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Cameron Parish, Louisiana

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Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

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This was part of La Louisiane, colonized by the French beginning in the 17th and early 18th century. They encountered the Atakapa and Choctaw indigenous peoples, who had occupied this area for thousands of years.

In the late 1700s, after France had ceded New France (Canada) and other holdings east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain following its defeat in 1763 in the Seven Years' War, a number of French-speaking refugee families from Acadia settled in this part of coastal Louisiana. Some had fought against the British with Indian allies during the war in Acadia. Among them were Joseph "Beausoleil" Broussard, his brothers Alexander and Pierre, and their wives and families, who first went to Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) before settling in Louisiana. The British expelled many Acadians for their resistance, particularly their refusal to make loyalty oaths to Great Britain. Numerous other French-speaking families settled here and their descendants populate the smaller towns.

In the 18th century France ceded its holdings in Louisiana and other areas west of the Mississippi River to Spain, and the Spanish colonial government made grants of land to the Acadians. France took control of this territory again at the turn of the nineteenth century for a short period under Napoleon Bonaparte. But in 1803 he sold all the French territory west of the Mississippi River to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. The US was particularly intent on getting control of New Orleans, an important part for its large agricultural interests in what is now the Midwest.

This territory was historically part of Calcasieu Parish, established by the new Louisiana Territory legislature in 1807. The western part of this coastal area was included in what was called No Man's Land, a disputed area of control between Spain and the US after the Purchase. In the 1806 Neutral Ground agreement, both parties agreed to leave this free of military occupation or civil law enforcement. The area between the Calcasieu River (at the time known to the Spanish as the Arroyo Hondo) on the east and the Sabine River on the west became a hotbed of outlaws, pirates including Jean Lafitte, and other nefarious characters for many years. It was finally acquired by the United States in 1819 under the Adams-Onis Treaty with Spain. (In 1870 these two rivers were designated as the eastern and western boundaries, respectively, of the new Cameron Parish, taken from the southern part of Calcasieu Parish.)

Early Anglo-American settlers after the Louisiana Purchase included John M. Smith, Millege McCall, John William Sweeney, George W. Wakefield, William Doxey, James Hale, James Root, and John M. Miller.

During the American Civil War, loyalties in this area and in the greater coastal area were divided between Unionists and Confederates. Bands of local "Jayhawkers," also known as bushwhackers, were active in the area. There were numerous Unionists near Sabine Lake and Leesburg (now Cameron). Others were located near the mouth of the Calcasieu and near Grand Chenier, then in Vermilion Parish. The Union Navy had forces at Sabine Lake.

The Mermentau Jayhawkers were made up of a band of "200 mounted draft dodgers, bushwhackers, cattle thieves, runaway slaves, and Confederate deserters from Texas and Louisiana." They regularly raided federal supply lines and plundered from the local people, earning the enmity of both Union and Confederate regulars. If caught by Confederate forces, Jayhawker deserters were quickly court martialed and executed. Local forces also organized as Regulators in an effort to protect women and children of local families, and repulse the Jayhawkers. After the end of the war, some of the vigilante Regulators turned to suppressing the blacks and resisting Reconstruction.

Cameron Parish was organized in 1870 during the Reconstruction era and was made up of portions of Calcasieu and Vermilion parishes. It was one of several new parishes organized by the Republican-dominated legislature to create new centers of Republican political strength. Cameron Parish is named for Republican Simon Cameron, a Pennsylvanian who was President Abraham Lincoln's first secretary of war. Today its population is overwhelmingly majority white and Republican in the 21st century realignment.

This is among the largest civil parishes in Louisiana, yet the least populated, owing to the high proportion of land area made up by marsh and wetlands. Cameron Parish comprises a large portion of the Louisiana Chenier Plain; it is home to numerous cheniers, elevated fertile ridges that occur in certain coastal regions, particularly in Louisiana. These were developed for cotton plantations both before and after the Civil War; settlers also raised stock.

Some of southwest Louisiana was developed for industrial processing and export of oil products. In some areas, wetlands were drained and bayous dredged for navigation. This has been found to increase erosion of the wetlands and loss to area soils, with loss of coastline.

From the mid-20th century to the early 21st century, the parish was severely damaged three times and its history marked by hurricanes Audrey, Rita, and Ike. So much damage was done by the latter two hurricanes that the population dropped in the parish by nearly one third from 2000 to 2010. The hurricanes occurred in 2005 and 2008, respectively.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, Cameron Parish has suffered severe damage from hurricanes. It was devastated by Hurricane Audrey on June 27, 1957, which caused more than 390 deaths. Hurricane Audrey was a defining event for Cameron Parish for nearly 50 years, with local history being divided into "before" and "after" the storm.

Much of the parish was destroyed again by Hurricane Rita on September 24, 2005. The documentary Little Chenier was filmed in Southwest Louisiana just prior to Hurricane Rita. It contains some of the only film images of the area before it was destroyed.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike came ashore with a 22-foot storm surge, which was far worse than Rita's 10-foot surge. Nearly all of the coastline in that area was flooded heavily, with surge and floodwaters reaching 60 miles inland, as far north as Lake Charles. In Cameron Parish the communities of Cameron, Holly Beach, Hackberry, Creole, and Grand Chenier were essentially destroyed.

Adjacent Parishes & Counties


  • Cameron
  • Constance Beach
  • Creole
  • Gibbstown
  • Grand Chenier
  • Grand Lake
  • Hackberry
  • Hackett's Corner
  • Herbert Trailer Park
  • Holly Beach
  • Illinois Plant
  • Johnson Bayou Landing
  • Johnson's Bayou
  • Lowry
  • North Island
  • Oak Grove
  • Paveto Beach
  • Sweet Lake



Cameron Prairie Nat'l Wildlife Refuge

East Cove Nat'l Wildlife Refuge

Lacassine Nat'l Wildlife Refuge (part)

Sabine Nat'l Wildlife Refuge

Sabine Pass Lighthouse