From The Jesuit Relations, V. 45
THIRD LETTER OF THE ACADIAN MISSION.
16th of October, 1659
My Reverend Father:
Here is a third Letter that I write to Your Reverence, to inform you of what has occurred in the Mission of Acadia, where three of our Fathers are laboring for the conversion of the Savages on that coast, and for the salvation of the French who are settled there.
Acadia is that part of New France which borders the sea, extending from New England to Gasp‚, where the entrance to the great river St. Lawrence properly begins. All that country, which is fully three hundred leagues in extent, bears but one name, having but one language.
The English have usurped all the Eastern coast from Canceau to New England, and have left to the French that which extends toward the North; the principal points of the latter are called Miscou, Rigibouctou, and Cap Breton. The district of Miscou is the most populous and the best disposed, and contains most Christians. It comprises the Savages of Gaspé, of Miramichy, and of Nepigigouit. Rigibouctou is a beautiful river, and important for its trade with the Savages of the river St. John.
Cap Breton is one of the first Islands which one meets on coming from France. For its size it is fairly well peopled with Savages. Monsieur Denis is in command of the principal settlement which the French have in those quarters. Such is the country which our Fathers have cultivated since the year 1629, and in which Fathers André Richard, Martin Lionne, and Jacques Frémin are at present laboring.
The last named has had for his portion the coast of Rigibouctou, where he has wintered among the Savages. With them he has suffered, besides the scurvy, famine caused by the deficiency of snows, which are the Savages’ riches; for the Moose, Caribous, and other animals are caught in them as in a snare, when they are deep enough. But the Father has found himself only too well paid for the toils that he has suffered in those great forests, by the Baptism which he conferred upon a little girl in the extremity of sickness, who received health in those salutary waters. It was also no small consolation to him to see himself importuned by a poor Savage named Redoumanat to baptize him, in consequence of a very strongly felt grace that he had obtained from God shortly before. This man had languished for two whole years, overwhelmed with severe illnesses, which caused him very acute pains throughout his body, but especially in the legs. He had had himself breathed upon again and again by the jugglers of the country; and, after wearying out all the sorcerers and exhausting all their remedies, no longer knowing to whom to have recourse, he addressed himself to God, whose goodness and power he had heard praised. He said to him: ” Thou who hast made everything, they say that everything obeys thee I will believe it, provided that my trouble which has not been willing to listen to the voice of our Demons, will listen to thine. If it obey thee when thou shalt drive it from my body, I promise thee to obey the‚ myself, and to love the prayer. “God was pleased with this kind of prayer, and restored him to perfect health, for which he is so grateful that he everywhere publishes this favor-showing by a great change in his life that his soul has the best share of this benefit. He has wholly given up drunkenness,-which is the great Demon of these poor Savages,-as well as the spirit of vengeance, which he has subdued by an act as heroic as can be found among the best Christians. For one day one of his daughters, whom he especially loved, was struck dead by an insolent fellow before his very eyes. The murderer was arrested, but the father was far from wishing to revenge himself. On the contrary, he stopped the arm of those who were about to kill him, saying that he referred the matter to the Master of life, since he learned that it belonged only to him to take vengeance for the wrongs committed against us. And in truth, the divine Justice did not fail to exact retribution for this murder; for it permitted that this same wretch should be soon afterward assassinated by a rival, who was aspiring to the same marriage as he was. This good man is not the only one who has received extra-ordinary favors from Heaven; but not all have shown themselves so grateful.
A certain Capisto, former Captain of Cap Breton and greatly attached to his Superstitions, fell one day into most violent convulsions, during which the Savages bethought themselves to apply to his body some Images, Rosaries, and Crosses; for they make great account of these, using them against the molestations of the Demons. This man, at the climax of the attack, imagined that Devils threw themselves upon him and dragged him from side to side, striving to carry him away. In this anguish, he seized hold of a great Cross planted at the entrance to the river, and clung to it so fast that it was impossible for the Demons to separate him from it. The vision touched him; and, although he still continues in infidelity, he nevertheless values the Faith, and gives hope that finally, after so many favors which God shows him,-incited, withal, by the example and the urgent requests of his brother who was baptized this Spring,-he will break the bonds which hold him down to his wretchedness.
