The first settlement of what is now Acadia Parish was made by the exiled Acadians who were induced by the Spanish Government to come to this area with gifts of large tracts of land, cattle, and agricultural implements. Life was simple, their homes were constructed of mud mixed with moss, their food was plain, and there was little trade. They engaged in stock raising, and later raised corn and cotton.
Acadia Parish was part of St. Landry Parish. In those days of poor transportation, people found it a real hardship to travel by horseback, canoe, or pirogue to distant Opelousas, the parish seat. In 1886, the Rayne newspaper, The Rayne Signal, proposed a division of the old parish with the creation of a new one. The proposal was soon supported by many prominent men throughout the area, and in an election, the people voted in its favor, almost two to one. Thus, was born Acadia Parish on October 2, 1886. The name Acadia was suggested by a priest from Rayne, Father Anthoioz.
A burning question was the location of the new courthouse. Rayne was the commercial center, and many thought that it deserved the honor. The Southwest Louisiana Land Development Company offered five thousand dollars ($5,000) and land for the new building if the parish seat was located at Crowley. After much discussion, the voters went to the polls on March 1, 1887. Victory went to Crowley, the police jury held its first meeting April 12, 1887, they consider plans for erecting the courthouse. The first decision was to build a frame structure costing six hundred dollars, but later it was decided that a brick building costing ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) would be erected. The new courthouse was ready for use in 1888. About that time, Crowley was a small village with only one store.
The town had been founded by the Duson Brothers. W.W. Duson was a merchant in Rayne who later opened a real estate office and also became the owner of the Rayne Signal. He had a great dream of developing the land, and used his news paper to advertise it as “The garden spot of the world.” He decided to build a town on the prairie between Rayne and the Mermentau River. He purchased one-hundred-seventy-four (174) acres, which he bought at about forty-five cents (.45) an acre. He then convinced his brother, C.C. Duson to help him with the enterprise as a partner.One mile away from the Duson land was a railroad switch which was known as Crowley’s switch. It was named after Pat Crowley, a railroad man. The Duson Brothers got Mr. Crowley to use his influence with the railroad to move the switch to their land with the understanding that their town would be named after him. The Dusons advertised their land, and the railroad ran excursions to show people from far and wide the attractive features of the new development. Many came and many stayed to make up Crowley’s first families. The Dusons gave land to erect churches, and they took the lead in many community projects. They were also leaders in the development of irrigation of the land and rice farming.
David Abbott and his three sons discovered how rice could be raised in the higher portions of the land, and how water could be taken from the bayous by buckets for irrigation purposes. J.F. Shoemaker of Crowley was one of the early farmers to experiment with the growing of rice. Solomon Wright, who came from Indiana, carried on experiments which led to the development of the Blue Rose variety, noted for its good yield as well as the fact that it mills well.
The Rice Experiment Station east of Crowley has done much to the further advancement of rice cultivation. The first rice mill in Crowley was built by Squire Pickett in 1893. Today there are many rice mills in the area supplying thousands of barrels of rice a year.
The first Rice Festival was held in Crowley in September of 1927. Sol Wright was the first king and his daughter was the first queen. In 1946 the festival was enlarged into the International Rice Festival, with entries and exhibits from other rice producing countries of the world. Since the turn of the century, farmers of Acadia Parish have realized a sizable income from such crops as cotton, eggs, soybeans, crawfish, sugar cane, and frog farming.
In recent years, the discovery of oil has brought people to Acadia Parish from many places. The Jennings Oil Company, the Jennings Heywood Oil Company, and the Crowley Oil and Mineral Company were among the first in this area. Gas pipeline companies employ many Acadia Parish residents.
Acadia Parish enjoys a modified subtropical climate throughout the year, enhancing the allure of the area’s recreational and cultural activities. The parish is part of Acadiana and offers residents and visitors museums, theaters, historical attractions, famous Cajun restaurants, and numerous community playing fields and courts, as well as a local country club.
Those who enjoy outdoor sports will be pleased with the variety of recreational opportunities such camping, swimming, fishing, hunting and boating. There are eight parish libraries and many festivals that take place each year for the pleasure of all. Our citizens enjoy a quality of life that makes us unique. Let us prove to you why so many visitors want to stay in the area for many days, week, and months.
Take your time and review the many points of interest our parish offers and the many year round fairs and festivals. Travel our scenic byway and experience the Cajun Prairie Culture through the heartland of Acadiana. Enjoy the unique diversity of Cajun and Zydeco French music. While traveling on the byway be sure to pick up some authentic gumbo or boudin