The small, tranquil, rural community of Cecilia lying on the historic banks of the picturesque Bayou Teche has an interesting and colorful history. Because of its geographic location, Cecilia began as a small service center for many landowners in the outlying areas.
The first settler of Cecilia was Pierre Guidry who acquired three tracts of land in 1791 from Mrs. Joseph Alexander Declouet. Soon thereafter, Joseph Angelle also settled in the region. As more and more settlers populated the land along the northern Bayou Teche in St. Martin Parish, there was a need for easier access to religious services, education and trade. Therefore, the region now known as Cecilia grew because of its strategic location between St. Martinville and Opelousas.
Additionally, Cecilia and Breaux Bridge inhabitants developed a closeness because of language, family ties, trade, and religious affiliations. In fact, in 1841, a small chapel constructed by Breaux Bridge citizens served both communities. Thus, the two communities' ties were reinforced and continued to flourish.
Some time after 1847, Cecilia residents constructed their very own chapel. Some sources say that the chapel was named St. Etienne. According to the writings of Father Borias, a Breaux Bridge priest, this chapel, La Chapelle de la Grande Pointe, was visited by a priest on a bi-weekly basis. It was originally located about midway between the Four Corners and Grande Anse area. Later the chapel was relocated closer to present-day Cecilia.
It is interesting to note that prior to and during the Civil War, the settlement now named Cecilia was known as La Place. This name was dropped at the request of the U. S. Post Office Department because of the possible confusion which might arise with the older La Place in St. John Parish.
There are several versions in circulation concerning the origin of the name of "Cecilia". One story which seems to be the most logical is that Cecilia was named after the first postmistress, Cecilia Lastrapes. When the postal officials rejected the name La Place, Cecilia's first name was used for the post office address. Thus, the name for the community evolved.
Cecilia is the birthplace of some famous Louisiana political figures, such as, Robert "Bob" Angelle and former Lt. Governor Paul Hardy. It is also the burial place for General Louis Hebert, a Civil War general.
On April 19, 1964, dedication ceremonies were held in a grove of live oaks on the banks of Bayou Teche about three miles from Cecilia on Highway 328 to mark the resting place of Civil War General Louis Hebert. The marker reads as follows: "Approximately 100 yards to the west is the probable resting place of General Louis Hebert, C. S. A. Born in Iberville Parish in 1820, Hebert graduated from West Point in 1845 third in his class. After an army service of two years, he resigned to manage his family's sugar interests. Before the war he was a member of the State Senate and Chief Engineer of Louisiana. He fought at Wilson's Creek, Elkhorn, Corinth, Vicksburg, and Port Fisher. He was an editor and teacher in Iberville and St. Martin Parishes and lived until 1901. (General Hebert taught at Huron Plantation near Cecilia and tutored children of Vincent Barras in St. Martinville.)
Certainly, Cecilia has undergone many changes in its history. St. Joseph's Church, St. Rose of Lima Church, St. Martin Parish Public Schools, lumberyards, stores, shops, service stations, subdivisions, etc.-all of these now grace the landscape of Cecilia.
Of course, "ordinary" Cecilia citizens worked together to make their community a better place in which to live. Since this is a brief history of the community, it is impossible to name all of the contributors. Only a few outstanding citizens are remembered by name. However, without the cooperative effort of all the people, Cecilia would not be the beautiful, peaceful community it is today. The present-day residents, like their ancestors who preceded them, are still God loving people who love to live and have fun in Cecilia.
The History of St. Martin- an Overview 1987 by Kenneth P. Delcambre.
Official Report Relative to the Conduct of Federal Troops in Western Louisiana, During the Invasions of 1863 and 1864 - Compiled and Sworn Testimony Under the Direction of Gov. Henry W. Allen, Shreveport, La., April, 1865, by Kenneth P. Delcambre.
First Facts about Breaux Bridge Louisiana - March 1988 by Kenneth P. Delcambre and Claude J. Kenneson.