These families do share a tale of displacement under British rule, but they have a history quite different from that of the Cajuns. They were among the early French soldier-settlers in the Mobile area when the Sieur d'Iberville established his first settlement in what was then part of Louisiana.
The families were in at least their second generation in North America - some had been here longer - when the Treaty of Paris of 1763 gave to Great Britain all of the territory east of the Mississippi River (except the New Orleans area) that once belonged to France.
Under the terms of that treaty, French families at Mobile, Fort Tombekbe (renamed Fort York by the British) in what is now Sumter County, Ala., and Fort Toulouse (later Fort Jackson) in Elmore County, were given the right to stay where they were and accept English rule or to leave their homes and move to "some French colony of their choice."
The French government promised land equivalent to what they abandoned for those who wanted to leave Alabama, as well as tools to clear the new land and enough food to keep them fed for a year.
Most of the Frenchmen decided to leave and sailed to New Orleans aboard the ship Salomon in early January 1764. They were taken from New Orleans to the Pointe Coupee area, arriving there in early March, but apparently didn't like the land they were offered. Within a year a good number of these Alabama exiles moved south into what is now St. Landry and Evangeline parishes.
The Coushatta people (Koasati in their own language) who now live in Allen Parish were also victims of differences between the French and English. They were neighbors to the French in the Mobile area and were also eventually forced to move across the Mississippi.
During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Indian tribes of what was to become the southeastern United States were divided over whether to support England or France. When the British gained the upper hand there, some smaller tribes such as the Coushatta moved near the French settlements at Mobile and New Orleans to get away from raids by larger tribes who sold their captives into slavery in the English colonies in the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia.
They stayed in the Mobile area after 1763, but then the Treaty of San Lorenzo (1795) fixed the southern boundary of the United States along the 31st parallel and made practically all of Alabama a part of the United States. That left the Coushatta, who had been friendly to the French, to face an onslaught of not so friendly English-speaking settlers who had been more or less allied with other tribes.
In response, the Coushatta began migrating across the Mississippi River to place themselves under the protection of Spain, which then held Louisiana. About 1795, their primary chief, Red Shoes, left Alabama for Louisiana, bringing with him about 100 of his followers.
It appears that Red Shoes first moved from the lower Red River southwest to Bayou Chicot in the Opelousas district and, a short time later, moved about 80 miles farther west on the east bank of the Sabine River--the Louisiana-Texas border--near the present-day town of Merryville.
The Coushatta had just established themselves on the Sabine River when they were caught in a big fight between the United States and Spain over who owned the land in western Louisiana. During that time they resettled on the Trinity River in southeast Texas, only to again get caught in the middle between Texas and Mexico when the Texas Revolution began in 1835.
Finally, about 1850, they moved back into Louisiana and established themselves on the Calcasieu River near Kinder. By the beginning of the Civil War, some 250 Coushatta had settled there, coming from east Texas, the Red River, and other points in western Louisiana.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.