This brother of Captain Capisto is a good old man, much loved by the French, to whose interests he is greatly devoted and to whom he has rendered notable services in trying emergencies. He made so many entreaties to be baptized that, after having been put off from year to year in order to prove his constancy, Father Richard at last baptized him, along with his wife and his sister, in deep feelings of esteem for the happiness for which he had so much yearned. He urged that his children might have a share in the same favor; but they were put off until Autumn, in order to call forth stronger proofs of their good resolutions.
Two years ago, the Savages of these coasts were at war with the Esquimaux. These latter are a nation dwelling at the extreme Northeastern end of New France, at about 52 degrees of latitude and 330 of longitude. It is wonderful how these Savage mariners navigate so far in little shallops, crossing vast seas without compass, and often without sight of the Sun, trusting to instinct for their guidance. But in this respect the Esquimaux arouse even greater wonder. They sometimes make the same transit, not in shallops, but in small canoes, whose structure and speed are indeed astonishing. They are not made of bark, like those of the Algonkins, but of skins of seals, which animals abound in their country. These canoes are covered over with those same skins. An opening is left at the top which gives admittance to the one who is to navigate, who is always alone in this gondola. Seated and ensconced in the hold of this little leather boat, he gathers about him the skin which covers him, and fastens and binds it so well that the water cannot enter. Lodged in this pouch, he paddles on each side alternately with a single paddle, which has a blade at each end. He does this so skillfully, however, and causes his boat to move so lightly, that he outstrips the shallops, which move by sail. Moreover, if this canoe happens to capsize, there is nothing to fear; for, as it is light and filled with air enclosed within, along with half the body of the boatman, it easily rights itself, and restores its pilot safe and sound above the water, provided he be well fastened to his little craft. Nature joined to necessity furnishes great inventions. These good people further use sealskins to build their houses, and to make clothes for themselves; for, after thoroughly dressing these skins, they wear them as coverings for their bodies, making robes from them in the same fashion for both men and women. They live chiefly on Caribous, which are a kind of deer, on otters, on seals, and on cod; they have but few beavers and moose. During the Winter they live underground, in great caves, where they are so warm that, notwithstanding the severity of the climate, they have no need of fire, except for cooking. The snows there are very deep. They are so hardened by the cold that they bear one as firmly as ice, and, to walk over them, one needs no snowshoes. The iron which they find near the stages of the cod-fishers serves them to make arrow-heads, knives, cleavers, and other tools, which they themselves skillfully devise, without forge or hammers. They are of small stature, somewhat olive-colored, quite well-formed, thick-set, and exceedingly strong.
Some time ago, our Savages were waging war against these peoples. Having surprised and massacred some of them, they spared the lives of the others, whom they took as captives into their own country,-not to burn them, for that is not their custom; but to hold them in servitude, or to cleave their heads upon entering their villages in token of triumph. One of these captives, a woman whose husband had been killed in the fight, found her happiness in her captivity. Having been taken to Cap Breton, she was ransomed from the hands of the Savages; she was subsequently instructed and baptized, and now she lives in the French manner like a good Christian. It must be acknowledged that the methods of the divine Providence are adorable, to seek out in the midst of this barbarism a predestined soul, to choose it among so many others, and put it on the way to heaven, and-what is truly very wonderful-to raise this poor woman from her infidelity in order to employ her to raise a heretic from his error. It happened in this way.
Our Marguerite (the name that she received in Baptism), when still an unbeliever, sometimes found herself molested by Demons. Thus, one day, she appeared as if bewitched; she ran about everywhere, uttering frightful cries and making strange gestures, like those who are possessed. The French hastened to her and tried to soothe her, but in vain. Her torments increased to such a degree that she found herself in danger of being suffocated. They finally be thought themselves to have recourse to divine remedies; they entreated the Chaplain who then ministered to the settlement to help her. He had no sooner sprinkled her with holy water than she suddenly stopped, and became as peaceful as if she had awaked from a quiet sleep. She merely lifted her eyes on high, and then, turning them toward those present, she said: ” Alas, where am I? Whence do I come? A fiery phantom was cruelly pursuing me, and was quite ready to devour me, when, at your presence, I know not what terror seized him and put him to flight. For the second time I owe you my life; lately, you delivered me from the rage of the Savages, and now you save me from the fury of the Demons. “The interpreter, who was a heretic, was seized with astonishment at this occurrence; and, admiring the potency of the holy water,, he renounced heresy, and by his abjuration published the wonder whereof he had been a spectator.
