>Acadian Cowboys Documented


PDF FILE Market Bulletin Vol. 84, No. 20
October 4, 2001
Glenda Schoeffler of Lafayette displays artwork
created by her father William Schoeffler. The elder Schoeffler has collected more than 4,000 Cattle brands of
Cajun Cowboys dating to 1737. He began his collection in the 1970’s while tracking land deeds for his business. With the encouragement and blessing of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry’s Livestock Brand Commission, Glenda and her father are laying the groundwork for a museum to portray the historical and cultural significance of Louisiana cattle brands.
In an era of high tech security devices, cattle brands are definitely a low-tech item. The distinctive mark of ownership for livestock is something folks outside the cattle industry give little thought to anymore. In their day, however, when virtually everyone was tied to the land, cattle brands were like modern-day car insurance, a family without one was a family exposed to considerable financial risk.
During certain periods livestock brands weren’t optional they were the law. When Spain ruled Louisiana in the 1700s, anyone with five or more animals was required to appear before a
government magistrate and register not only his family members but also his livestock brand.
Enter William Schoeffler of Lafayette. Since the 1970s, Schoeffler has been pouring over
musty courthouse records looking for land deeds as part of his business. Invariably included
among successions and other family legal documents were cattle brands.
As Schoeffler ’s daughter, Acadian Cowboys Documented Glenda, tells it, cattle brands are
their own art form. Although her father holds 27 oil-field related patents and his living is made in
other things, the artistic lines and swirls of a brand appealed to the senior Schoeffler. He began recording them and over the years has amassed more than 4,000 brands of southwest Louisiana
cowboys. They date from as far back as that of Barthelemy Grevemberg in 1737, and include
all those through the end of the1800s.
After “Le Grand Derangement,” the Acadian dispersal from Canadian Nova Scotia in the 1760s, the
number of brands exploded. Cajun cowboy names compiled by Schoeffler include everyone from
the Arceneauxs, Aucoins, Bouttes, Babins and Broussards to the Valots, Verrets, Viators,
Zeringues and Zenons. 
According to Doris B. Bentley, Ph.D., retired faculty of the University of Southwestern Louisiana,
historically, “Southwest Louisiana, particularly the prairie area between Opelousas and Lake
Charles, was dotted with cattle and known as the ‘Meadowland of America’ in the very early 1800s. I can remember when the blue-front store in Scott had a sign which read, ‘Scott, Here the West Begins.’ The cattle drives first appeared in Southwest Louisiana – a fact little known
by many adults today.”
What was once only a collection of curiosities has, in the intervening years, become a passion for the Schoefflers. Glenda recently brought that passion to the Louisiana Livestock Brand Commission, the agency within the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry,
which has published a 200- page book of registered livestock brands every four years since
1946. With the encouragement and blessing of the Brand Commission, Glenda and her father are laying the groundwork for a museum to portray the historical and cultural significance
of Louisiana cattle brands.
Glenda Schoeffler envisions her museum portraying a family’s history of its own personal genealogy. “Back when the Spanish ruled Louisiana, the authorities required everyone
to register at a central location. If you had five or more cows they had to be branded. If they
weren’t branded you had no claim to them. Anybody could claim them.
“The brand was also a family’s mark. They considered it a family crest. The family was known by the design,” she says. Although no location has been secured yet, Schoeffler sees within the museum a blacksmith recreating the actual iron brands of families for display.
To help fund the museum, individual families will make financial donations to have their brands exhibited along with portraits, photographs, histories and genealogical records. As part of an effort to generate public recognition and acceptance, William Schoeffler has designed more than 180 prints of Cajun family groupings encompassing 2,354 families. For example, the 26 Cormier families uncovered in Schoeffler’s research through the end of the 1800s are included on a
single print with each family’s individual brand and date of registration. Each print is illustrated with pen and ink drawings of parents, children and scenes of Acadian life: livestock, landscapes, houses, churches, farming, logging, cane grinding, crawfishing, haying, horse-drawn buggies, pirogues, swamps, and other events in rural and historic Acadiana.
One of Schoeffler’s prints is of his own lineage, the Bourques, which includes 20 Bourque families
and their brands from 1778 to 1872. Other prints include related family surnames. Three other prints
are of Free Persons of Color, including 73 surnames from 1748 through 1896.
The prints have been compiled in a book and are available as posters, greeting cards and postcards. For more information the Schoefflers can be contacted at 223 Morningside Drive, Duson, LA 70529. Phone: 337-873-7419. As the Schoefflers say in their literature, “This is our tribute to the hardworking ancestors who struggled to make the Southwest prairies of Louisiana their own. Each brand is a tangible link, a visible mark of their toil.”


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About Louisiana Genealogy Admin

I manage several RootsWeb mailing lists and message boards, support Louisiana Cemetery Preservation, am a former Louisiana and Mississippi librarian, have been researching genealogy of my family since 1988, and write and promote several blogs supporting either Louisiana genealogy or Louisiana cemeteries.
This entry was posted in Acadian, Cajun, Lafayette, Nova Scotia. Bookmark the permalink.

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