A word from Gladys DeVilliers

Welcome to my page dedicated to genealogy and a variety of related files,
pertaining to the search for, and preservation of, our heritage.

I have granted Lucie LeBlanc Consentino, owner of the Acadian Ancestral Home permission to post my work on this site.

Bayou Teche, on its path through Breaux Bridge, flows behind St. Bernard School, St. Bernard Church, St. Bernard Cemetery, and several businesses, including two bed-and-breakfast establishments in historic old homes, lovingly restored. It also passes behind the Veterans Hall. On its closer bank in the Parc des Ponts de Pont Breaux is a concrete montage of the Bayou from its beginning at Port Barre to its end in Lower St. Martin Parish. Each of the towns along its snaking path is painted on the monument and clearly show how the first settlers put down their roots along the waterways of Louisiana.

The Crawfish Capital of the World, as duly declared by the state legislature, received its name from Firmin Breaux who is first shown in the area on the rolls of the Spanish Census of 1766. He was bachelor living at Bayou Tortue, southwest of the modern town. The census lists Jean baptiste Broussard and 15 other Acadian settler in the Atacapas Territory. The families had established farms and built their homes at le Quartier de la Pointe.

In the 1769 census Firmin appears as a householder in the district of Cabahanoce (St. James Parish) and there he married Marguerite Braud. He next appears as a member of the Attakapas militia in 1777. The census of 1781 shows him as the head of a household of nine persons as well as 153 animals and 25 arpents of cultivated or cleared land.

Breaux came to Southwest Louisiana by a circuitous route. His family first settled in 1755 after their deportation from Nova Scotia, but 12 years later, they were able obtain permission to return to Canada, Charlene Harrison wrote in the Centennial issue of the Teche News.

Firmin, however, had evidently decided to leave the Boston area and his family while only 17 years old. He followed Jean Baptiste Broussard and the first Acadian settlers in the Atacapas Territory. He never returned to Canada. According to Geneva Bailey Seymour’s genealogical study titled Breaux, Firmin lived at the West end of the bridge in Breaux Bridge by 1786. She wrote that he owned a “much larger track extending from Bayou Vermilion all the way to the 40-arpent road east of Bayou Teche” until he died in 1808. The larger tract was part of a 92-arpent tract which extended from Bayou Vermilion to the 40-arpent road east of the Teche, according to Seymour. The land was originally granted by the Spanish government to Jean-Francois Ledee. Apparently Ledee eventually divided the land into lots and sold them to several Acadian farmers, who raised sugarcane and cotton on the fertile bayou lands, drawing more settlers to the area.

Among residents in Breaux’s neighborhood were Dominique Melancon, David Rees, Jean Guidrie, Michel Bernard and Benjamin Bonin.

When I interviewed Grover Rees, now deceased, in 1983, he said that he was a descendant of both Firmin Guidry and David Rees, and that an 1829 map showed Breaux Bridge as “la Ville du Pont Breaux.” He deduced from that there was more than one Breaux; that the original bridge for which the town was named was built by Firmin and one of his sons, Agricole or Joseph. The bridge connected their properties on the East and west sides of the bayou.

The bridge allowed farmers and settlers to carry out their activities from both sides of the bayou, as well as attracting more settlers. By the 1840s many businesses had been established near the Breaux property. Steamboat traffic increased as they came up Bayou Teche when the water was high enough.

Among early plantation owners were Zepherin Broussard, who served as sheriff of St. Martin Parish from 1843 to 1850. His two sons, Savique and A.G. were nearby. Among other plantation owners were Narcisse Thibodeaux, Jean Thibodeaux, Alphone Broussard, Servillien Bernard, Jules Broussard, and members of the Caillier, Breaux, Gillard, Domengeaux, Martin and Dugas families.

The boat landing was located where Washington Street is now, and modern Main Street saw many new businesses--taverns, general merchandise, hardware and dry good stores, as well as blacksmith shops. The business community grew with the expanding population. A boarding house was established and it was often used as the venue for entertainment events. Wooden banquettes, or wooden sidewalks, lined the streets.

According to Grover Ree’s Narrative History of Breaux Bridge, Agricole Breaux had donated land to the administrator of schools as early as 1827, just a year before his death. The purpose of the donation was to build a school. Rees wrote, “Apparently the school was in operation at the time because the deed recited that it was then being conducted by a Mr. Noble.” Rees said that Alfred Patin later headed the school. However, other sources claim that Albert Degueter established the first school in Breaux Bridge in 1850.

Settlers facilitated arrangements to build a chapel in the area now occupied by Farmers and Merchants Bank. Prior to that time, services had been conducted in the homes, and the community was served by a visiting priest until the Rev. J. Zeller was assigned to the village in 1847, establishing St. Bernard as a parish.

