It was first settled in 1815 by Marcelin Garand, Adjutant Major in Napoleon's army. Why Garand, who had lost his eyesight while fighting in Russia, came to Louisiana is still unknown. According to stories, he kept a tiny tavern on the site of Ville Platte's old post office. Travelers to Mexico and on the Rapides trail often stopped to hear the old soldier relate his experiences under the "Little Corporal." He was a leader in the community, and his influence persisted until his death in 1852. In the Old Town Cemetery you can find the marble tablet that marks the grave of the founder of Ville Platte, on it is the following epitaph:
Marcelin Garand, Adjutant Major
Sous L'Empire Francais,
Ne en Savoie en 1781
Decede 14 Juin 1852.
Translated into English it reads as follows:
Adjutant Major under the French Empire
Born in Savoy in 1781
Died June 14, 1852.
The old cemetery affords a resting for Soldiers of Napoleon's army, members of Laffite's pirate gang along with hundreds of great pioneer citizens.
I plan to visit the old cemetery as soon as the weather cools off a little. I might even take a picture of this headstone, if I can find it.
Others who settled in the little village shortly after its founding were Marcel Daire, Alexis Latour, Etienne Couleau, Marius Coreil, Paul Eugene Guillaumin, the DeVidrines, Muilleauds, Moreins, Brignacs, Ardoins, and Soileaus.
Probably the most important of these were the DeVidrines. It is believed that they came to Ville Platte shortly after the arrival of Garand. The incident which reportedly brought them to Ville Platte is associated with an interesting romance. The story is that the beautiful Josephine DeVidrine, a girl of noble birth, whose hair brushed the floors, was in love with another DeVidrine. Her brother violently objected to this love affair. One day he found his sister in the garden with her lover, and the angered brother then and there demanded vengeance. In the ensuing duel, banned by France, he ran his sword through the chest of his sister's suitor. To escape the vengeance of the Emperor and the swords of the dead man's kin folks, DeVidrine fled to America. He brought with him his sister, wife and other members of his family. A few years after the DeVidrines arrived here there came to Ville Platte the Tates, Reeds, DeRouens, Ortegos, Manuels and Fontenots. William Reed came from Maine. The Tates, originally from Virginia, settled in Mississippi where they were attacked by Indians; and in the confusion the three brothers became separated. One of the brothers made his way to Ville Platte and the two others remained in Mississippi. Three Fontenot brothers came to this region together; Don Diego Larose, Manuel, and Alexandre Fontenot. All other settlers of that same name are of French extraction. The Ortegos came directly from Spain, and the Manuel families were reportedly from Mexico. Alexandre Lazaro, came from New Orleans to Ville Platte shortly after the close of the War of 1812, in which he fought to defend the American cause. He was a native of Russia whose name was originally Petrovich. As you can see the town of Ville Platte was of many different clutures, French being the largest of the population. The descendants of other nationalities, through absorption by the French, have lost their traits, custom, and dialects. Most of the older generation would speak only French and had adopted all the French custom and traditions. Because of the sparsity of population there was much intermarrying among the early settlers. Marcel Daire, Alexander Dardeau and a son of Garand each married one of the three DeVidrine sisters, nieces of the lovely Josephine.
First Form of Government
The small hamlet of Ville Platte was incorporated March 16, 1858 by an act of the legislature. By the provisions of this act, the town was to be one mile square, having a point in the middle of the actual public road leading from Opelousas to Alexandria opposite Marcel Daire's store as its center. The town governing body consisted of five councilmen, elected each year. They were given the power to levy and collect taxes, to impose fines for delinquencies; and to pass and establish all such laws and regulations relating to the local polices and government of the said town. However, such laws, rules, and regulations were not to be repugnant to the Constitution and Laws of the State of Louisiana and those of the United States. The Council was not permitted to impose a fine in excess of $15.00, and its power to levy taxes within the corporate limits was not to exceed 25c on every $100.00 of assessed valuation approved by the state. They were prohibited from imposing a higher annual tax on all stores, public houses, merchants and retailers than the taxes imposed by the state for and during the same year. (that has change!!)
In 1900 Ville Platte had a population of 163; in 1910 it was 603; in 1920 it was 1364; in 1930 it was 1722; in 1940 it had risen to 3721. As of the 1990 census the population was 9,037.
In 1909 it had a bank, a post office, a telegraph office, and a telephone exchange.
In 1910, after much argument with Mamou and Eunice,
it was selected as the parish seat of the newly created parish of Evangeline. Today, Ville Platte is the home of many wealthy and successful businessmen. While its population is still predominantly French in origin, many of its citizens are from other states and other parts of Louisiana.
In 1907 Cotton Gins were kept very busy during cotton picking season. It was the trading center for a large area, mainly sustained by cotton, soybeans and rice farmers. Today they have added Crawfish Farming, and it has given an added income to some of the farmers. They stop crawfishing when it is time to get there fields ready for planting.
Just a few miles north of the town there is a large oil field, the Tate Cove oil field, with an initial daily output for the year 1938'-1939 of 6563 barrels; and an annual output for 1938 of 857,510 barrels; and in 1939 the annual production was 3,335,677 barrels.Today in 1997 this oil filed is still in operation had been the means of bringing much added wealth to this town.
Religion has always been an important part of community life. The French people were primary Catholics so it is no surprise that the first Religious sect in Ville Platte was the Catholic Church. In 1758 the ministration of the Catholic Church was brought into Opelousas Country. The first Catholic Parish in Ville Platte was created in the year of 1854, it was Sacred Heart Parish. The first resident pastor was Father Beruire. The Chataignier Church Parish was second in 1869, and Mamou next in 1911.