As with all things, there is controversy on who this beloved saga is about and where it took place. The markers at the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinsville tend to favor a encounter between the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and someone from the Louisiana Acadiana area who passed on the bones of the story. Either way, Longfellow had memorialized the expulsion of the Acadians in his poem, “Evangeline.” Fictional Evangeline’s undying love and torturous separation from her fiance, Gabriel continues to color historic accounts of the deportation. The poem ends with Evangeline and Gabriel in Philadelphia, reunited just long enough for Gabriel to die in her arms.
Felix Voorhies in Acadian Reminiscences : The True Story of Evangeline proposed that the poem was actually based on Emmeline LaBiche and Louis Arceneaux, who reunited under the Evangeline Oak on the Bayou Teche. Emmeline’s grave in the St. Martin de Tours square and Evangeline Oak are as revered as the relics of saints on the altar of that nearby church. Evangeline was commemorated in the naming of Louisiana’s first state park and the first oil well. There was a DVD of the 1929 Delores del Rio movie in the Old Castillo’s parlor, and Delores reportedly posed for the statue in front of the church.