Avoyelles Parish, at the crossroads of Central Louisiana, takes its name from Avoyels Indians who inhabited the area. The Avoyels were later absorbed by the Tunica Biloxi tribe. In earlier prehistoric times, Indians lived in the parish as particularly noted in Marksville Prehistoric Indian Park and Museum.
In the 1725 – 1770 period under French rule, early pioneers and settlers from Pointe Coupée and Natchitoches Parishes and surrounding areas began to settle in the area. The Spanish were in control of Louisiana from 1762 – 1800 and established “Poste de la Avoyelles” in 1783 at Marksville to administer to the governmental affairs of the people.
Old Indian trails were the predecessors of many in Avoyelles. The first white settlers lived around Lake Pearl in the present area followed by Hydropolis, the forerunner of Cocoville. The Mansura area was formerly identified as “Prairie des Avoyelles.”
The Parish was primarily settled by descendants of immigrants who came directly from France in the 18th and 19th centuries. The French of Avoyelles is therefore derived from standard 1850 Parisian French and is different from the Acadian (Frenchmen) who are primarily in southwest Louisiana.
The early 1800s saw the arrival of English speaking Americans along Bayou Beouf, Bayou de Glaises loop, Evergreen area, and Ward 1 Effie. The French influence, however, was noted in most areas. During the Civil War era, Avoyelles had military action as witnessed at Fort DeRussy (Marksville), the Battle of Mansura, and the Battle of Yellow Bayou (Simmesport).
Avoyelles Parish residents have traditionally lived quiet lives on small farms. The Catholic religion is predominant.
Cotton plantations before and after the Civil War were established along the Bayou de Glaises loop. Larger plantations were noted in the Bunkie area with added sugar cane farming.
The parish is geographically located in the center of the state with a present-day population of approximately 40,000. The land area consists of 864 square miles. Cropland and pasture accounts for 52 percent and woodlands, 34 percent.
Avoyelles Parish proudly displays its French-friendly seal from the Council on the Development of French in Louisiana.