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.

The first building to serve as a place of public worship at Opelousas was the residence of Jacques Courtableau in 1756. But by 1767 a church house had been constructed by the parishioners and was probably like the one Baudier describes: "a plain, simple little chapel, so small indeed that only a few people ... could attend divine worship." The exact site of this first church cannot be determined with certainty. However, the location was probably that of the one shown on a map drawn in 1780, which Baudier discovered in the Cabildo Archives in New Orleans. This map indicates that the church was at Washington, Louisiana, about three miles from Opelousas, and consisted of a three-building complex. Another document, dated September 7, 1780, indicates repairs made on three church properties: the church house, presbytery, and the kitchen. Nothing has been found to indicate any relocation from an earlier site.24

In 1785, when Arazena was put in charge of the Opelousas church, he found that it was once again necessary to repair the presbytery and improve the church property. The house itself was to be smoothed over and whitewashed with lime, while the main chimney was to be made double and constructed of brique a la francaise." The edifice already boosted two large porches and these were to be encircled by banisters. The priest stipulated that one of the rooms in the house, with a lock on the door, was to be his private quarters, while another would hold some of the church's property.

Among the projected improvements in the priest's yard was an oven of brick. This structure, used for cooking bread, was to have a cover "in the best possible form" to guard against bad weather. The outdoor toilet and the chicken coop were to sport locks on the doors.25

It is not known whether all these projects were carried out, for the next month, Commandant De Clouet insisted that the people were too for behind with their payments on other public improvements--a new road, for instance, ordered constructed by the governor. Furthermore, he continued, the clearing of the church's property, another improvement suggested by Arazena, could be done by setting fire to the underbrush and thus save manpower and much expense. To the priest's suggestion that the cemetery property be improved, De Clouet answered that this was an individual responsibility and should not be of public concern.

By 1794, there was a movement under way to relocate the church building to a more central location. Also in 1794, the pastor wrote to his superior for permission to make this important change, and on October 1 of that year permission was granted. Some apparently abortive plans were drawn to demolish and reconstruct the building, but it was not until June 17, 1798, that the new building, now nearer to the population center, was completed, and on that day the civil officials and church wardens, with the priest, approved the contractor's work, except for a "few minor changes." The contract for this project had been let almost two years previously and, open for bids, had been given to Jacques LeMelle, who built the new church at the "Pointe de Mr. Tesson, near the present-day church, for 3400 piastres.27 LeMelle, no doubt, followed specifications much like those drawn earlier in the decade. According to these earlier proposals, the church house, presbytery, storehouse, and kitchen were to be demolished and rebuilt on the same scale, and all damaged wood was to be replaced. A new brick oven and brick well were proposed and were to be surrounded by cypress pickets. The cemetery was to be renovated so that it would be safe from the "insults of animals." Curiously enough, there was also provision made for a prison, partitioned to keep the worst criminals from mixing with those who were imprisoned for minor offences,28 certainly an enlightened practice for any historical period in Louisiana!

Apparently satisfied--and probably financially burdened with a new church--the inhabitants were not in the frame of mine to acquiesce to the priest's wishes in 1800, demanding that he be given a field four arpents wide by six in depth for a pasture to graze his horse and land to grow various crops for his personal use. In reply, the parishioners countered:

“In this part no one fields horses or cattle, since the pasturage is (held) in common in the prairies, unlike those who live on the Mississippi and are obliged to fence in their animals and pastures; besides, the Reverend Father does not need any horses for his ministry, because when he is needed to visit the sick and to administer the holy sacraments, either for rich or poor, (the people) must furnish both horse and carriage or else he refuses to go. The space around the presbytery is large enough to grow cotton and (is) separated by an enclosure where he can put his horse to hay in the winter like the rest of the inhabitants.”29

As a final argument, the inhabitants stated that wood was becoming so scarce that they were obliged to make their fence posts of oak instead of the usual cypress.30
The church house completed in 1798 continued in use well into the period when Louisiana become one of the United States.31 Winston DeVille, F.A.S.G. Princeton, Spring, 1972