If the Demons serve to convert the Savages, and the Savages to bring back the heretics, what must we not hope to obtain’ through the help of the guardian An gels of these regions: and especially since these blessed spirits have brought hither an Angelic Man,-I mean, Monsignor the Bishop of Petræa. While crossing the border of our Acadia, on the side of Gaspé, he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation to 140 persons, who perhaps would never have received that blessing if this worthy Prelate had not come to seek them at this end of the world. The country is beginning to be disquieted by the terror of the Iroquois. They close the door to the salvation of countless nations, who extend their arms to the Gospel; and we cannot carry it to them unless these rebels are subdued. I commend myself and all these peoples to Your Reverence’s holy Sacrifices, and to the prayers of all those who love the conversion of the poor Savages
Kebec, this 16th of October, 1659.
Sr. De Villebon, Oct. 27, 1699
The settlement of Minas, the census of which the Sr. de Villebon sent last year to Count Pontchartrain, is at the head of the Bay of Fundy. There is no cod fishing in that region, and the settlers can only take advantage, in summer time, of the shad which, with a variety of herring named the ‘gaspereau’, appear in sufficiently large numbers to provide food for everybody. To compensate for this, their lands are very advantageous for crops, such as wheat, rye, peas and oats and all sorts of vegetables, which are found there in abundance. If the people were as industrious as the Canadians, they would in a short space of time be very well off, but the majority work only when it is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of their families. As for the women, they are always busy, and most of them keep their husbands and children in serviceable linen materials and stockings which they make skillfully from the hemp they have grown and the wool produced by their sheep.
Masts may be obtained in this place, but, as an incentive to ensure a future supply, His Majesty should first give orders to begin cutting these forests. The Sr. de Villebon found this to be the opinion of those who lived there when he spoke to them about it.
There is a saw-mill in Minas, and another is to be built, and, as the settlers are distributed along the rivers, they have a windmill and seven or eight water mills. This place will become important as soon as these people find a market for their produce, and the King has sent laborers into the country to develop their lands.
Pitch could be made there, for suitable wood is available, but someone with experience should be sent from France to teach the settlers how to make it themselves. It would be most useful in this country in connection with the fishing and the numerous boats which will, in future, be employed in the industry.
About 18 leagues above Minas is a settlement of eight or ten colonists who dyked a marsh two years ago, and have grown very fine wheat on it this year. There are still sites in that district for as many more families.
It is some twenty six leagues from Minas to Port Royal, the route being east, a quarter southeast. There is no harbor on the coast between the two places. There could be no finer entrance than that into Port Royal although the distance across is within musket range. The Basin is at least three leagues around, and the bottom provides very good anchorage. Inasmuch as M. L’Hermitte, the engineer, has made a plan of Port Royal and its neighborhood, the Sr. de Villebon will not describe it, but will set forth in a special Memoir the things which he believes should be done for the restoration of the old fort, and the preservation of the facade towards the approach from the erosion which takes place each year.
More food supplies are to be obtained at Port Royal than at Minas. Settlers, who had numerous children, established some above Minas and in the direction of Beaubassin, for they were unwilling to clear the uplands because the work was too hard, although they are much more reliable than the marsh lands, which can be cultivated with less trouble, but are sometimes flooded when high tides are accompanied by strong winds; after such inundations the lands must be abandoned for two years to allow rime for the salt to be washed out. These unoccupied and uncultivated uplands will not remain vacant when colonists have come from France, or soldiers are given their discharge in order to become settlers. Count Pontchartrain will have learned from the census-report of last autumn, the number of people in this place; they are in-creasing daily by marriage and the fecundity of the women.
The settlers catch codfish for food, and there are small rivers opening in-to the Basin which yield many fish such as bass, shad, sardines, gaspereaux and plaice. Large numbers are taken in weirs built across the rivers so that the fish are caught when the tide goes out.
Masts could also be obtained here but with more difficulty than elsewhere, because, since the first settlement, nearly eighty years ago, the finest pines have been taken for dugouts, and many others for planks and timbers have been cut on the river banks. Tar could be made here in large quantities as well as at Minas. There are two saw-mills and four water-mills for grinding grains.
On leaving the entrance to Port Royal, the Petit Passage is seven leagues east south-east, and its mouth is within cannon range of the other end which opens unto Baie Ste. Marie. Vessels can easily make it in a favorable wind. Cod are found there, but, because the currents are strong, fishing is only possible at the slack of the tides, and little can be accomplished.
