The Attakapas district included what is now Lafayette, St. Martin, Iberia, St. Mary, and Vermilion parishes.
The Opelousas district included what is now St. Landry, Evangeline, Acadia, Cameron, Calcasieu, Allen, Jefferson Davis, and Beauregard parishes.
Although these two regions shared many similarities, they also had their differences, as is pointed out in an unsigned article in the Nov. 20, 1869, edition of The Opelousas Journal.
"To persons uninformed by actual observation, less seems to be known of the geography of Opelousas and Attakapas than of any other portion of Louisiana, "although this beautiful region was settled during the last century," the newspaper reported.
"Notwithstanding the subdivision of these old counties, they are still recognized by their original names. Opelousas was the Indian term for dark water, and was probably given to this country by its primitive discoverers, owing to the striking contrast which they perceived, in their migration southward, between the dark earth and water of Opelousas, and the Red River country through which they had passed. The word Attakapas was the Indian expression for man-eater; but we have no reason to believe that the predecessors of the white settlers in that beautiful country were practically cannibals although several old French travelers record such a tradition.
"These two old counties, although they are now sometimes confounded, have always been designated and recognized as separate and distinct, each having features and peculiarities of its own.
"The original French settlers, fresh from European scenes owing their attractions to the blended influences of nature and art, found something peculiarly fascinating in the balmy air and genial soil of Attakapas, in its green islands rising high above the marshes, and above all, in those venerable groves of ever-green oaks, covering the gentle slopes of the Teche and spreading their moss-hung boughs far over the stream.
"They found at Opelousas some of the same features, but varied by other peculiarities. The country here spread out into vast natural meadows and forests, intersected by occasional running streams, dotted with round ponds of fresh water, and fanned by breezes borne over vast savannas, fresh from the Gulf.
"Attakapas was more confined to the borders of the Teche; it was a narrower region, entered through its entire length by this beautiful stream flowing gently in the shadow of its venerable evergreens.
"Opelousas extended over a wider area, with its great forests in the east, and its immense prairies in the west, extending from the Atchafalaya on one side, to the Sabine on the other. It was more undulating in its surface, and higher above the level of the sea.
"The general resemblance of the two regions in some respects, and their distinguishing characteristics in others, have universally attracted the admiration of the traveler; but which to prefer depended upon the taste, the caprice, or the wants of the observer."
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.