Every state in the United States with the exception of Louisiana has its political subdivision designated as counties. In Louisiana the subdivision is called a Parish. When Louisiana became a state it preferred the Parish designation to the county system. Another unique feature of Louisiana is that its legal system is based on the concept of Roman Law rather than the English Common Law system that is used in the other states. This is a legacy left by the French Emperor Napoleon.
Evangeline Parish was carved out of the old Parish of St. Landry which originally extended from the Atchafalaya River to the Sabine River on the western boundary of the state. Several other Louisiana Parishes were also carved out of this old and large Parish. The name Evangeline was chosen from the poem of the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This poem was the story of an Acadian girl who came to Louisiana when the Acadians were driven from Nova Scotia by the British. The parish is one of the oldest inhabited areas of the state.
Evangeline Parish was part of the lands of the Attakapas Indians. These were a peaceful people and there are no records of any warlike qualities of these Indians. At that time Evangeline Parish was a part of the lands claimed for France by Robert Cavalier Sieur de LaSalle in 1682.
The main road from New Orleans to Natchitoches which was the oldest town in central Louisiana ran through the center of what is now Evangeline Parish. The road went through Ville Platte which is now the parish seat of the parish. It continued through Bayou Chicot and on up through the Alexandria area and across the Red River to Natchitoches. The road continued on northwest out to California. The road was known as “El Camino Real” or the Spanish Royal Road. Basically the present U.S. highway 167 follows the old Spanish road.
The first settlers of Evangeline Parish were people of French ancestry, and after them people of Spanish ancestry. These people were located principally in the southern part of the parish. The people who settled the northern part of the parish were mostly English descent. Today Evangeline Parish is populated by peoples of all races and national origins. There are large populations of Irish, German, English, and Negro people. The population of the parish according to the last census is 35,434.