I Marques de Casa Calvo to Pedro Cevallos, Pensacola, March 26, 1806, Archivo General de las lndias, Popoles Procedentes de la Isla de Cuba (microfilms in the Louisiana Room, Russell Library, Northwestern State College, Natchitoches, Louisiana, unless otherwise stated; hereinafter cited as A.G.I., P.C.),legaio 70-b; Charles Cesar Robin, Memoire on the Limits of Louisiana, Attakapas, April 5, 1805, A.G.I., P.C., Leg. 187-A; Henry E. Chambers, History of Louisiana (3 vols. Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, Inc., 1925), 1, 477; Isaac Joslin Cox, "The Louisiana-Texas Frontier," Texas Historical Association Quarterly, X (July, 1906), 21-18; Historical Records Survey, Work Projects Administration, County-Parish Boundaries in Louisiana (New Orleans: Louisiana State University Department of Archives, 1939), passim; Ruth Robertson Fontenot, Historical Guide map of the Opelousas Area (n.p., 1957).

2 Iberville to the Minister, August 2, 1701, Mississippi Provincial Archives, I (I 678-1707), 174-75. For an account of the "Western Sea" in the development of North American exploration, see Nellis Maynard Crouse, In Quest of the Western Ocean (New York: W. Morrow and Company, 1928), and Abraham P. Nasatir, Before Lewis and Clark: Documents Illustrating the History of the Missouri, 1785-1804 (2 vols., St. Louis: St. Louis Historical Documents Foundation, 1952), 1, 31-32.

3 Memoire: Postes dans Las colonie de la Louisianne, September 1, 1716, Mississippi Provincial Archives, Vil (1716), 59-80.

4 In 1718, le Maire was at Dauphin Island and is listed as a priest of the Foreign Missions. Certification, Marriage of Pierre Pitard and Louise Marthe Seguin, November 17, 1727, Marriage Book 1, St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans.

5 Henri Gravier, La Colonisation de la Louisiana a l"Epoque de Law, 1717-1721-(Paris: Masson, 1904), following page 78.

6 Baptism of Jacques Andre Desbordes, May 16, 1756, Book 1, St. Mary Catholic Church, New Roads, Louisiana; Church records, 1720-1750, St. Mary Catholic Church, New Roads, transcript in possession of the author; Etat des Missions, 1727, Mississippi Provincial Archives, XVI (1723-1727), 305, Roger Baudier, Catholic Church, 151, 188; Recensement ou Denombrement Des habitants et Concessionnaires que sont establys sur la fleuve du Mississippy a prendre depuis Les Cannes Bruslees dont le Recensement a (deja) este fait et invoie a Messieurs Les Commissairs jusqu'au Vilage Sauvage des Thonnica y compris oussy les lieux appeles Le Grand et le petit Dezerts scittues a deux lieues et deux lieues et demye ou dessu de la Nouvelle Orleans qui y ant estes establys depuis le demier Recensements, May 13, 1722, Recensements, transcript in Louisiana State Museum Library, New Orleans, Louisiana.

7 Donation by Jacques Courtableau, February 20, 1765, Opelousas Colonial Documents, State Archives and Records Comm., Baton Rouge, hereinafter cited as Opel. Col. Docs.

8 Unpublished manuscripts in possession of Blaise D'Antoni, New Orleans. Hereafter cited as D'Antoni. Collection.

9 Baudier, Catholic Church, 190; Vidrine and DeVille , Marriage Contracts of the Opelousas Post, 1766-1 803, 1; D'Antoni Collection; Introduction by Father Joseph de Arazena, l Baptismal Book 1, St. Landry Catholic Church, Opelousas.

10 D'Antoni Collection; Unzaga to Marquez de la Torre, January 5, 1777, in Works Projects Administration (trans.), Dispatches of the Spanish Governors (11 vols., typescripts in LSU Library and Tulane Univ.) V, 9-14.

11 Baudier, Catholic Church, 190.

12 Baudier, ibid.; Pay record, Fruy Luis Maria Grumeau, A.G.I., P.C., leg. 538-b; De Clouet to (Galvez), Opelousas, February 20, 1782, A.G.I., P.C., leg. 195, D'Antoni Collection; Manumission by Grumeau to a slave, October 25, 1780, (no month) 17, 1783, Opel. Col. Docs.; Succession of Grumeau, November 19, 1781, Opel. Col. Docs.

