Heart of Louisiana: Acadian Memorial

A small memorial and museum in St. Martinville has become something of a pilgrimage for people who feel they have a family connection to Louisiana.
Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 3:18 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 2, 2022 at 11:32 PM CDT

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A small memorial and museum in St. Martinville has become something of a pilgrimage for people who feel they have a family connection to Louisiana’s earliest Acadian settlers. It’s a place to connect with ancestors and hear the personal stories of those exiled Acadians.

An iron memorial cross stands on the bank of Bayou Teche in St. Martinville. It’s a replica of the deportation cross in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. That marks the spot where french acadians were forced on to ships as they were exiled from their homes by the british in 1755. 10-years later, 200 of those deported Acadians arrived near St. Martinville Louisiana.

“A few of those Acadians were my ancestors, the Pitre family, the Broussard family, the Breaux family. So it’s interesting to be the pastor of St. Martin DeTours Church now and see their records that the church maintains 250 plus years afterward,” said Fr. Jason Vidrine.

St. Martin Detours is known as the mother church of the Acadians. The church is near the Acadian Memorial and Museum. Here the deportation cross is surrounded by tiles with family crests of those very first settlers.

“So these names still exist today. I find that to be very important and very strong shows a great value of our community,” said Danielle Fontenette.

Visitors can view a large mural depicting the arrival of the Acadians along Bayou Teche. You can hear a recording where people in the mural tell their family stories.

“When the news arrived that we were all to be deported. I picked up the children’s coats, their shoes, and some blankets. I made my way to the church and there all my hopes of finding my husband and son were shattered,” said Fontenette.

A lot of effort was put into making it accurate to the point that you actually have real families and real people who were part of this mural. Tell me about that.

“We were able to do the genealogy of the current families living here and find their direct ancestor. So we had them speak over or be the voice of their ancestor,” Fontenette said.

The museum has this memorial wall. It lists the names and family members of the first Louisiana Acadians.

“It’s like almost feeling your ancestors. Saying I’m here for the families that do still live here to say, that all the hardship you went through meant something, because we’re still here,” Fontenette said.

This museum gives you a sense of the lasting legacy of those Acadians.

“We have that Joie De Vivre, as we like to say, a joy of living. We have lots of festivals, always celebrating different times of the year. Family is still very much important. The family connections and the families that live close to one another, and really the Catholic faith that is at the heart of the culture that really gives life to the culture.

You can imagine the hardships and the determination of an exiled people who started a new life in this area.

Click here to report a typo.