The Vincent History

Portions contain reprints from Story by Jim Bradshaw in The Daily Advertiser







     This is the history of Pierre Vincent, of where he was born, how his people got to be there in that part of the world, what kind of people they were, how he came to arrive in Louisiana in 1785 at the age of 37 to live the rest of his life and rear a family.
     Pierre Vincent was born October 15, 1748 in small community called Pisiguit in Acadie, Canada.  He was born in a small house which was connected to the stable where the animals were housed for the long hard winters.  The heat from the animals and the stable helped to keep the home warm.  His father spent much of his time in winter keeping the wood supply ample.  His mother would nurse him while his older sister, Marie, played in the kitchen.  Marie was two years old.
     Pierre Vincent was just seven years old in the autumn of 1755, so he was not among the 418 men and boys who were gathered at the church at Grand-Prč in old Acadie that September 5.  The order from the British governors of Nova Scotia instructed: 
"both old and young men, as well as the lads of ten years of age attend the church at Grand-Prč, on Friday, the 5th instant, at three o'clock in the afternoon, that we may impart to them what we are ordered to communicate to them....."  But this is getting ahead of the story.
     Some of the first settlers who moved into the Grand-Prč areas of Pisiquid and Cobequid were Trahan, Vincent, Doiron, Gaudet, Bodard and Broussard.  In 1686 there were 11 families, yet 28 years later there were 150 families with nearly 1,000 inhabitants.
     Some of the neighboring women would occasionally come to help his mother, Marguerite Bodard, with the cooking and the cleaning.  They had grown-up sharing and helping and knew no other way.  It was taken for granted and appreciated.
     Pierre's father, Joseph, and his friends would spend as much time as they could hunting for meat, but most of their food was preserved in some way for the winter.  The Acadians depended much on their supply of fish which was readily available.
     Some authors wrote about the Acadians:  "The homes were built of squared logs or of heavy beams planted in the soil with the interstices sealed with moss and clay.  Chimneys were formed with poles and hardened clay.  The roof was covered with rushes, bark, even sod at times.  Wood being in abundant supply, the houses were easy to build, and if disaster struck, just as easily abandoned and lost without much regret..."
     When the English appeared, as they did every few years, "the settlers fled to the woods without worrying about what was left behind.  Their small herds of cattle were used to the woods, and belongings were easily moved:  a few iron pots, arms, tools and a package of clothing.  Those with too much belongings buried some of them and carried off the rest.  But all knew the trails to safe retreats in the heavily wooded valleys, only a gunshot away but impenetrable to everyone save themselves and their friends, the Micmacs of the interior."
     The Acadians easily adapted to farming, livestock breeding, hunting, lumbering and fishing.  The records show large catches which were regularly salted and shipped to France.
     "During the long winters, the Acadians spun their clothing, using either wool from their own sheep or flax derived from abundant harvests, especially in the Grand-Prč region.  They also tanned their own leather and made their own soap and candles.  Having become expert with the axe and other cutting tools, they made their own furniture and other wooden implements."
     In spring, the Acadians made maple sugar and spruce beer of which they were very fond.  While they were able to produce most of their daily requirements, they still had to depend on foreign sources to provide metals in bars, guns and ammunition, salt, wearing apparel or nick-nacks needed for fur-trading with the Indians.
     Up until 1713 about 40 priests came to "Acadie."  They were not only spiritual guides, but they also acted as teachers to the Acadian children.  Nuns opened schools.  Some of the most prosperous families sent their children to study in France, and these educated ones would come back and help teach the children who could not go to France.
     In 1708 the French governor in "Acadie" wrote "The more I consider these people the more I believe that they are the happiest people in the world."
     The first Vincent to arrive in Acadie was Pierre (the elder.)  He was born 1631 and arrived in Acadie in 1654.  He married in 1662 to Anne Gaudet daughter of Denis Gaudet and Martine Gauthier.  Records show that by 1686 he was deceased.  He and Anne had one daughter, Huguette, and four sons, Clement, Pierre, Thomas (must have died young), and Michel in which we are most interested.
