Looking for Beausoleil

Attached to the left bank of the serpentine meanderings of Bayou Teche, the village of Loreauville lies in Iberia Parish. All around, the rich and fertile soil nourishes the sugar cane fields that stretch to the horizon. Several families, as elsewhere in our area, also make their living from various trades associated with the oil industry. Layer upon layer of sediment deposited by a succession of regular flooding since the beginning of time have enriched the region until the High Water of 1927, growing a community that is both agricultural and industrial and based on the values we know well in Acadiana. Respect for the land, family and traditions prevail in this quiet corner of our country. But somewhere buried beneath the fruitful surface hides a secret whose revelation may bring as much as white gold or black gold, not only in terms of a new source of economic energy, but also by strengthening the bonds that unite us. It is not solar energy, but it is a sun that has a most illustrious family name and story.

Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil, and his companions, the first Acadians to arrive in Louisiana in 1765 to found New Acadia, are buried there somewhere, as well as the archaeological evidence that will give us an idea of how they lived in this neighborhood once known as Fausse Pointe. Professor Mark Rees of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette thinks he can find it and he is not alone in his quest. Born from an idea launched at a Famille Beausoleil reunion, comprised of descendants of the hero of the Grand Dérangement and colleagues, the Projet Nouvelle-Acadie has in its steering committee not only Broussards, like Loreauville’s mayor, but many Louisianans just as determined as Professor Rees to discover the precise location. The first excavations in the vicinity are promising and indicate the presence of strong activity in the past.

Just the size of the house of Armand Broussard, a son of Joseph, built a quarter century after the first Acadian arrivals showed an impressive material success. At his death, Armand’s estate was estimated at $65,000, which would make him a millionaire today. His house, built around 1790, is located today in the historic park Vermilionville. It was moved there from the area where they are looking for the presence of the graves and first establishments of those poor deceased who died from yellow fever and other tropical diseases upon arrival like so many others before and after. It is obvious that the first buildings were not so opulent. The exact location remains a mystery for now, but the Projet Nouvelle-Acadie intends to unveil it before the expansion of new developments is likely to cover or destroy it forever. Once discovered, the site may become an important center for tourism and education.

The Projet Nouvelle-Acadie, in addition to its mission to help finance the work, announced four raisons d’être. The first is to promote the cultural economy by engaging the community in the planning of cultural resource management. Secondly, it is to advance knowledge of the history of the first settlements and burial sites in the Acadian by locating them. Then they want to delineate and understand the settlement patterns of households in New Acadia. Finally, the group would examine the evidence for expressions of cultural and ethnic identity, taking into account the varying relationships between history, identity and landscape. According to Professor Rees, the lack of knowledge with respect to these properties and unmarked graves put these sites at risk of destruction and would miss an opportunity to expand the cultural economy.

It is inconceivable to think that with the importance of Beausoleil as a historical figure, it is still not known where his final resting place is after having led a war for the freedom of his people. But as the Latin proverb says, “Money is the sinews of war.” Thanks to the efforts of the project, we will find the money to honor the memory of the first Acadians and will continue their legacy of prosperity.