Thanks for traveling back in time with me to St Martinville in Cajun country. Where a legend and fact come together and draw people from around the world. This is one of my favorite spots to take out of town visitor’s and introduce them the the real Acadians. Lisa
Every year thousands of tourists visit St. Martinville, Louisiana visitor info, not far from Lafayette. They come in to steep in Cajun culture, to hear French spoken on the street, and to visit the town’s several museums, but most of all they come to visit the places associated with Evangeline. There is an Evangeline state park, there the Evangeline Oak, and, in the town’s graveyard next to the Catholic church, there is Evangeline’s tomb, topped with a bronze metal statue of her likeness.
According to Longfellow
In 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote Evangeline as a tragic but fictional account of two lovers, Evangeline and Gabriel, who were separated on their wedding day during the expulsion of the Acadians from Acadie (present-day Nova Scotia, Canada). In 1755, the English Governor of Canada issued an ultimatum to the Acadians to swear allegiance to the British Crown and forsake their Catholic faith or be exiled. They refused and were forced to leave behind everything and be herded onto ships without any regard to family ties.
Upon her arrival in Louisiana, Evangeline learned that Gabriel was in the Attakapas district. She began her journey there, but soon found that Gabriel, in a grief-stricken state, had left the region. It was here that she began a lifelong search for her lost love as she wandered through the American frontier. She eventually gave up her search and joined the Sisters of Mercy in Philadelphia, dedicating her life to the service of others. Years later, she found Gabriel who was on his deathbed and died in her arms. She died soon after.
The oak tree where Emmeline and Louis reunited still stands today, and is called The Evangeline Oak. It is the most visited spot in St. Martinville. Both versions of the story, Voorhies’ and Longfellow’s, are recounted on the sign near the oak, and both are retold dramatically by the tour guide who operates out of a nearby museum.
Longfellow apparently heard the story of Evangeline and Gabriel from Rev. Horace Lorenzo Conolly at a dinner party with Longfellow’s friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. Though Longfellow consulted Thomas C. Haliburton’s Historical and Statistical Account of Nova Scotia, he did not want his poem to be a documentation of historical events.