THE POST-SIGNAL / Desiray Seaux
The Rotary Club of Crowley welcomed Harold Fonte (right) of Church Point’s Le Vieux Presbytere museum as their guest speaker. Welcoming him to the meeting was Michael Doughty, president.
Church Point history
The Rotary Club of Crowley recently welcomed Harold Fonte, curator of Le Vieux Presbytere Museum in Church Point.
Originally from New Orleans and a public school teacher for 30-plus years, Fonte relocated to Church Point after Hurricane Katrina and has decided “that southwest Louisiana is not just a nice place to visit, but a good place to live.”
The town of Church Point began in 1843 along a curve —or point — of the bayou. The first chapel led to the name of the town (La Pointe de L’eglise, or Church Point).
The many individuals who traveled to the church via buggy led to the town’s claim to “Buggy Capital of the World.”
The first settlers received Spanish land grants along Bayou Plaquemine Brulee and began populating the area by 1780s. The Jesuit priest at Grand Cotreau, while ministering to the local inhabitants, established a crude chapel in Church Point in 1848, and it was around this little church that the town developed.
Fonte told the club that, even up until the 1950s, buggies were common in Church Point because it was the last area of the parish to get paved roads.
Fonte told the club the history of the museum and discussed other upcoming plans for the city.
The Le Vieux Presbytere has an interesting history that began in 1883, according to Fonte. A French priest, Rev. Auguste Vincente Eby, arrived in the settlement to take over the pastorship of the Catholic church and his first order of business was to build a new church structure.
Prior to that, the existing church was built as a Jesuit missionary chapel years before. After the completion of the new church, Father Eby build a home for himself in 1887.
The Presbytere, meaning “parsonage” in French, was the home of the town’s priest for a century.
At the end of that century, a convent was completed and the priest moved into that building.
The bishop of the diocese agreed to tear down the Le Vieux Presbytere but numerous town folk of Church Point did not want to see the building destroyed, Fonte explained. So the Bishop agreed that they could have the old building but it must be moved off of church property.
“So a group of Cajun Ladies raised the funds to have the structure relocated across the street,” h e said.
The structure was carefully restored to its original configuration and now serves as Church Point’s museum.
The 40-foot by 40-foot building is surrounded on all sides by a wide and comfortable porch and has walls constructed of “bousillage,” a filling of clay mixed with Spanish moss.
The structure is one of three buildings left in the area that has walls constructed in such a manner, according to Fonte..
Le Vieux Presbytere Museum tells the story of Church Point, a predominantly Cajun community on the prairies of Acadia Parish. However, Church Point is much older than the old parsonage.
Rooms within the museum are dedicated to various cultural activities and/or events.
One features antique buggies and Buggy Festival memorabilia. Another remembers musicians that have come from the area. There’s a room dedicated to the Cajun Ladies that saved the structure and, throughout, there’s information about locals of yesteryear.
The Le Vieux Presbytere, which recently underwent an extensive restoration and renovatoin of the upstairs area, expects to reopen in February.
In addition the Presbytere, Church Point is home to:
• Le Parc du Vieux Depot, the original site of the railroad depot and loading platform that was repurposed as a public park and pavilion in the 1990s.
• Buggy Town Playgrown, was first imagined by children in 2008 and built by hundreds of volunteers in just a few days. (Located in City Park.)
Church Point is also known for the Cajun version of Mardi Gras, which is always celebrated the Sunday before Mardi Gras.