From the Petit to the Grand Passage, the distance is three leagues and vessels can pass through easily with the same wind. There are more fish in the latter, and three or four ‘shallops’ are usually to be seen.
Eleven leagues south south-east from the Grand Passage is Cap Fouchu. It has a fair harbor and the cod appear there early, and fishing begins at the end of March. Good gardens can be made there, and there is plenty of bay for livestock, and grain sufficient to load more than 100 ‘shallops’.
From Cape Fouchu, on the same course, the Isles de Tousquet are three leagues away. Half way is a river with much meadow-land; its entrance is suitable for moderate sized vessels, and it has a good beach. Prom the Isles de Tousquet, tbe Rivière de Pomoncoup is five leagues east north-east. The soil along this river is fertile, and there is good fishing within sight of land. One of the sons of the Sr. d’Entremont lives there with his wife and eight children. When the Sr. de Villebon visited him in the spring, the peas and the wheat were well up; he has 30 horned cattle, 3 sheep and 18 pigs; also a water-mill.
Prom Pomoncoup to Cap Sable it is only five leagues south 1/4 south-east. There, fishing is abundant. Four or five leagues off shore to the eastward, are the Isles aux Loups-marins: only four of them are wooded and the fourth is a rock. A fairly extensive killing of seals can be made on this rock, as well as on the island which lies farthest out to sea.
Inside the Cap de Sable Islands is the Passage de Bacareau, where a settler lives with his wife and seven children. He grows grain enough for his own needs, and has six horned cattle. There is land enough there for five or six more families.
Prom Cap de Sable it is three leagues east north-east to Port Latour which can be entered by vessels of moderate size. There is a good beach and fine fishing within sight of the harbor.
Following the same course a league from Port La Tour is Cap Nègre with an island at the entrance; the channel is to the north and is navigable for ships.
From Cap Nègre two leagues east ¼ north, is the Rivière des Rochelois; the entrance is good only for small craft; there is an abundance of red oak. Half-a-league beyond the Rivière des Rochelois east south-east is Port Razoir, one of the finest harbors on the coast. Its entrance is suitable for all vessels, and there is abundant fishing. The soil is suitable for cultivation, and there are many red oaks. Another of Sr. d’Entremont’s sons lives here with his wife and four children, ten or twelve horned cattle, and some sheep. There is an-other settler with a wife and two children. He is not prosperous but is a capable fisherman.
From Poit Razoir to the Rivière des Jardins it is two leagues north north-east. There is good land on this river. From there to Port Joli2 it is a league and a half east south-east. The harbor is formed by islands and the south-east passage is good. On the largest of these islands is a beach sufficient for about twenty ‘shallops’, and good fishing is within sight.
From Port Joli to Port à Ours is three leagues. East north-east; there is a river but only moderate sized craft can enter it. Five leagues north-east of Port à Ours is Port Mouton. An island at the entrance forms a harbor about three leagues around; a good beach and good fishing.
Following the same course, it is three leagues from Port Mouton to Port Rossignol. The river has an entrance suitable for vessels. There are quantities of red oak and the soil can be cultivated; the beach is extensive and good fishing is at hand. Two leagues east ¼ north-east of Port Rossignol is Port Maltois, which has a very fine river with a good channel, and good land which can be cultivated. There also are many red oaks.
Three leagues from Port Maltois east southeast, lies La Hève, which has without a doubt the best harbor and the most magnificent situation on the east coast. Like the others it is surrounded by hills but has much more land suitable for cultivation. It is true there is not much beach available for a large fishing industry, but it could be extended; moreover, flakes could be used, and they without question produce the finest quality of fish. The old fort is at the mouth of the very beautiful river, and vessels of 50 guns can enter and anchor under its cannon. Lumber mills could be built, for pine and spruce fir are plentiful. Two families are at present living there. There is plenty of hunting. and many good things to eat, such as herring and mackerel in season, eels at all times, as well as plaice, lobsters, oysters and other shell-fish.
From La Hève to the fort St. Mirliguesche is three leagues east north-east, and half a league by a convenient portage. The soil is fair and there are a quantity of red oaks.
From Mirliguesche to Chedabouctou is three leagues to the north-east ¼ east. Several islands at the mouth of a river would be suitable for settlement; there is fishing at hand.
