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Roger Baudier

Författare till The Catholic Church in Louisiana

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2023 - ‘70’s Immersion Reading Challenge

The History of Saint Mary Magdalen Parish: Abbeville, Louisiana 1842-1976 by Roger Baudier, K.S.G. and Lydia Sas-Jaworsky (1976) 47 pages.

2-1/2 stars rounded up - To be clear, I am not Catholic, but most of my Louisiana ancestors were. My main purpose in reading this booklet is really to put my ancestors lives into perspective with what was going on in the area at the time they were living there.

So, just pass this review on by. It will only be interesting for me as I learn more about the lives of my ancestors. See you at the next review.

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The number of Holy Communion, Confirmations, and money collections seem to be main focus of this entire booklet, along with name after name after name of the Priests who resided over the Abbeville church. At least four were most prominently mentioned with the progress of the Catholic church. They were:
(1) Abbe Megret (founder of Abbeville) [see pgs. 1-10]
(2) Pere Alexandre Mehault [see pgs. 15-21]
(3) Pere Fabian Laforest [see pgs. 21-24]
(4) Pere Edmund Daull [see pgs. 26-28]

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GENEALOGY NOTES

Mehault gave last rites to my 2nd great-grandmother (Clebert’s wife), Modeste Emelie (Pamela) Decuir Broussard, at her death in 1897.

Laforest gave last rites to my 2nd great-grandfather, Clebert Broussard, at his death in 1900.

Daull gave last rites to my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Broussard LeBlanc, at her death in 1946.

Frederick LaBrake gave last rites to my great-grandfather, Paul Albert LeBlanc, at his death in 1948. LaBrake only had his name mentioned as a cleric of the church in this year.

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This author is very vague as to why Abbe Megret, the founder of Abbeville, left France and came to Louisiana to dedicate his life’s mission. According to this booklet, Abbe Antoine Desire Megret “stood high in clerical circles of France, and had been a brilliant writer on the staff of “L’Avenir,” the controversial publication of Abbe de La Mennais.” The Holy See (Pope) condemned the “propositions” of that cleric, so Abbe Megret bowed to the Papal decree, and left to focus his life’s mission in Louisiana. [What was the proposition? What is the Papal decree?]

In 1842, the Catholics were revolting against the church before Abbe Antoine Megret even arrived from France to be the new pastor of St. John Catholic Church in Lafayette. What exactly were they revolting against? The author doesn’t say. But, first off, Abbe Megret wanted to begin introducing and teaching catechism to the negroes and indoctrinating them into the religion. Maybe this was the proposition he made in France and the Pope rejected, even though the Pope openly denounced slavery? When the Abbe pressed the issue here in Lafayette, it caused the two wards running St. John’s in Lafayette to act violently towards the Abbe, so he began pushing for the Bishop of New Orleans to take control of the operations of the Lafayette parish church. The two wards running the Lafayette church pretty much ran Abbe Megret out of Lafayette. Megret began focusing his attention down around Pont Perry, or Perry’s Bridge, renamed La Chapelle by the Abbe, but today known as Abbeville. Later, the two wards were relieved of their duties from the church.

On July 25, 1843, Abbe Megret purchased the home and property of Joseph LeBlanc, in which he renovated the home into the first St. Mary Magdalen Church of Abbeville and established the church cemetery, rectory, lots, etc. [Who is this Joseph LeBlanc? A little research, maybe in the 1840 census, might tell me?]

Pere Alexandre Barde describes the home converted into the first church of Abbeville on page 29: “pointed arches with stained glass windows depicting scenes and figures from Holy Scripture. It casts the shadow of its cross…as far as the cemetery, beautiful green field stripped with monuments to the dead, giving it resemblance to the churchyard in Gray’s ‘Elegy’.”

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BOOK TO LOOK INTO

An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray (1751). Mentioned on page 29 of this booklet.

Available to read FREE at Internet Archive:

https://archive.org/search?query=elegy from a country churchyard

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In 1851, there was a fight between Abbe Megret and the people at Perry’s Bridge on where the courthouse will be. They wanted the church moved to Perry’s Bridge. The Abbe offered up land around the church in Abbeville for the courthouse. The people of Perry’s Bridge offered up a petition promising money to move the church to Perry’s Bridge so they could keep the courthouse there.

NOTE: According to Abbe Megret, Perry’s Bridge area were mostly poor Protestants…”poor as Job”; whereas, Abbeville were mostly committed Catholics…evidently, with money (p. 7). The long list of names from Perry’s Bridge, and the amounts they pledged, are included in the booklet. My direct ancestors are not listed; although, I know my great-grandparents, Paul Albert and Elizabeth (Broussard) LeBlanc, who were Catholic, lived in Perry, Louisiana, at the time and are buried there. They were extremely poor farmers…maybe too poor to even think about their Catholic duties of participating and funding the church and its activities.

All four of my 2nd great-grandparents survived the 1853 [which another source says 1854] yellow fever epidemic that hit Vermilionville area. With a population of only a little over one hundred citizens in Abbeville, 73 died, including the founder of Abbeville, Abbe Antoine Desire Megret. He is buried at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Lafayette where he died.

