If you've been around long enough, you've probably heard the story of Evangeline and Gabriel. It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's fictional story about two lovers, separated on their wedding day during the removal of the Acadians from what's now known as Nova Scotia. She searched her whole life for him. After many years, she finds him near death, and he dies in her arms. It's Acadiana's original love story that brings many to St. Martinville, home of the famous Evangeline Oak. But is St. Martinville the part of the Teche region where Acadians first settled?
Loreauville resident Michael Clifton says, "Well, due to some of the research done by Dr. Rees with UL-Lafayette, no, it might not be true." Clifton is referring to the New Acadia Project. Dr. Mark Rees and his team of students are working to uncover evidence that the first Acadian settlement might be closer to Loreauville, including one of the original Acadian leaders, Beausoleil Broussard.
Clifton continues, "Out of the original group of 200, about half contracted disease and didn't make it the rest of the way. They're buried nearby, we believe it's a family cemetery just down the Bayou Teche. Then they came back here to settle the area."
Al Broussard, the former mayor of Loreauville traced his roots back to Beausoleil. Broussard calling the New Acadia Project one of the most important archeological projects in Louisiana. Mayor Al's untimely death in 2016 could have been the end of the project, but Brad Clifton, the current mayor, has continued the mission.
Clifton saying, "It became a mission for the residents here, and Brad made sure this became a reality if it was indeed the actual truth."
Which leads us to today, and Loreauville's own Acadian Odyssey Monument, one of only two in the United States. Clifton adds, "It represents the end of the journey of the Acadians as they were exiled out of Canada. This is where they ended up settling, and it marks the end of the odyssey and the beginning of Acadiana as we know it today."
The inscriptions were partly written by local historian Shane Bernard. In an email, he also credits Don Arceneaux, who's now living in Idaho, for doing a lot of the research helping to bring the monument to Loreauville. Both are expected to be at the dedication on April 27th at 10am. There's also plans to add more to enhance the visitor's experience, by adding a walkway, benches, kiosks, and restrooms. There's already a small kayak launch allowing folks to access the Bayou Teche National Paddle Trail. There's also a few locations within walking distance to grab a bite to eat and enjoy your time in Loreauville.
Clifton says, "We hope to be a model for other sites and other tourist and monument types, so we're working really hard on this one." He also credits Loreauville for making this happen. Clifton continues, "That's one of the unique things about Loreauville. Everyone comes together and helps. It's total community effort."
The monument is easy to find. It's just a block from the town hall right next to the Bayou Teche bridge near the Volunteer Fire Department.