Saint Martin Parish
|Parish of St. Martin|
St. Martin Parish Courthouse, St. Martinville
Location within the U.S. state of Louisiana
Louisiana's location within the U.S.
|Named for||St. Martin|
|Largest city||Breaux Bridge|
|o Total||816 sq mi (2,110 km2)|
|o Land||738 sq mi (1,910 km2)|
|o Water||79 sq mi (200 km2) 9.7%|
| o Estimate |
|o Density||64/sq mi (25/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (Central)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
St. Martin Parish (French: Paroisse de Saint-Martin) is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 52,160. The parish seat is St. Martinville. The parish was founded in 1811.
St. Martin Parish is part of the Lafayette, Louisiana Metropolitan Statistical Area. As 27% of the population of St. Martin Parish claim French fluency, the parish has one of the highest concentrations of French speakers in the United States.
In 1811, parts of Attakapas Parish were taken out to create St. Martin and St. Mary parishes. In 1824, St. Martin Parish was divided, resulting in the creation also of Lafayette Parish. In 1844, St. Martin Parish was again divided, yielding Vermilion Parish. In 1868, Iberia Parish was formed from parts of St. Martin Parish and St. Mary Parish. St. Martin Parish was divided into two, as part of Iberia Parish runs between the two non-contiguous parts of St. Martin Parish.
St. Martin Parish was largely colonized in the 1700s by people from France and Acadia, resulting in a large concentration of French-speaking population today. The Acadians brought the tale of Evangeline, a young woman said to have been separated from her mortally wounded betrothed during their expulsion by the British from their territory in eastern Canada. According to the tale, Evangeline later met her betrothed again in St. Martin Parish, but he had already committed to a new love. Evangeline never recovered from the shock of both finding and losing him again. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's most famous work, Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, was based on this story.
Evangeline was and remains an icon of Acadian and American culture. The historical Evangeline, who is believed by some to have been an orphan girl named Emmeline Labiche, was purportedly buried on the grounds of St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church in St. Martinville.
St. Martin was a very prosperous parish, growing rapidly in the early 1800s. Most of the money at that time was being made by raising cattle. Other profitable crops were cotton, sugar, corn, rice and tobacco. These were sold to the New Orleans market. Wealthy planters used enslaved African Americans as labor on their plantations, and by 1860, there were over 7,000 slaves in the parish.
A yellow fever epidemic in 1855, followed by a deadly fire and a destructive hurricane, ended an era of unbridled prosperity for elite whites. These events, combined with the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction took a heavy toll on the parish. However, the people proved resilient, and in short order became prosperous again. Corn, cotton, and sugar cane ruled once more, and trees from the swamps were profitably sold in a growing lumber industry.
The parish is split into two non-contiguous parts because of a surveying error dating to 1868, when Iberia Parish was created by the Louisiana Legislature. Iberia Parish divides St. Martin Parish into two separate areas, Upper and Lower St. Martin. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the parish has a total area of 816 square miles (2,110 km2), of which 738 square miles (1,910 km2) is land and 79 square miles (200 km2) (9.7%) is water. St. Martin Parish is in the Atchafalaya Basin, with Bayou Teche running through it. The Bayou was used to ship products to New Orleans.
The parish has both national and state protected areas within its borders.
As of the census of 2000, there were 48,583 people, 17,164 households, and 12,975 families residing in the parish. The population density was 66 people per square mile (25/km2). There were 20,245 housing units at an average density of 27 per square mile (11/km2). The racial makeup of the parish was 65.95% White, 31.98% Black or African American, 0.92% Asian, 0.29% Native American, 0.20% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race made up 0.83% of the population. The 2000 census counted 44,915 people in the parish who are at least five years old of whom 31,229 (69.5%) speak only English at home, 27.44% reported speaking French (Colonial French also known as Plantation Society French) or Cajun French at home, while 1.52% speak Louisiana Creole French. St. Martin has the highest percentage of French-speaking residents of any county or parish in the United States.
There were 17,164 households, out of which 39.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.60% were married couples living together, 15.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.40% were non-families. 20.70% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.78 and the average family size was 3.22.
In the parish the population was spread out, with 29.50% under the age of 18, 9.60% from 18 to 24, 29.60% from 25 to 44, 21.20% from 45 to 64, and 10.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.00 males.
The median income for a household in the parish was $30,701, and the median income for a family was $36,316. Males had a median income of $30,701 versus $18,365 for females. The per capita income for the parish was $13,619. About 18.40% of families and 21.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.70% of those under age 18 and 22.10% of those age 65 or over.
A mixed Afro-Romani community lives near Atchefalaya in St. Martin Parish.
Public schools in St. Martin Parish are operated by the St. Martin Parish School Board.
There are several historically significant locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places that includes Acadian House (St. Martinville, Louisiana), St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, and the D. W. Voorhies House.