Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Evangeline's Oak, St. Martinville, Louisiana

Blogger's Note: Known colloquially as the "Acadian Creation Story," the Legend of Evangeline is primary to Louisiana Cajun culture.  Her legacy, passed down for generations, is one of mystery and true love.  Based on 'le grand dérangement,' the systematic dispersal of the Acadians out of Halifax, Nova Scotia by the British.  Particularly the story of Emmeline Labiche and her true love, Louis Arceneaux.  Their story, some say, inspired the poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published in 1847.  This twining of history and folklore causes devoted interest in those familiar with her story.  One landmark, from both poem and historical account, is the Evangeline's Oak Tree in St. Martinville, Louisiana, said to mark the original meeting place of Emmeline and Gabriel.  


Photo: Present Day, Evangeline's Oak near St. Martinville, Louisiana.  The ancient oak is said to mark the original meeting place of the true-life inspiration for the Acadian star-crossed-lovers in Longfellow's poem.


(Above) B&W Photo: The Evangeline's Oak is a historical location, it's marker tells the story of the real-life inspiration behind the story.  Photo courtesy of the State Library of Louisiana.

Most of what you find is on the historic references of the Evangeline's Oak is in Cajun Folklore as it relates to the Evangeline story. As important as that narrative is to the identity of the Cajun culture, the tree itself also deserves notice.  It is massive, with limbs stretching nearly 77-feet overhead, and ancient.  A beautiful example of a loved and well-cared for Live Oak tree, often referred to as "The Most Photographed Tree in the World."


(Above) From the Historical Marker plaque neat St. Martinville, Louisiana: "Evangeline Oak Meeting place of Evangeline & Gabiel whose counterparts, Emmeline Labiche and Louis Arcenaux, lived here.  Replica of his home is in Longfellow-Evangeline State Park - one mile N. Evangeline's tomb is at the rear of the church."  Photo courtesy of the State Library of Louisiana.


Photo: B&W: "A view across Bayou Teche (to St. Martinville, Louisiana). The church to the right: the theater in the center background, the tree of 'Basil the Blacksmith' beyond the house boat. In the rear of the building, behind this tree, is Evangeline oak."  Photo courtesy of the State Library of Louisiana.

One needs only to look at a Louisiana map to see the impact the Legend of Evangeline has had in our area.  The Evangeline's Oak; Evangeline Parish; Evangeline, Louisiana; and Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, to name a few notable influences.