We started our Natchez trip out of the La Quinta Inn, in Lafayette with a road trip to Abbeville, LA. I wanted to see if I could get a copy of my paternal Grandmother’s birth certificate. We arrived at the courthouse about 1/2 hr early, so we walked around the town square and visited the Catholic Church. The church was beautiful and reminded us of the Churches built in France. That should come as no surprise since the town of Abbeville was founded by Pere Antoine Desire Megret (1797-1853).
There is a monument/statue of Megret in the Town Square. The inscription reads “Pere Antoine Desire Megret, born in France on May 23, 1797 arrived in Louisiana in 1842 and was sent to Vermillionville (now Lafeyette) as a pastor of St Joh’s Parish in 1843. He purchased from Joseph LeBlanc one hundred sixty arpents of land approximately three miles north of Perry’s Bridge. St Mary Magdalen church was dedicated in 1844. Property not reserved for the rectory, cemetery and town square was sold in lots and the community heretofore La Chapelle became Abbeville in 1844.”
Pere Megret having designed and developed his city around two central squares, offered property and a building for the courthouse and was influential in the ultimate establishment of Abbeville as the parish seat in 1854.
In 1853, the community suffered from a yellow fever epidemic which claimed seventy three lives. The last of these was Pere Megret who had been ministering to the victims of the disease. He is entombed under St John’s Cathedral in Lafayette, Louisiana.
From the town square we strolled over to Saint Mary Magdalen Church. There were four churches dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalen that have stood on the current church site. The present church was built in 1911 under the pastorate of Père Laforest. Stepping inside the present Saint Mary Magdalen Church was like stepping inside a church in Paris-it was absolutely beautiful with its stain glassed windows and ceiling paintings of different saints.
As we walked out the front door, we notice a plaque dedicated to Rev Lt. Joseph Verbis LaFleur, Associate Pastor 1938 – 1941. What made this plaque so interesting to us was the following writing, “LaFluer left St Mary Magdalen Parish to join the U.S. Army Air Corp in June 1941. He became a prisoner of war and gave his life while aboard a Japanese hell ship named the “Shinyo Maru.” As fate would have it, just four days earlier, we were at a restaurant named PoPo, near Comfort, TX, about 50 miles north of San Antonio, for lunch with friends. During lunch, one of our friends pointed to a dish hanging on the wall celebrating the sinking of the “Shinyo Maru” in 1944 by the USS Paddle (SS-263). There were over 2500 decorative wall plates on the restaurant walls.
Information concerning the Arpent unit of measurement can be found here: