The First Opelousas

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

Come learn about how Washington came to be!

One could say that Washington, Louisiana was the first Opelousas. This town was a large trading destination during the 18th century. People that resided in this town decided that it would be the “Post of Opelousas.” Priests would travel by boat to host mass and offer the sacraments to the community. This began in 1756 and many priests would come and go for 20 years without a church.

The Spanish completed the first church in 1776, and named it the “Parochial Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Post of Opelousas” (Our Rich History). Eventually, this church was moved to the town of Opelousas. In 1851, the people of Washington decided to build a chapel to worship in. In 1853, one-third of the Washington population died from a yellow fever outbreak. It took the city two years to become free of this disease, and in 1855, priests started visiting and administering the sacrament again.

The congregation grew and a larger church was needed. In 1862, a new church was added and named, The Church of the Immaculate Conception. Five years later, yellow fever struck again and claimed the lives of many, including some priests. Father Claude Jaquet, was appointed to be the priest in 1867. There was not a rectory so he lived in the sacristy—which is located inside the church where priests keep their vestments. Recently, this church burned to the ground, and they were able to safely retrieve the tabernacle. There were enough pictures to closely replicate the original building, and the new church is just as extravagant.