Continuing south, Bayou Teche winds its way 16 miles and finds St. Martinsville. This quaint charming small town embodies the history behind the plight of the Acadian people (also called Cajun); their expulsion and trek from Nova Scotia to southern Louisiana in 1765. St. Martinsville contains an abundance of fascinating history – museums dedicated to both the Cajuns and Creoles (West African or Haitian immigrants), a State Historic Site with another museum, a plantation house tour and a farmstead depicting early Acadian life, the 19th century Duchamp Opera House and Mercantile, St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church – so much history that we decided to save exploring the majority of this town for another day.
Possibly St. Martinville’s greatest claim to fame is the Statue of Evangeline, the Acadian heroine immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1847 epic poem by the same name. Fictional Evangeline and her beloved Gabriel become separated during the Acadian deportation. She spends her life in search of him. In the end, living in Philadelphia and working at a hospital for the poor, Evangeline finds Gabriel on his deathbed and he dies in her arms.
Based on this poem, in 1929 Hollywood came to St. Martinsville and made a silent movie starring Dolores del Rio. She fell in love with the Acadian people and donated this statue to the town.
Also impressive is the oak tree made famous by Evangeline’s saga.
This bust of Longfellow stands near the tree.