Two leagues east ¼ south-east of Chedabouctou is Nechepatagon, a good fishing base.
Five leagues from there east south-east is Paspêt, with a good channel for ships.
From Paspée three leagues east south-east to Cap St. Sambro.
From Cap St. Sambro two leagues east north-east is the entrance to Chibouctou, it has a fine beach, but is partly covered at high tide when there are gales off the sea.
Following the same course, it is three leagues from Chibouctou to Mag-annechis. The latter has a good harbor and good entrance for vessels, and fishing nearby.
From Magannechis it is three leagues. On the same course to Mouscoudabouet, the entrance to which is fit only for small craft. It is an excellent country for hunting and there is salmon fishing.
One league beyond, on the same course, is Teodore, where there is a river, and vessels can anchor at it’s mouth. The woods are of fir only.
After Teodore comes the Baye-de-Toutes Isles, 50 called because of the number to be found there. It is 20 leagues in length, running east north-east, and at the farther end is the Rivière Ste. Marie. There is fishing as elsewhere.
From the river to Macodomé it is six leagues in the same direction. The fishing is good but only land enough for gardens.
From Macadomé it is five leagues on the same course to Tarbé with a good channel and harbor for vessels.
From the Baye de Tarbé to Martingo it is four leagues east ¼ southeast; it is a very good harbor and the fishing is good; flakes are used for drying because there is no beach.
From Martingo it is four leagues east north-east to Campseaux a place well known to vessels which, before the present war, went there to fish every year.
From Campseaux to Chedabouctou is seven leagues east north-east. It is at the head of a bay of the same name. The gentlemen of the Company of Acadia had a fort there with a large fishing-establishment, which was captured and burnt at the outbreak of the last war. The harbor is one of the most beautiful and one of the safest on the whole coast, This would be a very advantageous station for the development of trade with Canada, and to leave as a depot for provisions for the fishermen along these shorts. The Passage-de-Fronsac at Cape Breton, the route used by vessels coming there, is only twelve short leagues from Chedabouctou. The land is good for cultivation, and fish can be caught at Camseaux.
The Sr. de Villebon is not able to give an exact description of all the places In Cape Breton where fishing may be carried on. He knows only the more important harbors, where the French vessels come for fish, such as Baye des Espagnols. the Havres-à-la-Baltine, à la l’Anglais and Neiganiche. There are, moreover, in Cape Breton many rivers teeming with fish, especially salmon. Lime and coal may also be obtained there in any quantity which may be needed. Fort St. John, 27th Oct., 1699.
Moses Delesdernier – 1790
(Describes his experiences during a visit to Pisiquit in 1750)
Observations of the Situation, Customs and Manners of the Ancient Acadians
The Acadians are the most innocent and virtuous people whom I have ever known or heard tell of in any history. They live in a state of perfect equality, without distinction of rank in society. The title of ‘Messieurs’ is not known among them. Ignorant of the luxuries and even of the conveniences of life, they are content with a simple mode of life, which they easily derive from the cultivation of their lands. Very little ambition or avarice was seen among them; they helped each other’s wants with benevolent liberality; they required no interest for loans of money or other property. They were humane and hospitable to strangers, and very liberal to those who embraced their religion. They were very remarkable for the inviolable purity of their morals. I do not recollect a single case of illegitimate births among them, even now. Their knowledge of agriculture was very limited, although they cultivated their dyked lands pretty well.
They were completely ignorant of the progress of arts and sciences. I knew but a single person among them who could read or write some of them could do so, but very imperfectly, and no one among them had learned any trade. Each farmer was his own architect, and each proprietor was a farmer. They lived almost entirely independent of other nations, except to procure salt and tools, as they exployed very little iron for any other farming implements.
They raised and made their own clothing, which was uniform. They were fond of black and red with stripes down the leg, bunches of ribbons and long streamers.
Notwithstanding their negligence, their lack of means and scanty knowledge of agriculture, they laid up abundant stores of provisions and clothing, and had comfortable houses.
