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  • Writer's pictureCherie Claire

Emilie and Lorenz's Church

My Cajun Series begins with an Acadian (Cajun) family being expelled from their home in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, now Nova Scotia. These Acadians were put on ships and sent throughout the 13 Colonies, England, France and the Caribbean, and many found their way to Louisiana.

In "Emilie," the first book in the series, the Gallant family is first sent to Maryland. Then, upon hearing of Acadians in Louisiana, they head for the colony and hope to join other Acadians settled on the east bank of the Mississippi River in the what was then called the “Coast of Iberville,” in Iberville Parish. It is here near Bayou Manchac that a Catholic parish was established around 1767 and a church built from neighboring cypress swamps. The church steeple was gifted to the St. Gabriel Catholic Church from the queen of Spain in 1770 (Louisiana was under Spanish rule at the time).

Without giving too much away, the church plays a part in Emilie Gallant and Lorenz Dugas's story.

“The residents of Spanish Manchac were taxed one and a half piastres for each front arpent of land they held to help build the church, and they also helped with construction,” wrote Mary Ann Sternberg in "Winding Through Time: The Forgotten History and Present-day Peril of Bayou Manchac." “Under the leadership of Louis LeConte, the selected contractor, the church of San Gabriel de Manchac was completed in August 1776. The simple Creole-style building of native cypress consisted of a small interior sanctuary, sixty feet by thirty-three and a half feet, surrounded on all sides by a dirt floored exterior gallery.”

St. Gabriel Catholic Church is believed to be one of the oldest churches in Louisiana, with the original bones of the first church concealed beneath the present façade. The church bell was cast in Spain in 1771 and remains in the church steeple today. In the rear of the property lies a cemetery containing many graves of pioneering Acadians.

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