Basile was first known as Schamber Post Office, after Louis F. Schamber, who was named postmaster there on April 24, 1888. Not even a year later, on January 25, 1889, the name was changed to honor the town's first settler, Basile Fontenot.
That was about the time venerable historian Alcee Fortier described Basile as "a ... hamlet ... about two miles south of Hawling, which is the most convenient railroad station." I have no idea what happened to Hawling. I don't find it on any of my maps and Fortier's is the only reference to it that I've come across.
The founding families of Basile included the Fontenots, LaToures, Guillorys, Lafleurs, and Smiths, most of them former soldiers or descendants of soldiers from Fort Toulouse, which was built in what is now Alabama by the French in 1717 to block the growing influence of British colonies in Georgia and Carolina.
They came to Louisiana after the Treaty of 1763 gave to England most of the French possessions east of the Mississippi River. They didn't want to become English subjects, so they moved to the west side of the river, many of them first to the Pointe Coupee area and then to what was then the Opelousas district.
The first community named Basile was actually located about four miles southeast of the present town site. The town we know today was divided into lots in 1905 to be sold to create a village originally to be named St. Louis.
When the railroad came through in 1907, the post office at Basile (formerly Schamber) was closed and moved near the rail lines, keeping the name of Basile. The town was incorporated on March 9, 1911, after 33 of the town's 267 inhabitants signed a petition for incorporation.
The Catholic St. Augustine church parish was established in Basile in 1921. That was the same year that the Methodist Episcopal Church opened the Evangeline Academy in the village, a school it intended to conduct "primarily as a mission to the French." Old newspaper articles don't say exactly how the missionary work went, but did note that boys from the manual arts department built a number of "commodious birdhouses" that were placed around the town.
Centennial celebration planners say a number of events are on the schedule including a parade and a good sampling of the Cajun music that helped to put the town on the map (the Cajun French Music Association was founded in Basile in November 1984, and Nathan Abshire's cluttered front yard in Basile became a place of pilgrimage during the height of the Cajun music revival).
Anyone who doubts that the people of Basile know how to throw a celebration have never been there during its Mardi Gras celebration, and this one promises to be just as much fun, but maybe just a little bit more sober.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.