They were a strong, healthy people, capable of enduring great hardship, and generally lived to an advanced age, although no one employed a doctor. The men worked hard in planting and at harvest time and the season when the dykes were to be made or repaired, and on any occasion when work was pressing. They thus secured for half the year, at least, leisure which they spent in parties and merrymakings, of which they were very fond. But the women were more assiduous workers then the men, though they took a considerable part in the amusements. Although they were almost all entirely illiterate, it was rare to see any one remain silent long when in company, they never seemed at a loss for a subject of conversation. To conclude, they seemed always cheerful and light-hearted, and on every occasion were unanimous. If any disputes arose in their transactions, etc., they always submitted it to arbitration, and their last appeal was to the priest. Although I have seen cases of mutual recrimination on returning from these decisions, you seldom, if ever, discovered among them any thought of malice or vengeance. In fact they were perfectly accustomed to act candidly in all circumstances; and really, if there be a people who recall the Golden Age as described in history, it was the old-time Acadians.
Robert Hale’s Journal – 1731
(Documenting his journey to Acadia)
Among the written descriptions dating from that time, one of the best comes from a medical doctor, who was to be, for a number of years, a Representative in the Massachusetts House, and a Colonel. His name was Robert Hale, of Beverly, just north of Salem. Born in 1703, he graduated in 1721 at Harvard College. In 1731, he made a voyage to Nova Scotia in the schooner “Cupid,” of which he was co-owner and co-master. He consigned the journey in a journal with minute and very precise details, jotting down the occurrences of about every hour of the day, starting on Monday, June 7 (old style) up to the time he “arrived home on Wednesday 14 (of July) at 3 a.m.” He was accompanied by three others, one of whom was the pilot. They were bringing merchandise to Annapolis and to Chignecto, plus 106 gallons of rum.
After describing everything that he saw along the Maine coast and everything that happened up to Grand Manan, when they headed for Long Island, its lower end was sighted on Sunday, the 20th, at 3 a.m. They were to follow the coast up to Digby Gut, where they arrived at 1 p.m. that same afternoon. At 4 p.m. “an Indian came off in his canoe to us, with his squaw, 2 papouses (young children) and dog. He was wretchedly poor.” Two hours later, “two Frenchmen came on board with us, one of whom had wooden shoes on, the first that I ever saw,” writes Hale.
He then gives a very accurate description of Annapolis, but does not tell us anything about the Acadians there, except that, on his way, he saw here and there groups of 4 to 12 houses that he calls villages, they being of “French people, for no English live here, but near the Fort.” He adds: “I’m informed the French are settled also for 30 miles up the river.” He says that he saw also “a small beach where the French dry their fish, and upon it, a small cross, they being allowed the free exercise of their religion though Subjects of the King of Great Britain.”
While in Annapolis, “one of the Drummers at the Fort was buried, at whose interment…as is the custom, 12 men fired three volleys.” June 22, “a soldier was whipped 20 Lashes for getting drunk.”
Wednesday, June 23, they left at 11 a.m. for Chignecto, i.e., “to Meskquesh, the Chief Village”, where they arrived on Friday, the 25th, after navigating in waters “as thick as mud.” Here they were to fetch a load of coal, which “has been dug here this 30 years.” It did not take him long to realize that “there is abundance of mosquitoes here, so that in calm hot day, it is almost impossible to live, especially among the trees.” The wind being strong here, “the people build all their houses low, with large timber and sharp roofs not one house being 10 feet to the eaves.”
Sunday afternoon, the 27th, with his pilot, “being an interpreter, Hale left for “Worshcock,” that is Westcock, close to the mouth of the Tantramar River, two miles south of Sackville. They were well received; “the French entertained us with much civility and courtesy,” says Hale. This was his first contact with the Acadians of the region. They lodged that night in Meskquesh.
Next morning, Monday, June 28, he writes that at “5 a.m. I rose and after breakfast walked about to see the place. There are but about 15 or 20 houses or churches, one of which they hang out a flag morning and evening for prayers. To the other, the priest goes once a day only.” He then describes how the priest would go to give communion to the sick, dressed in his cassock or soutane, “habited like a fool in petticoats, with a man after him with a bell in one hand ringing at every door, and a lighted candle and lantern in other.”
In the afternoon he went to see an Indian trader named Pierre Arseneau [?]. That is when he tells us that “Money is the worst commodity a man can have here and the people here don’t care to take it.” Governor Richard Philipps, by a proclamation, had decreed that “all in this province are obliged to take Massachusetts bills in payment”; but here “trade little among themselves, everyone raising himself what he wants.” Hale adds: “When I came to pay my reckoning (or account) at the Tavern, the landlord had but 5 pence in money (that is five pennies), though he is one of the wealthiest in the place.”
