Attakapas County

Excerpt from Volume I of the Attakapas Gazette, October 1966

Notes Summarizing the Development

of Attakapas County

The treaty providing for the cession of the Province of Louisiana from France to the United States was concluded April 30, 1803. Six months later the President approved an Enabling Act, passed by Congress, which provided for immediate governmental authority to “be exercised in such a manner as the President of the United States shall direct for maintaining and protecting the inhabitants of Louisiana in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and religion.” Under this authorization President Thomas Jefferson designated W. C. C. Claiborne, Governor of Mississippi, and General James Wilkinson as the Commissioner of the United States to receive the actual transfer of the Province from the French Commissioners. This transfer took place at the Cabildo in New Orleans on December 20, 1003. Claiborne’s official title was “Governor of the Mississippi Territory, Exercising the Powers of Governor Intendant of the Province of Louisiana.”

In 1804, Congress passed a new act, approved March 26, effective October 1, 1804, which divided the Louisiana Purchase into two parts, the upper portion to be known as the “District of Louisiana,” the lower as the “Territory of Orleans.” The latter is described as “all that portion of country ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies south of the Mississippi River at the Thirty-third degree of north latitude (the present Arkansas-Louisiana line) and extending west to the western boundary of said cession, shall constitute a Territory of the United States, under the name of the Territory of Orleans.”

In the Attakapas country, along the Payous Teche and Vermilion, there were extensive settlements. President Thomas Jefferson, in his message to Congress on November 14, 1803, described Louisiana residents as “. . chiefly the descendants of the French and Canadians…” An 1803 census of the Attakapas indicated that it “contained 2,270 whites, 210 free people of color, 1,266 slaves; in all 3,746 souls…” Actual settlers had been granted 330,000 acres of Land. Also listed were 58,871 horn cattle and 7,315 horses.

The following acts pertain to the creation of the original County of Attakapas; subsequent acts provide for the formation of the parishes of St. Martin, St. Mary, Lafayette, Vermilion and Iberia from the County of Attakapas.

1805 April 10
An Act to divide the Territory of Orleans into twelve counties. “The County of Attacapas shall comprehend the Parish of St. Martin, commonly called the Parish of Attacapas.”
Orleans Territorial Acts, 1304-5, 1st session of Legislative Council, Approved April 10, 1805.

This act contains twenty-five sections which, in addition to the creation of the twelve counties, also sets forth the administrative offices to be contained in each and the terms of each.

The article by Mr. Calhoun cited at the end of the paper is an excellent source for further reading on the “why’s” and “therefore’s” of the County-Parish systems in Louisiana.

1807 March 31
“An Act Supplementary to an Act entitled “An Act providing for the Superior Court going Circuit,” and for establishing Courts of Inferior Jurisdiction.” This Act is 25 pages long and contains thirty-six sections. The ninth section provides for “dividing Orleans Territory into nineteen parishes.” “And the Parish of the Attacapas, called the Parish of St. Martin shall form the nineteenth.”

1811 April 17
An Act to divide the county of Attakapas into two parishes.
Or. Terr. A., 1811, 2nd session of 3rd Legislature, approved April 17, 1811.
Sec. 1 – “That the County of Attakapas, shall be divided into two parishes, to be called the Parish of St. Martin and the Parish of St. Mary.
Sec. 2 – “That the Parish of St. Martin shall contain all that part of the county north, or above a line running east from the upper line of the plantation of Francois Boutte, on the Bayou Teche, to the great lake, and west from the said Francois Boutto to the mouth of the petite Anse on the Bay; and the parish of St. Mary shall contain all the remainder of the county, that is to say, all that is south or below the said line.

1823 January 17
An Act to create and establish a new Parish in the County of Attakapas, to be called the Parish of Lafayette. La. Acts, 1823, 1st session of 6th Legislature, Sec. 1. . That the Parish of St. Martin is and shall be divided, and a new parish be formed out of the western part of the said parish, which shall be called and known by the name of the Parish of Lafayette.

1844 March 25
An Act to create a now Parish in the County of Attakapas to be called the Parish of Vermilion, La. Acts, 1844, 2nd session of 16th Legislature No. 81.

Attakapas country’s youngest member encountered problems in its creation. First proposed in an 1848 Louisiana Senate resolution, Louisiana Act No. 297, 1850, directed the State Engineer to ascertain the land contained in the proposed Parish of Iberia, to be created from parts of St. Martin and St. Mary Parishes. However, the Civil War delayed the establishment of Iberia.

1850 March 21
Proposed creation of Iberia Parish from Parishes of St. Mary and St. Martin. La. A., 1350 3rd Legislature, No. 297.

1868 October 30
An Act to form a new Parish to be called the Parish of Iberia. La. A., 1068, 1st session of 1st Legislature, No, 206, Sec. 1. . . That from and after the passage of this act there shall be a new parish formed from a portion of the south part of the Parish of St. Martin and from a portion of the north part of the Parish of St. Mary, to be called and known by the name of the Parish of Iberia.

Nineteenth century maps locate a missing member of the original Attakapas County. According to Louisiana Act. No. 102, 1370, the Parish of Cameron in its organization, has as its easternmost boundary, “the southwestern portion of the Parish of Vermilion…

Thus, five parishes and a portion of another–St. Martin, St. Mary, Lafayette, Vermilion, Iberia and part of Cameron—all evolved from land originally part of the Poste des Attakapas. Who would endeavor to estimate the number of descendants of the “first families” of the Attakapas living by now in all parts of the world.

Calhoun, Robert Dabney. “The origin and early development of county-parish government in Louisiana.” Louisiana Historical Quarterly. Vol. 31, No. 1, Jan. 1935.

Historical Records Survey. Louisiana. County-Parish boundaries in Louisiana. Dept. of Archives, L. S. U., 1939.

Notes for a history of St. Martin parish…(xerox copy of a typed manuscript).
U. S. Congress. American State Papers. Gov’t Print. Off., 1332-61. Vol. 20.