     Michel and brother Pierre went to live at Pisiguit.  Michel born 1668 married 1689 to Marie-Anne Richard and married a second time to Jeanne Anne Marie Doiron in 1710.  The Doirons were neighbors.  They were married in the church of the Holy Family.  One of their daughters, Anne-Froisine married Michel Trahan.  Another, Madeleine married Jean Baptiste Duhon.  Another, Anne-Maire, married Honorč Duhon.  These children were born of the second marriage to Jeanne Anne-Marie Doiron.  A son Joseph Vincent, born 1722, became the father of Pierre who came to Louisiana.
     Joseph grew up in Pisiguit.  He married a local girl, Marguerite Bodard, in September 1746.  They must have had all the neighbors come and build them a home and clear a small piece of land for them.  It must have been a fun day in September in cool weather.
     Marguerite's father, Francois Bodard was from France, born 1686, married 1708 to Marie Babin.  When the Acadians were dispersed, he was sent to Maryland where he died.
     So Joseph Vincent was the grandson of Pierre Vincent who had come to Acadie from France.  He was soon a man with a family and two children.
     They lived a peaceful life until the English declared war with France again.  This had happened times before and did cause them some disturbance.  This time matters were worse.  When the Acadians refused to sign allegiance to the English king and leave their Catholic religion, the English commander got very angry.
     The English wanted to make the Acadian area English forever.  When the Acadians refused, the English decided to send them away and settle the area with people who were loyal to England.  Later, people from Scotland would be given the land and named it Nova Scotia (New Scotland).
     On Friday, the 5th of September, 1755, four hundred eighteen Acadiens of the Grand-Prč and Bassin des Mines areas gathered in the church of Saint Charles des Mines at Grand-Prč.  They had been ordered to do so.  This happened at 3:00 p.m.  The English officer announced that in her majesty's name the Acadians were all prisoners and that their goods were confiscated, except their money and a few effects which they were permitted to carry with them on board ships which would transport them to parts unknown.
      He continued, "all your land and homes, cattle and animals are confiscated by the crown...."
     A translator by the name of Deschamps interpreted Commander Winslow's remarks to the Acadians.
     On Sunday, 7 September, 1755, Winslow signaled the arrival of five vessels.  He expressed doubt that the ships were large enough to carry all the prisoners of the region Grand-Prč.
     On Wednesday, 10 September, 1755, Winslow gave the signal for the embarkation of the Acadian prisoners into the ships anchored in the river Gaspareaux.
     Winslow wrote that he gathered his officers to plan the loading.  They decided to load 50 prisoners on each of five vessels which had arrived from Boston, and to commence with the young men.  He called for the interpreter, Francois Landry, Sr.
     On the 27th of October, 1755, 14 more vessels arrived to pick-up the Acadians.  Ten more vessels arrived for those of the region of Beaubassin.  More than 4,000 Acadians were plunged overnight from comfort of their homes to abject poverty, but still thinking that they would find their way home.
     Joseph Vincent, his wife Marguerite Bodard and their two children, Marie-Josephe and Pierre were taken to Liverpool, England as prisoners-of-war.  Joseph died there in prison.  He died between the age of 33-39, because the rest of the family were in Liverpool for 6 years until the end of the war.
     After the war, some Frenchmen were successful in getting these Acadians out of England.
     In 1765 we find, among the Acadians in Belle-Isle-en-Mer, France, Guillaume Montet 28 with wife Marie-Josehe Vincent 20.  With them was Marguerite Bodard, widow of Joseph Vincent, and Pierre Vincent, 18.  The Montet's have a child, also named Pierre, 2 years old.
     The French government tried to find farming land for them, but all lands were taken up by the French.  Some land was cleared, but it proved to be poor land, so the Acadians lived in poverty in France.
