The Steamboat Era

Once the steamboat era reached Louisiana, the Vermilion River’s advocates did their best with near constant pleas to the government for dredging and other projects to remove obstructions and make the waterway capable of competing with the Bayou Teche or Bayou Courtableau. However, the Vermilion’s periodic low waters and many obstacles made it an uphill battle. For example, between 1840 and 1850, the police jury of Lafayette Parish appropriated a whopping $4,000 of local money to remove obstructions in the Vermilion — not to mention the many petitions to state and federal governments for help.

Robert Perry of Vermilionville was one of the few local ship owners. He owned four ships. One of them, the Augustus, was built in Vermilion Parish and may have sailed often on the Vermilion.

On average, steamboats from the Vermilion only made up about 3 percent of the Bayou Country steamboat docking in New Orleans between 1845 and 1860.

The steamboats exported large numbers of livestock and leather goods (including hides and saddles), cattle horns, cotton, moss, sugar, eggs, live poultry, bales of hemp, lumber and a large variety of seasonal fruits and vegetable — usually potatoes, peaches and oranges. Occasionally, the steamboats also carried barrels of rum and cotton items produced by the numerous Acadian weavers. Rice didn’t become popular until after the Civil War.

By 1859, a variety of hazards — sunken logs, stumps, floating mill logs, immense quantities of floating grass, sunken remains of discarded flatboats and public and private bridges — made the Vermilion virtually in accessible.

Plantation Life Along the Vermilion
Civil War
Antebellum and Post-Bellum Vermilion
Effect of the Railroad and Congressional help
Hidden Treasure?
Ecological threats of 1911
Connecting with the Intercoastal Canal
No good deed goes unpunished: The consequences of the 1927 flood