There had been an attempt some 15 years earlier, in 1871, to create a new St. Joseph Parish out of southern St. Landry but that plan was killed in the legislature and the question of dividing St. Landry didn't come back up until the courthouse fire.
But a week after the courthouse burned, a delegation headed by State Sen. M. D. Kavanaugh went Rayne "to get the sentiment of the people on dividing the parish."
The editors of the Rayne Signal, forerunner to the Crowley paper, were firm believers that "a division of the parish would result in great good to all interests," but that it wouldn't be easily done.
"Any man of common sense can understand that all the interests of Opelousas are opposed to a division of the parish," the Signal continued.
The Opelousas Courier of the same day offered the view from the other side of the coin. The town of Washington was stirring things up and wanted to make a deal with Rayne: If Rayne would support Washington in a bid to become the new St. Landry parish seat, Washington would help Rayne to form a new parish.
At a mass meeting in Rayne on April 3, St. Landry Parish Sheriff C. C. Duson was one of the substantial St. Landry leaders who backed creation of the new parish. It helped that his brother, W. W. Duson, was in the real estate business in Rayne and his brother-in-law was on the Rayne Town Council.
On May 19, 1886, St. Landry Rep. J. C. Lyons of Plaquemine Brulee introduced a bill in the legislature to create the parish of Nicholls. It was referred to the committee on parochial affairs and came back to the full House with the title changed to read: "An act to create the parish of Acadia."
The name change had to do with the politics of the time. Samuel D. McEnery was Louisiana governor. His opponent in the upcoming election was former Gov. Francis T. Nicholls. Gov. McEnery and Sheriff Duson, were allies, and Duson used his influence to see to it that his friend's opponent didn't get a parish named for him just at election time. Father Joseph Anthonioz, first pastor of the Catholic church at Rayne, is generally credited with suggesting the name Acadia.
The bill passed the House on June 11, the Senate on June 28 and was signed by Gov. McEnery on June. 30. It called for an election on Oct. 6, 1886, for the people of St. Landry to vote up or down on the creation of the new parish. Two weeks after bill was signed, Sheriff Duson, his brother, and several other businessmen incorporated the Southwestern Louisiana Land Co.," for the purpose of developing the agricultural resources of Southwestern Louisiana; the promotion of immigration there to and the purchase and sale of lands as real estate so as to provide homestead or farms to persons immigrating thereto."
About a month before the election, on Sept. 1, 1886, W. W. Duson bought the Rayne Signal and hired Herman Bodemuller, who had been publisher of the St. Landry Democrat in Opelousas, to put out the newspaper for him. If the Rayne newspaper had been in support of the parish division before, it was doubly so now. Said the paper: "We hear a good deal of talk about the dear old mother. But to be a good mother, she should be generous enough to set her daughter up in the world and give her a good sendoff."
Voting precincts and election commissioners for the Oct. 6 election were published in the Signal of Sept. 25. Six of the precincts were located within the boundaries of the proposed new parish: at Church Point, Plaquemine Brulee, Rayne, Point-eaux-Loups, Mermentau, and Prudhomme City. Two borderline precincts were at Faquetaique and Mallet.
When the counting was done, there were 2,516 votes for creation of the new parish, 1,521 against. Acadia, the 59th Louisiana parish, was created by a majority of 995 votes.
The Opelousas vote was 507 for, 110 against. Washington voted 227 for creation, 29 against. Church Point voters didn't like the idea. Only 28 voters there wanted the new parish, 228 were against it. In Rayne the vote was 658 votes for, 1 vote against.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.