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
Point Coupee 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 de Russey (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
Agribusiness remains Avoyelles' major industry including forest products, sweet
potatoes, cotton ginning, cattle sales, and fisheries sales. Major crops are
rice, sugar cane, corn, soybeans, and sweet potatoes.
Over 20,000 areas are lakes, bayous, and rivers, and the parish has been
traditionally known as a "Sportsman's Paradise." Abundant in wildlife and
fisheries, the parish boasts state wildlife management areas including Spring
Bayou, Pomme de Terre, and Grassy Lake. National wildlife refuges include Lake
Ophelia and Grand Cote.
A number of historic properties have been entered on the National Register of
Historic Places. Many historic markers are also noted throughout the
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