St. Martinville is a small city in and the parish seat of St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, United States. It lies on Bayou Teche, sixteen miles south of Breaux's Bridge, eighteen miles southeast of Lafayette, and nine miles north of New Iberia. The population was 6,989 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area.
In the 16th century, the area between the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico and Trinity River, in Texas, was occupied by numerous Indians tribes or subdivisions of the Attakapan people. The Indian Territory was not closed to outsiders, and several traders roamed through it on business. Europeans did not begin to settle there until French explorers claimed and "founded" Louisiana in 1699. They referred to the territory between the Atchafalaya River and Bayou Nezpique, where the Eastern Atakapa lived, as the Attakapas Territory, adopting the name from the Choctaw language term for this people. The French colonial government gave land away to soldiers and settlers.
Attakapas Post was founded as a trading post on the banks of the Bayou Teche, and settlers started to arrive. Some came separately from France, such as M. Masse, who came about 1754 from Grenoble. Gabriel Fuselier de la Claire, a Frenchman from Lyon, and some other Frenchmen from Mobile, in present-day Alabama, arrived in late 1763/early 1764. Fuselier bought land between Vermilion River and Bayou Teche from the Eastern Attakapas chief Kinemo. Shortly after that, the rival Appalousa (Opelousa people) invaded the area via the Atchafalaya and Sabine rivers, and exterminated much of the Eastern Atakapan. Gabriel Fuselier's son Agricole Fuselier was prominent in settling what developed as New Iberia, Louisiana.
Gradually groups of more French speakers arrived, such as the first Acadians from Nova Scotia. They were assigned to this area in 1765 by Jean-Jacques Blaise d'Abbadie, the French official who was administering Louisiana for the Spanish. They had been expelled from Acadia by the British, who had defeated France in the Seven Years' War and taken over its territories in North America east of the Mississippi River. Spain took over Louisiana and other territories west of the Mississippi but tended to rely on French colonists to administer La Louisiane.
The Acadians were led by Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil. In 1768-1769 fifteen families arrived from Pointe Coupee, another French colonial community. Their members had migrated from Santo Domingo (French Saint Domingue, today Haïti) or from Paris via Fort de Chartres, Illinois. Between the arrivals of the two groups, the French captain Etienne de Vaugine came in 1764 and acquired a large domain east of Bayou Teche.
On April 25, 1766, after the arrival of the first Acadians, the census showed a population of 409 inhabitants for the Attakapas region. In 1767 the Attakapas Post had 150 inhabitants before the arrival of the 15 families from Pointe Coupee.
In 1803, after losing his effort to regain control over Saint-Domingue, Napoleon sold Louisiana in 1803 to the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. The US settlers and territorial government organized the Attakapas Territory between 1807 and 1868. After Louisiana became a state, Saint Martin Parish was created. Attakapas Post was named Saint Martinville and designated as the county seat.