13 Marriage record of Jean Bourc and Marguerite Richard, March 30, 1784, Marriage Book "O," 67, St. Landry Catholic Church, Opelousas; Baptism of Pierre Doucet, March 26, 1784, Baptismal Book "0, 11 St. Landry Catholic Church, Opelousas; Slave sale, Escouffie to Geffratin, April 13, 1785, Opel. Col. Docs.; Succession of Francois Dorion, April 26, 1782, Opel. Col. Docs.; Petition of inhabitants of Attakapas to the Vicar General, April 10, 1792, A.G.I., P.C., leg. 206; B. Colliard, "Rummaging through Old Parish Records: Historical Sketch of the Parish of Opelousas, Louisiana," St. Louis Catholic Historical Review, III (January, 1921), 19.

14 Service record, Father Joseph de Araceno (sic), A. G. I., P. C., leg. 538-b.

15 Baptismal Book 1, St. Landry Catholic Church, Opelousas. See also Colliard, "Rummaging Through Old Parish Records:" III (January, 1921), 16.

16 Baptismal Book 1, ibid.; Colliard, ibid., 19.

17 Funeral Book 1, St. Landry Catholic Church; Colliard, ibid.

18 Service record, Father Joseph de Arazena (sic ), A.G.I., P.C., leg. 538-b; Baudier, Catholic Church, 236.

19 Pay record, Father Francisco Azuquera, A.G.I., P.C. leg. 538-b; Boudier, ibid., 2-4.

20 Service record, Father Pedro de Zamora, A. G.I., P -C leg. 538-b; Baudier, ibid., 236.

21 Colliard, "Rummaging Through Old Parish Records:" 21-22.

22 Marriage Book 1, St. Landry Catholic Church; Colliard, Ibid., 20-21.

23 Service records, Father Pedro de Zamora, Father Luis Buhot, A.G.I., P. C., leg. 538-b; Baudier, Catholic Church, 244, 252; American State Papers, Public Lands, 111, Will of Louis Buhot, July 27, 1813, Miscellaneous Statehood Papers, St. Landry Parish (originals deposited in State Archives and Records Commission, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

24 Colliard, "Rummaging through Old Parish Records:" 17; Baptism of Jacques Andre Desbordes, May 16, 1756, St. Mary Catholic Church, New Roads; Baudier, ibid., 238-39; Petition of the inhabitants of Opelousas against Pellerin, September 25, 1767, A.G.I., P.C., leg. 198; Adjudication of land of deceased Jacques Courtableau, April 2, 1774, Opel. Col. Docs.; Meeting of the principal inhabitants of Opelousas for the repairs of the Church, Presbytery, and Kitchen, September 7, 1780, Opel. Col. Docs.; William Darby, plat, Territory of Orleans, County of Oppelousas (sic), John Gradenigo, 2707.92 acres, reproduced in Ruth Robertson Fontenot, Some History of St. Landry Parish (published as a special supplement of the (Opelousas World, Thursday, November 3, 1955), p. 139.

25 Description of the Repairs to be made on the Presbytery, August 17, 1785, Opel. Col. Docs. For a discussion of the outdoor oven in Louisiana, see Fred B. Kniffen, "The Outdoor Oven in Louisiana" Louisiana History," I (Winter, 1960), 25-35.

26 Statement of De Clouet, September 6, 1785, Opel. Col. Docs.

27 Notation on a new church house by Father Barriere, Funeral Book 1, St. Landry Catholic Church: Baudier, Catholic Church, 227, 239; Ruth Robertson Fontenot, Some History Of St. Landry , 139; Proces Verbal to contract the moving of the church house, August (?), 1796, Opel. Col. Docs.; Adjudication . . . to Jacques LeMelle, October (?), 1796, Opel. Col. Docs.; Acceptance of the new church house and other buildings, June 27, 1798, Opel. Col. Docs.

28 Adjudication to build the church and presbytery, October 24, 1794, Opel. Col. Docs.

29 Representation of the inhabitants on the field requested by the Capuchin pastor, Septmber 8, 1800, Opel. Col. Docs.

30 Ibid. <31> Ruth Robertson Fontenot, Some History of St. Landry Parish, 139.

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