Early church records show that the first child to be baptized there was David Rees, son of Henri Rees and Aspasie Castille. The marriage of Dolcin Melancon and Athenais Babineau was the first wedding. The couple’s parents were Pierre Melancon and Azeline Savoie and Maximilien Babineau and Clemence Breaux. Severin Blanchard was the first resident to be buried from the church.

Other families noted in those early church records were Thibodeau, Courville, Hardy, Castille, Bernard, Patin, Babin, Dejean, Cailier, Huval, Broussard, Melancon, Begnaud, Breaux, Guidry, Cormier, David, Delhomme, Trahan, Latiolais, Lastrapes, Badon, Dupuis, Zeringue, Landry, Berard, Hebert, LeBlanc, Dugas, Bourdier, Bulliard, Chaignaud, Estilette, Derouen and Langlois.

A new church was built in 1934 on land donated by Zervilien Bernard. St. Bernard church remains in the same location.

In 1859, the town was incorporated with over 800 residents.

Grocer Rees, in his book, said the corporate limits included a parcel of land seven arpents in depth on each side of Bayou Teche. The part on the east side of the bayou was bounded north by the dividing line between property of Henry Rees and Mrs. Ursin Broussard, and south by the dividing line between the property of Adolphe Castille and Judge Edward Simon; the part on the west side was defined by the dividing line between the lands of Cyprien Doiron and Mrs. Louis A. Chaigneau, and South by the line between property owned by Charles Hebert and Mrs. Hermogene Broussard.

Selerive Domengeau was the first council president. No one has found a list of the ones who followed him, until 1877. After that time, those who served were Oliver Broussard, Joseph Melancon, Valerien Dupuis, Adolphe Dupuis, Charles Delhommer, Leon Dupuis, Dr. H. M. Neblett, Onesiphore Badon, George D. Domengeaux, R. L. Morrow, Claude Rees, David Trahan, Dr. C. W. Boring, F. F. Guilbeau, George Champagne, Leonce Pellerin, Robert Angelle, Henry Mills, Holden LeBlanc, Mrs. Holden LeBlanc, Rex Begnaud, George Hebert, Louis Kern, Fred Mills Sr., Vance Theriot, Louis Kern, and Jack Dale Delhomme.

The years following the incorporation brought several bouts with disease and floods, and then the frightening days of the Vigilante Committees, the Civil War and the Spanish American War. However, according to William Perrin in book, Southwest Louisiana“The one other town of importance in the parish (is Breaux Bridge) . , . . Since the war it has increased rapidly in population and wealth. It . . . . is noted for the energy, politeness and hospitality of its inhabitants who are mostly of French origin. Its school facilities are good, and the fondness of its people for theatrical performances and social gatherings bespeaks their refinement and sociability.”

The town had a racetrack which “attracts sportsmen from the surrounding parishes...” Perrin wrote. “The commerce of Breaux Bridge is extensive, and its merchants are noted for their enterprise and steadiness in business.” He also noted that agriculture was a thriving enterprise and “although the population amounts now to only 800 inhabitants, there is a bright future in store for this neat and thriving little town.”

Those prosperous farming days were based on sugarcane, cotton, corn and rice as the main crops; truck farming of cabbage, onions, snap beans, okra, red pepper and potatoes was a growing concern. In more recent years, sugarcane and soybeans proved more profitable to local farmers.

Industry in the form of a cottonseed oil mill, a lumber mill, a brick factory, a moss factory, a soft drink and ice factory and a canning plant also thrived in those early days. Oil was discovered at Anse La Butte and brought more job seekers and settlers. Until recent years, the sugar mill stood on the banks of the Teche. It was dismantled and sold and the Breaux bridge Sugar Cooperative, established in 1938, became part of the St. Martin Sugar Co-Op.

The first hospital, St. Paul’s, also opened in 1938. The present hospital, first known as Gary Memorial, now St. Martin Hospital, opened in 1969.

In 1959, the town celebrated its Centennial, an affair resulting in the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival.

In the early 1970s, Breaux Bridge started to emerge as a tourist spot. It is also an ideal place for young families, with members working in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and other places, fashioning a bedroom community, a trend which continues in 2001. Beautiful homes are built in subdivisions surrounding the downtown area. Homeowners have found the town to be an excellent oasis of peace and quiet while they can leave their job concerns in more metropolitan areas.

A statue to Scholastique Picou, wife of Agricole Breaux, and the one who is credited with actually laying out the plans for the town, was dedicated a few years ago, a constant reminder of the first families of Breaux Bridge.

©Gladys Lagrange De Villiers - 1998-Present
© Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home
2008 - Present

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