     Someone from Louisiana, Jean Baptiste Semer, wrote to his father in France and described the "benefits extended by Louisiana's newly installed Spanish administration to him and to all his comrades."  The Acadians in France asked to be sent to Louisiana, but the French government said it would cost too much.
     Many other Acadians were already established in Louisiana, with the help of the descendants of the Germans who lived along the Mississippi River, and people who lived in posts of Attakapas and Opelousas.
     Jean Baptiste Semer contacted the Spanish government about bringing the Acadians to Louisiana.  (Louisiana was for Spain at the time.  When France lost the war with England, France was afraid of losing the Louisiana Territory to England, and so they removed it from their own hands by giving it to Spain, a good friend.  Spain had Louisiana for over 40 years).
     The Spanish government was anxious to get the Acadians out of France and into Louisiana, but it could become a touchy situation.  The French government did not give up its citizens easily, so the process had to be done in relative secrecy.
     Late in 1785, the Acadians boarded ships for Louisiana.  Some had never seen Acadia. They had been born in Liverpool or in France.  
     On June 11, 1785 the 3rd ship of seven, "Le Beaumont" departed France with Acadians.  One of them was Pierre Vincent, 36, cooper (barrel maker).  The ship arrived in Louisiana August 19, 1785. This was a 69 day voyage.  Other ships (7 in all) brought more Acadians.
     He would eventually settle on lands at the intersection of the Vermilion River and Bayou Que de Tortue, near what today is the town of Milton, almost dead center of what today we call Acadiana.  He had finally found home.
     During the Atlantic crossing, Pierre met Agnes Broussard, widow of Pierre Potier.  They were married on Janary 12, 1788, but she died soon afterwards.  On April 20, 1790, he married again, to Catherine Galman, widow of Benoit Hargrave.  They would have nine children, one of the being Pierre Vincent Jr.
     When Pierre Vincent died he left 9 children and a widow, who were all American citizens without their knowing it.  Pierre had been born in "Acadie", a colony of France.  He had been taken to England as a Prisoner-of-War.  He had lived in France, then in 1785 he had moved into and lived in a Spanish colony, the Louisiana Territory.  In 1803 France had the Louisiana Territory for a short time and Napoleon sold it to the United States, making the Acadians American citizens.  Pierre, who had been forced to move all his life, died as an American citizen.  His estate was valued at $1650.50, quite a goodly sum for that time period, and consisted of land, cattle, horses, oxen, along with the house and furnishings.  Pierre had a registered cattle brand "PV". 
     Pierre Vincent Jr. would marry Sarah Celeste (Sally) Ryan, the daughter of Jacob Ryan Sr.  Ryan had migrated from Georgia to the region around Perry's Bridge in Vermilion Parish, La., but in 1817 moved to Calcasieu Parish.  One of his sons, Isaac, moved also to Calcasieu, where we are told, he met up with Jim Bowie.  It was perhaps an unfortunate meeting.  Isaac Ryan's name can be found among those who followed Bowie to the Alamo and died there with him.
     Pierre Vincent Jr. and Sally Ryan also moved to Calcasieu.  They were among the first ten settlers in those parts (If you don't count the Indians, which few people do).  They were probably among the first five.  They would leave their mark.  
     The main thoroughfare through Lake Charles is named Ryan Street, after Jacob Ryan Jr., who opened a sawmill on the lakefront, claimed the land around it, then sold it by the 100 fool rope length through what is now the city's downtown.  The story goes that, if you wanted to buy some land from him, you'd find him rocking on his front porch, with a coil of rope alongside his chair.  "I want to buy some land" you'd say.  "Measure it off," he'd say, and throw you the rope.
     Pierre Vincent Jr. and Sally Ryan settled across the river from Lake Charles and reared ten children at a homesite still known as Vincent Settlement.  
     Before all was said and done, the Ryans (along with some others) had up and founded a town.  The Vincent's stayed on the farm and raised cattle and kids.

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