Long before Vermilion Parish was established, several Native American tribes inhabited the area. The land remained virtually unsettled through the French colonial period in the state’s history, but began growing by the time the Spanish colonial period rolled around in the early 1760s. French Acadians, or Cajuns, arrived in the southern region of Louisiana following the Great Expulsion of 1760 – an event that led to the deportation of thousands of Acadians from their home in Nova Scotia. The Cajuns were drawn to this coastal area’s rich and fertile land, bountiful wildlife and open prairie that proved ideal for cattle grazing.
The Spanish government awarded land grants to those willing to provide labor in the clearing of land, the building of bridges and levees and the maintenance of roadways. Towns quickly began springing up, and in 1803, the U.S. acquired the territory of Louisiana with the Louisiana Purchase. By March 25, 1844, Vermilion Parish was created by the state legislature from the southern portion of Lafayette Parish. Abbeville, founded in 1843, was incorporated in March 1850 and earned designation as the seat of Justice for Vermilion Parish in March 1854. Today, nearly 50 percent of the 56,000-plus parish residents boast of Cajun ancestry, with its vibrant culture, internationally recognized cuisine and true Southern hospitality making this “The Most Cajun Place on Earth.”
Vermilion Parish’s deep history can still be felt in the historic architecture of Downtown Abbeville and in the various museums located throughout the communities. The Vermilion Historical Society was established in 1975 with a mission to collect, preserve and communicate the history of Vermilion Parish. The organization has published two editions of the “History of Vermilion Parish, LA” and “Journeys Into the Past – Abbeville, LA: The Early Years,” by Kenneth A. Dupuy. The Historical Society is also part of the Abbeville Cultural and Historical Alliance, which operates a museum at the Alliance Center featuring a collection of historic artifacts, documents and photographs pertaining to the parish.