The Acadian Memorial in St. Martinville has become something of a pilgrimage for people who have a family connection to Louisiana’s first Acadian settlers. The bayou-side museum contains family names and personal stories of Acadians exiled by the British from Canada in 1755.
An iron memorial cross stands on the bank of Bayou Teche in St. Martinville. The original Deportation Cross in Grand Pre’ Nova Scotia marks the spot where Acadians were forced onto ships. 200 of those Acadians arrived near this site in Louisiana ten years after their deportation. The museum is located behind St. Martin de tours Catholic Church, known as the Mother Church of the Acadians. Pastor, Fr. Jason Vidrine, is a descendant of some of those first Louisiana Acadians. “It’s interesting to be pastor of St. Martin de tours Church now and see their records that the church maintains 250-plus years afterward,” Vidrine says.
acadian memorial of names
The Acadian Memorial contains a large wall with a plaque listing the names and family members of approximately 3,000 Acadian refugees who came to Louisiana. It allows today’s ‘Cajuns’ to find family names and scratch an impression of a great ancestor on a piece of paper. Museum Director Danielle Fontenette says, “It’s like almost feeling your ancestor and saying, I’m here. Or for the families that do still live here to say all the hardship you went through meant something because we’re still here.”
putting a face to the first acadians
On the museum wall opposite the memorial of names, artist Robert Dafford has painted a massive mural of what the arrival of the first Acadians may have looked like. He used faces of descendants to represent those first settlers. And an audio presentation has voices telling personal stories of their deportations. “We were able to find their direct ancestors,” Fontenette explains, “so we had them be the voice of their ancestors.”
acadian memorial featured on tv
homage to evangeline near acadian memorial
American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow brought the story of the exiled Acadians to the world in his epic poem, Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, published in 1847. It tells the Acadians’ story by following Evangeline and her search for her lost love, Gabrielle. St. Martinville honors Evangeline with a statue in the courtyard of the Catholic Church, and a giant tree named the Evangeline oak. Both are located near the Acadian Memorial Museum and are popular stops for visitors.
The Acadian Memorial Museum is located at 121 S. New Market Street, Saint Martinville, LA.. Phone (3370 394-2258