few can compare to the history you’ll find in St. Martinville. If you were born and raised in Louisiana, especially if you’ve Acadian roots, make sure to put St. Martinville, Louisiana at the top of your bucket list.
St. Martinville is a tiny town nestled along the Bayou Teche, just outside of Breaux Bridge and Lafayette.
With a population that hovers around 6,000 people, it’s a charming small town in Louisiana that’s overflowing with history, especially when it comes to some of Louisiana’s earliest settlers, the Acadians.
One of your first stops in St. Martinville should be the Acadian Museum and Memorial.
Here, you'll learn more about the Acadian exile from Nova Scotia and how they eventually ended up in Louisiana. Pictured above are the Coats of Arms of many Acadian families, whose last names you may recognize like Broussard, Comeaux, and Richard.
The Wall of Names lists approximately 3,000 people that were identified as Acadian refugees that ended up in Louisiana.
There's a lot to learn about this part of Louisiana, especially with Acadians/Cajuns. As a *very* brief refresher, the British expelled thousands of Acadians from what is now known as Nova Scotia (as well as surrounding areas) between 1755-1764 after they refused to swear allegiance to the crown. Separated from their families and uprooted from their homes, an estimated 5,000 Acadians tragically lost their lives on the ships they were forced on. Many were deported to the original Thirteen Colonies, and then to Britain and France. Through Spanish ships, many Acadians who were sent to France found a new life in southern Louisiana, where over the years a new culture emerged, Cajun, which was influenced by Native American and African cultures.
More than half of the Acadian population lost their lives during the exile, with countless others becoming enslaved or imprisoned. This has been called ethnic cleansing by historians, with some even going so far as to call it genocide. In 2003, the British monarchy acknowledged it for the first time ever, and designated July 28 as "A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval."
You'll also find a replica of the Grand-Pré Deportation Cross.
The photo on the left is the replica that's located in the meditation garden behind the museum. The original Grand-Pré Deportation Cross (pictured on the right) is located in Nova Scotia.
Perhaps the most famous site in St. Martinville is the Evangeline Oak.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow memorialized the explosion in his poem, Evangeline, which was published in 1847. The poem follows an Acadian girl named Evangeline in her quest to find her beloved Gabriel during the Great Upheaval.
Evangeline Oak Park overlooks the beautiful Bayou Teche, making it a great spot to sit for a spell and take it all in.
And a trip to St. Martinville isn’t complete without visiting the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site.
Founded in 1934, it’s the oldest state park in Louisiana and it has a fascinating history. The picture above is Maison Oliver, a plantation home built in 1815 by wealthy Creole Pierre Olivier Duclozel de Vezin who bought the land to grow cotton, raise cattle, and eventually, sugarcane. The building is a fascinating example of Creole, Caribbean, and French influences.
You can tour the inside of the home and learn more about when the property was used as a plantation.
Within the 157-acre historic site, there is also an Acadian cabin that dates back to 1790.
There are actually several buildings along the property that highlight the cultural diversity and history of the area, including the role that Acadians, Creoles, Native Americans, Slaves, Frenchmen, and Spaniards all played in developing what we now know today as Acadiana.
Whether you're a lifelong resident of Louisiana, or just passing through, St. Martinville is one of the best places to learn more about the culture that has grown to define Louisiana.
Cajun Country is defined by the stalwart Acadians who were determined to thrive in an environment unlike any they had ever seen before, and through their perseverance, we can proudly continue their traditions.
Joie de vivre!
Have you ever been to St. Martinville? Let us know in the comments below. For even more outdoor adventures in this part of Louisiana, gas up the car and take on the 180-mile
Creole Nature Trail.
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Address: Saint Martinville, St Martinville, LA 70582, USA