This landlord is where he lodged, he calls him William Sears; this was Guillaume Cyr, 52 years of age, father of six children. That same evening, he says that “Just about bedtime, we were surprised to see some of the family on their knees paying their devotions to the Almighty and others near them talking and smoking. This they do all of them, mentally but not orally, every night and morning.
Then he goes on, describing the people. “The women here differ as much in their clothing–besides wearing of wooden shoes–from those of New England as they do in features and complexion, which is dark enough by living in the smoke in the summer to defend themselves against the mosquitoes, and in the winter against the cold. Their clothes are good enough, but they look as if they were pitched on with pitchforks, and very often their stockings are down about their heels.” With regard to the houses, he writes “they have but one room in their houses besides a cockloft (or some small garret), cellar and sometimes a closet. Their bedrooms are made something after the manner of a sailor’s cabin, but boarded all round about the bigness of the bed, except one little hole on the foreside, just big enough to crawl into, before which is a curtain drawn and a step to get into it. There stands a chest. They have not above two or three chairs in a house, and those wooden ones, bottom and all. I saw but two mugs among all the French and the lip of one of them was broken down above two inches. When they treat you with strong drinks, they bring it in a large basin and give you a porringer to dip it with,” which is a low one-handled metal bowl or cup for children.
Having said this, he goes on to tell us that the following day, Tuesday, June 29, they left at 3 p.m. for home. He describes his return with as many details as he had given us previously, up to the time that they tied up at the wharf at Charlestown, close to Boston; that was Thursday evening, July 8 at 10:30. It took them four days, from the 9th till the 12th, to unload “40 Chaldron Seacoal” they had brought; a caldron was worth 32 bushels in London; by seacoal is meant pit-coal or mineral coal, by opposition to charcoal.
Two days later, July 14, he arrived home in Beverly “and found my family in good health.”
1755 The Exile Of The Acadian Neutrals, 1755
by William H. Withrow
The deportation and dispersion of the French Neutrals from their Acadian homes at Grandpre, on the peninsula that projects into Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, was one of the most pitiful incidents in the French and Indian war, known as the American phase of the Seven Years’ War. The region is familiar to Americans, through the epic of the poet Longfellow, as the Land of Evangeline. The district around Minas Basin was settled in the early years of the seventeenth century by immigrants from La Rochelle, Saintonge, and Poitou. During the wars between France and England the Acadians, as a Nova Scotian historian relates, “were strongly patriotic, and took up arms in the cause of their native land. Intensely devoted to the Roman Catholic Church, and considering these wars as in the nature of crusades, they fought valiantly and well. But when Nova Scotia was finally ceded to Great Britain (in 1713) their position became very awkward and painful. Many of them refused to take the oath of allegiance, and for others a modified formula was framed. Emissaries of the French power at Louisburg and Quebec circulated among them and maintained their loyalty to France at a fever heat, while their priests pursued the same policy and kept up the hostility to the conquerors.
The British provincial government was located at Annapolis, and though its laws were mild and clement, it could not command respect on account of its physical weakness. Under these circumstances hundreds of Acadians joined the French armies during every war between the two powers, and proved dangerous foemen on account of their knowledge of the region. British settlers were unwilling to locate among these people on account of their racial hostility, and the fairest lands of the province were thus held by an alien and hostile population.
The expulsion and exile of the French Neutrals from their homes in Acadia – the region now included in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – are one of the saddest episodes in history. The occasion for their removal and dispersion was the alleged charge that they secretly took sides with their French compatriots against the English in every struggle on this continent between the two nations, each seeking supreme dominion in the New World, and were thus a constant menace to the English colonists on the seaboard. The trouble at this period was complicated by disputed boundary lines, the whole interior of the continent being claimed by France, while the English were shut in between the mountain ranges of the Alleghanies and the sea. But the English colonies would not be hemmed in either by nature or by France. Their hardy sons sought adventure and gain in the Far West, while not a few for this purpose pushed their way to the St. Lawrence and the Lakes by the water-ways and woodland valleys of the continent. The French, resenting this intrusion, began to erect a series of forts to mark the boundaries of their possessions and conserve the inland fur trade.
