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The Founding of the Catholic Church in Campti

The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Campti, Louisiana, is a daughter of the venerable, pioneer Church of St. Francis of Assisi at Natchitoches, just as the town of Campti is an offspring of the old colonial settlement of the Post of Natchitoches that grew up around Fort St. John the Baptist.

The Church centers developed in that area early in French colonial days--the St. Francis Church at the French post and the Mission of Los Adayes, with the chapel of Fort St. John the Baptist. Colonists followed in the wake of the establishment of the French post in the Red River, and soon immigrants from France and the discharged soldiers took up lands above and below Natchitoches post, which became the center of civil and Church activities in the upper Red River Valley.

French Capuchin missionaries were placed in charge of St. Francis Church at Natchitoches, and Spanish Franciscan Friars directed the mission of San Miguel at Los Adeyes. Both these groups ranged far and wide in central and northwesern Louisiana in the colonial days, Ministering to the scattered Catholic settelers and to the Indian tribes. The latter were the special interest of the Spanish Friars from San Miguel. Father Maxian, the French Capuchin, was the pioneer French missionary of the Natchitoches area, beginning his labors in 1729. Father Pierre Vitry, the French Jesuit missionry, served Natchitoches and its environs from 1734 through 1738. Those who served longer and did much for the surrounding communities in succeeding years were Father Barnabe, Father Eustache, and Father Valentin, all French Capuchins in the period between 1744 and 1762. Father Valentin was particularly zealous in visiting the growing settlements along the Red River.

One of these was the community of Campti, on the nothern bank of the Red River, northwest of the Post of Natchitoches. Tradition has it, says the "Louisiana State Guide" that the town got its name from the chief of an Indian tribe which lived on a nearby hill. His name was "Campte", and as he was highly popular with the white settlers, the small colonial settlement of white people took its name from him.

The Spanish Capuchin and Francisan missionaries who replaced the French Capuchins after Spain took over Louisiana in 1769 also visted regularly the offspring settlements of Natchitoches along the Red River, including Campti. Among these were Father Luis de Quintanilla, Father Francesco de Caldas, and Father De Veles.

After the French Revolution, a number of French refugee priests came to Louisiana and served a number of the parishes. Some of the Spanish priests came from Nacodoches and looked after Natchitoches and its missions for a time. The visiting priests, when making calls at settlements and at plantations, completed Baptism ceremonies for the many children and even adults who are entered in the registers as having been "ondoyes"; that is, having received lay Baptism in the absece of a priest.

One of the French priests who visited Campti in the past decades of the 1700's was Father Jean Delvaux, who was the pastor of Natchitoches from 1786-1793, and again in 1795. For the next 11 years, it was Father Pierre Pavie whose journeys around the vicinity of Natchitoches can be traced in his entries for Baptisms, marriages, and funerals. For the conducting of ceremonies in private homes, he stated in his entries that he had the permission of Bishop Penalver, the first Bishop of New Orleans. His tours included Grand Ecord, Campti, Ile Brevelle, Riviere aux Cannes, the Appalache Villiage. At Ecord he visited the homes of Jean Baptiste Cloutier and the Widow Monet.