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GENEALOGY NOTES

This yellow fever epidemic is not the same epidemic which hit hardest in the New Iberia area in 1839. Half of the population in this area died. Every family was affected. My 3rd great-grandmother, Clebert Broussard’s mother, Marie Felonise Broussard (wife of Don Louis Broussard), along with three other ladies, helped nurse people back to health best they could. She survived that epidemic of 1839 and also lived through this one in 1854 [or most likely 1853], which doesn’t appear to have hit New Iberia area very hard, if at all. [They Tasted Bayou Water, Bergerie, p. 50-51]

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NOTE: In 1854, the rectory only, not the church, in Abbeville, where the church records were kept, burned down. Father Foltier was the appointed pastorate to St. Mary Magdeline Church. He called upon all Catholics who had children that were baptized at the church to come to the rectory to provide names, dates and whatever other information they could recall. So, anything dated before 1854 may not be exact, but it will be close. And it’s all we have to go by.

After Abbe Megrets death, in 1854, the State Supreme Court made a decision in favor of the Abbe. The parish seat would be in Abbeville, and the Archbishop would not move the church to Perry’s Bridge.

On August 10, 1856, the area was hit with one the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the coast of Louisiana. Abbeville was devastated and, of course, the church was wrecked. Twenty-two homes were completely destroyed, but there were no deaths in Abbeville. I’ve read an awesome book, Last Days of Last Island by Bill Dixon (2009), about this 140 mph hurricane. Somehow, my Louisiana ancestors survived. But, of course, they were not on Last Island off the Louisiana coast where many perished. The island was practically washed away with hundreds of people there on vacation.

From 1859-1862, tensions were high as “the slavery question arose, and the secession from the Union” and Civil War was on the horizon. The Federal soldiers eventually captured and took control of the railroad and had pushed up Bayou Teche. Not much was said on the effects of the Civil War at Abbeville, except that the numbers of those being baptized, both black and white, went up at the start of the war, then dropped dramatically among both groups, and especially the blacks, at the close of the war, as tensions between the races were escalated. My ancestors lived in Abbeville throughout the Civil War.

The new church wasn’t officially dedicated until May of 1884, nearly 28 years after the hurricane of 1856 destroyed the original church. The new church, the 2nd church, was already cramped by 1870. So, Father Lamy, the pastorate at the time, had already begun collecting funds to add an addition onto the rectory. In 1874, a new bell was blessed with a ceremony. And, finally, the church was completed in 1875.

Improvements to the church continued to be made over the years. In 1901, new windows were installed in the church. And, in 1904, a new organ and the rectory was enlarged. A year later, in 1905, new pews for the church were purchased and a new cemetery with a sexton building had been built.

Two years later, in 1907, the whole church burned down to the ground. One of the Baptismal records, with 154 baptisms recorded, had been left in the church and was lost. A temporary frame church was erected and used until 1911 when the exterior of new church was completed and put to use. This is the church that still stands today.

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GENEALOGY NOTES

If they even attended church, my great-grandparents, Paul and Elizabeth Broussard LeBlanc, would have been to service in the 2nd and the present new church that still exists to this day. They, at least, received last rites from the church at their deaths.

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In the year 1948, Pere Edmond Daull, pastorate at the time, reported to have buried 12 soldier boys from Abbeville who had been killed overseas during World War II. The author doesn’t list them in this booklet. I wonder if Pere Daull had them recorded in the book of deaths at the church, or just made a note of the number of deaths?

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MY ANCESTRY

My 1st great-grandparents were born and living in the area soon after Abbeville was founded in 1842. And their parents, my 2nd great-grandparents may have lived in Abbeville when it was established. Here, they died and were buried.

1ST GREAT-GRANDPARENTS

Paul Albert LeBlanc (b. 1859 - d. 1948, bur. at Esther Cemetery in Abbeville, LA.) Paul had 12 siblings.

Elizabeth Broussard LeBlanc (b. 1860 - d. 1946, bur. at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Cemetery in Abbeville, LA.) Elizabeth had 13 siblings.

NOTE: Staff sent me a letter saying their records show that Elizabeth was removed and reburied at Esther, but Esther Cemetery doesn’t have any records on her. In fact, they’ve lost both my grandparent’s gravesites…nothing ever found on either one of them. Record keeping was very scant on this cemetery.

2ND GREAT-GRANDPARENTS

Paul’s parents:

Jules LeBlanc (b. 1819 - d. 1884, bur. at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Cemetery in Abbeville, LA.)

Marguerite Emela (Pamela) Boudreaux (b. 1824 - d. 1869, bur. at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Cemetery in Abbeville, LA.)

Elizabeth’s parents:

Jean Clebert Broussard (b. 1822 - d. 1900, bur. at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Cemetery in Abbeville, LA.))

Modeste Emelie Decuir Broussard (b. 1829 - d. 1897, bur. at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Cemetery in Abbeville, LA.)

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… (mer)
 
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