Already, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the first scene in the opening drama had been enacted at Louisburg. This stronghold in Cape Breton, which guarded the marine highway to New France, had surrendered in 1745 to the forces of England and her colonial levies on the Atlantic. French pride was hurt at this disaster and the loss of the important naval station in the gulf. To recover the lost prestige, Count de la Galissoniere was sent as governor to Canada. This nobleman’s extravagant assumptions of the extent of the territorial possessions of New France, however, offended the English colonists and roused the jealousy of many of the Indian tribes. Nor was this feeling allayed when France, by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, recovered Louisburg, and when her boundary commissioners claimed all the country north of the Bay of Fundy as not having been ceded to England by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), the inevitable result followed; hostilities between the two nations were precipitated in the valley of the Ohio by the persistent encroachment of the English.
English successes in other parts of the continent in some measure atoned for Braddock’s defeat. Beausejour fell before an expeditionary force sent out from Massachusetts, while Dieskau was routed and made a prisoner near Lake George by Colonel (afterward Sir William) Johnson, in command of the colonial militia and a band of Mohawk warriors.
The command of the expedition against Beausejour, in the Acadian isthmus, to which the French still laid claim, had been given to Colonel Moncton, who, in the spring of 1755, sailed from Boston with forty-one vessels and two thousand men. Ill-manned by a few hundred refugees and a small body of soldiers it soon capitulated and was renamed Fort Cumberland. The Acadian peasants, on the beautiful shores of the Bay of Fundy, Canadian historians tell us, “were a simple, virtuous, and prosperous community,” though other writers give them less favorable character, speaking of them as turbulent, aggressive, and meddlesome. With remarkable industry they had reclaimed from the sea by dikes many thousand of fertile acres, which produced abundant crops of grain and orchard fruits; and on the sea meadows at one time grazed as many as sixty thousand head of cattle. The simple wants of the peasants were supplied by domestic manufacture or by importations from Louisburg. So great was their attachment to the government and institutions of their fatherland that during the aggressions of the English after the conquest of the region a great part of the population – some ten thousand in number, it is said, though the figures are disputed – abandoned their homes and migrated to that portion of Acadia still claimed by the French, while others removed to Cape Breton or to Canada. About seven thousand still remained in the peninsula of Nova Scotia, but they claimed a political neutrality, resolutely refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the alien conquerors. They were accused of intriguing with their countrymen at Louisburg, with resisting the English authority, and with inciting, and even leading, the Indians to ravage the English settlements.
The cruel Micmacs needed little instigation. They swooped down on the little town of Dartmouth, opposite Halifax, and within gunshot of its forts, and reaped a rich harvest of scalps and booty. The English prisoners they sometimes sold at Louisburg for arms and ammunition. The Governor asserted that pure compassion was the motive of this traffic, in order to rescue the captives from massacre. He demanded, however, an excessive ransom for their liberation. The Indians were sometimes, indeed generally, it was asserted, led in these murderous raids by French commanders. These violations of neutrality, however, were chiefly the work of a few turbulent spirits. The mass of the Acadian peasants seem to have been a peaceful and inoffensive people, although they naturally sympathized with their countrymen, and rejoiced at the victory of Du Quesne, and sorrowed at the defeat of Lake George. They were, nevertheless, declared rebels and outlaws, and a council at Halifax, confounding the innocent with the guilty, decreed the expulsion of the entire French population.
The decision was promptly given effect. Ships soon appeared before the principal settlement in the Bay of Fundy. All the male inhabitants over ten years of age were summoned to hear the King’s command. At Grandpre four hundred assembled in the village church, when the British officer read from the altar the decree of their exile. Resistance was impossible; armed soldiers guarded the door, and the men were imprisoned. They were marched at the bayonet’s point, amid the wailings of their relatives, on board the transports. The women and children were shipped in other vessels. Families were scattered; husbands and wives separated – many never to meet again. Hundreds of comfortable homesteads and well-filled barns were ruthlessly given to the flames. A number, variously estimated at from three to seven thousand, were dispersed along the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Georgia. Twelve hundred were carried to South Carolina. A few planted a New Acadia among their countrymen in Louisiana. Some sought to return to their blackened hearths, coasting in open boats along the shore. These were relentlessly intercepted when possible, and sent back into hopeless exile. An imperishable interest has been imparted to this sad story by Longfellow’s beautiful poem Evangeline, which describes the sorrows and sufferings of some of the inhabitants of the little village of Grandpre.